Analysis / Pony POV Series

Despite coming from humble origins as an attempt at humanizing the Mane Cast's fall to discording, the series has become increasingly deep and interesting, particularly in the second story of reharmonizing.

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     All Nightmares and Alicorn related analysis 

Concepts, Aspects, Lights & Shadows of Existence: The theory of a soul in the Pony POV Series

Given that Alicornization/Nightmarification are described as the same process of "Awakening" and that many beings are shown to have the potential to undergo that process under extreme duress, regardless of use of the Elements of Harmony, it appears that at the heart of every character, the Light of Existence, is a Concept.

As a consequence of being fictional characters abstracted in the text of a story, of course they don't exist outside of our thought processes, therefore they are all concepts in one way or another. Since an Alicorn is a type of abstract Concept, this implies that their "Alicorn" name is actually their true name.

A Concept is simply an idea, a transmittable meme, or a trope as you will. However, concepts are inherently static, so those who lack character development are nothing more than walking tropes. Fortunately, a concept is also fairly indestructible, so they effectively can't die in that form.

While all characters have Concept as their Light of Existence, that Light of Existence can be shared by multiple characters at the same or different time. To distinguish between different characters with the same Concept, characters are described as also possessing a Shadow of Existence. This Shadow of Existence seems to be responsible for the physical appearance and to a certain extent, personality of each character. A specific combination of Light and Shadow of Existence can be deemed, an "Ego", "Aspect", "Self", or "Persona". Much like how a single lamp can cast multiple shadows, each of them take that Concept in a different direction, corresponding to a special talent and representing an Aspect. Using this lampshade model can also describe how shadows can be transferred from light to light by means of overlap and other optical illusions.

Of course, all this would imply that Nightmarification/Alicornization is not a process of evolution, but rather a degeneration to a more base form. One that is infinite in raw power, but lacks consciousness, also known as free will, being little more than a true force of nature. Make no mistake, becoming a Concept is the exact, yes, exact definition of Flanderization, and it is the diametric opposite of character development. Perhaps that is the reason for the creation of the material universe in the first place, to allow Concepts to develop a mind of their own and grow beyond what they were born as. It is something that they cannot accomplish if they rely on their Alicorn/Draconequus powers to solve their mortal/material challenges.

Nightmares and Alicorns
  • If Nightmares represent a mono-directional force, then Alicorns represent a duality or spectrum.
  • "An Alicorn is a part of everything." This duality is the part that exists in everything, regardless of being in the positive or negative form. For Pinkie, she can represent either the joy of laughter or the frustration of anger, which are both feelings, therefore she is likely the Alicorn of Emotion.
  • Nightmares are formed from a single part of the spectrum, in theory, it can be any part, as Word of God mentions RD as either Nightmare Manacle or Nightmare Victory, but in practice, it will always result in the strongest part seizing full control.
  • For this reason, a Nightmare is much stronger than an equivalent Alicorn, as demonstrated when Luna in AJ's Dreams believes she would have been overpowered and prevented from sending a distress signal in mere seconds by Nightmare Mirror.
  • In exchange, Nightmares have much less freedom/discretion, acting more like a force of nature than a character, in addition, at least four of the Mane Six Nightmares have the MO of stripping away free will by geass.
  • Nightmares are not necessarily evil or even bad. To state they are, just because of their focus, is the Golden Mean Fallacy in action.
    • On the other hand, there's no way to tell for certain if Nightmares are right in raising one virtue above all others, as such a position has been criticized before.
  • None of the Nightmares have interacted with each other yet, but the ones with mutually exclusive objectives would probably be hostile, eg The Kindest of Lies vs. The Cruelest of Truths.

Nightmares and their part in the series
  • The suite of Nightmare forms we see really fit well with how a deranged obsessive would try to bring them about.
    • Rainbow Dash's Superpowered Evil Side: Nightmare Manacle attempts to induce a situation that maximizes loyalty beyond all comparison. However, the nightmare actually renders it meaningless - in a hive mind, there's no such thing as loyalty because there's no such thing as the individual, and loyalty becomes self interest. Similar to how Kindness has no real meaning with no choice in the matter.
    • Pinkie's nightmare, Nightmare Grandfalloon is hopefully averted by her apotheosis, but we see it nevertheless - and it again matches the pattern. The nightmare exists to create a constant state of laughter (like the joker?), but this removes the meaning of it. Laughter's joy is that it's fleeting, and laughing no matter the situation is dishonest and unnatural.
    • And as for AJ's side: "Nightmare Mirror" is the most appropriate name, yes. It shows the bare truth, and nothing more. But as AJ pointed out, the cruelest of truths aren't the whole story. While truth is not something that becomes a lie on over saturation, it becomes... well, there was a Discworld story where Death pointed out how there is no such thing as an atom of mercy, a molecule of truth, a nucleon of justice. But they still exist. They're emergent properties. And laying bare every single fact about someone doesn't add up to the whole, as they're not weighted.
    • Fluttershy meanwhile actually became Nightmare Whisper as a reaction to the cruelty inherent in nature. She tries to remedy this by not offering more kindness to those who need it, but instead by forcing on everything, whether they asked for it or not. In sort of a strange inversion of Nightmare Mirror, Nightmare Whisper represents a world where cruel truths are hidden behind comforting lies and illusions so that no pony will have to deal with them. On the downside, no pony would ever have need to become something greater than themselves. Fluttershy overcomes this by accepting certain truths about kindness.

