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~Or, The Redundancy of the Term 'Alicorn' and the Contention of Fan Misinterpretation~

The word 'alicorn' has become widely used within the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic fandom to describe a pony that has both the wings of a pegasus and the horn of a unicorn. 'Alicorn' is used as a catch-all term attributed to any pony that matches these vague descriptions. From a basic glance, there is no real problem with this: after all, a fandom can create content as it sees fit, even if the word that they are using is technically inaccurate. However, if we risk delving a little deeper it becomes clear that these are turbulent times within the pony community, and that the liberal use of 'alicorn' has created a chaotic dynamic that seeks to severe ties between fanon and canon altogether!

One of the key problems that I'm talking about here stems from the contention that surrounds ponies dubbed 'alicorns'. For one, the fandom seems to unite in a fairly substantial act of aggression against anyone who would dare to have an alicorn original character: only those that are deified, such as the fan-envisioned Lauren Faust, seem to be allowed a pony character that has wings and a horn. Despite the fact that 'alicorn' is a user-attributed term – 'alicorn' originally being a fictional material for the horn of a unicorn – there exists a uniformity in despising those that would have an alicorn character. The argument seems to be that, seeing as only ponies of great power are allowed to be alicorns, that having an alicorn of your own is considered to be elevating oneself above everyone else. Amusing, given that an original character is a fictional creation that can technically look like whatever the creator envisions, but that's not how fandoms work, apparently. There is an inarguable hierarchy, and if you mess with the laws of this system then elitist pony-fans will strike you down for stepping out of line. Know your place, maggots.

The user backlash towards original character 'alicorns' isn't even the biggest concern here; it is a minor complaint that exists alongside a much bigger issue that must be addressed. At the time of writing, a new character has been revealed within Hasbro's toy line with an in-show vector: Princess Cadence. Cadence is a pink pony who will be getting married to a happy-chappy called Shining Armor at some point in the future. This will surely be a glorious time for them both, where they can engage in all of the celebratory mirth that one would come to expect of wedlock. Sadly, their wedding day will not be accompanied by the sound of bells; the church will be burnt to the ground by the indignant cries of foul-play spewing from some fans with too much time on their hands. Shed a tear for these two star-crossed lovers, if you have the heart to do so. For you see, Cadence, being a pony with wings and a horn, has thrown a spanner into the works for some, creating this incredibly unbearable situation where – wait for it – there is another 'alicorn' in Equestria!

You may be asking yourself why this is a problem. Frankly, I don't personally care in the slightest if the talented writers and animators over at Studio B have decided to make a new pony with wings and a horn. Hell, I'm not even judgemental if Hasbro pushed the character on the studio and encouraged them to stick her in an episode in order to promote their new toy. Why? Because, bizarrely, I actually have some faith in the writers of this show and believe that they will make this character charming, interesting and relevant to her respective episode.

Sadly, a lot of bronies within the fandom have, of course, taken the time to write great streams of angst-ridden text about how they hate that the show is now breaking its own canon and lore by introducing another 'alicorn'. It's no lie to say that whenever a new revelation comes about regarding Cadence, although there are some that look forward to her début, there are many who start breaking out in a sweat and crying into their pillows, proclaiming that the end of Friendship is Magic is nigh! After all, Princess Celestia and Princess Luna are the only 'alicorns' in Equestria, aren't they? The show even tells us that from Episode 1, right?

Well, actually, no. I have seen enough amusing comments for it to appear a common-place belief that Celestia and Luna are some sort of exclusive dynamic duo. To paraphrase such mistaken people:

"Luna and Celestia are the only alicorns! They can't just introduce another one!"

Does this roughly resemble anything that you've read? Chances are, if you frequent internet pony updates like I find myself doing in order to reflect on fan opinion, you may have seen a comment like this before. There are two points of contention that I must address here. The first, simply, is that the term 'alicorn' has never been used within the context of the show. The fandom has, to an extent, broken off from the show, but any argument that wishes to avoid the pitfall of ad hominem must root itself in some sort of factual basis derived from the show. While fans are invited and encouraged to generate user-content, there's very little that can be born out of pure fiction that can stand under close scrutiny. The endearing term of 'alicorn' may be a fan-favourite accepted by most – it sure does roll off the tongue – but it's not actually a canon phrase.

In fact, if we look at Episode 1, which really establishes much of the lore that defines Equestria throughout future episodes and forms the foundation that inspires subsequent fiction, we see that Celestia and Luna are both referred to as unicorns. Here is an excerpt of the transcription from the oft-incorrectly-cited first episode:

"One fateful day, the younger unicorn refused to lower the moon to make way for the dawn."

This pretty much proves that the show is under the impression that Celestia and Luna are unicorns. This fan-invented concept of the popularised 'alicorn' is therefore fundamentally non-canon in its very existence, making those that claim that having another 'alicorn' in the show to be breaking the established canon a great hypocrisy. No matter how much the fandom might believe that 'alicorn' is the definitive term, it doesn't change the fact that it is, in any relevant context, an incorrect label.

