• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


Farm-Fresh balance.pngYMMVTransmit blue.pngRadarWikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotes • (Emoticon happy.pngFunnyHeart.pngHeartwarmingSilk award star gold 3.pngAwesome) • Refridgerator.pngFridgeGroup.pngCharactersScript edit.pngFanfic RecsSkull0.pngNightmare FuelRsz 1rsz 2rsz 1shout-out icon.pngShout OutMagnifier.pngPlotGota icono.pngTear JerkerBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersHelp.pngTriviaWMGFilmRoll-small.pngRecapRainbow.pngHo YayPhoto link.pngImage LinksNyan-Cat-Original.pngMemesHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconicLibrary science symbol .svg SourceSetting
File:Sandmare 2230.jpg

The Darkhorse Returns!


  Written by M.A. Larson


Nightmare Night has come to Ponyville, and Twilight Sparkle and Spike are enjoying the spooky festivities (even if nopony recognizes Twilight's costume as the famous unicorn wizard "Star Swirl the Bearded"). They join Pinkie Pie, Zecora, and a group of young ponies (including Pipsqueak, a young colt whose family had just recently moved from Trottingham) for a walk in the woods to a statue of Nightmare Moon, where tradition indicates that they leave some of their candy to appease the evil goddess so she doesn't gobble them up. But what's that swooping in on a chariot pulled by bat-winged pegasi guards? Is it the real Nightmare Moon, returned to seek revenge on the Elements of Harmony?

No, it's just Princess Luna, who's come to enjoy the festival, bask in the accolades of her subjects, and turn the night of terror into a night of delight. But her grandiose entrance, booming voice, and archaic way of speaking gives the wrong impression, scaring nearly everypony in the town square. Twilight, who recognizes social awkwardness when she sees it, decides to help. She convinces Luna that she needs to turn it down a bit, so the two go to see the expert in being soft-spoken: Fluttershy.

Unfortunately, Fluttershy is not the sort of pony who enjoys Nightmare Night, and Twilight has to literally force her to give Princess Luna a quick speech lesson. After a few false starts, Luna finally understands and joyously hugs Fluttershy... who, alas, is limp and speechless with fear. Of course, this is just as Pinkie Pie and the kids show up for a peaceful place to get some candy; they immediately get the wrong impression and run away screaming.

Undeterred, Twilight has Applejack teach Luna about getting along with the citizens of Ponyville. To get Luna to loosen up and have some fun (a phrase Princess Luna is apparently unfamiliar with), Applejack teachers her a simple target-throwing game with rubber spiders and a fake web. Quickly getting the hang of the game, Luna briefly basks in the admiration of her subjects before rushing over to save Pipsqueak from drowning in the apple-bobbing tub. Unfortunately, both Pip and Pinkie Pie misinterpret this act as another fright from Nightmare Moon, and the ponies freak out yet again. In a fit of pique, Luna turns the fake spiders into real ones; when this drives the ponies into a terrified riot, she decrees the end of Nightmare Night forever, then leaves in a huff.

With ponies young and old upset about the ban, Twilight tries to get Luna to change her mind by getting her to make amends with Pinkie Pie, the cause of all the trouble. Unfortunately, their touching reconciliation is spoiled completely when an ill-timed prank from Rainbow Dash causes Pinkie to panic. Twilight intercepts Pinkie before she can run away again and starts to lecture her about Luna's benevolent nature, whereupon Pinkie reveals that she knows Luna is good...


 Twilight Sparkle: She's not evil or scary any more! And she definitely doesn't want to gobble you up!


Pinkie Pie: Well, duh!

Twilight Sparkle: Huh?

Pinkie Pie: Sheesh, Twilight! I'm almost as big as her! How's she gonna gobble me up?


Pinkie was just pretending to freak out because sometimes it's fun to be scared. This gives Twilight an idea...

Back in town, Zecora proposes that, despite the holiday being cancelled, they can still finish tonight's celebration. So, the zebra leads the young ponies back to the forest to make one last offering of candy for Nightmare Moon... But then, Nightmare Moon shows up in person to thank them for their gift! As the little ponies run off screaming, she is revealed to be a transformed Luna, who wonders what good Twilight's plan will do... until Pipsqueak comes back to ask if she can do it again next year.

Finally understanding that the ponies don't really hate her, Luna rescinds her ban and finally begins to enjoy the festival in earnest, especially when she playfully gives Rainbow Dash a much-deserved taste of her own medicine. Meanwhile, Twilight composes a report to Celestia about the importance of helping others make friends, no matter how intimidating they may first appear.

