• Editorial: Theories of Magic: The Cutie Map is not the Territory

    Another Cutie Map episode, The Parent Map, had Starlight and Sunburst heading off to correct their own friendship problem. This is the second time the map has picked somepony to fix their own issues and it’s got me wondering about the map’s role in harmony.

    Is the Cutie Map trying to micromanage relationships? Or is it trying to spread something other than friendship? Does the map really exist for harmony or is it just a consequence of too many writers. . .

    Prepare yourself, it’s time to go on a Cutie Map mission.

    When the map appeared in the series, I was excited! I thought of the mane 6 traveling their world to share the knowledge of friendship while learning from new settings and cultures (along with road trip songs, of course). But that didn’t exactly happen.

    Struggling with destiny and friendship? The Cutie Map knows who to call.
    Now, the map did slightly grow to include places outside of Equestria, but they’re places the ponies have already been and now have influence over. Understanding that the map is staying within the ponies’ comfort zone is telling.

    Trips outside pony cities last only one episode and most trips never leave pony society.

    I understand the need to collect them all.
    Creatures outside of pony influence don’t seem to matter to the map, and Equestria’s Harmony doesn’t matter to them. Considering ponies control everything from weather to the sun, you’d think more creatures would at least respect the magic of harmony or know what ponies are.

    We still sore through clouds in the sky, they're just clouds that don't need pegasi to get there.
    But outsiders’ daily lives seem to function just fine without ponies’ intervention. It’s almost like their plants grow, their animals care for themselves, and the clouds move! Sound familiar?

    I still wonder how this natural phenomenon works.
    The rest of the world doesn’t need the magic that ponies provide because they use the laws of nature to live.

    Places like the Everfree Forest and other nations exercise a type of balance Equestria doesn’t. Of course, that doesn’t mean their friendships are stronger for it, but they’re not necessarily weaker either.

    So, maybe the map can’t include places that practice a different kind of magic than its own, in this case, the laws of nature. But than is the map really using harmony magic to run?

    Their expressions seem to say, "That's it? We struggled so hard for this? Oh, you best believe we're not coming back out here to return rocks."
    The map is linked to the Tree of Harmony, that means all the magical properties of the map are dependent on the power of the Tree.

    The Tree of Harmony has the power “to control and contain all that grows [in the Everfree]” according to Celestia in Princess Twilight Sparkle.

    Words like compromise, unity and understanding make me think of harmony, but ‘contain and control’ sound like order. The tree then doesn’t just promote balanced friendships, but it helps prevent natural law from encroaching on ponies’ control.

    The Cutie Map knows its roots.
    In the episode Shadow Play, we learn that the Tree of Harmony wasn’t a natural occurrence of the land, but it was forged by the pillars.

    Only good traits to grow the Tree of Harmony, right?

    Because it is directly linked to the tree, the Cutie Map is enforcing what ponies have deemed harmony, whether it is harmony or not.

    Yes, I just made the argument that the Tree of Harmony is, in fact, the Tree of Order. The map is on a crusade to force all friendships to be under pony control!

    Okay, that theory is a little too extreme because we know that’s not the direction the writers were heading in. So here's my second theory to better tie in harmony. The tree's harmonious balance comes from sending the pony having the problem to fix the problem.

    I can't help but think the map knew this was going to happen.
    We all remember the time the tree called Spike to fix an issue he was creating. Technically the friendship problem hadn’t appeared yet. When it did, Spike's looking for a friendship problem was part of the trouble. To some extent, the map encouraged the situation to grow into the heated argument by not summoning a pony with a direct answer.

    Seeing your parents again not stressful enough? Here, solve a friendship problem too.
    Even with the map doing a good thing like helping to rebuild relationships, it seems perfectly comfortable allowing a bit of disharmony to transpire while ponies are learning how to create harmony in their own relationships without interference from experts.

    For example:

    If the map had tried to ‘save’ Twilight’s friendships in the past instead of just allowing Starlight to use it in her time spell, Starlight never would have had an opportunity to reform. I’m not saying the map did something evil to get a greater good result, I’m saying hardship is a fact of relationships and even life.

    Without the rough stuff, our friendships would never be tested and would become paper-thin, fickle facades that don’t allow for authentic bonding.
    "We're Not Flawless!" And their friendship is stronger for it.
    The map understands the constant need for control ponies have and thus sends them on missions that help them learn friendship is about letting go as much as taking hold. By sending the pony with the issue, the map guarantees a harmonious solution instead of just an ordered one.

    The map allowing evil magic to work on it? No, allowing an oppertunity for learning to happen.
    Disharmony is anything that is against harmony. Order can be very disharmonious in relationships when we never allow others to learn and grow from their mistakes. For the map to always provide the answer would be like trying to teach a kid to balance on a bike but never taking their training wheels off.

    Which brings me to the final question I’ll ask today, would the map ever send Celestia or Discord on a mission? I pick them for their obvious placements on the Order, Harmony, Chaos spectrum.

    Seriously though, someone write a fanfiction or something. I need this to be an episode.