Monday, October 28, 2013

Audio Review - MLP FiM Fansongs - "The Moon Rises" (2012) and "Lullaby for a Princess"

"Audio Review

of the

My Little Pony - Friendship Is Magic Fansongs

'The Moon Rises' and 'Lullaby for a Princess'


© 2012

by  Ponyphonic"

© 2013


Jordan S. Bassior   


 Earlier this year, I discovered the joys of My Little Pony:  Friendship Is Magic.  It's an unusual show -- essentially, it's both epic high steampunk fantasy (1) about a Chosen One (Twilight Sparkle) and her True Companions (the rest of the Mane Six and Spike), and a children's comedy about seven friends growing from late adolescence to adulthood and making their way through life -- and in both modes xenofiction, set in a world of sapient, civilized equines and other sapient creatures of various kinds.

Part of the series backstory is that over a millennium ago there was a dark age in which the demon Discord, a being capable of changing the very laws of Nature, ruled the world, causing chaos and suffering.  Two powerful alicorn sisters, Celestia and Luna arose to defeat Discord.  After Discord was defeated they became the new rulers of Equestria.  Celestia was the Princess of the Sun, whose responsibility it was to ensure that the Sun rose in the day; Luna the Princess of the Moon, whose domain was the Moon and the Stars of night (2).  And for a time happiness and harmony prevailed.

Unfortunately, Luna grew jealous of her older sister, for the Ponies loved the day more than they did the night, and thus loved Celestia more than they did Luna.  Luna's jealousy left her open to corruption by the forces of darkness.  She went mad, became transformed into Nightmare Moon, and attempted to bring about Eternal Night (which would have eventually destroyed most life on their world).

Celestia defeated Luna and banished her to the Moon.  There she remained for a thousand years, during which Celestia ruled the land of Equestria alone.  During this millennium the Ponies flourished under the peace of Celestia, developing a complex culture and technologically-advanced civilization.  They knew Celestia as their goddess-queen, but Luna faded into a dark myth.

The series proper begins with the two-part episode "Friendship Is Magic," in which Luna returns and the Mane Six form to once again defeat her:  the defeat cleanses Luna of the Nightmare force, and she is forgiven and allowed to resume her role as Princess of the Moon.  Since then she has tried as best as possible to adapt to a world which is very different from the one she remembers.

The Review:

Ponyphonic is composed of Jim Abdo, producer and owner of BrokenWorks Production; Don Larson, a Seattle-area composer, lyricist and musician; Dane Larson, a musician and Christina Larson, a singer. 

The two songs discussed here: "The Moon Rises" and "Lullaby for a Princess," are taken together the story of how Luna became transformed into Nightmare Moon, and how Celestia -- after defeating her the first time -- now misses her banished sister, and blames herself for failing to stop her transformation in time to save her.

Both songs are extremely beautiful, dramatic and emotionally moving.  They are lovely lyrical poems, set to haunting classical music (3), and sung with great skill -- the first by Don Larson, and the second by Christina.  They are both entirely consistent with series canon as shown so far (Luna's getting a major two-part story as the Season 4 opener, so this may change) and deepen it through character analysis.

"The Moon Rises" is sung by Luna.  It starts off, darkly but calmly sweetly, with her extolling the beauties of night and wishing that the Ponies would love her and her night as they love her sister Celestia's day.  As the song progresses, the volume, tempo and emotional intensity steadily rise, as Luna clearly loses both her moral compass and her sanity.  Where the song started off with Luna merely asking for some respect, it ends with her deciding that she shall overthrow the Sun and inflict Eternal Night upon the world, whether the Ponies want this or not.

The final lines are incredibly chilling:

And all will know the wonder
Of my dark and jeweled sky (4)
When all the world is wrapped
In an eternal lullaby.
So say goodnight at this,
The final setting of the sun
Tomorrow dawns in darkness
The nighttime has begun!

Luna has gone so far astray that she either no longer knows -- or worse, cares -- that her "eternal lullaby" would mean death to all.  She's become the Nightmare Moon we first meet in "Friendship Is Magic."  Given this, we know that Celestia will have no good choice but to banish her.

"Lullaby for a Princess" is musically a lullaby but dramatically a lament, with the lament framing the lullaby.  Celestia sings of herself in third person and first person, transferring from the detachment of third person to the searing identification of first person as she accepts responsibility for her own tragic error.  This is obvious from the introduction Ponyphonic wrote to the song, which describe Celestia's emotions as a "mix of bitterness, tenderness and very distant hope."

At the beginning, Celestia mockingly describes her own smug pride at her own power and the admiration of her subjects.  The sweetness of Christina's voice here is clearly meant with painful sacrasm.

Once did a pony who shone like the sun
Look out on her kingdom and sigh
She smiled and said, "Surely, there is no pony
So lovely and so well beloved as I"

 to the point that she could not see what her pride was doing to her younger sister Luna.

