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Characters / Friendship Is Magic: King Sombra

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https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/mlp_resource__king_sombra_01_by_zutheskunk-_837.png
King Sombra in his pony form.
https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/king_sombra__s_shadow_by_fercho262-d5kfka0_5042.png
King Sombra in his shadow form.
"Long live the king."

Voiced by: Jim Millernote  ("The Crystal Empire – Part 2"), Alvin Sanders ("The Beginning of the End")

A cruel unicorn who took over the Crystal Empire and enslaved its inhabitants 1000 years ago, and declared himself its King. Celestia and Luna banished him and turned him into a living shadow, but not before he cursed the Crystal Empire to vanish with him. During the events of the show, the Crystal Empire returns and brings Sombra's spirit with it, and he attempts to complete his resurrection and continue what he started — the conquest of the Crystal Empire and then all of Equestria.

In the tie-in comics by IDW, Sombra was taken in a very different direction. In this continuity it is revealed Sombra is not a real pony, but a "shadow pony" created by the Umbrum, creatures of darkness that wished to infiltrate and destroy the Crystal Empire. Sombra grew up in the Empire alongside Radiant Hope, a unicorn that seemed destined to be a Princess, while Sombra had a vision that his destiny was to become a monster. When he learned about his origins, he embraced his evil nature and became the Evil Overlord seen on the show. The four-issue story arc "Siege of the Crystal Empire" focused on Sombra after Radiant Hope resurrected him.

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The comics focusing on Sombra predated Season 9, when the showrunners ignored the comics and had the still-deceased Sombra resurrected by Grogar to join his Legion of Doom. Sombra was arrogant and laughed at the idea of cooperation when he felt he could take over Equestria by himself, so Grogar allowed him to attempt just that. Though he got pretty far, Sombra was defeated and destroyed by Twilight and her friends, this time for good.

The show and comic depictions of Sombra are drastically different in characterization and their stories involving him after Season 3 are incompatible in continuity, so tropes specific to one depiction or the other have been sorted into separate folders.


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    Both continuities 
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: He is one in "The Crystal Empire", continuously advancing towards the empire he once ruled.
  • And I Must Scream: Been on both ends of it. Celestia and Luna inflicted this upon him by turning him to living shadow and sealing him in ice for a thousand years. This was because his reign over the Crystal Ponies amounted to this for the poor things.
  • Animalistic Abomination: Even setting aside the explanation for his origins that the comics give, Sombra has a few traits that mark him as distinctly more monstrous than normal; he has charcoal grey fur with an ethereal black mane and tail, no Cutie Mark, an upward-curved red horn, red eyes with rhombus-shaped pupils, and fangs. He can also turn into a living shadow-like form at will.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: While not a literal example like Discord, story-wise Sombra is treated as an embodiment of fear. This is reflected in the Crystal Ponies, who shudder at the memory of him and cower and flee when he returns.
  • The Archmage: Sombra is one of the most powerful unicorns in the setting, possibly even rivalling the likes of Starswirl the Bearded. In both the show and the comics, he can go horn-to-horn with alicorns and hold his own against them, and he's a master of Black Magic, something that's implied to be very difficult for non-alicorns to use.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: He took over the Crystal Empire and declared himself king by force, and none of the Crystal ponies were strong or brave enough to challenge him.
  • Bad Powers, Bad People: He's a tyrant conqueror who uses dark unicorn magic powered by negative emotions. In the comics, Sombra's awakening of his shadow powers comes hand-in-hand with him embracing his evil nature, he loses his ability to use them when he is purified and reforms.
  • Black Magic: Sombra's unique brand of magic is powered by hatred and fear, and when Celestia and Twilight use it, their eyes glow green with dark shadows emitting from them.
  • Casting a Shadow: His powers have a general aesthetic of darkness and shadows, and Sombra himself is able to transform into a living shadow.
  • Cool Crown: He is a king, after all, so it's only natural he has one.
  • The Corruption: Contact with him sealed off Shining Armor's magic. Later, when a fragment of his own horn is cut off and lands inside the barrier, he uses it to spread a plague of dark crystals over the Crystal Empire despite being unable to enter himself. The sole purpose of his dark magic seems to be corrupting and controlling the crystals of the Crystal Empire.
  • Crazy-Prepared: He doesn't actually do much in "The Crystal Empire", because he doesn't need to — he pre-emptively took great measures to make sure nopony could find the Crystal Heart. The Heart was hidden in a room atop his castle, which the Crystal Ponies were afraid to enter, and the Heart was rigged with an alarm that immediately alerted Sombra if anypony approached it. And then, getting to the room with the Heart requires climbing an impossibly-long staircase that would take hours to summit, the door to the staircase is protected by an illusion spell that shows anypony who tries to step through it a vision of their worst fear instead of letting them pass through, and the passage to the door is hidden by another illusion spell that can only be dispelled with Sombra's brand of Black Magic, which is very dangerous and very difficult for anypony else to try conjuring. Finally, he erased all memory of the Crystal Heart's existence from the minds of the Crystal Ponies and destroyed any written records of its existence.
  • Creator Cameo: His few lines and other noises in "The Crystal Empire" were provided by storyboard supervisor "Big" Jim Miller.
  • Dark Is Evil: He's a self-style Evil Overlord, The Dreaded among the crystal ponies, and uses Black Magic.
  • The Dark Times: His rule over the Crystal Ponies, as explained by Celestia, is outright slavery (see his above quote). Even after being freed, the Crystal Ponies shudder in fear at the memory of his rule.
