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  • 4 weeks
    On the End

    Though, like what I said a little over two years ago, that's not exactly true. There's still the Generations comics—people who aren't incessantly complaining about slow shipping already have one of those by now—and of course it's a safe bet that when we get more G5 we'll also get more references to ancient Equestria. But endings are still endings, whether or not they're total.

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  • 12 weeks
    On Patriotism

    The end approaches.

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On Patriotism · 6:28am September 2nd

The end approaches.

But let's talk about issue #101 while I have your attention.

I find myself struggling to assign a moral to this comic, which is to say there are several morals that come springing to mind, but I find that I don't want to just be snarky about it. I can't draw a moral from what our dear ponies did here, because they did everything right yet failed; that's no basis to convey a moral. I can't draw a moral from the Knights of Harmony, because we still lack the requisite details to judge whether they are pursuing their aims in a sensible and successful manner.

Perhaps we should just give into the snark and say the moral is that if you want to talk to someone who wants to talk to you, then you might want to make the radical choice to talk. Or maybe the moral is that Rarity and AJ shouldn't be allowed to use bandages unsupervised, because they will abuse that privilege.

Really, it's hard for me not to read Danu as deliberately being an asshole. Why would he say "Then you understand why we must destroy you" other than to rub Twilight's nose in the fact that they both know perfectly well that she doesn't at all understand what's going on here because he refuses to answer any meaningful questions? Why would he forcefully end friendly negotiations, capture a bunch of Twilight's subjects and friends, and then act like she was the one who didn't want to talk if not to be pointlessly mean to Twilight? There's clearly no need to be so hostile about making Twilight listen to a story she asked him to tell. I really feel like he knows this behavior isn't productive.

A part of me, though, is insisting that the Elements of Patriotism are on a strict timer and so he felt it necessary to establish a position of power as strongly as possible while he still could. I'm not honestly buying it, but shouldn't we assume that we're in the one possible scenario where he isn't working against himself? I certainly don't see any other sensible reason to interrupt the talks he evidently wants to have in order to establish the Knights as a threat to ponies who have already put up their defenses because they obviously feel threatened.

I suppose though I am suggesting a third option: Danu isn't acting sensibly. Maybe he has multiple personalities, and one doesn't want to talk. Maybe he has paranoid schizophrenia that made him believe that Twilight was initially stalling while she prepared some devastating attack. Those would explain it too. We don't know enough yet to rule much of anything out.

As an epilogue to the above, I have similar feelings about Taranis suggesting that the ponies' downfall is caused by something other than the inscrutable motivations of a group that refuses to explain why they're bizarrely afraid of harmony. I'm pretty sure he's smart enough to recognize that it wasn't pride that led ponies to the remarkable conclusion that being friendly and nice to others is a good thing, nor to the other surprising conclusion that the lack of anycreature attempting to stop them from being friendly indicated a lack of anycreature who strongly objected to them being friendly. I don't think he even expects anycreature to believe his ridiculous casting of blame.

Morrigan gets a pass, though, since the foundation of her power is casting herself as the hero regardless of whether or not the story she tells holds water. I may be able to blame her for the causes she puts her power behind, but I can't blame her for the requirements of using that power.

Putting that aside, though, let us consider the actual Elements of Patriotism: Pride, Acceptance, Loyalty, Equity, Magic, and Faith. I don't think they're meant to entirely parallel the Elements of Friendship, but I'm going to say anyway that they correspond respectively to Laughter, Kindness, Loyalty, Generosity, Magic, and, most questionably of all, Honesty. And I don't buy all of them as Elements; equity, while a good thing, doesn't seem like a part of patriotism, and pride, while a part of patriotism, doesn't seem like a good thing. Or at least I don't buy it with that phrasing; I might accept the right related word, but related is not the same.

And of course we'll also want to talk about the bearers of those Elements outside of the context of their deliberate rudeness:

- Danu is a hypothetical Celtic mother goddess; the name isn't recorded in any primary sources, but it's reconstructed from "Tuatha Dé Danann," the collective name of the Irish gods (translated as "Tribe of the Gods of Danu"). Danu may or may not be the same as the goddess Anu, who is briefly recorded as the mother of the gods of Ireland, and may also be connected to the Welsh Dôn, who seems to be recorded solely as an ancestor of other mythological figures, and who by the way doesn't have a recorded gender. (As a result, I'd put myself as 80% sure that Danu the Knight of Harmony's angular face and beard-like mane are indeed intended to indicate masculinity.) Danu is also the name of a Hindu primordial water goddess, but I'm pretty sure that's the wrong Danu.
Looking at the Knight of Harmony, Danu appears to have the front half of a pony and the rear half of a lion, which matches no mythical creature I can find. He appears to have a mountain for a cutie mark, probably related to his power over earth; mainly I find it interesting since usually cutie marks aren't possessed by partially equine species (by which I mean hippogriffs don't have them). He is also notably wearing what appear to be a chlamys and a laurel wreath, a notably Grecian fashion to begin the theme that the Knights are Celtic in name but not so much in garb. And presumably his status as leader of the group is why he was named after the mother of the gods (maybe).

