Fifty Questions of Pony · 10:23am
As set out by bookplayer in his her blog, here! Oops. My apologies on getting your gender wrong, bookplayer!
1. How old are Celestia and Luna?
Nopony knows for sure; they appear on the stage of history (such as it is) during the Discordian Era, as already adult alicorns. This makes them at least fifteen hundred years old. Princess Celestia is well known for giving maddeningly vague answers to being asked how old she is, exactly, and nopony has yet gathered the courage to ask Luna after her return.
2. How old is Cadance?
In her forties. She's older than she appears, and her aging process seems to be slowing down.
3. Were Celestia and Luna always alicorns, or did they ascend?
Based on certain old legends and what little Celestia and Luna have told about their past before the Discordian Era, it is believed that they were alicorns in shape, if not in full power, from birth. Furthermore, a few comments suggest that at least one, and likely both, of their parents were alicorns as well.
4. Are Cadance and Twilight immortal?
They have the potential for that, but at the moment, they aren't. (Cadance is further along the path of apotheosis, as evidenced by her slowed-down aging.)
5. Have there been other alicorns in the past?
Evidence is inconclusive. There are several mythical ones, long predating Celestia and Luna, but until the recent appearances of Cadance and Twilight, the Sisters have been the only ones whose existence is an unquestionable historical fact. There is a lot of wild speculation going on among the world's few alicorn experts about what (or who) happened to those ancient alicorns, if they ever really existed.
6. How much authority do Celestia and Luna have in Equestria?
In principle, the entire legitimacy and authority of the Equestrian state derives from the Princesses, who are semi-divine autocrats bound only by each other's will. In practice, Celestia has spent centuries building up the Equestrian society as an independently functioning and ever more democratic system; she can intervene at any stage via Royal Fiat, but rarely does so. (Luna is more interventionist, but thankfully more or less uninterested in the government in general, preferring to work on the personal scale.)
7. Does Shining Armor rule The Crystal Empire along side of Cadance?
Yes and no. Technically, he's the Lord Protector of the Empire (making him the commander of the Crystal Guard, and the pony responsible for defending the Empire against any threats that aren't dissolved by the ambient radiation of love and harmony) who also happens to be the Prince-Consort (who gets to look handsome and keep the Crystal Princess happy). In practice, he and Cadance are equals and work together on the grand project of bringing the Empire into the present day, even if it's Cadance whose cutie mark and signature are on all the edicts.
8. Other than Twilight, Luna, and Cadance, what relationships have been important to Celestia in her lifetime (students, close friends, lovers, family)?
Celestia has never had many close friends; it takes an extraordinary pony to see past her position as the ruler of Equestria, her status as an immortal alicorn demigoddess, and her sheer age and presence. She has had much more success with her personal students. These have usually been young and promising unicorns, but there have been several pegasi and earth ponies as well. She has rarely taken more than one student in a generation; Sunset Shimmer and Twilight Sparkle form a double exception.
Up until about three centuries ago, Celestia did occasionally take mortal lovers of either sex. These relationships lasted from a couple of years to many decades, and usually but not always were exclusive on both sides. She gave up on the practice when she realized she was accidentally creating a new element of Equestrian nobility that could claim blood relation to her.
Ponies and Equestrian Culture:
9. Are there still cultural differences between earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns, or is the culture homogeneous by the time shown in canon? Are there cultural stereotypes (positive or negative)?
There are some differences, but nothing too big; Equestria has become fairly well integrated over the centuries.
10. Are there foods or items native to Cloudsdale that are uncommon on the ground? Are there foods or items on the ground that are uncommon in Cloudsdale?
Pegasi get almost all of their food from the ground -- and unlike some times in the past, they pay for it! However, there are ways to cultivate extra-dense clouds with pegasus magic, producing strange, vaporous flowers and ethereal fruits that are used in the fanciest of fancy pegasus cuisine. They're technically inedible to any being that can't walk on clouds, and tend to dissipate fast if brought to ground, but some rich ponies (especially pegasi living on the ground) use them, covered in crystal domes, as centerpieces at parties.
Cloudsdale (and to a lesser extent, other smaller cloud cities) is also known for the production of bottled lightning, which is exactly what it sounds like. It can be used in place of unicorn magic to power specially-adapted contrivances like self-cranking record players, magical ovens and such, and is widely used by pegasi but rare elsewhere. The rainbow tubes used for illumination in place of the more typical oil lamps or fairyfly globes are another pegasus invention; unlike bottled lightning, they've proved very popular in night clubs on the ground.