As of February 11th, 2012, this episode is recognized by The Hub as the best Friendship is Magic episode out of the first 38 to air[1].

Tropes (YMMV items can be found here)

  • Zero-Percent Approval Rating: Princess Luna discovers this problem after she appears, and Twilight and her friends try to help repair her image.
  • Absentee Actor: The Cutie Mark Crusaders appear in several scenes, but they never speak.
  • Adorkable: Luna's rather endearingly awkward.
    • Unlike most of the other ponies who dressed up in common costume tropes, Twilight opts to dress up like a historical wizard that she admires, down to the bells and hoof-stitched hems. And yes, she looks cute in it.
      • This effectively serves as a bonding moment between the two, when Luna not only recognizes who Twilight's supposed to be dressed as, but compliments her on how well she pulled it off.
  • Art Evolution: Luna now has a mane and tail that flow like Celestia's, instead of the fixed bangs she's seen with in the ending of "Elements of Harmony". Her fur is also a darker shade of purple. Overall, she looks a lot closer to her Nightmare Moon persona, but without the evil. This could, however, just represent her becoming older, or regaining her power.
  • The Atoner: Luna throughout the episode.
  • Bait and Switch: Luna asks in a rather rough voice whether the others are having enough fun yet and makes the spiders come to life. The viewer is led to believe that she has turned evil again... but then it turns out that she just made them hop into the nets by themselves, upon which she asks smiling how many points she has scored.
  • Bathos: In-universe, the Mayor's attempts to spook the children are, as Spike points out, ruined by the fact that she's in a goofy clown costume.

 Spike: The rainbow wig just kills it for me.

  • Bear Hug: Luna gives Fluttershy a hug for showing her how to use an indoor voice. However, it backfires when timid Fluttershy faints during the process, and is mistaken for dead when Pinkie and the foals come upon them immediately afterwards.
  • Becoming the Mask: Pinkie Pie gets way too into character as a chicken.
  • Big Entrance: Luna arriving in the middle of a windy storm at night, pulled on a evil-looking chariot by two menacing guard Pegasi, all clouded in shadows, while Twilight, Pinkie, Zecora, Spike, the Cutie Mark Crusaders, Pipsqueak, and four more fillies (including fan favorite Dinky) cower near a statue of Nightmare Moon at the Everfree Forest.
  • Big "Shut Up!": Luna has a particularly loud one when Nightmare Night is thrown into chaos.

  Luna: BE STILL!

  • Black Cloak: Luna is introduced wearing one. It dissolves into living bats as she exits her chariot!
  • Bowel-Breaking Bricks: Pinkie Pie somehow lays a large egg[2] after being scared by Luna.
  • Call Back:
    • Twilight Sparkle's pose when her costume is introduced is very similar to her pose in the fashion show in "Suited For Success".
    • Rainbow Dash is dressed as one of the Shadowbolts, the illusory pegasus stunt team that Nightmare Moon took the form of to try and tempt her away from her friends in the "Elements of Harmony".
    • Rainbow Dash is shown pranking Pinkie with the same prank the two set up in "Griffin the Brush Off". Speaking of which, Pinkie's forelegs are still exposed (while humans in chicken suits normally have their arms in the "wings"), turning her into a winged quadruped much like Gilda herself, with a pretend beak to boot.
    • In the pilot, a triumphant Nightmare Moon dramatically declares "The night will last forever!" In this episode, an angry Princess Luna dramatically declares "Nightmare Night shall be canceled forever!"
    • Luna being the only one to recognize Twilight's costume is a reference to Twilight being the only one to recognize Nightmare Moon.
  • Characterization Marches On: What little characterization Luna had in her first appearance is quite different from her attitude in this episode. Okay if all of two lines and some tears are enough to establish a character. However, it's pretty obvious nobody had Nightmare Night in mind back in the series premiere.
  • Chekhov's Skill:
    • Twilight's ability to lecture.
    • Luna's unintentional ability to terrify everypony turns out to be what lets her win them over once she realizes that, sometimes, they like being scared.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Goodness gracious. Being a Large Ham is one thing, but Luna insisting on speaking with No Indoor Voice is another!

 Twilight Sparkle: kinda sound like you're yelling at me.

Luna: But this is the traditional Royal Canterlot voice! It is tradition to speak with the royal "we", and to use THIS MUCH VOLUME WHEN ADDRESSING OUR SUBJECTS.

