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Random things that occur to me

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Fhaolan

Really, that should have been the episode name. :)

 

Chimera
Here’s something vaguely interesting. Originally, it looked like MLP:FiM was going to use the Dungeons and Dragons incarnations of monsters. The hydra, for example, is not the classic mythological version of a snake with many heads, but the middle ages Bestiary version that is more a giant lizard with many heads. And Dungeons & Dragons original author and editor, Gary Gygax, used the Bestiary version to build much of the monsters for that game. Now, FiM using D&D monsters makes a lot of sense, since Hasbro owns Dungeons & Dragons through Wizards of the Coast. It just makes things easier if you pull from a catalogue that you already own. However, the Chimera shown in Somepony to Watch Over Me deviates both from the D&D Chimera, and from the Mythological Chimera, becoming something of its own thing while having aspects of both.

 

Mythological:
The earliest record we have of the Chimera comes from Homer’s Illiad, where it is described as having the front of a lion, the middle of a goat, and the end of a snake, as well as it breathing fire. If you take *just* that description, you end up with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a snake’s tail, with the lion’s head belching out fire. Later on, in various statues, carvings, and writings, the description changes significantly, with a lion’s head, a goat head growing out of the middle of its back, and a snake head as a tail. Very likely this is what Homer meant, his description was just a bit vague. Often the snake is swapped out with a dragon and it’s the dragon’s head that does the fire breathing. Though in some writings, it’s the goat head that breathes fire for some bizarre reason. Another big point is that in Myth, the Chimera is a singular creature, much like most Greek monsters. There’s only one Chimera, and just for reference’s sake it’s female and possibly the mother of the Sphinx and the Nemean Lion of Heracles’ myth.
Interestingly, while everything we know about the Chimera comes from Greek art and writings, it was always said to have come from Lycia (an area that is now part of Turkey). But no Lycian art depicts the creature. This is an area rife with volcanic vents, so there are many places where the ground is always leaking fire, much like how the place Applebloom ran into the Chimera was belching fire all over the place.
Dungeons and Dragons:
The main differences between the Mythological Chimera and the D&D Chimera is again the D&D version is taken from the middle ages Bestiaries, and is shown to have the three heads (Lion, Goat, and Dragon) side-by-side, much like Cerberus the three-headed dog is depicted, plus the D&D Chimera is winged. Oh, and there’s lots of Chimeras. It’s a species. In this version the dragon head does the fire breathing. Over the various editions the art styles change significantly, and the Chimera became a ‘base’ creature where derivative creatures have a slightly different head line-up, but otherwise this Chimera is the standard. The goat head can be swapped out with a bull, the lion’s head with some other large feline, and so on.
Friendship is Magic:
So here the depiction differs from either of those. Instead of a lion, we have a sabre-tooth tiger head which is in a way a bit more visually interesting and is allowed for in the D&D chimera derivatives. The goat's head is tusked, and I'm not entirely certain what was going on with its horns, but I guess they felt the need to up the 'teeth' factor there. Instead of the myth’s goat head coming out of the middle of the back, it’s side-by-side with the tiger head like the D&D version. But the ‘dragon’ head is a very definitely a snake and is the creature’s tail, much like mythological one, not side-by-side with the other two as in the D&D version. And this version is not winged. It lives in a region with a lot of fire vents, and is probably resistant to fire, but it doesn’t seem to breathe fire itself.

 

And it might very well be a unique monster, but I get the feeling that it's meant to be a species, given how Applejack deals with it. (I was very amused by the ricotta cheese, though I would have recommended Tulum cheese as being more appropriate. But likely not available in Equestria.) it is, however, definitely female as the various heads referred to each other as sisters, so that maps to the mythological version.
Given this, and the inclusion of the Arimaspi in the The Lost Treasure of Griffonstone it’s pretty obvious that someone over there is a mythology nerd. They’re not using the D&D versions of creatures, nor are they using the versions that a basic level of Greek myth would indicate. They’re including details and odd information that is only available to someone who delves *hard* into ancient myths and legends, and yet are swapping out details (like the tiger head) to create something new of their own. Both episodes were written by different people, but I have no doubt there’s some form of collaboration going on and someone in there is throwing it details.

Fhaolan

Starswirl the Bearded

Right, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted to this particular blog so let’s do one that has been simmering in the back of my mind for quite some time.

 

As before, let’s start with what we know: In the MLP: FiM cartoon, Starswirl the Bearded is mentioned several times.

 

In Luna Eclipsed, Twilight dresses up as Starswirl in a stereotypical wizards hat and cloak, complete with stars and moons (instead of the more common astronomical glyphs), but with the addition of bells all over the hat. Interesting, and annoying choice for anyone who decides to cosplay. Nobody in Ponyville recognized the costume, except for the visiting Luna who compliments Twilight on the costume’s accuracy. Twilight mentions Starswirl having created hundreds of spells, including an entire category of magic called ‘amniomorphic’, and having a shelf of books dedicated to him in the Canterlot Library. Just as a note, there's some dissent on what exactly Twilight said in this episode. Some saying it was Amniomorphic, and some saying Anniomorphic. There is a big difference. Those that support Amniomorphic say that Amnio means bowl, and morphic means shapechanging, and combined with Bearded makes Starswirl a 'Hairy Potter'. Which is cute, and might actually be what the writers were aiming or, but unfortunately Amnio doesn't actually mean bowl as far as I've been able to tell. It's Greek for 'cowl' as in a hood, and shows up in modern times referring to things that interact with the Amniotic sac that a fetus develops in. So by this term we're saying Starswirl was responsible for a series of magic spells that help with pregnancy. Which actually might be valid now that I've taken the time to think it over. The alternative, Anniomorphic, is a lot more obscure and deals with a fifteenth-century Dominican friar and 'historian', Annio da Viterbo, who was famous for making shit up. Which, as we'll see later also makes sense.

 

In Hearth’s Warning Eve, Twilight exposits how the main character of the panto they’re putting on was mentored by Starswirl. The panto being set in what appears to be a time before Discord, Celestia, and Luna.

In It’s About Time, Twilight, Spike, and Pinkie go to a supposedly secure wing of the Canterlot Library (which might be specifically the Castle library, or the library for the Exceptional Unicorn school Twilight was attending before the first episode, or all of the above, it’s not clear), that is named after Starswirl and contains archives of his work, supposedly dangerous stuff in the wrong hands, at least one time travel spell and a giant sand clock. This is a little more than a single shelf, so we can assume that the shelf Twilight referred to previously was in the public library, not the secure wing.

Then in Magical Mystery Cure, Twilight gets mailed a book written by Starswirl, sent by Celestia, containing an incomplete spell that is capable of manipulating the Elements of Harmony even in its partial state. This book had also appeared at the end of The Crystal Empire, but it was just foreshadowing there and had no explanation. Celestia mentions that Starswirl didn’t understand the magic of Friendship, so couldn’t complete the spell.

In Three’s a Crowd, there is a travelling Starswirl museum, where several other ponies are wearing variations on the Starswirl costume, including several ponies that were present in Luna Eclipsed, so we can assume that in the years (?) since Luna Eclipsed there’s been a renaissance in the Starswirl the Bearded Fandom.

In Twilight’s Kingdom, Starswirl appears in a storybook, described as being ‘young’ by Celestia and interacting with Tirek and Scorpan at about the same time as Celestia was.

That's more than we usually get for theorizing and worldbuilding, but really it's still not much. For more info, we have to look at secondary sources:

In Rainbow Rocks it’s shown that Starswirl banished the Sirens to the Equestria Girls alternate dimension.

 

In the comics, Starswirl has appeared on the covers (not helpful), and in tiny cameos with no relevant info, but in the storyline Reflections in the main comic, Starswirl is shown quite a lot in flashbacks. He’s depicted as the classic bumbling professor type, and is responsible for discovering the means to travel to alternate dimensions using Crystal Mirrors created from the Crystal Caves below Canterlot, and bringing back a variety of objects (magical and otherwise) to the main dimension. There’s another comic in the Fiendship line where the banishment of the Sirens is shown again, and yet one more making Starswirl responsible in a very vague way for the Changelings as well.

 

In the Journal of the Two Sisters, Starswirl is said to be the leader of the group of unicorn mages responsible for the sun and moon movement before Celestia and Luna took over. Plus more details about his time travel experiments, mentioning that his age shifts around a lot, nominally because his spells and possibly energy expenditure are causing him to grow younger or older somewhat randomly.

In interviews with the FiM staff, there have been several mentions that Starswirl was meant to be the Equestrian Merlin analogue, with all the complexities and incongruities that brings along with it. Such as multiple conflicting origins and inconsistent mythologies. However, according the M.A. Larson at some Q&A’s at conventions, several of the original scripts for the episodes listed above didn’t mention Starswirl. He was added in to them by request by Hasbro.

Which is odd as there is a Gen 4 toy released by Hasbro for Starswirl… but as an Earth Pony mare. This matches all the prior generations of the toy line, each one having a Starswirl as a regular Pony mare, not a unicorn. The toy also changes appearance and cutie mark for each generation. In G4, the mare is blue with a purple/pink mane. G3, the mare is white with a dark pink mane (no G3.5 version). G2, the mare is white with a white mane. And G1, the mare is striped pink and blue with a purple and blue mane. This is pretty standard for multi-generation toys, with the appearances rarely being stable. But each is described within their generation as being highly magical in some way.



So what can we pull from this? Apparently Starswirl was a big deal historically, but a big deal that was obscure until recently. He was involved in a lot of the major turning points of Equestrian history, but in the background and not as a major player. However, now he’s being used as the go-to explanation for everything magical even if he wasn’t necessarily responsible. The not-so-wise mentor figure, non-evil mad inventor, the bumbling professor, etc. Like Gandalf, Merlin, and so on, he’s more a caricature than a character. He’s being marketed to the ponies of Equestria in some kind of advertising campaign.

This is not the first time we’ve seen someone put forward a disinformation campaign for a historical figure. The whole ‘Nightmare Night’ thing looks suspiciously like an attempt to desensitize the population for Nightmare Moon’s eventual return. It’s possible this Starswirl mania is something similar.

To continue the conspiracy theory stuff, the fact is that Hasbro has done something weird here with the toys. This is the only pony from prior generations that changed gender from mare to stallion, and even then the change only happened in the cartoon and comics. Hasbro has put at least some effort into making their Gen 4 toys vaguely resemble the characters in the show. Except Starswirl, which they have left as a mare.

Plus there’s the interesting thing about his name. Starswirl the Bearded. It’s rarely just said ‘Starswirl’, almost always the full name. This is common in some cultures that don’t normally use modern Western-style family names, to use identifiers like that. This could indicate that there were multiple historical Starswirls and the one we are interested in is defined by his beard. Or his beard was in itself more extravagant and luxurious than other ponies were capable, or desiring, to have making it part of his indentification. Or…

Here’s something that you may not know. The term ‘Beard’ in LGBT circles has an interesting meaning and history. Originally many gay men who were in the closet would grow beards to demonstrate overt masculinity, as a disguise of sorts. This term, being ‘bearded’, expanded over time to refer to any visible demonstration of masculinity in a someone who was not necessarily classically masculine. A wife of a gay man would be called ‘his beard’, women wanting to appear male would put on false mustaches, beards, or even just five-o-clock shadows to enhance their apparent maleness. So on and so forth.

Combine this with the toy line, and you get that despite first appearances they may in fact be the same character. This might be MLP’s first Trans character, with the ‘Bearded’ indicating that Starswirl is in fact a Mare who identifies as a Stallion.

Putting aside the conspiracy theories, there is also the disconnect in his apparent age; being present as an experienced and wise figure before Celestia and Luna took over the moon and sun, yet being described as young when dealing with Tirek while Celestia and Luna were in power. All easily explained by the time travel spells and his magical experiments as mentioned in the Journal. This also matches some of the mythology of Merlin where in many stories he is said to have ‘lived backwards’, getting younger over time. It’s very possible that what Celestia and Luna wrote in their journal was the work of an unreliable narrator, and what they put down was what they perceived rather than what actually happened. Meaning that the time travel spells were more responsible than they believed, with Starswirl actually being ‘out of order’ relative to the royal pair, travelling back and forth through time.

Another parallel with Merlin is the crystal caves of Canterlot. Well, Canterlot/Camelot being obvious, but the crystal caves specifically. In many versions of the Merlin mythos, the stories end with Merlin being trapped in a tree, or in Stonehenge, or in a Crystal Cave by Nimue, a character that might be his love interest, his student, or his nemesis depending on the exact story. In any case, he’s stuck there, effectively immortal but never to return to the ‘real’ world.
Some of those stories do put in an escape clause though, that Merlin is free to go to other worlds. With this concept, Starswirl might not be Equestria’s analogue of Merlin. He might actually *be* Merlin. And the Crystal Mirrors his attempts to find a way back to the world of King Arthur and company.

Which brings up the final, and what I find the most amusing theory. There is another fictional character who is said to literally be Merlin in his franchise. Who travels in time, who ages inconsistently and who can radically change appearance and theoretically genders. And who has an MLP analog which has appeared multiple times in the show with call outs and fanservice referring to both his classic and modern shows as well as references to apocryphal stories such as the 1965 feature films. I speak of course, of Doctor Who.

In the episodes collectively called ‘Battlefield’, broadcast in 1989, the Doctor discovers that some time in his personal future he will be known as Merlin, advising the now long-dead King Arthur and his Knights who turn out to have been be dimension jumping crusaders fighting a war against Morgaine and Mordred. In this episode it is implied that all the stories of Merlin, including the one about being trapped in a Crystal Cave, were real and have happened/will happen (time travel is tricky that way).

 

As a minor, but interesting coincidence is that in pride of place within the Starswirl the Bearded Secure Wing of the Canterlot Library, is a giant sand clock. A massive hourglass. Just like Doctor Whoove's Cutie Mark. And every picture or representation of Starswirl has his flanks covered. It's assumed that the symbol on his spellbook is his actual cutie mark, but maybe...

So, Starswirl the Bearded might not just be the Merlin of Arthurian legend. But he might be some future or past incarnation of Doctor Whooves… :sunbutt:

Fhaolan

Bits and Pieces

Okay, I've got a collection of little bits here, none of which have ended up big enough for an essay of their own. Mostly updates to previous entries.

 

Also, this one will be the last essay on the 'every week' schedule, as I've covered all the bigger ideas I had and I've fulfilled my need to get most of this junk down somewhere so it's not clogging up my mind, preventing me from concentrating on other projects. I'll still do more entries, but it will be less regular and more when inspiration strikes. Hopefully, this means I'll make some progress on the fanfiction ideas that have started pestering me more consistently recently.

 


 

Money

 

Have I mentioned before that the term 'bit' as a monetary unit amuses me? It's a real thing actually. In the United States 'two bits' refers to 25 cents, also known as a quarter for the exact same reason. It's a cultural hold-over from when the United States did not have it's own consistent currency and was primarily using the Spanish dollar (also known as the eight-reale coin, peso de ocho, or in English: pieces of eight.) It was common practice to cut the coin into segments to produce lesser denominations, the smallest being one eighth or just a bit of a dollar.

 

Which in my mind means eight bits should make a buck. In which case ponies could say things like "I don't give a buck!" meaning they don't think something is worth eight bits. :comeatus:

 


 

Gemstones

 

The Elements of Harmony turn out to have come from the Everfree Forest, as a kind of fruit of a special tree. Okay, fine. And now returned to the tree. Sure, whatever.

 

But they were gemstones in nearly all incarnations. Which in a way lines up the fact that gemstones in Equestria are not treated in any way like gems are in this world.

 

Gemstones in Equestria are found everywhere, in clusters of a variety of colors, usually encased in rock. However, they already appear cut and polished when freed from their encasement. Spike and Rarity use real-world names for different gems, but apply them differently. Spike talks about ripening, and 'seasons' for gems as if they grow and can 'go bad'. Carat is a measure of weight, and the carat values Rarity applies to gems would indicate that these gems are incredibly light for their size.

 

Gemstones appear to be, organic is not the right word here, but they appear to behave in an organic way. As if they are an aluminum silicate version of a truffle in Equestria. As such, they aren't as valuable as they would be here.

 


 

The Crystal Empire

 

The place billed as the Crystal Empire is still likely to be the Imperial Capital rather than the entire Empire. However, in re-viewing the Crystal Empire episodes, it is heavily implied that the Crystal Ponies were an imperial power that dominated all of Equestria via a form of emotional control using the Crystal Heart. Not necessarily in a bad way, or even in a conscious way, until Sombra took control, but still the Empire officially included all of Equestria according to those episodes. This is basically just verification of what I had originally written.

 


 

Alicorns

 

We've seen a couple of animation errors with alicorns in the background, and another showed up in Rarity Takes Manhattan. With the animation assets upgrade in Season 4, I'm starting to question the 'error' part of that. With the way Cadence was a foalsitter, the way Twilight believed there may be a Princess she had never met in that same episode, and the way Twilight is being treated now, there is an increasingly strong possibility that alicorns may not be as rare as the show is implying. That there are more than just the current four running around, and that these other alicorns have no higher potential than any other pony.

 


 

Festivals

 

I knew I had missed one when I had that open slot on the cusp of Summer and Fall. The Summer Harvest festival from the Babs Seed episode. It's odd putting a harvest festival in the summer, as the word 'harvest' actually means autumn in Old English. But there are crops that do come in at the end of Summer, so putting it right before Fall starts does make sense. What's actually being put on display during that festival is very odd, as there's a big emphasis on gourds and tree fruit, which are definitely a mid-autumn harvest in most locales, but whatever. It's more likely this festival was deliberately placed at this time, as a warm Summer festival with a harvest pretext.

 


 

Sophistry

 

Gilda, a gryphon, is a natural predator, being a blending of an eagle and a lion. Yet she is treated as a rare curiosity. Iron Will, a minotaur, is called a monster on various occasions, yet the general populace accepts his presence with no qualms. Cows can buy and sell products, travel on trains and go into stores, yet are herded and penned. Their close relatives, the buffalo, have their own culture and customs and rarely interact with ponies unless forced. Sheep have talked, goats run stage shows, and they get penned as well. Zecora, a zebra, was a focus of fear until a filly made it her business to change that. Various donkeys and mules run around Ponyville just fine, but do have to deal with some unfortunate racial slurs on occasion. Horses are considered separate from Ponies, and we've seen Saddle Arabians who appear more horse-like, but only the once and never again. And we haven't seen any Changelings beyond the Wedding Invasion. We think.

 

Zecora could be explained as being the pony equivalent to the 'Uncanny Valley' reaction. She looks just like a pony, but not, making ponies react automatically without realizing the source. The rest seem to follow the same pattern as the Hearth's Warming Eve story. Ponies form strong societies that are difficult to break into.

