• Member Since 20th Apr, 2012
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Hold your ground but do not be unkind. (Ponyphonic, "Shy Heart")


Fluttershy's songbird choir is renowned throughout Equestria, in demand by ponies everywhere. Looked at from the other side of the perch, though, it's not always the life it's cracked up to be. If you want to hear the real story, straight from the bird's beak, Mazarine is your jay. Though you may have to set aside most of an afternoon...

Set during the latter part of Season 3.

Finalist in the Equestria Daily Outside Insight contest
Featured by Seattle's Angels
"incredibly charming ... Recommended" -- PresentPerfect
"A wonderful look at ponies from an outside viewpoint ... Highly recommended" -- The City of Doors

Chapters (1)
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Comments ( 45 )

You know, it's not often I'm actually left staggered by something I've read. This is certainly one of the most unique perspectives ever written, and the insight it gives into how other beings might view the ponies - even the nice ones - is incredible.

Lots of great descriptions and beautiful word-choices.

Damn, hell of a different point of view, no one has ever done the birds before, seriously unique, I'm following you my friend.

4833475 4833475 4833779 Thank you very much, all of you. I really do appreciate comments, and obviously I'm happiest when they're nice comments like yours! It was certainly an interesting challenge to write this, so I'm pleased you've got something out of it. :twilightsmile:


You're quite welcome. And I stuck it in some more groups 'cause, really, it's criminal that it isn't being seen more. :pinkiegasp:

4834742 Thanks very much! :yay: The more the merrier, and I'll probably put it in one or two more myself in due course.

Honestly, though, 200 views is good going for one of my stories, and that's if they have something like FlutterDash friendshipping that's pretty popular. I knew it would be a challenge trying to get people to read a story about birds!


Well, I'm sorry, but two-hundred views isn't good enough for a story like this. It needs to be seen by everypony. :pinkiecrazy:

This…makes a lot of sense. After all, ponies recognize most animals as sentient and yet treat them as below themselves. Well done and actually pretty bleak.

4836127 Thank you! :twilightsmile: Yeah, I did have to stop and think about the tags while I was, er, tagging this. It can be read as a simple "old codger complains about today's society" story, in which case it's more of a comedy. Alternatively, as you point out, it can be read in a bleaker way: ponies, who after all control Nature outside Everfree, really aren't as great at doing so as they think they are.

somehow didn't realise you did fics :P wubbed skimming this one :3 and that is the first FIMfic I've enjoyed in ageeees. I'm going to go back and read it properly later. Can't get enough of poor Flutter being abused by her cute pets :D it happens enough in the show afterall. Love the way you created an animal lore + character and did it so economically! Very well done.

4839554 Thanks! :twilightsmile: Yep, ficcing is about the only creative thing I can really do properly in this fandom. Good job I like it, then!

Interesting take. Good luck. :twilightsmile:

4849504 Thanks! Same to you!

Author Interviewer

I find this story incredibly charming. :D Well done making a believable lexicon for birds.

4869853 Thank you! (And for the favourite, too.) You can probably blame/thank Richard Adams for the lexicon. My first draft of this story overdid that, using things like "Turn" instead of "day". It got in the way of the story, so I ditched it, but things like the "Yellow-Pink" style seemed to work out, so they stayed.

Author Interviewer

Everything you left in is easy enough to figure out, so well played. :)

Huh. If there's one thing that has become very clear to me recently, it's that a 'good voice' is so much more than just one that gives context to your PoV character. A few fics in the competition so far have had great voices that either weren't quite supportive of the larger narrative, or were rendered impotent by the way it was used, or even just too 'thick' to pull off for a whole story without it getting tiresome.

Now, sure, the story is relatively short and fairly simple, but that doesn't take anything away from exactly how precise the effect of the voice here is. It's like sitting down with someone at a pub to have a friendly chat (somewhat deepened by the framing device itself): the voice is thick, but not heavy; stylised, but never tiring. As fundamentally simple as the story is, it's just so bloody readable!

Okay, so sure, I generally like more meat on the bones, and my score will reflect that because it's a personal expression, but I read Let Them Eat Grass the other day and was blown away with it's storytelling precision – 1.6k words that wrapped up very satisfyingly with something interesting to say – and here we have something fully twice as long that absolutely didn't feel it at all.

Add to that the strong interpretation of the prompt and I'm very impressed with this.