  • Continuity Nod: The whole premise of this episode mirrors "Bridle Gossip" -- Luna's debut even has her in a cloak and hood like Zecora, whose costume could be described as an evil enchantress. The fact that Zecora is considered part of Ponyville society now foreshadows the ending.
    • Twilight says that Pipsqueak moved from Trottingham, a place previously mentioned in "Stare Master".
    • At first it seems odd that Pinkie Pie, who in "Elements of Harmony" sang "Giggle at the Ghostly" about not needing to be scared and had Ocular Gushers at Luna's redemption, should suddenly scream in terror every time Luna shows up. But it makes sense when we learn Pinkie Pie is just pretending to be scared because it's fun.
  • Cool Car: Luna's chariot, drawn by bat-winged pegasi.
  • Cowardly Lion: Fluttershy refuses to even answer the door on Nightmare Night.
  • Cute Shotaro Colt: Pipsqueak.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: Already was true in Luna's case, but she seems to not comprehend the fact that making an entrance that would make a Final Fantasy Big Bad green with envy is not a good first impression for a good guy. It is, however, a good way to look Badass.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Luna slips into this from time to time:

 Twilight Sparkle: …but you have to understand that Nightmare Night is one of the most popular celebrations we have!

Luna: Yes, I can tell from all the adoring shrieks of the children as they run away.


Twilight Sparkle: Princess Luna! I've finally figured out why you're having so much trouble being liked!

Luna: Forgive me if I withhold my enthusiasm.


 Twilight: Fluttershy, it's me, Twilight.

Fluttershy: It is you. Oh, and Nightmare Moon. [beat] *gasp!* Nightmare Moon!?

  • The Door Slams You: Fluttershy, on her third attempt to retreat into her house, slams into the door that Twilight predictably closes moments before.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Underscores Luna's grand entrances and more dramatic pronouncements. Also Invoked by Rainbow Dash when she uses a small thundercloud of her own to prank other ponies...not always with the best of timing as far as Luna is concerned. She gets a taste of her own medicine at the end of the episode.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Remember traumatized Woobie!Luna? She's gone and replaced by Iron Maiden Decor!Luna, who makes her Big Entrance and starts Chewing the Scenery as noted above. Her failed attempts to get the other ponies to love her instead of fear her are still sad, though.
  • Everypony Laughs Ending
  • Evil Is Cool: An In-Universe variation. Luna just embracing the horror aspects of Nightmare Night is what wins her over with the kids.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Deconstructed. Luna has changed her evil ways, but she has difficulty changing her hammy ways. Invoked at the end when she puts on the full 'Nightmare Moon' persona.
  • Evil Laugh: Rainbow Dash employs a pretty high cackle while pranking, accentuated by the fact she's wearing a Shadowbolt costume.
  • Face Plant: The result of Fluttershy's The Door Slams You moment mentioned above.
  • Fish Out of Temporal Water: Princess Luna has trouble adjusting after being away for a thousand years.
  • Flowery Elizabethan English: Luna insists that using "thee" and "thou" is her "normal" way of speaking — and it makes sense that it would be, given that she was on the moon for the last thousand years.


    • And a minor justification: 'thou' and 'thee' would be used to refer to equals or lessers. Like, say, a princess talking to almost everyone.
    • Interestingly, neither Nightmare Moon nor Luna used them in their prior appearance in season one; see Characterization Marches On above.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: Luna, though only when extremely pissed off.
  • Good Wings, Evil Wings: The pegasi that bring Luna into Ponyville have bat-like wings instead of the usual feathered wings.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Much to everyone's horror, Luna's temper is like this. She tries to keep it under control, with variable results.
  • Halloween Episode: Or rather a "Nightmare Night" Episode.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: In-universe, Luna suffers from this. While she did try to bring about infinite night as Nightmare Moon, the "eating other ponies" thing is new.
    • Zecora (or any other storyteller in the last millennium) might have just made that up due to Rule of Scary.
  • Hoist By Her Own Petard: Rainbow Dash tries to scare Twilight Sparkle at the very end of the episode, but Luna ends up turning the tables on her.
  • I Kiss Your Hoof: Luna extends her forehoof to the Mayor and a few other ponies, apparently expecting this gesture of fealty, and is very insulted when it doesn't happen.
  • I'm An Equitarian: Most everypony believes this of Luna, thanks to the lingering rumors around Nightmare Moon.

 Pipsqueak: Help! My backside has been gobbled!

Princess Luna: 'Tis a lie! Thy backside is whole and ungobbled, thou ungrateful whelp!