 

Ponies are clannish, that's a given. They are based off of herd animals after all.

 

The problem this is starting to face, from a worldbuilding perspective, is that with all these intelligent species and their relative positions in Equestrian society, it's starting to resemble real-world race relations. And that is one extremely twitchy topic, especially the day after MLK day here in the 'states. This is one of the reasons I decided to put off publishing this one on the normal Monday schedule.

 

I'm not going into it here, because I've made the conscious decision that I am not going to talk about current real-life issues in this context. It's not appropriate, and I'm not qualified. If I could do it in suitably vague or historical terms, I might try, but what I've worked out of what I would say is far too current and specific to be anything other than needlessly inflammatory.

Fhaolan

Governor of Ponyville

I was going to talk about the pony’s categorization and treatment of Monsters, but every time I sat down to write it all out, I came up with half a paragraph of text. I honestly thought I’d be able to do more with that, so I’m going to delay that topic for a bit in hopes of developing more material.

 


 

In the meantime, let’s talk about government. Specifically local, or Ponyville, government.

In my episode notes I regularly mention Ponyville’s government, so what have we gathered so far:

 

Ponyville’s Town Hall is a huge structure that dominates the main square. It’s a typical hall, but large enough to accommodate a good chunk of the population of Ponyville, as seen when Nightmare Moon crashed the Summer Sun Celebration at the beginning of the series. Likely there are offices on the top floors above the ‘hall’ itself. The ponies regularly use the hall for celebrations and events, and surrounding it is what passes for Ponyville 'Downtown' district, with the public market and most of the businesses that have their own buildings, such as the Spa, shops, boutiques, etc. It's possible that the town hall is also the Ponyville courthouse, but we have nothing to support that.

 

The town’s government is headed by Mayor Mare, and it is implied that there are at least two others involved, a pony with a gavel cutie mark who is likely a judge, and a pony with an open scroll who is likely a town councilor. The judge character is apparently named Lady Justice according to the collectable card for her, and the councilor has been labeled by fans as William Wright, although there is some confusion as ponies with similar appearances but different cutie-marks or coat colors appeared in other episodes.

 

Western governments usually break down into three branches, Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. As I’ve said in other venues, those that keep the law, those that write the law, and those that argue the law. Exactly how this is implemented varies wildly, but the divisions are pretty solid. In this case we have the Mayor (Executive), the Councilor (Legislative), and the Judge (Judicial). While normally the town council would have several members given the population of Ponyville, the ponies are by nature more herd-orientated than humans and may not need as many representatives as we do. In which case it’s entirely possible the town council is in fact just these three ponies. Or these three form a Privy Council, with other less influential members being the full council.

 

Schools normally fall under local or state government as well, but we only know about the one school in Ponyville. Given the population of Ponyville, it wouldn’t be surprising for there to be other schools, unless they really do adhere to the old late 1800’s style of education that I talked about in a previous entry. As such Cheerilee is an employee of the town council, and if there is only one school she may even be on the full council itself. Heck, for that matter Rainbow Dash is likely a government employee as Ponyville’s top weather pony, although that job may be military. Again, I’ve talked about that previously.

 

For that matter, libraries nominally fall under local government, which brings us to Twilight Sparkle, who even before becoming an alicorn had a strange position in local government.

 

Twilight Sparkle is the town librarian. Sort of. She rarely seems to do anything librarian-ish, other than regularly re-arranging the library so that nobody else can find anything. And the only ponies we see using the library *as* a library are Twilight’s immediate friends like Rarity and Rainbow Dash (for Daring Do books). The rest of Ponyville seems to studiously avoid going into the library unless they want Twilight to do something for them.

 

She was concerned about missing a meeting with the Ponyville Hay Board, not a meeting *for* the Board. Which means she doesn’t think of herself as being on the Board itself, but is critical advisor for them. While most food boards are nominally marketing boards that are used as central advertising agencies sponsored by the government, most act as price and supply regulators, and are also funding sources for alternative usage of the products. The example most people know about are the various Milk Boards across several nations and states, which outside of advertising milk also act as a regulatory agency for quality and price, and often sponsor new milk product manufactories. In this case the ‘Hay’ board is likely also responsible for price, distribution, and ensuring supply of feed grass, timothy, rye, fescue, alfalfa, clover, oat, barley, wheat, all of which are considered ‘Hay’. Obviously Hay is being treated as an absolute staple food that it is critical to maintain the supply of, and so the government is taking steps to ensure it.

 

Back to Twilight, in most situations that call for local government running special events and festivals, Twilight is front and center either organizing the event or fronting it. Royal visits, seasonal ceremonies, etc., all seem to have Twilight involved. Usually with Mayor Mare sitting off to the side, visibly frustrated by the situation, and trying to direct Twilight off onto other paths that would allow the Mayor to have nominal control. However, the Mayor rarely if ever takes direct action against Twilight.

 

Twilight’s position as Librarian appears to be by decree of Celestia back in the first episode. Likely this is a position employed by the town council, and they had to accept the pony Celestia sent them. Added to the fact that she appears to be Celestia’s only personal student and protégé, Twilight is more than just the Librarian. She is the direct appointee of Celestia, and the local government thinks of her as Celstia’s representative.

 

This is all before the ‘Princess Twilight’ events. She was already in effect the Governor of Ponyville. It is unlikely this is official, and it’s entirely probable that Twilight is naïve enough to have not noticed. It is for this reason that the upgrade to Princess isn’t much of a shock to Ponyville. They were basically treating her as an extension of Celestia anyway up until that point, so no real change from their point of view.

 

What will be interesting to see is if we ever have an episode for an election in Ponyville. It’s not guaranteed that Mayors, Judges, and Councilors, are elected officials. They can be, even historically in monarchies. Mayors, for example, have been elected officials in England ever since King John (of Robin Hood fame).

Fhaolan

Sophistry

Yay, I managed to get this together today, keeping to my schedule of one worldbuilding essay a week. Yeah, it's a bit light, but :derp:.

 

 

How the various creatures are portrayed in MLP, and how the ponies react to them, is very odd and seemingly inconsistent. As I’ve mentioned before, inconsistencies are opportunities for worldbuilding.

 

Those who are reading my various posts may have noticed that I am using an odd word ‘Sophont’, where others would likely use ‘Sapient’ or ‘Sentient’. It’s a relatively recent word, coined in 1966 by Karen Anderson (wife of writer Poul Anderson) from the Greek word sophisma, meaning wisdom. To me, the distinctions between the ways the words are used apply very strongly to MLP.

 

Sentient technically means something that feels emotions, rather than being purely reflex driven. It’s pretty hard to deny that real-life animals like dogs and the like don’t feel joy, sorrow, anger, and so on. So it’s not really a good word for indicating level of consciousness, which is why most people have switched to using the word ‘sapient’.

 

Sapient, although not originally defined this way, is usually used to refer to something that is self-aware. Here’s where we run into a problem with MLP, as everything there is depicted as self-aware. The various pets, animals, even insects display sapience as they can be talked to and reasoned. Yet they are not deemed to be in the same category as ponies, zebras, minotaurs, dragons, etc. as they can’t talk back.

 

Which is where sophont comes in. Technically it means the exact same thing as sapience, something with wisdom. However, usage puts sophont at a somewhat higher level; a creature that is not just self-aware, but with culture, language, and philosophy. Often it’s also used negatively; ‘too smart for your own good’, connecting it back to the term ‘sophistry’, meaning anyone willing to discuss or argue philosophy, which is considered to be a pointless waste of time. ;)

 


 

MLP:FiM divides creatures into various categories: animals, sophonts, an odd middle ground between the two, and adds a qualifier ‘monster’ to the mix.

 

Animals are basically any creature that cannot talk. Snakes, dogs, bats, birds, and so on display conscious thought and reasoning abilities, but do not talk and are therefore treated as ‘lesser’ creatures needing protection, guidance, or the like. This goes all the way down to butterflies and ladybugs, all demonstrating a similar level of intelligence, although some seem a bit dafter or brighter than others this appears to be an individual thing, not a species attribute.

 

Sophonts are talking creatures that are treated just like ponies, as ‘people’. This includes gryphons, donkeys, buffalo, and Saddle Arabians.

 

The middle ground is where things go strange. Cows and sheep have talked in the show, and goats were seen with microphone equipped headsets (although they did not actually speak in that episode), and yet they are treated like livestock rather than people. In fact, let’s call this middle ground ‘livestock’ just to keep it clear.

 

As far as I can tell, the livestock creatures are proper sophonts, but are culturally subjugated to the ponies. I’m not going to call it slavery though, as it is probably closer to the medieval concepts of villeins and/or cottagers, steps above slaves, but not truly ‘free’ men. They could own property, have some rights, can’t be sold like a slave, and it was possible to become freemen through a variety of ways. This seems to map to the way livestock is being treated in MLP:FiM. I know it’s not a nice thought, and it is easily possible to take this in dark directions, but these creatures are regularly herded and penned by ponies. It's hard to look at it in any other way.

 


 

Next week, let's look at Monsters.

Fhaolan

Last week we has the Spring and Summer festivals. Now onto the other two seasons.

 

Fall Festivals

 

Like the spring festivals, we have two in the fall: Nightmare Night and the Running of the Leaves. The Running of the Leaves feels a lot like the exact opposite of Winter Wrap Up. In this case the ponies are removing the last of Fall to make way for Winter. It’s a time of games and other events, but it doesn’t seem to have the same emotional significance as it's Spring counterpart. It's long past harvest time for most crops which occurs anywhere from the beginning to the middle of fall depending on the crop, so it's not a Harvest Festival. While all we see is the single sporting event the festival is currently taking it's name from, there are likely other festivities wrapped around it given the nature of the event itself. So it’s not the equivalent of Thanksgiving as celebrated in America or Canada (different dates, but the basically the same harvest festival. Or in America's case the 'Oh heck, we missed the harvest' festival.), but a much lighter version based on sport. So to translate this into terms more familiar to Americans, this would be more like the first day of football season turned into an official holiday of its own. Complete with elaborate tailgating feasts, award ceremonies and the like. Actually, now that I think on it, it wouldn't surprise me to find that the Equestrian Games grew out of the Running of the Leaves in much the same way the Marathon was the premier athletic event in the first modern Olympics. The Games don't count as a festival for this purpose, as likely it is following the real-life Olympics in occurring only once every four years.

 

Nightmare Night on the other hand, like Halloween in real life, is a very strong contender for a true Harvest Festival. The sacrifice of food in return for safety, the preponderance of death imagery to point out the ‘death of the year’ (signaled by all the plants 'dying' by going into hibernation mode), so on and so forth. The costuming of Halloween is traditionally to pretend to be one of a variety of evil sprits, either to hide from them when they are the most active, or to capitalize on public fear and extort gifts, eventually in a fun and mocking way as the real fears turn to pranks. In Nightmare Night, the ponies are nominally hiding from a singular spirit, Nightmare Moon, who has taken on a Jack of the Lantern role as I stated here. However, the only way to hide by wearing costumes would be if there were other spirits to hide among. So this indicates that the myths likely have Nightmare Moon having a collection of servants and hangers-on. This might contradict the idea that Luna took on the persona of Nightmare Moon out of loneliness, but it also might mean that these followers of Nightmare Moon came *after* the transformation. Leading to the reinforcement that Luna had to remain as Nightmare Moon to keep the attention she was now receiving. Creatures attracted to the overt use of power that Nightmare Moon demonstrated, perhaps. Creatures now considered monsters; minotaurs, manticores, changelings, bat ponies... :)

 

Now, you would think that the ponies would put Nightmare Night and it’s equivalents on the longest night of the year, but it apparently isn’t as that would be a winter festival, not a fall one. Unless Equestria has very asymmetric seasons (which is technically possible given the ponies ability to manipulate the weather) this festival is placed on the Summer side of the Fall Equinox when nearly all crop harvest will be complete, mid-way between the longest day and longest night. The other choice would be to put the festival on the day Luna succumbed to her jealousy and became Nightmare Moon. But the flashbacks in the Season 4 opening episodes seemed to indicate that the time elapsing between the creation of Nightmare Moon and the exile to the Moon was hours at best. So that would be the same day as the Summer Sun Celebration. That curtails a lot of possibilities for worldbuilding, so it may be necessary to do some creative editing.

 

One possible solution to this is that the flashback was the Cliff Notes version of the events, and the battle between Nightmare Moon and Celestia actually took place over nine months or more with a great deal of retreating, advancing, testing, with random day/night cycles as one force temporary overpowers the other, and so on. Events that are unmistakable and have to be explained somehow to cause the creation of mythologies. Otherwise this is a momentary eclipse and the loss of a princess that might be a footnote in a historical account somewhere. Not something ponies would build two major festivals around.

 

Nightmare Night is very much Luna’s day. As much as I would like to say the next holiday is hers, as the longest night, her association with Nightmare Moon just won’t let that be.

 


 

Winter Festivals

 

Winter festivals. While the modern attitude towards winter festivals is of joy and gift giving, the older form was more pleading for survival and clinging to the support of your community during grim, dark times. For example, the lighting of each home’s central fire from the candles taken from the communal tree (an old Celtic ritual that survives in the decorated and lit Christmas tree and the Yule log) reinforced the idea that individuals needed what only the entire community could provide to survive the winter. Another example of the grimness of the festival being the paradoxyl winter feast; Making a party out of the last of the foods that could not be preserved for one reason or another, and so had to be consumed before they went bad.

 

This dark, yet celebratory situation is very present in the Hearth’s Warming Eve celebration. The celebration of the founding of Equestria and the defeat of the Windigoes, but more importantly the survival of the various ponies and their newfound friendship and community. This is very definitely the Equestrian dark-days festival, and the equivalent to original festivals that occupy the time now taken by the various big winter holidays like Christmas. It’s very likely that the Hearth’s Warming Eve story is mostly fictional but based on a kernel of something real, in the same way Santa Claus is based on a variety of actual people blended with liberal amounts of far older mythology. It would be easy to dismiss the Hearth’s Warming Eve story as completely fictional, but Twilight references what she believes is an actual historical figure (Starswirl the Bearded), and connects him to one of the central characters of the story (Clover the Clever). Twilight is not the kind of pony to let that kind of thing slide. Her OCD nature is central to her character and her fandom-like obsession with Starswirl would lead her to clearly demark what she believes to be fiction from what she believes to be fact. If the story was completely fictional, she would be telling everyone that every five minutes during the episode.

 

In any case, winter festivals like Christmas and Hearth’s Warming Eve, are primarily about reinforcing social ties and bringing together communities. Being with *friends* and family.

 

For this reason, when (if) she has reached the same status/power as Celestia and Luna, this will be Twilight’s day, as the Princess of Friendship. Nominally, I would prefer to switch Luna and Twilight here, simply for symmetry, but life is rarely so nicely symmetric, and that does give a bit more 'realism' to this setting. It's not perfect, it's wonky and unbalanced, which is how real life is.

 


 

Now you probably noticed that there were only seven festivals here, and winter only got one. That's kinda an accident in symmetry as the two festivals on either cusp of winter (Winter Wrap Up, and the Running of the Leaves) were very distinctly Spring and Fall festivals, not winter ones. Otherwise I would have counted Winter Wrap Up as a Winter festival, and the Grand Galloping Gala into the Spring to keep the everything symmetric. Still, we're missing some kind of fete on the cusp of Summer and Fall. This isn't surprising as there are likely a number of holidays and celebrations that we haven't seen yet. Especially ones from the other cultures like the zebras, the donkeys, the Saddle Arabians, the gryphons, etc. So likely we'll see something in the coming season as the writers do like showing festival-like celebrations but seem to be avoiding revisiting ones we've seen before. Additional holidays will possibly be more secular in nature, celebrating historical events that we're unaware of at the moment. Such as the Equestrian equivalent to Guy Fawkes day, or more frantically party-like celebrations like Mardi Gras or Holi (also spring festivals, but with a less work more play energy than Winter Wrap Up. These might make good choices for cusp of Spring and Summer festivals, especially if we get more information that moves the GGG over to the Summer/Fall slot).

 

So, very likely this topic will get revisited at some point soon.

Fhaolan

Festivals and celebrations are very important to most cultures and exactly how they celebrate them can tell you a lot about the people themselves, of course. Most of the festivals we’ve seen in MLP:FiM are expys of real-life Western holidays. But not all of them are, and in some cases there are some subtle differences.

 

Most festivals in real life are sourced from two different places. The oldest come from the various agricultural-driven needs like planting, harvesting, or natural events like the longest and shortest days (the solstices). The newer ones are usually sourced from the day specific historical events occurred, although in many cased those get moved around to match up with the older festivals, in order to co-opt them and redirect public energy towards newer religions or nationalistic fervor. Oddly enough, this may work a different way in Equestria.

 

In real life the dates of the festivals also tend to move around a lot depending on a societies ability to keep calendars. In the real world, the various natural counters of time, days, months, and years, don't actually line up nicely. A solar year always ends at different 'times' relative to the lunar month or the terran daily rotation, leaving extra bits of 'time' lying around mucking up the cycles. Because of this calendar-driven festivals tended to migrate as the year shifted around the calendar. Then you get 'calendar reform'. For example, the calendar most of the West uses used to have ten months. That's why it's September, October, November, December: Sept=Seven, Oct=Eight, Nov=Nine, Dec=Ten. All the months had 30 or 31 days, and there were 51 days that were considered 'outside' the year during the winter. When the year is 'dead', you see. Which is still messed up, because it only adds up to 355 days, which is 10 days, 5 hours, 49 minutes, and 30 seconds short. Rigidly following this calendar means you're calendar is shifting 10 days every year around the seasons. :)

 

Our current calendar, the Gregorian Calendar, is only inaccurate by 1 day every 3,000 years, but older calendars had already done enough damage to cause some festivals to be shifted so far around the year that they no longer resemble their original intent.

 

Equestria likely doesn't have that problem at all, thanks to Celestia and Luna manually keeping the calendar in check. Instead, it is entirely possible that they move the *seasons* to match up with historical event festivals, rather than the other way around.

 


 

Spring Festivals

 

All societies with roots in agrarian cultures celebrate at least two major events, planting and harvesting. Spring is for planting and is usually a fertility festival, with boundless energy and color to celebrate the birth of the new year. In many regions it’s also a harvesting festival for those hardy grains that grow throughout the winter in more tropical and subtropical regions, as that’s when most of the precipitation falls, such as Egypt and Mesopotamia. In Western cultures, the original fertility festival was co-opted by Christians into Easter, bringing along its symbols of fertility; eggs and rabbits. Once fully co-opted, the date was moved around to disconnect it from the original festival in the hopes of finally putting an end to pagan practices. Any case, these types of festivals usually have a big feast of preserved foods, especially those that can only be partially preserved and will likely not last once the ambient temperature rises. Dried fruit, salted meats (though the meat bit is less likely given… well… ponies.), and spring harvest root vegetables will be the most common.

