Today’s story will bring some smiles to warm the dark midwinter’s chill.

myths-and-legendsThe Truth About Myths And Legends
[Slice of Life] • 4,211 words

A troubled Princess Celestia, wandering her School for Gifted Unicorns late one night, chances upon her young faithful student Twilight Sparkle, who has problems of her own:

She can’t catch the Tooth Flutterpony.

What possible advice could Princess Celestia give to her upset young pupil, who is desperately trying to prove that an old ponies’ tale is real?

FROM THE CURATORS: “I’d heard good things about this fic going in, and was not disappointed,” Chris said about this sweet coming-of-age tale.  “The author really captures young Twilight as a brainy, over-serious filly… but a filly, first and foremost. … It’s not too silly, not too dramatic, and feels important despite its surface ephemerality.”

There were several factors catapulting this story to its feature, but it certainly didn’t hurt that it melted the hearts of our curators.  “This one is adorable,” JohnPerry said, and Present Perfect agreed: “Gads, but this is precious.”  We also noted its strong characterization — as Horizon put it, the story “derives its feels not from any twist, but from the characters being earnestly themselves” — and its gentle sense of humor.  “There are plenty of clever jokes thrown in, and the ending is a fun surprise,” JohnPerry said.

Ultimately, on the strength of both its storytelling and its themes, this was an easy choice for a heartwarming holiday-season feature.  “This is a story about childhood and innocence, and the titular myth is just the lens through which we see it,” Horizon said.  “But even more so, it’s about two characters flailing for connections, and a moment that brings them together, and that’s the best kind of heartwarming.”

Read on for our author interview, in which The Ponytrician discusses biographical standards, the advantages of not knowing, and ham and cheese.

Give us the standard biography.

There’s a standard for biographies? Does it have an ISO number?

Okay, joking aside… in a nutshell: I’m male; I live in Western Australia; and I’m on the upper end of the mid-30’s in age. I’m a loving and devoted husband, and father of two children currently aged 3 and 1 years old. In order to earn a crust, keep a roof over our heads, and keep wolves from the door demanding mortgage repayments; I’m an IT professional, working mainly desktop and enterprise applications development and support. Yes, another code-monkeypony.

When I’m not working or looking after / playing with my kids, I’m an avid table-top RPG’er – mostly good ol’ Dungeons & Dragons, but I’ve dabbled in many and various systems across the years. I’m also a pretty voracious reader; mostly fantasy and science fiction as you might expect, but I’ll read very nearly anything.

Oh yeah, and I’m a fan of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I have dabbled in writing short fictions before, for other fandoms; but that kind of died when real life intervened. MLP:FiM has proved to be such a source of inspiration that I felt compelled to start writing fanfiction again.

How did you come up with your handle/penname?

The short answer is that I’m a fan of Sir Terry Pratchett[1], and of the Discworld character Havelock Vetinari, the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork.

The longer answer is that it came from a little game that was being played in the forum that introduced me to Pony (a great big “Hi!” to all the Giant in the Playground Ponythreaders reading this). The game was basically “ponify your real life name, based on the name meanings”. The meanings of my name worked out to be “a leader” and “a servant”. Who is both a leader and a servant? The answer: a politician. So naturally I decided that my ponified name had to be Fetlock Equinari, the Ponytrician of Flankh-Marepork[2]. That’s a bit on the long side, so I settled on “The Ponytrician” when I decided to start writing pony fanfiction.

  1. Whom I’ve had the enormous pleasure of meeting face to face… okay, now I’m just name-dropping.
  2. Yes, I love puns, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.

Who’s your favorite pony?

A tough question to answer, and I don’t really like to play favourites… but I think that Twilight Sparkle will always be first among equals for me.

I’m also a bit of a fan of Princess Celestia and Princess Luna, and I’d love to see more in-show character development for the both of them. I guess I have a thing for authority figure characters?

What’s your favorite episode?

An even tougher question to answer.

While I don’t have a favourite episode per se, there are a number of stand-out episodes for me. The first is Dragonshy; while I had found the first few episode entertaining, it was this episode that had me completely and utterly hooked on MLP:FiM — it’s like a D&D quest as enacted by pastel-coloured magical cartoon ponies. What’s not to like?

Other stand-out episodes for me are: Luna Eclipsed, for the wonderful character building of Princess Luna; Magic Duel, for rewatchability and the wonderful over-the-top “hamminess” of The Great and Powerful Trixie; and Pinkie Pride, for the sheer entertainment value of the Pinkie Pie / Cheese Sandwich goof-off and all the songs.

What do you get from the show?

All kinds of things, really. I think it’s entertaining and humorous; and the characters and episodes are fun and interesting. Though most of all I think it’s the momentary sense of disengagement from real life concerns and issues that I find most appealing. I can revel in something that is childlike and innocent, yet is still clever enough to appeal to my adult sensibilities. It’s a great stress reliever, and it’s something that I can share with my wife and kids.

On a slightly more meta level, there’s also a sense of inspiration and creativity that I derive from the show, and from the community the show has spawned. There’s something about MLP:FiM that seems to generate a desire in people to add to it and be a part of it; and the fan communities that have sprung from the show are, by and large, the most friendly and accepting groups I’ve ever witnessed.

What do you want from life?