  • Ironic Echo: In a roundabout sense: Nightmare Moon wanted to make the night last forever; Princess Luna momentarily declares Nightmare Night to be cancelled forever.
  • The Jimmy Hart Version: Twilight's intro is played against a variation on "In the Hall of the Mountain King". It is later heard intermittently throughout the episode with slight changes.
    • The music playing when they arrive at the festival sounds like the theme from The Munsters.
  • Karma Houdini: Despite how savvy she turns out to be, Pinkie Pie still incited a riot that trashed the current festival and got all subsequent festivals cancelled, yet it is Luna who needs the lesson.
  • Large Ham: Luna! See Chewing the Scenery above. Exaggerated, discussed, and, in the end, subverted.
    • Pinkie Pie and possibly other townsfolk who know Luna isn't evil but still act scared.
  • Licked by the Dog: Just when Luna is convinced she's alienated everyone, Pipsqueak timidly approaches and asks her to come back next year and scare them again.
  • Love Hungry: Luna, but she learns better.
  • Medieval Stasis: A mild version, but if you've seen even excerpts from the original texts of Beowulf or The Canterbury Tales, it's still odd that apparently the only way language has changed over the past millennium is dropping the T-V distinction. (Arguably, it's more noticeable than the lack of any difference in Nightmare Moon's speech in "Friendship is Magic.")
    • Probably falls under Acceptable Breaks From Reality though; Luna speaking authentic 1000-year-old English would mean nobody (including the audience) would even be able to understand her.
  • Mundane Made Awesome

 Twilight: I'm going to do what I do best -- lecture her!

  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Pinkie Pie's behavior towards Luna. She knew that Luna wasn't evil anymore and was trying to fit in with everyone else, yet pretended to be scared of her because "sometimes it's fun to be scared", which only served to rile up the younger ponies who were genuinely terrified of Luna and needlessly upsetting her in the process.
    • Also inverted. At first blush, Rainbow Dash's lightning when Pinkie and Luna are trying to make amends seems to ruin Twilight's current plan. However, given that Pinkie already knew this was all in fun, Twilight may not have come up with a plan if Pinkie hadn't run off scared.
  • Nightmare Retardant: Luna's animation of the statue at the end. Utterly averted in-universe.
    • The Mayor's attempts at being "spooky" and "creepy" are utterly defeated by her ridiculous clown costume and rainbow wig. Lampshaded by Spike more than once.
  • No Indoor Voice: See Chewing the Scenery.
    • Ever since this episode, the fandom refers to writing in all-caps as "Traditional Royal Canterlot Voice".
  • Not Helping Your Case: Oh, Luna, you and your loud, reverberating voice.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Definitely Princess Luna's Big Entrance.
    • Also some of Luna's actions, most notably "choking" Fluttershy.
  • Object Tracking Shot: When Luna as Nightmare Moon appears, the gust blows Applejack's hat off her head. The camera follows the hat as it travels toward the statue of Nightmare Moon.
  • Offscreen Crash: When Twilight "helps" Fluttershy to meet Luna.
  • Only Sane Mare: Twilight appears to be the only one who isn't afraid of Luna.
    • Actually, Rainbow Dash never seems to even react to her presence.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: Pipsqueak at times.
    • Tabitha St. Germain briefly slips in and out of her Rarity voice when Luna says "Fine, be that way! We won't even bother with the traditional royal farewell!"
  • Palette Swap: The band that performed on stage are costumed palette swaps of the band who played on "The Best Night Ever".
  • Pan-Up-To-The-Sky Ending
  • Perky Goth: Luna seems to have much...creepier tastes than her big sis, if her terrifying chariot, menacing guard Pegasi, and overall Big Entrance are anything to go by.
    • Eh, it's all part of the Dark-and-Sinister kit for (reformed) Night-ruling Overlords.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Not just the nature of Luna's problems, but also a likely cause -- she probably didn't tell Celestia about her plans, and she would've been better prepared if she had. (Maybe she wanted to impress her by bonding with their subjects on her own, as a surprise?)
  • The Prankster: Rainbow Dash's prankster tendencies go Up to Eleven for Nightmare Night, and she spends the entire night running around pranking everyone with Dramatic Thunder. Even though it's supposed to be all in good fun, it has some unpleasant consequences.
  • Pun-Based Title: To "lunar eclipse."
  • Reformed but Rejected: Doesn't result in a return to villainy, but Luna does lose her temper.
  • Robe and Wizard Hat: Twilight puts these on, finished off with a Wizard Beard.
  • Royal We: Luna, as required by her (outdated) royal protocol.
  • Rule of Symbolism: When Twilight first sees Luna after her Big Entrance, she's lying in the shadow of the Nightmare Moon statue.
  • Running Gag: Nopony seems to know what Twilight's costume is except Princess Luna.
    • Also, Pinkie Pie and the kids running off screaming after seeing Luna do something that's Not What It Looks Like.
    • Throw in Rainbow Dash's Dramatic Thunder prank...that is...until Luna gives Rainbow Dash a dose of her own high-voltage medicine!
  • Scary Scarecrows: Absolutely averted a la Applejack's adorable attire.
  • Serial Escalation: We knew Tabitha St. Germain was the Queen of Pony Ham as Rarity and Photo Finish, but hot damn does she go the extra mile in this episode as LUNA, PRINCESS OF THE NIGHT!
  • Serious Business: Free candy for Pinkie Pie.

