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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 was a Titan Wing member of the Red Death species and the main antagonist of the first How to Train Your Dragon film.

She did not actively hunt for food, as the food was delivered to her by other dragons in the nest, acting similarly to a Queen Bee or a Cuckoo Chick. She ate any dragon that did not bring sufficient food as seen when a Gronckle brought her only a single small fish, which offended the Red Death and subsequently led to it being devoured moments later.

True to their reputation as the "queen of the dragons", the only grown specimen seen in the franchise demonstrated a savage, menacing and controlling nature that even a Night Fury was fearful of (at this point it is unclear whether other individuals in the species share this personality). In addition, according to Valka, every nest has their queens, indicating that there could be numerous Red Deaths in the world.

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 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 her sheer size, it her 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 her 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. Her head is heavily armed with a nasal horn, a coral-shaped frill, and with jaws that are lined up with huge, sword-like teeth. The Red Death possesses three pairs of eyes that gives it little to no blind spot. Her coloration is mainly blue with an orange underside, and its enormous body sports coral-like spines as well as red spikes that gives this dragon its name. The tail of the Red Death is tipped with an ankylosaur-like bludgeon that can be used as a devastating weapon. Despite her gargantuan size, the wings of the Red Death are more than large and strong enough to give this dragon a full-powered flight.

Abilities

Red Death Fire Breath

Red Death decimating Berk's Fleet

Firepower

The 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 are able to create huge amounts of black smoke, which also makes them resemble volcanic pyroclastic flows.

Red Death Fire Breath 3

Red Death unleashing her fire breath

Durability

Her entire body is heavily armored with dense scales, horns and a coral-like frill, enabling the titanic beast to perforate, pierce, and demolish enormous rock cliffs of the volcano and smaller mountains entirely. Her thick hide and sheer size allow it to overcome plenty of catapults, several of a Night Fury's plasma blast, and various physical blows from the rest of the riders nearly unscathed.

Strength and Combat

Red Death Roar

Red Death roaring

The Red Death has demonstrated immense strength, capable of effortlessly lifting up 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.

The Red Death utilizes its many advantages to combat the few brave souls that dare stand up to her, using her tail bludgeon and immense size and weight to ram and shove, and her powerful jaw and limbs to shred through foes. She also utilizes her keen senses and flight to locate and track opponents and obliterates whatever remains with her powerful, explosive fire breath.

Endurance and Stamina

Not only with brutal, destructive power, but the queen of dragons has also been shown to have incredible stamina in flight despite her tremendous size, being able to keep up with Toothless for long amounts of time. This gigantic dragon is able to 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

This dragon is gigantic and it is slower compared to other dragons due to her size, however, she is able to swing her tail or swing its head to smash other dragons or objects.

Even so, she showed no lack of speed during flight, as she 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

The dragon primarily uses her enlarged nostrils (that slightly resemble those of the Deadly Nadder's) and hearing in order to track and hunt down her prey. She also does not have a blind spot, due to having six sensitive eyes, and heavily relies on scent and hearing. As shown her sense of smell was strong enough to swiftly detect intruders in her volcanic abode.

Commanding

Similar to the Bewilderbeasts, the Red Death is also capable of enforcing smaller dragons to obey, even against their wills. Her 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, the 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 can also harness fear to enslave other dragons; single stares from her six eyes is enough to diminish smaller dragons' self-possession completely.

Red Death Eyes

The Red Death's six eyes

Commanding thousands of minions, the Red Death has acute intelligence and keen insight, to notice small events or intruders into the nest. The system to enslave and dominate smaller dragons in the areas in the first stages is unknown.

The dragon, while in magma, seemed to command the minions to drop gathered foods into an exact spot; her mouth, otherwise the food would be cremated before passing through the fangs of the queen. It is also unclear whether she has traits of the Tidal Class to be able to manage respiration under thick liquids.

Vacuum

Red Death Vacuum

Red Death trying to suck Astrid and Stormfly in her mouth

Being a dragon of titanic size, the Red Death possesses the ability to have a massive intake in the air and "suck in" victims inside its mouth. She is strong enough to pull in even swift and maneuverable dragons such as a Deadly Nadder.

Magma-proof Skin

The Red Death also has Magma-proof skin, since she is able to live 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

The Red Death possesses a long tail that ends in a round formation studded with sharp spikes, enabling her 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 was not seen actively using it during her confrontation with Hiccup and the Dragon Riders, possibly because there no opportunities for her to use it.

Behavior and Personality

This ultimate monster, seen pursuing Toothless and Hiccup, is the most vicious and bad-tempered. According to legend, she lives 2,000 years and, before she dies, lays 3,000 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 a active volcano with the Red Death, the dragons, known as Brutes, are enslaved and forced to serve a 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 the Red Death. The Red Death has been compared 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 her 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.

Weaknesses

Red Death Weakness

Blasting a Red Death's gas chamber

Like other dragons, the Red Death can't hunt efficiently if her wings are damaged and it's just as susceptible to fire on it's insides. Premature ignition of her methane fuel can cause it's gas chambers to explode.

Being a dragon of incredible size, the Red Death needs more time to properly break while in flight and possesses less agility and maneuverability than most dragons, easily crashing into obstacles.

Comparative Statistics


Appearances

How to Train Your Dragon

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.

Red Death

Toothless escaping the Red Death

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 Hairy Hooligans who captured the dragon in hopes of being lead to the Red Death. 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 the Hairy Hooligans.

Death

The queen about to unleash her wrath

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 and Toothless escaping from the 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 turned his dragon and Toothless shot 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

School of Dragons

The skeleton of the Red Death is seen on Dragon Island during the Expansion "Return to Dragon's Island". One of her teeth is also attempted to be sold by Harald Forkbeard, who claimed her could turn other dragons into stone, which she tricked people into believing by showing dragon fossils and claiming that they were once 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 seen in How to Train Your Dragon is a female Titan Wing with a 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 smaller and less spiky than the version seen in the film.
  • While clearly 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 in fact actively feeds and protects its subjects).
  • In How to Train Your Dragon, Tuffnut Thorston makes an allusion to 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 her sides and the ridges of her wings.
  • 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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