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It's like a giant beehive. They're the workers, and that's their queen. It controls them. [src]
  Astrid Hofferson  

The Red Death is a gigantic Stoker Class dragon that first appeared in How to Train Your Dragon.

Official Description

Secretly responsible for centuries of human and dragon conflict, the Red Death used its commanding presence to order other dragons to raid nearby villages and bring it a constant supply of food.
From its lair deep within the corona of a volcano, this Titan Wing reigned supreme, until Toothless led Stoick, Gobber and the other Berk Vikings to the blighted shores of Dragon Island.
So engorged on power was the Red Death by this time that it had to shatter its mountain home in order to emerge and fight these human intruders. Fortunately, the timely arrival of Berk's dragon riders and the fateful reunion of Hiccup and Toothless led to the discovery of the Red Death's only vulnerable spot: its insides.
Similar to the Bewilderbeast's ability to bend other dragons to its will, the Red Death emitted a honing signal which summoned other dragons to its lava strewn nest. This call was produced by a combination of sub-vocal ululation and the fearsome stare of its many, many eyes!
  Dragonpedia  
All dragons have a blind spot. Except for this one. That is one reason we gave her six eyes instead of two. The other reason is that we wanted her to be just generally upsetting. This one is our Godzilla.
  Chris Sanders[2]  


Development

Red Death Concept1

Nico Marlet's concept art

Initially, the Red Death was portrayed as a more leviathan beast from the sea, as seen by Character Designer Nico Marlet's concept art. His concept, as mentioned in The Art of How to Train Your Dragon, consisted of "jellyfish-like bioluminescence, a coral-shaped mane with stylized tendrils that float like sea plants, and detailed barnacle-inspired scale designs." However, Production Designer Kathy Altieri felt that it was too elegant, which made perceptively it hard to kill off. The final design, however, went with a combination of original book traits and kept the aforementioned coral-like spikes.

A slightly more rugged and fearsome-looking concept of a sea-based Red Death would be "Red Death Head" by Zhaoping Wei.

Red Death Concept Artwork1

Zhaoping Wei concept art

The directors kept telling us to make it grosser, giving notes like, "add blisters, sores, cataracts in its eyes, broken teeth, crumbling spikes, and a more decayed look to its skin". [src]
  — Sabrina Riegel, Head of Surfacing  


In the attempt to make this dragon more fearsome and terrifying-looking, numerous other pieces have been turned down. Ricardo Delgado's concept art, for example, featured noticeably more spikes, protrusions, teeth, and extra limbs. Others featured a more mysterious, colossal dragon with glowing parts.

The-art-of-how-to-train-your-dragon-22-638

Ricardo Delgado concept art

Due to its sheer size, it was difficult for it to work according to the camera scale. Visual Effects Supervisor Craig Ring, thankfully, says that the advancement in CG Animation has made it possible to scale the Red Death as required in the respective scenes.

Animating the Red Death's fire proved as a challenge, as its flames had to give the impression of something 'ancient and dusty'. The effects team 'created strands of fire that animated on a group of curves to create a huge, smoky, fiery element that looks like it is lit from the core, fading to the outside of the smoke; says Head of Effect, Matt Baer. The team also created numerous fluid simulations to use within the shots, in addition to its 2,600 feet of shooting flames.

The final fight with the Red Death was modified in its last scenes. After Hiccup and Toothless send a bolt of fire into its stomach and it begins to explode, they fly down its spine and away to safety. In this scene, the dragon's size was tripled to make the scene more dramatic.[3]

Physical Appearance

Hatchling to Adult

The Red Death is a gigantic dragon species, only being surpassed in size by the titanic Bewilderbeasts. Based on the only individual seen, a Red Death's head is heavily armed with a nasal horn, a coral-shaped frill, and with jaws that are lined up with huge, needle-like teeth. Red Deaths possess three pairs of eyes that give it little to no blind spot. Their coloration is mainly a grayish blue with an orange underside, and their enormous bodys sport coral-like spines as well as red spikes that give this dragon species its name. The tail of a Red Death is tipped with an ankylosaur-like bludgeon that can be used as a devastating weapon. Despite their gargantuan size, the wings of a Red Death are more than large and strong enough to give the dragon a full-powered flight.

Abilities

Firepower

The huge blast of RD

Based on the only individual seen, a Red Death's methane-based flame jets are enormous and are powerful enough to take down an entire fleet of Viking ships in just one breath. The blazing torrents can create huge amounts of black smoke, which also makes them resemble volcanic pyroclastic flows.

