Celestia is The Evil Twin (or the Trollestia theory)
Hypothesis: Out of the twin pony deities, Princess Celestia and Nightmare Moon, Celestia is the evil twin.
-Did Celestia Plan Twilight Sparkle's First Adventure to Further Humiliate Her Sister?
According to the pilot episode of Friendship is Magic 'Mare in the Moon' the widely accepted belief is that two sisters controlled the sun and moon, Celestia and Nightmare Moon respectively. One thousand years previous to the episode, Celestia sealed Nightmare away in the moon itself for the crime of trying to create eternal night.
For some reason this prison would be unlocked in the longest day of the thousandth year.
This indicates right of the bat a number of disturbing things.
First off, the creation of practically the only villain the series has seen to this point is directly due to Celestia herself. Nightmare's spite is derived from her jealousy of her sister, and later on her bitterness can be understood since she's been locked away on the moon for a thousand years.
Secondly, Nightmare Moon for all her magic is not comparable to the might of Celestia, who is apparently capable of sealing her away in the first place. This makes it curious that, when Nightmare frees herself from her prison on the moon, Celestia cannot easily put her back.
This second point is further worrisome given how Nightmare Moon is disposed of when she returns.
Twilight Sparkle, pupil to Celestia (apparently the only one) first reports the legend of Nightmare Moon to everyone and is ignored as being crazy. Celestia could have of course easily substantiated the myth by admitting its true from personal experience, or even sending a letter verifying the myth to everyone. But she never does so. Celestia, apparently over a thousand years old, is living proof of the legend, but no one takes this into account and again Celestia never brings it up despite several opportunities.
So it is that Twilight is stuck worrying about the impending apocalypse, and is even further distracted from her efforts to save her world by Celestia demanding she go out and make friends. While Twilight endures the torments of social awkwardness she has to research on her own limited time the counteractive to Nightmare Moon's curse, and discovers very fortunately (too fortunately?) a book that just happens to mention the Elements of Harmony.
Which simultaneously just happen to be six in number, corresponding with the number of friend's Twilight has made thus far.
A fair question to ask: was Twilight's quest for friendship (and later her perilous journey alongside her friends to recover the elements) all Celestia's plot?
The princess is missing when Nightmare Moon arrives, and the reason for this is unexplored and unexplained. It falls to the untried and youthful team of six friends to do all the heavy lifting to defeat Nightmare Moon at last, and when they do Celestia appears from nowhere to congratulate them.
Almost as if all of their actions had been preplanned.
In the ensuing battle over the Elements of Harmony, Nightmare Moon's power is broken and she reverts to a childlike form (despite her being the same age as her much more mature appearing sister) and Celestia demands Nightmare repent. She does so, weeping into her sister's mane. This may be due to her magical assault by the elements, but could also have to do with her ultimate defeat at the hands of a bunch of preteens.
In conjunction with the mysteries as to why Nightmare Moon was allowed to be freed at all or was imprisoned in the first place, these humiliations suggest that Celestia really likes putting people down and showing off her power. Her rival sister she first imprisons, and then allows to be freed only so a carefully orchestrated series of events and a ragtag band of amateurs can systematically destroy every sense of power she might have had, reducing her metaphorically (and physically) into a weeping child, which Celestia is later seen parading around like a pet.
Also take into consideration Celestia was perfectly willing to allow her subjects to suffer under eternal night and basically obligated a small group of kids with issues to wander deep into a forbidden and dangerous zone to face off against an evil diety
just so she could flaunt her superiority.
This is not the only instance of Celestia's reckless endangerment of the lives of others or her power plays.
-Was Nightmare Moon Truly a Savior?
Although she only shows up in two episodes thusfar, Nightmare Moon herself gives credence to the idea that Celestia, not she, is the evil half of the twin sisters.
The exact reason behind Nightmare's exile is glossed over almost entirely, even in the official legend on the subject. Apparently she grew jealous and tried to darken the skies, but 'jealousy' being a crime could sound suspiciously like Celestia playing herself up as having no fault but that others envy her, if she (presumably the only other witness) recounted the legend to later pony scholars.
