Today’s story might just contain an element of truth.
The Legend of the Gift Horses
[Random] • 2,056 words
If you have ever wondered how the saying “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” came to be, please venture inside and learn one fairytale version of this tale.
FROM THE CURATORS: There are many elements that go into an enjoyable fairy tale, and we found that this one fired on all cylinders — from voice and structure to character and ideas. “This is a fantastic in-universe tale, one that almost seems to delight in its own telling,” Present Perfect said. “I actually got a thrill when Wish was saved, and I adore that Starswirl takes on certain mythic proportions of his own.” AugieDog also enjoyed it all. “Fun and well told,” he said. “My only quibble is that the story ends too soon. I wanted it all to keep going and going. That for me is the sign of a story really getting its hooks into me.”
Others found the story growing on them as it developed. “This starts out looking like a well-constructed but slightly stock fairytale,” Chris said, “but in the aftermath of the battle (near the halfway point in the story), it suddenly becomes much more creative than I was giving it credit for.” Horizon agreed: “This goes places I wasn’t expecting, and I have to give it props for its fusion of its two core mythological components.” Chris further commented on the tale’s balancing act: “It deftly straddles the line between using well-known imagery and relying on cliches.”
All told, those elements added up to more than just the titular fable. “I found myself appreciating this both as a piece of storytelling, and as story in its own right,” Chris said, and Present Perfect agreed: “This is easy to approach on its dual merits.”
Read on for our author interview, in which LiterarySerenity discusses coyote similarities, parental bookshelves, and world-hopping Merlins.
Give us the standard biography.
I’m a 28-year-old freelance writer and transcriber in California, who is in the final semester of a graduate program in Literature & Writing Studies. As of late, most of my days have revolved around developing a final thesis project (a creative novella with a metafictional slant), and reading great stories for inspiration (particularly the works of Cornelia Funke and Diane Wynne Jones).
How did you come up with your handle/penname?
Creative writing has always been a very liberating and serene experience for me. I feel as if I can express myself the best through the written word, and there is a subtle joy in being able to create something (like a story) to share with others. The names of ponies in Equestria tend to hint at their special talents, as well as how the characters approach those talents, so “Literary Serenity” came to my mind as appropriate to portray my own feelings toward writing.
Who’s your favorite pony?
I would have to say Discord is my favorite character out of the whole cast. He reminds me of Coyote from Native American folklore, as a trickster with great power but his own vulnerabilities. I enjoy the overwhelming strength of his personality, his hidden depths, and how much he has grown since his introduction.
In terms of ponies who are strictly ponies, however, I’d say Twilight Sparkle. I can relate to her as a fellow bookworm, scholar, and someone who wants to improve and define her role in the world.
What’s your favorite episode?
That’s a hard decision! Off the top of my head, I’d have to narrow down the choices to either the Season 4 Two-Part Finale or the Season 6 Two-Part Finale. Both of those finales struck me as being major payoff points in the series, where we’ve gotten to witness how far the characters have developed.
In the Season 4 Finale, for instance, we had Twilight defining her role as the Princess of Friendship, the ponies opening the chest, and that major fight against Tirek. Then in the Season 6 Finale we saw a team of ponies, whose lives got turned around thanks to friendship, getting the chance to save Equestria.
What do you get from the show?
I enjoy the positive messages that come across in MLP: FIM, including the need to get along with others and the importance of following your dreams. Other shows have those messages as well, but MLP: FIM approaches life lessons like friendship in refreshing and original ways. For instance, in “The Cutie Map” two-parter, the lesson emphasized was that it takes a combination of talents and individual perspectives to create harmony. But there was also the point that friends don’t always need to agree on everything to be close. They can have disagreements yet respect each other’s differences.
What do you want from life?
I want to make the world a better place, uncover the extraordinary in everyday happenings, and become the best storyteller and creative writer possible. It is my goal to brighten the lives of others with my stories, and to leave my own positive messages behind for future generations.
Why do you write?
Writing is my truest means of self-expression. I write to communicate, create worlds and characters to share with anyone who would like to discover them, remember precious moments in my life, and simply vent (from time to time).