Moreover, let's look closely at this idea that Celestia and Luna are the only 'alicorns' in Equestria. Despite the fact that the show hasn't ever suggested that they are, it would be a very poor argument to suggest that just because we haven't seen any others like them thus far, there simply cannot be any other ponies in Equestria with horns and wings. Perhaps it is a mark of royalty – this would certainly make Cadence's appearance understandable – or maybe it's just a rare occurrence; what it isn't, however, is an exclusive right available only to these two princesses. To quote the episode that started it all once more:

"Once upon a time, in the magical land of Equestria, there were two regal sisters who ruled together and created harmony for all the land..."

I imagine that this line is arguably responsible for the misinterpretation regarding Celestia and Luna. While it does suggest that there were two sisters, it doesn't in any way argue that there weren't others like them. If I write a story that begins, "Once upon a time there was a little boy and a little girl" that doesn't mean that they are the only little boy and girl in the world, does it? If it does, then the population of the Earth is being reset to two every time a mother reads her children a bedtime story.

The reason that this becomes an issue worth talking about is because misinterpretation allows for concern and resentment to fester under false pretence. There's a lot of anger out there towards Cadence for being this world-breaking character, but I fail to see any evidence that what she's doing is in any way breaking the world of Friendship is Magic or any degree of canon lore. Which really boils the argument down to its most irritating conclusion: that the fandom is once again getting pissed because a rule that they have established based on no evidence has now become an enforceable law, with a penalty to pay whenever a degree of challenge rears its ugly head. Never mind the fact that the show entirely mediates the world that the fandom creates; it seems to be perfectly reasonable to many bronies to pick and choose aspects of the show, but then opt for fan-based conclusions and theories above that which is actually accurate when it suits them best.

I do wonder, glancing across the worrisome, hateful comments towards Studio B, Hasbro and the characters that get caught in the wrath of the frustrated generalised brony, if these people are even fans of the show. Some people spend so much time complaining about the choices that the show makes, the way that it develops its lore and the revelations of future episodes that 'sound concerning' that I do find myself curious in regards to if they even enjoy the show, or if they have become so indebted to the fandom that the show is this irritating anti-fanon device to them that keeps messing up their fanfictions and opinions on how the world of Equestria should be. The obvious solution, of course, is to either stop taking things so seriously, or actually base your fictions etc. on supportable evidence within the show. Then, just maybe, the show won't 'ruin' your hard work.

Ultimately, fans will do as fans please. I merely find myself increasingly bemused when it comes to this particular issue. An invented fan-term is one thing, but when this term manifests itself as a force that actually tries to prevent the show from introducing a character it becomes ridiculous. Fans will continue to use 'alicorn', as it's an easy, recognisable way of referring to ponies with the double-graces of wings and horns. That said, those that use the term should be able to recognise that it is entirely fan-orientated and not a part of the show that governs the fandom. Furthermore, to those that seem intent on discrediting Princess Cadence as being a world-breaking character, please realise that your constant whining about how she will ruin everything is a sensationalist concoction of refutable claims and incorrect assumptions; a bastardisation of the show and an insult to those that work hard in bringing it to us every other weekend.
Don't you dare make yourself into an alicorn.

Unless we're talking about the medicinal stuff that comes from the horn.

Then that's okay.

But only if it's used to remedy the disease known as Princess Cadence.
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:iconiluvjeffy:
iluvjeffy Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2013
Oh ya twighlight is an alicorn now
Reply
:icongojira4life:
gojira4life Featured By Owner Dec 1, 2012
Update: MLP Season 3, Episode 5 has now made the terms "Alicorn" the official/canon term for pegasus unicorns!
Long live season 3!!!
Reply
:iconkrazzulimaii:
Krazzulimaii Featured By Owner Nov 23, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Long live season infinity!!!


get it?
Reply
:icongojira4life:
gojira4life Featured By Owner Nov 26, 2013
Yesh!
Reply
:icongreattoanui:
GreatToaNui Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Maybe everyone will grow up if it turns out the crystal ponies are all 'alicorns'
Reply
:iconprincesssunelestia:
PrincessSunelestia Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2012  Student General Artist
Cadence.Is.Luna's.Daughter.
Reply
:iconrjpugh:
rjpugh Featured By Owner Jun 4, 2012
I read on essay that defined an 'Alicorn,' at least within the MLP milieu, as a semi-immortal pony with the combined powers of earth, unicorn, and pegasus pony. They also tend to have a very high "mana" content, which causes their hair to do that invisible-breeze thing, and have more magical power than any regular pony has a right to. The "Alicorn" race is perhaps elemental or Fae in nature, with Luna and Celestia being the only documented specimens that we know of. (Emphasis on "that we know of.")