  Pinkie Pie: Enough with the chitchat! Time is candy!

  • Shout-Out:
    • Pinkie and Luna reaching to touch hooves borrows from the scene in ET the Extraterrestrial. Bonus points for this happening on Halloween/Nightmare Night. Twilight luring Pinkie using candy, Twilight's lines asking Pinkie not to scream before this shot, and the backing music cues during this sequence also are a tip of the hat to the film.
    • One of the popular pastimes of Nightmare Night is apparently Punkin Chunkin'. Naturally, Luna proves to be an ace chunker.
    • The banner above the stage has the modern Batman logo on it, plus Nightmare Moon's face in the center a la the 60s Batman logo.
  • Spiders Are Scary: Princess Luna somehow thinks bringing several hoof-sized beanbag spiders to life will help her score more points in the 'throw the spiders on the web' game, thus making her subjects less fearful of her. She thought incorrectly.
  • Squeaky Eyes: Spike's audible blinks when Twilight explains who her costume is of.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • Considering Pinkie Pie's costume, it makes sense that she would overreact to Luna and run screaming in terror whenever she encounters her. She's "chicken".
      • Also, she's...wait for it...Chicken Pie. *Rimshot*
      • And of course we all know she's a bit cuckoo.
    • The Mayor of Ponyville goes to the festivities wearing make up and a rainbow wig. The politician is a clown. Think about it.
    • Star Swirl the Bearded is the father of the amniomorphic spell. "Amnio" means bowl, thus "amniomorphic" means shaping a bowl. A bearded wizard that shapes bowls. A hairy potter.
  • Time for Plan B: Twilight says this. It even works for a while.
  • Unreliable Expositor: Pinkie Pie through most of this episode. Borders on Trolling because she should probably know better.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Zigzagged, then played straight again. Everything Twilight suggests on-screen works for a while, but gets sabotaged a few minutes later. Everything she promises to explain "on the way", however…
  • Villain Decay: Nightmare Moon is a Mad God who tried twice to plunge the world into eternal night, and almost succeeded at least once. In this episode we've found that she's been reduced in the public image to scaring young ponies into giving her some of their candy.
  • Visual Pun: Pinkie Pie enjoys being scared, and spends the whole episode in a state of utter panic. So what is she dressed as?

  Pinkie Pie: I'm a chicken! BA-CAW!


  Luna: Your Princess enjoys this fun. In what other ways may we experience it?

  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Twilight goes as Star Swirl the Bearded, complete with fake beard.
  • Wizard Beard: To go with Twilight's Robe and Wizard Hat. The wizard she's dressed as is even named "Star Swirl the Bearded."
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Averted. Luna uses "thou", "thee", and "thy" only when addressing single ponies, and "you" and "your" when speaking to multiple ponies. Also when speaking to single ponies, she attaches the "-est" suffix only to verbs where the listener is the subject.
    • She does slip up at least once, when she awkwardly changes subjects mid-sentence.

 Luna: Child. Art thou saying that thou... likest me to scare you?[3]

  • You Mean "Xmas": Basically, "Nightmare Night" is Halloween in all but name. It even holds an "X-Mas" version of the full "Trick-Or-Treat" jingle.


The art team had some fun on this episode when designing costumes for everypony. Even the background ponies get some nifty outfits.


 Applejack: Howdy Spike, hey Twilight! Nice costume!

Spike: [interrupting Twilight] Thanks! I'm a dragon!




  1. the 37 from "Friendship is Magic, part 1" to "Family Appreciation Day" plus "Hearth's Warming Eve"
  2. which looks like the egg Spike hatched from, incidentally
  3. "Thou likest me to scare you" means that Pipsqueak wants Luna to scare everyone including him (possibly against the others' wishes), but it is more likely was only asking to have himself scared, in which case the correct statement would be "Thou likest me to scare thee." On the other hoof, if Luna was implying that Pipsqueak was speaking for the entire crowd, that everyone wanted to be scared, then the correct statement would be "You likest me to scare you." Although none of this really means anything if her grammar just slipped from puzzlement.