Alicorns have shown up in three different ways in the series. The first is in the Loose Canon side story with Pinkie, wherein they are the "creation" aspect of the multiverse, and opposite to the Draconequui. The second are the group of whom Celestia and Luna are a part, who appear to be based off the Tarot. Only two of them survive at the moment. The third are the formerly mortal ponies who have undergone what could be called alicornization, whether by way of Nightmaring or some other, unspecified process. Most of the Alicorns that show up are Nightmares (counting the ones from visions and aborted timelines) and it seems as though the transformation is reversed when the nightmare state is dropped (excluding Nightmare Mirror, who wasn't on a physical plane of reality at the time anyway.) Princess Gaia's "good end" has been seen in AJ's dreams, as has Princess Bubbles - both of these appear to have become stable through some other means. This means has not yet been revealed.

Further Analysis of the Various Nightmares

NB: There is already some analysis of the Nightmares (Good stuff by the way. Very astute.), but this is what I found out. I will be adding to this as the series progresses.
  • Rainbow Dash's Nightmare (aka Nightmare Manacle): Nightmare Manacle is a very fitting name for RD's Nightmare persona. Loyalty is binding, connecting forever the people they apply to. When used correctly, loyalty is like flax, strong and flexible but able to be rotted away or broken if the loyalty means hurting others. It is not blind loyalty. Nightmare Manacle's loyalty is completely and totally binding. It does not allow for expansion if you want to be loyal to another person at the same time. Loyalty strengthens the people attached to it, but Nightmare Manacle's loyalty wears away at you like a heavy iron chain. It is a burden and not a privilege. Blind loyalty is worse than conscious betrayal.
  • A possible Nightmare state for Rarity might involve the concept of Generosity being taken to the extreme in this manner: Generosity involves giving to those who need it more, which means that an ideal world would be one where everyone has the exact same amount of everything. But how do you accurately apportion everything exactly equally, especially when different people attach different value to things, and value is attached to intangible things, and where do you draw the line between who gets a share and who doesn't? Do pets? Do animals that don't happen to be official pets? The Nightmare philosophy that then comes in is that the only way to ensure perfect generosity and equality is to make it so that the entire universe is an evenly distributed cloud of matter. To ease the transition, of course, all consciousnesses get a vision of perfect beauty to keep them calm i.e. Nightmare Charity - the fairest of them all.
    • Rarity's trigger still hasn't been revealed, but if it involves Sweetie Belle, one could expect an appearance from The Fairest of Fates/Failures, Nightmare Karma. Specializing in generously dispensing Karmic Death, the allure of a lethal beauty like her is irresistible to those who believe that killing folks solves problems, especially on folks who "deserve" it. No mercy, no forgiveness, and no quarter. Because she can't forgive herself for applying lethal force on Sweetie Belle. In this timeline, the sharp circlet that she threw at Sweetie Belle landed a few more inches to the right... And she blames Discord entirely for it, overcompensating for her failures by transforming into Nightmare Karma.

Another Nightmare/Alicorn Rundown
The Pony POV series, like some other fics, takes its own stance on the issues of Alicorns and Nightmares.
  • Alicorns are deities, Concepts. They each embody a certain range of principles and ideas, and collectively are Nature's Law. There are a total of twenty-two of them, each corresponding to a card of the Major Arcana of tarot; only three of them (Celestia, Luna, and Cadence) are physically manifested in the pony universe at this point in the main timeline.
  • Nightmares are "broken" or "imperfect" Alicorns; while an Alicorn embodies a certain group of principles, a Nightmare's whole being is centered around a single idea. For example, Nightmare Moon was a "broken" Luna focused entirely on her night. Nightmares can be "fixed" via the Elements of Harmony (though it is not the only way). On a side note, Word of God is that he wanted to get across the idea that as Alicorns correspond to the concepts of the Tarot Major Arcana, a Nightmare corresponds to the ideas associated with a card's inversed reading (usually a negative or reversed version of the meaning the card usually is given).
    • However, non-Alicorns can become Nightmares as well. The exact requirements for Nightmarification aren't spelled out, but it seems that Bearers of the Elements of Harmony and potential Bearers can become Nightmares. For example, Fluttershy's despair at the seemingly inherent cruelty in nature led her to focus on the idea of making nature kind, thus sparking her Nightmarification (in a manner that draws heavily from the process of becoming a Witch in Puella Magi Madoka Magica).
      • Because all Nightmares are "broken Alicorns", any Nightmare becomes an Alicorn once stabilized—even those who were not originally Alicorns, i.e. Fluttershy. Based on the mention that she corresponds to the Queen of Cups card, it can be determined that such "non-original Alicorns" correspond to cards of the Minor Arcana.

