|“||The village is comprised of a multitude of buildings, the grandest of these being the Great Hall, a structure that is capable of holding all of the Vikings in the village. The Great Hall is used to make battle plans, to feast, and to study for dragon training. The room features a large, circular table where the most important Vikings sit to gather and discuss plans more effectively.||”|
|— School of Dragons Website|
In The Art of How to Train Your Dragon, the building is titled "Meade Hall". That title is used again in Dragons: Rise of Berk, though it's never gone by anything other than "The Great Hall" in the movies and TV series.
|“||When we built this set, it was meant to be an impressive big hall, but it's not until we load a character in it that you realize it's a REALLY big hall. [src]||”|
|— Modeling Supervisor Matt Paulson|
The Meade Hall, according to The Art of How to Train Your Dragon, was built to be the "most impressive, solid structure on the island" and to have a grand but intimidating vibe to it. As such, the creators had to scale the building to epic, other-worldly proportions.
This was said to enforce the concept of the Vikings' steadfast, strong and deeply-entrenched standards that will not sway.
The Great Hall is a huge, monumental hall carved and burrowed deep into a small but steep mountain on Berk. From ground level, a steep staircase of 125 steps leads to a huge arch doorway with intricate patterned double doors, which in turn is flanked by two humongous 68-foot statues, as revealed in The Art of How to Train Your Dragon. Each sculpture is mounted on a dragon and holding a torch, which is lit at night. The entrance is also surrounded by huge torches on the floor that can be lit up. Sometimes smaller torches line the entryway steps and are lit as well. The doors don't latch as they are commonly seen swinging open again when slammed or when a gust of wind blows in.
The interior of the hall is simple but intimidating. Inside are stone walls and a dirt floor, typical for a cave. Wide wooden pillars are scattered throughout the inside with decorative metal bands and carvings on them, though their purpose only appears to be ornamental. There are dozens of benches and long wooden tables used often by the public during communal gatherings. But in the middle of the hall sits a huge, circular table with a fire pit in the middle that is lit into a blaze during important meetings. Over the fire pit hangs a golden figure of a Grapple Grounder dragon impaled by a sword.
The Hall also exhibits a few short steps to counter the uneven terrain the Hall sits on. Along one wall is a raised platform for which a speaker can address attendants, behind which are carvings in the wall. Small fire torches line the walls for sufficient light. Just inside the entryway, it also boasts huge and impressive yet fearsome statues of Viking ancestors, along with larger-than-life tapestries depicting historical battles and achievements. There is also a row of shields, each depicting former chiefs and their heirs, showcasing the proud lineage of leaders that have ruled Berk.
In the first film, the Great Hall is seen as a shared place for the village to grab a bite to eat. As seen later in the TV series, there are tables full of fish, vegetables, meat, and bread to one side for the Berkians to serve themselves. As there are dishes and flatware seen, it's assumed there is a collection of available dishes for them to use nearby as well. The giant fire pit can be used to cook the food they bring, especially when the Hooligans are seeking refuge inside this vast structure in the midst of a blizzard.
Also as seen in the first movie, the Great Hall is used as a political hub, where the chief can speak to the entire village at once. The village also holds meetings to discuss matters of importance such as dragons, enemies, what to do about particular concerns, and make decisions as a whole. In the episode "In Dragons We Trust", it's said to have been used for both weddings and funerals. Stoick meets and dines with chiefs of other tribes while discussing treaties as seen in "Twinsanity". The Hall is used as a courtroom in "Viking for Hire" with a baby naming ceremony, and again in "Cast Out, Part 1" when Alvin the Treacherous is put on trial. In both the episodes "We Are Family, Part 1" and "Imperfect Harmony", the Great Hall is used as a meeting place for Berk's Council; a collection of trustworthy villagers handpicked by the chief to make important decisions. And in "Have Dragon Will Travel, Part 2", Stoick uses it as a "throne room" as villagers line up outside to meet with him during Berk's Gripe Day.
In the episodes "Animal House" and "When Lightning Strikes", Berkians take refuge in the Great Hall during severe storms, specifically a blizzard and an electric storm. And like its historical counterparts, animals take shelter inside as well. As it's carved out of the side of a mountain, it's virtually underground and the safest place to take shelter during natural disasters. It's also seen as a sanctuary during the attacks of the Flightmare and the Screaming Death during the episodes "Fright of Passage" and "Tunnel Vision".
The Great Hall is also used as a hub for village festivities and celebrations. As seen in Gift of the Night Fury, it is decorated for Snoggletog while villagers gather for the food and fun of the holiday. It's used again for the celebration of the unveiling of a portrait of the newest Chief and his successor in "Portrait of Hiccup as a Buff Young Man". The Great Hall is used again as an exhibition hall to display the writings and tools used by Bork the Bold during Bork Week in the episode "We Are Family, Part 1".
General Meeting Place
As it overlooks all of Berk, the Great Hall is also used simply as a meeting place to congregate and talk with other villagers. It's used as a med hall in "The Eel Effect", where all the Berkians sick with the Eel Pox are gathered to receive medical attention. In "Bing! Bam! Boom!", Gobber states he's holding a concert there with his pan pipes. The Dragon Riders use it many times to sit and look through the Dragon Manual, a perfect example of this is shown in Gift of the Night Fury, where Hiccup, Astrid, Fishlegs, and Gobber huddle up and talk about the Book of Dragons. In many other episodes, it's where conversations are held between two or more villagers, usually at one of the many tables inside, and over plates of food.
- The Great Hall is inspired by the historical Viking Longhouses; long windowless structures in which Vikings lived during the harsh winters of the northern Atlantic. On the Scandinavian mainland they were built from timber, yet on distant islands, including Iceland where trees weren't plentiful, they were built of sod. Livestock would be housed on one end while the humans lived on the other, and fire pits ran down the center of the structure for warmth, light, and cooking purposes. In the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, however, it is a transformed cave in the side of a mountain with a single giant fire pit in the center, where it overlooks the entire village of Berk. Historically, entire extended families would hunker down in the longhouse for warmth and safety during the coldest months, and enjoy the freedom of smaller outbuildings when the weather warmed up. Although it served as a common meeting place throughout the year.