11. Can all unicorns learn all spells, given the time and effort spent practicing them, or is magical talent usually limited in some way?
In practice, no. Every unicorn has their own "flavor" of talent, usually related to their cutie mark (itself an expression of their personality, talents and interests) which strongly influences what things they find easy or difficult. Even the ones whose talent itself involves magic in various ways tend to focus on some particular branch of thaumaturgy.
In principle, nopony knows; it is the long-running philosophical argument in magical academia. The two main positions are Universalism, saying that with infinite time and practice, any unicorn could learn any spell (even if they do not in practice have the magical reserves to successfully finish casting it), and Singularism, which claims that every unicorn's magical talent is singular and individual, and therefore for every unicorn there exists at least one possible spell that only they can cast. Universalism is the more common position, and one that Twilight wholeheartedly subscribes to. It is perhaps not too surprising that Sunset Shimmer was an equally convinced Singularist.
12. Earth pony magic: Does it exist? What is it?
It certainly does. It is understated, frequently passive or slow-acting, and easy to overlook, but no less potent. The best known aspect is the so-called "green hoof", making earth ponies preternaturally good farmers and gardeners. Other aspects include instilling oneself with great strength and toughness; having a "feel" for the ground one walks over; being able to shape earth and stone with ease; and more.
13. Some pony families we’ve seen seem to have naming conventions (the Apples, Twilight’s family) and others don’t appear to (Rarity’s family, Pinkie’s family), which is more common? Are there reasons for one or the other?
Names, like cutie marks, tend to run in families. Farming clans like the Apples, Carrots, Barleycorns and others tend to stick to a theme. Equally, the upper-class unicorns, like Twilight's family, tend to go with thematic names, often cycling through the same ones every few generations. The Pies are Maneonites, with odd and old-fashioned names like Pinkamena or Maud.
14. How much formal schooling is an average, middle class pony expected to complete?
All that is required is that they finish the nine-year primary school. It is divided into lower primary (grades one to four) and upper primary (grades five to nine). Primary school curriculum is focused on teaching the students basic literacy, with focus on reading in lower and writing (always a harder task for non-unicorns) in upper primary; basic numeracy including arithmetic and (in upper primary) geometry; as well as the basics of botany, zoology, geography, arts & crafts, and civics.
After this, most ponies either leave school to go into apprenticeships (Pinkie is the Cakes' apprentice, for example), or attend secondary schools teaching vocational subjects, from agriculture to nursing, and from teaching to weather management. The so-called preparatory academies are also secondary schools. They were originally intended to prep young ponies (mostly unicorns) for university careers, but have become de facto trade schools for the well-to-do; most graduates go into business or civil service.
University education is the exception and not the norm in Equestria; of the Mane Six, Twilight's the only one who's gone to one. (She's a graduate of the University of Canterlot, Royal College, with a B.A., First Honors, in Magical Sciences.)
15. What’s the average lifespan for a pony? At what age is a pony expected to be independent of their parents?
They have about the same lifespan as humans, but physically they mature quicker. Earth ponies live about seventy to eighty years. Pegasi tend to live fast and die young, and usually don't live much beyond sixty. Unicorns are the longest-lived pony breed, and individuals living up to a hundred years or more aren't unheard of. (Strong magic correlates with long lifespan; if Twilight doesn't become immortal, she might still live to be a hundred and fifty.)
16. Are there roughly an equal number of male and female ponies?
No, there's a female majority: roughly three mares to two stallions.
17. How informed are most ponies about things that happen in other parts of Equestria? What about other parts of the world?
Other parts of Equestria? Fairly well. Between newspapers, the expanding train network, and the fact that roughly one-third of the population can fly, news travel pretty quickly in Equestria. Now, the accuracy of those news varies, and if you happen to live in an out-of-the-way place it's easy to miss many things. There is no real mass communication system; dragonfire is something only a handful of beings in Equestria can use and the heliograph network is mostly reserved for government flash communications. A magically-driven telegraph network is in planning stages, but work on it is unlikely to start this decade.