On Nightmares in more detail:
  • Every Nightmare shown so far has been inherently self-defeating by means of their obsession.
    • Nightmare Moon wanted everypony to appreciate her night. However, by creating eternal night, she stripped night itself of all value by removing anything to contrast it with. In addition, eternal night would likely result in the death of every mortal being on the planet, as no sunlight means no photosynthesis, not only nuking the food chain but leading to the depletion of all oxygen from the atmosphere in addition to the loss of the vital heat of the sun. With everypony suffocated, starved, or frozen to death, there would be nopony to appreciate the night even if they could get past its inherent meaninglessness in the absence of day.
    • Nightmare Manacle felt that everypony should be loyal to one another. However, her method of chaining ponies together meant that they could not be truly loyal; loyalty is a choice, but ponies magically bound together had to stick together or risk injury or death.
    • Nightmare Granfalloon wanted everypony to laugh all the time. However, laughing all the time is not the same as being happy all the time, and indiscriminate laughter loses its meaning as a signal of positive feelings, becoming meaningless vocal noise.
    • Nightmare Whisper wanted to eliminate all negative feelings from life and create a kind world. However, by forcibly taking on everypony's negative feelings and transforming the world to fit her vision, she achieved nothing of her goals; there was the same amount of unhappiness present in the world, with only the distribution being changed (i.e. she bore all of it). Additionally, forcing the world to be kind stripped kindness of its meaning, since there was no choice involved. (It should be noted that Nightmare Whisper was relatively "better" than her peers; not only did her schemes involve a great deal of self-sacrifice, but an alternate timeline seems to indicate that she could have at least partly succeeded and become stabilized under slightly different circumstances.)
    • Nightmare Mirror wanted everypony to accept the truth and wished for a world without lies. However, as Applejack and Orangejack point out, all she does is selectively present harsh truths and thus does not present the whole picture. In addition, what she aims to create is a world without lies but she is attacking the symptom rather than the cause, so to speak; as AJ and OJ tell her, what they really need is a world in which nopony feels the need to hide the truth from others, not a world where ponies are simply forbidden from lying.
    • Nightmare Purgatory/Dusk/Eclipse/Paradox wanted to punish Discord for his crimes. However, her obsession with punishment led to her resetting the timeline again and again so she could keep punishing Discord; when he tried to break the cycle by attempting to convert to good, her reaction was not "Discord is becoming good! All that work was worth it!" but "How can I keep punishing him if he won't do things that call for punishment?! You're not getting out of it that easy!" She started "pasting in" his evil acts from previous loops like she was editing a film; in effect, she was punishing him for evil acts that he only did because she forced him to, because all she cared about was punishing him rather than embracing the possibility of a timeline in which Discord would not need to be punished.

The Reharmonized Series and The Importance of Facing Reality
Note: Spoiler ALERT for all those not wanting spoilers for the Reharmonized Series!

In the Reharmonized POV Pony series, the importance of facing reality and its complexities is a major theme of the series. The author uses all the mane cast for this work, and each of them eventually have to face reality in their own way to be the better ponies. Even the minor characters also have this happen too.

Rarity had to face the reality of her Greed, and learn more about the nature of Generosity. Broken by her inner faults, she initially lashed out at any gem, angry at their natural beauty betraying the beauty of relationships. However, she eventually saw that diamonds are still useful tools in her line of work, and generosity towards enemies is perhaps the most important thing of all. This was accomplished in three ways. First, Rarity reconciled with The Diamond Dogs, allowing them to have some gems as she knew they had an appreciation for beauty as well. Second, Rarity realized that giving time is being generous as well, and finally, that the most precious things we already have: Family and Friends. From that, she chose to be generous with those whom others would shun away, realizing freedom in her heart.

Applejack meanwhile had to face the Awful Truth about Life. Those other ponies? They had UNIQUE problems. People will die. That family and friends are fleeting in this world, and that even in places you told yourself you'd be miserable, there can be joy. By facing this reality, Applejack is devastated at first, but afterward, she uses every fiber of her being to make certain that people's REAL problems are at least addressed. It also gives her a unique look into the reality of their world, and become a sort of secret keeper for Luna and Celestia as a Living Lie Detector given unique knowledge about how their world is changing.

Pinkie Pie tried to categorize herself as only happy, when she knew that there was sadness in the world as well. She fought this idea through denial for 3 weeks with no sleep, until her Battle in the Center of the Mind forced her to accept that laughter can be cruel, and that unless she learns to accept all parts and emotions of life, she'd never be a true element of harmony. After accepting this reality, Pinkie Pie suddenly becomes Wise Beyond Her Years, and uses this and all her knowledge of reality (including Medium Awareness) to help others through love and joy.

Rainbow Dash tried to run away from the reality of loyalty to one thing might mean betrayal of another. She tried to bury her guilt and think of her friends as Invincible Hero team. It almost sent her into shadows. Yet it's only when shown the impossibility of not choosing something that Rainbow was able to make peace with herself by seeing that her care for so many things proves she's still an element of loyalty. With this reality, she chooses to reward her loyal fan Scootaloo by helping her with her Real problems, and becomes all the more free for it.

