A Hearth’s Warming Tail
SPOILER ALERT! Those of you who have not seen the show, be warned. This review is going to contain spoilers about the episode. If you have not seen it yet, watch it right now and read my review in 20 minutes, or prepare to have some of the critical plot mentioned before you view it. I am assuming many of you are bronies, or fans of the show, and you are reading this review for an interesting insight on an episode you have seen countless times already (as have I), in which case, continue reading, and enjoy!
The eighth episode of the sixth season of MLP: FiM first aired on May 14th, 2016. For anyone not familiar with S2 E11 (“Hearth’s Warming Eve”) or S5 E20 (“Hearthbreakers”), Hearth’s Warming is a holiday similar to Christmas in its festivities. It celebrates unicorns, pegasi, and earth ponies getting along to ward away windigos, magical spirits that create extreme cold in the presence of hatred. The previous episodes aired on December 17th and October 24th respectively. These dates are both close to winter and Christmas. Why a Hearth’s Warming episode aired in the middle of May, I have no idea. Maybe it was to appease the MLP fans in the southern hemisphere.
To begin, all of Ponyville is singing and excitedly preparing for the holiday. Well, everyone except for Starlight Glimmer, who considers skipping the celebration of Hearth’s Warming altogether.
In order to change Starlight’s mind about Hearth’s Warming, Twilight wants to share her personal favorite holiday story, A Hearth’s Warming Tail. When Twilight begins to read the book, the scene changes to a Victorian-looking Canterlot. This is when I realized that the episode would be alluding to A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The Scrooge-like character, Snowfall Frost, looks exactly like Starlight (the earlier version). Clearly, it’s not a coincidence.
Snowfall is a great magician (like Starlight) and wants to be perfect. She devotes all of her time to practicing magic so she can be great; all other things are a waste of time. Snowfall tells her assistant, Snowdash, that singing songs and being nice wouldn’t solve anything; one should strive to work hard, learn, and use one’s skills to better Equestria. In fact, Snowfall decides to use her magic to completely eradicate the day from the calendar. She sings an ominous song while stealing presents and decorations in a Grinch-like manner.
Starlight interrupts the story and points out what we are all thinking: removing an entire day is really freaking drastic. Spike adds a snarky and funny comment about how Starlight made an entire village of ponies equal by stealing their cutie marks and giving them equal signs instead.
Twilight continues the story. Before Snowfall casts the spell to remove Hearth’s Warming forever, a ghost comes out of the cauldron. The Spirit of Hearth’s Warming Past (SHWPA) lassos Snowfall and brings her back in time, to when she was a filly. Snowfall used to love Hearth’s Warming. Snowfall was full of holiday spirit until her professor makes her recite the way to becoming a powerful unicorn:
work hard, pay cash, and don’t take vacation. Oops, that’s what my dad says makes a powerful person. In order to become a powerful unicorn, Snowfall needs to work hard, learn, and use her skills to better Equestria. Her professor tells her she needs to choose between learning to become a powerful unicorn, or wasting time with toys and holidays. Starlight throws the holiday decorations away and changes herself completely in order to become a powerful unicorn through hard work and studying.
On an unrelated note, her professor reminded me so much of Professor Snape, both in apearance and demeanor. In addition to being a brony, I am a huge Potterhead. Rest in peace, Alan Rickman. ❤
When Snowfall returns from witnessing her past, she asks for guidance. SHWPA is no longer there, however. Instead, the Spirit of Hearth’s Warming Presents (SHWPR) emerges from a box. Yes, presents, as in gifts. And in case you couldn’t guess which major character SHWPR resembles, it’s Pinkie Pie.
SHWPR reinstates a lesson taught in “The Gift of the Maud Pie,” a few episodes back; the gift’s meaning matters more than the actual gift itself. The spirit’s SHWPR sense goes off, signifying a song. A very annoying (and possibly mildly catchy) song. Update: after several times listening to it, the song has grown on me.
During the song, SHWPR claims the most important gifts do not have to be very big… as she heals a Tiny-Tim-like character’s legs by giving him new dancing shoes. Giving the pony the ability to walk/dance seems like a pretty big gift to me, but whatever. And although the whole song is about presents, the real reason for the holiday is nothing about generosity, but being with friends, apparently, which seems silly, and I would not have realized that, unless it was explicitly stated in the very last line of the song. I mean, really… the whole song was about giving presents and they are everywhere. Is SHWPR claiming friends are the real presents? The song doesn’t seem to point at this, but I need to make the real reason for Hearth’s Warming fit somehow. *Sigh* I really need to stop overthinking kids’ shows.
Anyway, Snowdash and her friends Merry and Flutterholly discuss Snowfall’s thoughts about the holiday. Flutterholly thinks a perfect Equestria looks like a Hearth’s Warming party. SHWPR agrees, and shows sadness that it will be the last one ever, before fading away into a fog.
Snowfall follows after SHWPR into the fog and encounters the Spirit of Hearth’s Warming Yet to Come (SHWY2K). SHWY2K sings an amazing song and informs Snowfall that she will be successful in eliminating Hearth’s Warming. As a result, windigos will return, even though Snowfall assumed they were just part of a silly story. Seeing the horrors of the future, Snowfall decides to prevent it and does not cast the spell.
Instead, Snowfall goes to the party that Snowdash and the others are at. She gives Snowdash a last minute gift of bottled Dragon Toenail. At first it seems like Snowdash doesn’t like the gift, but it turns out she loves it. Snowfall enjoys the party with everypony and they are happy. The end.
Having finished reading the story, Twilight and Spike head downstairs to join the Hearth’s Warming party. She invites Starlight to join, and Twilight gives her a warm welcome. Starlight has a good time and sings carols with everypony else.
Overall, I loved this episode, although it would have probably had a stronger effect closer to Christmastime. The lessons seemed weak, but perhaps later in the year, they would have appeared stronger to me. Being based off a classic was nice, and it made it enjoyable for how it related to the original work, as well as for being a unique piece. The music was great. My favorite song was SHWY2K’s, but even SHWPR’s (originally my least favorite part of the episode) was still good. I liked pretty much everything, and can’t pick out much that I didn’t enjoy, except maybe how annoying SHWPR was. I mean, it was based on an amazing piece of literature, so the story was great. The humor was on point; the references were too. A lot of fan-favorite characters made an appearance. And Starlight Glimmer, who I originally did not like (her reformation seemed too fast) is quickly growing on me to become a personal favorite character. Wonderful episode though, truly.