The rest of the world? Not very. The world is a big place, even when a third of your population can fly, and beyond the relative safety of Equestria and other civilized lands, full of dangers. There are ponies whose jobs or interests involve international travel; traders, diplomats, explorers and such, and they bring in most of the news from faraway places. Celestia and Luna even have a cadre of correspondents, ponies (and other beings) who travel far and wide, sending back letters to Canterlot informing them of local developments. The results are erratic in timing, tone and accuracy, but it is much better than nothing.
The Main Characters:
18. How old are the Mane Six? Spike? The CMC?
At the start of the show, the Mane Six are all around twenty years old; Applejack is the oldest with Rarity coming next, followed by Fluttershy, Pinkie Pie and Rainbow Dash in this order. (Fluttershy was held back in flight school, on account of being a weak flier, while Dash skipped a year. Thus they ended up in the same class despite the two-year age gap.) Twilight's the youngest at 19, having been a child prodigy. Spike is about twelve, while the CMC are a little younger and a lot less mature, something like nine or ten years old.
19. Did Fluttershy remain on the ground after getting her cutie mark? Were she and Rainbow Dash friends all along, or did they drift apart for a while?
She returned to Cloudsdale, but kept on visiting ground. Once she finished flight school, she immediately moved to the surface.
She and Rainbow Dash are old friends, but until the start of the show, not very close ones.
20. Rarity and Applejack both seem to have grown up in Ponyville. What were their interactions like before the show?
They've known one another their whole lives, but before Look Before You Sleep they couldn't truly be called friends, on account of their very different interests and personalities. Rarity's attempts to appear more cosmopolitan and sophisticated than she really is (complete with the fake accent) annoyed Applejack, who'd returned to Ponyville to be true to herself; Rarity, in turn, harbored a certain jealousy towards AJ who got to live with her rich relatives in the glamorous Manehattan, and then threw it all away to return to Ponyville.
21. What do Twilight and Spike consider their relationship to be?
They are, in practical terms, siblings; but there's also a hint of a mother-son relationship there; and of course, Spike also is Twilight's personal assistant, secretary and an anchor of common sense. Twilight tends to take him being always there as little too granted, and feels guilty about it.
22. When did Pinkie move in with the Cakes? Is she a worker who rents a room, an apprentice, or is there some other relationship?
Once she left her family's farm (on account there being only a limited demand for parties on a rock farm), she wandered around the central Equestria for some time, before coming to Ponyville. The Cakes are distant relatives of the Pies, and had an opening for a baker's apprentice that was perfect for Pinkie. They, and Pinkie, consider her as a part of the family now.
23. Who among the Mane Six had the best parents growing up? The worst parents?
Best? Probably Fluttershy. Her parents have always been very supportive of their daughter, and of her choice to live on the surface tending animals.
Worst? Probably Rainbow Dash. Her mother is just as headstrong and stubborn as Rainbow herself, and they repeatedly clashed over her poor school results and her dream of joining the Wonderbolts. (Rainbow's father is a very pleasant stallion on his own, but he's pretty much under the hoof of his wife.)
The rest have good-to-okay-to-tragic relationships with their parents: Twilight gets along fine with her folks; Pinkie loves her family but is an incredibly poor fit for a rock farm; Rarity loves her family too, but tries her damnedest to distance herself from their tackiness; and the Apples, of course, are orphans, their parents having died when Applebloom was just a tiny foal.
24. Why didn’t the CMC hang out more/know each other before Call of the Cutie?
Cheerilee's not the only teacher at the Ponyville primary school, and Sweetie and Scootaloo went to another class originally.
25. Is Scootaloo an orphan? Will she ever be able to fly?
No, her parents are alive and well. They are a mixed-breed couple, with a pegasus dad and an earth pony mom. (For a long time, Scootaloo feared this had something to do with her problems, and hated herself for it, until a talk with Rainbow Dash cleared things up.) She's most likely never going to fly like a typical pegasus; while she has a ton of thrust, and can cloudwalk just fine, there's something wrong with her lift magic.
26. Will Apple Bloom’s cutie mark involve an apple in some way, even if it’s unrelated to farming or baking?
Very likely. Cutie marks often run in the families, and it's a particularly strong tendency among the Apples.
27. How is Sweetie Belle’s relationship with their parents different than Rarity’s was?
Put simply, Sweetie Belle is not at all embarrassed by her parents.