  • Depending on the Writer: Perhaps the most famous example in the show. In the comics, Sombra's backstory was built out to reveal that he was a Tragic Villain, a pony who discovered he was literally Made of Evil and was created to destroy the Crystal Empire for the Umbrum, a destiny he hated even as he resigned himself to going along with it. In the show, Sombra's backstory is not given much more depth, but his expanded characterization in later seasons depicts him as a Card-Carrying Villain who seeks to conquer and rule Equestria, and he's emphasized to be a cunning and arrogant schemer who could actually pull it off unless he's quickly stopped.
  • The Dreaded: The Crystal Ponies don't want to remember his rule, and shudder in fear at the thought of it. This is why he hid the Crystal Heart in his palace; he knew they'd be too afraid of him to look for it there.
  • Ermine Cape Effect: In his physical form, he wears a red ermine-trimmed cape.
  • Evil Makes You Monstrous: He has a sharp, curved, red horn that looks like a dagger, red eyes with slitted reptilian pupils, fangs, and an ethereal black mane. When using his magic, the sclera of his eyes turns from the standard white to an eerie glowing green with toxic purple mist wafting from them.
  • Evil Overlord: He's a tyrannical slavemaster ruling the Crystal Empire.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Has extremely powerful black magic.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: He has a very deep voice in Season 3; not as deep in Season 9, but still deep.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: Used his powers to convert the Crystal Castle into this during the peak of his villainy. And it remains his best weapon during his Present Absence, courtesy of some tricky Black Magic effects and traps that he preemptively rigged it with.
  • Eye Motifs: The imagery of Sombra's glowing red and green eyes is a recurring symbol of his. In his shadow form at first the only recognizable feature is his eyes (later he's able to form a proper head), when the Crystal Ponies try to remember their past and remember Sombra, they're shown to see a vision of his eyes, and those under the influence of his dark magic, either channelling it or being subject to his spells, have their own eyes glow green like his. In a Bad Future where he almost conquers Equestria glimpsed in Season 5, his brainwashed soldiers wear helmets that give them the same glow.
  • Fangs Are Evil: Even creepier because this guy is supposed to be a unicorn.
  • Fisher King: Under the influence of his dark magic, the sky turns dark and all the shiny crystals in the Empire turn jet black. In addition, his reign causes fear and hatred to resonate throughout all of Equestria, amplified by his dark crystals.
  • Flat Character: In his Season 3 debut, he has only a handful of lines which are only a couple words each, leaving interpretation of his character down to reading through his actions. The show and the comics later expand his characterization considerably, though going in entirely opposite directions.
  • Gemstone Assault: Can create jagged, dark crystals.
  • Genius Bruiser: Sombra is an extremely powerful unicorn, possibly on the level of alicorns even. He's also a very clever plotter who comes up with impressive plans to defeat his enemies without necessarily needing to resort to fighting them himself.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: His eyes glow green and are trailed by a purple aura.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: His crystals are colored black in contrast to the technicolor crystals found in the empire.
  • Good Hurts Evil: Can be repelled by Cadance's shield of light and love, and contact with it cuts him like a blade. By contrast, normal ponies are completely unaffected by contact. His greatest weakness is the Crystal Heart, a relic that reflects light, love, and hope across the Empire, and its light (mostly) obliterates Sombra.
  • Guttural Growler: In his first appearance, he doesn't speak much aside from growls and snarls.
  • Hellish Pupils: He has rhombus-shaped pupils, and instead of being black, his are red.
  • I Know What You Fear: One of his signature powers is the ability to cast illusions that show his enemies their deepest fears.
  • Large and in Charge: His shadow form's full self is massive, surrounding the entire Crystal Empire. And his pony form is about the same size as Celestia.
  • Living Shadow: His state when he begins his first revival is to return as one of these, before he reforms his own body. The show and the comics both show him able to shift in and out of such a form at will.
  • Magical Eye Streamers: One of his most distinctive physical features is the pair of streamers of purple smoke that trail from the corners of his eyes, one of the signs that he is not a regular pony anymore. This trait is extended to any being under the influence of his dark magic.
  • Meaningful Name: "Sombra" means "shadow" in Spanish, Portuguese, and Galician, which perfectly fits Sombra's powerset and appearance as a Living Shadow. It also sounds like "somber", reflecting the reign of fear and oppression he enforced on the Crystal Empire during the brief time he ruled it.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: For all the reasons given under Meaningful Name, a pony named "Sombra" certainly doesn't sound like a heroic figure.
  • One-Man Army: While he does like to use an army when he can get one, Sombra really doesn't need one — he's got Anti-Magic strong enough to nullify an alicorn's powers, can take over the minds of normal ponies, can create powerful fear illusions, and is very durable and hard to inflict harm on. Without the Elements or a comparable power like the Crystal Heart handy, there's not much the heroes can do to stand against him.
  • The Power of Hate: According to Celestia, his magic is based off of fear and hatred.
  • Power Nullifier: He seals Shining Armor's magic during their encounter, which keeps Shining from using his shield spell to help to keep him out. And his last trap is an Anti-Magic Crystal Prison that prevents Twilight from just teleporting away with the Crystal Heart.
  • Race Against the Clock: In "The Crystal Empire". Cadance's shield is the only thing keeping him out of the Crystal Empire, and she's getting tired. The two-parter concerns the characters finding out about the Crystal Heart and then trying to find it before Cadance's strength fails and Sombra is able to get inside her shield spell.
  • Red and Black and Evil All Over: He's got a black body and a red horn and cape, and he's not a nice fellow.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: A literal case, as simply remembering his eyes causes one of the Crystal Ponies to shudder. When he's enraged, the red overlaps the green, turning his entire iris and pupil red.
  • Scary Black Man: A large, dark stallion whose I Know What You Fear powers make the "Scary" part literal. He's also The Silent Bob, complete with a Badass Baritone whenever he does speak.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Was turned into a Living Shadow and imprisoned in the northern ice by Celestia and Luna. They were at least more thorough than with Discord.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: He ruled the Crystal Empire for a time and was extremely skilled with magic and traps.
