The Netflix animated film “My Father’s Dragon” revolves around a boy named Elmer who travels to the city of Nevergreen with his mother, Dela. They rent an apartment owned by Mrs. McClaren, and Elmer dreams of opening a shop in front of their building, similar to the one they had back in their quaint little town. Elmer assumes that his jar of pennies is going to be enough for Dela to do the needful. But when Dela ends up using all of it to respond to advertisements for jobs, he realizes that things are not going to be very easy in this city. That realization comes out in the form of anger, though, as he runs away from his mother and keeps running until he reaches the very edge of the city. There, the cat who has been tailing Elmer all this time reveals that she can talk and that she knows about a sinking island with a dragon on it. So, Elmer sets out to rescue this mythical creature, bring it back to Nevergreen, earn some money off of it by displaying it to people, and help his mother build their dream shop.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Does Aratuah Provide All The Answers That Boris And Elmer Need?
Elmer assumes that his journey to Wild Island is going to be a simple search and rescue. He doesn’t think about the animals who depend on Boris to stay alive, who, in turn, don’t care that their process of using Boris to stay alive is hurting him. Still, Elmer frees Boris from his bonds and finds out that the bumbling Dragon is there for a reason. Every 100 years, the Wild Island sinks, and a young dragon has to complete their rite of passage by saving it. Boris doesn’t know what this rite of passage exactly entails. So, he falls prey to Saiwa’s unsavory methods of keeping the island afloat. He does know that a giant tortoise called Aratuah can help them. Except, after overcoming various hurdles, Boris and Elmer find out that Aratuah is dead. And all that’s left of him are his bones.
The entirety of “My Father’s Dragon” is a fantastical, exaggerated learning lesson for Elmer before he goes back to his mother and faces the reality of their situation together. So, the revelation that there’s no all-knowing giant tortoise is a metaphor for people or other sources of knowledge that can give us all the answers. Especially when it involves a rite of passage (which is usually synonymous with maturity). Every single one of us is on a unique path that’s going to twist and turn according to the decisions we are going to make. If we share our resources as Elmer does, it’s probably going to yield a positive result. Or if we lie to ourselves that we don’t have any ulterior motives while befriending someone, it’s going to yield a negative result. But these are decisions that we have to make for ourselves. Books, nature, and elders can only guide us. And that’s what the non-existent Aratuah is teaching Elmer, Boris, and us.
Does Boris Learn How To Fly?
Heartbroken after the revelation that Aratuah is dead, Boris and Elmer take shelter in a tree (provided by Iris, the rhino) and bond over their love for tangerines and their fears about expectations. But that’s interrupted by Saiwa, Tamir, Kwan, Iris, Iris’s child, and the Howlers. Saiwa reveals to everyone that Aratuah is gone, and due to Boris’s inability to figure out a way to save the island, he needs to be bound over the furnace (that burns atop the island) and keep pulling it every time it sinks. According to Saiwa, that is the only way. However, Boris and Elmer refuse this proposition and keep backing away from the fearsome Saiwa until they reach the edge of the tree. Elmer slips and falls, and Boris goes after him even though he can’t fly. Saiwa grabs onto Boris’s malfunctioning wing and unintentionally fixes it. This unleashes Boris’s flying powers, and he saves Elmer from falling to his death.
Elmer and Boris’s conversation about fear is very integral to this story. Because the whole movie is essentially about coming to terms with one’s vulnerabilities and trepidations. The longer you pretend that you don’t fear anything, especially something as inevitable as death, the more you’ll stray from every characteristic that makes you humane. Everyone fears death, and there should be no shame in accepting that. Being mortal isn’t a sign of weakness. Addressing our weaknesses isn’t a sign of cowardice. In fact, if you can confront your deepest, darkest apprehensions, you are going to find a way to overcome them and reach new heights. Both Saiwa and Elmer’s central conceit is that they aren’t true to others and, hence, aren’t true to themselves. And that’s not only hurting them, but it’s hurting others as well. Boris is literally the only one who is honest about what he thinks about himself. He is not afraid to cry openly about it. He doesn’t shy away from sharing his feelings. So, his gift of flight feels earned.
‘My Father’s Dragon’ Ending Explained: What Is The Key To Saving Wild Island From Sinking?
After getting a view from above, Elmer theorizes that the thing that’s sinking the island is its roots. So, Boris needs to bind himself over the furnace again and pull it up until the roots break. Boris agrees to do it after some initial hesitation but quickly realizes that’s not the way to go. According to the Dragon, he needs to go into the furnace, not away from it. He has a massive disagreement with Elmer because Elmer thinks he has all the answers. But the sad reality is that he doesn’t. Boris pushes him away, and Elmer runs away to avoid drowning on the island. While taking shelter on the floating debris, Saiwa gives Elmer a reality check about how he’s lying to himself that he’s Boris’s friend, whereas, in actuality, he wants to use Boris for his benefit. Elmer possibly knew this all the time. However, hearing it out loud motivates him to go back to Boris and tell him that he’s afraid all the time too and that he doesn’t always have the answers. That said, despite all his faults, he says that he’s going to wait for Boris after he completes his rite of passage.
Elmer’s pep-talk relieves Boris of the last inkling of fear he has, and he dives headfirst into the furnace. He goes through a beautiful transition and transforms the island’s dead roots into blue, glowing ones, thereby saving it from sinking for the next hundred years. Yes, Boris also gets the classic flame-throwing powers too, thereby making him an After Dragon (which is the final form a dragon can take). But the conclusion of Boris’s rite of passage means that he’s free to leave and that Wild Island needs a leader again. They all look to Saiwa, who doesn’t appear all that confident because of how he has treated Boris and lied to his family during the hour of crisis. However, Boris assures him that it’s all water under the bridge and that the island needs a leader like Saiwa to rebuild it. On top of that, since they’ve watched what a dragon’s rite of passage entails, they can etch it on the stones in a descriptive fashion so that the next Dragon who’ll arrive there doesn’t get confused about what it needs to do. The movie concludes with Boris flying off into the clouds after dropping off Elmer in Nevergreen City, where he reunites with his family and makes new friends.
As mentioned before, Elmer’s fantasy-filled journey is a very literal representation of what he’s feeling inside after leaving his old home and moving into a city that doesn’t have much life. He is afraid of the consequences of his mother’s joblessness. He is afraid of the kids across the street. He is afraid of the people who drive mercilessly on the streets or walk hastily on the sidewalks. He is afraid of succumbing to his own fears (which are visualized by the island). And there’s no one around to help him process these feelings. Would things have been better if Elmer had a guiding figure? Of course, yes. But chances are that, in a city, no one has the time to sit you down for a life lesson because they are too busy making ends meet. So, you have to be ready to face these issues on your own and be open to new circumstances. Yes, these new situations are going to present unique challenges. However, as long as you are honest with yourself and with those around you about yourself, you’ll probably find an amicable solution. In addition to all that, you have to care for animals because they are the lifeblood of our planet. We have a responsibility towards them because we are the ones destroying the ecosystem, not them.
“My Father’s Dragon” is a 2022 Animated Adventure film directed by Nora Twomey.