Trixie tried to hide in her talents and loneliness rather than deal with the reality of her life. It took several long talks with Twilight Sparkle before she was reborn, grew into a better pony by learning all about friendship, trust and individuality within a group. And before long, she could declare "I, I WANT TO BE A PART OF MY FAMILY! I want to be The One And Only Trixie whose loved for her performance! I want to be a great magician whose magic is remembered and respected after I'm gone! And and ... I want to be loved by my FRIENDS!" The final acknowledgment of her new reality as something better.

Luna was forced to be the Only Sane Man when Discord ruined Equestria, even discording Celestia, and so was witness to all the absurdities of his reign. She even contemplated returning to be Nightmare Moon to try to stop him. Yet after seeing how Celestia treated her former conspirators with mercy, she realized that she had to take responsibility for her actions as Nightmare Moon as she was mostly responsible for them, and chose to feign madness while she found the one thing that could save the world: Twilight's friendship letters. She sent each of them and saved the world. Afterward, she sought to allow the reality of her actions be accepted and forgiven, while assisting her sister and conversing on how they wanted to change Equestria. Luna also wanted to have the absolute approval of Pip forever, but eventually had to accept that doing so would be hurting him, and that as a Goddess, she needed to admit her limits, and allow the realities of life to run their course. Note: all this is technically optional canon, but still hinted at in the main stories.

Twilight Sparkle had her Darkest Hour when her friends abandoned her against Discord, and thus thought she wouldn't need to deal with her element being compromised after the fact. (Her element being the Magic of Friendship) While Lesson Zero showed that she still needed some therapy to help with her compulsion for order, her real challenge was on deciding whether other ponies could learn about friendship. But it was more than that. During the crisis, she was confronted with the possibility of her friends changing from their original selves, and she tensely watched as each of her friends slowly grew to be something different from what they originally were. This lead up to her greatest challenges in being confronted with the problems of Trixie and Fluttershy. Somehow, simple magic couldn't overcome Trixie's problems, and Twilight felt responsible to help Trixie through her problems. In her work helping Trixie's Case study, Twilight got to understand the importance of Friendship by seeing a pony like herself. It also lead to a surprise because Trixie had her own unique element of magic as well. In taking on the role of teacher, she grows more free in beginning to grow towards the role she might be destined to reach (according to Applejack's visions). Yet perhaps her most important friendship lesson was learned in her confrontation with Fluttershy over her Load-Bearing Hero shadow form. It was a lesson on the nature of suffering, and how friendship is in the now, and that it can and will last as long that others try to maintain it, perhaps the essence of all her lessons put into one epiphany, and accepting this reality is what finally allowed Twilight to admit her new freedom.

Fluttershy, OH MAN! Fluttershy had perhaps the most dramatic re-harmonizing of all. Originally just challenged by her Shadow Archetype Fluttercruel, she sang that being into submission as a Badass Pacifist, slowly teaching "Cruel" the ways of caring and kindness. Fluttershy even allowed Fluttercruel to come to the surface when more certainty and force was needed. Yet it was when Fluttercruel had her rebellion of mind that the great trouble arose. Confronted by the "cruel" realities of Nature, and how ponykind might have essentially invented self-sacrifice, Fluttershy initially broke something within herself, becoming a Load-Bearing Hero of Epic proportions. She took all the pain, prejudice, knowledge, hate and sin of Equestria upon herself, transforming her into a Reality Warper called Nightmare Whisper, hidden under the pretenses of what appears to be a sweeter/perfect "Princess Gaia". It took every hero every ounce of philosophy and Fluttercruel's intervention to stop Fluttershy's rampage. By accepting that sometimes you need to be Cruel to Be Kind, Fluttershy gained a surprise following, and from it begins to feel more free for it.

Fluttercruel, her shadow self, meanwhile skulked in darkness, seeking to get out and make Fluttershy cruel. Once it happened though, Fluttercruel was confronted by the reality that no matter what, she'd always start as Fluttershy's copy. Trying to teach fluttershy about reality almost sent "cruel" to oblivion without truly teaching Fluttershy what needed to be learned. Yet as The Determinator, Fluttercruel freed herself from oblivion like a hero from darkness. Staring down Nightmare Whisper withe the lesson of being Cruel to Be Kind, "cruel" earned her cutie mark from protecting the other elements of harmony from destruction, and from this radiated the true element of Kindness: helping those who can't help themselves. Though 'Cruel thought this would be her Redemption Equals Death, Fluttershy brought her back, saying that she was her own pony, and that though they would still share a body, Fluttercruel had earned her cutie mark, and that made her real to them. Cruel was so grateful, she resolved to help "shy" for the rest of her life, finally free from her fear and loathing, ready to help in the reality of life.

