Artwork by the very talented Justasuta
Do you think my English teacher will let me use pony character analysis as a replacement for Shakespeare?
Hello, folks. My name is NavelColt, also known by my old monicker, CD, C.Discord or ~Chaotic Discord~ if you're an OG boy from 13'. I am a fanfiction writer and lore analyst who's been in this glorious fandom since the near beginning, and I am here today to bring you my first proper, lengthy lore analysis since sometime in 2015.
That analysis is for the changelings - specifically, the modern changelings. The fairy bugs, the rainbow buggos, the pastel beetles and their beetlemoose overlord. The changelings have been my focus of interest since season 6, when I was catapulted back into this fandom after my initial leave in late 2015. It started with Thorax's debut, a character who quickly rose to become my favorite character in the show, even dethroning Discord, himself.
Since that time I have documented nearly 120,000 words in fan fiction, exploring the changelings, their lore, their day to day lives and Thorax's role as the changeling's new patriarch. What began as a few headcanon ideas has since expanded to an entire headcanon universe surrounding the modern hive.
With the show now over, and no new canon content to be introduced, I felt it was time to sit down and actually put those ideas down on electronic paper. So please enjoy my headcanon universe for the modern changelings! If you find yourself intrigued, links to specific works will be found near the end.
But first...a few points.
The MLP Comics are fantastic. However, I do not now nor have I ever considered the comics to be on the same plane of canon as the show, so everything here is crafted exclusively from the FIM cartoon.
As a writer, reader and consumer of creative content in general I am someone who enjoys Slice of Life, closeness, feel-good stories and stories that focus on relationships between characters. If you're looking for a heart attacks and humor, you've come to the right place. If you're looking for adventure and excitement, she's in another castle.
At the end of the day, these are just my interpretations. Feel free to see things differently!
Red Titles - Headcanon built off of pre-established canon
Blue Titles - Pure headcanon, crafted in the spirit of the show's canon
Backstory Tie-Ins: Thorax, a Source of Inspiration:
"Evil? Oh, no, not me. All I've ever wanted was a friend."
~ Thorax, 'The Times They are a Changeling'
Artwork by Cloureed
From the moment 'The Times They are a Changeling' aired I knew Thorax was one of my newfound favorites.
Thorax is the softest, most caring male character in this entire show. Not only is that a glorious stab in the face to gender stereotype norms, not only is it a perfect antithesis to Chrysalis - possibly the most ruthless villain to come out of this show - it is also part of what makes Thorax so enjoyable as a character. He seeks nothing but to help and protect those precious things around him, while he, himself is a precious thing in need of protecting. Thorax is like a modern, male spin on the trope Fluttershy's character was initially based on.
This loving, caring changeling was then made the newly-crowned king of his species - a species scarred by a long, harsh rule under Chrysalis. A species he had never truly felt a part of, but could now nurture and care for. A home where he had never felt welcome could now be freely crafted into something that all changelings could enjoy. It was a redemption on a kingdom-sized scale, and it was a beautiful story waiting to happen.
The King of Love Bugs was my very first changeling story. It ventured to show the ongoing, day-to-day process of the changelings rebuilding their hive, and working with Equestria's princesses to become a citizenship of Equestria. The story had one goal - to stay as canonical as possible, while building lore around the changeling's daily lives, newfound forms and magic.
Most of all, it ventured to show the budding relationship between Thorax and his estranged kin.
From Ruthless Queen to Paternal Patriarch:
"Lately you and the other nymphs have made me feel more like a dad than a king. But, you know, I don't think they have to be so different."
~ Thorax, The King of Love Bugs, 'The Summit of Love'
Artwork commissioned by me, and done by the very lovely Circus-Cinnamon
Perhaps the most endearing concept surrounding Thorax becoming king is that he could now act as both a leader and father figure to the changelings, both the young and mature. What else would you expect from a cinnamon roll put in charge? Thorax had always wanted friends - presumably in the hive, at first, before he'd been pushed away by the state of Chrysalis's rule. Having the chance to not only make friends with other changelings for the first time, but to help other changelings make friends, themselves would be something he'd adore doing.
The changelings denounced Chrysalis after discovering a better way to sustain themselves. They followed Thorax because they were ready to finally put themselves first, to become more than an extension of Chrysalis's will. This idea of sharing love, making connections with each other and sustaining themselves without the need to prey on others had become enticing, and Thorax was the greatest expert on the subject among their entire species.
This is the basis for the relationship Thorax and his subjects would build. For adult drones Thorax became a voice of reason, a gentle, guiding hand and a willing friend. To the nymphs of the hive he became a playmate, a big, exciting jungle gym, and an attentive caretaker. The traits about Thorax once seen as weak in the old hive would now become advantageous in helping the hive grow, and helping the changelings adapt to a more peaceful lifestyle.
