Before The Megan · 7:22am
Watching Rescue at Midnight Castle (1984) (the very first My Little Pony adventure) again led me to think about the backstories of the Dream Valley Ponies (the ones who the Rainbow would grant emmortality to, some of whom would survive some 3500 years to witness the birth of Discord, Celestia and Luna). They grew up in a very specially-dark time of Pony history -- the aptly-named "Time of Extermination," which took place from 6250 to 6000 years before the Return of Luna. Here's the brief entry from my master chronology, the Ages of Pony Earth:
Time of Extermination (~250 YBM to 1 YBM, ~3750 to ~4000 YOC)
Tirek and his allies systematically seek out and enslave or destroy all remaining Pony settlements, reducing them to a few scattered tribes. Dream Castle, held by mares of a sexually-segregated Pony culture, is one of the last free bastions of civilization remaining to Ponykind.
This is, incidentally, why one of Tirek's epithets in my fanon is "Tirek the Annihilator." He personally shattered the Pony civilizations that had grown up over the previous four millennia. Most of the knowledge from that very early time is lost -- even Celestia, who had walked the Pony Earth in her very first incarnation there from 10,000 to 8,000 years before the Return of Luna, cannot remember most of the details in her current incarnation as Princess Celestia Solaria.
Here's Luna describing the events of six millennia ago, which she heard of second-hand from the emmortal Ponies of Paradise Estate, particularly Wind Whistler. Her audience is Twiight Sparkle.
Dost thou know how they had lived then? The sexes were apart, with the mare herds sedentary and the smaller stallion herds -- the "Big Brothers" -- nomadic. They had not done that because they hated each other. The light of Love shone brightly in Ponies even back then, but sheer survival dictated that they not all live together, not put all their genetic lineages in one basket. If a mare herd, or a stallion herd, was annihilated -- by one of the many monstrous perils that made the Earth a death-world for Ponies then -- the other herd would live, and it bore their genetic legacies.
I see tears in thine eyes. Yes, Twilight, they mourned their lost lovers, their murdered parents and children. They did not wish their world to be so fatal to their dear ones, but they had no choice, for they were prey and their predators many and merciless. The oldest Ponies at Paradise Estate, the ones who remembered the time before even they had been granted the Estate, told me of those times, and more than once they cried at the memories.
Toward the end, a desperate few -- Wind Whistler and Firefly were the leaders of this faction -- had started to consider that the role of predator and prey was not divinely ordained, that there was no reason in theory why the Ponies could not fight back. But they were but a few, and they had no idea how to do in practice what Firefly had felt and Wind Whistler reasoned. And they knew that at the first failure, the others would lose all hope.
Then came Tirek the Annihilator, Tirek the Undying to their last refuge and Firefly crossed the Bridge and brought back The Megan, whose race had risen up as killer apes. And she taught them the last thing they needed to know. She taught them how to kill, how to kill without remorse. She slew Tirek, though he would of course in after ages be reborn. And she fought many other warlords and fell monsters.
And then a light came into the eyes of the Ponies of Dream Valley, and they lifted weapons in their hooves, and they turned upon their tormentors, with the example of The Megan and the leadership of Firefly and Wind Whistler, whom the Megan in person taught the ways of war. And the light spread to the other Ponies who had survived, and ... by the time of the Age of Wonders, the monsters were no longer upon the face of the Earth, and Ponykind flourished in its hundreds of millions. And in most times and places, husbands and wives and children dwelt all together, and feared not an early separation at the claws of the beasts.
Dost thou wonder that they made of The Megan a goddess? She had saved Ponykind, though in time most Ponies forgot that she had been of another species entirely. Apotheosis has happened for lesser causes.
There is implied in this -- and the fact that in the actual G1 series we only ever meet one Big Brother Herd (in "Somnambula"), and that a very small one compared to the number of mares at Paradise Estate -- a heart-rending backstory, for pretty much all the G1 mares. We know that they are capable of real and deep emotions -- Wind Whistler gets seriously pissed off in "Crunch the Rockdog" when she is accused of being heartless.
Every one of the G1 mares must, especially in the years before Megan came and taught them how to fight back, have suffered the deaths of their fathers, mothers, brothers, in most cases lovers and in many cases sons to war or predators. This must have deeply scarred them -- though they seem to have lost or never had the institution of marriage before Megan (re?)-introduced it into their culture, they were most certainly capable of affinative, familial and romantic love (indeed, the evidence is that they were more emotional on the average than baseline Humans (this is why Wind Whistler, while a natural leader, was also a bit of a misfit among her kind -- she was overtly calm and rational). Their emotional sufferings must have been immense -- though, as Luna also points out, Ponies are very robust and very good at retaining their caring and decency even in the face of extreme tragedy.
I had already decided that part of Wind Whistler's back story is that she had what later ages would have called a very special somepony among one of the Big Brother herds -- Pathfinder, a brave, intelligent and optimistic young Pegasus stallion whose talent lay in air navigation and who believed that the Ponies must ally with other species to survive, and had hoped to dedicate his life to finding such allies, perhaps across the Cruel Sea among the Celestial Dragons of Chi-Neigh (who had managed to hold out among the Viprallans and who were benevolent rulers to the Ponies of their Empire). It was he who got her interested in the legend of the Rainbow Bridge, a legend she then told to her friend Firefly, which was why Firefly had an idea where to search for help when Tirek personally attacked Dream Castle -- which is how the Ponies found The Megan in the first place.
Wind Whistler had always been highly determined and intelligent, so she was naturally a calm and rational sort, but it was when she learned that Pathfinder had fallen -- and not on the heroic quest he had meant to undertake, but rather to the talons of routine aerial predation, that she began to guard her heart against being too easily touched by others. It was then that she began to gain the reputation of being not merely analytical, but also cold.
I wonder what similar losses may have contributed to some of the quirks of the other G1 Ponies. Posey's protectiveness and caring both toward all the Baby Ponies and toward her own plants may well have had its origins in the loss of her own foals to one or another attacker. She would have had no power to protect any colts who became old enough to leave with one of the Big Brother Herds, not that would have been recognized as sane by the standards of her own society. And even the fillies of Dream Valley were not safe -- I'm fairly sure that Tirek's stratodons were not the first things to raid the Pony children who dwelt there. Consider the reason they would have had for building a castle -- a huge and solid fortification -- in the first place. And consider that the castle was ultimately inadequate against the forces thrown against it.
Why is Shady so pessimistic? What happened to her, when she was younger? None of the G1 Ponies have familial relationships, save with the Babies they bear. I get a very strong impression that each of the mares we see at the start of the series is the last of her lineage -- that the few dozen Ponies we see who live to make it to Paradise Estate are the survivors of what was once a town or city of thousands of them, which has been cut down within a few generations to a pitiful remnant. Perhaps Shady used to have many kin, and lost them one after another, each time being told that things would get better, until what was left of her spirit was crushed forever.
I think there's a lot of darkness in that background, which I may someday explore.