Dig into a famous archaeologist’s past with today’s story.
Daring Doodle Donkey
[Adventure] • 13,637 words
Cranky Doodle Donkey has spent years searching Equestria for that special jenny he lost at the Grand Galloping Gala. He’s been to cities far and wide, and searched from the peaks of the tallest mountains to the floors of the lowest valleys. He’s seen it all, or so he claims. The roads are his and his alone, and the solitude is something he’s simply grown used to.
Until one night, he discovers a filly hiding in a snowy hollow, scared, alone, and freezing to death …
FROM THE CURATORS: In some ways, this story is exactly what it appears to be: a world-spanning, decades-long adventure about two restless wanderers drawn together by fate. But Daring Doodle Donkey is both simpler than that, and much deeper than that. “This is almost less a story than an explanation — a look at how to assemble a particularly unlikely but not implausible bit of headcanon,” Chris said. “Stories like that are usually awful because they exist for no other purpose than to justify whatever ‘clever’ idea they’ve dreamed up. But this fic exceeds its fellows by not only explaining its premise, but by actually investing in it.”
That gentler, more reflective approach was something we all appreciated. “The 24th Pegasus isn’t afraid to dive into low-key, low-stakes scenes, despite the Adventure tag this fic carries, and the result is a story in which Cranky and Daring exist as more than just tools to push forward an author’s agenda,” Chris said, and Present Perfect agreed: “For all that this has the trappings of a world-spanning adventure, it’s really just a story about an adoptive family, how they grow apart and together again over a long span of time. Really remarkable stuff.” AugieDog, too, was impressed by that more personal focus. “I’ve always had a soft spot for stories that show how characters who are unlikely to even meet on the show could interact,” he said. “This is very much a character piece focused on the influence the two have on each other and how they each fit into the other’s lives, and on that level, it works quite well. A fun story all around.”
That combined with strong prose to seal this story’s feature. “The descriptions in this are both vivid and economical,” Horizon said, “both in the sense of place they inspire and in the passage of time.” Present Perfect was also caught by the story’s imagery — “in particular, that early scene where Cranky nearly falls to his death and has to take a few moments to process still being alive,” he said. “The writing in this story is top-notch, and one of the main draws.”
Read on for our author interview, in which The 24th Pegasus discusses unexplored ruins, sunscreen boops, and marshmallow death lasers.
Give us the standard biography.
I’m just a college senior who writes ponies doing everything from going on grand adventures to kissu kissu to take my mind off of the busy and stressful life of trying to get a degree in bioengineering. Like basically everybody else on this site (I assume), I’m a huge nerd who gets his fix of vidya games, D&D, and small colorful horses whenever he can. Between all that and schoolwork, sometimes finding the time to write is hard, but I try to keep myself disciplined and spew out horsewords on a regular basis. Which, given my current projects, is less often that I would like, but you do what you gotta do.
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
It was really just a matter of combining my favorite number and my favorite pony race, and I’d already used a similar moniker on Xbox Live (before I joined the PC Master Race), so I just ponified it. I’m the 24th grandchild of my grandmother on my father’s side of the family, and that was also Jeff Gordon’s number before he retired from NASCAR, so I make use of the number when I can; it has plenty sentimental value for me, silly or not. And everybody knows pegasi are the best race anyways. I mean, they can fly, and their history is basically that of Ancient Rome/Greece. How could anyone not like the warrior bird horses?
Also, please call me 24, not 24th. I’d rather be a number than an adjective, thank you.
Who’s your favorite pony?
Back when I did an interview for my most notable story, Of Skies Long Forgotten (/plug), I would’ve said Rainbow Dash, because that was written around the height of Rainbow’s awesomeness. But due to … let’s call it ‘less than favorable’ treatment of her character in recent seasons, she’s fallen to Rarity on the best pony list. Rarity just seems to have this ability to work with the rest of the cast, and the episodes where she’s the focus are always stellar. Something about this proud-yet-kind fashionista really brings out the best of not only herself, but whatever character(s) she’s paired with for an episode. That, and almost all of her gags and references are genuinely funny or amusing to figure out, like the multiple Titanic references in “Pony Point of View”.
Also, out of all the Mane 6, Rarity has resorted to violence to deal with threats more often than the rest of them. Sure, Rainbow Dash might dream of kicking butt and singlehoofedly taking down a changeling swarm, but Rarity is more likely to buck a real manticore in the face, laser-beam evil dress nightmares to death, or absolutely obliterate Applejack’s face for so much as suggesting that they split Tom six ways. Don’t mess with this horse, because she will hurt you.
What’s your favorite episode?
Oh boy, this question is always a difficult one. But I’d have to say a toss-up between “The Mysterious Mare-Do-Well” and “Newbie Dash”.
(Please people it’s just a joke don’t kill me.)
In all seriousness, if I’m allowed to pick episode pairs, then probably “The Cutie Re-Mark”, aka the season 5 finale. It felt great to see Twilight struggle against a competent villain who could bend time to her will through many, many applications of the Butterfly Effect. Whereas many of the villains in MLP tend to be either way too overconfident for their own good (Nightmare Moon, Discord, Chrysalis) or just downright incompetent and bland (Sombra, even Tirek to an extent), Starlight provided something that we hadn’t really seen in the show all that much: a villain who could think, plot, and plan, and was so successful in doing so that Twilight was at a loss for most of the finale with trying to form a plan to stop her. I’ll stop now before this turns into any more of an analysis of Starlight’s character and the division between people who like her (me) and people who don’t, but the alternate timelines we saw, specifically the Sombra War, were amazing. If I could get a PG-13 spinoff series of the Sombra War, I’d be so happy.
