Dear Loyal Watchers, Interested Visitors, and Confused Passersby:
So, Bookplayer is obviously a very clever individual. Rather than dive into a long, exasperating blog post where the readers are subjected to one author’s interpretation of their “personal fanons,” Bookplayer has done something very smart. Namely, the blog in question asked people to talk about the one thing that everyone loves doing–talking about themselves.
Clever, very clever.
Bookplayer asked the following fifty questions of the fandom at large and us authors in particular. The questions themselves circulate and swirl about some of the most pressing questions that we’ve had to ask ourselves about the show, and many take quite a bit of thought.
Being as we are fans of–and are writing for–an evolving canon, we can see all of our thoughts go up in smoke in an instant. As the poets said: “All we are is dust in the wind.”
Yes, I consider the lyrics of Kansas songs to be poetry. Sue me.
So, then, here we are a fandom in the third-and-a-half year of our age, still pondering these inconsequentialities.
And what is your dear T.D. if not inconsequential?
With fandom luminaries like Bradel Bound, stalwart pillars of our fandom like RBDash47, and old friends like Lurks-no-More all taking swings at the questions, I figured “Hey, why not?” Here then are my answers to Bookplayer’s inquiry. Everything in the following should be proceeded by the metaphorical preface of “In My Humble Opinion.” It happens frequently that people say that the glimpses they get of the head canon in my stories either add to the work or make it so confusing as to draw them out of it. My personal fanon is very detailed, but like anything so specialized it is not rugged, and the show frequently makes me discard or rework my ideas. I’ve had to cut large chunks of it off like a gangrenous limb. Still, a lot of it survives, and I hope that my thoughts give you some ideas to ponder…
…or ammunition to use against me. Either way, enjoy.
1. How old are Celestia and Luna?
Tia and Luna are a few thousand years old. Maybe 4-5K. As far as I’m concerned, when the three basic races came over the mountains they strayed into a land of immortals, already inhabited by alicorns, witches, draconequi, and all sorts of mythological beings. The realm that today is called Equestria is older than the unicorns, pegasi, and earth ponies. Children grew up there, including two who have seen millennia fly across it.
2. How old is Cadance?
No more than ten or so years older than Twilight. She was her foalsitter, not her nanny or matron. She had other things going on in her life, and becoming a princess requires more than just the wings and horn, just as Twilight found out.
3. Were Celestia and Luna always alicorns, or did they ascend?
Tia and Loo were always alicorns.
4. Are Cadance and Twilight immortal?
Not at the moment. I’d like to think that there would be a tipping-point moment where they would have to choose. Realistically, in a cartoon designed for nine-year-old girls, I don’t think we’ll see it. If it did, though, I’d like to see Cadance choose a mortal life to stay with Shining and join him in the Well of Souls. I’d Twilight like to see choose immortality.
Some might remember that I originally had Cadance as a self-reincarnating embodiment of all the forms of love, endlessly going through cycles where she was experiencing familial, romantic, and motherly love over and over by “finding” Shining again and again. Duplex Fields was the first to suggest that, and I ran with it. I don’t think I can shoehorn that in anymore, but it’s nice to think about.
5. Have there been other alicorns in the past?
Yes. Celestia and Luna were the only two naturally born alicorn foals of their mother and father. So that their children would not be alone, their parents summoned the help of the draconequi and the witches to create other alicorns. These were seven, but all since have gone into the Heart of the Mountain to buy Tia and Luna time…
Celestia and Luna are the survivors, not the victors.
6. How much authority do Celestia and Luna have in Equestria?
Celestia has as much authority as she chooses to wield. But, as of late (the last few centuries or so) she has been trying to put more and more power into the hooves of her little ponies. As far as I’m concerned, Fancypants is prime minister. He’s the most important unicorn in Canterlot, and Canterlot is the high capital of the pony realms… so, yeah.
Luna is having difficulty adapting after her return. She agreed with Tia that her re-integration would take time, and as such she has slowly been taking on duties. I think Luna isn’t as confident as she presents herself to be, hence why she spends so much time looking in on the crusaders… she feels safe helping them with their little concerns before she moves on to the “big stuff” again.
