And so we come to the two regal sisters themselves. Celestia and Luna, the Princesses of My Little Pony. Despite not being in the show so much, the little that these two characters have done is so big, both on and off screen, that I've come up with tons to write about, for better or for worse.
Let me start by addressing a particular complaint I came across when I first started watching the show. That issue is the fact that they're both Princesses in a land where no other form of royalty seems to exist. It was argued that because there are no older monarchs above them, like a king or something, that they should be called Queens instead of Princesses.
Well firstly, let me say right now that it is not unusual or unheard of for countries to be ruled by princes and princesses rather than kings or queens. These types of nations are known as principalities and while I'm not familiar with any such nations that exist at the moment, I do know that they were at one point fairly common in Europe, especially around the Medieval period. So the fact that a Princess can be in charge of a country is not an issue for me.
However, what is an issue is what I've heard regarding the initial decision to call Celestia and Luna princesses. You see, according to some background material I came across regarding the show's production, it was decided that the rulers of Equestria should be called princesses because, thanks to Disney movies, young children have associated the name "princess" as being good whilst "queens" are titles usually associated with evil. I personally find this to be offensive, given that I live in a country that's ruled by a Queen and all. But I suppose that if that's the thinking going into it, I can't really blame them for going with this choice.
But moving away from that, the basic premise of what Celestia and Luna are has always been fascinating to me, even from the start. They were quite literally the first characters introduced to us by way of the story book tale that Twilight was reading in the first episode. And by the way, I truly like that this is how both the sisters and the story was introduced to us. But setting them up in this way, giving them this backstory stretching back over a thousand years, it gave both the characters and the world they lived in a great deal of weight. This was not just some silly little kids show, this was an epic fantasy featuring these important and larger-than-life characters. Two sisters who could raise the sun and the moon. Very few shows intended for children (at least the ones I've been exposed to over the years) have ever attempted to give their worlds this kind of mythology, and it's inclusion was one of those elements that gave this story such a grand feel to it.One of the reason why I like this introduction of the two characters is that I've always had an immense fascination with mythologies, especially fictional mythologies. Ever since I was young I've always loved the kinds of fantasy fables like Tolkien and CS Lewis, and as such have always approved of any attempt to incorporate that kind of world backstory into any modern fiction. And being a fantasy, MLP is the perfect setting for that kind of storytelling.
Being princesses, both characters behave in a manner which one would expect of royalty. However, in what I think is a clever bit of writing, both have at one point exemplified different way that royalty have behaved over the years. Luna for example has a very traditional way of speaking, at least in her first focus episode "Luna Eclipsed". Her mannerisms are very formal and full of grandeur, as one would expect of a monarch from ages past. But that makes sense as she was gone for a very long time and as such has not adjusted to the changes that have occurred during her absence. Celestia however, was around during those times and has probably changed over the years to behave in a far more relaxed and social way, much like royalty might do today.
Their appearances is also something I'd like to talk about. I think both of these characters are designed really well, both evoking themes of day and night that suit their characters well. Their manes for example are a great effect, the way it constantly flows like that. I know from first-hand experience how difficult it is to do flash animation of any kind, so to see a constantly moving object like that is impressive to me. Luna's appearance in the second season is also worth noting and it's not only impressive to look at but also does a good jobs of making her look more akin to her sister, with almost ethereal qualities to her.
However, her appearance in the second season has led to a question in me. How exactly did she end up looking like that? We never see her in between the first episode of the show and "Luna Eclipsed" so we've been given no official explanation as to why she has this appearance now. I've heard speculation that it might simply be a case of "growing up" as time has passed in-between her appearances. But if you stop and think about it, it has, at most, only been a year in internal story time that's passed between the episodes. That's a lot of growth for that amount of time. My theory, and this is all speculation mind you, is that while she was imprisoned, her body must have undergone some sort of delayed growth span. Thus, having been freed from the moon her body is now aging faster to catch up for lost time. I know it's only a theory, but it's all I've got.
As for their individual characters, there's plenty to say. Celestia for example has had few appearances but despite that has given the impression that she's a kind person with a good sense of humour. Her interactions with the ponies of Ponyville for example are a good showcase for what I mean by this. She takes thing in a very light-hearted fashion and is pretty slow to annoy, putting up with stuff that would have ticked me off long before she did. However, she has her limits. When threats to her people and her realm pop up, like Queen Chrysalis and Discord, that image of warmth and humour drops to reveal a defender, someone who's willing to step up and do what is need in order to put down the wicked. She is a leader and a ruler, one who will defend them but not look upon them as though they were beneath her.
And then we come to Luna. As you all know, she's had even less screen time than her older sister and yet I've still managed to get a pretty good feel on her character in the short time she's been with us. She comes across, as I said earlier, in a very formal manner. She doesn't treat the ponies around her as "beneath" her per se, but she seems to act in a way that one would expect of royalty back in the past. Even if they didn't hate their subjects they would often assume things of them, like "people you know" rather than those to be friends with. But through that she comes across in a way that was very similar to how Twilight used to be at the start of the series, very much an introvert.