  • Supernatural Is Purple: His eyes are constantly trailed by a purple aura.
  • Taking You with Me: As he was being sealed, he cursed the Crystal Empire to disappear for 1000 years.
  • Tin Tyrant: He wears metal armor in his unicorn form.
  • Trap Master: He protected the Crystal Heart within the castle with numerous different kinds of protective spells in an effort to make sure nopony could ever get to it.
  • Walking Spoiler: For the show and the comics, by virtue of the fact he comes Back from the Dead after the events of "The Crystal Empire" and takes a central role in another major story arc.
  • Walking Wasteland: Can spread shadows and dark crystals to affect the land around him.

    Show continuity 
  • 0% Approval Rating: As the lengths he goes to maintain control of the Crystal Empire condemns its inhabitants to a life of never-ending misery and he makes them unable to remember anything about life before his reign, yeah that's inevitable.
  • Always Someone Better: Out of all of Grogar's Legion of Doom, Sombra seems to easily be the one with the most powerful (innate, unaugmented) abilities. Yet as powerful as his magic is, he doesn't even register as an annoyance against Discord, who's essentially a Physical God.
  • Arc Villain: Of "The Crystal Empire" and "The Beginning of the End".
  • Back from the Dead:
    • He's revived by Grogar's magic. It doesn't stick; Sombra eventually gets Reduced to Dust thanks to the Magic of Friendship used by the Mane Six, and this time, he doesn't come back.
    • He makes a further return in the second My Little Pony Transformers crossover comic, "The Magic of Cybertron", revived after Twilight accidentally strikes one of his dark crystals with a magic beam.
  • Big Bad Wannabe: He ultimately serves as this during "The Beginning of the End". Sombra does manage to accomplish quite a bit — he destroys the Elements of Harmony and the Tree of Harmony with his dark crystals, and manages to conquer both the Crystal Empire and Canterlot with little effort. However, it's made clear that Discord could have beaten Sombra any time he wanted, and the only reason Discord held back was to prove a point. By the end of the episode, Sombra ends up Deader Than Dead, Reduced to Dust by the Mane Six and their Magic of Friendship. Grogar predicted this would happen, and uses Sombra's failure as a warning to the rest of his Legion of Doom not to go against his plan, ultimately making Sombra nothing more than an example. Even Sombra's destruction of the Tree of Harmony only helped to make it stronger come "Uprooted", where it grows into the Treehouse of Harmony thanks to the Young Six. This ultimately means Sombra's attempt to Take Over the World actually made things worse for the bad guys.
  • Big Entrance: Sombra really knows how to make a dramatic entrance, as shown in pretty much every one of his appearances.
  • Big "NO!": Twice during "The Beginning of the End".
    • In Part 1, he yells this when Cadance recovers the Crystal Heart.
    • In Part 2, it's the last thing he says before being vaporized by the magic of friendship.
  • Bizarre Taste in Food: After brainwashing the Cakes, he has them bake him a black licorice fruitcake to celebrate his conquest of Equestria. Pinkie despairs that it's the worst cake she's ever seen.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Twice in "The Beginning of the End — Part 2".
    • He traps the Mane Six in a ring of crystals, but intentionally passes up the chance to turn them into his brainwashed slaves, preferring instead to leave them with their "greatest fear" of him conquering Ponyville. This gives the Mane Six the chance to escape and ultimately defeat him.
    • After seemingly wounding Discord, he simply stands there and mocks the Mane Six as they tend to him, rather than take the opportunity to attack them while they're distracted.
  • Canon Discontinuity: His return in season 9 invoked this on his appearances in the comics, which brought him back much earlier, and took him in a very different direction.
  • Characterization Marches On: In his vastly expanded screentime in "The Beginning of the End", King Sombra is characterized as being more pompous and self-indulgent than he was in "The Crystal Empire", where he was more creepy and far less talkative.
  • The Chessmaster:
    • The steps he took to keep the Crystal Heart from being found in the first place imply that he considered ponies of all races to be able to find it. In fact, most of the threat that he poses is a result of his actions before the episode even started.
    • In "The Beginning of the End", he weaves a fairly complex plan for taking out the Bearers. His conquest of the Crystal Empire is a feint — by taking over the Empire, he draws the Bearers into taking the Elements and coming to obliterate him, obfuscating his true goal and letting himself lose their encounter in order to make them think they have won and let their guard down. When the main characters think they have defeated him, he follows them to the Tree of Harmony, destroys the Elements at their source, and takes out the chief threat to his conquest of Equestria. His plan relies heavily on the main characters behaving as he predicted and tricking them into thinking that they actually defeated him the first time — and it works.
  • Cursed With Awesome: Played with. Turning him into living darkness was Celestia and Luna's doing, though whether he's more powerful in this form than in his true form is anyone's guess. On one hand, he's less of a flesh-and-blood pony and more of a malevolent force of nature, which makes him much harder to fight directly. On the other hand, he's little more than a beast in shadow form while his Crazy-Prepared status suggests he was far more intelligent before.
  • Deader Than Dead: His second death in "The Beginning of the End". While he was broken apart into pieces by the Crystal Heart in his first appearance, the second time sees the Mane Six using the Magic of Friendship to obliterate Sombra so thoroughly that he's Reduced to Dust. He never appeared in the series again after this happened, making him gone for good with no chance of resurrection.
  • Death by Irony: He ends his first appearance by being obliterated by his former slave race.
  • Death Cry Echo: Instead of the Big "NO!" previous villains were accustomed to using.
  • Death Glare: He has one so terrifying that the Crystal Ponies shudder just thinking about it.
  • Demonic Possession: In the "Magic of Cybertron" miniseries, he possess the body of the giant Transformer Scorponok, intending to use its power to enslave entire worlds.