Honestly, I don’t know; and sometimes that’s the best answer anyone can give. The advantage of not knowing what I want means that I get to keep on searching for it.

I hope I don’t find it.

Why do you write?

To give the voices in my head a chance to talk to someone else. Mainly it’s for a bit of fun, a chance to explore ideas, characters, and ‘what if…?’ scenarios; but sometimes I get an idea that my subconscious mind just won’t let go of, and it keeps on pestering me until it gets written. Sometimes I feel that there are some things that I just had to write, even if they never got read by anyone else.

What advice do you have for the authors out there?

Get inspired; look for inspiration in anything and everything. Play ‘what if?’ games in your mind. Have fun doing it; if you’re not having fun writing, then it’ll become a chore and that will show in what you are writing.

Learn how to give and receive criticism effectively. If you plan to write something that other people are going to read, it will be critiqued and criticised. I’ve found that one of the best ways to deal with receiving criticism is by learning how to give it; which is to say: be as clear and polite as possible. Practice giving the kind of critiques that you would like to receive.

Also, if you want to have the time and energy for writing, don’t have children. As much as I love my kids, they devour my available time and energy like swarm of hungry parasprites devour apples in an orchard.

What was the inspiration for The Truth About Myths and Legends?

There are three things that inspired The Truth About Myths and Legends.

The first is Skywriter’s How To Remove A Unicorn Tooth. Reading that story got me to thinking about how a character like young Twilight Sparkle would handle a concept like a Tooth Fairy (or Tooth Flutterpony, as the case may be). I decided that she wouldn’t just blindly accept any “fairytale” answers; instead she would try to catch it so she could get some real answers.

The second is Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novel Hogfather. Hogfather delves into the ideas behind why we have fairy tales, mythological figures, and legends that change over time. The Truth About Myths and Legends was my attempt to put my own pony-based and somewhat paradoxical spin on these ideas.

The third item is the opening scenes of Friendship is Magic, Part 1. With the advantage of hindsight I wondered why a character like Twilight Sparkle, who is usually so logical and rational, would put so much credence into what is essentially just an old story. There had to be some reason behind her belief in the story, and The Truth About Myths and Legends is how I decided that particular belief came about.

Why did you choose to write this from Celestia’s perspective?

That was a tough decision to make, and the answer is a little long-winded. Still, if you’ve made it this far, you’re interested enough to hear about it.

The Truth About Myths and Legends underwent several major revisions or evolutions during the planning stages. Initially it was just going to be a collection of ‘one journal entry per chapter’ snippets detailing young Twilight’s various attempts (and failures) to capture, or at least gain evidence, of the Tooth Flutterpony. It was mainly going to be a bit of silly fun, but it didn’t feel like a story; it felt like the middle of a story.

So, I decided that one way to fix it would be to have the story be about a now much older Spike planning to write a biography about Twilight, and stumbling upon Twilight’s “Catch the Tooth Flutterpony” journal. He would read each entry, and provide a commentary or personal insight as he read it. Then I realised that I still had a problem: I had my beginning and my middle, but I had no idea how to end the story. I nearly gave up at that point, but two key things occurred to me that completely changed how I viewed what I was planning to write.

In order to end the story, I basically asked myself “What Would Twilight Sparkle Do?” How would she react to the last foal tooth, when she reaches the end of her experiment and there are no answers in sight? It seemed to me that she would give in, and ask her mentor Princess Celestia for help.

The second thing is that I came to the realisation that the story wasn’t in Twilight’s journal entries; they’re just a device. The real story was in the reactions of the character who is reading the journal, and with Twilight coping with the end of her experiment and her perceived failure. It was at that point I decided to write the story from Celestia’s perspective, so that readers could witness directly her interaction with young Twilight, see what impact she has on her student in helping to solve her problem; and in turn experience what effect this situation has on Celestia herself. The earlier ideas were condensed to a few paragraphs, and the story became all about Princess Celestia, Twilight Sparkle, and that last tooth.

Was it difficult to balance the “brainy” and childlike aspects of Twilight’s character?

I’m still not entirely sure that I got the balance right. The main difficulty is that the only in-show points of reference for young Twilight are The Cutie Mark Chronicles and one song in A Canterlot Wedding. Basically I wrote with the mindset of “aim for as adorkable as possible”; judging by reactions, I was reasonably on target.

I wrote the “brainy” parts of Twilight first, and came back a few days later[1] when I was in a completely different mood to write the “childish” aspects. In my head, I justified the different aspects of Twilight due to being in the different situations she is in: when Twilight is writing her journal entries, she’s calm, rational, analytical, and in control; when Princess Celestia comes across Twilight in the library, by this stage she’s upset, stressed, and exhausted. So I attempted to show that, in spite of filly Twilight’s attempts to be “brainy” and all grown up, ultimately she is still just a child; and it’s up to Princess Celestia (and the Tooth Flutterpony) to remind her that it’s perfectly okay for her to be a child.

  1. See my prior comments about children being devourers of time and energy. I tend to write in small stints often separated by several days. Or weeks.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Don’t let me detain you.

You can read The Truth About Myths And Legends at FIMFiction.net. Read more interviews right here at the Royal Canterlot Library, or suggest stories for us to feature at our Fimfiction group.