Both Fluttershy and Fluttercruel eventually had to face the third personality, Flutterage, in their chapter of Butterflies. They had to determine which of them was the origin of this personality, and eventually Fluttershy had to accept that anger, as distinct from hatred, is a useful emotion and part of a complete soul. This entailed not just deciding to take her back, but understanding why, and appears to have rounded her out in a similar way to Pinkie - though, of course, the effects of Iron Will eventually lead for a sudden spike in anger, leading to a four day Heroic B.S.O.D. out of horror for how mean Fluttershy was acting.

Similarly, all the side characters had to confront their fears and sorrow in reality, and while some continued to grow from it, others, well, others still have a ways to go.

Spike needed to realize that if he really wanted to be noticed, he had to conscious in his actions with others, and be willing to be more than just a friend of a friend. From this he becomes the fourth crusader with the cutie mark crusaders, and a mature voice of knowledge and reason within the group.

Silver Spoon had two lessons to learn. First: Having you opinion about world around you is really damn hard. Fighting for a right to have it is firstly is fighting with yourself and only then with those who boss you around. Silver Spoon went a lo-o-ong way to figure out who she was, but since she still is working on it, she became the fourth crusader to better learn for herself. Also, family is super wonderful. After an important talk with the crusaders, Spoon finally realizes how important her family is to her, reconciles with her father, and becomes a much happier and healthier filly for it.

Princess Celestia actually learned much, though from a much older time. When she was younger, she experienced mortal suffering, but thought that her new view gave her leeway to defy the pantheon and unleash the windigos into the world. Overcome with shame and guilt, she wished her own oblivion, but realizing she had wronged her family, she went back and faced judgement: Never to forget, to always carry the burden of action on her head. Further, she is always under the weight of ruling, but thanks to Entropy's mirrors, she is still able to face the truth no matter what.

Zecora learned to be willing to enter into the life of others in Ponyville, and eventually accept help when needed. She even wrote a whole letter in rhyme to tell Celestia all about it.

Finally, Onyx Tiara had some things to overcome as well, particularly Fantastic Racism. Own up to your mistakes, but never lose hope in your still becoming good. Try to expect the best from others, and be prepared to make things right.

On the nature of the Elements of Harmony
According to the series, each of the Elements have at least four "states". 1. The normal one, where it's recently awakened or not stressed. This is what the cast have for most of the first series in general, where it's a main trait of their personality.

2. The "reversed" one, as in their discorded selves. The opposite of the trait is as fundamental to them as the original used to be.

3. The overloaded one, where their personality has focused on the element to the exclusion of almost all else. This comes up a lot in the POV series, from Pinkie running away from her problems by engulfing herself in a constant party, to Nightmare Whisper, and so on. This is generally what leads to a "Nightmaring" state, and may be accompanied by the belief or realization that the element is self-contradictory, at least at some level. Officially, we've seen AJ's, Dash's and Pinkie's versions in AJ's recent Vision Quest, and Shy's version in reality. Rarity... probably would see possessing things as wrong and evil, and Twilight or Trixie going Nightmare may involve over-boosting magic to the point of national devastation, or alternately an overwhelming obsession for friends regardless of the consequences. The question then is, does pride count as a virtue under certain circumstances, and was that what made Luna go Nightmare?

4. The fourth state, one that only Pinkie, AJ and the Flutters have at least partially reached with certainty (there's still an element of uncertainty with the rest of the mane cast). This is a sort of apotheosis, where the element and its' counter-trait are balanced, and an internal harmony and peace is reached. Dash is close, but she hasn't really conquered the overloaded version of herself yet.

The Element of Trust
When talking to Trixie in Second Family, after the others listed off their elements as being important, Twilight mentioned "Trust". And despite how it's not an Element, it's still an important personality trait, which has a normal, reverse, overpowered and apotheosis state like the others.

Normal is obvious, a trusting person. Reverse is someone who refuses to believe anything others say. Overloaded is when a person gives of their heart instantly to anyone, and enacts terrible vengeance on anyone who is even perceived of as betraying them. And Apotheosis is when the person can evaluate the trustworthiness of others, and trust them in return.

I think that's probably the central character trait of Princess Celestia. (Witness her reaction when Twilight messed up! Good thing she wasn't in the overload state mentioned, or Twi would probably be an integral part of Iapetus or something.) This also explains why Nightmare Moon got as far as she did - Celestia's trust was used against her.
  • This analysis is read by the author clearly. Apparently, the elements of harmony were originally 7 elements, but discord crushed the element of trust into powder, forcing the sisters to cheat. Yet the element still exists, just not in physical form.
    • A 7th Element is confirmed in a potential future story. It's Sunset Shimmer.

The series as a meditation on philosophical and ethical principles
The POV series is also extremely meditative on different ethical and moral principles, and touches on quite a few interesting topics.

The Evils of Free Will
The series provides a potential defense of Free Will and Pain. In the fight against Nightmare Whisper, they tried to figure out if it was better to let one pony suffer everything so that all else would be happy. While the conflict ends with a hint of ambiguity, the game changer is that a world without suffering doesn't allow for ponies to grow into something better. Or to use an in-universe term, "Keeping butterflies as caterpillars."