6/10 Prompt: Strong

I have to echo Inquisitor, really fantastic narrative voice. I could see this as a discourse down at a pub, it captured that vibe exactly. Sure it meandered here and here, but that's what happens in real conversations. Really nicely told.

A common enough theme through the contest. Seems you get friendship and harmony only if you're a fellow pony, else it's the hoof for you.

4890345 Thank you! I don't have a great deal to say in response, because I don't really take issue with anything you said. The "meat on the bones" point is an interesting one: I agree, actually. I was, rather unashamedly, playing to what I felt was my strength, which was getting a good narrative voice going. I'm glad that you felt I succeeded on that score. And I will take "it's just so bloody readable!" any day of the week.
4891927 Thank you to you, too. The meandering was quite tricky: it was certainly deliberate, but it was a fine line to tread. Too little and Mazarine wouldn't have sounded right, too much and I'd have risked readers getting fed up. I think I got the balance reasonably okay.

That was excellent, great job on this.

4911512 Thank you! (And for the follow, too.)

4911598 Too unique of a story to not keep an eye on you.

I've said this elsewhere, but this really is amongst my absolute favourites of the stories you've written. It's extremely inventive and imaginative, and I don't think I'll ever quite see the birds in those episodes in quite the same light ever again. I really liked the idea that it's almost like an alternate universe - there are reflections of events and characters that we instantly recognise (apart from Grey Amber perhaps, who I didn't quite suss for a moment) but it's such a completely different point of view that it feels almost like a different world to the MLP one we know and love. That is in no way meant as a criticism at all, mind. I think it shows just how strong the writing and imagination here is.

Obviously that's helped partly by the use of the different words the birds use. Rainboom = Swelling Circles. The Territory. Meal grubs. And so on. But it's also the fact that I suppose we kind of expect the various animals in MLP, at least the ones who are often seen with Fluttershy, to just be in the background and not really have a strong opinion about the ponies. And this shows the viewpoint, of course, that things are not so clear cut. It seems very obvious that they've no time at all for Rainbow Dash, Twilight and Rarity, among others, and I got the impression that even Fluttershy is only really tolerated, because she's that much nearer to understanding them and their songs. But even then it's clear they're not really happy with the situation. (I did notice the mention of Fluttershy's eyes and that there was just something about them. I wondered if that was anything to do with The Stare, and the birds wouldn't know what that was, or if it was just the legendary irresistable look Fluttershy has in those eyes by default?) :yay:

I also got the strong feeling that Mazarine kind of loves the sound of his(?) own voice. Of course with a story written from that character's point of view, it's going to seem that way, but I imagined him just talking and talking, with the other birds nodding in agreement but not really getting the chance to get a beak in edgeways. He also seemed like a real grumbly sort, so you do have to take some of his views with a pinch of meal grubs, as it may not be the view of the majority of birds. Still, I can't help but think of my neighbour at the point when Mazarine warns that they'll have to stop when RD wakes up. My neighbour talks nine to the dozen about various random subjects, then decides she really has to go because she's got so much to do, and then launches straight into another load of gossip, almost like she can't stop. Despite Mazarine's mention that they'll have to stop while RD is zooming around, he still keeps rambling away. That further strengthened my opinion that he really does love to talk! :rainbowlaugh:

So, all in all a very impressive piece of work! And as someone else mentioned, a unique point of view. I do wonder though, unless I managed to miss it, just what name they'd have for Pinkie and Applejack? (Pinkpink seems appropriately silly. Or "that totally mad nutter with the candyfloss mane.") :pinkiehappy:

4917876 First of all, thank you very much! :twilightsmile:

Grey-Amber was a little on the tricky side, yes. But he's not white, and of course Grey-Yellow is a very different pony! And no, I take "almost like a different world" as a compliment, since that's how it's meant to be. This was, after all, written for a contest where using a pony's perspective was against the rules. Of course someone like Zecora or Chrysalis might have been more familiar, but I thought it would be interesting to go the whole hog and create a look at a species who've never even spoken. Even sheep have done that occasionally!

I won't be too precise with my answers about their views on ponies, since I may well write other stories in the future featuring Mazarine and co. But remember that (outside Everfree, at least) ponies have huge control over Nature, and by extension over other species. However good and caring they are, they're still able to influence the birds' basic lives in a way that the birds can't even dream of doing to the ponies in return. Fluttershy gets a (qualified) pass because she understands other species more deeply than the others. (The Stare is in fact explicitly mentioned, quite near the end. "Something in those great big eyes" is therefore not necessarily a reference to that...)