Durability

The body of a Red Death is heavily armored with dense scales, horns, and a coral-like frill, enabling the titanic beasts to perforate, pierce, as well as demolish enormous rock cliffs of the volcano and smaller mountains. Their thick hide and sheer size allow them to overcome catapult barrages, several of a Night Fury's plasma blasts, and various physical blows from the rest of the riders nearly unscathed. However, the plasma blasts of a Night Fury can punch holes through the wing membranes of a Red Death rather easily.

Strength and Combat

The Red Death easily overwhelms the catapults

Based on the only individual seen, a Red Death contains immense strength, capable of effortlessly lifting Viking ships in its mouth and then crushing them with one powerful bite, and breaking through the volcano and numerous sea stacks of Dragon Island showing no strain.

This Red Death utilized its many advantages to combat the few brave souls that dared to stand up to it, using its tail bludgeon and immense size and weight to ram and shove, and its powerful jaw and limbs to shred through foes. It also utilized its keen senses and flight to locate and track opponents and obliterates whatever remained with its powerful, explosive fire breath.

Endurance and Stamina

Red Death is targeted with multiple blasts

Not only with brutal, destructive power, but the queen of dragons has also been shown to have incredible stamina in flight despite its tremendous size, being able to keep up with Toothless for long amounts of time. This gigantic dragon can take many attacks from other dragons, boulders from a catapult, Stoick's strength from throwing a wooden-like spear, getting hit in the eyes by Snotlout, Toothless' Plasma blasts attacks and being able to take the damage from crashing into the sea stacks, seemingly suffering little to no damage.

Agility and Speed

Red Death tries to catch Toothless

Red Deaths are gigantic and as a result are slower compared to other dragons. However, it can swing its tail or swing its head to smash other dragons or objects.

Even so, the Red Death showed no lack of speed during flight, as it was fast enough to catch up with Toothless in the air, however, it's quite possible that Toothless only slowed down to make the Red Death stay close, or that Toothless' tail fin mechanism wasn't allowing the Night Fury to fly at maximum speed at the time.

Senses

Despite having six well-developed eyes, Red Deaths primarily uses their enlarged nostrils (that slightly resemble those of the Deadly Nadder's) and hearing to track and hunt down their prey. They also do not have a blind spot. The individual on Dragon Island was able to smell and swiftly detect intruders in its volcanic abode.

Commanding

The RD spots Toothless

Similar to the Bewilderbeasts, Red Deaths are an alpha species and are capable of enforcing smaller dragons to obey, even against their wills. Their controlling measure is somewhat similar to the methods used by the Bewilderbeasts, Valka, and Drago Bludvist — sounds. Like bees, the queen howls sub-vocal homing signals that reach miles away to call up minions. It is unknown how powerful this ability is compared to a Bewilderbeast, and so far, a Red Death has only been seen forcing other dragons to go to its nest. The Red Death at the end of How to Train Your Dragon appeared unable to stop the Riders' dragons from attacking it, nor call upon other dragons for help. Unlike the Bewilderbeasts and kinder individuals, this Red Death also harnessed fear to enslave other dragons; single stares from its six eyes was enough to diminish smaller dragons' self-possession completely.

The dragon, while in magma, seemed to command its minions to drop gathered foods into an exact spot; its mouth. Otherwise, the food would be cremated before passing through the fangs of the queen. 

Vacuum

Red Death tries to eat the Deadly Nadder

Being dragons of titanic size, Red Deaths possess the ability to have a massive intake in the air and "suck in" victims inside its mouth. The vacuum is strong enough to pull in even swift and maneuverable dragons such as a Deadly Nadder in mere seconds.

Magma-proof Skin

Red Deaths also have Magma-proof skin, since one was seen living in the corona or magma chamber of a volcano and suffer no ill effects after continuous and prolonged periods in direct contact with the boiling magma.

Tail Bludgeon

Red Deaths possess a long tail that ends in a round formation studded with sharp spikes, enabling them to use it as a mace or bludgeon to swing against targets such as rock formations or opponents, causing devastating damage. However, the Red Death seen in the film was not seen actively using it during its confrontation with Hiccup and the Dragon Riders, possibly because there were no opportunities to use it.

Behavior and Personality

THE BEHAVIOR OF THE QUEEN OF DRAGONS
 According to legend, a Red Death lives 2000 years and, before it dies, lays 3000 eggs. The hatchlings fight each other to the death, a process that can take up to 100 years, until only one survives.