What advice do you have for the authors out there?
Reading and writing as much as possible are very important. Discovering what other authors before you have done, particularly in literary genres that interest you, makes all the difference because they can provide inspirational and solid foundations off which to build. Pick a few of your favorite authors and works, and consider what makes them stick in your mind. While reading, also pay close attention to the flow of prose, how the author uses details, etc. to experiment with in your own writing.
Try to reach out to other writers, be grateful for constructive feedback, and make sure to give constructive feedback in return.
Among the best pieces of advice I can offer is to write stories that fill you with enthusiasm. Don’t be afraid to take risks, and play around as much as possible with your ideas. Creating stories based solely on what “sells” (or is what is “the most popular” at the moment) is damaging if you would rather be writing something else. It turns writing into a job to get through, instead of a fun and fulfilling experience.
Characters are also the heart of most stories, so do your utmost to develop them as much as possible. I’ve always been a fan of character-driven stories, because when characters and their personal development are the main focus, it helps to make the reader feel for them. Furthermore, interesting characters also suggest their own stories (as we’ve seen with all the fanfics for MLP: FIM).
Talk a little about the process of expanding a popular saying into a piece of My Little Pony fanfiction.
Most sayings or phrases have particular (and oftentimes surprising) histories behind them. It struck me that this would also be true in Equestria, and I started to wonder how a phrase like “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” might have originated for them. Equestria is a magical land filled with creatures like Fruit Bats and Timberwolves, whose names suggest something about their construction or appearance. Thrown into such a continuum, Gift Horses didn’t sound too far-fetched. Although then it begged the question of what happened to them, or where they might live.
Around the same time, I reread an abridged version of 1,001 Arabian Nights, which featured the idea of genies bound to objects by Solomon. The two ideas collided and inspired me to turn Gift Horses into the Equestrian version of genies, with Starswirl the Bearded in a kind of Solomon-like role. In “Luna Eclipsed,” Twilight also made reference to the fact that Starswirl apparently knew several pot-related spells, and I thought those pots would make perfect containers for malicious Gift Horses. From there the rest of the story started to come together, with the Gift Horses in actual gift boxes representing the genies on good terms with Starswirl.
The issue of harmony and friendship as foreign concepts to those genies, and the community of ponies as an example for them, also came along at the same time. If this was a story from Equestria, I felt it should come back or contribute something related to those themes.
Why write the story in the form of a fairy tale?
Many of the stories that relate the history of Equestria have had fairy-tale qualities, from the rise of Nightmare Moon (in the very first episode) to the first sentencing of Tirek to Tartarus. We saw them by looking at stylized illustrations in books, such as the one Twilight Sparkle used to learn about the Elements of Harmony. I got the idea that, just maybe, it was the type of book pony parents might keep around to provide bedtime stories for their fillies as well.
Cast in that light, “The Legend of the Gift Horses” could have been another tale among the collection told to fillies that they might or might not forget about as they grew older.
How do you see the character of Starswirl the Bearded?
My perceptions of Starswirl the Bearded are mostly based on the Reflections comic arc, when he got revealed as a past mentor and friend to Princess Celestia. Even since then, I’ve seen Starswirl as a powerful, knowledgeable, fatherly, and eccentric wizard. In other words, I believe he is a lot like Merlin from T.H. White’s The Once and Future King. He has traveled through time, apparently tells Celestia and Luna about the Tree of Harmony, and even knows how to jump from one world to another via mirror.
So when Starswirl appeared before Wish in my fairy tale, I hope to make him leave the same kind and wise impression.
Have you considered returning to the idea and writing about a pony finding a Gift Horse’s box?
I’ve considered it many times. Someday when I have time (like this summer, if all goes well), I’d like to write a straight-on sequel of sorts done in the same format as most of my other stories on FimFiction.net, where some filly stumbles upon the gift box that contains Wish. Of course, that one would probably turn into a novella.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
The supportive nature of our MLP: FIM fan community constantly amazes me. I’d just like to thank everyone who read and enjoyed “The Legend of the Gift Horses,” and to thank all the wonderful people on The Royal Canterlot Library site!