Speaking of Butterflies: freedom of will is a dual power - from one side it can cause us to do horrible things but from another side, it's the same thing with help of which we do great things, it let us choose how to be and how world is going to be. Poor Pinkie, it was hard for her to accept this, especially because the POV world had just become an Alternate Universe. To put some meta-perspective in to this, Pinkie knows very well that the thoughts, words, feelings, actions, memory, personality, past, and future of everyone in the story are all written & controlled by the author. It is not a surprise that she would find the concept of free will hard to swallow. Unless it is the illusion of free will.

Morality Kitchen Sink
The idea of moral complexity is very much used, particularly when it comes to reaching the 4th state of harmony. Applejack was probably the first of the mane cast to realize that on some levels, Discord was right in his accusations, and that there are ways in which their elements can be misused. This ranges from telling a truth with no potential benefit, laughing at someone rather than with someone, how we face a Sadistic Choice in every action we take, to that the magic of friendship can be lost if you don't maintain it since people do and will change. All these are acknowledged and used and even Celestia has admitted to making mistakes.

At another point, the father of all alicorns, in his special conversation with Discorded Applejack, said that life is like a series of Rorschach tests. Good and evil shift and move about, with circumstances changing, and people shifting back and forth over and over in who is a hero and villain, right and wrong over and over again. "What You Think Is 'Black And 'White' Changes With Perspective, But The Pattern Itself Does Not Submit Itself To Your Preferences. A Sin Does Not Become A Good Deed Simply Because The Wrongdoer Has Convinced Herself Her Actions Are Virtuous. And No Choice Is Without Meaning." Life is far from simple, but never let that be mistaken for a lack of real morals in the world.

The question of forgiveness is also constantly over the story, with the questions of Fluttercruel, Diamond Tiara, Silver Spoon, and Trixie all begging the question: "Who deserves forgiveness, and how easily should they get it?"

Finding Joy in the worst of circumstances
In the Discorded pony series, Twilight Tragedy finds herself torn up over a certain Apple Pie and his somehow finding happiness not only despite, but through his reality. The primary reason why Tragedy finds herself unable to reconciles this apparently illogical course of action is because in her mind, tragedy will destroy everything that we might hold dear, hold sacred or hold precious. The "logical" reaction would be to rage and rant at the world, give up, or just sadly accept that there is no hope. This reaction of a joyful sorrow is an assault on Discord's rule because it is essentially the spirit of ponykind saying, "We don't have to play exactly by your game. We won't give in to despair, though we might be brought down by you. We will react naturally to tragedy through sorrow, grieving and sadness, but always underneath all this is a joy in living." This joy in living, not in spite of, but THROUGH the lemons of life is perhaps the most difficult thing for tragedy to wrestle with, and perhaps why according to some, life is not even so much a tragedy, but a dark yet light comedy. Horrible things happen to us, but it is how we react to them that shows character. Discord lives in the assumption that everyone WILL break. Yet here is a family who is broken, yet still takes life with a pinch of sugar. It is a contradiction of purpose. Discord wishes to break and end it there. Yet the spirit lifts and rebuilds and tempers in fire, and that's why Discord can never truly win so long as that persists. Tragedy feels like it is an assault, because it is an attack on how she has closed her heart to everything to protect herself."

Letting go of the past.
Those who cling on to the past in the Pony POV Series, be it wanting to return to the past or revenge over a past grievance, ultimately end up losing sight of the future. The main characters in Dark World conclude that trying to restore the past would be an extremely selfish decision, requiring disturbing the dead and completely disregarding the desires and fate of those alive in the present; while the mysterious voice clearly has an obsession with revenge over a past grievance, to the point of being willing to self-destructively sacrifice everything she and others still have instead of just moving on.

This can be extended far beyond the dark world too, as many, many ponies have to deal with this problem. The first one probably being Rainbow Dash and coming to terms with her betrayal of the elements. Or Pinkie Pie needing to come to terms with who she was and how it affects who she is now. Or much darker, Diamond Tiara wanting her mother back, when the way she'd get her back is repulsive and awful. Interestingly enough, this idea while still wholly embraced, is dealt with in a balanced way, as Celestia in talking to Rainbow Dash about her confessing to Cloudsdale that pretending that something bad never happened can be as bad as tourturing yourself, as it is one way you can separate your heart from others, but that it is still something an individual must make on their own.

     The POV Series, and Christianity 
The Pony POV series, is just dripping with Christian principles, ideas and imagery. Some of it seemed a bit more subtle towards the beginning, but by the time of the dark world, its presence in the story is unmistakable.

Disclaimer: All this is part speculation, part observation, so feel free to take it with a grain of salt.

On the surface, this idea seems preposterous, since the POV universe is a pantheon of "lawful" and "chaotic" gods. Draconequi and Alicorns. And 4 elders which at are embodiments of high end concepts. However, on closer inspection, the alicorns are embodying some of the more positive aspects of life, and The Father Of All Alicorns and his mate Fauna Luster are an entirely other story.