 

In Equestria, the main spring festival is very obviously Winter Wrap Up, even though it takes place on the cusp between Winter and Spring. The rural area of Ponyville is deeply invested in this festival, and due to the ponies’ increased control of their environment it goes beyond just plowing the fields and sowing the grain, but also bringing animals out of hibernation and removing the winter snow. Which brings up the question as to exactly where they move the snow *to*, but anyway… In Ponyville the Winter Wrap Up is to be completely without Unicorn magic very specifically, which is excused as being because Ponyville was originally an Earth Pony settlement. But Pegasi are allowed to, and are in fact required, to use their special weather-manipulation abilities that the Earth Ponies can't do. So this ban on Unicorn magic seems out of place. There is a possible reason though.

 

In more urban areas like Canterlot, populated by mainly Unicorns, they don’t celebrate Winter Wrap Up to that extent. Normally I'd say it would be because they are relatively far removed from agricultural needs, and so planting isn’t exactly high on their to-do lists. But given the ban on using Unicorn magic in Ponyville's Winter Wrap Up, it seems that some point in the past Unicorns routinely used their magic in some way that the other races of Equestria viewed as damaging and insulting the festival itself. The blowback of that being Unicorn magic being banned from the festival, and Unicorn-dominated areas abandoning the festival in response.

 

But there will still be a cultural need for a Spring Festival in Unicorn areas, eventually leaking back into non-Unicorn areas but on a different date. Here we find Hearts and Hooves Day. Now, at first glance this looks like a simple clone of Valentine’s Day, but it isn’t completely. Equestria doesn’t have the greeting card and gift companies that were the driving force behind the real-life Valentine’s Day, so it needs to have some other impetus to drive it. But the main indicator of difference is that Valentine’s Day occurs in what Equestrians would consider the winter, and in the Hearts and Hooves episode you can see that Winter Wrap Up has already occurred as there is no snow on the ground. This means Hearts and Hooves Day is likely close to, or on, the Equinox, the day exactly between the Longest Day and the Longest Night. A day a more organized, urban, and calendar-driven society like the Unicorns would put a festival. Plus it’s pretty obviously a Fertility Festival, a lot more blatantly than Winter Wrap Up. In fact, it's entirely possible that the event that caused Unicorn magic being banned in the Winter Wrap Up may have to do with overt fertility rites that the Unicorns moved to the prototype Hearts and Hooves Day. This wouldn't be the first time festivals were originally one, and were split due to evolving cultural and class differences.

 

When, and if, Cadence makes the jump to the same status/ability as Celestia and Luna, this will be her day. Alicorn of Love and all that.

 


 

Summer Festivals

 

Next in line is the summer festival; which most cultures put on the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. In real life in Western culture we’ve mostly lost the official summer festival, Midsummer. In Christian regions this became known as St. John’s Day. In some countries this is still a big, important festival, but in America and similar places almost nobody remembers. Because Midsummer celebrations have lessened in many areas, instead we get smaller regional celebrations that carry less emotional and cultural weight but are still celebrations of summer. Summer Days, summer vacations, etc.

 

In this category of civic rather than cultural festival, we have the Grand Galloping Gala. According to the MLP:FiM Live show (which is otherwise a mess), this is a after-spring festival that occurs every year. So this is put on the cusp of Spring and Summer. However, that show was so messed up in it's timeline this could be a late summer fete on the cusp of Summer and Fall. Still, it's a major social event but doesn't give the indicators of a cultural festival. It’s likely there are local versions of the Gala all over Equestria, but with different names and dates, possibly all leading up to the Grand Galloping Gala.

 

But in Equestria they do have a full Summer Festival. The Summer Sun Celebration. Probably due to the ponies exercising full control over the day/night cycles, the longest day of the year also coincides with the day Celestia defeated Nightmare Moon, and now the day that Luna was restored. This festival is presented as a much more formal and ritualistic affair than the other seasonal festivals, which makes sense given that it really is a more calendar-driven celebration that has only ancillary connections to more primitive agricultural roots.

 

In any case, this is definitely Celestia’s day. There is no doubt about that.

 


 

Next week, Fall and Winter.

Fhaolan

Education in Equestria

I’ve talked about parts of this all over the forum, this is really just assembling it all into one place.

 

What do we know about the education system of Equestria?

 

We know that Ponyville has a one-room schoolhouse that appears to only have one class and teacher. No other schools or teachers are referred to within Ponyville. The expectation seems to be that foals will start school before gaining their cutie-mark, but will gain it at some point while in school. Lessons include regular reading, writing, and arithmetic, as well as general history and other subjects that seem geared towards giving the students opportunities to find their special talents.

 

We know that Twilight attended a special school: Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, for which she had to pass an entrance exam, and was apparently still attending in some way when she was sent to Ponyville by Celestia in the first episode. It was during the exam that she gained her cutie-mark, and Twilight specifically said that she was late in getting a cutie-mark. This gives us a vague time-frame for this advanced school. Out-of-show, the various creative staff have mentioned that both Trixie and Sunset Shimmer were at one point students at this same school, but all three were in different ‘years’ so as to not encounter Twilight directly at any point.

 

We know of the Wonderbolts Academy which is attended by full adults, which gives the impression of a military training facility. I really handled that one back in the third part of my first worldbuilding essay here. In summary, in order for the Wonderbolts and their Academy to really be the Equestrian equivalent to the Blue Angels, Red Arrows, or Snowbirds (three different military stunt teams), then the weatherponies, including Rainbow Dash, are likely members of the Equestrian equivalent of the Army Corps of Engineers.

 


 

What can we do with this?

 

The foundation here is the one-room school. This follows a similar model as the rural one-room schoolhouses found in America in the mid 1800’s. This works quite differently than modern schools, which debuted in the early 1900’s, so it might be a bit puzzling for people. At that time, the ‘class’ wasn’t divided by age. All students would get the same lessons, but the older students would be expected to complete more elaborate versions of the same exercises and assist the younger students. For example, a common textbook in poorer districts would be an almanac, a compilation of weather predictions, informative articles on farming, as well as ‘important’ historical and literary excerpts. (As school supplies were purchased locally, there would be high variation from region to region depending on the funds being made available to the school.) A lesson would be reading a section of the almanac. Young students would be concentrated on simply identifying letters, slightly older students would be reading the words themselves, while the older students would be attempting to understand the concepts and finding uses for the ‘lessons’.

 

Ponyville gives the impression of being a wealthy rural district with a significant sized town, so they’re not as limited and have many more resources available. However, the idea is the same in that the class is not divided by age. These schools would only have the students for four to six years, depending on how quickly the individual student moved through the lessons, and then they would go on to further education depending on their parent’s personal means.

 

The poorest students would simply be released to be laborers. Those with some money or connections would become apprentices for skilled laborers, such as carpenters, smiths, and the like. At this point the apprentice system was highly regulated, with ‘masters’ needing to be certified by their guild-equivalent before being allowed to take on apprentices.

 

If however the student had serious funding or better connections, they would move to a more advanced school. Usually a boarding school in a big city. These would have actual classes separated by entrance year, and cover more esoteric lessons like comportment, rhetoric, literature, music, history, and the like. These could be called ‘secondary’, ‘high’, ‘finishing’ schools, or a variety of other names. This schooling would normally last another six or so years, and the graduates of this would go on to apprenticeship in more white-collar jobs like business, medical, law, government, etc. Or go on to the final pass at a College or a University (which at the time were collections of Colleges that were sharing resources), which was considered to be a superior substitute to the advanced apprenticeship system as you would be exposed to a wider range of opportunities than if you were tied to a single master.

 

This is why the advanced degree in modern universities is called a ‘Master’ degree. At one point that was the minimum requirement for a person to call themselves a Master and take on apprentices/students in those subjects.

 

Anyway, Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns very much resembles one of these secondary schools, going directly into a College. Twilight will have actually been in a primary school prior to taking the exam, and was either truly late in getting her cutie-mark, or was precocious/annoying enough that her parents brought her to the entrance exam early. Or both. The episode gives the impression that if Twilight hadn’t experienced that magic surge that she wouldn’t have gotten into the school. However, the test of hatching the egg was more like the various interview questions high-tech industries used to give, where they don’t expect you to know the answer. They’re more interested in how you approach the question. They probably didn’t expect her to actually hatch the egg, they just wanted to see what she would do when *trying*.

 

Rarity likely attended a Finishing School as well in Canterlot, which is why her accent doesn’t match her parents or Sweetie Bell. Students of secondary education at this time usually were taught ‘comportment’ which includes etiquette, speech patterns, and so on. In England, students ended up with what’s called Received Pronunciation accents. In America, it was ‘Mid-Atlantic’ accents which is what happens when Received Pronunciation moves across the water to America and is blended with the normal East Coast accents. Rarity’s accent goes away when she’s really stressed, at least in earlier seasons. She seems to be getting more proficient and not losing it as often now.

 

A final note on this, it’s interesting that Twilight, upon arriving at Ponyville moved directly into the library and became the official librarian with no fuss or bother. It’s not even mentioned what happened to the prior librarian. It’s possible that the library system is considered part of the education system in Equestria. Royalty tends to have personal projects that they have official and immediate control over. Celestia appears to take a personal interest in the education system (having her own schools, and having personal students), so likely she exercised that immediate power to appoint Twilight as Ponyville librarian without having to go through the regular ‘I’m the Princess’ hoopla that must follow her everywhere else.

Fhaolan

Okay, basically I’ve watched all the prior generations of My Little Pony. And my conclusion is this: while there is stuff that can be borrowed from these generations, they need liberal interpretations to be truly salvageable.

 

If we are to force it all into a consistent history, it’s necessary to do some serious crowbarring. And my personal starting point would be re-order the various series.

 

In a more reasonable order, we start with My Little Pony Tales. An earth pony settlement in a southwest region of the continent, called Ponyland. Nuclear families, 1980’s technology, elected officials, etc. Evidence of an even older civilization called ‘The Pintos’ by the locals, but completely supplanted by the earth ponies. This settlement only comes into contact with Pegasi, and even then it is a brief event.

 

We then move on to G3. Ponyland has expanded, and the former town is now the city of Ponyville (City of Townsville! Sorry.) With the Castle of Laughter now the centerpiece to the town. Most of the culture remains the same, but one big shift is the genders becoming segregated, and the males are exiled from the tribe for extended periods. Magic has become more common, and those who are appointed to be the guardians of the magic tools the ponies have discovered are called ‘princesses’ as a title of rank. The earth ponies first encounter pegasi, unicorns, and the fairy ponies known as Breezies. Unicorns at this point control the sun, moon, and rainbows via various magical artifacts.

 

G3.5 occupies an odd place where the various pony tribes are just beginning to integrate. Selected Pegasi have ‘blended’ with Breezies in some magical event off-screen to become the first Flutterponies all ready for G1. Not all Pegasi, just certain ones.

 

Here is where the Hearth’s Warming Eve play would be set. A conflict occurs between the three main tribes, and the release of the Windigoes causing them to abandon their current regions, and find themselves in Dream Valley at the Castle of Friendship.

 

Now we come to G1’s My Little Pony ‘n Friends. The tribes are almost completely integrated, and thanks to the commonality of magic, technology has waned to the point of non-existence. The Rainbows created by the Unicorns back in Unicornia are now ‘wild’ thanks to the Windigo-driven conflict, but the original Rainbow is kept by the Moochick just in case. Flutterponies have separated off into their own region, taking with them the unicorn’s Sunstone that allowed them to control the sun. Male ponies are still nomadic, only reuniting with the mares on a yearly basis. All the guardians of magic have been similarly exiled, nominally for their protection, living in isolation in the former Unicornia in the Castle of Rainbows. Protection that is demonstrated time and again to be necessary, with the devastation of the Smooze, and flood of Squink, and what not.

 

It’s during G1 that the Elements of Harmony and the Crystal Heart are first discovered deep in the crystal caverns under the Castle of Rainbows. (The six crowns of the Heart of Ponyland). Thanks to the Season 4 FiM opener, we have to have the Elements end up in another cavern, this time under the Castle of Laughter, where a mysterious Tree grows, taking the Elements into itself.

 

Now is when the Prince and Princess occur from the Hearts and Hooves storybook, and Discord comes to play for an unknown amount of time. Young Celestia and Luna, descendants of the storybook Prince and Princess, so to be official Princesses right from the get go, go on a Hero’s Quest to discover the various artifacts now scattered across the world in order to defeat Discord. The Elements of Harmony, the Sun and Moon Stone, the Crystal Heart, etc. During this quest they alicoronate (possibly due to somehow merging with the Sun and Moon Stones respectively), encounter Sombra at the Castle of Family (now the Castle of Love in the capitol city of the Crystal Empire), and probably and a variety of other villains all over the region. They don’t always win or end up with the desired result, however, they do manage to get enough artifacts together to take on Discord and win in the end.

 

The sisters settle in the Castle of Laughter, in Ponyville, which gets renamed to the Castle of the Pony Sisters. The Princesses institute several changes, including a Hearts and Hooves Day to move the ponies back to a gender-integrated society and an attempt to compensate for the loss of the Crystal Heart when Sombra took his ball and went home.

 

Eventually Luna throws her fit, and that area is consumed by the Everfree Forest. Old Ponyville is destroyed, and the capitol of Equestria gets moved to Unicornia, now known as Canterlot. Celestia grants the Apple Family leave to settle in the valley below to form a New Ponyville. Of course, since Old Ponyville ceased to exist a bit over 900 years ago, they don't remember it very well so the 'New' part is lost.

 

Which then lands us close enough to where we are now. The big conceit in all this is that the various Castles all predate the ponies, being built by some prior civilization. Ponies are never native, they always come from someplace else originally, and always find these castles already there for them. Perhaps in states of decay needing rebuilding, but pre-existing.

 

Most of this requires having seen the prior series as more suggestive, and liberally interpreted. But if you want to construct a history out of all of it, that’s what you have to do. Other versions can be constructed as well, each equally contrived out of very little cloth, but if you take liberties to this extent it's *possible*.

 

As a final note, I'm aware that there are other resources for these prior generations beyond just the animated series. G1 and G2 had comic books in Europe apparently, and there are hundreds of published picture books for each generation. I didn't go through those because, well, I can't afford them all and there's a limit to what I'm capable of consuming anyway. Sorry if I've missed some critical bit of information hidden away in a book. Twilight would be so wroth with me. :(

 

I'm currently re-watching all of G4 and taking worldbuilding notes just like I did with the prior generations, but since that series is still ongoing, I can't exactly do full-series summary essays like I've done with the others. I'm not sure what I'm going to do, to tell the truth. Any suggestions? Should I even bother with summaries, or just leave the individual episode blog entries on their own?

Fhaolan

Generation 3 had less stuff in it for worldbuilding than even G1.5’s My Little Pony Tales. This is at the same time very easy to summarize, and yet very hard to find anything useful.

 

The ponies are separated into four different tribes, one of which is more a different race than a tribe. The Earth Ponies live in Ponyville again, this time a village primarily built with late Victorian architecture plus several ‘mock’ buildings that are made to resemble household objects. The village is built around a castle that resembles the gatehouse of the Kasteel de Haar of the Netherlands primarily of the 16th century, missing the main building itself. The surrounding terrain is relatively flat, with minimal hills and no mountains within a day’s travel. The climate is definitely temperate, on the warm side where snow rarely covers all the ground during the winter solstice.

 

Pegasi live on Butterfly Island, with more of the ‘mock’ buildings. Unfortunately very little else was seen of the Island, other than its Tropical plant-life. There are several places in real life with the name ‘Butterfly Island’, as it’s not a very uncommon name. The pegasi are extremely shy as a rule, and have difficulty with leaving their Island. They do not appear to have an official ruler, keeping mostly to themselves.

 

Unicorns live in Unicornia, a mountainous area with yet more ‘mock’ buildings, but otherwise a more Bavarian architecture including another castle. The Unicorns are responsible for the creation of Rainbows and other magical phenomena’s, and must do these tasks on a strict schedule or the phenomena will cease entirely for at least a year.

 

The final ‘Tribe’ is the Breezies, which appear to be a degenerate or possible predecessor race, to the Flutterponies of prior generations.

 

There are seven known castles, each representing a single ‘topic’. Happiness, Friendship, Family, Kindness, Music, Laughter, Rainbows. The castle of Unicornia is the castle of Rainbows. It is not known which castle is in Ponyville, but it is likely Happiness, Friendship, or Laughter, given the behavior of the ponies there.

 

Magic is global, and is not restricted to any particular breed of pony. Strange and bizarre events are not even remarked upon as the world is so magical that random outbursts of unusual powers are expected.

Like with prior generations, the term ‘princess’ appears to apply to one who is elected by various means to care for a magical artifact, or to lead special ceremonies, and the terms of selection are connected to the artifact or ceremony themselves. For example in the case of the Unicornia princesses of the Rainbow Wands, the individuals must be color-coded appropriately. Once an individual is elected, it is difficult to replace them in short notice. The political leader of the various tribes is independent of the ‘princess’ title, as they are each led by ponies valued for their resources and knowledge, with no immediate election process.

 

There is a lot more emphasis on ritual in this generation, with a long list of ceremonies, festivals, and the like. Even down to small, personal rituals like the 'catch a kite, catch a wish' phrases. This reaches the point that it seems like every day is some kind of festival, ceremony or whatnot.

 

There is a minor shift with Core 7, mostly with characterization. The only cultural change appears to be with shift to even more ‘mock’ architecture. We do get to see more interiors to the houses, with designs that range from the 50’s to the 90’s.

 

Generation 3.5 is technically the same setting as Generation 3, however there is one significant shift, and a few minor ones. Pegasi and Breezies disappear and are replaced with full-sized Flutterponies. Ponyville is led by a mayor, who we can assume is elected. And it is indicated that Ponyville is in an area with few evergreen trees. So no conifers, gymnosperms, or angiosperms, reinforcing the idea of a warm temperate region, but not a subtropical one.

 

There is also references to France, which is awfully confusing as there is no other evidence of contact with the human world.

In the entirety of Generation 3.x, the only male entity encountered was Spike the dragon. Absolutely no male ponies are present in any of the tribes, with no explanation or reference. However, female ponies of a variety of ages are present, indicating that males do exist. They simply do not appear.

 


 

What can we do with this:

 

Overall, this is in a way a very clear follow-on to G1.5’s My Little Pony Tales, with it's strange segregation of genders. But it does involve the rediscovery of the various other tribes of pony in a more official capacity, which is a good thing and make stuff easier.