Side and Background Characters:
28. Is Mr. Cake the father of the Cake twins or not?
Oh yes. Pony genetics are magically mediated, and don't follow the simplistic Mendelian model.
29. Are Big Mac and Cheerilee an item, romantically?
Not really. There is a certain level of mutual interest, but they're both busy with other things in their lives right now. Still, as long as the CMCs don't try to help more, who knows what might happen?
30. How did Prince Blueblood get his title?
It's a courtesy title for nobleponies who claim descent from Princess Celestia. (See #8 above!) His personal title is the Duke of Canterlot. Blueblood's not Celestia's nephew, either, but rather one of her great-to-the-Nth grandchildren. As an ancient polite fiction, Celestia's mortal children were called her "nephews" and "nieces", and it's become part of the Equestrian court etiquette.
31. Is Silver Spoon equally as bad as Diamond Tiara?
On her own, she's not as mean as Diamond Tiara, but she is still snobbish and snooty. Unfortunately, DT and SS reinforce each other's bad tendencies, making them a pretty nasty pair.
32. Is Zecora’s magic common among zebras?
Depends on what you mean by that. Zebra magic is kind of like earth pony magic, not as powerful in some ways, but in many ways more flexible. They use ritual magic dances on large scale to adjust weather, improve harvests, and drive away monsters, for example. Zecora herself is an exceptional individual: a highly-trained and well-educated magical adept, a shaman and an alchemist, with a wide variety of tricks in her saddlebags. Roughly one-third of what she does is clever and psychologically astute sleight-of-hoof, one-third is potions and powders, and one-third is straightforward magic.
33. Why does Daring Do publish her stories as fiction?
In my headcanon, Daring Do remains fully fictional.
34. Do you have a strong headcanon for any non-speaking or one line background ponies that you want to share?
Lyra and Bon-Bon are a couple, of course. The Carrots and the Apples have an old rivalry (not on the level of a feud, but definitely there) about which is the premiere farming family in Ponyville.
35. Does Equestria differentiate between speaking and non-speaking species, in terms of respect, rights and legal responsibilities? Is there some other line or scale used? (For example, how are cows classified? Diamond Dogs? A chimera?)
Basically, you're either a person, a monster, a beast or an animal.
If you can (in principle) speak Equine or otherwise communicate in an unambiguous way, and aren't "inherently dangerous" to other people, you're a person. This includes, among others, ponies, zebras, donkeys, cows and griffons (who generally eat fish, rather than ponies, despite old scary stories).
If you can speak, but are considered "inherently dangerous", you're a monster. This category includes dragons, chimeras, changelings and others. As a rule, they're not allowed in the inhabited regions, but individual monsters who've shown themselves to be trustworthy are excepted, and can even become citizens. (Spike's technically a monster who's also an Equestrian citizen by birth and, as foster brother to both Twilight Sparkle and Shining Armor, a member of two royal lines.)
If you can't speak and are harmful to people, you're a beast. This includes things like hydras, cockatrices, manticores, quarry eels etc. They are not considered responsible of their actions, but neither do they get any rights beyond the most basic ones; a manticore who kills and eats a cow is not considered murderer, but will be put down if caught. (Despite the opinions of some amateur lawyers, Angel Bunny is not classified as a beast.)
If you can't speak and aren't harmful, you're an animal, no matter how smart in theory you might be. For example, Philomena and other phoenixes, while certainly intelligent and able to understand Equine, are technically animals. This does not seem to bother them one jot. Note that "normal" predators like wolves or bears are classified as animals instead of beasts, as they rarely if ever attack ponies.
36. Do other speaking species form their own nations, or are all nations largely integrated, with some having larger populations of a species than others?
It varies. Equestria is unusually inclusive, in that any person (and some monsters) that is willing to play nicely and follow the laws can become a citizen. Most other pony nations (descendants of other migration groups that headed east instead of west during the Fimbulwinter that ended the Old Kingdom) such as Saddle Arabia are more restrictive, limiting citizenship to only fellow equines or in some cases, just ponies and horses.
Griffons are famed for their pride, and their combination of clannishness and independence that means there is a whole bunch of griffon kingdoms, republics, principalities, clanholds etc. covering much of the northern isles and the north coast of the eastern continent. Depending on the local customs and laws, these may be griffon-only, or contain significant minorities of other speaking peoples, though almost always as second-class citizens.