Yes, Mazarine certainly loves the sound of his own voice! (His, yes. The heavily male cast is deliberate, since in general it's male songbirds who sing.) He's a bit of a grouch, but as is mentioned a couple of times, he's getting on a bit, which plays a part there. A couple of reviewers have compared him with a certain type of pub conversationalist, and that's how I see him, too. It might be interesting one of these days for me to write a story set in the past, when he was more of a lead singer, if you like.

As for the difficulty of choosing Pinkie and Applejack's names... why do you think they're not in the fic? :rainbowlaugh: But seriously, I needed Fluttershy, Rainbow, Twilight and Rarity to have significant mentions, and it would have become a bit crowded if I'd gone much further than that. Anyway, thank you again for the really interesting review; they're always appreciated, good or bad!

4922192 I iz? Well then, thanks!

4922192 thanks for turning me on to this story!

4940272 And thanks for reading (and favouriting) it!

You know, at first I thought that as unique and well-constructed as this story is, the narrator is a racist asshole, and this would be something I could use as a reference if I wanted to write a character who was casually racist.

But then the comments reminded me that the analogy falls apart when you consider that the birds have no institutional power over the ponies, but are mostly at their mercy instead. So I suppose I should thank you for not going a more obvious route and making Mazarine a Tumblrite parody. :twilightsmile:

4950056 Mm, the state of race relations in Equestria is a huge and fascinating subject, one not too many writers have really tackled in depth. (I know I haven't.) After all, take Cloudsdale: if you're not a pegasus (or alicorn, or beneficiary of Twilight-level magic) then you're not going to get anywhere near the place. It's an almost entirely "racially pure" city. And canon ("Flight to the Finish") strongly hints that Ponyville's friendly mix of races is unusual.

And that's just intra-pony stuff. When you broaden it to include the other species, things get even more complicated. To pick an example out of the air: why was Zecora shunned at first, but Iron Will not? And of course it's two ponies (very powerful ponies, but ponies nonetheless) who control night and day, and therefore hold the very lives of every living thing (outside Everfree, at least) in their hooves.

Also, thank you for the compliments! :twilightsmile:

Reading about the Enclave in Fallout Equestria really opened my eyes, and I like to keep an eye out for any fic that does race relations well as a result. Do you know of any more?

4953074 Yeah, the Enclave stuff was very interesting. As to your question: I can't think of many at all offhand. One that comes to mind is Benman's An Earth Pony Orphan in the Unicorn Court, which I haven't yet read, but which was recommended by BronyWriter and is on my Read Later list. One that looks as though it might explore those themes somewhat is Climbing the Mountain by Talon and Thorn,. but I know nothing about it beyond what's on its page.

Always interesting to get another perspective on Equestria, and you've gone quite in depth here. I especially liked the reinterpretation of Fluttershy's directing with the bared teeth and baton as a maniacal show of dominance. Have a like and a ribbon:

5247398 Thank you very much! :pinkiehappy:

I see this as very out of character for Fluttershy. She's the Element of Kindness after all...

Still faved and upvoted for a perspective I've only seen a few times... mostly with Tank.

6044837 It was written that way deliberately: Mazarine's perspective isn't the same as Fluttershy's (or ours). He's misinterpreting Fluttershy's body language. Partly, I suspect, because he's a grumpy old so-and-so who thinks things like empathy and understanding other species are, well, for the birds. If you'll pardon the expression. :rainbowlaugh:

Thank you for reading (and faving)!

Huh. That was very interesting.


why was Zecora shunned at first, but Iron Will not?

That's easy. Zecora did creepy and mysterious things, and she was quite secretive about all of it. It had nothing to do with who she was in terms of race or anything like that. Instead, it was all about what she did and how that instilled a bit of fear into Ponyville.

And canon ("Flight to the Finish") strongly hints that Ponyville's friendly mix of races is unusual.

I wouldn't go nearly that far. To say that it strongly hints feels like a pretty big stretch to me.

After all, take Cloudsdale: if you're not a pegasus (or alicorn, or beneficiary of Twilight-level magic) then you're not going to get anywhere near the place. It's an almost entirely "racially pure" city.

