The reformed changelings were how I began regularly writing FiM content, and more importantly, how I discovered my spark for writing platonic love and dialogue. Today I thought I’d refurbish several old analysis blogs from FIMFiction and give the changelings a proper lore analysis in Worldbuilding Workout.
From Vampires to Fairies, A Reformed Changeling Deep Dive:
The changelings are some of the most interesting characters from MLP:FiM because of how inherently magical they are, and how open-ended their lore and culture was before and after Thorax usurped Chrysalis and reformed their species. The nature of love magic and how the changelings used it for nourishment in their new forms was never explained, nor were any societal changes that they may have gone through because of that (outside of Thorax’s introduction of fun social activities and safe spaces.)
But we need to start somewhere, so let’s begin with social structure and how I built off of the hints the show gave us.
In Chrysalis’s hive, the changelings acted like a hive-mind or regimented military, acting in sync and not being shown to have thoughts or ideas unrelated to their queen’s goals. Individual values and wants were not something Chrysalis likely tolerated, given her selfish personality and obsession with ruling over others. The nature of her rule was hinted at or demonstrated throughout the show, but the best example from the mouths of her (former) subjects was in Celestial Advice, when a changeling used terminology often used to describe standing up to bullies.
When Thorax took over the changelings were encouraged to explore unique interests, and so this hive mind concept shifted more towards autonomy and individualism. This was shown best in To Change a Changeling, when the changelings not only showed varying degrees of interest in different hobbies, but were allowed to actively disagree with Thorax regarding Pharynx and how he should be dealt with.
Thorax replaced tyranny with something more tolerant and soft. This had its own faults of course but, importantly, it allowed for feedback and varying wants from what the leader wanted.
When Pharynx reformed at the end of To Change a Changeling it was symbolic of reintroducing the sterner but important aspects of self-defense and security that Thorax had let lax in his tireless efforts to ensure that every changeling on the face of the continent was as happy and loved as could be. Thorax and Pharynx ruling together was alluded to being more efficient than either of them ruling separately, a mirroring of Celestia and Luna.
More than these things though, two lore points were dropped over time that hinted towards major change:
- In Triple Threat, Thorax and Spike refer to the hive collective as a ‘pack’, not a ‘swarm.’ ‘Pack’ in this context would refer to pack animals—groups of animals that live and find food together, often having hierarchies of authority and collective responsibility for protecting their young and each other.
- In The Hearth’s Warming Club, A Horse Shoe-In, and Uprooted, Ocellus was given canonical parents and younger siblings (as confirmed by the Gameloft mobile game, trading card game, and MLP Wiki.)
It was these two points that formed much of the lore that I crafted in The King of Love Bugs. In KoLB, the changelings have become a tight-knit community of individual families all under the guidance of Thorax and Pharynx, the ‘alpha’ and ‘beta’ leaders. Pairs of parents still raise and look after their offspring, but so do the rest of the hive’s adults and leaders, when needed. The hive even has a ‘nursery’ that acts as a communal daycare for all of the hive’s young to be looked after by groups of adults in shifts.
The introduction of Ocellus’s parents also formed my theories regarding Chrysalis and her true relationship with the changelings. Because Ocellus’s parents point towards changelings mating in pairs and not as colony insects, I applied the nature of the ancient Spartan agoge to Chrysalis’s hive. The agoge was an arduous military education program the Spartans used to take boys away from their families at a young age in order to raise them to be loyal, brutal soldiers.
Under this headcanon, changelings always mated in pairs, but Chrysalis, as the leader, gathered them together as eggs and raised them as she saw fit—to be ruthless, obedient warriors in her personal army. By doing this, Chrysalis assured that each new generation of changelings would be completely subservient to her. This headcanon explains all of the flashbacks we see through Thorax (Chrysalis interacting with numerous young changelings, and slightly older changelings being taught to destroy training dummies) while maintaining the show’s decision to give Ocellus unique parents.
It is possible that Thorax ordered mass adoptions after Chrysalis was dethroned, but this requires a bit more headcanon work and is something I feel Thorax would have mentioned to Spike in Triple Threat when talking about his struggles with leadership at home.