 

Unicornia is interesting, and is referenced in G4. This is possibly the only solid link between G3.x and G4, so it bears some examination. In this context, the Unicorns aren’t explicitly raising the sun and moon, but are providing Rainbows and possibly other phenomena. This could be mythological interpretation drift. Or Unicorns from another castle are manipulating stellar bodies, since there are five other castles mentioned, but not seen.

 

Pegasi coming from Butterfly Island is also interesting, and ties into the Fanfic I mentioned in a previous blog entry with Fluttershy being a second-generation pony from a Polynesian-type society. Her attitudes and behavior does seem to more closely map to that of the G3 pegasi.

 

It’s what happens to the pegasi in 3.5 that is confusing. Since Cheerilee changes tribes, from Unicorn to Earth Pony in the transition from 3 to 3.5, having Starsong also change tribes isn't that weird, but she shifts from Pegasi to Flutterpony, a tribe not otherwise seen in G3. With no pegasi seen in 3.5, it’s all a bit odd. I checked the toy line, and even the G3.5 toys had Starsong as a Pegasus. This is something that happened only in the G3.5 animations, unless the various G3.5 books (which I've not dealt with due to the sheer volume of volumes ;) ) also show this odd conversion.

 

There appears to either be contact with the human world, or knowledge of it at least, as they are familiar with France. Unless there just happens to be a place in this pony world with the same name.

 

Next week, let’s see if we can bring it all together.

Fhaolan

Doctor Whooves

Doctor Whooves.png

This one’s a bit different. I was originally planning on an article about the education system in Equestria for Monday, but I decided to do an early posting on a different topic. This isn't really 'worldbuilding', but it's my blog post, so I'll break my pattern when I want to. yay.png

 

It’s the 50th Aniversary of Doctor Who, and the start of Season 4 of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. @@CITRUS KING46 suggested doing a top 10 Doctor Who episode list to commemorate the occasion, and I honestly thought about it. I was struggling to pick out 10 best out of the ridiculous number of episodes in Doctor Who, when I decided to go a different route.

Doctor Whooves is pretty much why I’m in this fandom. I was curious about MLP, given the various PMVs rolling around, but it was fan-created Doctor Whooves that pulled me in. A character that exists simply because some fan thought that a background pony had a superficial resemblance to one of the actors portraying the Doctor. So I’m going to present the list of Doctor Whooves productions (not just stories, but entire series/authors/artists) that I recommend watching/listening/reading for a variety of reasons. And then I’m going to talk about *my* version of the character because my ego demands it. img-1379355-5-xtWXQl1.png

 

For purposes of this post, I'm going to assume everyone who's bothering to read this far is familiar with both Doctor Who and Doctor Whooves, at least in passing. If you want me to write more about any of the topics I cover in the blogs, foundational essays or expansion essays, just let me know and I'll do my best.

 


 

Radio Plays – These are technically ‘videos’ but really they’re audios, with still frame pictures at best. They’re in the order I found them, not indicating preference, because I don’t want to indicate preference.

  • With Derpy as the companion. This is the first one I ran across. It’s a bit sillier than the others in this category, but it goes appropriately dark when called for. It also takes a bit to get moving, as the first set of episodes is spending a bit too much time with the ‘Doctor learning to be a pony’, before getting to the adventure for my liking. But that’s just my personal preference.
  • - With Twilight as the companion. I like the voice acting in this one, and there are quite a few audio episodes, relatively speaking, to keep you busy. Plus it’s by the same people as the Vinyl Scratch Tapes, which is one of the best MLP Radio Plays I’ve heard.
  • - With the Mane 6 as more vague companions. This one has potential, but they seem to be having some production and technical issues that is making it difficult for them to produce what they really want. I’m keeping an ear open to it, though.
  • - With Trixie as the companion. This one’s brand new. I only found it this week, in fact. I think they could have broken it up a bit into episodes, and there are a few shaky bits, but the Doctor and Trixie are very distinct and have what I consider good characterizations that should keep me interested.

There’s also a potential one done by @ that is actually for a pony version of the Doctor Who spin-off Torchwood. I have high hopes for this one. Possibly because my wife tells me she's auditioning for a voice actress role in it. wink.png

 


 

Tumblers – Basically comic strips, but set up in an odd way, usually with interaction between the readers and the characters via ‘asks’. For me, these are more about the art than the story, as most of them take so long to do a story that I forget what the story actually is by the time the next posting occurs. 

  • Clockwise Hooves - Love the art here. So complex.
  • Doctor Whooves and Rose - Not many postings, but I like the clean art style.
  • Time Out with Doctor Whooves - This one’s a bit odd, as it’s someone doing art overtop of someone else’s ask blog? I get a kick out of the art though.
  • Ask Lovestruck Derpy - I normally don’t like Doctor/companion romance that much, mainly because it’s often handled very badly. Especially in the actual Doctor Who show. But this one’s cute.


 

Videos – These are just fun little things that I find amusing. They’re mostly audio clips from the actual Doctor Who series, with pony clips or animation overtop, but they’re amusing.


 

Fan Fiction


 

Fan Art

As a note, I’m not entirely sure why these ended up with 4 entries in each category. It was not planned.

 


 

My Doctor Whooves

 

The Doctor that I wrote about in my fanfiction is a bit different from others I’ve seen in the fandom. First off, no, that one story is not the only one I’ve written. It’s just the only one that’s complete enough to publish. The rest of them are plotted out to one extent or another but are not complete in any way. I have a two-tier story arc that follows what the classic series often had as a season with 26 episodes in total, the first one started in that one story (four episodes) is followed up in Doctor Whooves and the Cutie Makers (six episodes), Doctor Whooves – Astereon (six very vague episodes), Doctor Whooves and the Spaniel Mane (four episodes), and ending in Doctor Whooves and the Monsters of Manehattan (another six not really well thought out episodes). Which is then followed up with a ‘special’, which I haven’t got a name for yet. The second season is a vague idea which ends with another special that finishes the bigger story arc.

 

But I’m having trouble concentrating on writing fiction. Which is why I have this WorldBuilding blog, in an effort to force myself to write *something* on a regular basis.

 

One difference I have is that my version’s companions are very good friends with the Doctor, but there is no ‘romance’ there. Not because I’m against romance, or shipping, or the like, I'm actually all for romance in general, but that’s not the story I’m interested in telling with the Doctor. Those companions will likely have romance occur to them, but not with the Doctor. Not yet at least, as I’ve not come up with a compelling romance story concept for the Doctor himself. The story of Rose in the new DW series really soured me on the idea of the Doctor in a romantic relationship, because to be honest it was handled so very badly. Rose as a character became very unlikable over time, with her increasingly arrogant, self-centered, and self-serving nature that it just irritated me.

 

Another difference in my case is that I actually know exactly why and how the Doctor ended up in Equestria, and that is informing his characterization for me. There’s a reason, and one that prevents him from returning to his regular dimension. I’m not going to reveal it, because that’s kind of the point of the second ‘season’. But in any case he *is* the Doctor from the TV series, and while he wasn’t aiming for Equestria specifically, he did very deliberately travel through ‘The Land of Fiction’ (as seen in the second Doctor’s adventures The Mind Robber) to get where he is.

 

Most of you are familiar with the idea of parallel dimensions. I’m applying the concept of orthogonal dimensions as well. I figure not all dimensions line up nicely. I envision the majority of them being more like a pile of pick-up sticks. They may touch on occasion, but they’re not in any way parallel, and they may even be in 'motion' relative to each other. The more ‘angled’ the dimension it is, the harder it is to travel to. And the Doctor wanted to get as far away as possible.

 

This will prevent me from bringing in villains/monsters from the Doctor Who series into my stories, beyond some *really* heavy hitters who could duplicate the Doctor’s feat of breaking across multiple dimensions. But I’m willing to accept that. If I want to bring something

over, I’m going to have to work for it.

 

I didn't start with 'the Doctor arrives in Equestria' because honestly I don't have a story there. I decided to go with the other style of starting in the middle of the story, because honestly that's how most people start with the Doctor. Even I'm not old enough to have seen the first episode when it was broadcast. I started with the Third Doctor, Jon Pertwee, and I had to figure out what was going on by myself as things were relatively unkind to new fans back then. The internet didn't exist, so there was no way to quickly look stuff up, and trying to work out the right questions and the right people to ask wasn't that easy especially since I was in Canada, far enough away from England that I would be dealing with secondary and tertiary sources at best.

 

So in my continuity, by the time of Tartaurus, the Doctor has already been travelling with Derpy for at least a couple of adventures. In later adventures I intend on mentioning that at least some of the Mane 6 know about Time Turner's real identity. (And I'm using Time Turner as his fake Equestrian name the same way he tended to use John Smith whenever he *had* to use a name on Earth.) All this in an effort to recreate the 'feel' I had when I started watching Doctor Who back in the seventies.

 

Oh, while I'm on the topic I'm using the name Derpy instead of Ditzy because my wife thinks Derpy sounds more English while Ditzy sounds more American. I personally have the headcannon that her full name is Ditzy Derpy Do, but then I find alliteration, just like puns, amusing. :)

Anyway, this is not the David Tennant Doctor, despite the superficial resemblance. For me, this is a completely new Doctor, from far ahead in the Doctor’s personal time-line. Yes, past the 12-regeneration limit. I’m certain that will get addressed in the real series soon, maybe even tonight in the 50th Anniversary special, and I’m sure they’ll have some gobbledygook that will allow the Doctor to break the old limit. But from a plotting perspective I really do believe there still needs to be a true limit. Some point where the Doctor believes he really will end. Otherwise there is no threat, no risk.

 

And that’s where Doctor Whooves comes in. He doesn't know much about this dimension he's found himself in. He talks a good game, and pretends to know what's going on to reassure his companions, but except for some books he's stolen from Twilight's library, he's making it up as he goes along based on the strange 'real world' references he keeps running into. He doesn't know whether he can actually regenerate anymore, and he's about to find out that while he's adapted to the new dimension, the TARDIS isn't doing quite as well.

 

But the most important part of the Doctor is his personality, or specifically the twists each Doctor has. They're all the same person, but different aspects of his much larger personality get rotated to the fore every time he regenerates.

 

My version of the Doctor is more cautious than before, more willing to run away before he finds out what's going on. But at the same time he wants to know *everything*, meet *everyone* no matter who or when they are. He hates not knowing something, and this is a new universe full of things he doesn't understand yet. But more importantly, he wants people to save themselves as much as they can. The victims have to stand up, they have to fight, or at least they have to really, truly *try*. He'll be the distraction, the focus for the villain to concentrate on. He'll loan knowledge, strength, inspiration, whatever is needed. He'll be instrumental, but he won't do it by himself. He refuses to be the irreplaceable man.

 

Because that's how he failed before.

Fhaolan

Equuiforming

I’ve noticed several postings over the last couple of months about the world of Ponies. Not the country of Equestria, but the world it’s situated on.

 

Equestria is a nation occupying most of the landmass of a single continent, according to the official map. There are arrows on that map pointing towards other 'places' which we can infer to be other nations, and probably other continents. These include lands of Gryphons, Dragons, and somewhere out there is Saddle Arabia, and wherever the Zebras come from. Likely other pony nations given there are references to places like Trottingham, and the like that are not shown on the map of Equestria. The nation of Equestria maps reasonably well to a distorted North America, as I showed in a prior blog entry. Because of this, I think it would be safe to say that the rest of the world might map reasonably well to a distorted Earth.

 

But that doesn't mean this is *our* Earth. The world is occasionally implied to be Earth with a few references to that name, however given that they are called 'Earth Ponies' that name isn't that surprising. We use the term 'Earth' for our own planet to refer to the Germannic Goddess Jörð, mother of Thor. (This gets Anglicized as Jord, as those who use the Romanized English alphabet rarely recognize the ð symbol anymore. It's the 'thorn' that represents the 'th' sound, not just a fancy d. So it's more like Joerth, which you can see turns into Earth quite easily.) As such it's the cognate to Gaea (Greek), Terra (Latin), Danu (Celtic), Toci (Aztec), etc. And each of these cultures referred to the world itself as literally whatever goddess of the world they had. So it would be quite natural for the ponies to use some word that would *translate* to Earth for our understanding.

 

There's a lot of things that point towards this world being some place quite different from here. The ponies exercise extreme control over the environment they are living in. At the time of the Hearth’s Warming Eve story, only Earth Ponies could grow food, Pegasi control the weather, and Unicorns raise the sun and moon. Let's delve into those bits individually.

 


 

Let’s start with the food situation. Applejack makes an issue about how the plants in the Everfree Forest grow all by themselves, and this upsets her. That mention, plus the Hearth’s Warming Eve story, gives the impression that Ponies can’t eat ‘wild’ plants, or at least can’t derive primary nutrition from them. This is not a case of squeamishness, but seems to indicate that at least at one point only pony-grown plants were edible.

 

Add to this that there are several creatures roaming the world that appear to have a completely different digestive system, such as able to consume aluminum silicate compounds (like gems). Dragons, of course, but also basilisks, and possibly also diamond dogs. Then there are the Windigoe and the Changelings that subsist on non-physical food of various emotions. They are just as alien to the dragon-types as they are from the pony-types. And we have no real idea how creatures like the timberwolves work. I have a suspicion about them, that I'll deal with in another essay.

 


 

Next is the weather. This time Rainbow Dash talks about the ‘wild’ weather of the Everfree. While the plants growing on their own upsets Applejack, the natural weather of the Everfree seems to frighten *all* the ponies. There seems to be some kind of memory of natural weather being flat out dangerous to ponies. Not just storms, but *all* natural weather.

 

Yet the cotton candy clouds and chocolate rain of Discord is looked at as a nuisance. A really annoying nuisance, but not something to raise the alarm over. The mane 6 don't think about reporting these bizarre events, it's Celestia who has to call for them.

 


 

At some point Celestia and Luna take over the sun and moon control but even before them both these celestial bodies are under direct control. Plus there are indications that they cannot naturally be both in the sky at once, as Celestia can’t raise the sun if Nightmare Moon/Luna keeps the moon in the sky. There’s some balance issue that means putting both in the sky at the same time is dangerous. Interestingly, while it is noted that while the moon up the sun can’t be raised, but no indication of whether the reverse is true.

 

Even Discord kept them apart but he did literally raise and lower the sun and moon, the moon raising up from the horizon, and then dropping back down to the *same point* on the horizon, with the sun coming up and down the same path. Likely the normal paths that Celestia and Luna put them on move from horizon to horizon rather than from the same point on the horizon, as Discord is… Discord.

 

This of course means this can’t be a normal solar system. Assuming we're dealing with a round world, it appears that the sun and the moon occupy a very similar orbit around the world and would in some way collide if one ran faster or slower than the other. Which means the sun is a great deal closer to the world than our sun, and therefore is also much smaller.

 


 

Which brings up the point of it being a round world. There are several diagrams that are shown pinned to walls in various locations (Twilight's study/lab, Celestia's School for Advanced Unicorns, etc.) that look very much like planetary diagrams and multi-body orbits. Unless these are studying *other* worlds, it's likely these are supposed to be the pony world. As I mentioned above though, due to the behavior of the sun and moon, this is not a normal system at first glance.

 


 

So?

 

Well, lets’ add something more. In every generation of My Little Pony, the ponies are always from somewhere else originally. G1’s My Little Pony ‘n Friends explicitly state that the ponies came to Dream Valley 500 years previous to the start of the series. G1’s My Little Pony Tales also refer to pony settlers coming to Ponyland sometime in the past. G2 had no series, and G3 has Ponyville built around a castle that had been standing at least a thousand years, at which time no ponies were in the area. And now G4 has the whole Hearth’s Warming Eve play about the founding of Equestria several thousand years ago. At no point have we *ever* seen where ponies are really from. They're always settlers, always non-native.

 

Now let us add that together. Ponies are not native to Equestria. Ponies can’t eat native plants, and there are creatures there with a wildly different metabolism than ponies. Natural weather is considered dangerous and scary. And the sun and moon appear to be artificial satellites used to manipulate the day/night cycle. Specifically, the sun produces the day by providing light and heat, and the moon is apparently able to *block* the majority of sunlight from reaching Equestria by some unknown process.

 

This has all the hallmarks of a terraforming project, and given how prevalent pony-like metabolisms are now, one nearing the end of the project. The world was considerably more hostile to the ponies at the beginning, with weather, plant and animal life all being inimical to the ponies. This has been slowly changed and is almost completed, but cultural ‘fingerprints’ of prior struggles are all over the way the ponies react to natural phenomena. Obviously unnatural weather, however, is taken in stride.

 

The real star this planet is orbiting around would have to be the wrong spectra or distance from the planet, and the rotation of the planet is somehow 'off' what the ponies want in a day/night cycle. So an artificial sun is used to provide the right amount of sunlight, and an artificial moon that somehow blocks the ‘wrong’ sun (and side-effect of blocking the artificial sun) enforces the correct cycle time. The technology/magic necessary to produce those satellites seems to be completely beyond what the ponies have now, which could mean that they’ve ‘degenerated’ and have lost all that technology, along with the technology/magic needed to travel to this world. But another thought is that they are *part* of the terraforming, a cog in the great machine, but not the ones that set it in motion. Basically that there is some kind of ‘Preserver’ race (as per the Star Trek original series episode: The Paradise Syndrome) that is using the ponies to terraform worlds for them.

 

Heck, if you take it to the extreme side, the various shifts in appearance of the ponies between 'generations' may be that Preserver race making modifications to their terraforming engine. Possibly the project has run long and the Preserver race is no longer paying attention (or is no longer able to interfere), which is how the unicorns and eventually the alicorns gained control of the two satellites. Of course, the entire idea of 'Ancient Astronauts' is not a new one, and shows up pretty often in fiction and various fringe subcultures.

 

Personally, if I was to write fan-fiction on this topic, I would prefer the idea that dragons were the original terraformers, and the source of the sun/moon machines. Their lifespans are more conducive to this kind of project. But their commitment to the project faltered, the ponies showed up later and took control over a process half-done. This would be why Celestia and Luna need to constantly manipulate the sun and moon, to keep them from going back to their 'normal' cycle their creators set up.

Fhaolan

Honestly, this series wasn’t as bad as I remembered it being. While there was an episode or two that insisted on the fillies needing coltfriends, and the colts were almost universally portrayed in negative stereotypes, overall it wasn’t *that* bad. Sweetheart is best G1.5 pony.

 

Oh yes, as mentioned in my Episode Watching Blog, I’m treating My Little Pony Tales as Generation 1.5. Officially it’s still Generation 1, as the generations are determined by the toy line, not the shows. But this show is definitely *not* using the same setting and characters as the G1 My Little Pony ‘n Friends show, and it is not using the same character designs as Generation 2.