Fauna Luster is described as being "Life itself". Being Empathy incarnate, apparently her life force is laced in the elements of harmony, and her very presence ends the oblivion that was the Windigos. Considering the wording when the fires of friendship (which is fueled by the atomic weight of a proton of her power), it's described "One flicker of light from three little ponies filled the entire darkness." Though not overt, this could be alluding to the famous passage on how "The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."

The Father Of All Alicorns on the other hand, is, for lack of a better term, a "modern" view on what being in the presence of God is like. The father has many names due to his original name being unpronounceable to mortals. He Who Is All And All Is Him', 'The Universe', 'Father Of All Alicorns', 'The Fifth Concept,' 'The Hierophant', 'Wisdom,' 'Sanity,' 'The Perfect Existence,' 'Reality,' 'The Spirit World.' This could be a play on the idea that the Trinity in Christianity is ascribed many names by the devoted. (King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Name above All Names, The Lamb, etc.) Further, The Father is also described as being larger than life, but also not that big, and that being near him makes one feel more valuable than anything. In fact, he contains Pony Heaven within him. This is a lead into the idea that one can never feel truly complete until the day they fall into the arms of the Lord who loves them more than sex (in one cruder explanation). This also plays into the idea that despite how big God might be, he can still relate somehow to us.

The Father is a being who loves all things, and sees everything as important, and as of such, would like everyone to be a part of his life rather than end up spending eternity with Havoc or Entropy. However, the Father also will not force a soul to be his, and so has a simple condition for joining him: "Admit your mistakes and be willing to accept Forgiveness" Just that, and anyone can be given a spot. This, well, in universe admittedly low bar is...questionable to say the least. However, it's still a very Christian idea (particularly a liberal christian view) that so long as people are willing to let go, they are still able through God's grace to reach heaven. Even Luna admitted as such, as she mentally noted when talking with Zecora that even if a sentient being believed in something other than heaven (such as Reincarnation), they'd still get a chance in the afterlife to repent.

There's also the fact that their Black Sheep brother Morning Star was intended to be an embodiment of perfection and beauty, but ended up desiring to rule over all the elders, and was imprisoned/cast out for his revolt. This is the story of Satan in a nutshell, the fact that the term "morning star" is used here makes it more obvious.

As for how this affects the mortal characters? Well, for one thing, there's some references to characters being Saints. This is particularly evident in the Dark World which is kind of like our world on steroids in terms of bad things happening. However, despite it all, there is still people who cling to hope and seek to make right the darkness no matter the cost. There are even truths about a certain mare named Saint Applebloom who did so much good that she was canonized in her families, and even became an avocate for the Father after death. Further, Applejack of the Dark World becomes VERY religious after her experience with the father. Praying, taking confessions and the like.

And of course, there's the idea proposed by C. S. Lewis that by doing away with a virtuous code, we pick one virtue and raise it above the others as alternate forms of morality. This by definition is what Nightmares are: taking one idea, and raising it above the rest.

TBC. -Eric W

Discord's 'daughters'

The irony is that looking back it is almost like Fluttercruel and Nightmare Eclipse BOTH are Discord's daughters.

Fluttercruel reflected most of his weaknesses (his arrogance, his tendency to talk when it is time to finish others, his torture of the helpless, his tendency to make decisions too quick without thinking about the consequences and his reputation as a complete monster) as Nightmare Eclipse did reflect his strengths (his ability to corrupt others, his ability to create unwinnable games, his ability to stay back in the background when needed like when he waited for Twilight's friends to break her, his ability to appear not as dangerous as he really is and his raw power). And both were completely fixated on Discord, Fluttercruel in her love and Nightmare Paradox in her hate.

Chrysalis's ideal future world!!!

The majority population of Discord's world had to live in a violent, ever changing world but had free will. While the citizens of Chrysalis world seems to have the opposite, a peaceful, fair life in exchange for neither free will or intelligence. Without seeing the cattle's condition and feelings about their lifestyle it is hard to say if Chrysalis's world is worse than the Discord's Dark World or not.

From the short peek, the cattle are all semi-mindless (capable of giving love and working). Otherwise how else would Changelings eat and take care of the land? Sweetie Belle at least seems like a fair ruler and Discord seems trapped forever. Hard to say what the cattle feels about this new lifestyle but most Changelings probably love being free to roam the land, and not hide their true selves to the public. On the other hand, Celestia and Luna and some other non-evil deities are trapped in a fate worse then death.

Discord loved causing misery and suffering to the whole planet but did in a very random, not specific way. He never targeted a single race or country and allowed the majority to at least have free will. After centuries of his rule, ponies began to adapt to his chaos and unless you were unlucky enough to be personally visited by Discord or the Chaos 6, the chaos became an inconvenience to most ponies. However, in the beginning of his rule, Discord killed thousands of people until he had to restraint himself, for fear of destroying all his toys. But if Nightmare Eclipse didn't intervene, Discord would have probably gotten bored with Equestrian (after few thousand years, give or take) and moved to another planet/world/whatever. Leaving Equestrian alone and peace or possibly inherited by the Valeyard (which would probably be even worse).