Zebras have several great city-states and trading empires along the eastern coasts of Zebrica; nomadic giraffes, semi-nomadic camels (who also have their own lands in the deserts around Saddle Arabia), and even the occasional, rare okapi travel through and live in the zebra lands with little friction.
Finally, dragons have an ancient culture, but no civilization, and generally see things like cities or governments as beneath their dignity and best left to the lesser beings (ie. non-dragons).
37. Are minotaurs related to cows at all?
Probably not, although nobody knows for certain where they come from. Both cows and minotaurs find the idea ridiculous.
38. Do all zebras rhyme?
No. Zecora talks in rhyme because she's a member of a certain magical tradition. Other zebra witch doctors and magicians might always respond to a question with another question, or avoid certain phrases and words, or always speak in third person.
39. Do zebra cutie marks work the same way as pony cutie marks?
Not exactly. They are more abstract than pony marks, and don't represent a particular zebra's special talent so much as their archetypal role. For example, Zecora's spiraling cutie mark is that of a Sun Dancer, an archetype involving magic, travel, leadership and more. There are dozens of these archetypes, and all zebra marks can be classified as their variants.
40. Do any species have types of magic, other than ponies and zebras?
It's believed that all thinking, speaking beings have their inherent magic, but the particulars vary a lot. For example, griffons have similar cloudwalking magic as pegasi, and while they're not as good with weather, they are skilled at using their magic to craft tools and weapons. In general, unicorns and dragons are the creatures with the most obvious and extroverted magic, although camel sorcerers can match them with the flashy displays of elemental power through their spirit bargains, and the enigmatic okapi are claimed to be great wizards as well.
41. Is the lack of buffalo presence in Equestria cultural, or simply because most pony towns aren’t built to accommodate a full grown buffalo?
Buffalos live in the prairies and deserts of the southwest, preferring to stay outside Equestria proper. They're not hostile (as long as their sacred stampeding grounds aren't disturbed, or their territory encroached into), but they are kind of stand-offish.
Headcanon and You:
42. Do you consider official sources other than the show (comics, card game text, movies, novels, etc.) to be canon?
Depends. I certainly draw inspiration from them, and incorporate things that I like or find interesting.
43. Do you have one headcanon that you always use, or do you switch depending on projects?
Probably the latter, although a lot of my headcanon is defined in such broad strokes that it adapts easily to many stories.
44. Can you easily accept the headcanons of different writers? Do you prefer when stories match your headcanon?
Sure! Half of the fun in fanfiction is seeing other people's ideas about the various ponies and the world of Equestria. For a few good examples, the headcanons of Estee and Captain Chryssalid are very different in many ways, yet both are delightful extrapolations of what we've seen in the show.
45. Is there a part of your headcanon that you wish was more popular among writers?
Probably not as such. But I'd love to see people exploring the world outside Equestria, or things like the deep history of the setting, more!
46. Is there a popular piece of headcanon that other writers use that you dislike?
Well... "orphan Scootaloo" has worn out its welcome, as far as I'm concerned. And so has "ponicidal Pinkamena"; Pinkie's brain can go into weird and unhappy places when she gets too depressed, but she doesn't become violent.
47. Have you ever written a story or blogpost just to explain some part of your headcanon (other than this one)?
I did write a whole bunch of "Ask Twilight" stories on deviantArt, where Twilight lectures about the various aspects of Equestria in reply to questions by the audience. Quite a few things in my answers here come straight from those! However, the progression of the show has meant those stories as they are have been left behind and become non-headcanonical.
48. Does your headcanon influence things like your favorite pony, ship, or episode?
Undoubtedly it does. To what extent and how, that's harder to say.
49. Would it bother you if the show proved part of your headcanon wrong? Any specific piece that would really bother you to lose?
Not really; that's part and parcel of being a fan of an ongoing show.
50. Is there something that wasn't asked about here, but you feel like you need to explain to everyone?
My Equestria exists in a geocentric universe. The planet is certainly round, but the Sun and the Moon revolve around it. (The Sun is a fierce sphere of primal fire some hundreds of kilometers across; the Moon is much like our moon, but both smaller and closer.) Celestia and Luna don't so much move the heavenly lights, as they steer them; without their intervention, the days and seasons would become erratic. (Nightmare Moon's eternal night, as seen in S4E1, involved yoking the Sun and the Moon together in a permanent solar eclipse.)