|“||My crystal slaves...||„|
|~ King Sombra|
|“||What do I do with this power? Why am I the only one with it?||„|
|~ Sombra to his "mother"|
|“||Restore her? Help me? You've got it all wrong, Hope. I don't need help anymore. And as for Princess Amore, she's not the saint you think she is. Inside she was... BROKEN.||„|
|~ Sombra to Radiant Hope|
King Sombra is a male unicorn who appears as the main antagonist in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic of season 3's premiere The Crystal Empire and the secondary antagonist (redeemed) in the IDW MLP comic, Siege Of The Crystal Empire.
In Friendship is Magic Issue 1, Sombra is revealed not be a real pony, but instead a living shadow creature called "umbrum" who was created to resemble a pony, explaining his lack of a cutie mark. The purpose of his existence was to destroy the Crystal Heart and set free the umbrum army trapped below the Crystal Empire.
Prior to the actual episode
King Sombra first appeared on Hasbro's Pony Wedding microsite, which has been accessible since July 2012, before any information about the character was released publically. The quiz does not refer to him by name. In the microsite's Wedding Quiz section, the quiz "Your dream wedding location!" includes the question "Who should be the MC?", with Sombra as the choice that steers the quiz's result to the Crystal Empire.
Writer M.A. Larson wrote on Twitter regarding the quiz's image of King Sombra that was presented to him: "Interesting. I read about that in a script but never seen it before.
King Sombra is mentioned by one of the crystal ponies and Twilight Sparkle in the promotional clip for The Crystal Empire shown at Hasbro's My Little Pony panel at the New York Comic Con 2012 and later uploaded to Hasbro's My Little Pony Facebook page. His distinct eyes briefly flash over the crystal pony who mentions his name.
Depiction in the series
King Sombra is a unicorn whose heart is said to be as black as night. He took over the Crystal Empire and enslaved the crystal ponies, before Celestia and Luna overthrew him, turning him to shadow and banishing him to the Arctic North, disappearing into a crevice of ice which closed up, but not before he put a curse on the Crystal Kingdom that caused it to disappear for a thousand years.
Eventually the Crystal Empire reappeared, but the crystal ponies had no memory of their kingdom before Sombra took over, and the mere memory of him causes them pain. Sombra returned along with the Crystal Empire, and tried to attack it again. Princess Cadance cast a protection spell around the Crystal Empire.
When Twilight Sparkle, Rainbow Dash, Fluttershy, Applejack, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Spike came to the Crystal Empire to protect it, Sombra chased after them in shadow form, but they got through the barrier, although he attacked Shining Armor he survived, but his horn was cursed so that he could not use magic.
When Cadance began to run out of power to perform the spell, the barrier briefly deactivated. Sombra's horn was broken off as the barrier reactivated, and he transformed it into a dark crystal which began to create more dark crystals in the Crystal Empire.
Twilight and Spike searched for the Crystal Heart, the key to protecting the empire, inside the castle, where nopony would dare to look. They ran into a door enchanted by Sombra to hypnotize them into confronting their worst fears. In Twilight's case, she thought Celestia told her that she failed her test and wouldn't continue her studies, only for Spike to snap her out of the trance. Spike gets brainwashed too he thought Twilight was sending him away, but Twilight saw through the enchanted doors purpose and shuts it, releasing Spike form the spell and comforting him about his fear.
Eventually they reached the Crystal Heart, but Sombra, able to invade once Cadance was no longer able to perform her spell, trapped Twilight in a wall of dark crystals, keeping her from the Crystal Heart. Twilight told Spike to take the Crystal Heart to Cadance. Returning to his physical form, Sombra tried to spear Spike with a dark crystal, but Cadance saved him from the attack. She then returned the Crystal Heart, and together with the crystal ponies used its power to unleash a wave of magic that restored the Crystal Empire and destroyed Sombra, shattering him to pieces.
King Sombra was briefly refrenced in the episode, "Games Ponies Play". Twilight also uses his magic in "Princess Twilight Sparkle Par"t 1.
King Sombra was mentioned again couple of times in the Season 6 premiere "The Crystalling". Spike mentions King Sombra while telling the Crystal Ponies about how he was defeated. Twilight later reveals the reason that King Sombra merely hid the Crystal Heart in his castle is to prevent the Frozen Norths weather from breaching the Empire.