How the sun and moon operate in the show is a hazy subject. Apparently without Nightmare Moon to govern it the moon and the night still come and go at regular intervals, so it could be possible Nightmare was given a complete superfluous job by her sister and wasn't so much jealous as she was irritated by being sidelined into a fairly useless post.
What Nightmare could have done that earned her being locked in the moon for a thousand years is a deeply troubling enigma. It can't have been simply that she wanted to create eternal night because she tries the same later on and only gets blasted into a child rather then banished again. Celestia doesn't apologize for banishing Nightmare later on so it's wasn't a mistake either.
Possibly Nightmare discovered a secret about her sister, her true motives, and was banished for her audacity?
The legend is not believed widely or even known by many, but it could have centuries earlier been Celestia's official take on why she banished Nightmare to the moon. Now as the only surviving account its impossible to separate truth from the invented history Celestia spoon fed the population of the valley until they accepted it so fully they consigned it to ancient mythology.
Nightmare Moon when she appears does seem to embody an evil demagogue. She laughs manically, is covered in dark tendrils, and commands lightning and darkness. She even monologues about how much contempt she has for everyone.
Beyond the theatrics, Nightmare's attitude is fully justifiable. She has been locked in a prison for a thousand years and returns to find the valley under the mindless control of her sister, fully accepted Celestia's version of the truth. She would be disposed to scorn of these willing toys for her sister's amusement who stare in awe at a legend they'd convinced themselves not to believe.
As to her outright declaration she will create 'Eternal Night' this might very well be sarcasm on her part. The expectation is that Nightmare Moon will do just that, and she may have felt inclined to live into her villainous persona, to teach her sister's subjects the meaning of true fear in the face of divine power.
Celestia might work through manipulation and underhanded conspiracies, but Nightmare Moon is open with her magical aura, and for the most part honest about whom she is.
Consider also that 'Eternal Night' doesn't actually have a great affect on the valley as a whole. No one is hurt except the guards who attack her, and they are only knocked unconscious. What Nigthmare stands to gain from eternal night goes unexplained; again hinting at the suggestion that creating it is not Nightmare's first and only intention.
But what might that intention be?
Possibly to wake up the world to the tyranny of Celestia. Her persona as a godlike villain might actually be her way of representing Celestia's true nature.
Now lets look at the trails she puts in the path of the six ponies.
Her first test is a straight up collapsing cliff. This indicates direct deadly intent, but it does seem aimed at Twilight who is on the tip of the precipice when Nightmare makes it give way. Perhaps she believed that Twilight was the least likely of all of them to listen to her, and the most firmly devoted to Celestia. She feels no compunction about taking a fervent follower out of the picture quickly.
Later on she creates a series of scary trees. They don't attack serve more as a barrier then anything else. The intention is less to kill then to scare off.
On, the six encounter a raging manticore that later turns out to be spurred by Nightmare herself, transmogrified into the form of a thorn in its paw. This again seems less then deadly and more a scare tactic.
For Rainbow Dash's temptation, Nightmare attempts boldfaced recruitment. By forming herself into the image of an elite flyer squad, Nightmare attempts to convince Rainbow Dash not to continue the quest but instead do what she wants to do. Rainbow declares her loyalty to her friends and refuses, but was this illusion really meant to turn Rainbow dash against her friends, or to caution her against continuing a quest she didn't truly understand and instead think for herself?
In the last confrontation Nightmare says fairly implicitly that Twilight and her friends don't understand what they're up against or what they're doing. Twilight takes this as a threat, but this could have been a warning as well, to avoid jumping to conclusions in the heat of battle.
Maybe she should have listened, given all she and her fellows endure afterwards at Celestia's tender mercy.
So at the last we see Nightmare Moon was imprisoned for undefined reasons, returned by equally indistinct events, and although she put on a show as a monster, logic suggests it was just that
Unfortunately, as she may always do, Celestia used guile to degrade, disgrace, and subjugate her.
