• Editorial: Pratchett and Ponies


    Just so we're clear, old Rincewind there isn't running because Pinkie is scary. That's his reaction to anything new. Kinda like us fans.

    Rather than talk about comics this week, I'd like to share my thoughts on the Discworld series and in particular the story Hogfather. It does tie back in to ponies but in a way I wouldn't have originally thought. 


    Check the full editorial after the break!

    TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME...SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
    - Death in Hogfather


    When Death himself speaks, you’d best listen. This quote is from The Hogfather, a Christmas satire/comedy and part of the Discworld series by the late Terry Pratchett. It’s one of the most powerful quotes I’ve read in his work and it’s stuck with me even as I watch a show about pastel color horses. Sometimes I laugh at the contrast.

    Next editorial: My Little Pony vs Kingdom Hearts!
    Just as soon as I can figure out Kingdom Heart's plot line!

    The Discworld series often features a jaded protagonist who recognizes the world’s imbalanced nature and often acts from a position of selfishness. There are exceptions, but many of the stand-out characters fit this mold. To add some comedic contrast the protagonist is often paired up with a naïve companion or even a whole group who are operating under delusion. Yet in many cases the most cynical characters end up contributing the most to bring some measure of fairness to the world. 

    Is it really fair to make everyone listen to rock poetry? 
    Depends on who you ask.

    Contrasting this against My Little Pony seems a farce. Equestria is a world devoted towards fairness and justice, where even the most egregious yet innocent mistake can’t derail your future. If anything, we’ve seen how prominent some forgiven villains have become. I doubt a pony on the Discworld would last more than a few hours just as a resident of Ankh-Morpork would have a nervous breakdown in Ponyville. 

    Funny to think that even ponies feature stories that stress the virtues they live.

    Yet one of the themes in Hogfather resonates with what I see in our pastel pony presentation. Throughout the book we witness ideas being made manifest. The protagonists journey to the tooth fairy’s fortress or have conversations with toenail clipping sprites. As in other books, belief in something can make in manifest, sometimes physically. 

    How I love this image.

    It’s worth noting that the Death of the Discoworld is not a cynic. He is extremely factual and often blunt, but he is actually mankind’s greatest ally. He understands that belief is what makes humans more than a long-lasting series of short-lived primates. We are a focal point between what is and what could be. As practice, we raise children on stories of the fantastic and the virtuous. Characters like Twilight Sparkle are optimistic and often naïve, and yet these same traits carry the day. These are the little lies that can prep people to believe in the big ones. 

    JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

    Yet this what raises Prachett’s message about that of the average cynic: just because he presents these ideals as lies, it doesn’t follow that they’re meaningless. Believing in an idea can make it real, and so we still dream of stories where heroes do acts of justice and kindness, mercy is shown even when not asked, and as bad as things might get we still pay attention to see how the characters might turn things around.

    In this way I think Discworld and My Little Pony aren’t so different. The audiences may contrast or at least be mixed but both do call people to be their better selves. Even Discworld’s most reluctant heroes step up. To save a friend, to save a world, to prove their opponent wrong. The world doesn’t stop being unfair or harsh, but through their own actions the characters introduce a push-back that becomes real even if it began with a lie. 

    The fault lies not in the stars, but in our heads.

    As a reviewer I often see comments like, “You’re overthinking a kid’s show.” There are times I want to reply, “You’re looking at the wrong target.” I love the ideas expressed by this children’s show. Equestria does default more towards fairness and virtue but I think this something both young and old need to witness. We need little reminders of how life could be if people put forth even a fraction of effort towards kindness, forgiveness, and cooperation. The pastel ponies, the fantasy world, and the cartoonish styles are all dressing that an idea can wear. It is fiction and therefore easily seen as a lie, but what would the world be like if we turned that lie into truth?

    I will always admire how they can do impromptu singing in perfect harmony.

    This is what I love about stories in general and indeed what I celebrate around these holidays. Just as Hogswatchnight and Hearths Warming are meant to remind residents of a fictional world of charity, selflessness, and kinship, our own holidays are a crystallization of ideas we try to carry year-round. Maybe not to the same extreme as as celebration day, but we’re not meant to turn off our better selves once December 26th arrives. 

    This is an early showcase of Equestrian cloning technology.

    So when I read these books or watch certain cartoons I keep an eye out for what they’re trying to express. Some stories want to caution against the world’s worst. Others want to remind ourselves of our very best. And some are the point where the falling angel meets the rising ape. This is what I enjoy most about stories. They are intangible lies, but their impact can be made real.

    I’d recommend The Hogfather to all. In book format, audio book, or a live-action special available on Netflix. It’s an enjoyable story and I think there’s more in common with MLP than we might first admit.

    I’m Silver Quill. Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!

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