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Villain Overview
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 (simply known as Sombra) is one of the main antagonists of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. He appears as the antagonist in Season 3's premiere, The Crystal Empire, and also appears as the secondary antagonist in the IDW MLP comic, Siege Of The Crystal Empire.

In FIENDship is Magic Issue 1, Sombra is revealed to be not a real pony, but instead a living shadow creature called an 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. This is not included in the canonical cartoon series.

Prior to the actual episode

King Sombra first appeared on Hasbro's Pony Wedding micro-site, which has been accessible since July 2012, before any information about the character was released publicly. 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.

Personality

Sombra in throne by benybing-d72dgae

King Sombra sits upon the Imperial Throne.

Compared to other villains on the show, King Sombra's personality isn't 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. However, he is shown to be extremely cruel, fierce, brutal, sadistic, heartless, destructive, merciless, and wicked, 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 killing Spike (although he may have primarily been after the Crystal Heart). He is also shown to be tyrannical, manipulative, and 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 satisfied, thoughtful, intelligent, appreciative, and perspicacious, 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.

Comics

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 non-fatally 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

Eyes of the king
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 he could be powerful enough to require the might of two alicorns to defeat him.

Sombra s empire by mysterymelt-d5skxoo

The entire Crystal Empire is corrupted.

King Sombra's main power seems to be creating dark, jagged crystals. Those can serve as sharp weapons or cages to imprison his enemies. He can also engulf a unicorn horn in his darkness, covering it with crystal, which blocks 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. The Crystal Empire's disappearance from space and time was due to a curse of his, and he also utilized hidden portals, animated doors, and even pocket dimensions as part of the defenses he set up for the Crystal Heart.

Weaknesses

Image 5
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.

Theories

  • 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).

Reception

Sombra received mixed reception from both critics and viewers alike, with much criticizism going towards his 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. Some reacted to this by replying that Sombra was created by only looking at Sauron's most superficial traits, neglecting what made Sauron a successful threat. It doesn't help that most of the time in “The Crystal Empire”, Sombra gets treated like a tool rather than a character with life.

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. Tempest Shadow and IDW comic villain Shadowlock received similar criticism regarding their designs, names, backgrounds, and personalities.

Despite his criticism, 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.

Complaints of his lack of screen time and development were likely what drove the comic writers to feature him in “Fiendship is Magic #1” & “Siege of the Crystal Empire”, as well as take the opportunity to explore him and make him in a way that they see fit. However, despite the success of his comics, fan criticism towards him grew, with many complaining about what the writers modified his character into as well as his redemption.

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 screen time than Chrysalis in that episode.

Episodes and Appearances

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

Season 3

Season 5

Season 6

Season 7

Comics

Friendship is Magic

Friends Forever

My Little Pony: FIENDship is Magic

Quotes

  • "Yes... crystals..."
  • "Crystal Heart..."
  • "My crystal slaves..."
  • "That is mine!"
  • "What? No... No! Stop!"

Trivia

  • King Sombra was introduced as the main antagonist in Siege of the Crystal Empire, but he is later betrayed by the true main villain and ultimately redeemed.
  • 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 are minor antagonists).
    • Inspired by a Lord of the Rings villain (The Diamond Dogs are 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 Friendship 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 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, Arimaspi and Storm King 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.
  • Sombra is similar to Sauron from Lord of the Rings. Both have a similar appearance, neither has a lot of screen time 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 Cadence 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 occurred 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 hatred rather than darkness.
  • King Sombra has also been compared to Ganondorf in some occasions.

navigation

           My Little Pony Villains

Friendship is Magic
Apple Bloom's Shadow | Ahuizotl | Arimaspi | Bugbear | Changelings | Chimera | Cockatrice | Dr. Caballeron | Diamond Dogs | Discord | Dragons | Dragon Lord Torch | Flim Flam Brothers | Garble | Gladmane | Hydra | King Sombra | Mane-iac | Maulwurf | Mean Six | Nightmare Moon | Parasprites | Pony of Shadows | Puckwudgies | Queen Chrysalis | Roc | Sable Spirit | Shadowbolts | Smooze | Snips & Snails | Sphinx | Starlight Glimmer | Svengallop | Tantabus | Tatzlwurm | Timberwolves | Tirek | Vampire Fruit Bats | Windigos | Wind Rider

Equestria Girls
Dazzlings (Adagio Dazzle | Aria Blaze | Sonata Dusk) | Principal Cinch | Snips & Snails | Sunset Shimmer

Generation One
Arabus | Beezen | Catrina | Dragon Gang | Grogar | Hydia | King Charlatan | Lavan | Princess Porcina | Queen Bumble | Raptorians | Reeka & Draggle | Smooze | Somnambula | Squirk | Tirek

Comics
Accord | Bad Apple | Chupacabra | Mane Six | Nightmare Rarity | Princess Celestia | The Pseudocorns | Rabia | Shadowfright | Vampiric Jackalope

Movie
Grubber | Storm King | Tempest Shadow