-"The changelings are the guardians of the jungle. As we are a part of the jungle, they are our masters. They are our creators. To speak to them is to speak to the Gods...tread lightly in the forest...for its will is that of the changelings. Always remember this." - Tlamacazqui Ochpaniztli, from the Journal of the Voyage to the Tenochtitlan Basin: A Biological Inquiry of the Far Jungles by Clover the Clever
-Before getting into the changelings, I want to talk about the civilization that built their mythology around them: a society much like the Aztecs, where academic knowledge and devotion to the Gods were the greatest values. The jungle they lived in was sacred, and they believed the changelings were the patrons of the jungle, and the physical manifestations of the Gods. They freely gave their love to the changelings in ceremonies, meaning the changelings sported bright, beautiful colors as they returned love to the ponies. It was a unique relationship, as most changelings were hated and reviled by the rest of pony kind. This particular population of changelings is where the Queen and colony system first arose. Voluntary sacrifice was commonplace, as ponies would give themselves up to a Queen to act as a host body for her young. This was considered honorable and was selected for only the most desirable of ponies. One can give their entire lives to the changelings...but something one must NEVER do is speak to a changeling Queen. There is an old legend that one pony named Alikea, high priestess and daughter of the king, broke such a law. This story was used as a cautionary tale told to young ponies, and remind adults of the very real cultural consequences of talking to a changeling. This culture and the jungle changelings have long since perished, leaving nothing behind but mysteries, ruins and the scarce documentation left by ancient witnesses.
-The legend goes like this: when Alikea's mother died, it was her time to become to next high priestess. Like all before her, her coronation was simply to venture into the jungle, alone, and leave an offering of rare fruits and flowers for the Queen changeling. If she returned the next day, and the offering was eaten, the new priestess was accepted. If not...then the Queen would hunt down and kill her. Alikea was deeply curious about her world, and wanted desperately to see the changeling Queen for herself. Breaking all laws, defying her training, Alikea chose to wait in hiding to see the Queen. When the Queen arrived, Alikea was nearly blinded by the brightness of her colors. As her eyes adjusted...she could only gape in awe at the stunning animal before her. Its form was indescribable...but Alikea found herself in love with this creature. She stepped out, not caring, alerting the Queen. The Queen regarded Alikea with her one large compound eye...and to Alikea's shock, the Queen seemed equally curious about her. She said her name was Queen Clypeus. She did not speak with her tentacled mouth, but instead in Alikea's mind. They shared a special, loving and true bond that remained their secret...until that secret resulted in a child.
Both the changelings and tribal ponies were outraged. This foul display crossed natural barriers...the child was surely a demon, an unnatural being that would curse the lands and destroy them. No one knows the fates of these star-crossed lovers. What is known is that their child was taken from them, scorned by civilization, and thrown into the jungle to die alone...although...some say the monstrous child didn't die, and now she wanders the jungle at night, mutated maw dripping with venom as she hungers for the day she will get her revenge...
Notes on Queen biology:
-Before Chrysalis, changelings were amorphous shapeshifters that were indeed conglomerates of the creatures of the jungle. Every Queen was unique, and seemed to share the traits of all creatures around her during her metamorphosis. Many times, butterfly, fish, and serpent traits appear on a newly morphed Queen. Some aspect of the Queen becomes receptive to any genetic material she comes into contact with. Think of it like the Bubble in Annihilation, where all things within it have their genetic material refracted into other organisms, and what comes out is an impossible combination of creatures. This is what the changelings are.
-Queens produce new Queens by choice, which remains a great sacrifice on the mother's part. When the developed larva is ready to emerge, it feeds on and kills its mother, consuming her vital organs and brain. In doing this, the new Queen absorbs nutrients and her mother's knowledge. Changeling Queens call this Mother's Voice, and echoes of ancestors long since passed guide each generation. Queens are not precocial, and so require the care of the swarm for sixteen years before she can hear her mother and take her place as ruler of the swarm. Before this, they are nameless children who are pampered until their Metamorphosis. During Metamorphosis, the Queen finds an isolated, safe place to weave her cocoon. Here she will remain for months as she gains her new form, and her very own Mother's Voice. The swarm remains watchful and protective of their queen's chosen place. When she emerges, she is welcomed as ruler, and mother to the swarm. She will eventually give up the throne and continue the cycle.
-The Hive was not as regimented as it was under Chrysalis. They lived in an organized society with members that hunted, gathered and protected each other, but morphological differences between members were marginal. After all, the changelings would reflect the Queen. Whatever she had, they had too, and so operated accordingly. Members rarely outlived Queens, as Queens are long-lived and under the strictest protections by the swarm, but some have lived to see the cycle of a new queen, and these old changelings often take on the role of mentor to the new Queen.
-Ah yes, and mating is always important to mention. As in Chrysalis' hive, only the Queen reproduces, but the process was comparatively morbid. Like tarantula hawks, Queens would lay their eggs in a suitable host. These eggs she formed by parthenogenesis (aesexually) would hatch and grow within the host at its expense until it expired, and would be consumed by the newly "born" changelings. You can see this behavior in Trichogramma wasps.
-Changelings are and have always been sexless, but can reproduce in any way due to their shapeshifting nature. Although the Queen is decidedly female, even she is not limited to one sex. It is hypothesized that this ability is what led to Chrysalis' conception.