So great was her reign and so brilliant her glory
That long was the shadow she cast
Which fell dark upon the young sister she loved
And grew only darker as days and nights passed
She admits that she saw that her sister was unhappy

Soon did that pony take notice that others
Did not give her sister her due
And neither had she loved her as she deserved
She watched as her sister's unhappiness grew
but was so happy with her own popularity that she could not be bothered to do anything to change the situation:

But such is the way of the limelight, it sweetly
Takes hold of the mind of its host
And that foolish pony did nothing to stop
The destruction of one who had needed her most 

Note the content and imagery:  Celestia is accusing HERSELF of vainglorious pride (one of the worst sins possible for a demi-goddess, and in Christian Mythology the one responsible for the Fall of Lucifer) (5).  What's more, she describes the seduction of celebrity as if it were a parasite which "takes hold of the mind of its host."

Christina handles this part of the song with supreme skill, letting her originally-serene tone become increasingly emotional until she is almost breaking into tears.  This is Celestia describing her own fall to temptation:  the worst mistake of her life, which at the time she deluded herself into believing was her height of glory.  To be followed, of course, by Celestia's worst moment.

So Luna became Nightmare Moon, and Celestia had to banish her, and only then did she realize the horrible fate to which Celestia had condemned not only Luna but herself as well.  Now, immortal Celestia has no equal companion.  The music takes a bleak tone and one can here a sub-theme like the cold winds of time blowing across the lonely millennium stretching before the bereaved Sun Goddess.

The years now before us
Fearful and unknown
I never imagined
I'd face them on my own

She still loves Luna, and longs for her return

May these thousand winters
Swiftly pass, I pray
I love you; I miss you
All these miles away 

which puts what otherwise seems like Celestia's easy forgiveness of Luna at the end of the two-part series premiere in perspective.  Luna's defeat and cleansing by the Elements of Harmony is exactly what Celestia intended, what Celestia planned for when she took Twilight Sparkle as a student, what Celestia has been hoping to have happen for a THOUSAND YEARS.


These two songs are awesomely well-written, both in melody and lyrics, and sung with power and passion.  They provide a new and well-reasoned perspective on the main series, and I have heard that Ponyphonic has aroused the admiration of show composer Daniel Ingram for their works.  I urge everyone to listen to them -- and defy people to hear them the first time without crying, at least a little bit.



(1) - Equestria's is a bit Schizo Tech:  overall the level of technology seems equivalent to c. 1900 in terms of energy and transportation, c. 2000 in terms of  medicine, and c. 1850-1950 in other fields.  Slightly lower than our world, but with both Magitek and many forms of traditional magic.

(2) - This leads to all sorts of obvious physical questions, none of which the series has answered.  I actually like the mixture of Bronze Age creation myth and modern rationality embodied in the premise (and very much so in Twilight Sparkle herself):  it makes it all seem the more like some strange and beautiful dream.

(3) - As far as I can tell, composed by Ponyphonic himself -- I'm moderately familiar with classical music and I've never heard these melodies before.  I would appreciate it if someone more expert in the field could enlighten me on the derivations.

(4) - Equestria is rich in jewels, and jewels are used throughout the series as symbols of beauty.  Rarity, the unicorn embodying the Element of Generosity, loves jewels, has the magical talent of jewel-finding, and makes it her mission in life to spread beauty everywhere.  Dragons, embodiments of greed and selfishness as in Tolkien, eat jewels.  The one wholly-sympathetic dragon in the series, Spike (who was raised by Ponies and is able to conquer his own greed), has a deep attraction to Rarity.  

And Luna is beautiful, both without and within (see "Sleepless in Ponyville"), and yet feared by people who do not always grasp that Dark Is Not Evil.  It is this fear of her which fuels her jealousy, and allows the Nightmare access to her soul, and thus does corrupt her into the truly dangerous and evil Nightmare Moon.

Interestingly it's Twilight Sparkle, who loves astronomy and thus the "dark and jeweled sky," who seems to understand and like Luna (once she's no longer Nightmare Moon) better than any other named character in the series save for Celstia herself.  Twilight Sparkle intimately knows that apparent monsters may be not evil, but misunderstood, given that she's the Pony who raised Spike the Dragon.

(5) - It is relevant here that MLP: FiM is absolutely suffused with Christian imagery, and a Celestia who completely fell to pride might well have become that world's Satan ("Nightmare Noon?").  In that case, Luna's loss and Celestia's resultant realization saved Celestia from her own corruption, which means that Luna is paying for Celestia's sins -- or, as Celestia puts it in the song "The blame was my own; the punishment, yours ..."

This makes Luna (rather than Celestia) the Christ-figure -- though a dark one!  (It may be relevant here that Luna seems to have a special love for children).


  1. Welcome to the Herd! I saw that you had become a fan of the show some time ago when I read your comment on Sarah Hoyt's blog. (You know, the one about a country that was organized like a family being like North Korea rather than Equestria.) Nice review on those songs, I'm fond of them myself. You know, Ponyphonic has done a third song, about Twilight's ascension. (By the way, would you prefer to continue this conversation here or on your LJ?)

  2. Either place works. My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has become special to me, as are a very few other American cartoon series, most notably Gargoyles, Avatar (both shows), and Adventure Time.