* In 'To Change a Changeling', Thorax did just this by introducing a creative renaissance to the hive. Changelings were able to think for themselves, and discover hobbies and interests they'd likely never explored, before. He also introduced a space for changelings to communicate freely about their troubles. Though comedic on the surface, this approach speaks volumes to the kind of culture shock the changelings were working through, as they adapted to feeling and sharing emotions rather than feeding on them.
Wholesome buggos, 'To Change a Changeling', S8
* Thorax's caring nature with his subjects can be seen in plethora via Ocellus - a nymph of no obvious relation to him, but whom Thorax has shown parent-like affection for on more than one occasion.
Ocellus & Thorax, 'School Daze', S8
Ocellus & Thorax, 'Uprooted', S9
From Swarm to Pack - the Modern Hive Social Structure:
"Why are you still here?"
"Because I'm having trouble leading my pack, so I don't really wanna go home."
~ Ember & Thorax, 'Triple Threat'
During Chrysalis's reign the hive operated autonomously as a singular unit, a hive mind. Individual drones did not have distinguishable features, and in nearly every appearance, changelings were presented in groups, moving and attacking as one. Very few times did we get to see changelings acting as individuals, other than Thorax. During this time, the changelings were referred to as a 'swarm' by Chrysalis and other characters.
But following Thorax's ascension to the throne, things changed.
Changelings were encouraged to pursue individuality. They were given the opportunity to explore unique interests and enjoy things that did not directly benefit the hive or its leader. Through Ocellus, we were shown that, like ponies and other species, changelings do in fact have unique parents, rather than being spawned in mass by a singular queen. Following this logic, it was safe to assume that the hive was a large community made up of smaller groups of families, all lead by a king/queen.
The hive mind mentality and community structure of insects died with Chrysalis's status as queen. With Thorax's rise to power the hive took on a social structure more similar to pack animals. A tight-knit community that lives together, and whose members look out for each other, but is ultimately made up of smaller groups of families.
The changelings had evolved socially just as much as they had physically.
* The topic of whether Chrysalis is every changeling's mother is, and might always be up for interpretation. My stance is that the introduction of Ocellus's parents is proof that this concept is false. Changelings always had unique parents. Chrysalis forcefully collected all eggs birthed within the hive and had them raised together as a group of uniform warriors. In Chrysalis's hive, who you were born to or with was less important than the hive's strength.
* Ocellus's parents were introduced in 'The Hearth's Warming Club', but were not titled as such until their appearance in 'A Horse Shoe-In'.
Sharing Love - Modern Changeling Magic:
"If my kind learned to create love for one another, maybe they wouldn't have to take it from others!"
~ Thorax, 'The Times They are a Changeling'
Artwork commissioned by me, and done by the talented Underpable
"After we transformed, we discovered something else," Thorax continued, looking around as the last of the group settled. With a glowing smile he rested his hoof on the head of a young changeling that had decided to curl up in front of his chest. "While long-term relationships sustain us from hunger, physical acts of affection and resting together rejuvenates our bodies from fatigue in the present."
~ 'An Elegant Discussion', The King of Love Bugs
Love has evolved to be more than a food source for changelings. Like the Crystal Ponies, it has become an integral part of changeling culture, taking on a form of magic all its own.
When a changeling is loved, be it through friendship, family or romance, they are eternally sustained from hunger. Though this process can occur with any sentient creature, when two (or more) changelings are each other's recipients, it creates an infinite circuit, a symbiotic relationship. Furthermore, when two or more changelings express love through affection, even simple gestures such as napping together or embracing each other, the bodies of all changelings involved are rapidly absolved of fatigue, physical pain and even minor injuries.
The effectiveness of shared love magic is determined by three factors: time spent performing a loving gesture, proximity to loved ones, and the depth to which that changeling is loved. The exception to this rule is the hive's leader, Thorax, whose range of provided love magic is far wider than the average changeling. By merely being near his subjects, Thorax is able to restore their energy, regardless what he is doing.
However, this process is still sped up through acts of affection and mutual rest. It is for this reason that Thorax created 'cluster naps', the concept of changelings sleeping in groups, rather than alone in individual bedhives. Perhaps the first major example of physical pack animal behavior in the new hive.
Sharing Love in the Modern Hive, Reception and Adaptation:
"Some changelings like the idea of communal energy restoration, while others think it's frivolous and degrading."
"And others use it as an excuse to be lazy?" Twilight asked slyly.
"Yeah, there are lazy changelings who try to use it as an excuse to sleep all the time," Thorax chuckled, rounding a bend in the corridor. "There are also changelings who get jealous when their friends share love with other changelings they don't know. And though I'm doing my best to curb it, there's still some bullying going on towards those changelings who enjoy communal resting. Trust me, if I'm not the one instigating it, even resting together can turn into a real mess."
~'Mornings are Never Easy, Twilight Sparkle', The King of Love Bugs
Though Thorax was able to eventually convince the entire hive to accept the idea of sharing love, taking it a step further by physically spending more time together was a mixed response.
