• Member Since 25th May, 2012
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Twilight is Magic


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    Random blog post #4: On alicorns and princesses, or Forget everything you knew

    (Disclaimer: This is not one of those whiner posts I am sure are going up everywhere like mushrooms in a temperate forest after a good rain. Neither it is a cheering-on post. I am hoping to retain the neutral middle ground. It is, however, brought about by the announcement for the S3 finale. Consider yourself spoiler-warned. And pardon the pretentious title—those are meant to grab attention,

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Jan
30th
2013

Random blog post #4: On alicorns and princesses, or Forget everything you knew · 12:50am Jan 30th, 2013

(Disclaimer: This is not one of those whiner posts I am sure are going up everywhere like mushrooms in a temperate forest after a good rain. Neither it is a cheering-on post. I am hoping to retain the neutral middle ground. It is, however, brought about by the announcement for the S3 finale. Consider yourself spoiler-warned. And pardon the pretentious title—those are meant to grab attention, after all.

For the tl;dr version, look past the break at the bottom of the post)

***

Hello everypony, this is the highly irregular TIM show! If you were hoping I'd go away, too bad for you! If not, hey there! :pinkiesmile:

Today I'm going to talk about alicorns and princesses and what they are. The topic is highly divisive, and many appear to have rather radical responses to the words mentioned in relation to anypony except Luna and Celestia and, more recently, Cade/ance. I'd like to ask of you, however, to bear with me and read on regardless, because I'm not among those who supports alicorn OCs galore either. Indeed, the news of a certain confirmed alicornification and coronation have already reached you (now they have, at any rate) as well as myself, but instead of frothing rage or despair, they have prompted me to look at the notion and the subspecies as a whole. I wish to share the conclusions I have come to with you, my good readers.

First off, let us consider what we know about alicorns. Of the subspecies, only three are known so far: Celestia, Luna and Cadence (I'll go with this spelling for this article). The most obvious thing is that they have wings that allow them to fly (together with the ability to walk on clouds) and a horn that allows them to cast unicorn magic. The second thing is that all three of them are mares, and all bear the title of Princess. However, this is where our real extent of the knowledge of alicorns ends.

You may think me wrong and proclaim that alicorns are all extremely powerful, and point to Luna and Celestia as proof. However, I respectfully disagree with this assumption. Until the Season 2 finale, it is true, we only knew of two alicorns—them. Both of them displayed extraordinary power, the apparent raising of the sun and the moon being perhaps the biggest and most readily visible example of that. Many have assumed that being an alicorn is connected to that power and put an equality sign between these. Since then, the notion of alicorns being overpowered remains all but universally accepted.
But does that connection exist? Enter Cadence, a brand new Princess that came out of nowhere. Her reasons of being are clear, but now that she exists, she is part of the world, and her being has introduced something very important for this analysis: an alicorn who is not ancient or godlike in her power. Yes, her talent seems to be powerful indeed, but then again, so does Twilight Sparkle's. Despite being a Princess and an alicorn, Cadence does not boast nearly as great a level of power as Celestia or Luna, and appears to be quite young, considering that she has visibly grown up since her time as Twilight's foalsitter.

Her appearance was what first led me to reconsider the notion of "alicorn equals demigod". Think about it: we have seen Celestia and Luna, who are alicorns and who are immensely powerful, but we have not seen any evidence that their power and the alicorn status are the product of one another (either way). It is all but clear that they are immortal, and as it often happens with immortal or exceedingly long-lived characters, they had all the time they needed to gather the power they now wield from whatever sources possible. It may just be that they are so powerful because of their own accomplishments on the path to that power.
Cadence, on the other hoof, is an alicorn who is not immensely powerful. You may raise the example of her projecting the shield around the Crystal Empire, which should by all rights be called Crystal City, but I raise you a counter-example: Shining Armor, a regular unicorn who is not even exceptionally talented at magic, was able to cast a barrier around the entire similarly sized or even bigger city of Canterlot that held for days and stood up to a direct attack by the entire Changeling swarm for at least a while even though Shining Armor was already severely weakened at that point. It does not make either of them weak, no, but it does show that normal ponies can match the feats Cadence can perform.

