This is a headcanon hypothesis that occurred to me awhile ago, and apparently similar ones have been devised independently by a few other fans. I haven’t seen this version articulated with all the evidence before, so I figured I’d do so now before Season 4 begins and it inevitably gets Jossed. The main proposition is as follows:
Princess Celestia and Princess Luna are Princess Platinum and Clover the Clever, respectively. They were the first unicorns to ascend to Alicorn-hood, and they did so by using both Starswirl the Bearded’s unfinished magical work and the Elements of Harmony.
Side-note: yes, I’m aware that Madam Faust has said that she considers Luna and Celestia to have been born alicorns (does the term “headcanon” even apply here?). But she’s long since ceased to have any creative input into the show, and several pieces of established canon contradict her original intentions — Cadance being an alicorn, for instance.
Here’s the basic timeline this model supposes:
- The events depicted in “Hearth’s Warming Eve” — the three nations unite and migrate to Equestria
- Some time passes — years or perhaps decades, but less than an average pony lifespan
- Discord invades, takes over, and makes a complete mess of things
- Clover and Platinum (probably through some epic multi-year quest) find the Elements of Harmony and use them, along with Starswirl’s research, to become alicorns.
- Using their newfound powers and the elements, they overthrow and imprison Discord
- They then co-rule Equestria until Luna becomes Nightmare Moon, and the show’s established timeline picks up here.
Let’s list the evidence chronologically:
The first suggestion that this hypothesis may be correct actually comes before any mention of Platinum or Clover, in the first episode featuring Luna and the first episode mentioning Starswirl. Luna instantly recognizes Twilight’s costume as Starswirl, and comments “thou even got the bells right.” The comic implication, of course, is that Luna knew Starswirl personally — and apparently knew him quite well, if she can even comment on what sort of bells he put on his robes.
Hearth’s Warming Eve
But this is apparently contradicted in “Hearth’s Warming Eve”, because the chronology doesn’t line up. Spike’s monologue seems to state that the story takes place “long before the peaceful rule of Celestia”, and Clover/Twilight states that Starswirl was her mentor. Clover seems to be the Archmage (or some equivalent title) of the unicorns at this point — otherwise, Starswirl would presumably have been sent instead. So this would suggest that Starswirl has died already, or at least that Clover has graduated from her apprenticeship and Starswirl has retired/semi-retired. This isn’t necessarily true — Clover could have been sent while Starswirl tended to his duties as Archmage, but for such an important matter, sending the apprentice seems unlikely.
So this seems like a simple continuity error — but not necessarily. All these statements could still be true, depending upon how we interpret Spike’s words:
“Once upon a time, long before the peaceful rule of Celestia, and before ponies discovered our beautiful land of Equestria, ponies did not know harmony…And so, mistrust between the tribes festered, until one fateful day, it came to a boil.”
So the play isn’t necessarily set long before Celestia’s rule, it’s just that “ponies did not know harmony” long before her rule. And the play’s opening exposition (that elipsis contains a lot) seems to imply that the pre-harmony state of affairs lasted for some time (though we can’t be certain of that). So it’s plausible that the events of the play (and therefore the founding of Equestria) might occur closer to Celestia’s reign than they initially seem.
The key question here is how much longer before Celestia’s rule it was that Equestria was discovered. True, Spike does describe the pre-harmony period as “long before” Celestia’s rule and only “before” Equestria’s discovery, which could imply that a long time passed between them, but that might also be poetic phrasing. And in any case, what precisely is meant by “long before” is unclear.
So it might be that the play is set before Celestia and Luna began to rule all of Equestria, but not necessarily before they were alive. It’s possible they existed then, but in different forms — and if this hypothesis is correct, those forms were Platinum and Clover.
Now, it’s never stated or even implied that Platinum and Clover are sisters, but it’s plausible. In European aristocracy, for example, the younger siblings of rulers were generally nobles or otherwise-important figures themselves — if Platinum’s younger sister had shown particular promise with magic, training her to be the kingdom’s Archmage would just make sense.
Furthermore, we learn here that the duties of the three nations were originally controlling the weather (pegasi), growing crops (earth ponies), and raising the sun and moon (unicorns). Of all these three, Luna and Celestia only participate in the last one — which is actually kind of odd, when you think about it. As rulers of all three subspecies, we might expect them to have a hand in each, also controlling the weather and allowing food to be grown. But if they were originally Platinum and Clover, it makes sense that they would only be familiar with raising the sun and moon. So they may have continued doing so post-ascension, leaving the other two aspects to those more familiar with them. And as the Princess and Archmage of the unicorns, they would likely have a rather thorough knowledge of the process — with their increased powers as alicorns, it’s plausible that they would now be able to perform it by themselves.
