• The Call of the Windigos: Hearth's Warming and Equestrian Lore

    At this time of the year, even the grinchiest among us have to admit we've got a soft spot for a good holiday special.  There's just something about the uplifting, wholesome goodness of the holidays that gives you the warm fuzzies, you know?

    Luckily for us, FiM has its fair share of episodes devoted to the ponies' own winter festivities.  So in the spirit of the season, let's take a look back the various Hearth's Warming episodes we've gotten over the years.

    Let's get holly and/or jolly after the break!

    The thing I've always really loved about the Hearth's Warming episodes is the way they've always been used as an opportunity to engage in world-building.  It would have been easy for the writers to take Hearth's Warming and make it a one-to-one analog to Christmas, and crank out a few easy feel-good holiday stories.  I don't think anybody would have complained about that.  

    But instead, they chose to make Hearth's Warming its own thing, aesthetically similar to your typical Christmas affair, but with its own traditions and lore.  In this way, Hearth's Warming becomes a method for the writers to explore Equestria, adding to its history and folklore and helping the world feel that much more full and alive.  

    Let's start with the first Hearth's Warming Eve episode, ...er, Hearth's Warming Eve.

    "Hey look, they're busting out the grownup eggnog over there!"

    At first glance, it looks to have all the trappings of your standard holiday episode:  trees and wreaths, festive decorations, children hurting themselves in incredibly stupid ways.

    But soon enough we get to the real meat of the episode: the Hearth's Warming pageant, a play performed by the Mane 6 that tells the story of the founding of Equestria.  Instead of the usual holiday story we get a big old lore dump for Christmas, revealing how the world of FiM came to be.

    As it turns out, the history of Equestria begins with that most festive and cheerful of situations:  A race war!

    I spent a not-insignificant amount of time trying to come up with derogatory epithets the three tribes would use to insult each other before realizing what a horrible idea that was.

    Hearth's Warming Eve tells the story of how the three pony tribes used to live in separate nations, and how their constant bickering and fighting led to the destruction of their homelands, forcing them to seek out new homes.  Eventually finding the land that would one day become Equestria, the three tribes had to learn to set aside their differences and live in harmony.  It gives us a nice view into the history of Equestria, and how deeply rooted the show's themes of friendship and harmony are to the world.

    But even beyond that, it gives us a look at the unique cultures of the three pony tribes as well.  We get to see the foundations of Pony society and where they came from, such as the contrast we see in the militaristic Greco-Roman society of the pegasi versus the medieval European aesthetic of the unicorns.

    And whatever culture it was that wore pudding on their heads and didn't believe in doors.

    And it also introduced the concept of the Windigos which...  well, we'll get to that in a bit.

    Oh boy.

    Far from being a predictable "Christmas episode,"  Hearth's Warming Eve does a fantastic job of fleshing out the world that these characters live in.

    The next Hearth's Warming episode, Hearthbreakers, also uses the holiday to further expand on Equestria.  Instead of the history of the holiday, this episode introduces us to modern Hearth's Warming traditions.

    You wanna over-decorate your own house, go ahead.  It's when you start decorating other people's houses without their consent that you might have a problem.

    Aside from the familiar candy canes and lights, Hearthbreakers also introduces traditions unique to ponies and Hearth's Warming, like the Hearth's Warming dolls.

    "And if we don't like our presents, these double as voodoo dolls!"

    It shows us how the ponies celebrate the holidays, and how those traditions can vary from family to family.

    Limestone Pie shown here displaying the traditional Hearth's Warming schadenfreude, wherein holiday cheer is derived from the suffering of others.

    It might seem like a small thing, but creating a full set of traditions like this goes a long way towards building a world that feels more complete and real.

    Which brings us to the third and final Hearth's Warming episode, A Hearth's Warming Tail.  And this is where things get weird. 

    Don't get me wrong, I love A Hearth's Warming Tail.  Of the three holiday episodes it's probably my favorite one.  And not just because it has Starlight Glimmer cosplaying as Miles Edgeworth.

    Okay, it's mostly because of that.


    It's a really entertaining episode with some of the best songs the show has ever had.  And like Hearth's Warming Eve does for history and Hearthbreakers does for tradition, A Hearth's Warming Tail tackles folklore and teaches us all the true meaning of Hearth's Warming.  And as far as adding to the lore of Equestria this one... this one's a really doozy, folks.

    It starts out as a fairly standard adaptation of A Christmas Carol, a somewhat obscure old Christmas story that has, to my knowledge, only been adapted in other media 6 or 7 million times.  Although to their credit, I don't recall ever seeing a version of the story where Ebeneezer Scrooge is an alchemist who tries to erase the very concept of Christmas from history by invoking ancient forbidden spells.  

    They might have done it in that one Jim Carrey movie I never saw, though.

    Despite a tragically missed opportunity to cast Sunburst as Jacob Marley, the story more or less follows the same beats as A Christmas Carol, with our holiday grumpus visited by three ghosts who teach her the meaning of the season.  First, the Spirit of Hearth's Warming Past - 

    You know, being lassoed by a ghost and dragged out a 3rd story window would be a pretty traumatic experience whether or not you had done anything to deserve it.

    Then the Spirit of Hearth's Warming Present(s) - 

    Tonight we're gonna party like it's 1899!

    It's when we get to the third ghost - The Spirit of Hearth's Warming Yet to Come - that things start going off the rails.

    Spooky Ghost Luna is Best Luna.

    Now, if you’ve ever seen any other Christmas anything ever, you’d probably guess that the “true meaning” would wind up being about the spirit of giving and goodwill towards your fellow man, and friends and family and all that jazz. And if this were Christmas, you’d be exactly right.

    But this ain't Christmas.  This is Hearth's Warming.  And The Spirit of Hearth's Warming Yet to Come is here to tell you that if you don't make with the jollies then ancient evil spirits will bury you and everything you love for all eternity in a tomb of snow and ice.

    It turns out that the true meaning of Hearth’s Warming Eve is that it is in reality an elaborate ritual that all those who walk in the light of day must undertake each year to ensure that ancient abominations, unspoken of in all but the faintest of legends that we might spare ourselves the knowledge of their true horror, remain locked away in their eternal slumber, lest they awaken and return to this plane to visit untold horrors upon the world of ponies.

    The eggnog and family get-togethers are just happy little bonuses.

    They are those that are known by the name of Windigo - vengeful, incorporeal beings who appear as a grotesque mockery of the pony form, having no physical body but instead existing as something akin to a living gust of wind.  They are the Old Ones who mindlessly lie in their strange aeons, awaiting the death of love to herald their return to the mortal plane, foretold in the dreaded Equinomicon of the Mad Saddle Arabian Abdul al-Horseshoe.

    Iä! IäWindigo fhtagn!

    And that about wraps it up for this Hearth's Warming retrospective.  Have a happy holiday, everyone!  Because if you don't, ancient monstrosities such as man was never meant to know will rise from their place of eternal slumber far beyond the ken of mortals to usher in the cold, unyielding winter at the End of All Things.

    ~ The Skullivan