Save your breath. The only alpha they respond to is me!
~ Grimmel telling Toothless about the Deathgrippers' loyalty.
The Deathgrippers are the secondary antagonists of DreamWorks' 36th full-length animated feature film How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. They serve as Grimmel the Grisly's personal dragon killers who obey their master on every given command as a result of being drugged by Grimmel with their own venom.
The Deathgrippers were initially free, and were specialized dragon killers who roamed in packs and fed upon other species of dragons. Due to having a knack for killing dragons, Grimmel employed several to aid him in his genocide, using none other than their own venom to drug them into subservience.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
The Deathgrippers first appear on Grimmel's airship to Warlord's island. After they reunited, one of the six attacks Ragnar the Rock but it was called off by Grimmel. When Hiccup refused to give Toothless, the last Night Fury, Grimmel ordered his Deathgrippers to burn down his house by their fiery acid.
While Valka was flying, two Deathgrippers attacked her and Cloudjumper, unsuccessfully attempted to knock down Stormcutter as they end up being thrown and the Deathgrippers were called again by Grimmel. When the Dragon Riders came to stop Grimmel, he ordered the Deathgrippers to stop them which nearly killed Hiccup. The Deathgrippers were then attacked by the Rescued Crimson Goregutter who demolished the base and trapped the dragons under debris. With Ruffnut left behind, she was placed in a cage with a Scuttleclaw, of which is predisposed to be fed to the Deathgrippers (to Ruffnut's disgust). Upon supposedly annoying Grimmel into submission, she was set free and given the Scuttleclaw as a means of transportation back to New Berk.
They carried the airship and followed Ruffnut and they were revealed with Toothless and the Light Fury captured. They carried the Warship back to the Warlords' armada. During the battle, Toothless blasts at two Deathgrippers from their shackles, making them unable to hold the ship. The ship then crashed, which causes the two Deathgrippers to drown. While Hiccup and Toothless chased Grimmel who is riding the drugged Light Fury, the four remaining Deathgrippers came to Grimmel's aid to stop the duo. As they formed a tight ring around Toothless, he summons lightning in his Alpha state, and they were all electrocuted to their demise with their corpses sent plummeting.
Deathgrippers have black scales with red underbellies, yellow eyes, and wing webs, and large armored plates along the back. They hold protruding but retractable large tusks, distorted jagged pincers, and a venomous stinger at the end of their telescopic tails that could sometimes be sheathed by four scales when not in use.
According to animator Simon Otto, Deathgrippers were inspired by scorpions, black widow spiders, and hunting dogs.
The six Deathgrippers that appeared in the third movie all wear collars equipped with vials of their own venom that Grimmel uses to control them. One of them has a scarred left eye.
After being brainwashed by Grimmel, his Deathgrippers were hostile and vicious beasts who would assassinate any quarry Grimmel assigned them to with the utmost obedience. Thanks to their own venom being injected into them via special collars, they were thoroughly subordinate to him and no Alpha dragon species could override that obedience. Even without the effect of venom, Deathgrippers are hardly saints, as they live outside dragon society, roaming in packs to prey upon other dragon species. They are not exactly evil, but certainly rather dark and morbid creatures, as they enjoy drugging their prey into a sedated state with their venom and toying with it before putting it out of its misery, suggesting they have a rather dark but playful personality. Despite this, it is said that one can train a Deathgripper without drugging it by saving its life, when it will become a loyal friend, suggesting they possess some nobility. However, while wild Deathgrippers killed out of necessity for survival in order to eat and were just following instincts, Grimmel's were modified into killing machines with much more heightened aggression.
Powers and Abilities
Strength and Stamina: The Deathgrippers were capable of carrying Grimmel, even at long distances. Four of the Deathgrippers are able to carry Grimmel's airship over long distances without any signs of struggle. They are also strong enough to temporarily stun the larger Cloudjumper and can survive a wreckage of rocks that fell upon them.
Speed and Agility: They are very fast in the land and flying in the air. This makes them able to catch up to Toothless.
Senses: The Deathgrippers have good sense of smell, smelling the Dragon Riders, even at night.
Retractable Stingers: The Deathgrippers' tails have hidden stingers that can retract whenever they attack.
Combustive Acid Breath: Unlike other dragons, which spit fire in some capacity, Deathgrippers spit some acid which burns and sears everything in its path.
Psycho-Active Venom: Deathgrippers release a form of neurotoxin from the point of their tail stingers which plays havoc both on the mind and the nervous system. The toxin can have numerous properties depending on how it's prepared, features which Grimmel uses to expert effect in his dragon-hunting profession.
The first is a neuro-cognitive deficiency where those affected are left in a state of muscle relaxation, drowsiness and disabled motor function.
The secondary effect is a form of mind control which Grimmel found has a powerful numbing effect he makes practice of through a direct cranial injection harness fitted both around his prey and his own Dragons. This was even enhanced with a drug formula Grimmel had stolen. The strength of which is so potent that his control cannot be undone even by an Alpha Dragon.
Alpha Control Resistance: Their venom concocted with the formula also makes them able to resist the Alpha's control.
One of Grimmel's Deathgrippers attempting to attack Hiccup.
The Deathgrippers gets killed in the explosion.
The Deathgrippers' corpses.
While the Deathgrippers are regarded as the secondary antagonists of the film, whether they were truly evil or not is debatable, considering that Grimmel the Grisly drugged them with their own venom and they were technically oblivious from their actions in that state. However, as Dragonpedia describes them to enjoy hunting like a wild pack of dogs and that they should be avoided at all costs, it can be implied that the Deathgrippers were already dangerous before Grimmel brainwashed them, which may be a reason for which Toothless killed them rather than biting off their collars to free them from Grimmel's brainwashing.
It's possible that Grimmel may have intended to dispose of the brainwashed Deathgrippers once he killed all dragons in the world. This actually makes sense, as Grimmel's only use for them was that of enforcers and given their brainwashed status, they would have been unable to defend themselves.
Excluding Viggo Grimborn, who redeemed during the episode Triple Cross, the Deathgrippers are the only secondary villains of the How to Train Your Dragon franchise to die and the second ones to be dragons. The first was the Red Death, the main antagonist of the first film.