Now, let us look at the other subject of this article: the title of Princess. Its fate is highly similar to the developments which befell the alicorn subspecies by way of following similar lines. Indeed, the two are frequently used in close connection with each other. There have been things that threw a few wrenches into this particular machine's gears, such as the only example of a non-alicorn princess that we know of, Princess Platinum of the ancient Unicorn Kingdom, as well as the existence of Prince Blueblood, another, modern unicorn. As a result, it is generally considered possible, if pretentious, for a pony to be a prince without being an alicorn. Interestingly enough, it is often still considered interconnected with alicornhood for mares.

With this done, let us sum up the gist of what alicorns and Princesses have been thought of as until today by a considerable amount of our fellow bronies. Normally, when we said "alicorn", we implied "similar to Celestia and Luna": an extremely powerful, immortal, godlike being. Similarly, when we said "Princess", we often meant "a godlike figure governing some domain, like Celestia or Luna". Many have come to consider the words nearly interchangeable and assumed that one cannot be an alicorn without being overpowered or vice versa. :trollestia:

It is necessary to keep this in mind if we wish to assess the :pinkiecrazy: hysteria :pinkiegasp: surrounding Twilight's coronation. When encountering the idea of Twilight becoming a Princess, for many of us the automatic assumption was "Twilight becomes an extremely powerful, immortal, godlike being governing some domain, like Celestia or Luna". There is also that surprisingly popular bit of fanon making the rounds—that if a pony is to become a Princess, she would have to abandon her life in its entirety and go elsewhere; I am not sure what it is based on, but I believe it's a result of someone spinning out the trait of immortailty too far.

Now, let me bring to your attention two quotes from the press release that dropped this announcement:

... “princess” is a designation that’s earned, not freely given — and though princesses have specific leadership roles in pony society, being one really means “being a good pony who shares the gifts that they have been given with others."

"We’re building a very unique mythology around being a princess," [Meghan McCarthy] continues

There is nothing said about a godlike status, governing some sort of arbitrary domain or forcible abandonment of all past connections and pursuits, although I'm sure there will be those who will find a way to read it as such before the episode itself explains everything at last. The announcement's descriptions sound different. My personal interpretation of it is a title given as a reward for being an exemplary pony, a paragon of ponykind and somepony to look up to. That it comes with alicornhood seems to be secondary, and alicornhood itself is barely mentioned at all, as something of little importance. As for leadership roles, it is clear that Twilight is a leader already—she often takes command of the entire Mane Six, and sometimes unknowingly upstages Mayor Mare. Giving her the actual designation of a leader would only make it official.
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So, let us sum everything up and think: which part of what we know about alicorns and Princesses is actually grounded in canon, and what of it is fanon additions and assumptions made with the help of the eternal correlation-equals-causation fallacy and a heaping helping of fanfiction? I did exactly that, and it turned out that all that we really know about them is that they have wings and a horn and that they bear the title. The rest is little but rampant wild mass guessing that has coalesced into theories accepted by large parts of bronydom as their own headcanon.

With that in mind, the perspective of Twilight attaining princesshood seems a lot less starkly black-and-white. All we really know is that she will become a Princess and an alicorn. Everything aside from what is said in the press release has no foundation in anywhere but fanfics and speculation, as the show has no real information about Princesses and alicorns aside from the visually apparent. They weren't even considered important enough as a subspecies to have an actual name, and until Season 3's Magic Duel they only went by a ghastly working designation of 'pegacorn'. There is no "has to be an overpowered mary sue" or "has to become an immortal goddess and lose all her previous life" about it outside of fanfics.

What I want to say with all this is: keep calm and flutter on. No panic. It does not look nearly as terrible if you cast aside the fanon-vision glasses and look at what we really have. A promise has been given by the show crew:

But don’t worry, Pony fans — though Twilight will undergo a physical transformation, her personality will remain the same. “What we didn’t want to do was change who she is as a character, because she’s certainly someone that everyone’s proud to know and love,” McCarthy says. “I don’t think becoming a princess really changes her; I think it’s going to introduce some new challenges for her.”