  • Demoted to Dragon: Defied in Season 9, where he refuses to work for Grogar and runs off to fight Equestria on his own.
  • Despotism Justifies the Means: Unlike Discord, he sees his victims as slaves instead of playthings and goes to great lengths to maintain control of the Crystal Empire and keep the Crystal Ponies under his hoof through fear and dark magic.
  • Didn't See That Coming: What repeatedly spoils Sombra's plans is that he overlooked a small detail that unravels everything.
    • In "Return of the Crystal Empire", his traps only seemed to account for somepony coming to look for the Crystal Heart alone. Because Spike accompanies Twilight, he's first able to snap her out of Sombra's illusion spell, and then when she's trapped by Sombra's Crystals, she's able to pass the Crystal Heart to Spike so he can get it to Cadance.
    • In "The Beginning of the End", Sombra seemingly predated the Elements of Harmony, or at least doesn't know the Mane Six are their wielders. He thinks that because the Crystal Heart is under his control, nothing can hope to stop him, and then the Mane Six storm in with the Elements and blast him. While he makes a comeback by destroying the Elements and the Tree of Harmony, he doesn't realize the six embody the virtues of the Elements and don't need the gemstones themselves to call on their power, which they do to destroy him a second time.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: He sets up as this for the final season, as he's the first villain the Mane Six have to face before Chrysalis, Tirek, and Cozy Glow.
  • Evil Counterpart:
    • To the Crystal Heart (and thus Cadance). He's a being of shadow whose magic is fueled by The Power of Hate and fear while the Crystal Heart is powered by the light, love, and hope of the Crystal Empire.
    • "The Cutie Re-Mark" plays him up as one to Celestia in his timeline. They're the leaders of their respective nations in the war for Equestria, they both tower over their subjects, he's dark and male where she's light and female, he's a cruel, merciless tyrant where she's a benevolent and compassionate leader, he seeks to enslave Equestria while Celestia fights to keep this from happening and they're the most powerful fighters and magic-users in their respective sides.
  • Evil Plan: He was banished from his domain and he's back to reclaim it and re-enslave the Crystal Ponies.
  • Evil Tastes Good: Licks his lips in anticipation of whatever he intended to do to Spike when he caught him.
  • Family-Unfriendly Death:
    • He is shattered to pieces in "The Crystal Empire". Even more shocking is if one looks closely, some parts of him hadn't turned to crystal. It's particularly noticeable in that he's the only villain aside from the Windigos to actually be destroyed and unlike with other villains of the show, nothing is said to imply that he's not dead, so we can assume he's Killed Off for Real. You can even see his severed horn flying toward the screen! Word of God confirms that he is dead.
    • He's resurrected in "The Beginning of the End" by Grogar, but ends up getting killed again by the Mane Six wiping him out with the Magic of Friendship. This time, he vanishes into dust as he's hit with a World-Healing Wave and Grogar chooses not to resurrect him again.
  • Fatal Flaw: Pride. He's very confident in his abilities, spurning Grogar's offer of an alliance due to the belief that he can conquer Equestria on his own. While he comes close to succeeding, his refusal to take out the Mane Six when he has the opportunity (believing they're not a threat to him) ends up costing him dearly. When the Mane Six are seconds away from finishing him, he still rants about how their magic can't be a match for his, being completly unable to accept the truth.
  • Generic Doomsday Villain:
    • He is built up as being a huge threat to the Crystal Empire, and is also revealed to have set up an intricate security system to prevent anypony from getting the Crystal Heart in the past, but other than that, his characterization is nonexistent, especially in comparison to the show's other villains, and there is barely any backstory for him to speak of. This isn't helped by him speaking very little and not having any meaningful interaction with the other characters and spends most of the two-parter as more of a wave of blackness rather than an actual character. The show treats him more like a powerful malevolent force than a character in his own right. According to Word of God, he was intended to be more of a menacing and terrifying presence lurking over everything. In other words, fear itself.
    • "The Cutie Re-Mark – Part 1" builds on this a bit by showing a Bad Future where the Mane Six weren't around to stop his return, but this story that explicitly ranks the danger levels of the show's major villains still puts him at the very bottom... though only in the sense that his is the most "normal" world. In Sombra's future, Equestria is slowly being bled dry as Sombra's legions of slave warriors push on to conquer it as he conquered the Crystal Empire — in contrast, Nightmare Moon has placed Equestria under The Night That Never Ends and is implied to be slowly going insane, Chrysalis has enslaved all ponies to use as food and forced the survivors to flee into the Everfree Forest, Discord has turned the world into Cloudcuckooland and Tirek is just laying waste to everything. The only other villains with a similarly vanilla Bad Future are the Flim-Flam Brothers, who've turned Equestria into a polluted, over-industrialized wasteland.
    • This trope is wholly averted during Sombra's second major appearance in the show in "The Beginning of the End", where a fully restored King Sombra is shown to be a very talkative villain and is given a lot more characterization, building on what was already established about his personality. He's confident in his own skills to the point of pompousness and hubris, he loves to taunt his foes about their inadequacies compared to his own strength and humiliate them to destroy their morale, and he's shown to be very cunning and manipulative, lulling his enemies into a false sense of security before striking their most vulnerable points when they least expect it to get ahead.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • He tries to reach Spike and the Crystal Heart by launching into the air on a crystal pillar, reverting back to his pony form in the process (either from regaining strength or simply being close to the Crystal Heart). This leaves him standing on said pillar, several hundred feet in the air without his far more agile Living Shadow form, giving him no way to escape the Crystal Heart's energy wave.
    • Being so horrible to the Crystal Ponies makes it worse. It's why they had no qualms about killing him when the opportunity presented itself.
    • His possession of Scorponok backfires when he realises has no idea how to control the Titan's built-in weapons, leaving him wide open to the pony/Transformer alliance's counterattack.