 

Anyway, on to my findings:

 

The My Little Pony Tales show is set in a region whose terrain, culture and slang usage resembles Arizona & New Mexico in the late 80’s, early 90’s. The primary focus is an unnamed mid-sized town in Ponyland. In fact the town may be all there is of Ponyland.

 

The town has elected officials, and the ponies themselves are organized into nuclear families. While there was no evidence of a broader nation as such, there are several islands that appear to be their own nations, including one ruled by a European-style monarchy, and another with Polynesian-styled ponies. There is also a region that produces ponies with French accents.

 

All of which are Earth Ponies. Unicorns do not exist and Pegasi are considered to be a cross of magical fairies and otherworldly aliens. The few Pegasi that appear are extensively tattooed, and appear to be led by the first Alicorn seen in My Little Pony animation. These Pegasi appear to be monitoring the Earth Ponies in that they are tracking certain individuals by name. They only appear once, and are never mentioned again. The only other intelligent species even mentioned in the series are dragons, and those being mythical. We don’t even get to see much in the way of animal life in general. There is definitely no explicit contact with the human world as such.

 

There is an odd thing that points towards ponies not being related to real life equines, in that they have semi-prehensile tails that they can twist and turn at will.

 

The ponies are again not native to this region, having travelled there as ‘settlers’ in wagon trains. There is evidence of a prior civilization, with architecture similar to the ancient Pueblo Indians (reinforcing the Arizona/New Mexico model), however unlike the real-life region they appear to have died out completely leaving no modern Pueblo-equivalents like the Hopi or Zuni. These Pueblo-equivalents appear to be called 'Pinto', which is a specific type of mottled coloring on a horses, unlike any of the ponies seen in this series who are all solid-coated.

 

Many of the businesses in the town seem to have put a lot of effort into being retro 50’s, with uniforms, equipment (jukeboxes, hairdryers, etc.). Special shaped architecture (storefronts made to look like the product being sold) became really popular in the 50's as well, but it continues to pop up on occasion ever since so this is not indicative of anything.

 

The education system of the ponies also resembles early 90’s where standardized testing was beginning to be mandated in America. This caused tests to be wildly out of sync with what the students were actually being taught in the classroom. In this case we have students in 4th or 5th grade delving into molecular chemistry while at the same time being tested on simple multiplication tables. (This is based on Sweetheart being 10 years old in the series.) This would eventually lead to the ‘teaching to the test’ concept in America, but that has not apparently occurred yet in pony culture.

 


 

So what can we salvage from this?

 

Not much, honestly. The removal of unicorns and pegasi from the main setting, and any other intelligent life for that matter is a big blow. The very modern technology is very difficult to work around as well. It's very rare that this series explores the broader culture of the ponies, or travel to areas outside of the town. It's very narrowly focused on slice-of-life episodes in the lives of the seven young fillies.

 

Forcing the issue, this would be best placed in the southern region of Equestria, near the farthest reaches of the Ghastly Gorge bordering on the San Palomino Desert and the low mountains separating that region from where the Appleloosa settlement is now. And it would need to be temporally located when the three pony tribes were functionally independent of each other, long before the Hearth’s Warming Eve story.

 

If this was to be a continuation of the My Little Pony ‘n Friends setting, the ‘settlers’ would be Earth Ponies leaving Ponyland, to create ‘New’ Ponyland in this region. The alien Pegasi would represent ponies from the original Ponyland keeping tabs on the new civilization, but for some reason not allowing extensive contact. The change from a gender/age segregated society to a nuclear family setup is a major shift that might have been the reason for exodus to the new land, and the desire for the two 'nations' to keep as separate as possible from each other. In much the same way as religion was the impetus for many of the American colonies. But this is a far more extreme level of isolation and I can't convince myself that there is a good reason for this.

 

If we're really looking as all of this as one big story, it's more likely we're seeing these series out-of-order, and My Little Pony Tales takes place *before* My Little Pony 'n Friends. We will have to see how the next Generations go to see if those will give us something to work with.

 

Other than that, I’m having trouble finding anything worth porting over to G4, other than some specific characters like Sweetheart and Lancer.

 

Oh, except for the Polynesian ponies. There were a couple of fanfics at one point that posited that Fluttershy's parents were not from Cloudsdale originally, but were from some island region. The idea being that Fluttershy's beauty as described in the 'Green isn't your Color' episode is at least partially because she is exotic in some way that isn't translating through the cartoony artstyle. That and her flying abilities are in question simply because she is built for a completely different style of flying than what Rainbow Dash and all the other Cloudsdale ponies are used to. While Dash is more raptor-like built for speed and power, Fluttershy is sea bird-like built for long-distance gliding. Follow that line of thought and you can bring in the Polynesian ponies as being distant ancestors of Fluttershy then. If they weren't all Earth Ponies in this blasted series.

Fhaolan

Last week I talked about weapons that are in-show. This week, we do armor, and if I have time I'll dive into speculation about both weapons and armor.

 

DayGuard.jpgDayGuard2.jpgNightGuard.jpgNightGuard2.jpgHearthWarming.jpgJousting.png

There’s the Canterlot Guard armor, of course, with two variants the golden ‘Day Guard’, and the gray ‘Night Guard’. Shining Armor, as captain of the guard has an identical suit, but primarily purple rather than gold or gray. The guards of the Crystal Empire show up in identical designs, as do Luna’s personal guard (despite their batpony differences). The armour worn by the pegasi actors in the Hearth’s Warming Eve episodes are effectively identical to the Canterlot Guard armor, which makes sense as they are likely borrowed from the guard for purposes of the play. However, the armor worn by Fluttershy and Rainbow Dash in the jousting scenes are also identical. Which means that this design of armor has remained identical for just over a thousand years. This is, to put it frankly, highly unlikely.

 

The helm is a classic shaffron and crinet from horse armor, blended with a roman praetorian guard helm, complete with the horsehair crest. Half of the crinet is missing, however, as there is normally articulated (or mail) pieces that protect the underside of the horse's neck. The plated breastcollar (called a peytral) may be different in appearance on each of these armours, but they follow the same fundamental design. The back plates resemble the roman lorica segmentata armor again, with earlier Crystal Empire sets having additional decoration and complete with pteruges (the leather strip 'skirt'). Also there is apparently a 'saddle' plate that is considered to be extra, not used when higher mobility is required (scouts, messengers, pegasi). This isn't that unusual, as most late-period harness (what a full suit of armor is called) would include several 'exchange plates' that were worn for specific combat situations and removed as needed to minimize weight. Just like modern military flak jackets that have removable ceramic and steel plates for vital areas.

 

NightmareMoon.jpg

Nightmare Moon’s body armor has less coverage than the Canterlot Guard missing all of the back plate protection, and the helm is structurally quite different. Solid construction with no articulated crinet. Keeping with the semi-roman theme, I would compare it to the Gallic helm. Given the lack of coverage, likely this is parade armor, meant for appearance not for actual use.

 

Sombra.png

Ah, here we go, Sombra’s Armor. No helmet to examine, but the plating for the neck and body is quite different. We’re dealing with far more coverage, and what looks like a more advanced articulation system. He has a full plate crinet, in a 16th century Spanish design. Sombra’s armor is made for actual use, and is only missing a helm.

 

And finally, Tank, as @@CITRUS KING46 reminded me. While we haven't seen any tanks yet in Equestria, we do have a reference thanks to Rainbow Dash's pet tortoise; Tank. It's pretty obvious that he's named after the war machine, as the other usages of the word make even less sense. Now the concept of tanks go back to the 15th century but it wasn't until the mid 19th century that industry reached the point that they could start building armored vehicles. But they still weren't called tanks, as they were called Landships or Land Ironclads until 1915. It was then that Britain started to build the first modern tank as a secret project. To protect the secret, the machines were built under the false public identity of all-terrain water trucks, or 'Water Carriers' which was a big deal for a military supply line at the time, so it was a quite believable lie. Unfortunately, just like today projects became known by their acronyms, and this led to the project being called the 'W.C.', which in England is also the short form for 'Water Closet' or toilet. This caused a bit of a to-do, and they changed the name of the plans from Water Carriers to Mobile Water Tanks, which was quickly shortened to just 'Tank'. Because this use of the word is pretty darn recent, and we haven't actually see any tanks or other armored vehicles in-show, I'm not entirely sure what to do with this information. The only self-propelled vehicles we've seen at all were the floats in the harvest parade, and the train (only later in the series, as at first the train was pulled by ponies).

 


 

I'll start with my conclusions and speculation over armor, as it's quicker. What we are seeing is the devolution of armor. Due to the lack of true warfare in Equestria during Celestia's rule and Luna's exile, the various 'unnecessary' parts of the armor have been discarded, in much the same way that guard armor in Europe shifted from full harness to just the breast-and-back as it became increasingly obvious that the type of combat the guards were going to face wasn't going to be helped by full plate. Likely the original guard helms had some form of visor, articulated in some way like human gauntlets to allow for mouth-weapons. An a underneck crinet of plate, mail, or leather, plus a skirting of mail and/or leather all around to protect the legs.

 

Something like this: armor.png

This is based on extending the roman-esque design of the Guard's current armor, putting back all the pieces that would be removed over time as being 'useless' and 'unnecessary'. The mouth area is a bit off, I can see it clearly in my head how it would work, but I can't figure out how to draw it that doesn't just look like a mess of lines.

 

Of course, the rich would have full plate much like Sombra. It's possible that even during the Crystal Empire at the time of Sombra that his armor would have been considered an antique, that he wore as a symbol of authority. Or that it was cutting-edge armor technology that he wore to symbolize his willingness to take the field personally. Which I think is more fitting to what little characterization we've seen for Sombra.

 


 

Now back to weapons. The first thing you have to get into your head is that our ancestors weren't stupid. They may not have had access to the materials we have now, but if a weapon didn't see use on a battlefield there was a reason. They could have made those silly swords with all the spiky bits, or giant mallets and the like. You could have had lines of meteor hammers, or double-ended flails. It was well within their technology to build that stuff, but they didn't because they just don't work the way you want a real weapon to work.

 

There are very few weapons that started life purely as ‘weapons’, and those few are usually fancy training tools used to demonstrate principles of martial arts rather than real weapons intended for battlefield use. Real weapons are usually developed from a variety of handtools (hammers, axes, scythes, etc.), or are adapted from hunting (spears, bows & arrows, slings, etc.) Real weapons are also fairly light, as you are supposedly using them against targets that are actively trying to not get hit, and therefore if you can’t change the direction of your swing reasonably easily and hit what you're actually aiming at (and nothing else) you’ve already lost.

 

Here’s where the first break happens. Ponies, if they are herbivorous as the series presents them, do not ‘hunt’ as such. They have no reason to develop hunting implements at all to derive weapons from. So any weapons derived from hunting tools would need to be ‘borrowed’ from other cultures that hunt. The only races we have seen that are likely tool-using hunters are griffons, and maybe diamond dogs and dragons depending on what their dietary requirements really are. There’s some speculation that diamond dogs actually eat the gems, and as such are more dragon-like and just have the appearance of canines.

 

So archery is probably borrowed from the griffons, especially since griffon talons are more likely to be able to do archery in the first place. Ponies would have been playing catch-up in that regard, adapting the aggressor’s tools to use against them. Historically eastern horse archers do use a special tool known as a thumb-ring. This special odd-shaped ring allows them to pull, aim, and stabilize bows that they would normally not be able to. It wouldn’t be inconceivable for the ponies to have a similar tool, more a bracelet than a ring, which works in a similar manner. It would be designed quite differently, of course, but the *concept* is usable.

Tumbring.jpg

 

Spears, javelins, darts (meaning short javelins, not the darts you go down to the pub to play), and possibly even slings would have originated with the hunting griffons. Once you have slings it’s not that far of a jump to bolas, and honestly if you’re dealing with flying creatures I could see bolas and related weapons being way more useful as a way to tangle those huge wings.

 

Improving the versatility of spears by adding scythe blades (guisarme), picks (bec du corbin), axes blades (pollaxe), or mixes of them, would also be popular, especially if the ponies engaged in formation fighting.

 

Regular short tools such as axes, hammers, sickles, and the like would have been adapted into weapons. As we’ve seen, they do use these tools in their mouths rather than on their hooves, so that’s how their fighting style would evolve. Short, fast movements of the head to use the strength of their neck muscles. Short movements, as big, grand swings would mean difficulty in maintaining sight contact with your target. EDIT: Mind you, horses, and likely ponies, have a much larger 'arc' of vision than humans. Being a prey animal, horse eyes are on the sides of their heads rather than facing forwards like ours. This allows them to see a much wider range around them without moving their heads. If pony eyes are really that large, and situated on their heads the way the art style has them, then they too will have a larger visual arc and can swing weapons farther to match while still maintaining sight contact.

 

Horses in real life stamp, kick, and bite, and do so quite effectively. As such weapons that can increase the effectiveness of these attacks would be common. While the use of mouth-weapons replacing the bite, the pony equivalent of cesti or brass knuckles would be popular, especially on the back hooves where the punishing double kick would be improved. However, these would not be military weapons in the same way brass knuckles and knife boots aren’t here. Backup weapons used by individuals, perhaps, but not for primary use on the battlefield. Military weapons rely on extending the soldier's reach, not just improving the impact of the blow. If it was, then spiked gauntlets would be more popular than swords.

 

Which brings us to the wingblade. Described by fanfiction writers as a pegasis-only weapon, turning the leading edge of their wings into a cutting surface. This isn’t that unreasonable as a dueling weapon really, but the craftsmanship of the blades would need to be very high to be workable. Likely early wingblades would be small blades spaced along the wing, possibly only on the tip of the wing, with a tough but light fabric connecting the blades. Full wingblades would be *very* thin, in order to be light enough, and would need to be of extremely consistent quality steel to be durable enough for use. So a relatively late-period weapon. And due to the fact the weapon does not in any way extend the soldier's reach, requiring the wielder to at minimum slide the edge of their wing across their opponent and disrupting their *own* flight, this is extremely unlikely to ever see use on the battlefield. A dueling weapon to be sure. Pity, for it is a cool concept.

 

However, all of this is ancient news. Ponies know what firearms are, but they obviously don't think of them first. When presented with what they believe is a credible threat, they arm their soldiers with spears, not guns. So either there is something we don't know reducing the effectiveness of guns in this world, or they have deliberately abandoned the technology. There must be some counter to guns easily available in Equestria, that does not affect bigger, slower missile weapons like spears and arrows. Funnily we ran into something similar to this in real life. Bullet proof vests are only proof against arrows if they include the optional metal or ceramic plates. Relatively slow moving sharp blades go right through Kevlar. Which is why I get a lot of questions from bouncers in rough bars about where they can find good quality but inexpensive mail, as they are more likely to encounter knives than bullets.

Fhaolan

Those that know me will probably be wondering why this essay has taken so long to show up. Mainly this is due to prioritization, enough other people have discussed this topic that I didn’t feel it was that urgent. However, the discussion has reached a point where I am disagreeing just enough with the various conclusions reached that I’ve decided to put this one together.

 

First, what do we know? There are several references to weaponry in FiM and some of them have interesting features.

 

Spears.png

The Canterlot guards regularly have spears. Spears are pretty universal weapons known in every culture around the world. Not much to be learned here, other than they are depicted very clearly as hewing spears with broad heads rather than throwing spears (and are too large to be javelins) with narrow piercing heads.

 

CrystalPony.png Archer.png

Bow & Arrow cutie marks show up on several crystal ponies, plus one colt in Cherilee’s class named by the fandom ‘Archer’. Archer’s cutie mark is sufficiently stylized that it could be a cupid reference instead of a weapon. However, the crystal ponies’ cutie marks are standard bows and we can assume from that that actual archery is familiar to the ponies. Archery is an odd thing for the ponies, given that it very definitely requires fingers to work normally. There are ways around that, however.

 

Jousting.jpg

Also during the Crystal Empire episodes, Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy have a little go at tilting, sometimes known as jousting. Lances as used in tilting are specialized spears, developed during the transition of jousting between war training and sport. In this case, the lances appear to be mounted right on the armor rather than held in any way. This is… odd, but when jousting became a sport in real life, similar odd things occurred to the equipment. The idea of a knight being winched into place in full armor is from very late-period 'jousting as a sport'. It wouldn't be unheard of during this time (17th century) that a knight would get up onto their horse unarmored, and have his armor assembled around him after-the fact. In the most extreme cases some German knights would be unable to move except for one arm operating the reins, and the armor would be loaded with springs and clockwork so it would make a more spectacular *SMASH* when the collision happened.

 

Pipsqueak.jpg

Pipsqueak’s ‘pirate sword’. This is a classic cartoon sword, and very obviously a toy. Interestingly, it’s not what is popularly thought of as a pirate sword at all (a cutlass), but what they usually use as a toy knightly sword in most animations. For some reason, they’re always drawn as a leaf-blade, a sort of two-edged machete being very tip-heavy. This is a style of blade in real life that really only occurs when a culture is transitioning from bronze weapons to steel weapons. As a note, wrought iron weapons rarely work as iron is less effective for blades than bronze, providing no advantage. It’s only when steel gets involved do bronze weapons become obsolete. It’s during this transition period that leaf-blade weapons show up. The weapon is used by Pipsqueak as a mouth-tool.

 

Rainbow Dash’s reference to wanting a pet ‘as fast as a bullet’. Many have taken this to mean that ponies are aware of firearms, which may in fact be true. However, this is not necessarily a reference to guns. Bullets have existed long before guns were invented. Romans were using bullets, and comparing things to their speed, as that’s what the ammunition of slings is called in Roman Latin. Now, I’m not talking about slingshots, but the proper slings that were considered weapons of war and of hunting since pre-history. David and Goliath stuff. Slings are difficult to use, and take a *lot* more practice than pretty much any other weapon out there. In ancient armies, the slingers were usually trained from early childhood.

 

Cannon.jpg

Pinkie Pie’s party cannon is real reason why ponies are likely aware of firearms. Guns were first invented in China near the end of the 12th century as a development of fire lances, tubes mounted on spears that spewed fire and shrapnel. This technology spread *fast* in medieval times, handguns hitting the Middle East in the early 13th century, and entering Europe in about the late 13th century. Think about that, the concept of crop rotation, knowledge of medicine, and the printing press could take 500 years or more to get from one end of the Eurasian continent to the other, but working firearms and the industry necessary to support them took less than a 100 years to spread over that entire area. Full-sized cannons showed up later in the middle of the 14th century. This is a bit that people usually forget; handguns predate cannons. Mainly because it took a while to figure out how to produce gunpowder in quantities necessary to be able to operate large artillery pieces. Pinkie Pie’s cannon is missing a couple of the indicators of an actual weapon. There are always several reinforcing rings on the barrel of a cannon, to reduce the chance of the case or breech from… exploding to be honest, usually at the muzzle (known as a swell), and where the cannon is mounted on the carriage (known as rimbases), as well as the entire cascable is drawn rather simplified. Of course, being a cartoon drawing of cannon, these details are lost.