Cadence, on the other hand, is a winged unicorn, or pegasus-unicorn hybrid. She is not semi-divine like the two sisters; her powers aren't much different from a typical unicorn, and she is mortal. Intermarriage between pegasus and unicorn nobility, starting back in the founding era, sometimes resulted in hybrids that occasionally had the abilities of both races. We know from the Cakes that recessive genes can show up unexpectedly in Equestria, so it could be that Cadence is a similar case. A hybrid like Cadence would be rare, but not unheard of.

That was the gist of the essay; Cadence may look like an Alicorn, but she isn't one. A good parallel might be the Dunadan from Tolkien. Aragorn is identified as a Dunadan; he looks and acts human. But the Dunadan are a separate race, more akin to the elves and Fae than humans. The resemblance is ultimately only skin-deep.

Take that as you see fit, and salt to taste. Since this is a fantasy world; all kinds of things can happen. But it's fun to think about.
:-)
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:iconshuuya013:
Shuuya013 Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2012
I'll admit. Princess Cadence's existence is...
Odd to me. She doesn't anger me...just...weird. I can kind of understand why other fans might be a little 'annoyed' about Princess Cadence but...meh. It's already done.

I was under the impression that Luna and Celestia were the only alicorns (yes I'm going to keep calling them alicorns to differentiate them from unicorns without wings). We'd seen a lot of ponies and non-ponies in the show, so maybe it was a little odd to assume that Luna and Celestia were the only alicorns in all of Equestria. However...I'm a brony.
Love and tolerate and all that.
I have total confidence that the writers know what they're doing.
So I wasn't exactly about to write a long winded hate post about Princess Cadence. All I had was...a ton of questions that I hope get answered eventually.

Who IS Cadence. Where did she come from? Is she related to Celestia and Luna in some way? Come to think of it...how is there royalty?
Does Celestia have a husband somewhere? Does she have family outside of Luna? Is that where Cadence comes from?
Tons of questions I have.
@__@

If anything annoyed me about that episode it was two things:
#1. WHERE THE F**K WAS LUNA WHEN ALL THAT WAS GOING DOWN?! I can only assume that she sleeps during the day or she was making an attempt at a joke and had actually been bravely defending the ponies along with the royal guards (FOR THE LOVE OF FAUST SOMEONE MAKE FAN ART OF THAT!).

#2. Celestia got beaten WAY too easily. Yeah yeah, power of love and all that. Still, Celestia is supposed to be a super powerful pony according to the lore. I'm not sure exactly how powerful the queen of the changelings is supposed to be...but SHE DID come up with this whole plan to have her 'children' eat all the love in Canterlot (I can't remember if that was her plan exactly) so I have to figure that queen of the Changelings wasn't too confident about her chances at defeating Celestia.
What I would've done is have it look like Celestia is about to win, and then when she's down, the changeling queen would turn into Luna to throw Celestia off her game with some sort of pity speech. In that moment of confusion, the queen would gain the upperhand.
But...yeah...
What's done is done. And I may draw that as fan art someday unless someone beats me to it (hint hint...).

That's about all I've got on the subject.
This is one brony who looks forward to the next episodes. ^-^a
Reply
:iconchildofancyclops:
childofancyclops Featured By Owner Apr 21, 2012
The reason that most do accept fan-made alicorns is that characters like that too often become Marie-Sues'. Fans have created a hierarchy for a reason, in that some authors simply cannot handle the creation of their own characters. They are children suddenly presented with a chance to visualize themselves in their fantasy worlds through ink and paper, and don't even realize that most people don't want to read them bashing characters and becoming all-powerful. It is well and goosd imagine yourself in these worlds, but you shouldn't put them up.

Also, while the term 'aliconr' may not be correct, it is used in a way that is meant to differentiate between ponies without both horns and tails and those with only just a horn, or only just a pair of wings. I agree with you, that fans can often be proven incorrect by canon, and not accept the new rules as they have been put down.
Reply
:iconpapayajack:
PapayaJack Featured By Owner Apr 14, 2012
In addition to the fact that the only two winged unicorns we have seen are Celestia and Luna -- regal sisters who just so happen to be responsible for raising THE SUN and THE MOON respectively -- remember that in the episode "Sonic Rainboom", the unicorn Rarity was granted temporary wings through Twilight's spell craft. Rarity proceeded to go mad with pride and vainglory, fly too close to the sun, and fall to what could have been her death -- an obvious reference to Icarus of Greek mythology and the folly of a mortal reaching too high and presuming to approach the divine.

THIS is the canon law from which the fandom taboo against loose "alicorns" came from, and THIS is why it's irritating to many to discover another winged unicorn in Equestria who seems to be responsible, cosmologically and ontologically speaking, for nothing at all. Unless she's pushing around comets or constellations and until Celestia asks for HER help in defeating a seasonal realm-breaking villain, it's safe to regard Princess Cadance as a world-breaking ditz who exists because market research identified a demand for more winged unicorn dolls.

Not that I care very much. Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds, and one can interpret the demands of the marketers as simply another creative challenge to overcome and perhaps thrive under. But the elegance of the "world" took a sizeable dent, and geeks will be geeks.
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