  • Hulk Speak: Seems to have been a side effect of his long imprisonment or his smoke monster transformation, the ninth season reveals he was once capable of complete speech.
  • I Can Rule Alone: He refuses to work for Grogar, instead opting to conquer Equestria on his own. This ends predictably and disastrously, and Grogar uses him as an example of what happens to those who defy him.
  • Implacable Man: Celestia, Luna, Shining, and Cadance can only delay him without the Heart. Even that doesn't destroy him for good, though, and his spirit eventually reforms.
  • Inexplicably Awesome: While the comics plausibly provide a reason Sombra could be so powerful, in the show he's a normal unicorn. A unicorn who has illusions and anti-magic fields strong enough to affect alicorns like Twilight and Cadance, can even overpower and mind control Starlight Glimmer, and even survive being blasted by the Elements of Harmony, then destroy the Tree of Harmony and shatter the Elements. The only other unicorn that could be compared to his power level is Starswirl the Bearded, but unlike Starswirl, Sombra is never said to be particularly experienced or talented, and there's no explanation for how he's so powerful.
  • It's All About Me: He is the only villain to immediately reject Grogar's idea for a Villain Team-Up, claiming he doesn't do "ours", only "mine", and claims he can defeat the Mane Six himself.
  • Karmic Death:
    • Given his viciousness and the sheer scale of his intended atrocities, it's fitting that he's the only antagonist thus far to die.
    • Double subverted in that he returns alive in Season 9, but gets wasted once again by the Mane Six.
  • Kneel Before Zod: After Sombra conquers the Crystal Empire, he puts Shining Armor, Cadance, and Flurry Heart in chains and orders them to kneel before him. Shining and Cadance comply, Flurry doesn’t.
  • Leitmotif: He has a pretty ominous one. It definitely serves to give what screen time he has a good deal of impact.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: What happens to him upon his first defeat. The Crystal Heart's power overwhelms him, making him explode into several pieces.
  • Make an Example of Them: Grogar doesn't punish Sombra for abandoning the proposed Villain Team-Up, even sending him right to the Crystal Empire to start his attempt to take over the world alone. Grogar allows this knowing Sombra would fail, and uses his Deader Than Dead defeat at the hooves of the Mane Six as a warning to the other villains to not defy him.
  • Man of Kryptonite: He can spawn Power Nullifier crystals seemingly at will.
  • Mighty Glacier: He's extremely powerful, and his Living Shadow form can get large enough to surround an entire kingdom. However, he also moves like an Advancing Wall of Doom, and it seemingly takes him a while to react properly to anything that catches him off-guard; therefore, he excels at things like Crazy-Prepared-ness and Long Games to compensate.
  • Mind Rape:
    • He did this to the Crystal Ponies a thousand years ago. Not only are they incapable of remembering anything before his rule, they're left in a perpetual state of unhappiness and despair. The former is implied to be psychic, but the latter might be mundane, considering his treatment of them.
    • He also booby-trapped the door to the Crystal Heart to do this to whoever tried to enter it, trapping them in a vision of their greatest fear to prevent them from going further.
    • He attempts this on the Mane Six in "The Beginning of the End – Part 1", but the Elements of Harmony allow them to break free.
    • In "The Magic of Cybertron", the ponies and Transformers combine their abilities to force him out of Scorponok. This utterly shatters Sombra's mind, leaving him an Empty Shell who doesn't resist as he's brought back to Equestria.
  • Mysterious Past: Absolutely nothing about his backstory or the reasons behind his great power in pony form is remotely hinted at.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: His destruction of the Tree of Harmony in "The Beginning of the End" doesn't completely kill it so in "Uprooted" it's able to reach out to the Young Six for help and when they build a memorial tree-house from its remains it regenerates and grows into a larger and stronger form with a large tree-house in it. In other words, by breaking the Tree's old form, Sombra ultimately helped the tree gain an even stronger form.
  • No-Nonsense Nemesis: What makes Sombra so dangerous aside from his magical prowess is that he likes to be simple and direct when dealing with obstacles.
    • In "The Crystal Empire", Sombra constantly probes the shield for weaknesses and tries to get inside the moment he finds one. When he senses Twilight approaching the Crystal Heart, he immediately imprisons her inside a field of anti-magic crystals. Then while slowly filling the Empire with his dark crystals and savoring his impending victory, when he notices Spike carrying the Crystal Heart, he makes a beeline straight for him.
    • The Crystal Heart, the one thing that could stop him, was protected extremely well behind numerous different illusion spells conjured by Black Magic, something that very few ponies aside from Sombra know how to use. He also ringed the Heart itself with a protection spell that alerts him the second somepony approaches it, and he took steps to erase all knowledge of its existence from memory.
    • Revived and returned to Equestria in his full power in "The Beginning of the End", Sombra takes over the Crystal Empire in minutes, brainwashing the ponies he finds and making them march behind him as he walks toward the palace and moves in. When he's defeated, he destroys the Elements of Harmony and then heads to Ponyville, brainwashes its inhabitants into a new army, and marches on Canterlot. Along the way, when confronted by powerful ponies he can't control, like Cadance and her family or the Mane Six, he quickly traps them with fear illusions or anti-magic crystals. When confronted by Discord, Sombra just starts blasting magic at him, which only doesn't work because Discord is a Physical God who can neutralize all of his attacks.
  • Not So Above It All: After brainwashing the entirety of Ponyville into becoming his army, Sombra has the Cakes bake him a congratulatory cake.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • He has this reaction to realizing the Crystal Heart is being powered up.
      King Sombra: What? No... no! Stop!
    • He also has this reaction when the Mane Six nullify his dark magic with the magic of friendship after he destroyed the Elements of Harmony.
      King Sombra: How? This shouldn't be possible! Your magic cannot defeat mine! I destroyed the source of your power!