(This topic has its own analysis on FIMFiction, which you’ll find linked at the end of the post, so be sure to check that out as further reading if you’re interested.)
And Then There’s Thorax, Dadking and Professional Cinnabug
And so let’s shift focus back to the sappy glue that holds this entire headcanon together.
Thorax reinforced the ‘tight-knit pack animal’ theory numerous times. The best example is with Ocellus, who he personally scolds like a concerned father in Uprooted after she runs away from home. He does this an entire season after it was already established in The Hearth’s Warming Club that Ocellus has guardians of her own. He acts like a second father towards Ocellus, so it’s by no stretch to say that he probably acts this way with all of the changelings.
Thorax also acted fatherly towards Ocellus in School Daze when introducing her for the first time, and in To Change a Changeling he took great enjoyment in establishing fun new ways for the changelings to spend time together.
But crafts, theater, and safe spaces did not explain how shared love magic fitted into this new, self-reliant society that Thorax created. And so we loop back around to the idea that forms the very basis of The King of Love Bugs: cluster sleep, and sharing love through proximity and touch.
Shared Love Magic and the Power of Platonic Love
Physical Affection as Energy
In To Where and Back Again it’s shown that Thorax lost his need to ‘feed’ on the love of other creatures after he formed a genuine friendship with Spike. Just having that emotional connection was enough to satiate the eternal hunger the changelings had always suffered from. This is the extent to which the show builds on how shared love magic works.
As creatures who are satiated by love, though, I believed there was more to the changelings than this. There was room to build on this concept of ‘love = energy’, and even incorporate the concept of pack animal hierarchy and behavior into it.
The answer I came up with was acts of physical affection. In the show, Thorax was shown to be readily huggy and affectionate towards his friends in Triple Threat. Add to this, Thorax would likely crave a closer relationship with the changelings after taking on the throne, having been an outcast his entire life. Why wouldn’t he want to promote love and platonic intimacy among his kind when he finally had the opportunity to? After all, it was Thorax who said, ‘if my kind learned how to create love for one another, maybe they wouldn’t have to take it from others!’ (The Times They are a Changeling)
“After we transformed, we discovered something else.” Thorax looked around at his newly-assembled nest. He rested a hoof on the head of a young changeling flopped in front of his chest, and the bug thrummed incessantly. “While long-term relationships sustain us from hunger, physical acts of affection, including resting together, rejuvenates our bodies rapidly in the present.”‘An Elegant Discussion’, The King of Love Bugs
“From what I’ve been able to gather, the closer we are, both physically and emotionally, the faster we regain energy,” Thorax explained, promptly gifting Twilight’s quill ammunition. “Regaining energy through being close can’t completely substitute actual sleep, but the amount of time you need to sleep per day is greatly reduced when being close while being asleep. Um, if that makes any sense.”‘The Crossroads of Friendship and Love – Part 3’, The King of Love Bugs
‘Cluster sleep’ or ‘cluster naps’ are when two or more changelings rest together and restore each other’s physical and mental energy. ‘Rest’ can be actual sleep or merely resting while awake, and changelings can do this while being close enough to touch or merely being nearby. The behavior mirrors many pack animals, like dogs and wolves, who will ‘cuddle’ in piles while sleeping because it’s practical for warmth (though there are often complicated hierarchy dynamics of who is allowed to cuddle with who in real-life.)
But it’s not just resting together. Any act of physical affection between changelings will act as both energy replenishment and a boost to a changeling’s mood, from hugs to head pats. The closer the changelings are emotionally, the more powerful their love magic is and thus the more potent the effect it will have.
Thorax, as the alpha is able to transmit replenishing love energy towards far more changelings than the average changeling can. While most changelings can only resonate with one or two others at once, Thorax can impact dozens, and can improve the quality of other changelings’ abilities when he is a part of that group, or ‘circuit.’ In KoLB this is affectionately attributed to Thorax’s loving personality by the other changelings, but there is a strong biological component too.
He is essentially a love magic WiFi router. This is why the most effective cluster naps have a large amount of changelings with Thorax at the center, so he can increase the strength of everyone’s magic.
