One thing that you, dear readers, may not know about me is that I love lore and history of fictional universes that I have a vested interest in. I will still infrequently play Runescape, where all of the history, lore, quests, backstory, and other general information are something I make a point to pay attention to; as such, I’m something of an encyclopedia for that game. When I was playing World of Warcraft, I similarly devoted countless hours to running around their lore section and paying very close attention to implications made through gameplay.
So, what happens when you give a self-proclaimed fictional historian like Scootareader a new TV show that has incredibly well-developed characters, a deep, thoughtful story, and enough history to keep me wanting to chew through children’s books for weeks for little nuggets of information?
You get him frustrated, that’s what.
Okay, the first thing that has to be decided when discussing history is a definitive timeline. The world agrees on the B.C./A.D. yearly cycle (though some don’t like the religious connotation and have changed that), but obviously, Equestria doesn’t run on the B.C./A.D. yearly cycle. In fact, we don’t even know if ponies have years as we do.
Enter science! If you want to know how ponies age and how time progresses for them, check out this article that exhaustively goes over what is canonically established for Equestria and ponies. If you don’t feel like reading a document, it establishes that, based on several allusions to time, Equestria runs on the same second/minute/hour/day/week/month/year cycle that we do. Even their seasons run the same number of months! This was also all learned in season 1, and all which has happened since usually adds to the canon—more on this later.
What else is in that super long document? Why, the age of the Mane 6, of course! According to Lauren Faust herself, the ponies of Equestria age like real horses do. You can’t get much more canon than the words of the creator, so until there is definitive proof via the show that ponies live to be up to 100 years old (which there has not been as of yet), Twilight Sparkle and company are much younger than we give them credit for.
So, what is 1000 years to a pony? Well, let’s consult the facts again. According to the average lifespan of horses, the oldest geriatrics only live to be around 30 years old. Let’s set that to the upper ceiling of pony lifespan; how can we compare that to humans?
Let’s pick random number seven. Now let’s count multiples. 7, 14, 21, 28… that’s close to 30, right? So, let’s parallel 28 pony years to 100 human years. So, when a pony is 7 years old… 100 divided by 4 is… that’s 25 in human years. Continuing this trend, we can see that a 14-year-old pony is a 50-year-old human and ponies of 21 years are like humans of 75 years. So, any pony over 28 years old is like a human over 100 years old. Seem about right?
Now, according to Wikipedia, recent generations tend to be in 20-year intervals. That means five generations happen in the standard upper-tier human lifetime now. Calculate it in pony years (28 divided by 5), and you end up with each generation of ponies lasting 5.6 years. A year older, Fluttershy said, right? That must mean she’s perfect foal-bearing age.
So, 20 years for a generation; 1000 years is 50 human generations. All right, that’s quite a bit, but it’s not far enough back to have us hitting stuff with clubs, right? Humans were still pretty civilized back then.
Now, how many pony generations have we got?
So… 1000 divided by 5.6 is… 178.571428—you get the picture. Let’s round this up to 180 generations. That means 180 offspring away from knowing what happened 1000 years ago. No wonder nopony knew anything about Nightmare Moon!
To put this into perspective, let’s look at how many generations have happened since the dawn of man. Scientists agree that modern humans started around 195,000 years ago; also, for the purposes of generational representation, the scientific community says 30 years is a generation in historical measurement (birth control and increased lifespan have changed it recently). So, divide 195,000 by 30 and you get about 6500 generations.
Now, how many years is that for ponies? Take that 6500 generations and multiply it by 5.6, and you get 36,400 years. From the dawn of pony to where Equestria is today, it has taken them approximately 36,400 years total.
Luna has been gone for about 1/36 of the total time that ponies have existed. A human that lives to be 100 is alive for 1/1950 of the total time humans have existed. To say that our beloved princess had culture shock when she came home is an understatement.
This is all, of course, assuming that ponies have existed for as many generations as humans. We really don’t know; the only chronological event that we have set in stone is Luna’s banishment. The rest is speculation based on theory that the intelligence of ponies compared to that of humans is evidence that they have had as many generations to evolve advanced intelligence as we have. Theory based in truth is still better than saying “I have no idea,” though.
To put Luna’s time away into even more perspective, 5500 years ago (going back 1/36 of the time of human history), we predate agriculture in North Africa, the third pharaoh of Egypt, Stonehenge, Troy, and even Caral, the very first city to ever be built in the Americas.
Time for another observation! In season 3 episode 8, “Apple Family Reunion,” Granny Smith cites that “it’s been almost one hundred moons since our last family reunion.” The lunar cycle takes an average of 29.53 days, whereas a month is 30.44 days on average. So, 100 lunar cycles would be 2953 days, which is 97 months. Eight years since season 1 episode 1? I don’t think so!
So, since it obviously hasn’t been eight years since the last Apple Family Reunion, we’re forced to assume that she meant day/night cycles, as in, there have been 100 moons over the sky since the last reunion. We don’t even know if there are lunar eclipses or anything like that in normal happenstance in Equestria, so we must believe based on hard facts that yes, it has been less than 100 days since the last Apple Family Reunion.
So, it’s been less than a third of a year since the last reunion. Put that into pony perspective and it’s the aging equivalent to us of 1.3 years. It’s not that big a deal for us to wait 100 days; for a pony, that’s an entire equivalent year of their lifetime. For a family that prides itself on, well, family, 1.3 years may seem like quite a while indeed. Further evidence that ponies don’t age as humans do!
Also, if you’re wondering about pony usage of months, Rainbow Dash states in Winter Wrap-Up that winter for Equestria lasts three months, and you also see Spike holding a calendar in Lesson Zero. However, the calendar in Lesson Zero has only four boxes in each line and what appears to be five lines, so 20 days in a month; they use the name “Tuesday,” which implies our naming convention, but only four days in a week means a radically different day-to-month ratio.