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Despite the Crystal Heart being his Achilles' Heel, it's heavily implied that he didn't just smash it — instead hiding it via all those traps — because he wants to convert it from The Power of Love to The Power of Hate. "The Crystalling" reveals yet another reason that keeping it intact was beneficial to him; without it, he would've lost both his base of operations and his Slave Race to eternal winter.
  • Present Absence: Despite his minor screentime, his Black Magic effects and traps still let him pose a major threat.
  • Reality Warper: He once turned the whole Crystal Empire into a Mordor (and starts to do so again in the present), he made it completely vanish for over an entire millennium, and the layout of his Booby Trapped path to the Crystal Heart shows that he can even create Pocket Dimensions. In "The Beginning of the End," it's revealed that he can also create his Mind Control helmets (first seen in "The Cutie Re-Mark") from thin air.
  • Reduced to Dust: His death in "The Beginning of the End". The Mane Six use the power of friendship to completely wipe him out so that there's nothing left of his body. This time, Sombra's death sticks, as he never reappeared in the series.
  • Refuge in Audacity: How he takes over the Crystal Empire again in "The Beginning of the End". While most other villains scheme and plan ahead of time, Sombra just walks up to the palace and moves in, brainwashing the Crystal Ponies he meets along the way into a new army. Cadance and Shining Armor barely have time to get word to Twilight that he's back before he captures them, and by the time Twilight and her friends arrive, Sombra is lounging on the throne with the royal family in chains.
  • Resurrected for a Job: By Grogar in Season 9. Sombra immediately decides to do his own thing, which ends in his second death.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: In the dark future shown in "The Cutie Re-Mark – Part 1", King Sombra leads his enslaved, brainwashed troops into battle himself, dueling the princesses and their army.
  • Sacrificial Lamb: King Sombra serves as this in "The Beginning of the End" for Grogar's Legion of Doom. Grogar resurrected him and brought him to his lair to recruit him along with Chrysalis, Tirek, and Cozy Glow, but Sombra refused to work with any of them and declared he could win on his own. As a result of his arrogance he is killed once again and his defeat only serves to reinforce Grogar's claim that they can only win by working together.s.
  • Satanic Archetype: His initial takeover of the Crystal Empire (stated to be Equestria's Cosmic Keystone kingdom) was similar to Lucifer's first rebellion in Heaven from Paradise Lost; his subsequent exile (to be sealed underground in ice) reflected the deepest part of Hell from The Divine Comedy; and his Taking You with Me curse upon the Empire reflected Lucifer/Satan's Revenge by Proxy introduction of sin among humanity, and his fearful and depressing Present Absence over the Crystal Ponies was similar to how Satan is described as "prowl{ing} about like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour," both examples being in The Bible.
  • The Silent Bob: A break of tradition from every other villain from before, he surprisingly speaks very little, mainly growling like a monster. At one point during the comics he notes that Queen Chrysalis Talks Too Much. Averted in the final season opener when he becomes much more vocal.
  • Slasher Smile: His default expression.
  • Slave Race: What he turned the Crystal Ponies into. He even calls them his "Crystal slaves" at one point.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: He is very arrogant. When he seemingly defeats Discord, he states that he is more powerful than him, completely ignoring the fact that Discord was clearly winning and Sombra just got in a lucky shot because of him Taking the Bullet for Fluttershy. Even more so when it's revealed Discord was faking defeat.
  • Smug Snake: He arrogantly states to Grogar that he'll take over Equestria alone, with Sombra believing himself to be powerful enough to do so. He was almost right. Throughout the Season 9 premiere, he's very smug and boastful about how easy it was to deceive and overpower the Mane Six, taunting them and their friends at every opportunity, partly to destroy their morale and keep them under his heel, partly to feed his own ego, and partly because he loves making other ponies squirm. When he finds the throne room at Canterlot castle empty, he immediately assumes Celestia and Luna (the ones who defeated him the first time) fled rather than face him, and has no problem believing he is capable of besting Discord.
    Twilight: Discord, I'm so glad you're okay, we can't beat him without you!
    Sombra (smirking): Heh, you couldn't beat me with him either.
  • The Sociopath: Likely to be one one of the biggest in G4 due to his callous regard of anyone else, his cruel treatment of his "Crystal Slaves", the many tricks in the book he used to keep anyone from finding the Crystal Heart, and his obvious enjoyment in trying to kill a child. This is more apparent in Season 9 when he refuses to join Grogar's Legion Of Doom for purely selfish reasons. What's more, unlike the others (Tirek, Chrysalis, and Cozy Glow), he doesn't have a single Pet the Dog or Even Evil Has Standards moment, making one of the few who play this trope completely straight along with the Storm King and Principal Cinch.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": Word of God has confirmed the spelling to be "Sombra" (matching the in-show pronunciation), yet a tweet by Hasbro's My Little Pony Twitter spells it as "Somber" (which proves to be a Meaningful Name in its own right, as "somber" means "unhappy" — much like the Crystal Ponies affected by his spell). Both words ultimately derive from the Latin word "umbra", meaning "shadow".
  • Suddenly Voiced: He's much less of The Silent Bob in "The Beginning of the End," speaking in full, complete sentences and prone to boasting about his strength as a conqueror.
  • Taught by Experience: In "The Magic of Cybertron", he brainwashes half the Mane Six immediately after being revived, his previous defeat teaching him that their combined friendship is required to stop him.
  • They Killed Kenny Again: Compared to the other villains, poor Sombra’s defeats usually involve him being graphically destroyed into oblivion.
  • This Cannot Be!: As he faces his defeat in "The Beginning of The End", he rants that it "can't be possible".