7. Does Shining Armor rule The Crystal Empire along side of Cadance?
Maybe he exercises some authority over the Crystal Guard on his merits, but he’s no princess. Just like any prince consort, his job at the moment is to get Cadance knocked up. I know that sounds really bleak, but at least they have the advantage of genuinely loving one another and of having had a long, caring relationship before this began. Not sold? Think of it this way… the Princess Skyla toy has to be somepony’s foal, and if she isn’t Cadance and Shining’s then she’s going to be Twilight and Flash Sentry’s.
Pick your poison.
8. Other than Twilight, Luna, and Cadance, what relationships have been important to Celestia in her lifetime (students, close friends, lovers, family)?
Celestia has watched the great tides of life that we call generations wash up and down the shores of her existence over and over and over. To her, they are all children, and a wizened old pony is no different than the foal that he was when she last blinked her eyes. Oh, she rejoices in them as they grown and gain their marks, and many, many, many have been her friends…
… but she never gets to keep any of them. She lives in a world of rain and sugar. They are all children who grow too fast. And, if she sees them all as children, her children, her little ponies, then what kind of mother would bed one of her own sons and daughters?
No, Celestia has had no biological children of her own, and has never had a pony as a lover.
Emphasis on pony.
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 still cultural differences, but they are as mutually conglomerated as in the United States. Everybody is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, after all. The fact that the unicorns and pegasi participate in Winter Wrap-Up lends this thought some credence.
No, bigotry and racism are as dead in the minds of ponies as the belief in the miasmic theory of disease. Momentary fear brought on by unfamiliarity, perhaps, but nothing endemic.
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?
Cloudsdale has an entirely import-based consumer market. It has the ultimate high ground in trade, though, as you kind of need rain for anything to grow.
11. Can all unicorns learn all spells, given the time and effort spent practicing them, or is magical talent usually limited in some way?
To use a role-playing analogy, it’s easier to take levels inside your class than outside it. With time and effort, perhaps they could pick up other spells, but they are naturally inclined towards those that suit their mark.
12. Earth pony magic: Does it exist? What is it?
Most certainly! Unlike the unicorns who wrap themselves in the currents of their magic, or the pegasi who channel it into nature, the earth ponies have a quiet, inner magic that roots them to the world and to their mark. I go over this a lot in Tangled Up in Blues and A Sweet Taste of Cake.
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?
Have we seen any of Twilight’s biological family get canon names apart from Shining Armor? Did I miss that? Anywho, I think that some families spend more time connected to certain aspects of their marks than others, so similar names come with that. I think it’s more common for earth ponies than other races. It all comes down to how families learn what their foals mark is going to be, and nobody seems to have an answer for that, canon or not.
14. How much formal schooling is an average, middle class pony expected to complete?
This is where the fandom and I go in very, very separate ways. I don’t see Equestria as working in our contemporary education system at all. As my occupation is one of the many cogs in that system, I can’t see a 1:1 comparison. Just think about where they go to school: a stereotypical little red schoolhouse. In the 19th century where those were common, most kids didn’t complete ninth grade before going out into the world.
Furthermore, we only know that Twilight attended Princess Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns. The whole Canterlot University thing is fanon, unless I’m mistaken. Pinkie Pie is an apprentice, and Rarity very well may have been too.
So, to answer the question, as much as they need.
15. What’s the average lifespan for a pony? At what age is a pony expected to be independent of their parents?
I’m jubilant that As the Sweetie Belle Toils showed us that the ponies actually get to have childhoods. The idea that they actually aged like horses was horribly depressing. Only one birthday party, only one Hearth’s Warming, before being thrown into the harsh adult world? You’d better hope that it isn’t raining or snowing on your Nightmare Night or you’re screwed. Have your first foal at three, dead at thirty-two. No thank you. Comparable aging to contemporary humans, please.
16. Are there roughly an equal number of male and female ponies?
Yes. While the series started off with most crowd scenes being female, this was just because little girls would presumably respond more to pretty ponies. The series has been better and better at showing an equitable number of male ponies. Don’t forget, there are a roughly equal number of stallions to females in wild horses, too. It’s just that only the biggest and strongest stallions that get to form “breeding herds” while the rest spend their time in pathetic “bachelor herds.” I’m not a fan of such concepts making their way into stories.