Residing in the chamber of an active volcano with a Red Death, the dragons, known as Brutes, are enslaved and forced to serve injurious parasitism from the Red Death. The ones seen in the first film include the Deadly Nadders, the Gronckles, the Monstrous Nightmares, the Hideous Zipplebacks, and even the powerful Night Fury. All or most dragons in the film appear to serve this Red Death. Several characters compared the Red Death to a queen bee or a brood parasite. She is the leader and all others serve her apparently out of fear of being eaten, although it is unknown for certain how it became the leader of the other dragons. (It is possible that it invaded their home and proclaimed itself as such or perhaps some kind of mind control similar to that of the Bewilderbeast). Unlike other massive dragon leaders like the Bewilderbeast or Foreverwing, the Red Death is said to rule via force instead of righteous good, often depicted as the dictator of the dragon world. She rules with no mercy, willingly consuming one of her dragon subjects if they fail to provide enough food for her. It is unknown if all Red Deaths are as cruel and domineering as the individual seen in the movie.

Weaknesses

Hiccup outsmats the Red Death

Like other dragons, a Red Death can't hunt efficiently if its wings are damaged and it's just as susceptible to fire on the inside. Premature ignition of its methane fuel can cause its gas chambers to explode, resulting in an explosion tearing its apart from the inside.

Because they are dragons of incredible size, a Red Death needs more time to properly brake while in flight. They possess lower agility and maneuverability than most dragons, easily crashing into obstacles.

Comparative Statistics


Appearances

How to Train Your Dragon

Hiccup-toothless-how-to-train-your-dragon-1
Main article: Red Death (character)

Hiccup and Astrid discovered this dragon when Toothless followed a group of dragons to the volcano where the Dragons' Nest was contained. There they witnessed a Red Death eat an unfortunate Gronckle that did not bring enough food, deducing later on that this dragon forces all the others to steal food from Berk.

HTTYD1-RedDeath1

Stoick the Vast got this information out of his son, and soon led a party to where Hiccup had explained, using a restrained Toothless as their guide.

Hiccup helps his friends tame their own dragons to rescue Toothless from the Hooligan Tribe who captured the Night Fury and used him to find the Red Death's lair. Hiccup allies his friends with these dragons: Astrid and her Deadly Nadder, Snotlout and his Monstrous Nightmare, Fishlegs and his Gronckle, and Ruffnut and Tuffnut and their Hideous Zippleback. Hiccup then shares a ride with Astrid, and they part for the Red Death's lair where they'll find Toothless and their tribe.

Death

The Hooligans had opened fire on the side of the volcano and broke a hole in her, freeing the dragons inside and waking the Red Death. The dragons had gone, flying away, in fear of the wrath of the Red Death. The Hooligans, though, were not aware of this until she exited the mountain, plowing through the wall. The Hooligans fired at the dragon with their catapults, which only prompted it to smash them. Terrified, they attempted to retreat to their ships, but she destroyed them all before most of them could even reach them. Before she could kill them, however, Hiccup and his allies arrived on their dragons and diverted its attention.

Hiccup and Stoick later help free Toothless from his bonds, and together, Hiccup and Toothless bombarded the Red Death with their fire. The duo leads the Red Death to the sky, into the clouds. The Red Death had lost track of them in the clouds, as they were using them as cover.

Toothless shot the Red Death in a sneak attack, and then disappeared into the clouds; he repeated this multiple times, punching holes in the Red Death's wings and enraging her, and in a fit of fury, she set the surrounding area on fire in circular motions. Toothless' synthetic tail caught fire, and they had to hurry their plan.

Red Death

Hiccup drove Toothless downward, and the Red Death followed close behind. Toothless flew as fast as he could manage, though the Red Death always strayed closer. Just before the Red Death was about blast her fire at them, Hiccup told Toothless to pivot and shoot a blast into the Red Death's mouth, igniting her flammable throat gases. Once she saw the ground at a low altitude, she tried to slow down to a halt. But she wings had been damaged by Toothless' plasma blasts and ripped apart when she tried to decrease her momentum. The Red Death then lost control and crashed onto the shoreline, exploding to her death on impact.

With the Red Death now gone, the dragons are now free and no longer have to raid the island of Berk of their food anymore, and the Hooligans were taught to live with them in peace.

DreamWorks Dragons: The Series

The Red Death is mentioned by Dagur the Deranged in the episode, "Twinsanity". Dagur heard rumors about Hiccup defeating the massive dragon, helping to feed his belief that Berk had trained dragons and could use them to start a war with the Berserkers.

When Hiccup is flying through the Vanaheim Bewilderbeast skeleton in the episode "Searching for Oswald... and Chicken", he states that it is larger than the Red Death.

Comics

The Red Death is mentioned by Ruffnut and Tuffnut Thorston when the Dragon Riders are trying to find where Astrid Hofferson was after she disappeared. The twins believed that she had been eaten by a Red Death, a notion that the other Riders considered ridiculous.