Her one focus episode "Luna Eclipsed" put her in a situation that I think many of us can relate to. Here is someone who's been gone from the world for centuries who not only has to readjust to getting back to her old life, but also to new ways of behaving, all whilst people view her as a monster to fear because of her past actions. We've all at one point in our lives been considered outsiders in some way. Maybe we moved to a new town or a new school and had a hard time fitting in. But either way, it's a situation we can all relate to, which helped us to identify with Luna's predicament.
However, there was one elements of that episode that bothered me throughout, and that was people's reaction to her. Everyone in town, with the exception of Twilight, was terrified of her, seeing her only as the past villain Nightmare Moon. I have a real problem with this because everyone in that town knows full-well that Luna is now back to normal. They had a celebration and everything. But no, everyone treats her as though she's still a monster. I've heard it argued that it's because she looks different that people don't recognise her. I don't believe that point and I'll tell you why. Even if she looks different from the last time they saw her, they still identify her as Nightmare Moon. Which means they recognise completely who she is, so they should still be aware that she's one of the good guys now. It's especially frustrating that the other main ponies treat her this was as they were all present during her transformation. I have no idea why they're all behaving this way.
There is also the matter of their species to consider. Both Luna and Celestia are winged unicorns, creatures that the fans have dubbed "alicorns". Now I have no issue with the fact that these two are a different kind of pony than other characters as it allows us to immediately identify them as being something special. However, like many other things about these two, their species is something that the show has yet to properly explain to us. How often do alicorns comer about in the pony world? Are they a separate race? The product of cross-breeding? Why are there so few? I honestly wouldn't mind the mystery if it hadn't been the arrival of a third alicorn, Cadence at the end of season two. Her arrival (and I'm not complaining about her, let me make that clear right now) leaves the question open of just how many of these things are out there. If Hasbro does not take the time to answer this question, it can be very frustrating for me.
One aspect of these characters that I think deserves far more attention than they're getting is their respective relationship towards Twilight Sparkle. Twilight is, as you know, Celestia's student. Learning about making friends and other lessons is what Celestia was there to teacher her. And Twilight in turn passed on those lesson to Luna once she found herself in a similar position of finding difficulty in making friends. Celestia was teacher to Twilight who eventually became a teacher to Luna. This was an interesting relationship between the three.
However, it's not all good news with these two characters I'm sorry to report. However, Ill say right now that whatever bad I may have to say about them actually, for once, has little to do with something the characters have done or how they come across to me. No, here the negative things I have to say are due in large part both to the way others have perceived them and to the way they've been handled by the show's creators.
Firstly, let me start by talking about the perception amongst the fans that Celestia is a "tyrant". Whilst I may agree that she's shown her fair share of serious moments in the past, the reason why so many people look at her this way is based on a reason that I've always had an issue with. The fact that she sent her younger sister to the moon for a thousand years.
Let me get my position on this out of the way. What we know about the series backstory is that Luna, as Nightmare Moon, sought to bring about eternal night. If this was to have happened, then it's likely to have killed off many of the plants of this world, like edible crops. The ponies would have starved to death. That is if the reduced temperature from lack of sunlight didn't freeze them to death first. As much as we may like Luna, there is no denying the fact that at the time, she was a major threat, one that needed to be dealt with. Celestia really had no choice in the matter. True it was her sister, but the lives of virtually everyone else in the world was at risk, those are stakes far too high to ignore.
But to many of the fans who watch this show, they took this as a sign that Celestia is nothing more than a despot who will banish anyone for the slightest transgression. I oppose this view wholeheartedly. It was her sister for heaven's sake! That sort of thing could not have been easy for anyone. So to even suggest that it's something she would have done regardless, or worse still, enjoyed it, is nothing less than sickening to me.
And speaking of sickening, there's also the matter of the "other" way that fans like to portray her. I am of course speaking of Molestia. I will not go into too many details here. I don't know who came up with this, how they thought about it, and frankly I don't much care to know. All I do know is that it is one of the most vile things this fandom has come up with. Seriously, it's right up there with "Cupcakes" as being one of those things I simply don't want to talk about.
There's also the matter of her being called "useless" by the fans because of her perceived lack of having done anything in the show, topped off by being defeated at the hands of Queen Chrysalis in the season two finale. Firstly, Celestia is one of the rulers of Equestria and largely operates in the capital, which is absent for most of the series. As such it's pretty easy to assume that she doers plenty of things for her subjects, she simply does them in a place we don't see. As for her being defeated, let me say right now that I admire her greatly for stepping up in this episode. A threat came along and she immediately jumped into the fray. Her being defeated was included only as a way of heightening the tension of the scene, which it did. Plus it's clear that neither character in that fight was expecting that outcome. The look on Chrysalis' face afterwards said it all, she clearly didn't see that one coming. It was implied heavily that this is not that villains usual levels of power, that the love she absorbed from Shining Armour gave her some kind of power boost. If so we can probably deduce that in a regular fight, Celestia would have won.