Alternate timelineIn the first of many alternate timelines temporarily created by Starlight Glimmer in the episode "The Cutie Re-Mark - Part 1", King Sombra is in power and ruling over the Crystal Empire with the iron fist-having never been killed by Princess Cadance due to the change in timeline, he made the crystal ponies fight for him against the rest of Equestria, fighting a war with Celestia. He was winning the war as he managed to take half of Equestria.
Depiction in the comics
King Sombra of a parallel world will appear in the seventh arc (Issues 17-20) comics. He is the polar opposite of the Sombra from the show, as he is a good ruler of the parallel world where Celestia and Luna are evil. He is in love with Celestia of Equestria.
This version of Sombra however would suffer a terrible fate in allowing himself to be taken by evil to protect his beloved Celestia and both their worlds from destruction, becoming just like the King Sombra from Celestia's world. But even after being taken by evil, this Sombra mourns his beloved Celestia, now lost to him, possibly forever.
In Friends Forever #4, it is shown how King Sombra captured a Crystal Bard and enslaved him, making him read books for him, after the Crystal Bard escaped King Sombra with his royal guards trying to recapture him but the Crystal Bard became smarter than him.
In Fiendship is Magic Issue 1, Sombra's backstory (at least in comic canon, in which Amore has a different cutie mark than described in the Journal of the Two Sisters) is revealed; he was an Umbrum disguised as a pony to enter Equestria and release the other Umbrum, who were imprisoned in another dimension. Sombra initially didn't want to turn evil, and was friends with Radiant Hope, and was affected by the power of the Crystal Heart, but after a talk with the Umbrum, he embraced his dark side. He turned Princess Amore to crystal and shattered her to pieces, before being banished by Celestia and Luna, but he threw Radiant Hope outside of the Crystal Empire. In the present, it is shown that Sombra is now a ghost tied to his horn.
In Siege of the Crystal Empire, Radiant Hope recruits Queen Chrysalis, Lightning Dust, Iron Will, and the Flim Flam Brothers to attack the Crystal Empire as a distraction while she finds Sombra's spirit and horn, and uses her healing magic to bring him back to life. In Issue #35, Sombra releases the imprisoned villains, and he encrusts Twilight's horn with dark crystals, allowing Chrysalis to defeat her. Celestia and Luna arrive to fight Sombra and Chrysalis, but due to Hope's intervention, Sombra turns Celestia and Luna to stone.
In Issue #36, Sombra and Chrysalis get into an argument when Chrysalis is against Sombra's plan to release the Umbrum, knowing they will cause despair thus preventing her from feeding off love. Threatened with being turned to stone, Chrysalis retreats with her changelings. After Princess Cadance and Hope discover what the Umbrum are really like, Hope tries to convince Sombra not to release them. Twilight arrives, having been restored by the other Mane 5 with the power of friendship, and shoots a magic beam at Sombra, but Hope jumps in front of him and takes the hit. Sombra then releases the Umbrum.
In Issue #37, Sombra, now emperor, turns Shining Armor to stone at the command of Lady Rabia in a reference to Governor Tarkin destroying Alderaan. He is about to do the same to Twilight and Cadance when Twilight tells them to do this at the dais where the Crystal Heart is so everypony can see it happen. Sombra goes to take Hope with him, to which she reveals that her supposed destiny of becoming a princess did not come true because she left her training to look for him. Sombra was affected by the realization that not only was the Crystal Heart's prediction not true but she chose him over becoming a princess. When the "rebels" attack the Umbrum, Rabia tells Sombra to eliminate Twilight and Cadance. Hope takes out the Crystal Heart. Rabia tells Sombra to smash it, but instead he unleashes its power, reimprisoning the Umbrum and saving the Crystal Empire. Sombra is disintegrated by the Crystal Heart's power, but before he can be completely destroyed Hope saves him with her magic, and together she and all four princesses restore him to physical form, turning him into an actual pony similar in appearance to his mirror-world counterpart. Together Sombra and Hope decide to restore Princess Amore.
Compared to other villains on the show, King Sombra's personality is not too elaborated on. Instead, he is little more than a dark, looming menace for most of the episode. He has very few speaking lines, some of then half-incoherent, and is a very mysterious character, whose backstory is limited to the fact that he enslaved the crystal ponies. The source of his dark powers and his motivations remain an enigma. He is however shown to be extremely cruel, fierce and sadistic, viewing crystal ponies as nothing more than his slaves, using fear on them and other characters, and licking his lips as the prospect of possibly kill Spike (although he may have primarily been after the Crystal Heart). He is also shown to be power-hungry, as in the altered future he tried to take over the rest of Equestria once retaking the Crystal Empire, creating a dark future of war. He is believed to be the most evil villain in the show.