In my mind, the absence of an equal ration is explained by a large percentage of the eligible male population being off serving in the Equestrian armed forces. This is explains why it is mostly older stallions and… well, “unfit for service” stallions that we see in the show. There’s a price to pay for having an idyllic peace in Equestria, and most young stallions serve to make sure that it stays that way.
17. How informed are most ponies about things that happen in other parts of Equestria? What about other parts of the world?
There are ample resources such as newspapers and other mediums for the spread of information. I put it at an early 20th century level of communications, kind of like before television. That being said, despite having the whole of Equestria and the world at their hooves, most only concern themselves with local rumors and celebrity scuttlebutt. This is, depressingly, very much like our own society.
The Main Characters:
18. How old are the Mane Six? Spike? The CMC?
The biggest difference between the way that I see the series and the way that 98.75% of the rest of the fandom sees the series can be found right here. I find it hilarious how, when the series started, most Bronies were in college or late high school, and the fandom consensus for their ages was at that level. Now, four years later, you guys are all out in The Real World and you’ve taken your waifus along with you. I’ve observed the “fanon creep” of their ages go steadily upwards so that most now seem to think they are in their mid twenties.
While most Bronies are moving along with their lives, I am forever trapped in the world of pre-teens and adolescents. My employment and volunteer positions have long left me dealing with the ephemera and impedimenta of teenagers, and I see far, far, far too much of that world reflected in the principal pony cast to ever see them as fully grown adults. The way they act, the way they move, the word choices that they make… yeah, I can’t see them as that old.
Their occupations don’t change my opinion on that, either. Rarity and Pinkie are either at the end of or have completed their apprenticeships. A.J. works on a farm, which is the reason summer vacations came about, after all. I don’t even know if Fluttershy has a job. Dash won the Best Young Fliers Competition. Twilight’s being a student helped my case, and her becoming a princess doesn’t hurt it. Victoria became queen when she was eighteen, after all.
So, that’s why I don’t read many shipping stories and write even less with the mane pony cast. I’ve spent the last three-and-a-half years in this fandom adrift in waves of shipping stories that all unknowingly and unintentionally stink of ephebophilia.
Spike’s age is something that I struggle with, too. Miss Faust said she designed him to be eight, but that simply doesn’t work at all. I’ve spent my life working with kids, and I can see Spike being deep into Piaget’s “concrete constructive” level of childhood development, especially with how he had developed his own moral code and is seeking the approval of others rather than assuming it.
The best guess I have is that Twilight was trying to get into magical kindergarten at Celestia’s school when she hatched him, so it’s whatever the difference was. She looked older then five-year-olds we saw, but younger than the C.M.C. at that scene, so… yeah. I put Spike at late pre-teen, a boy of about twelve or so. Whatever his chronological age, he shows a maturity above and beyond it at times, as well as crushing lows where he seems to need a cuddle like a hatchling would.
I’d always thought that the C.M.C. were a little younger than Spike chronologically, but the comic shows them as foals when he’s an egg. I don’t know what to do with that. I don’t like how they go from being bigger than him to smaller in the show, sometimes within a few scenes. Mentally and emotionally, they are younger, so until I’m told otherwise by canon they are chronologically younger in my personal fanon as well; they’re late childhood to early pre-teen at best.
So, basically, the series doesn't fix their ages, and I don't either, but I do see the older ones as younger than most fans do.
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?
I’ll admit that I haven’t given this question that much thought, therefore I don’t have a personal fanon explanation for it. My best guess would be that she was like Thoreau when he was at Walden Pond. He spent the week there, but he went home on weekends.
20. Rarity and Applejack both seem to have grown up in Ponyville. What were their interactions like before the show?
Scarce and but cordial.
21. What do Twilight and Spike consider their relationship to be?
If you don’t know my opinion about the only thing about the show that I really care about anymore, the relationship between these two, then you haven’t been paying attention to my inane ramblings over the last four years at all.
Rather than write eighteen pages, I’ll just truck out "T.D.’s Mantra":
Sister and brother? Mother and son? Best friends? Boss and assistant? None of these easy terms fully define them. All fall short, and none feel perfect. In the end, whatever they are to one another, it is based on love, trust, devotion, and shared experiences over the course of their lives together. Whatever they are to one another, she’s his big one, and he’s her little one.