If I had to pick a single episode, probably “Rarity Investigates!”, and this is only like 2/3s because I ship Raridash extremely hard. Rarity and Rainbow are a great team together, and I’m amazed that it took the show this long to really do an episode with those two. But mostly I just love all the shipping fuel it provided me with.
What do you get from the show?
Mostly enjoyable and colorful episodes of (usually) mature characters dealing not only with silly friendship problems, but serious issues that many other shows wouldn’t feel comfortable tackling. Episodes like “Tanks for the Memories” and “Amending Fences” have been absolutely phenomenal at that. Season 6 has also raised a few talking points about Starlight Glimmer being a sociopath, which is certainly an interesting take on her role as a character and how that fits into the morals and lessons of the show.
But in all honesty, we all watch it for the imaginary shipping, right?
What do you want from life?
To have a good time, really. That’s all everything really works toward, right? We seek companionship, money, and in some cases, power, to attain the means to enjoy ourselves. If I have a house, a family, money, and plenty of distractions by the time I turn 40, I’ll have considered my time spent so far on this world a success.
Why do you write?
If I don’t write the stories floating around in my head, who will? That’s ultimately what it comes down to. I write for myself first and foremost, because the only way to make some of the ideas I come up with real is for me to actually sit down and write them. Beyond that, I write for what every other author craves deep down inside, even if they deny it: fame and recognition. The only thing better than writing for yourself is writing for yourself and the people who love your work. You give them what they want to read, and they give you the motivation to keep writing. It’s a win-win situation.
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Write everyday. It’s probably advice you’ve heard before if you’ve ever gone snooping around for tips and tricks to improve your writing, but I can’t stress enough how true it is. I try to write 1000 words every day that I have the time, because it keeps me in the rhythm of just generating content and moving the story along. Don’t worry about if what you just wrote is garbage or not; save that for the editing phase. Your job is to just write and keep writing. Let your editors (and yourself, when the time comes for it) worry about polishing your rabble. It’s almost certainly not going to be pretty the first time around; if you can write prose like SS&E or Pen Stroke on your first try, then you’re way better than I’ll ever hope to be, and I should be the one asking you for advice, not the other way around.
What inspired you to pair Cranky Doodle Donkey and Daring Do?
A conversation at Bronycon, funny enough. I forget what exactly started it, but we were talking about Cranky and his adventures across Equestria. As we all know, he spent a long time looking for Matilda, and he’s been to every corner of the world looking for her; just look at the huge and diverse cast of friends that show up to his wedding in “Slice of Life”. We figured that a donkey as traveled as Cranky has to have seen his fair share of interesting and amazing things on his travels, like ancient temples and things like that. And that led me to thinking: who else do we know from the show who loves to get her hooves dirty inside of ancient archeological wonders? Combine that with the slight similarities in their names (Cranky Doodle and Daring Do), and I saw the pieces falling together to make a story. After all, Daring had to have learned her trade from somebody, right?
Despite the adventure tag, there’s not much action in this story. Why the focus on low-stakes, slice-of-life scenes?
In all honesty, the adventure tag is probably a mis-tag that stuck with the story as I moved from planning to writing, because as you point out, there isn’t a real grand, action-y plot to it. My original intention when writing this story was to show how Cranky shaped Daring as she grew up, from an energetic yet abused orphaned filly living in an inhospitable mountain town to the legendary adventurer that she is in the show. The second chapter was supposed to be them exploring a ruin together, and Daring learning the basics of the Indiana Jones School of Archaeology from her experienced adoptive father, but when compared with the other three chapters of the story, it just felt a little out of place. So instead, I decided to drop it down to a family moment between Daring and Cranky, where it becomes immediately apparent that the two see each other as much of a father and daughter as any flesh and blood family would. In the end, the story was never about the kinds of places that the two see in their travels together. It’s about the kind of family they become as the years go on.
(Now if you excuse me, I should probably go adjust the tags on this story …)
Is Daring likely to get along with Matilda in the future?
Almost certainly. Daring spent the better part of her life traveling with Cranky after he rescued her from the abusive ponies of Glacier Point, and so she got to understand just how important Matilda was to Cranky that he would spend years and years just wandering from place to place in the seemingly impossible hopes of stumbling onto her doorstep. Through Cranky, she got to know a jenny who was amazingly compassionate and caring, and she witnessed firsthand just how much Matilda meant to her father. When she finally gets the chance to see Matilda and Cranky together at last, it makes her almost as happy as she knows her father is. And since both Matilda and Cranky are a little old to have any kids of their own, I’m sure Matilda would love to welcome Daring into her family as her own daughter. I see the two of them enjoying each other’s company and spending plenty of time together. Besides, how else is Matilda supposed to learn all of Cranky’s embarrassing stories from his decades of travel if not through Daring?
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Raridash is the best ship, Starlight Glimmer is the best not-Rarity unicorn, and “Newbie Dash” wasn’t all that bad. I’ll refrain from self-promoting here, but if you’ve enjoyed Daring Doodle Donkey, I encourage you to take a look at the rest of my work. Authors live off of likes and follows, don’t you know?
Thank you, Royal Canterlot Library, for having me, and a thank you to everyone else for reading.
Ante Legionem nihil erat, et nihil erit post Legionem.