  • Took a Level in Dumbass: In "The Beginning of the End", he's much more gung-ho and overconfident than the patient pragmatist from "The Crystal Empire" and "The Cutie Re-Mark" (though he does briefly slip back into the latter when ambushing the Tree of Harmony). This makes it a lot easier for him to be humiliated by both Grogar and Discord (one and the same, no less), and ends up getting him killed yet again (this time for good, on top of it).
  • Ungrateful Bastard: He shows no gratitude to Grogar for bringing him back to life, dismissing his idea for a Villain Team-Up so he can rule by himself.
  • Villainous Breakdown: In "The Beginning of the End," once the Mane Six manage to nullify his magic without the Elements of Harmony. He actually sounds like he's on the verge of tears as he desperately tries to deny his impending defeat.
  • Villainous Legacy: "Uprooted", which takes place after the season 9 premiere, deals with the loss of the Tree of Harmony from Sombra's actions. Ironically him destroying the Tree's old form helped it get stronger thanks to the Young Six.
  • Would Hit a Girl: He has no problem trying to attack (and possibly kill) Princess Cadance when she and Spike have the Crystal Heart.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Tries to attack (and possibly kill) Spike with absolutely no hesitation once he sees he has the Crystal Heart. He even licks his lips at the prospect of doing so.
    • The opening for season 9 shows him abducting Flurry Heart to get Cadance and Shining Armor to stand down.
  • Xanatos Gambit: His booby-traps to prevent ponies from reaching the Crystal Heart. They keep them out? Good, the one thing that can stop him is out of reach. They reach it? It sets off a trap allowing him to begin growing his dark crystals inside the castle itself, even if he himself can't enter, as well as trapping the pony who found it. Cadance invokes Deflector Shield? He waits until she's too tired to continue. She stops to rest? He reaches the Empire sooner. In fact, even his Establishing Character Moment (in the flashback hologram) was one: If he beats Celestia and Luna, good; but if they beat him, his Dead Man's Switch curse takes the Empire with him and nullifies their victory. In "The Beginning of the End", he feigns defeat at the Mane Six's hooves in order to trick them into letting their guard, allowing him to destroy the Tree and Elements of harmony.
  • You Monster!: Celestia refers to him as having a "heart as black as night." Radiant Hope also says as much when he shatters Princess Amore into pieces, and Sandbar denounces him and Cozy Glow as two ponies worse than Yona.
  • Your Size May Vary: He is taller in "The Cutie Re-Mark" than he is in "The Crystal Empire", although that could just be because of the camera angle.

    IDW continuity 
https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/full_02.png
Click here to see him as a child 
Click here to see him as an Umbrum 
Click here to see him at the end of "Siege of the Crystal Empire" (spoiler warning!) 


  • All of the Other Reindeer: According to FIENDship Is Magic #1, before Sombra learned who he really was, he was just a quiet orphan colt who wasn't very good at talking, and so he got constantly picked on by all of the other foals in the orphanage.
  • Animalistic Abomination: He's a writhing mass of animate shadow, Black Magic and hatred that happens to assume a partially equine form on occasion. According to his back-story comic, he's an offshoot of an entire race of similar Eldritch Abominations called the Umbrum that was sculpted into a pony shape to eventually subvert the Crystal Empire from within, indicting that the living shadow is actually his true form.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: FIENDship Is Magic takes this to the logical conclusion by depicting him as a pony born of darkness and shadow for the purpose of destroying the Empire.
  • Anti-Antichrist: Despite being the Umbrum's Chosen One and Heavy, he hates the destiny they've laid out for him, only accepting it because of his Despair Event Horizon that's sent him into a Then Let Me Be Evil mindset. Hope eventually talks him out of it and he makes a Heel–Face Turn.
  • Anti-Villain: Yes, he's ruthless toward his enemies; but only due to his upbringing, which drove him to invoke Then Let Me Be Evil. And even then, he still has some Even Evil Has Standards moments. He even does a Heel–Face Turn at the end.
  • Arc Villain: Of "Siege of the Crystal Empire".
  • Back from the Dead: He's restored to life during the "Siege of the Crystal Empire" arc.
  • Break the Cutie: He grew up unwanted in the Crystal Orphanage, constantly passed over by potential parents, bullied by all of the other foals at the orphanage, plagued by visions of his becoming an evil monster, painfully paralyzed every year on the Crystal Faire, and finally had his only friend become a princess-candidate, which he realized meant his prophecy was likely to come true as well. When he finally learned where he came from, he just... snapped.
  • Cultured Badass: He's quite the avid reader.
  • Cursed With Awesome: Played with. Turning him into living darkness was Celestia and Luna's doing, though whether he's more powerful in this form than in his true form is anyone's guess. On one hand, he's less of a flesh-and-blood pony and more of a manevolent force of nature which makes him much harder to fight directly. On the other hand, he's little more than a beast in shadow form while his Crazy-Prepared status suggests he was far more intelligent before. However, with FIENDship Is Magic revealing he's a splinter/agent of the Umbrum, he wasn't so much changed into a living shadow as that the shadow is his true form, and Celestia and Luna merely reverted him back to it after he spent so much time disguised as a unicorn.
  • Death Glare: Gives a nasty one to Twilight when she hits Hope by accident.
  • Demoted to Dragon: He's ultimately been just a pawn of his mother Rabia from the beginning.
  • The Emperor: Following his conquest of the Empire and beginning his conquest of Equestria, he prefers to be styled "Emperor" Sombra.
  • Evil Makes You Monstrous: He originally looked like a normal unicorn with green eyes, a normal horn and mane, and no fangs, and took on his familiar form from the show when his mother (via a red crystal) awakened his Umbrum powers. Following his reformation when his powers are purified, he looks normal again.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: He was actually created by a race of Eldritch Abominations called the Umbrum to set them free, so he was technically a Nightmare all along — but he grew up as an orphan foal unaware of his true nature, so this trope is still played straight.