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?
This was the crux of the final two acts of A Sweet Taste of Cake. Pinkie is an apprentice, and she came to work with the Cakes because her father needed to find some way for her to explore her mark. Through a series of interpersonal connections, she found her way to Sugar Cube Corner.
She came at the right time, as the childless Cakes had a lot of love to share and the patience to deal with the ball of energy they had indentured. They love her and worry about her, and she’s practically family to the Baby Cakes.
23. Who among the Mane Six had the best parents growing up? The worst parents?
Heh, Twilight’s parents seemed to have done something right, didn’t they?
Dash’s dad was a great guy. Her mom? Not so much.
24. Why didn’t the CMC hang out more/know each other before Call of the Cutie?
Before the episode they didn’t know about their mutual worries about their lack of cutie marks. Once they had a common issue to share, the rest of their friendships fell into place.
25. Is Scootaloo an orphan? Will she ever be able to fly?
26. Will Apple Bloom’s cutie mark involve an apple in some way, even if it’s unrelated to farming or baking?
Most likely. It doesn’t affect my understanding of her as a character, so I haven’t thought about it much.
27. How is Sweetie Belle’s relationship with their parents different than Rarity’s was?
Typical younger child syndrome, especially since there’s a massive age difference between them. She’s adored and pampered. Rarity is embarrassed by her parents–though she does love them–and distanced herself from them at a young age.
Side and Background Characters:
28. Is Mr. Cake the father of the Cake twins or not?
Yes. Entirely. Absolutely. I become violently ill every time it is suggested otherwise.
“Biomagical Conception” is a concept I advanced in A Sweet Taste of Cake. Like humans, ponies are equal parts physical, mental, and spiritual. They also have another dimension–the magical. It’s a part of each pony, and they wear their magic as their mark. Magic needs to be allowed to find its own way.
The magic knew when the time was right. Two earth ponies needed to be tested first, and they needed to face challenges. The world needed a little unicorn and a little pegasus who grew up in the love of those two earth ponies. It made them wait, and the results were unusual, but their conceptions were entirely in keeping with the sacred bonding of their parents’ physical love and intimacy.
29. Are Big Mac and Cheerilee an item, romantically?
No, but they aren’t opposed to the idea, either.
30. How did Prince Blueblood get his title?
He is the current inheritor of the House of Unicorn, the royalty of the unicorns.
As the races intermingled after arriving in Equestria, their social structures began to merge. The military took on pegasus traditions, and the shires, towns, counties, and pastures took on earth pony administrational constructs. Not wanting to completely lose their individual identities, the leadership of the individual races adopted unicorn-styled limited monarchies. Over time, these disappeared into the responsibilities of Celestia and Luna, leaving them in name only, existing as ceremonial titles with some limited powers, like that of Great Britain.
This also explains why he’s Celestia’s “nephew.” The alicorns guided the races after they arrived, and she began to look on all ponies as her children. Only those she trusted to protect them became “nieces” and “nephews.”
31. Is Silver Spoon equally as bad as Diamond Tiara?
Yes, but unlike Diamond, Silver has redemptive moments.
32. Is Zecora’s magic common among zebras?
It’s about as common among zebras as it is to unicorns among ponies.
33. Why does Daring Do publish her stories as fiction?
In case she ever wants to write one about something that she could have done, wished to do, and wish she hadn’t done. That way, she’s not lying if she never claimed it was true in the first place.
34. Do you have a strong headcanon for any non-speaking or one line background ponies that you want to share?
Yes. They’re called A Cup of Joe, Tangled Up in Blues, A Sweet Taste of Cake, and The Father of My Children. Please read them at your earliest convenience.
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?)
If it speaks, it votes.
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?
Equestria is almost certainly only one country in a larger world. Beyond its borders there are many nations, most of which are based around sole-species homogeny. Some are more open about integration than others, and some are more closed.
37. Are minotaurs related to cows at all?
Umm… I have no idea. No?