 

So, as far as I can tell, that’s it for weaponry in the series itself. There are several fan-concepts that are fascinating, like ‘wingblades’ that are specialized weapons used by pegasi, but I’ll come back to that later.

 

Overall, there isn’t much weaponry in Equestria. Despite the fact that there are enough monsters and nasty critters that would justify such. Early depictions of pegasi peg them as militaristic, which carries on into the Wonderbolts training regime. And several ponies are depicted as wearing various states of armor, but those tend to be remnants of ‘a thousand years ago’, indicating that the ponies have not needed any form of warfare in living memory.

 

Ah, that’s a good point. Weapons aren’t everything in the Armory, there’s armor as well of course. So what have we seen for armor?

 

Next week!

Fhaolan

Last week, I detailed what I was able to glean from the entire run of My Little Pony 'n Friends. How can we use this information? Well, it's pretty obvious this is not a part of Equestria taken literally. The base rules of the world are different, with a larger variety of sentient creatures, cutie-marks and unicorn magic working differently, and so on.

 

However, this is the series that inspired Lauren Faust as she developed Friendship is Magic, and several of the things from this series have already been translated to Equestria. So that means we can steal from this setting and migrate it into Equestria as long as we're sufficiently liberal with our interpretations.

 

If we were to force the issue, the various valleys and volcanic mountains would best map to the western coast of Equestria, covering a relatively small area somewhere between Tall Tale and Los Pegasis in the Unicorn Range. In fact, it may be the reason for the city name of Tall Tale, which given the pony's penchant to puns would have been more likely to be called Tall Tail normally. Possibly it's named after the mythology of Dream Valley that the legends place near by. In which case we may be dealing with an prior expedition of ponies crossing into Equestria long before the one mentioned in the Hearth's Warming Eve episode. This would be similar to the Norse settlements in Newfoundland that occurred in the 10th century which had died out and had been forgotten long before the rest of Europe started showing up in the 15th century.

 

The variety of other sentient creatures is the hardest to deal with. Where did they all go, between the time of G1 and G4? If the time-frame of North America above is any guide, we're dealing with at least 500 years, which is not enough for that number of intelligent species to simply disappear without deliberate action on behalf of *somebody*. That's proper fanfiction fodder right there. If you take the series in a different order, and have the Theatrical movie actually happen at the end of the historical events rather than near the beginning, you do have the devastation of the Smooze to work with. It's not inconceivable that the low populations of all the other races meant that the Smooze event dropped them below the minimum viable population.

 

That aside, here are some examples of things we can steal:

 

First, pony culture itself. In this series, mares and stallions are heavily segregated, and foals are raised by the community not by their parents. This can easily be true in the past for Equestria, and may even explain why the show gives the impression that the ratio of stallions to mares in Equestria is so oddly skewed. It may only be relatively recently that the nuclear family concept has become the norm in this society, as in within the last thousand years or so. Hearts and Hooves Day may actually be Celestia trying her hoof at social engineering, rather than how Valentines Day was created in the real world, all in an effort to increase the population growth of her little ponies.

 

The Seaponies may yet exist, but have retreated to the deeper seas. Flutterponies... I'm being told that alternate versions of the flutterponies exist in one of the later series, but I haven't reached them yet, so I'll leave them for now.

 

Second, the antagonists. Let's only deal with the heavy hitters here; Squirk, Grognar, and Tirek. The various witches, like Hydia and Catrina, are actually pretty generic and don't need much in the way of adaption.

 

Squirk is a horribly silly name, but the concept of an ancient Kraken that wants to flood the world to claim all that territory as it's own, is perfectly sound and can be made *really* creepy. His main power source, the Flashstone, already has an analogue in FiM, in the Alicorn Amulet. An amulet that allows the wielder to use massive magic power with little to no limits.

 

Grognar is a wonderful mythological villain. The Ram Sorcerer, who made a necklace that allowed him to channel and control the power of the Bell of Tambelon. The story of the lost city of Tambelon itself has so many mythological precedents, and likely has some kind of a connection to the capitol of the Crystal Empire. Possibly being Sombra's inspiration for doing that trick.

 

And then there's Tirek. As I mentioned in my essay on the Terror of Tartaurus, he's a bit trickier to use as some of his shtick was transferred to Nightmare Moon. However, he is unique in that he used his transformative power on unwilling targets, rather than be a shapeshifter himself. Adding in that he may have been cursed by his own power, and his natural form may have been quite different (perhaps a normal minotaur), and you have an interesting villain there.

 

Finally, let's look at the artifacts. I've already mentioned the flashstone, but there are a few others that are interesting. The Dark and Light Rainbows, for example. Two paired yet opposite powers. One forcing metamorphosis on unwilling victims, and the other restoring things to their true form. Given the effect of the Elements of Harmony is normally shown as a Rainbow, it's possible they are connected and the Rainbow of Light is inhabiting the Elements of Harmony due to some events that were not shown in the series.

 

The Sunstone is interesting, perhaps being one of a pair of artifacts that allowed the Unicorns of Hearth's Warming Eve to control the sun and moon before Celestia and Luna came along. The other being the Moonstone, of course. Maybe these things are still around in a vault in Canterlot, and some unicorns decide to use it in an attempt to overthrow the princesses...

 

The six crowns of the Heart of Ponyland could very well be the first known versions of the Elements of Harmony. Normally linked to the Crystal Heart, they were separated by ponies wishing to protect them from those who would abuse their power, and scattered across the land. It was these legendary artifacts that Starswirl devoted so much time to. Later Celestia and Luna take Starswirl's research as a guide to re-assemble them as part of their Hero's Quest to defeat Discord. In this version, they would take on Sombra *before* Discord, attempting to recover the final piece, the Crystal Heart itself. Sombra phased the entire capitol of the Crystal Empire, using the same dark magic as the Lost City of Tambelon. The Princesses could not retrieve the Heart, and they had to take on Discord with a not-quite-complete set.

 

I've left the Smooze until here, because it's... odd. It was summoned by a spell, and appears at least partially self-aware and 'alive'. But honestly that's not that much different from the variety of artifacts in the series. But it's considerably more dangerous than any artifact; a true weapon of mass destruction, who's only real weakness is the stupidity of the witches who put it into play. Those who survive the Smooze are still affected by it, driven to sickness and depression. To be honest, for how silly it was being portrayed, this thing has the highest potential for GrimDark in the entire G1 series, even more than Tirek, Grognar, and Squirk combined. When you look at it a bit closer, and take off the rose-colored glasses, the Smooze is very much a biological equivalent of a nuclear weapon, complete with radiation sickness and the like, leaving only complete devastation in it's wake.

 

Oh, and the connection between the pony world and the human world. Allowing for Equestria Girls' rather odd coloration being an artistic choice rather than 'reality', it lines up rather nicely with the time passing between contacts getting shorter an shorter from the human world's perspective. It does mean that the calendar of the human world is completely disconnected to the calendar of the pony world, which means Luna's mention of 30 moons was actually only vaguely relevant to Twilight, as it would have been 30 moons in the pony world, but who knows how long in the human world.

 

There are lots of other small details that could be ported over, but as they are truely tiny details I think I've done enough for this essay.

Fhaolan

Alright, I've finished watching the first My Little Pony series: My Little Pony 'n Friends from 1985 to 1987. This involved two TV Specials, a Theatrical release, and a 65-episode TV series (four of which were re-edited versions of the TV specials).

 

Technically my episode-watching blog for this series isn't quite done yet, as the last episodes of the series will be tomorrow, but those episodes are a re-edit of the 'Escape from Catrina' TV Special. Nothing important will be revealed by this episode. smile.png

 

Anyway here are my findings:

 

This G1 show is set in a series of small valleys in a region of volcanic mountains similar to the Cascade Range on the Pacific coast of the United States. Travel between the valleys is difficult, unless you can fly over the mountains or travel through the extensive underground tunnels. These tunnels are likely former lava tubes due to the volcanic nature of the area. The valleys on one side of the mountains run down to the sea, while the valleys on the other side are cut off by the crystal desert. There is a number of valleys; including Dream Valley, Fluttervalley, Grundleland, and many others. These valleys are populated by a number of creatures, mostly anthropomorphic animals but also humans, elves, and a variety of goblinoids. The population of each type of creature is relatively small, leading to considerable cross-breeding especially between the humans, elves, and goblins in order to maintain any kind of presence. Actually, looking back there's no guarantee the few 'native' humans were actually human at all, given the variation of elf, gnome, svart, goblin, troll, hags, etc. If all of those are considered one race with multiple breeds, similar to the variations within the ponies, then the 'humans' we saw may actually be just superficially human and are actually a variety of these goblinoids.

 

The valleys of Dream Valley, Fluttervalley, and Mushrump together are called Ponyland. Ponies are not actually native to this place but came from some unknown land at least 500 years ago, and likely longer.

 

This world is connected tenuously and intermittently to an alternate human world accessed through a rainbow bridge similar in concept to the Bifrost of Nordic mythology. Neither of these worlds are ours, as the events in the pony-occupied world can have a direct effect on the human world and vice-versa when the connection is active. However, the human world is almost identical to ours in the mid-to-late 1980s.

 

The pony world is set up similarly to the Alpine region of Europe, with a variety of agrarian-based cultures being in close but effectively minimal contact thanks to the mountainous terrain. Each different culture seem to be set at a different time relative to our world, but fall into three distinct groups: Late 11th Century, Mid 16th Century, and Mid 19th Century. Throughout the series, the contact between the humans and ponies involve a technology transfer where late 20th century equipment is slowly brought over into the pony world and made to work via magic. While the people of both worlds initially treat the inhabitants of the other as fantasy, they adapt very quickly to the reality of multiple dimensions. Fast enough that it is unlikely that this is the first time the two worlds made contact with each other and such cultural and technological transfers occurred. If we assume the contacts happened when the clothing and architecture matched, the next contact would be in the early 21st century. Huh. How about that. Of course, that's the time passing in the human world, we have no reference points in the pony world to determine if time passes in both worlds at the same rate when contact is *not* active.

 

The ponies themselves can be separated into five different breeds, the earth ponies, the unicorns, the pegasi, the sea ponies, and the flutterponies. The first three are definitely breeds, rather than races, as the earth ponies, unicorns, and pegasi can interbreed freely allowing traits such as twinkle-eyes to be carried into all three equally. Cutie-marks are present at birth, and are traditionally used to name the pony. This leads to multiple individuals with the same name. Due to the low birth rate, it is highly unlikely to have more than one pony in a each generation with the same name. Pony culture does not use the nuclear family concept, and keeps mares and stallions separate with the stallions being nomadic while the mares are sedentary. In the same vein pony foals are kept in a crèche system and are raised by the mare collective.

 

The main pony society has no government or other organizational system. They act as a collection of individuals with leadership being appointed on the fly as necessary. Flutterponies on the other hand have a monarchy. Within main pony society the title 'princess' is an antique, nominally given to any individual that is acting as guardian to a magical artifact, and long-term princesses are sequestered to a remote area to protect them. This practice is out-of-date to the point of having become legendary, but those who were exiled in that manner long ago have created their own society in that remote area. They still call themselves princesses, and hold elections to promote one of their number to the title 'queen'.

The Pony world is suffused with magic. All ponies are capable of using magic to one extent or another, but they require special foci such as wands and other artifacts to do so. Unicorns and flutterponies are born with a built-in foci, their horns and wings respectively, but are extremely limited in what magic this foci can accomplish.

 

All unicorns can 'wink', which means to phase out and into a limbo sub-dimension. However, physical objects like cages, walls, etc. do not allow a unicorn winked out to pass through them, nor can they carry much load when phasing. Other things are also capable of phasing through the same space the unicorns are winking out to, which can trap the unicorn in this alternate space when they 'pass through' each other. All unicorns also able to master a single other magical ability such as telekinesis or other similar things. Use of these magic abilities require a fair bit of concentration and effort.

 

Flutterponies' magic seems to be concentrated in breaking down other magical effects and dissolving magic substances.

 

A large number of magical artifacts exist in the pony world, most based on, or incorporating, crystals in their design. All magic in the regions defined as Ponyland seems to be drawn from a single large gemstone known as the 'Heart of Ponyland' and when that connection is interrupted magic becomes unreliable and dangerous. There are six crowns that are used to reconnect magical artifacts to the flow of power coming from the Heart if the flow is interrupted. The artifacts can do almost anything, depending on the knowledge, aptitude, and will of the wielder, and can be destroyed and recreated.

 

Using artifacts can cause the personality of the wielder to change in whatever way necessary to lead the wielder to use the artifact more. It's almost like a psychic pressure on the wielder to use the artifact. This may or may not have a negative effect on the wielder depending on the nature of the artifact itself. All artifacts are at least partially self-aware in order to interpret the wielder's wishes.

 

Magic power can also be drawn straight from a sub-station such as other magical artifacts, unicorns, etc. but this draw usually has a severe negative effect on the sub-station itself.

 

Next time, we'll talk about how to use this info in G4.

Fhaolan

Terror of Tartaurus

Since I recently got my only MLP fanfic so far actually published (Doctor Whooves and the Terror of Tartaurus. It took a lot longer to get it through editing and proofreading than I had planned, but *shrug*.), I think I'll talk about the specific worldbuilding I dealt with in the story. This breaks down into some sub-topics:

 

Tartaurus

 

Tartarus is mentioned in 'It's About Time' as being guarded by Cerberus and containing many ancient evils, which is pretty much what Greek Myth tells us as well. What a lot of people don't know though, is that the actual Tartarus in myth was originally the name of a much older deity who gave his name to his realm, in the same manner as Hel (become Hell), Hades, and many other chthonic deities. In the oldest known Greek myths Tartarus is of the same 'age' as Chaos, Gaia, and Eros. The true primordial Greek deities that gave birth to the next generation, the Titans. Tartarus' realm became the prison of the Titans and other divine creatures that were the enemies of the Olympians, with Tartarus himself as their warden. It is *not* the afterlife, however, it is a prison for demi-god class and higher entities.

 

What struck me in this episode was the pronunciation Twilight used. She very specifically pronounced it 'Tartaurus' which triggered what little Greek I knew to make me think of Taurus (bull), and thus brought me right around to minotaurs, which I knew existed in the MLP:FiM universe thanks to Iron Will. Since calling them minotaur due to the story of Minos and Asterion wouldn't make much sense in this setting, the idea of the Men of Tartaurus becoming 'minotaur' just followed naturally. I believe some others have made this connection but they may have followed other paths to get there.

 

The difficulty here was how close Tartaurus had to be to Ponyville for the time took to return Cerebus to Tartaurus to make sense, and still be a location that the minotaurs actually come from as a race. This led to the idea of Tartaurus being an alternate plane of existence, which allowed it to be very far away, and yet very close at the same time. An excellent place to put a prison. MLP as a franchise has had similar alternate planes of existence before, with the Crystal Empire being vanished, and in older generations (G1 specifically); Tambelon the Lost City that was sent to the Shadow World.

 

As for the ancient evils, as mentioned by Twilight, it didn't seem to contain Discord, Nightmare Moon, Sombra.... So maybe Twilight was misinterpreting things. Evils doesn't necessarily mean creatures as such, but artefacts can count. Things like the Alicorn Amulet and stuff that should be locked away. A Warehouse 13 (for those watching that show), a Warehouse 23 (for those who follow Steve Jackson Games), or just 'The Warehouse' (for Indiana Jones fans), that slowly became a prison over time as ponies (and others) forgot about its original purpose.

 

So this is how I arrived at Tartaurus, existing on the other side of a portal guarded by Cerberus. A part of the Shadow World populated by minotaurs, guarding a prison that used to be a warehouse of ancient artefacts. The bell of Tambelon being used to maintain the portal between the worlds just for that added kick of G1 goodness.

 

I also referenced the Twin Kings of Mallus and Amoni. This is meant to parallel the diarchy of Celestia and Luna but in this case using the ancient Sparta model given Tartaurus and Minotaurs' Greek origins. Ancient Sparta was ruled by two Kings simultaneously, each descended from a different son of Hercules. In this case Mallus and Amoni are each descended from the same minotaur Hero that brought stability to the Shadow World, just through different sons (or daughters) of that Hero. The 'Twin' title refers not to the fact that they were brothers, but that they took the throne at the exact same time which is unusual.

 

Tirek and the Rainbow of Darkness

 

While Tirek makes a good villain and was surprisingly dark for a 1980's cartoon in the first MLP TV special 'Escape from Midnight Castle', a lot of his shtick is too similar to Nightmare Moon for coincidence. The whole 'the night will last forever' bit. However Tirek made an issue out of transforming *others* with the Rainbow of Darkness, while Nightmare Moon was a shapeshifter herself. This Rainbow of Darkness sounded a lot like an artefact that the ponies would lock away given the chance, and we had Tartaurus for that purpose as above. Tirek was basically vaporized and pulled into the clouds at the end of the TV special. No other centaurs ever showed up in that generation, and his appearance was really a more demonic thing, resembling more a minotaur crossed with a centaur. Which made me wonder about perhaps the Rainbow of Darkness *had* transformed him from a normal minotaur into this creature. Artefacts normally have pretty rough side-effects to balance their power, and the idea that the artefact was linked to a parasite creature that was attempting to manifest through its wielder was born. Thus Tirek became a prior incarnation of this parasite, duplicated when it got a hold of another minotaur.

 

As a note, the G1 Rainbow of Light became associated to the Elements of Harmony by the characters in the story, but that's not necessarily true. It's just what the characters thought. One of the principles I hold to when building settings and campaigns is that what is written as History is just what the people of the time thought happened. There is no guarantee that is *truly* what occurred, just what they believe occurred. Which brings me to:

 

Batponies & Sombra

 

Now the batponies are a hot item in the fandom. They've only made it on screen once, "Luna Eclipsed" and basically they were just props that were discarded once Luna made her awesome entrance. However they've caught the imagination of many Bronies. They could be written off as costumes, but their wings and eyes point to some kind of transformation magic. We know that the Canterlot Guards appear suspiciously uniform in their armour, so the idea that the armour magically makes them all look like the same three ponies is perfectly valid. However, this is kind of an extreme change in appearance, and nobody before or after has that look.