And this is what matters. As long as Twilight Sparkle remains Twilight Sparkle, as long as her character is not destroyed in the process, it will be an acceptable course. Yes, it introduces completely new things, but what I intended to say with this article is not contrary to that. I only wish to note that in canon, disregarding all fanon, nearly nothing is known about alicorns as a subspecies and their actual properties and powers. The only things we know pertain to Celestia and Luna, but not all alicorns have to be like them, as Cadence's example shows. Thus, there is no need to scream, shout or otherwise panic. The best course of action is to wait and see what the canon take on all of this is in full.

And finally, I have to say this: at last, we're getting an official explanation of alicorns and Princesses! It's certainly going to do good no matter what. Even if many a fanfic will burn in the fires of non-canonicity, it will help clear up a lot of confusion and conflicting theories.

Twilight is magic. :twilightsmile: Don't forget that.

And thank you for reading through if you made it this far! Until next time!

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Comments ( 5 )

I'm just rolling with it, just like any other change or revelation that has come and gone. I'm looking forward to how this all plays out and how this will affect Twilight's character. I like that the show is making their characters grow rather than keep them static.

As always, we shall see.

769613 It's change we can believe in. We have had an invasion of pink horrors already, and a Greater Daemon has been tamed quite recently.

Same here. I only wished to note the observation that if the epileptic trees (dang I love this phrase. Thank you, TVTropes!) of fanon were to be cleared out, many myths that are considered "100% true certainty" by some would evaporate. I can't wait for the episode to come and set everything right.
*dramatic voice* Do you feel it? A new dawn is coming. I can see it, hear it, smell it already... Smoke on the wind, the ashes of a myriad fanfics burning in the fires of non-canonicity... Shreds of theories blown past, their remains trampled into the ground, unfounded... And above it all, the tall, gleaming spires, elegant and orderly, descending from above, touching down on the cleared foundations... The Pillars of Canon. *end dramatic voice*

Indeed, we shall see. As I said, I'll be expecting them to keep their promise of not breaking Twilight's character. I hope she will retain permanent residence in Ponyville and not just come by for episodes, the town is good for her. Maybe she could start out by being the Princess of Ponyville (poor Mayor Mare. Maybe she can be her senechal of sorts and run stuff as normal).

And yes, it's interesting and refreshing that they allow such changes to the status quo. I hope they're handled in a way that doesn't damage the good that we have already, but introduces new good things instead. And I think they can pull it off all right.

769638 Indeed, Chrysalis defeated not only Celestia, but also the myth of intrinsic alicorn divine invincibility. It showed that she, and apparently Luna as well, are not really goddesses, even if they're considered such. As individuals, they are more powerful than usual, but it indeed seems that they have attained that power on their own, not as an integral part of being an alicorn. Cadence is an even bigger argument agains the "alicorns are gods" theory, with her not being more powerful than some rather normal ponies. So, I personally think your personal canon makes perfect sense. :twilightsmile:

And indeed, freaking out is the stupid thing to do. It's only good for making that beautiful video Saberspark did. Goodness, my sides. Made my day. We just need to wait and see, but I think it'll all turn out alright. :pinkiehappy:

I'm not looking forward to it but i'll save the panic button till after the episode airs. So i can see what the damage really is.
Because at the moment it's like we've been given a weather forecast warning of a tornado and everyone is panicking about it destroying their homes and causing bloody chaos in the resulting stampede to get the hell away.

Thing is the tornado might pass your home by, the tornado might blow out. Alternatively it could turn into an even more powerful one and destroy everything you ever cared about. But that's not very likely given our writing team.


Just batten down the hatches and pray the writers can deal with this properly. DHX have got some great staff working on this show, there have been a plethora of interviews about them, so i'm fairly confident they can pull this off.
But i'm insanely curious as to how they'll do it in a single episode.

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