I’m under the impression that Equestrian calendars are notoriously unreliable, seeing as Twilight pulls out a calendar again in It’s About Time and this has three 5-day weeks, so 15 days total. So, perhaps Equestrian months don’t last 30-31 days and the months have up to five days difference from one month to the next, with the two calendars we see just being two separate months. There’s plenty of extrapolation here, but nothing further on this that I can remember from the show. At this point, we really don’t know.
So, is an Equestrian year 12 months? We really don’t know. It doesn’t take 365 days to get around the Sun for them, seasons are created by ponies, and the Moon doesn’t appear to have any lunar cycles. What’s measuring a year?
Okay, so now that it’s been thoroughly established that we really have no idea how long an Equestrian year, or month, or even week lasts, let’s talk about something we do know: Historical facts!
So, the foundation of Equestria has been explained in Hearth’s Warming Eve. The earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns co-founded Equestria after Discord was defeated. How do we know? The first flag of Equestria, as seen in Hearth’s Warming Eve, had Princesses Celestia and Luna on it, showing a symbiosis of Sun and Moon. Obviously, they had done something noteworthy in the past to be revered so by the Equestrian people.
Was it Discord? Celestia seems not to think so. In the Return of Harmony P1, she said, “Before my sister and I stood up to him, he ruled Equestria in an eternal state of unrest and unhappiness. Luna and I saw how miserable life was for earth ponies, pegasi, and unicorns alike, so after discovering the Elements of Harmony, we combined our powers and rose up against him, turning him to stone.”
First thing to take out of this is that she specifies Equestria. Slip of the tongue? Or established nation? Regardless of this, Celestia and Luna defeat Discord, thereby saving the nation, and because of what they did to make things easier for all ponykind, the new citizens of Equestria put them on their flag.
Wait a minute. What about the three races of ponies? Why were they feuding? Where were Celestia and Luna?
So, if canon Equestrian history is to be believed, it appears that Celestia and Luna defeated Discord pre-founding of Equestria—we’ll call this PE, for Pre-Equestria. After Discord was defeated, the events of Hearth’s Warming Eve happened, Equestria was founded, Celestia and Luna were put on the flag, and the two of them… came to rule at this point?
It just seems suspicious to me. These two alicorn sisters who raise the Sun and the Moon defeat this powerful foe, then the newly civilized ponies bicker amongst themselves, yet when they unite, they put their past heroes on their new flag. If Celestia and Luna had been involved in anything prior to the founding of Equestria, you’d think they’d have had their hooves somewhere in it, don’t you? Yet the Hearth’s Warming Eve play implies that the royal sisters did nothing to bring harmony to Equestria, and it was the three races of ponies that found unity.
What seems more convenient is that Discord came after Equestria was founded by the three races, during the era of Early Equestria, or EE. The alicorn sisters then defeated him and became the new rulers of Equestria, ushering in an age of harmony. This would only mean that the Hearth’s Warming Eve play was flawed in that they didn’t have a historically accurate Equestrian flag, which I find to be more sensible. The EE era would stretch all the way from when Equestria was founded until Luna is banished, which I call After Banishment, or AB.
So, a timeline:
-Ponies fight amongst themselves
-Discord may have ruled during this era, but unlikely
-Equestria is founded
-Discord may have come after founding and created chaos for the ponies
-0 AB: Nightmare Moon is banished
-~975 AB: Ponyville is founded (which happened when Granny Smith was the age of the Mane 6)
-1000 AB: Nightmare Moon returns and is subsequently defeated; Princess Luna returns
One last focus for this article: Starswirl the Bearded.
So, it’s already been proven that he lived when Equestria was founded, as Clover the Clever, a young mare at the time of Hearth’s Warming if the play has any historical accuracy, had him as her mentor. Celestia also seems to have known him, as she has a section of the Canterlot Library named after him (which wasn’t built until after Luna’s banishment) and also happens to have the book that contains his final spell… but that is pure speculation. Luna also immediately recognizes Twilight Sparkle’s Nightmare Night costume as being Starswirl the Bearded, so either she did a lot of research on the guy, or she recognized Twilight’s costume because she’d seen the guy herself, remarking that Twilight “even got the bells right,” which sounds like something only an obsessed filly (Twilight) or princess who remembers her subjects (Luna) would know.
So, let’s say that, based on what appears to be true, Starswirl the Bearded knew Princesses Celestia and Luna, and was also alive when Equestria was founded. So what?
That’s just it! Celestia and Luna were the bringers of harmony, weren’t they? Yet, although they were recognized as noteworthy ponies by the ponies of Equestria, they weren’t even worth mentioning in the Hearth’s Warming Eve play. Keep in mind that Starswirl either abused aging magic or lived no longer than 30 years; if he’d abused aging magic, I doubt he’d be quite so beloved a figure in the eyes of Equestria, so that means there was no more than 30 years from the founding of Equestria to when Celestia and Luna became public figures.
The implications of this are astounding. Just how incompetent are Celestia and Luna, that they can wield the Elements of Harmony and defeat the almighty Discord, but can’t get a few ponies to agree not to fight?
Well, whatever headcanon you ascribe to, I’ve presented as many of the facts and reasonable speculations here as I can. Equestrian history, it turns out, is actually pretty complicated, but it fascinates me so.
If there are any little nuggets of truth in the show that I’ve missed, I’d love to hear them; any further information concerning pony progression is welcome!
All in all, everything I just talked about above goes to show how deep and thoughtful the universe of Equestria is. If you want something to dig into that will always keep you thirsting for more, pony history is certainly one of those things. Shows for little girls are great, aren’t they?