 

Recently M.A. Larson and Lauren Faust have both said in twitter than their headcanons have the batponies as a separate race. It's not been confirmed in show, but it's pretty safe bet they're a separate breed of pony because of that.

 

Calling them batponies is a bit off, because bats don't have eyes like that. Like a lot of things, sometimes the wrong name sticks, and it makes people go places in their assumptions that they woudn’t normally. Those eyes indicate something *else*. More draconic than anything. The interesting thing is that we've seen those eyes before on ponies. Nightmare Moon and Sombra.

 

Nightmare Moon has a bunch of her own problems, but Sombra... there's a possibility there. He has the eyes, and a weird curved horn unlike any other unicorn. In truth, he resembles the Dungeons and Dragons version of a creature called a Kirin, an oriental-style dragon-unicorn with a curved horn, wreathed in flame & smoke, and so on. This is a vague mix of actual Qilin/Kylin/Kirin myths from China, Korea, and Japan that have a variety of different descriptions for this creature.

 

It's this 'dragon-unicorn' that catches my interest. Combine with 'dragon-pegasi' of the batponies, and we have something interesting here. Not just a sub-breed of pegasi, but an entire alternate set of ponies based off of the originals. Kirin, Batpony, and likely an earth pony variant we haven't seen yet. Throw in the transformational powers of 'Dark Magic' (see the Rainbow of Darkness above), and you have something to work with. Connect it somewhat with the mythology of Nightmare Moon and the existing fanon around the battle between Celestia and Nightmare Moon, and you have a ready-made origin. Putting them in Tartaurus, and you've got an explanation as to why we haven't seen many the same way we've only seen one minotaur.

 

Oh, and as I mentioned in my last author's note of the story, the name Sdukʷalbixʷ is a straight lift from the Snoqualmie Indian tribe local to the Pacific Northwest where I'm currently living. The odd spelling is their interpretation of Roman letters, and it’s not *quite* pronounced Snoqualmie, but that’s how it’s been Anglicized. It does in fact translate to Children of the Moon, and I couldn't resist. While others have called the batponies thestrals, and other names, most of them are lifted from modern fiction (Harry Potter) or constructed new out of pieces of Latin, so I felt no connection to those names.

 

In any case, the Sdu aren't necessarily connected in truth to Nightmare Moon. As I said before in this essay, it's just what their 'history' tells them, so it's what *they* believe. Even the oldest Sdu in the story is too young to know what really happened, so the only ones who can affirm or dispute their origins are Celestia and Luna.

 

And we know how much they like talking about the details of the past, don't we? They're not the types to do broad stroke history, aren't they? wink.png

Fhaolan

Dues Ex Luna

This title works so much better, as Luna is spelled in the Roman manner already.

 

As I mentioned previously, Luna has a lot more complications in her status than Celestia, mostly due to her imprisonment in the Moon. She wasn't around to object to any change in the way the populace viewed her. Everything I said about Celestia applies to Luna, but there are some additional things I want to mention.

 

First, I want to briefly address Luna's strange aging between Season 1 and Season 2. Last time I talked about how many creatures in mythology become 'unaging' (not immortal) by mastering transformations to the point that they can appear any age they want and time no longer affects them. If this does apply, then what we saw when the Elements of Harmony stripped Luna of the Nightmare Moon... whatever it was, is actually Luna's base natural form once all transformations are nullified, frozen at the age she mastered shapeshifting so as to become unaging. The way Luna appears later is because that's the way she *wants* to look, an idealized self-image of sorts.

 

Celestia very likely has an similar natural form. In fact, due to the two of them being unaging, it's entirely possible that they are the same effective age. If they were twins even, Luna could be the 'younger' of the pair; something I know for a fact that twins do make a bit of a deal over. Leading to Luna choosing an appearance of being much younger than Celestia simply because that's how she thinks of herself.

 


 

The bigger issue around Luna though, is one I've seen raised by Bronies on a regular basis: 'Why didn't anyone remember Nightmare Moon, one the pair of goddesses that previously ruled Equestria and who is the patron of Nightmare Night'.

 

Here's the trick, I think they did remember. But what they remembered was fragmentary, attributed to different mythological characters, and in many cases plain wrong as her mythology had been filled in by further stories that had nothing to do with her. Euhemerus again, but in a slightly different way.

 

My thought is that Luna's story was fragmented into at least three or four different mythological characters that the modern ponies simply didn't connect together into a single entity. Those characters being so reduced by this fragmentation that the idea of them actually being a real threat of any kind was gone. They were 'old mare's tales' as mentioned in the first episode, and in many cases a single pony may not even be aware of all the different characters, if any. And only Twilight connected them all up into a single pony because.... well, Twilight.

 

Let me give a real-life (sorta) example. Everyone knows Jack, right? Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack the Giant Killer, Jack of the Lantern? Sly Jack, Stingy Jack, Jack o' the Pulpit?

 

The way these stories are told now-a-days, the impression is that they're all different characters who just happen to be named Jack. But in truth, Jack is a base character in fairy tales, the fool, the trickster. When these tales were originally told, they were all supposed to be the same person; Tricksy Jack. But the tales grew in variety and detail to the point that they really couldn't be of the same person because of contradictions between them. Later storytellers would attempt to mix and match different stories to come up with longer tales, but it was no longer possible for *all* of them to be about one person. And now, most people will only know one or two of the stories, and in many cases only partially at that. A recent attempt to recombine all the Jack tales into one person was in the Fables comic series by Bill Willingham, but to do so he had to make Jack and others like him supernatural immortals powered by mortal belief.

 

For a very on-the-nose example of a story about our Nightmare Night equivalent, that very few people remember yet nearly everyone still follows a tradition connected to it. This is a brief version of the tale of Jack and the Devil:

 


 

Jack was a nasty piece of work. He tricked the Devil into climbing a tree, and trapped him up there by carving crosses in the trunk of the tree. In return for not taking his soul into Hell, Jack let the Devil back down.

 

Eventually Jack died, and because he was a nasty person he couldn't get into Heaven. But the Devil wouldn't let him into Hell either because of that promise. Instead, the Devil tossed Jack a piece of burning brimstone to light his way in the world.

 

Jack hollowed out a turnip, and put the burning brand into it so he could carry it without burning himself.

 


 

Thus, the ghost of Jack became known as Jack of the Lantern. This was an Irish tale from about 300 years ago, trying to put a Christian spin on why people carve faces in vegetables and light them up to scare away spirits. When people colonized the new world and discovered pumpkins, the name Jack o' Lantern transferred because honestly, have any of you tried hollowing a turnip? Pumpkins are much easier.

 

In the thousand years of Luna's imprisonment, I propose there were several different characters built out of her legend.

 

The Sister Lost: A Hero that was Celestia's companion/partner/sister during the Quest for the Elements of Harmony and the defeat of Discord, but who was tragically lost at some point after giving in to her fears and jealousy.

 

The Mare in the Moon: An anthropomorphized.... actually, we need a new term, one that applies to ponies. Equiipomorphized? A ponified force of nature, controlling the tides and the phases of the moon.

 

The Night Mare: The patron spirit of Nightmare Night. An evil spirit who stalks your dreams, stealing your soul if you cannot escape.

 

The Nightmare Moon: A creature that fought Celestia, counted along with Sombra, Discord, and probably others. Not a spirit as such, but a physical monster who was defeated and imprisoned, just like the others of her ilk.

 

The legends and stories would have sufficient clues for someone like Twilight to put the parts together from disparate sources, but the average pony wouldn't even think of doing it. The stories would have been expanded such that the characters were distinct and to assemble the 'real' story would involve discarding parts of the mythology that had been built around them.

 

But again, the big problem with this is the same problem as Celestia being made into a goddess when she was originally a Hero. It means Celestia has to sit back *and let people forget her sister*.

 

It's pretty obvious that she did do exactly that, though. Even if Celestia and Luna are proper goddesses by any definition, in order for the events to pan out the way they did, Celestia would have needed to do *nothing* and allow her sister's story be twisted, torn apart, and mostly forgotten. Probably because she wanted people to forget about the awful things Luna did (as Nightmare Moon), and this is the only way she could think of to achieve that. Disconnecting the various stories from each other, and hoping that the good parts of Luna's story would survive while the rest get shunted off. Basically Celestia yet again trusted that Destiny would eventually produce a solution.

 

I do like Celestia as a character, and I especially like the way she is performed in the show.

 

But to be honest, for her behavior with respect to her sister's legend, Celestia is a bit of an ass sometimes.

Fhaolan

Dues Ex Caelestis

Just as a note, yes I spelled it very deliberately in the title. It may not be accurate Latin, but it does the job I want it to. I think.

 

I'm going to be walking a line with this entry, and I'm going to be trying very, very hard not to cross it. It's not against this forum's rules to talk about religion, but it's still a very tricky subject and can easily offend people when that is not my goal. At several points I was severely tempted to use current real-world religions and controversial current events as examples. But when looking over the essay a second time, I decided to pull back and use mythology that is old enough that nobody is currently using it as a basis of their faith. While there may be some people who do worship more modern versions of these religions, those forms do not resemble the ones I will use as examples and I hope that anyone who reads this essay understand and accept why I've taken this route.

 

Are Celestia and Luna Goddesses?

 

Sort of? By modern definitions of the term, no, not really. But in the way older civilizations defined gods then yes. Very much so. But then, with a bit of stretching of those same ancient definitions all of the Mane 6 could be counted as gods.

 

Let's deal with the Mane 6 being gods first, just to get that out of the way. I think everyone will agree that they are heroes, and they wield power outside the ken of their nominal peers. Aside from Twilight, that power manifests through the Elements of Harmony, but it can be argued that because the Elements of Harmony were recreated through the Mane 6 after Nightmare Moon 'destroyed' them, then the Elements are now more like physical representations and foci, rather than the actual powersources. But even so, in ancient times anyone who was a hero was a god, by definition. In fact, ancient Greek is where we get the word 'hero', which was the term they used for 'demi-god'. Demi-god is actually a bastardization of Greek and Anglo-Saxon languages and only became a real word relatively recently. Demi-gods were mortals with divine blood in them somehow. It didn't have to be a divine parent, as a divine great-grandparent, adoption by a divine being, or even consuming divine food would work. If you weren't in some way touched by the Divine, you weren't really a Hero. In this case, the Elements of Harmony themselves would count towards the Divine requirement making the Mane 6 all demigods by ancient Greek standards.

 

But that's one heck of a stretch, so let's drop that as being a bit silly and get back to the real topic. And let's continue with Celestia as the primary subject, just to make things easier than typing out 'Celestia and Luna' over and over again. That and Luna has some odd problems of her own with this topic, which will just confuse things. I don't want to deal with the other alicorns like Cadance and Twilight at all for this one, as it just makes things way too messy and I'm already having problems organizing this essay.

 

The modern concept of Gods is heavily informed by modern religions. So many people think immortal, omnipotent, omniscient, and often omnipresent as well. Always exists, can do anything, knows everything, is actually everywhere all at once. Again, I think we can all agree that even Celestia is not all of these things. In fact, I don't believe she's any of them. She is not all-powerful as she can be defeated. She's not all-knowing, but she does dissemble very well. To be expected of a being with her amount of experience. And she is definitely not all-present. In fact she seem to go out of her way to be all-absent on occasion. The only one that she seems to display is immortality. But in truth she seems to be demonstrating 'unaging' rather than the technical definition of 'immortal'. She *can* be hurt, and likely even killed, but her physical age is no longer connected to her calendar age.

 

This is a common theme in many pantheistic religions, such as the Greek, Norse, etc. In most of those mythologies, to become unaging you basically master transformation to the point that you can appear as any age you wish and the passage of time becomes irrelevant to you. In these mythologies a lot of creatures outside the gods have this ability. But then, in these mythologies none of the gods really fall into the modern definition of deities as they too can be killed. With great effort, and usually by each other, but it's very possible. They are also far from being omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent, being far more like mortals with a power boost of some sort and a job that requires that power, possibly even a career path that may lead to greater responsibilities.

 

This is what Celestia resembles the most, these kinds of deities. However, most of those have an older form where the gods weren't always 'gods' which maps even better to Celestia. Let me use old Irish/Celtic mythology as the model here, but know that similar forms existed in Norse, Greek, and the like.

 

The history of Ireland is described in archaeological terms as a series of invasions. Starting with the Pretanic peoples who were commonly called Cruthin, or Picts depending on who you asked. They were invaded by the Bolgic peoples, then simultaneously by three separate tribes; the Laigin, the Dommainn and the Gailioin, and finally the Goidelic (Gaelic) showed up, commonly known as the Milesians. All of these were technically Celtic as they all spoke different dialects of Gaelic, but they ranged in cultural development from stone-age to iron-age in technology and considered themselves as distinct peoples.

 

But take a second look at these events through the lens of Irish mythology: the Fir Bolg and Fomorians (Bolgic) were giants and shapeshifters, the Celtic equivalent of the Titans. Tossed out on their ear by the Tuatha De Dannan (Dommainn) who were gods, the equivalent of the greek Olympians. The Gaelic were the Irish themselves who didn't really 'invade' so much as colonize, integrate, and out breed the previous tribes. The Laigin and the Gailioin contributed other former heroes become deities, like Li Ban and the like. The Pretanics were almost lost completely due to being so far back in history they were barely remembered, remaining as a single deity going by the name of Crom Cruach (Cruthin) which had been reduced to an effectively demonic presence. Rescued from complete obscurity by modern fictional works like Conan, Slaine, and the relatively recent animation The Secret of the Kells.

 

What happened here was that the heroes of one people became the gods of the people who took over from them, thanks to their stories being 'upgraded' in the telling. King Nuada, the (probably fictional) heroic leader of the Dommainn, became Nuada of the Silver Hand, King of the Gods of the Gaels. The actual gods of the Dommainn, older deities like Lugh the Long Handed and Danu the Mother became the patrons (re: parents) of the new gods. This cycle shows up in many different Western cultures to one extent or another.

 

In the Equestrian version of this cycle, Discord would be the equivalent of the Fir Bolg, and Celestia and Luna would be the equivalent of the Tuatha De Dannan. 'Modern' ponies like the mane 6 would be the Milesians. To the ponies alive at the time Celestia and Luna took down Discord, the princesses would be heroes and treated as royalty for their heroic deeds. They had power beyond that of the normal (able to move the Sun and Moon, which normally took a team of unicorns according to Hearth's Warming Eve. Plus Celestia and Luna's mastery of a wide range of magic, both light and dark. Finally add in the Elements of Harmony which they likely assembled as part of their Hero's Quest.) and had visible attributes which marked them as demi-gods, or Heroes (with a capital H), which modern culture would call Superheroes.

 

Over time the history would become stories become mythology, and confronted by their unaging nature, the populace would slowly shift into thinking of them as full and proper deities. This process is called euhemerism, named after a Greek philosopher of the 4th century BC, Euhemerus, who wrote extensively about how mythology was heavily romanticized history, how gods were once heroes, and who were likely based on actual historical figures blown so far out of proportion as to be unrecognizable. He didn't invent the concept, as there were apparently philosophers before Euhemerus who wrote similar things, but he was the first known to apply this philosophy to all mythology in general rather than individual myths.

 

Ponies had a thousand years to make this mental shift. Even with the social change rate mentioned in a previous blog entry that's plenty of time. To bring in a different mythology, this is like the ancient Greek Heracles, a hero figure with many adventures first mentioned in the 7th century BC who, though he had divine blood (needed to be a Hero) was mortal and in one story did actually die. Slowly he turned into the Roman God of Strength Hercules who, at the end of the 4th century AD when the Roman Empire officially converted to Christianity, stood amongst the other Roman Gods as an full equal. It's the same character, the same person, with the same basic framework of stories being told, but as time passed the stories grew to the point that Heracles the Hero became Hercules the God.

 

Add to this the concept of the 'Imperial Cult' that occurred in Egypt, Rome, Sumeria, Japan, and many other places, where the King/Emperor/whatever is declared Divine and subject to no mortal authority. Again, this is much the same as the Hero needing to be in some part divine, in this case the definition of King, the leader by divine right, is taken to the ultimate extreme in that the King is by definition a God. This has occurred so many times in history, and even currently, that it cannot be discounted as a possibility here.

 

Of course, this would assume that Celestia was not actually available to dispute this shift. (Luna wasn't, which is one reason why her story is a lot more complicated.) But then, Celestia is an odd duck and sometimes lets things happen because it suits whatever purpose she has. I don't really peg her as the master manipulator though. Celestia is such a strong believer in fate, leaving so much up to chance that I honestly believe that Destiny is *her* deity more so than Harmony. Yes, she guides, but only minimally. She seems to honestly believe that her role is to not directly interfere with the development of 'her little ponies' unless it's absolutely necessary.

 

This would be why Chrysalis reacted the way she did when she fought Celestia. At first she honestly thought she was battling a God and that she would get squished immediately. But what she was up against was actually a Hero, a demi-god who had been stripped of many of her powerful weapons (Her sister, the Elements of Harmony, etc.), and who had been relying on her own reputation increasing over time as her primary weapon, a social weapon intended to prevent conflict from occurring in the first place.

 

Yes, Celestia was, and is, powerful, experienced, and extremely dangerous; with a wide range of magical abilities and resources that puts her firmly in the top tier of heavy-hitters. But by modern standards, she is not a Goddess.

 

She is a Big Damn Hero.

Fhaolan

But Why Do This?

I've been trying to publish my essays on a schedule, but I feel like I need to explain why I'm doing these blog entries at all, and so I'm publishing this out-of-order. Several times I've been told "You know this is a cartoon, right? The creators didn't put this much effort into it, why are you bothering?"

 

Actually, they did. They put a lot of effort into making this cartoon, and I respect the effort that they put into it. I know I don't have the skills to do what they do, and I truly know that I don't have the discipline to learn those skills well enough to compete in that arena.

 

But first let me answer the question directly: Doing what I do amuses me, and is part of the entertainment I get from the show. I would do this kind of thing even if I didn't have these blogs to do it in. I just don't normally write it all down. I don't expect anyone else to be the same type of person I am, but I know that some of you out there are in some way amused and entertained by what I'm doing, so I am publishing it through these blogs.

 

Also, I fully admit that I am easily, and often, wrong with what I conclude. Because I've never had the opportunity to talk to any of the show staff directly, I may be missing things, or noticing things that were accidental. But I'm trying my best at this, and I try to admit when I've made a mistake. Plus when I enter into speculation territory, I try to always put it in terms of speculation, and not as fact.