Sombra appears to be very intelligent, as he seemingly thought ahead of his enemies and placed a curse upon the empire to disappear if he gets defeated, and he cleverly booby-trapped the way to the Crystal Heart. He ended up outsmarting Twilight as she fell for every one of the traps, more than one of which would have defeated Twilight Sparkle if not for the presence of Spike.
In the comics, Sombra's personality is quite different from the show, depicting him as more sympathetic. Before he turned evil he didn't want to, and in contrast to the show where he was about to murder Spike for being in his way, he is unable to bring himself to kill Amore (which he is implied to have done in the show given her absence) so he turns her to crystal and nonfatally shatters her instead, also turning Celestia and Luna to stone instead of killing them and threatening the same to Chrysalis if she betrayed him. He also still seems to care for Radiant Hope, which led to his redemption.
Powers and Abilities
King Sombra appears in the show as a being of pure darkness. Due to this, he appears to be virtually impossible to damage via targeted magic, easily dodging Shining Armor's magic beam. However, he cannot penetrate some magical barriers, as he was unable to touch the Princess Cadance's field of love magic without getting harmed. His dark form can spread to immense distances, to the point that he can surround the Crystal Empire all by himself. He can also sink the ground and travel this way, leaving a trail of sharp crystals in his path.
Celestia states that she and Luna were the ones responsible for turning Sombra into shadow. This may imply that, albeit formidable in his present state, he could be even more powerful in his true pony form.
King Sombra's main power seems to be creating dark, jagged crystals. Those can serve as sharp weapons or imprison his enemies. If he engulfs a unicorn pony in his darkness, he can cover their horn with crystal, blocking off their magical abilities.
King Sombra's unicorn magic is unlike any other previously seen on the show. It is inferred by Celestia to be dark magic, powered by hatred and fear. The glow associated with it is a toxic purple bubbling. Though it can be cast by others, Sombra seems to be the main practitioner of it. It is affiliated with corruption, able to taint the Crystal Empire in a matter of minutes. In addition to creating dark crystals, this magic can also be used to show one an illusion of one's greatest fear, or even counter teleportation magic.
He also seems to know some reality-warping spells (but unlike Discord, Sombra seems to need preparation time in order to cast them). The Crystal Empire's disappearance from time and space was due to a curse of his, and he also utilized portals, pocket dimensions, and animated doors in his security system for hiding the Crystal Heart.
As a villain affiliated with hatred, fear, and despair, his greatest weakness appears to be the power of love, joy, and other such positive emotions. He is thus unable to penetrate Princess Cadance's magical love barrier without getting harmed by it, and is destroyed by the Crystal Heart, an artifact powered by positive emotions.
Similarities and possible inspirations
- Sombra is similar to Sauron from Lord of the Rings. Both have a similar appearance, neither has a lot of screentime or dialogue, both lost their physical form in the past (though Sombra is able to regain his form), and both are pure evil.
- Sombra's theme sounds similar to that of Sauron and Mordor in Lord of the Rings.
- The Crystal Empire under Sombra's control also looks similar to Mordor.
- The way he dies looks similar to Sauron's first defeat, and the way the dark crystal that he is standing on shatters looks similar to Barad-dûr's destruction during Sauron's actual death scene.
- His horn looks similar to Sauron's spikes in Legendary Frog's parody One Ring to Rule Them All. Both it and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic were made with flash animation.
- Meghan McCarthy confirmed in an interview that Sombra was inspired by Sauron, and was only meant to be a dark presence that brings fear to the crystal ponies.
- Interestingly enough, Sauron in Desolation of Smaug, which came out after The Crystal Empire, has more similarities to Sombra: His shadowy form is similar, Gandalf uses a similar light barrier to Cadance to fight him off (which he is only temporarily able to maintain), and there is a similar shaft and staircase in their base.
- Sombra resembles many other shadowy villains as well. His first defeat leaving him as a disembodied shadow also gives him a similarity to Myotismon, who also uses fear while in his Omega form. His shadow form also looks similar to that of Makuta. When he appears before the crystal ponies after the barrier disappears, he looks slightly similar to Shendu's ghost on Jackie Chan Adventures. He also looks similar to Aku, and his curse, which essentially sends the Crystal Empire further in time, has been compared to what Aku does to Samurai Jack.