Games

How to Train Your Dragon Mobile Game

The Red Death appears as a final big boss opponent that the player - playing as Hiccup flying on Toothless - must defeat. Only the head is shown and the battle occurs over the sea rather than on Dragon Island.

School of Dragons

The skeleton of the Red Death is seen on Dragon Island during the Expansion "Return to Dragon's Island". Harald Forkbeard also attempted to sell one of her teeth, claiming she could turn other dragons into stone, which he tricked people into believing by showing them dragon fossils and claiming that they were once recently living.

Dragons: Rise of Berk

Meade Hall looks like it could stand up to 100 Red Deaths now, eh, Stoick?
  — Gobber  

The Red Death is mentioned in a December 2017 Gauntlet event, wherein Hiccup and Astrid travel there to follow clues on a map to find Bork the Bold's lost treasure. The clue is simply a rock with the letter "B" on it. Astrid says that the "B" may have been harder to find if the Red Death were still on the island.

Gobber also mentioned the Red Death during a quest.

Dreamworks Dragons: Dawn of New Riders

The Red Death does not appear, nor is verbally mentioned in this game. However, she does appear in artwork and structures within old ruins found inside the island of Havenholme. A large metallic entrance way operated by mechanisms opened by puzzles forms the shape of a Red Death's head. There is also a large entrance designed as a Red Death's head in the ruins underneath Valka's Mountain.

Trivia

  • Valka states in School of Dragons that the Red Death in How to Train Your Dragon is a female Titan Wing with stronger control over dragons than her smaller relatives. Due to this, it is unknown what a younger Red Death looks like. However, it can be hypothesized that it is at the very least slightly smaller and less spiky than the version seen in the film.
  • While it is meant to serve a similar role as the Green Death from the book, the antagonist, the Red Death has quite a few differences from the Green Death: it doesn't appear to be a sea-dragon and instead it lives in lava, and whereas the Green Death is almost a victim of fate, the Red Death is largely responsible for all the trouble caused in the film.
  • The Red Death appears to be genuinely malicious and cruel, as opposed to being a mere instinctive animal, as shown when she exploits and enslaves the dragons (in stark contrast to the white Bewilderbeast, who rules through respect and nurture as opposed to the Red Death's fear and intimidation, and actively feeds and protects its subjects).
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, Tuffnut Thorston alludes Beowulf by calling the Red Death 'Bride of Grendel'.
  • The Red Death's distinctive bellowing roar is reused multiple times as a stock sound effect in the DreamWorks Dragons: The Series.
  • Despite being called the Red Death, the only red parts on its body are the small spikes on its sides and the ridges of its wings. The name most likely originates from its massive and destructive firepower.
  • In the How to Train Your Dragon Live Spectacular, the head of the Red Death features Boulder Class-like traits, slightly resembling a monstrous version of the Gronckle. She also only has two eyes.
  • Guide to the Dragons, Volume 2 said that the length of the Red Death is 999 feet (304 meters). This is likely a mistake as the Bewilderbeast is currently the biggest dragon in the DreamWorks Dragons franchise.
  • Appearance-wise, the Red Death bears some resemblance to the Kaiju from the Pacific Rim films.
  • The Red Death seen in the first film is the first and only dragon so far that Hiccup and Toothless have killed.
  • In School of Dragons, Valka refers to both the Red and Green Deaths as females.
    • The Red Death's gender is ambiguous: many sources refer to it as a female and it is alluded to as a "queen", but Hiccup refers to it with the pronoun 'he' during the battle.
  • It is unknown how the Green Death relates to the Red Death. In a quest to unlock the Green Death in Dragons: Rise of Berk, Astrid Hofferson states that the Green Death is a "less aggressive cousin of the Red Death", possibly indicating it is a subspecies of the Red Death. In the "Return to Dragon Island" Expansion Pack in School of Dragons, Valka states that the Red Death and Green Death are different individuals of the same species.
    • Finally, Richard Hamilton stated that the Red Death and Green Death are two very closely related species.[4]

References

  1. "I'm assuming the Purple and Green Deaths are around the same size as the Red Death, who was definitely way bigger than the Bewilderbeast. So there ya go!" (Date Posted - December 8, 2018). Twitter.
  2. 'How to Train Your Dragon' takes flight - USA Today - Page 7 of 7
  3. The Making Of How to Train Your Dragon Animator's Corner. (Date Posted - September 1, 2014). YouTube.
  4. "Hello, thanks for all the wonderful work you do! I was hoping to pick your brain about the Red Death." (Date Posted - December 3, 2018). Twitter.

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