As for Luna, we have a very different portrayal. In fact in many ways, the portrayal of Luna and Celestia by the fans is almost completely reversed to what it is in the show. The show makes it clear that, at the start of the series, Celestia was the good one and Luna the evil one. Yet in virtually every single piece of fan-art and fan-fiction we have on the subject, that position is reverse, with Celestia as this cruel older sister and Luna as the sweet and innocent victim of her cruelty. It's completely backwards and I have no idea how it came about.
Now let me say right now that I do not hate or dislike Luna. Far from it, I think she's a great character. However, in terms of the things that have happened to her in the show itself, there is one things that's bugged me. In the pilot episode of the show, after her transformation back to normal by way of the elements of harmony, her making up with her older sister feels very rushed. One minute she's "I will destroy you all" and the next she's "I'm so sorry". I don't know if it was something to do with a limited amount of time to wrap things up for something else, but either way it's bothered me.
But what bothers me even more is the way both she and Celestia have been handles by Hasbro ever since them. In past essays of other characters I've talked about how there's always been potential for character to grow or be developed in some way but that Hasbro never takes the opportunity to do so. Well these two characters, Luna and Celestia are pretty much the embodiment of that concept. There is so much that can be done with these two that I'm actually at a loss to think of where to start..
A pair of immortal sister, who can raise the sun and the moon, forced to fight one another with the moon princess condemned to that orb for a thousand years. Returns after all that time and eventually becomes as she was before. Take her place as co-ruler of Equestria but now has to deal with people having to adjust to her return, haunted by memories of what she did. That basic premise has enough leeway and interpretation to allow for more stories than I can think of.
What was their life like back in the past? What's the relationship between them now that Luna has returned? What were Luna's experiences like when trapped for all that time? What did Celestia do when she was ruling in her sister's absence? Was it truly Luna's choice that led to her transformation, or was something else involved?
And those are just concepts off the top of my head. Who knows what a professional writer would be able to come up with if they put their minds to it. But no, outside of "Luna Eclipsed" we've seen no attempt on Hasbro's part to try and develop these two. They are, in my eyes, "wasted potential" incarnate.
The biggest offence in this attitude by Hasbro was Luna's appearance in "A Canterlot Wedding". Luna, after a very long absence from the series, makes two appearances. One to show her role of taking over Equestria during night-time, and a second appearance at the end after the danger had passed. That last one in particular bothers me because in my eyes it's a blatant middle finger to all the fans that have waited so long to see her again. That final appearance, that casual line of "did I miss anything", was, to me, an outright declaration by Hasbro that they have no intention whatsoever of doing anything interesting, deep or thought-provoking with this character and have just thrown her in there to keep the fans happy.
This, to me, is an absolute insult. Look, I'm not the kind of person who obsesses over a character so much that I want to see them all the time. I just would have liked something, anything that showed the character wasn't just being used as fan-bait. I said long ago in my review of "Luna Eclipsed" that there was a risk of over-using this character, that giving in to demands by the fans might diminish the mystique of her character that's kept the fans interested in her for as long as they have. Instead we get the exact opposite. She's been under-used throughout the entire series and now it's clear to me that she's been wasted as a useable character. I just hope that this is a situation that's rectified should the show get a third season.
At the very least I would like them to focus on the one thing that I'm most interested to learn about these two characters, they're relationship to one another. This show has, in the past, made it very clear how important family and siblings are to these main characters. There have been entire episodes devoted to showing how these characters get along and what things are like between them and their respective families. These two, Celestia and Luna, arguable have the most complicated relationship of all. They've been enemies, friends, the rule and entire country together. Do they harbour resentment of one another because of their past conflict? Was their separation from each other utterly crippling to them, something that tore them up inside every day for a thousand years? Are they closer now than before? Once again these are questions that I want to know the answers to and once again they're questions that are being ignored.
At this point, the fans of the show have done far more with these two than the show itself has done. But that's not a bad thing, at least as far as the fans' works are concerned. Indeed, I have continued to be impressed by the sheer quality of pictures and stories that are coming out of this fandom regarding these two characters. Their lives and conflict prior to the start of the series seems to be a particular popular subject for the fans to focus on and given how important that story was to the show, I can't blame them. It's a fascinating story idea and one that could lead to a great episode if Hasbro bothered to try it.
I'm not beating on the fans when I say this, but when a show's fandom puts more thought and effort into the development and relationships of a character than the makers of the show itself, those makers should feel ashamed of themselves.
Well that's all I've got to say on these two. Apologies if this one sounded more like an angry rant than a serious analysis.
Up next, we have Big Macintosh and Granny Smith. See you then.