- Elements of darkness and shadow have occured in several other previous MLP villains - most notably Nightmare Moon and Tirek. Interestingly enough, both Tirek and Sombra (though the former comes from a different generation of My Little Pony) have tried to kill Spike and are the darkest antagonists in their respective generations. Both are also ultimately destroyed. It also shares the untimely death of another G1 antagonist named Lavan, though that specific villain had a motif of fire and hatrid rather than darkness.
- Sombra also shares some similarities to the Shadow Queen from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. Both are one of the darkest antagonists in their respective series, are reduced to an invincible shadowy spirit form and then imprisoned, but not before casting an evil curse, and return a thousand years later before they are destroyed the second time around. The Crystal Heart, which was used to defeat Sombra, could act as a counterpart to the Crystal Stars, which negated the Shadow Queen's invincibility. Interestingly enough, the Pure Hearts in Super Paper Mario play a similar role during the final battle.
- He shares some similarities to Mephiles the Dark: Both are one of the darkest villains of their respective series, have a shadow form, were sealed away many years ago, are killed by a princess, and appeared in the part of their series that was disliked by many (Sonic the Hedgehog (2006) and Season 3).
- King Sombra's death scene is nearly identical to that of Agent Smith from The Matrix and Hektore from Spyro. Hektore also bears similarity by his low amount of lines. Himiko's death in the 2013 video game Tomb Raider, which came after, is also extremely similar, as is the death of Ronan the Accuser in Guardians of the Galaxy. It also looks similar to Vaati's supposed death in Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (though Vaati either survived or was revived).
- King Sombra has also been compared to Ganondorf in some occasions.
- Perhaps by coincidence, Sombra and Rumpelstiltskin from Shrek are the fourth main villains of their series, and the most evil. Ironically Rumpelstiltskin is the only one of the four not to be killed, while Sombra is the only one confirmed to be killed (though the fates of the third main villains, Prince Charming and Queen Chrysalis, are sometimes debated).
- In The Cutie Remark, his tactics, and the war's resemblance to World War II, give him a similarity to Adolf Hitler.
- Some think King Sombra might have been the "outside force" that magnified Luna's jealousy to turn her into Nightmare Moon. He could have sensed Luna's resentment toward her sister during his battle with them, and cast a curse to magnify it before he was banished (his curses are established to survive his banishment). Others suspected it to be the G4 incarnation of Tirek, but he eventually did appear and does not possess the same powers as his G1 counterpart.
- Some suspect that Celestia and Luna actually killed him the first time, and that he was a ghost when Celestia and Luna banished him, and all throughout The Crystal Empire, hence his shadow form.
- Others suspect that Sombra originated as a shadow entity who took pony form, similar to Mephiles the Dark.
- In Fiendship is Magic Issue 1, this is proven to be somewhat true, as Sombra is revealed to in fact not be a real pony, but instead a shadow creature who was created to resemble a pony, explaining his lack of a cutie mark. However, its canonocity is debatable as Amore's cutie mark in the comic (a snowflake) is inconsistent with what the Journal of the Two Sisters, written by Amy Keating Rogers, said it was (a crystalline heart).
Sombra recieved mixed reception from both critics and viewers alike, due the lack of screentime, lines, and character development. The main counter to this is that Sombra was not meant to be a 'talkative' villain but a more Sauron-like looming threat and an evil presence.
King Sombra's design has also been criticised by some fans, many calling it uninspired. However, this is most likely due to the bias against red-and-black Original Characters, as the rest of his design is quite distinct.
Despite his criticism and usually being tagged as the "worst villain", King Sombra has gained significant popularity among the MLP fandom, and these fans often denied his death and speculated that he survived, much like they did with his predecessor Queen Chrysalis and for similar reasons. Unlike Chrysalis, however, Meghan McCarthy confirmed Sombra's death up front, although some fans continue to deny this and some stating that Sombra could appear in the future, either being revived or appearing in a flashback.
Sombra gained some slight popularity from The Cutie Remark, when it showed what would have been if Sombra had taken over the Crystal Empire in one of the darkest moments of the show, despite having no lines and less screentime than Chrysalis in that episode.
- "Yes... crystals..."
- "Crystal Heart..."
- "My crystal slaves..."