This also feels like a pretty big stretch. It makes an incredible amount of practical sense to have that city in the clouds because, ya know, weather production.

I think exploring race relations is cool and all, but it's really hard to see anything too blatant happening in the show. There just isn't anything in canon to really support anything substantial. Other time periods, though, could make things very interesting, and they make much more sense to boot.

He's misinterpreting Fluttershy's body language.
-Ah! Some small part of me wondered if that was the case, but for some reason I dismissed the possibility. My mistake.

he's a grumpy old so-and-so
-Perhaps I made the same mistake here, but perhaps it never occurred to me, which is both better and worse.

6048634 Thank you for reading, and I'm glad you enjoyed it! :twilightsmile:

The comment you responded to is pretty old now, and I'm not sure I have quite the same view on some things that I did last year. That said, I think the "Flight to the Finish" thing can be interpreted as significant. If different types of ponies living together in friendship wasn't special, why would the CMC bother to make it the core of their performance? I agree with you that the show is most unlikely to go there, and I also agree that it's a bit of a stretch -- but in fanfic terms, at least, I don't think it's an impossible stretch. After all, I'd expect a town containing the Princess of Friendship and all five other Element-Bearers to be remarkable!

I reviewed this story!

My review can be found here.

6498804 Thanks! It's nice (FSVO "nice") to finally join the "NR by TD" crew. :rainbowlaugh: (But despite that, the thank you is genuine. I never object to a thoughtful review of my writing.)

This story has been on my read later list since InquisitorM reviewed it, which is quite some time ago. Maybe it was the title that made me expect something that would impress me, but it ended up falling short. I agree with TD's review in that the storytelling is unfocused and meandering, but that in itself wouldn't even be my problem. I've read similarly meandering pieces that yet managed to grasp me on an emotional level.

Maybe it is that the narrator is the kind of person I would talk to exactly once, then try to avoid for the rest of my life. There's something about that combination of ignorant and judgmental that just grinds my gears to no end. I managed to get to about 2/3 of the story, then skimmed the rest. Any charm others have described in the narrative voice was lost on me.

I'm sorry I don't have better things to say. I make it a rule to comment on every story I read (because I like comments on my own stories so much), and I hope you'll get some use out of this honest albeit negative feedback.

7988034 Thanks for the feedback! I wish I had more comments like yours* on my fics; I'd happily swap any number of reads or upvotes for that. Anyway, of course I'm sorry that you didn't get on with the story. I'm not sure there's a lot I can say in response, since Mazarine's grating character and meandering style are both deliberate and so central to the piece that I can't imagine anyone enjoying it who found that unbearable.

To tell the truth, although I still enjoy re-reading this, I've always been a little surprised by the success the story has had; I would have expected more readers to take your view. One of the characters I had in the back of my mind was Basil Fawlty, a truly unbearable man but one whose character is vital in making Fawlty Towers a show I enjoy enormously. Obviously, I'm not at that exalted level of comedy writing ability! I mention it just to underline the fact that Maz has to be gratingly annoying for this fic to do what I wanted it to.

Oh, and my titles are frequently overblown, simply because it amuses me to make them so. Generally, as happened with this story, I browse through a dictionary of quotations under some likely-looking keywords until I find something that tickles me.

Anyway, this is getting far too long, so I'll simply say thanks again for the comment and I hope the next author you come across can bring you more enjoyment. :twilightsmile:

* Well, in thoughtfulness and detail, anyway. Maybe slanted more towards "Why hasn't this won the Pulitzer Prize already?" though. :raritywink:

Well, that was fun. Sometimes just enjoyable to see a character with a distinctive voice complain about things he doesn't understand. Laugh at him and with him alternately, but then I do wonder if I've got a sadistic sense of humour at times. Also, for some reason I imagined him with a Scottish accent. No idea why. :pinkiesmile:

At the very least, I enjoyed reading this one. Like and a fave. And a follow: seriously, why aren't I following your account yet?

8030450 Thank you for all of that! :twilightsmile: I can't say I thought of Mazarine* as Scottish, but if it works for you then why not? I'll admit it: I do have a certain amount of sympathy for Maz here, even if he does take things rather to extremes. It probably is pretty galling for an Equestrian bird to know that so much of what they rely on -- migration, weather, etc -- is outright controlled by another species.

* Thank you, spellcheck, for telling me that should be "Margarine". :derpytongue2:

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