Because Pharynx has antlers as well, albeit smaller ones, he is also capable of replenishing a greater number of changelings than normal. Unfortunately for everyone involved, Pharynx is allergic to emotions and doesn’t take advantage of this power very much or in the same way that Thorax does. I like to think, though, that his guard units have reported him being able to revitalize them with gritty, heartfelt pep talks.
Mental Metamorphosis, Emotional Immaturity and Newfound Patience
I believe there is a mental aspect to the changeling’s transformation. A multi-layered change that explains how their behavior was so different after they transformed. In To Change a Changeling the drones acted notably immature, overreacting with emotional outbursts in several scenes and selfishly seeking to oust Pharynx instead of attempting to see his side or empathize with Thorax, who was his brother.
I believe that upon metamorphosis, changelings must get used to feeling a broad range of emotions rather than feeding off of them. This manifests as emotional immaturity—compulsiveness, ease of excitement, selfishness, etc. I delve into this in KoLB by showing many adult changelings behaving similarly to nymphs in many different situations, especially when exploring new places.
This effect is temporary though. In KoLB’s sequel, Caught You Because I Could, Thorax says that the hive’s adults have ‘acclimated’ to feeling and regulating their emotions.
What’s truly fitting about this headcanon is how natural Thorax already acts as a doting father figure in canon, and how easy it is to believe that he acts this way with all of the changelings, both nymphs and adults. Thorax, who is unique in that he was feeling emotions and expressing empathy since he was young, was in just the right position to help guide his newly-reformed species in navigating the wide-eyed nymph-hood they never had.
(I’ve given thought to how Thorax may have been destined for this role, that his aptitude for emotional intelligence and expression—the exact things his species needed to revolutionize their society—did not come to him by accident. This is never mentioned in any of my works because concepts of greater powers and destiny can be divisive, but if I had delved into this, I would have alluded to the Tree of Harmony as the suspected (but not confirmed) culprit, and drawn a comparison between the tree guiding Thorax to become a king of love and Celestia guiding Twilight to become a princess of friendship.)
Pharynx is a bit different. Because Pharynx remained largely emotionally closed-off before and (presumably) after transforming, he did not suffer the same emotional turbulence the drones did. Instead, what I depicted in Pharynx was a greater aptitude for patience. No longer constantly starving, Pharynx became far more patient towards others and with the world around him after transforming. This allowed him to engage with and tolerate Thorax and the other changelings far better when it comes to the multitude of things he doesn’t understand or relate with.
With more patience comes more willingness to listen and compromise, and so Thorax is actually able to interact with his older brother without being given the cold shoulder constantly. Pharynx is still gruff and altogether uninterested in the sappier parts of shared love magic, but he is better able to co-exist with it.
Thorax—specifically a male character with a loving personality like Thorax—becoming a king and caretaker for a bunch of former misfits became the creative drive I needed to create my greatest creative achievement in my first three decades of life. Even now it continues to be a source of inspiration for creative writing and analysis years after MLP:FiM ended. It also lead to my discovery of loving to write platonic love, dialogue, and child-friendly media that shows kids and adults what healthy relationships look like.
The two blogs this analysis picks, adds, and refines from are linked below for further reading. One has a lot more self-reflection mixed in with lore analysis/headcanon and the other focuses specifically on Chrysalis and her relationship with the changelings.
- Analyzing Creatures of Love – Reformed Changeling Lore & Headcanon (2019)
- ‘This is Wholesome? No, This is Sparta!’ An In-Depth Look at Chrysalis’s Relationship with the Changelings (2021)
Commission Corner: Bug Writers in Peril
Back in March I discovered through a series of improbable events that the legendary pre-reformed Thorax writer, Carapace, lives barely twelve miles away from me. After meeting up and hanging out, we decided to co-commission something amusing with our characters. Seeing as we both live in Florida, gators were the only logical choice.
Artist Links & Credits/Footnote:
SinrinF is talented with digital art across multiple fandoms, and has incredible art of MLP and human characters!
ItsTaylor-Made has been creating stunning MLP digital artwork for years, and draws remarkable eyes.
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