-Chrysalis had no such lifestyle as a changeling. She was born from Alikea, and so did not inherit her own Mother's Voice. Chrysalis grew up alone in the harsh jungle until her metamorphosis in the putrid swamp, growing in the carnivorous plant that ate insects and bone (from IDW comic MLP: Fiendship is Magic Issue #5), where she finally gained her wings. Queen Chrysalis gradually lost the bright colors she was born with as she was starved of love, and soon learned how to take love instead. When she was strong enough, she returned to the changeling swarm and consumed all of their love, killing them in the process and becoming the most powerful changeling known to the world. This devastated the forest and the ponies that called it home. When they tried to rise up against Chrysalis, she annihilated them...taking some as hostages to found her new, revolutionary swarm. This is how changelings became the bug-like equines we know today.
-Over time, Chrysalis used her new colony to pick off the remaining members of the civilization until none remained. She single-hoofedly was the cause of the ruins now found in modern day Tenochtitlan Basin. She went on to conquer more cities, including Timbucktu and Trot. Some anomaly has allowed Chrysalis to have a naturally long lifespan, and she is now thousands of years old.
-Chrysalis' changelings were born a little differently, via something like Haplodiploidy, where some changelings are hatched incapable of breeding (the workers and soldiers) and others are capable (royal). Larvae use an "egg tooth" to assist in hatching. They are semi-precocial, and so can freely move and defend themselves if need be. However, they still require attention from nursery workers and special food from the Queen. They undergo their own metamorphosis, ditching their trademark fuzzy pajamas, into pony-like forms they grow into as they age. Changelings molt their outer layer of chitin as they grow.
-Her powers are quite extraordinary. Like all changelings, she is a shapeshifter that can take on the form of any living organism. Using the four tendril-like anetennae on her head, she can also use mind control on weak-minded individuals, or on her entire swarm. She can produce gooey webbing from her mouth, which she uses in her nurseries or to imprison victims. She has highly corrosive and dangerous venom, sharp teeth, and other qualities that make her a ferocious predator.
-Another skill she has honed over time is her alchemy. The ancient Alicorn Amulet was the talismen she used to conquer Trot, where she literally drove the city's leaders and their rivals mad with power until they destroyed each other. Chrysalis built her hive from scratch out of enchanted materials, including her throne which nullified all magic within a certain perimeter. It gave the hive a changeling-like quality, as the hive was ever changing in layout.
-For a time, Chrysalis ferocity was as legendary as Grogar's, and she knew no match...until Celestia imprisoned her within a volcano. At least until her untimely release.
-When it came to Canterlot...things were less simple. The plan was fueled by her vengeful desire to overthrow and punish Celestia. Chrysalis wanted all of Equestria, and to do that...she needed a very solid plan. Using the likeness of Princess Cadence after kidnapping her, Chrysalis was able to infiltrate and influence Canterlot at a crucial time. Shining Armor was of course the victim of the false threat against the city, and was used to maintain a shield that left him weakened. Chrysalis was also able to brainwash and control him once he was weak enough. She would've gotten away with it too if it weren't for that darned Twilight Sparkle. (as we saw in the alternate future) Chrysalis' plan failed and she was blasted into the distance by the power of love.
-After the events in "To Where and Back Again Pts 1 & 2", Chrysalis once again finds herself alone, although this time far wiser and angry. She is close to death at this point and almost entirely out of options...but maybe, her situation isn't totally hopeless. Don't throw away your shot Chryssie
I got most of this idea from one question: why does Chrysalis have pony-like eyes where the rest of her kind are bug-like? I quite literally spiraled from there lol I've been pondering Chrysalis for a long time. What are your thoughts on her? I'd love to hear your ideas too!
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It's not bad at all! But I will tell you that Alikea was executed by her tribe, and Chrysalis did end up killing Queen Clypeus along with most of the original changeling swarm to earn her right to Queen-status. But these are just details.
I like your ideas except for the part where only the queen reproduces. Mainly because that raises questions as to who she reproduced with, what will happen now that there's only kings, and what will happen to the changeling race if every changeling left is a direct descendant of her. Inbreeding causes lots of problems, after all.
Ah yes I'm glad you brought that up!
Like real life bees or ants, only the Queen mates and produces young. She promotes genetic diversity in the hive in three ways; changeling magic where genes are already quite random and seemingly unrelated to each other, polyandry (multiple "fathers" [there are no sexes in the hive] for one clutch of eggs) and extremely high rates of recombination.
Recombination is a real process where chromosomes are randomly split apart and recombined with each other to form genetically distinct genomes. Basically, all of the hive are descendants from her, but they are so genetically diverse that they don't seem related at all.
And yes, I will be the first to say that Chrysalis mates with her descendants to produce more descendants. But they aren't really "children" to her by social nor biological definitions. Hence why inbreeding doesn't really occur in the hive at all. It's a very alien way of life. Of course, ponies would find the entire process horrifying because to them, changelings are incestuous monsters.
I have more headcanons about the rest of the changelings here, and it explains how they reproduce now that the Queen is gone:
This...is epic! It really explains a lot and it makes a lot of sense. I am kind of curious to see what Chrysalis looked like before her colors changed, or what her "father" looks like.
I love your version of Chrysalis! She looks so creepy and cool at the same time. And HOT DAMN!! THE LORE!! I couldn't pull away from reading it. IT'S SO GOOD AND SO INVESTING. I love how you incorporated your biology education, the real life species of bugs, and their crazy buggy behaviors into the changeling species. Like wow. This is the best take on them I've seen so far