As a side-note, among most of the unicorns we’ve seen, Rarity and Twilight bear the strongest resemblance to Celestia and Luna, respectively. This is particularly true if we compare them to Luna and Celestia’s forms 1,000 or so years ago (as attested by the murals we see in Episode 1). This seems even more significant when we remember that Celestia is the one who chose the cast for the play.
This is actually rather weak evidence — we would expect that Twilight and Rarity would be cast as the two unicorns anyway, for obvious reasons. But it is still worth noting, just for the sake of being thorough. Also, I like the idea that Celestia wrote herself as a stuck-up bitch as an inside joke. It seems like something she would do. And no, we don’t know that Celestia actually wrote the play, but I still like the idea.
The Crystal Empire
Our next hint is from the S3 premiere, when we got our first real indication that Celestia was planning something big for Twilight. We were all wondering what exactly was in that book (and now we know — Starswirl’s unfinished spell), but there’s another question that still hasn’t really been answered:
Why is Luna holding the book?
It’s intended as a test for Twilight, right? So why wouldn’t Celestia be the one keeping hold of it, if it’s intended for a test of her protégé?
It might be just for aesthetic purposes, or to give Luna something to do in the scene so she seems more active. That could definitely be the case.
But there’s another possible explanation; if Luna is indeed Clover, it makes sense that she would be the one who generally safeguards her former mentor’s work. And so, Celestia might be borrowing Starswirl’s work from Luna to test Twilight.
This might also explain Luna’s apparent irritation with Twilight during this scene (for which we still don’t have a canon explanation). If she and Starswirl were close, she might resent the idea of his research being used as merely a test for Twilight, or of Twilight succeeding where he failed. Or she might just be protective of her late mentor’s keepsake.
Magical Mystery Cure
We learned from “Magical Mystery Cure” that the book is Starswirl’s unfinished spell, but other than that, there actually isn’t a whole lot of really insightful evidence here. Celestia says that Twilight “did something today that’s never been done before”, but whether that’s completing this specific spell, becoming an alicorn, or something else entirely is left unclear.
However, one of Celestia’s comments may be relevant; she tells Twilight that Starswirl couldn’t complete the spell “because he did not understand friendship like you do”. What’s interesting here is that Celestia seems able to describe the precise mental block that stopped Starswirl from completing his spell. To do this, one would think she must have known him personally, or at least through only a few intermediates.
We might also take her comments to mean that Starswirl was attempting to become an alicorn. And if this is true (and this is a big “if”, admittedly), then it makes sense that Clover (along with Platinum) might pick up where her mentor had left off, and perhaps eventually succeed.
So far as I can see, this fits with everything we’ve been told in-universe about the history of Equestria. The only piece of lore that might contradict it is Spike’s monologue from Hearth’s Warming Eve, and that monologue is kind of vague.
And there are two more pieces of evidence that might support this hypothesis. I’ve saved them for the end because they’re pretty farfetched, but what fun is fan-theorizing without ridiculous hand-waving?
Hsere waters some epileptic trees
Here’s the first one; based upon Luna’s comments and Twilight’s apparent care with her costume, we can probably infer that her costume is an accurate representation of Starswirl’s actual robes. With that in mind, consider the following:
Now, this isn’t exactly the smoking gun it might first appear to be. Art and resources will get re-used in a series like this. But I can’t recall any two in-show moon images looking so similar. Even Trixie’s cutie mark is noticeably different. So it might be a hint the team slipped in.
Furthermore, the differences that do exist between them might be due to perspective. To illustrate that point, here’s a comparison with a shot from a slightly different angle. Note that Luna’s cutie mark now appears different in shape.
And here’s the last one, and this one I’m fairly certain is just a coincidence. But if it isn’t, then well-played to whoever devised it:
Just on a whim, I decided to do some googling on Platinum and Clover’s names to see if anything relevant came up. For Platinum, I came up dry — nothing particularly links the precious metal to anything related to Celestia.
For Clover, however, I found something interesting. It’s a particular phrase. It seems to be fairly rare, and I actually can’t find anywhere it’s defined, but it does occur as an actual phrase in several places: “clover moon.”
What exactly it means, I haven’t determined, but it seems like it was an established phrase at least by the 1920’s, judging by the following song:
I’ve found it in a few other places listed below. A lot of them seem to relate to new-age spiritualism or something similar:
Coincidence? Probably. But when has that ever stopped us?