  • Heel–Face Turn: He does so at the end of the "Siege of the Crystal Empire", after realizing he's become the monster he saw in the Crystal Heart from a thousand years prior and Hope making the point to him that she never fulfilled the vision she saw in the Heart, proving that it's possible for him to Screw Destiny.
  • Hulking Out: Heavily implied to be a lot stronger post-escape in "The Crystal Empire" - given his Living Shadow form's hurricane-esque size there - likely making his Hulk Speak there part of this.
  • Humanoid Abomination: He's an Umbrum, a feature of darkness and fear, given form as a pony. Until he's purified and becomes a real pony, anyway.
  • Karmic Death: He turned the previous ruler into crystal and shattered her, making his first defeat at the hooves of Twilight and her friends all the more karmic.
  • Literally Shattered Lives: Pulled this on Princess Amore.
  • Morality Pet: Radiant Hope is this to him; even at the highest peak of his villainy, Sombra still held affection for her and even wanted to rule the Crystal Empire with her.
  • Mortality Ensues: After his Heel–Face Turn at the end of Siege of the Crystal Empire, the Princesses combine their magic to transform him into a normal unicorn so that the Crystal Heart can no longer harm him.
  • Mysterious Past: At first, he was found on the edge of the Empire, repeating the word "Sombra". Even he didn't know where he'd came from, for many years, until he finally found out that he was created by the Umbrum to set them free.
  • No-Nonsense Nemesis: Begins his Face–Heel Turn by invoking a thorough Literally Shattered Lives on Amore, then casting a Dead Man Switch curse on the Empire before Celestia and Luna can even reach him. And once he learns Radiant Hope has the Crystal Heart, he runs off to fight knowing nothing can stop him; he releases the other villains, takes Shining Armor out of the fight, empowers Chrysalis to defeat Twilight and then seals Twilight's magic, and petrifies Celestia and Luna as soon as they let their guard down; and he's the only Umbrum who objects to Rabia's sheer Villain Ball, instead wanting to be safe and finish the heroes ASAP. And any mistakes he does make are due to circumstances and/or Even Evil Has Standards, never Bond Villain Stupidity.
  • Not Quite Dead: His spirit lived on inside the remnant of his horn, allowing Radiant Hope to revive him the "Siege of the Crystal Empire" arc.
  • Orcus on His Throne: He's originally very proactive after his resurrection in the comics, but after he achieves his goals, frees the Umbrum and is rejected by Radiant Hope he is shown simply slumped upon his throne while others make decisions for him. He briefly objects when his mother takes hold of the Villain Ball, but remains otherwise passive and uncaring.
  • Redemption Earns Life: At the end of "Siege of the Crystal Empire", Sombra finally pulls a Heel–Face Turn and makes a Heroic Sacrifice to banish his Umbrum brethren from the kingdom, consigning himself to be killed by the Crystal Heart for a second, permanent time in the process. Ironically, it's that act of genuine contrition that convinces the princesses (who have every reason to hate him) to give the Shadow King a second chance as a real unicorn stallion instead of letting him be destroyed like they would have otherwise.
  • Redemption Equals Death: Surprisingly averted. During the climax of "Siege of the Crystal Empire", Sombra finally has a change of heart and chooses to defy his fate as a world-ending monster by reinitating the Crystal Heart, banishing the Umbrum from the Empire and consigning himself to be killed by the heart's light a second time. Sombra stoically accepts his fate as a proper punishment for being an enslaving tyrant and a killer, and instead feels content that he finally got to see a Crystal Faire and spend a bit more time with Hope. At the last second however, Hope and the princesses revive him as a proper unicorn, forgiving him for his sins and giving him a second chance to forge his own path.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: According to FIENDship Is Magic, his fate is one. He took over the Crystal Empire because he had a persistent vision that it was his destiny, and never really given any indication that he was wrong to think that You Can't Fight Fate. Eventually Radiant Hope points out that the same vision had her as a Princess... which never came true, as she ended up rejecting that destiny. This convinces Sombra that he can do the same, and he accepts his destruction with a smile, but is saved from death and purified to be reborn as a normal pony.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: He gets to be turned into a mortal pony for a second chance at life along with Radiant Hope. In contrast, his canon self is vaporized again in the Season 9 premiere, with no indication that he's coming back for a third round.
  • Then Let Me Be Evil: He actually Used to Be a Sweet Child until an apparent confirmation that You Can't Fight Fate and, in all honesty, little reason to remain on the side of good provoked him into embracing his nature as the Umbrum's avatar.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: The moment he learned he was not truly a pony, but a shadow monster.
  • Uniformity Exception: He has no cutie mark. Mainly because though he was created as a pony, he could never get a cutie mark since he was a shadow pony.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Child: He was a very quiet and meek colt when he was young.
  • The Usurper: He took over the Empire after turning its previous ruler, Princess Amore, to crystal and shattering her.
  • Was Once a Man: Inverted: his backstory has him learn that he was always a shadow monster, he was just stripped of that knowledge and forced into the shape of a unicorn to serve as The Mole. His later transformation into a shadow was just him reverting to his true form.
  • Wicked Cultured: He's revealed to have quite the collection of artifacts and books hidden in a private, Pocket Dimension-like chamber.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Amazingly, despite his pretty-much pure evil incarnate depiction in the show, the comic of his back story makes him out as this. Just a sweet, shy little orphan colt with no idea of where he comes from, bullied by everyone save for his one friend, and never adopted. Then he discovers the truth of his origins and it breaks him; he decides "Then Let Me Be Evil" and embraces his destiny as the dark conqueror of the ponies he once wanted to be friends with.
  • Would Hit a Girl: He had no problem turning Princess Amore to crystal and shattering her in the past.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: The biggest reason he became a monster? Because the Crystal Heart showed him a vision that he would become one.


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