- "That is mine!"
- "What? No... No! Stop!"
- King Sombra was introduced as the main antagonist in Siege of the Crystal Empire, but he later redeemed and betrayed the true main villain.
- Sombra has a few distinctions as being the first major antagonist in the fourth generation who is.
- A male character associated with darkness (Discord is more associated with chaos and based off Q.)
- A pony who isn't an alicorn (Diamond Tiara, Silver Spoon, Trixie, and the Flim Flam brothers were minor antagonists.)
- Inspired by a Lord of the Rings villain (The Diamond Dogs were minor antagonists.)
- The first character in My little Pony: Friendship is Magic to die. (not counting the Windigoes, and although there are theories about Nightmare Moon (as a separate entity) and Queen Chrysalis, Sombra is the first who is actually confirmed).
- Sombra appears to be a blank flank, as he has no visible cutie mark during the scene when he is turned to shadow. This is shown in more detail in The Cutie Remark.
- In Fiendship is Magic Issue 1, his status as a blank flank is revealed to be due to him not being a real pony.
- Prior to the episode "Magic Duel", many fans believed Trixie's Alicorn Amulet to have a connection to him. One common theory is that Sombra was corrupted by it and was so far gone that he gained its power and malevolence permanently, another states he was the creator of it. The Amulet also shares the King's color scheme.
- "Sombra" is a Spanish, Portuguese, and Galician word for "shadow", which comes from the Latin umbra.
- "Umbra" is also the inspiration of the name "Umbrum", which is Sombra's species in the comics.
- A differently-shaded version of the armor around King Sombra's neck is used for the 2012 Design a My Little Pony Finalists poster, as part of Steel Masquerade's armor.
- When he is destroyed, his horn is shown flying past the screen, giving some the impression that he survived and will regenerate from his horn. However, at Unicon 2013 Meghan McCarthy confirmed that Sombra is dead. The Fiendship is Magic comics have, in response to this theory, depicted him as a ghost tied to his horn. However, this might not change anything, as a ghost is the spirit of those who are dead.
- He has similar evil traits with Darth Sidious.
- He shares traits with the G1 antagonist Tirek, as both are creatures who work in shadow, have a looming, threatening presence, and end up destroyed. His death also almost mirrors that of Lavan, another G1 villain.
- Since he has no known motivation for acts of unspeakable cruelty, he is, along with Tirek, the darkest and most evil villain in Friendship is Magic. However, his evil intentions are revealed in the Fiendship is Magic comics.
- Sombra is one of two major villains to not be defeated by Twilight Sparkle (and, in all cases except the Plunderseeds, the other Mane 5, pony or human) by means of a rainbow, other being his predecessor, Queen Chrysalis. Both are defeated by Princess Cadance. Also of note, if Chrysalis did not survive her fall, she and Sombra are also the only two main villains to be killed, not counting the Plunderseeds.
- In the comics, these two form a temporary alliance and fight alongside each other against Celestia and Luna.
- It is possible that King Sombra killed Princess Amore, the Crystal Empire's previous ruler, when he took it over, since she is never seen in the Crystal Empire, which Princess Cadance and Shining Armor take over after Sombra's death.
- In the Fiendship is Magic comics, he turned Amore into crystal and shattered her into pieces, though it is confirmed this did not kill her. However, as the comics have inconsistencies with the show (including Amore's cutie mark) and are believed to be a parallel reality, this might not have held true to the show, in which Sombra is more violent and murderous.
- Ironically, the pony who defeated him in the end, Princess Cadance, is a distant relative or descendant of Princess Amore.
- Sombra was intended to appear in Octavia's dream in the episode "Slice of Life" and have a Devil Went Down to Georgia style cello battle with her, which would have provided a return for him without having to retcon his death, but this was cut due to time constraints.
- He along with the Plunderseeds and Arimaspi are so far the only characters on the show to actually die.
- Some fans believe Sombra was brainwashed by the crystal that claimed itself to be his mother when it unlocked his shadow powers, and Sombra having already been in emotional turmoil made it easy for this dark power to take him over; in which case he could be considered a tragic villain.
- King Sombra and Nightmare Moon swap villain defeats in the comics; in the show, Sombra died and Nightmare Moon reformed, as she and Princess Luna are established to be one and the same. In the comics, Sombra is resurrected and reformed, while Nightmare Moon is a separate entity from Luna and Rarity and is killed by Spike.