 

Back to the topic: The creative staff involved in the stuff I'm pulling out of the episodes is a fair number of people. There's the writers, the editors, the storyboard artists, the animators, the background artists, the in-betweeners, the actors, the musicians, the effects people, and in the current show you have the prop builders, the puppet makers and probably many more as I don't know all the steps necessary to produce a cartoon like these. And a good number of these people will have learned not just the tools they're using, but have formally studied film, art, animation, and music history and theory. In so doing they will learn some architecture, costuming, historical props, and the culture from various periods in order to provide a kind of library of symbols that they can put into their work so that they don't have to spell out every aspect that they want to convey. And each person's hands that the work passes through has the opportunity to add or modify things that they are drawing from their library. Good animated features, heck good Art in general, includes a lot more than the immediate surface of the piece, but will use symbols, like dress and environment to indicate mood, status, and other things of note. The setting of a story itself becomes a character of sorts, complete with implied and explicit backstories and behaviors.

 

Not all the people involved will be doing this, of course, but there will always be some who are, in the good productions. When I went to University, there was a large Art College not that far away, and there was an exchange of students on certain subjects to minimize overlap and to give the best education in their respective specialties. In my classes on architecture, a full third of the students were actually model builders and illustrators from the Art College, looking to increase their library of symbols. In my literature and history classes, we had a good number of hopeful scriptwriters and artists, and in the one film class I took over at the Art College itself, there were several prospective storyboard artists that I was aware of.

 

In My Little Pony, even in earlier generations, there are many times where the creative staff have obviously used reference material to get accurate symbols for the artistic shorthand they are using. Sometimes they don't get it quite right. For example, in the My Little Pony 'n Friends episodes 'The Glass Princess', there are very accurately drawn spinning wheels and looms from the 18th-19th century. However, the artists very obviously only drew based on pictures of the wheels and looms, and had never seen them in use. Making some very broad and incorrect assumptions on how they actually worked when the characters were spinning thread and making cloth. But for the most part they do very well indeed.

 

Other people are more qualified to critique the writing, drawing, animation, acting, and music as artforms. I know history, mythology, architecture, clothing, and cultural models. So I am pulling out what I can, speculating and building on the setting itself based on what I'm good at, knowing that those others are already doing critiques based on their own specializations.

 

Some of them use comedy to do their stuff, some use earnestness, some do nerd rage, and so on. Most are doing vlogs or podcasts. But I don't have the equipment or knowledge to do either of those. So I use this format. Maybe someday I'll try doing one of those, but I'm not sure it will work for what I'm trying to do. Heck, I'm not sure *this* format is really working. I've not being doing it for very long at all.

 

In any case, I hope I've answered the question, and I'll return you to your regularly scheduled.... stuff.

Fhaolan

Originally I was going to do a couple of entries about how it is possible to pull worldbuilding ideas and information from the previous generations of My Little Pony, when I realized something.

 

I don't really remember the previous generations well enough to do this.

 

I remember the first TV movie with the dueling rainbows, but past that point it starts to get vague. If I'm going to tackle this topic competently, I'm going to need to... oh god.

 

Weep for me, dear readers. For I am going to do something dangerous. I'm going to watch all of My Little Pony, from the beginning. All of it, including *shudder* Generation 3.5.

 

Now, I'm not going to really review the episodes. Especially not in the 'angry nerd' presentation that is so popular right now. That's not the way I think. I am in no way qualified to judge the quality of the stories or characterizations, and I'm especially not qualified to judge how suitable the stories are for their intended audiences. What I'm going to do is watch with the eye of a hobbyist anthropologist and try to glean bits and pieces of information that will help inform worldbuilding within the *franchise* of My Little Pony, and pass those bits of information on to you. And using a bit of educated fiddlybits, maybe I can put together some examples of how that information can be used.

 

To keep this blog clear for those who are actually following it just for my worldbuilding essays, I'm going to put my notes I take from watching the episodes in a separate blog, and only put the compilations of my findings in this one.

 

I just counted them up. If I include doing Gen 4 shows, and count mini-episodes as individuals... we're talking 183 episodes in total.

 

No time to waste, let's get started. Rescue at Midnight Castle

Fhaolan

This is new for my blog, but will likely show up again on a regular basis as I get farther along. I'm going to do a brief revisit on something I've already talked about before, as something sparked a bit for me recently.

 

In a previous entry on the Elements of Harmony: http://mlpforums.com/blog/844/entry-4702-the-elements-of-harmony-the-basics/ I listed the various Elements using the names that Twilight read from a history/mythological book. Those names are what the Mane 6 have continued to use for the Elements. Except for Magic, which Twilight named by herself.

 

In a video:

, Digibrony talks about how it seems like Applejack and Rainbow Dash are actually reversed in some way, like they got each other's Element. Applejack displays far more Loyalty, and Rainbow Dash is in many ways Honest to a fault.

 

But then there was a comment on the video made by someone going by the screenname of TheRubberFury981 that Celestia actually referred to the traits exhibited by the ponies by different terms in the Magical Mystery Cure. Terms that were more fitting than the actual names. So I looked again at that.

 

The terms Celestia used were Charity, Compassion, Devotion, Integrity, Optimism and Leadership. And overall, these do seem to be better traits than the ones currently used, although I disagree with one of them, and have reservations about another.

 

Celestia, as a rule, doesn't seem to correct ponies much if they are 'wrong' as long as they continue to do the 'right' thing. Basically she doesn't care if labels are wrong, at most dropping hints and seeing if they're picked up out of curiosity. And if anyone would know what the Elements *really* are, it would be Celestia. So it doesn't surprise me that she would let the writer of the history/myth book get the traits wrong, and let Twilight perpetuate it, as it doesn't have any real effect on any of the pony's behaviors or actions.

 

Also, it depends a lot on whether these were magical artifacts that were deliberately made by someone, or were they naturally and spontaneously generated. Mythologically, those that create magic artifacts use very specific and defined names for their creations that indicate exactly what their purpose is and what they do. Spontaneously generated artifacts, or ones that are found mysteriously with no prior history, on the other hand are named via best guess and can be far more amorphous and seemingly random in abilities, and may even be self-aware or 'alive' by certain standards. While the rest of this entry is based on the idea that the Elements are manufactured, and therefore need very well defined names, I have my doubts. The way the elements are used and react to stimuli doesn't speak of them being self-aware, but they are definitely a lot more flexible in abilities and subject to random occurrences than manufactured artifacts usually are. I wonder if Twilight's confidence in the Mane 6 always getting the results she is asking for is really warranted, or if that's really a front put up to reassure the rest of the gang and she's playing the odds every time they put them on.

 

Anycase, moving on with the alternate traits for the Elements.

 

Generosity is Charity, and the emphasis change is interesting. Charity is typically more specific than Generosity. Charity is being generous to those whom you have no obligation. Basically being generous to your family, your employees, etc. doesn't count as Charity because there is an obligation there. Being generous to a random passer-by or river serpent would be Charity. In this case, I prefer Generosity as a concept for the Element due to it being broader and more inclusive, and this therefore is the only one that I really disagree with.

 

Kindness is Compassion. I like this change. Compassion is a far stronger word while meaning much the same thing, and more benefiting an Element. It's definitely a tonal shift, but like Generosity, Compassion is the broader and more inclusive term to me.

 

Loyalty is Devotion. While the dictionary often has loyalty and devotion as being synonyms, in actual usage there's a big difference between them. Rainbow Dash is far more about Devotion than Loyalty. She is devoted to her friends, devoted to her dreams, devoted to herself even. It's very hard for her to give something up, because she feels so strongly about everything. But it's not really 'Loyalty', as she can turn on ponies, be dismissive of them, and other things that are effectively being disloyal. Devotion fits very well with her tomboy attitude, and in fact marks her as one of the most likely of the Mane 6 to have a romantic relationship. Not necessarily a *good* relationship, as her innate devotion will lead her to cling to a relationship despite anything that might be wrong with it.

 

Honesty is Integrity. This fits Applejack so much better. She is the dependable one, the responsible one, the one that everyone turns to for help, the grounded one, the one that gets upset over personal failures but forgives others of theirs. This is Integrity. Although being honest is part of Integrity, it's a secondary trait. This makes Applejack the other one to whom a romantic relationship is well suited, but in this case a good relationship. Applejack is all about family, and won't be fooled (for long) by the fripperies and deception that modern media uses as shorthand for romance, concentrating on the good solid parts of a romantic relationship and serving as a good role model for kids.

 

Laughter is Optimism. Again, a much stronger word with far more breadth, and far more fitting as an Element, and Pinkie Pie in general. Laughter is a great expression of optimism, but Optimism is far more than just being entertaining, it's finding the best parts of any situation and bringing them to the fore. Much more useful for Harmony.

 

Magic is Leadership. I can't say I disagree with this one, because it does fit Twilight quite well. But I prefer 'Friendship' itself as much better trait for the central Element of Harmony. It fits the whole 'Friendship is Magic' trick title. ;) But friendship isn't a very clear concept in and of itself, so until I can think of something better, I think I'm stuck with Leadership.

Fhaolan

Magic vs Magik: Part 2

Now we move on to ‘magic’ as used by unicorns.

 

Pseudo-psionics: And the third, and least popular one in mythology is the one that is most often seen in modern fiction. Where the magician simply wills something to happen and it happens because he’s just that cool. There might be some waving of hands around, and some nonsense chanting just to set the mood, but it’s the effort of will that is important and it’s entirely possible to bypass the dressings leaving only the will behind. For those used to Dungeons and Dragons, that falls into this magic style. There’s some dressing added to make it superficially resemble the second style, but it’s just dressing. Especially in later editions of the game where the dressing is easily bypassed via feats or something similar.

 

That’s not to say this *doesn’t* show up in mythology anywhere. It’s a staple in more Eastern mythologies where willpower, correctly focused, can do wondrous things. Usually however, these wondrous things are highly internalized, allowing the practitioner to perform physical feats far beyond mortal understanding, or affect the spirit world in some way (crossing over with the first style.)

 

MLP:FiM gives the impression of following the third style the most, which makes sense given it’s influences. Magic can do anything at will. Nominally only Unicorns can perform this kind of magic, using their horn as a focus. But because it's the same focus for all spells, it's not truly Symbolic of anything. And the caster has to learn ‘spells’. But once learned, the caster can spam that spell as desired as long as they have the willpower to do so, with no reliance on symbolic tools or external powers. Willpower here being a consumable resource. However, pegasi have very specialized magic with their ability to walk on and manipulate clouds as if they were solid objects, and earth ponies appear to have the ability to manipulate the growth of plants and animals in a preternatural way. None of this via manipulating external spirits or using symbolism directly.

 

Which throws Twilight’s lab in a weird light. She (and presumably other unicorns) seem to approach magic the same way as Alchemists did, using advanced symbology and similar techniques to break magic down into consumable chunks, and building up magic repertoires from that knowledge. But when it actually comes to casting spells, it all comes out as pseudo-psionics. Which again, is very D&D, from 1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons onwards when spell research was introduced.

 

FYI: Here's where my title for this topic comes into play. Magik is a pretentious alternate spelling for magic, used to differentiate between stage/performance magic and 'real' magic. It goes further than that: Depending on who you're talking to, any one of these three styles could be Magik while the others are just fake magic. The even more pretentious Magick is used by several religions to refer to their own practices to mark them as being 'even more real' than any of the other religions that espouse Magik as a real thing. I'm waiting for a Majhick, or Magichk to be introduced as the next step up. Any moment now.

 

As I mentioned in my blog post about Dungeons and Dragons, limitless magic can cause problems with worldbuilding, but more obviously affects drama potential. If Twilight can simply cast a spell and get rid of any problem, then the writers have to put more and more effort into invalidating Twilight. Having her not be around, or be oblivious to the problem, or put some magibabble (the equivalent to Star Trek technobabble) in place so that she *can’t* just poof the problem away. If becoming an alicorn increases her effective power, the writers have given themselves an increase in this specific problem along with it.

 

Watching the episodes back to back shows that Twilight’s effective power is highly variable depending on the exact writer involved. I believe this indicates different levels of awareness of this problem with the individual writer. More experienced writers, or those who have done longer-term projects before, are likely aware of this problem and work to keep Twilight’s abilities within a reasonable boundary. Less experienced writers, or those who in the past concentrated on one-shots rather than continuing series, are the most likely to use ‘limit breaks’ and boost Twilight’s abilities in some way, forgetting that they then will need to allow for these increased limits later as Twilight will have no reason to not use that tool/technique to break past that limit. I know that the writers of MLP do care somewhat for consistency and character growth, according to various interviews, so when they do fall prey to this kind of thing it is accidental and not deliberately ignoring long-term effects. It's very much the BMX Bandit and Angel Summoner issue:

 

Rarity is a problem here as well. She has occasionally demonstrated power beyond that of the average unicorn (I hope), to levels that even oblivious and naïve Twilight should have noticed by now. She can manipulate several hundred objects simultaneously via telekinesis during a musical number, many of which were of significant weight. She can manipulate the weather directly to produce *patterns* of cloud formations, something that only pegasi are supposed to be able to do. She may be limited by the types of spells she can cast, but the power behind that telekinesis is astonishing. Again, I hope this is unusual for unicorns, because if it isn’t it invalidates a lot of the struggle the ponies go through on a daily basis. It does make the various fanfictions that depict a slightly older Sweetie Bell becoming a prodigy, Twilight’s student and perhaps successor to the Element of Magic far more reasonable. If, of course, she has inherited the same potential that Rarity is currently displaying.

 

How to fix this as a writer? Well, simply being aware of it helps a lot. Magic has to be limited, otherwise it consumes the plot and becomes the only real answer to any problem, to the point that it trivializes any obstacle. This third style of magic is prone to this problem above the other two, because it doesn't have a built-in limiter. You don't have to convince an external power to do these things, and you aren't limited by your tools. So as a writer you have to deliberately restrict yourself and restrict the magic of your characters. Most importantly, keep your limitations consistent. Arbitrary limitations are fine, as long as they're *always* applied, and avoid putting work-arounds in your writing, because once you let that genie out the bottle, it ain't going back in. Once a work-around is applied, there's no reason why the character won't use that work-around repeatedly.

Fhaolan

[Note: I just noticed the formatting went weird on this one again. I'm trying to fix that. If this shows up as a new entry. Sorry.]

 

There are lots of strange modern thoughts about what magic is, and what it can do. Historically (well, mythologically), there are three 'styles' of magic. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking this is all past and gone, a lot of this stuff is still in a lot of modern attitudes and habits. It’s just people don’t think of it as ‘magic’ anymore. Also, I’m drastically simplifying for purposes of discussion so a lot of nuance is going to be lost.

 

Animism: This style is the most popular magic system mythologically. It’s based on the idea that everything has a spirit or soul, plus there are many ‘free roaming’ spirits for one reason or another. These spirits are unfettered by mortal limits, and can be cajoled or coerced into performing magical feats for someone with the right knowledge. Jinn, Loa, Daemons, Elves, Weirds, Dryads, Familiars, etc. Each culture has different names or different methodologies of dealing with these creatures.

 

This style is also one of the most powerful historically, as the creatures being used can really be limitless. The Persian tale of Ala ad-Din and the genies of the lamp and ring (yes, Persian, not Arabic, and yes, genies, there are two of them in the story. In the original tale Aladdin is actually Muslim Chinese which places him somewhere in Turkestan, probably near modern Xinjiang.) exemplifies this type of magic.

 

In the MLP:FiM world, Windigoes and Discord fall into this style as powerful spirits that can be manipulated with the right knowledge and skills. There’s really not much else though, unless you also include Parasprites and a variety of creatures introduced in various fanfictions. I myself have an crystal-equivalent to the Windigoes called Geenomes (modifying the earth spirit Gnome with a horse-pun Gee, and implying a connection to genetic modifications for purposes of the story) that I have not developed enough to publish to FIMFiction.

 

Symbolism: This is the second most popular style, while also being the largest as it contains many different systems that all follow a theme. This involves using tools to produce effects, based on the tool’s symbolic meanings. The biggest within this style is Sympathetic Magic. The idea being that things can be used to represent other things and whatever you do to the representation will be reflected to a greater or lesser extent on the original. For example, with the right knowledge you can give yourself the eyesight of an eagle if you adorn yourself with enough eagle feathers. Sympathetic Magic also means that an object that used to be part of you, or even one you use regularly has ‘sympathy’ to you, and can be used to represent you. If someone gets ahold of that object they may be able to do things to you. The lock of hair in a voodoo doll, fingernail clippings in various witchcraft rituals, etc. In more modern times, the former instrument of a famous musician can be believed to grant increased skill in using it, especially if the instrument was being used during some important concert.

 

Also within this style are the various runic and ritual systems, where the runes/diagrams/foci/whatever can represent different actions or channel mystic forces, providing you use the correct foci for the correct end effects. Magic wands, tarot cards, mystic rings, etc. Without the focus, the magician cannot bring whatever power they might have to bear, and the foci by necessity changes based on what exactly you’re intending to do. A holy symbol repels unholy spirits, a crystal ball can see into the future, etc.

 

Alchemy also falls into this style very strongly. Classic Alchemy is all about removing impurities from substances, with the end goal of removing impurities from the Alchemist himself rendering him effectively immortal. If you could produce absolutely pure water, absolutely pure earth, absolutely pure fire, and absolutely pure air, you should then be able to produce absolutely pure spirit. The gold thing was a side path on producing pure earth. As a note, Aquis Regis (Royal Water) is a real thing, and was considered 'pure water' by Alchemists; a combination of Hydrochloric Acid and Sulfuric Acid.

 

The one I really like in this set is shadow magic. Nailing a person’s shadow to the ground with a silver dagger or similar implement can pin a person in place, or allow you to cut their shadow off completely rendering them soulless and more easily controlled by you (Hey Peter Pan, nice to run into you here). The shadow represents the person, as it were. Along the same lines is a venomous snake biting the footprint can poison the person who made that footprint.

 

In any case, this style has a very ‘cause and effect’ process. You do very specific things, very specific effects occur. Vary those things in any way, and the effect may not occur or go horribly, horribly wrong. Modern athletes fall prey to this style of magic, performing rituals that will help them ‘win’. Lucky underwear, tapping the foot with the bat precisely seven times, etc.

 

In the world of MLP:FiM, this is pretty much Zecora and her stuff. She demonstrates herbalism and alchemy. Plus the love poison produced by the CMC. This doesn’t require any specific magic ‘ability’ in the caster, just the knowledge of the right symbols being applied at the right time in the right way. Anyone can do this kind of magic with the correct knowledge, or lack of knowledge in the case of the CMC. ;) Oh, and Granny Smith’s cultivation of the Zap Apples. Specific actions driving specific events, even if Granny isn’t fully aware of the exact symbolism involved. She doesn’t *need* to know, as long as the trial-and-error process produces results.

 

Next time: Unicorn magic!