Discord's and his "daughter" coping mechanisms and a reason why they find being forgiven offensive.

WARNING: Spoilers. Also, I'm not necessarily right about any of this.

It started in The Last Battle arc, when Discord and Diamond Tiara responded in anger with to being forgiven: "" Which raised the question: Why do they find being forgiven so offensive? I mean, most people who feel guilty generally speaking feel relieved that they've been forgiven. So, the question "Well, what was it?" kind of spilled over into trying to understand what each of them are coping with.

In Discord's case.

While it's obvious that his family will punish him for everything, he has been given a chance by Celestia to live peacefully around them, which he doesn't seem to want to take. And thing is, I believe Discord is a selfish bastard to put it lightly, so I don't think he would prioritize other's happiness over his own, however I'm pretty sure he still remembers his time as Dissy, and he was happy then. With that in mind, I think he doesn't have any faith in the prospect of him being happy with being friends with the princesses, hence why he keeps on his cruelties (besides the power trip obviously); he uses to reaffirm to himself that:

A). He's happy being a bastard (remember the power trip?), destroying any doubts in the process.

B). That him being happy, in a situation where he is friends with the princesses, is at best wishful thinking and at worst a delusion, so he can ignore the possibility by trying to ensure it never rises back from its ashes, justifying a lack of change and quenching any fears.

C). He doesn't have to deal with the "slight" just "slight" possibility that he's been a dick all this time. After all, if being good is futile, then he doesn't have to fear the possibility that he could all this time, and so, in his head, he never wasted a chance at happiness, avoiding guilt, squashing his fears, erasing his doubts through denial.

Which leads me to the reason I think he finds being forgiven offensive: When they tell him; "I forgive you", he's not hearing; "Dude, I don't want your life to get worse, and I don't want to keep on fighting/punishing you forever, I want us both to get the best deal we can, so would you let me do that? Please.", instead he's hearing; "Dude, don't bother trying to be happy. I never liked you for who you are and I never will. So you do what I want! What you want doesn't matter anyway!" (Yes, I realize that the only way for what he's hearing to be a reality is when the context gets ignored. Though, I'd chalk that one up to cognitive distortions.)

In Diamond Tiara's case.

She HATES herself, she thinks she's poison to everything and everyone she touches, yet she wants to stop her mother from becoming the universe's hate sink, and has more than once looked after other versions of herself, and this is despite the fact that she doesn't believe in self-determinism.

Well, you know, when you don't actually have a choice, you don't have to feel responsible for what you do or don't do: "I made the CMC hate me! Well, I didn't have a choice", "I nearly killed my best friend! Well, I didn't have a choice", "I caused the apocalypse! Well, I didn't have a choice", so on and so forth, which actually isn't her coping mechanism: Her coping mechanism is her defiance of that, which leads to her self-hatred being re-affirmed in contradiction to her kinder actions.

Since her excuse for not even considering her mother's input to the point where it looks more like what she wants to do, rather than what her mother wants her to do, is that remaining the hate sink keeps her mother from becoming the Hate Sink, but at the same time it doesn't make neither her or her mother happy, and in fact it just reaffirms her reasons to hate herself, she finds herself in a position where:

A). She can stave off from feeling like she destroyed and lost her one chance at happiness, and have the perfect excuse to stay away from the people whose presence invokes those feelings by reaffirming her "evilness" (read: self-hatred). After all, if she always was what she says she is, then the chance never existed in the first place, Or if it's now gone forever, then she has no incentive to provoke a change of behavior or to let her doubt herself.

B). She can find a reason to keep on going by trying to save her mother from becoming the Hate Sink, while simultaneously relieving herself from her misplaced guilt over driving her mother over the edge.

C). She gets to turn the "I don't have a choice" rhetoric into a choice in and of itself, hence why not having a choice doesn't seem to bother her.

D). She can ignore the possibility that if she keeps this on, her beliefs about herself and her life will soon become reality unless she drops it, (the only reason it hasn't happened already is because the CMC+1 haven't given up on her).

So back to the original question: Why does she find being forgiven offensive? Well, I think she's hearing the following whenever they tell her that she's been forgiven: "Oh don't bother saving your mother, she's not worth the effort! And you ARE the reason you don't have a choice to be happy to begin with! By the way, your misery makes your mother miserable!" (I know they never implied any of that, this how I imagine it sounds to her like, because she knows her situation better than they do, so she knows what it implies and they don't.) Which makes it harder for her to keep coping.

Both of them are coping with squandered chances at being happy, or more specifically the fear, doubt and guilt that comes with losing said chances. The difference between them is that one doesn't believe it will do him any good, the other believes it's not there anymore. One acts in the name of preserving his own happiness (and that's getting increasingly difficult thanks to Diamond), the other acts in the name of preserving everyone else's happiness at her own expense to a rather unhealthy degree and misguidedly at that. Both of them have a degree of denial about the better options, and in-short, their cynicism is keeping them both unhappy.