38. Do all zebras rhyme?
Lurks-no-More began calling zebras with Zecora’s lifestyle “The Sent” at one point, but I don’t recall him following up on why. To me, Zecora is an earth priestess, and her rhyming meter is the mark of her status. It makes her think about her words, making sure she is not too hasty and chooses her words carefully.
39. Do zebra cutie marks work the same way as pony cutie marks?
Yes, but if you need to know zebra symbology to understand them. Think about it this way: If you’d never seen a balloon before, would you know what Pinkie’s mark stands for? It just takes a little research, and before long we’ll all realize that her mark is for preventing the attacks of ancient demons, that’s all!
40. Do any species have types of magic, other than ponies and zebras?
Yes–most definitely yes. The draconequi for one, of course. There are some species with powers even greater than that.
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?
Forgive me for being a downer here, but it seems that Equestria came to the buffalo tribes, not the other way around. Appleloosa was built on buffalo tribal ritual ground and was only a year old at the time of the episode. This is depressingly like our own history. I’m not saying it was planned that way. There’s no smallpox blankets being given away by the ponies here; their douchebaggery was purely unintentional. The buffalo nations are happy living as they are, and have no need or want to move into Equestrian cities.
Headcanon and You:
42. Do you consider official sources other than the show (comics, card game text, movies, novels, etc.) to be canon?
I consider them guideposts, but anything that happens in the show that contradicts the “secondary canon” takes precedence.
43. Do you have one head canon that you always use, or do you switch depending on projects?
The overwhelming majority of my stories take place firmly rooted in my own personal fanon, one that I try to keep compatible with canon as much as possible. The only story that does not belong to my over-arching fanon is Immature. I am lucky that I’ve worked with people whose fanons easily fit with mine, like with Lysok on Zenith. If I were to work with someone else on one of their projects I’d happily use their fanon. They’d have to keep me abridged of it, though!
44. Can you easily accept the headcanons of different writers? Do you prefer when stories match your headcanon?
Since nobody else has a head canon that is very much like mine I pretty much have to accept others. I swallow some people’s interpretation better than I do some that I've read, but I’d like to think I give everyone a fair shake.
45. Is there a part of your headcanon that you wish was more popular among writers?
My personal fanon is too over-reaching to even hope that others understand it, let alone use it. I’m very lucky to have interested as many people in it as I have, and I hope I don’t disappoint them.
46. Is there a popular piece of headcanon that other writers use that you dislike?
I’ve never been a fan of the Alternate Celestia Character Interpretations.
I’m not a fan of anything that suggests infidelity on the part of Misses Cake.
I guess I don’t understand why people try to make these characters into animals. They don’t act like animals in the series. They don’t eat, sleep, or interact or have family structures like real horses. They don’t even look like real horses, really. So, I guess I’ve always seen that as a square peg trying to be forced into a round hole situation.
A subset of that is the “Ponies in Heat” trope that I abhor. Oh God, I hate it. I hate it so much.
47. Have you ever written a story or blog post just to explain some part of your head canon (other than this one)?
Yes. I’m sorry to all of you who suffered through reading them.
48. Does your head canon influence things like your favorite pony, ship, or episode?
My head canon and my adoration of Spike and Twilight’s relationship feed off of one another.
49. Would it bother you if the show proved part of your head canon wrong? Any specific piece that would really bother you to lose?
Every episode has shattered some small shard of my head canon, but opens it up in other ways. It’s a long, hard trek through a land of small victories and crushing defeats.
If Twilight did anything that made me believe that she had stopped loving Spike, I’d quit the fandom.
50. Is there something that wasn't asked about here, but you feel like you need to explain to everyone?
In the words of Duplex Fields, the pegasi have a “Trial by Ordeal” once a decade to determine who their commander will be. It is purely symbolic these days, but it is a tradition they keep. Any winged pony can fight in the trial, and all you need do is enter the ring and begin fighting. Every decade, seemingly forever, a white-coated mare with a pink mane, no bigger than any other pegasus, has entered the fray.
Every decade, for as long as anyone can remember, she had left it victorious, even if splattered in her own blood and the blood of others.
She limps off alone to some safe, distant spot. She sits there shaking, and after a few moments her magic sinks back into the mare.
Celestia returns to her alicorn form, and then makes her way back to Canterlot.