During the hive's rebuilding, a massive internal chamber was built in the lower part of the hive, the part below ground. Thorax dubbed this 'the Nesting Chamber', and it would become not only the location where hive-wide cluster naps took place each night, but also a panic room of sorts, a secure place for the hive to commune in case of a large-scale threat. Thorax began to sleep here every night, along with every changeling in the hive who enjoyed the additional benefits of cluster naps.
Those changelings against the concept of cluster naps remained in their individual bedhives, hollowed out holes along walls throughout the hive.
Over time, as changelings grew more accustomed to spending time together, and growing as social creatures, cluster naps became more widespread. The nesting chamber is now a nightly routine for more than 80% of the hive, something Thorax couldn't be more ecstatic about.
The Mental Effects of Metamorphosis & Pharynx's Relationship with Thorax:
Flashes of past attempts to embrace his brother rapidly filled Thorax's head - the nightmares, fear and loneliness from his nymphhood, all met with a cold apathy. But as Thorax shed a tear down his brother's carapace, he could already feel the difference. No hoof pushed him away, and no disgusted tone reprimanded him. Without a word Pharynx had made him feel welcome - he was comfortable, and felt safe.
The chamber, once ringing with a joyous laughter now echoed with an isolated sob.
"P-Pharynx, I-I don't know what's changed with you but I'm, I'm so thankful for it," Thorax expressed, a tremble in his voice.
~ From Your Brother, with Love
Artwork by my amazing friend and fellow bugbro fan, Rossmaniteanzu
When a changeling undergoes metamorphosis, the very magic that allows them to consume and gain energy from love alters. It becomes a transmitter and receiver. The 'reformed' changeling is able to freely transfer love energy without conscious thought, and gains the ability to physically recover from concentrated doses of it.
This is not, however, all there is to metamorphosis.
By transforming and changing the very way their bodies handle love and other emotions, many changelings experience a moment of clarity upon transforming. The easiest way to describe this clarity is like stepping out of a several year long depression, and suddenly having levels of focus and patience you never thought were possible. It is a subtle, yet powerful effect.
The greatest example of the phenomenon is with Pharynx. Prior to reformation, Thorax and Pharynx had a completely detached relationship. The bare extent to which Pharynx interacted with his brother was protecting him from bullies, or lightly bullying him, himself. Not long after Pharynx's metamorphosis, Thorax quickly found himself regularly interacting with an older brother that had, historically never given him the time of day.
Though retaining his attitude, grumpiness and sarcasm, Pharynx's once ice cold demeanor has since thawed. The hive's guards can actually carry a half-way pleasant conversation with their captain now, and Thorax gets to revel in the joys of having a more attentive, albeit occasionally irritating big brother.
* This clarity played a part in the alteration of the changeling's demeanors, going from ruthless hunters to artists, dancers and theatre performers seemingly overnight. It gave the changelings a clearer presence of mind to think about themselves, and what they wanted in life as individuals, rather than the wants and needs of warriors as part of a greater swarm.
Love and Strength, Balance in the Modern Hive:
"Thorax is way too touchy feely for the stricter aspects of ruling a hive," Pharynx went on. "He oversees the hive's social aspects, he resolves internal problems, and he helps look after the hive's young."
"What Thorax lacks in toughness I make up for ten-fold. Since I...'evolved' or whatever, I've taken on all roles relating to hive defense, including training new recruits, overseeing patrol routes and maintaining the hive's grounds. But yeah, I'll also help Thorax with political tripe when he needs it, even if it's just talking him out of a panic attack every time he gets invited to a political event."
~ Pharynx, Mine is Dorkier Than Yours
Another stellar artwork by Rossmaniteanzu
Thorax's character was designed to be the antithesis of Chrysalis in every possible way. Where Chrysalis is self-absorbed, arrogant and manipulative, Thorax is kind, unassuming and naive in an innocent, almost childlike way. At a glance, Thorax is a far more desirable leader than Chrysalis, but his style of ruling is not without its problems. These problems came into play in, 'To Change a Changeling'.
If Chrysalis is the far right then Thorax is the far left. The hive went from a group of alert, hardened warriors to utter pacifists who fell out of practice and couldn't even defend themselves. This is the basis for Pharynx's character. Just as Celestia and Luna each govern one of two important celestial bodies, together completing the night/day cycle, Pharynx completes Thorax by combining his loving nature and social wisdom with discipline, strength and pride in one's own strength.
Pharynx reintroduced to the hive the only things Chrysalis had going for her entire rule, and those are security and strength. Alone, Thorax is no more efficient a ruler than Chrysalis, but together, Thorax and Pharynx are a better leadership than Chrysalis could ever be.
Terminology & Fanfiction Entries:
If you've made it this far, you've either skimmed and earned a hard , or you've worked your way through several years of one fan's organic interpretation of some truly adorable MLP characters. Either way, I thank you for taking an interest in this topic. Whether you've read my works or not, please feel free to provide some feedback, thoughts or your own ideas on changelings, their lore, etc.
Whatever your response, here's to hoping I've had an impact on how you see the modern changelings.