- Taranis is Celtic thunder god. His name has a variety of thunder-related cognates, including the Old Norse Þórr, who you may know by his more modern spelling "Thor." He was also associated with wheels, for reasons that Wikipedia frankly doesn't explain very well; it may be though that we don't know the reason beyond various poorly supported speculations.
The Knight of Harmony appears to have the upper body of a bull and the lower body of a serpent (specifically a rattlesnake), making him an ophiotaurus (the Greeks weren't very creative about naming a lot of these mashup creatures). One might note, though, that the ancient Greeks certainly wouldn't have represented an ophiotaurus with a rattle, since rattlesnakes are only found in the Americas. One will also note that he appears to be dressed as a samurai. His control over wind is clearly why he was named after a weather god.

- Annoyingly, the Element of Acceptance is not referred to by name, which makes it hard to look up the origin of her name. It's possible though, that she is named Boann, Sinann, or Lí Ban, all of these being Irish water-related goddesses (though I'm just going off Danu being specifically an Irish hypothesized goddess; there are plenty of other non-Irish water goddesses as well).
She has the body and some arms of an octopus with the tail of a shark, putting her with Danu in the category of "I don't know of any precedent for this." She appears to have a cutie mark of a breaking wave, presumably relating to her power over water (and leading one to infer that Taranis probably has a cutie mark of a gust of wind or a storm cloud under his armor). She's wearing what I think is some manner of ornate turban with her cutie mark on the front. I haven't been able to pin this down to a specific location with confidence, but my gut feeling is to connect it to Mughal emperors' turbans (in northern India).

- Ceridwen we've already talked about, but I should add (since I didn't previously) that she's probably a Mesoamerican feathered serpent (sometimes referred to as a coatl, although that doesn't appear to be an entirely accurate usage of that word). I don't think they were represented in Mesoamerica as having wings (the feathers were simply on their bodies), but I think it's reasonable to guess that Andy Price preferred a more modern representation and so took the artistic liberty of establishing her as such. She does not seem to have a cutie mark, unless we questionably classify the heart symbol on her chest as one. Also, we can't analyze her clothing because she's naked.

- Balor is a leader or the Fomorians, an Irish race of hostile monsters. He has a destructive eye, which depending on the account may cause fires, poison, or other harm, and may be his only eye or may be one of two or three eyes; this eye is seldom opened, and it may take several men to lift the eyelid. He may be a giant. He may represent the harmful aspects of the sun (e.g. bringing drought) or the previous year, who must be defeated by the current year. He is killed by his grandson Lugh, who shoots him through his evil eye (and later beheads him in versions where the shooting isn't sufficient), and who may represent the current year if Balor represents the previous year.
The Knight of Harmony might be classified as a wyvern; he's clearly draconic, but differs from the range of dragons we've previously seen in MLP in that his wings are merged with his arms. He has a triskelion cutie mark on his wings, which one would assume is the abstract symbol that has been chosen to represent magic in this case. He wears a kilt, complete with sporran, marking him as the only Knight with a rough idea where he was supposed to be shopping (although I really do think Cunabula is supposed to be Ireland, not Scotland). The best justification I've got for his name is that destroying magic with his touch is kind of like the gaze of a destructive eye if you avoid listening to what you're saying.

- Morrigan (sometimes with an obligatory definite article), meaning "phantom queen" or "great queen" is an Irish figure associated with war and fate, possibly a war goddess. She often appears as a crow and foretells victory or death in battle, and if you immediately thought about other figures who foretell death then you may have correctly guessed that she is associated with the banshee. However, she often does have more influence than simply foretelling the future, sometimes inciting battles, striking fear into enemies, or serving to protect an area. In some cases the Morrigan is a trio of goddesses rather than an individual.
The Knight or Harmony seems to be a sort of bird spirit, combining the crow form of the Morrigan with the spectral form of the banshee. Having very limited features on most of her body, she joins Ceridwen in having no cutie mark. The feathers she wears give her a Native American esthetic, although I don't think there's enough information to pin her down to a specific tribe or region since ceremonial usage of feathers appeared in many places. I can't really agree with myself about whether there's a meaningful link between her power and her name as well.

Moving away from the Knights of Harmony, I am compelled to point out that on page 3 Starswirl sounds suspiciously like Cadance and vice versa.

Honestly, I'm not a fan of the Mane Six plus Spike taking potshots at Celestia and Luna's lack of emergency preparedness. It just doesn't feel like the time. The tone seems off.

Don't you think it's odd that Twilight confirms that she's Princess Twilight Sparkle but then refers to herself as queen a few pages later? I think it's odd. I admit I wouldn't expect her to be fussy about her title, so she probably wouldn't correct anycreature who got it wrong, but even so it would be weird if everycreature got it wrong pretty consistently when calling her a princess, and conversely it would be weird if she herself got it wrong when calling herself a queen. And that just leaves the third weird option of the titles being synonymous.

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