Who knows if Eternal Night wouldn't have truly been the only real day the ponies had ever seen, when the lies of the princess were lifted and their free wills were returned?
-Is Celestia Methodically Breaking the Spirits of all Her Subjects?
The single consistent theme Celestia lives by seems to be destroying everything those around her hold dear and whatever dignity they believe they possess.
Take the six main characters.
She considers herself well read, rational, a favorite of Celestia's and likes having things neat and ordered.
In response to this Celestia orders her to make friends in a new town, specifically in the vicinity of a group of well-meaning but neurotic ponies with deep psychological issues, issues that literally drive her to drink. These friends are also guaranteed to throw a monkey wrench into her careful plans, destroy her property, and make demands on her time. As for her coveted rationality, superstition runs rampant throughout the valley and every pony seems to have a mob mentality in moments of crisis, ignoring her increasingly frustrated attempts to explain things scientifically. She is also a magic user, forced to find a place in a town which is proven time and again to look down on or ignore magic. As for being Celestia's favorite (and still only) student, Celestia never addresses her directly unless she's cornered, never visits, corresponds via letters despite living in a castle a few miles outside of town, and in the final episodes of the first season stands directly beside Twilight while she talks with other people or overlooks her entirely.
All the better to put Sparkle in her place.
She considers herself athletic, has a dream of being in the Wonderbolts, and prefers action to inaction.
Celestia keeps maneuvering Rainbow Dash into situations where physical effort is either a detriment or unneeded.
When Celestia sends the six to wake up a dragon and send it away (a task she mysteriously does not see to herself) Fluttershy proves to be catatonic when frightened, so Rainbow has to carry her and fly very slowly, much to her annoyance.
The most damning scene of Celestia destroying Rainbow's spirit is when she is given an honorable mention award for rescuing Rarity during a flying match. Rainbow is seen flying off with members of the Wonderbolts
but in later episodes still longs to be part of the same corps. Apparently the award was just for show: another indication that all rewards only issue from Celestia herself and her subjects are powerless without her approval.
No one is allowed to achieve their dreams no matter how much effort they exert.
At the Grand Galloping Gala (Celestia's most insidious scheme to date) Rainbow is allowed to approach from a distance the Wonderbolts ,even while wearing her honorary headband, but Celestia doesn't lift a hoof to introduce her and leaves her to pass a lonely evening in quiet desperation.
Is a gentle soul, shy, animal lover and so paralyzed by fear she faints with her eyes open.
Like clockwork, Celestia insures that this humble naturalist is put into situations involving great danger. Dangerous animals are her favorite torture as Fluttershy is then required to go along on expeditions to calm them despite her terror because of her empathy with the fauna world. Most cruel is surely Celestia allowing Fluttershy to care for her dying pet phoenix, not informing Fluttershy why it appears sick in the first place, and saying nothing on the subject...up until the bird actually bursts into flames, causing Fluttershy's heart to break.
The true erosion of Fluttershy was seen at the Grand Galloping Gala, where she was allowed into an extensive garden she's always wanted to visit but for no apparent reason the animals flee her in terror.
This provokes the serene Pegasus into a psychotic rage at being ignored until she is a raving, mud smeared, wreck.
One wonders, not without cause, whether the animals had been told in advance to ignore Fluttershy, to create the conditions for her breakdown.
Is industrious, elegant, romantically inclined towards Celestia's nephew.
Again, Celestia delights in setting up events that require Rarity to work herself to exhaustion, such as multiple consecutive fashion shows and ballroom parties. As Rarity is apparently the only seamstress in town this seems deliberately cruel. Many fashion icons also are invited to the valley, but each seems to be snobbish and scornful Rarity's work offhand, plummeting her fragile self-esteem. Overworked and underappreciated, her generosity in the face of coordinated unfairness is a true testament to her character.
At the last Rarity, when she meets Celestia's nephew she's had a long standing crush on, discovers he's a complete fop without the basic decency of common courtesy. Why Celestia invited him to the Gala and why she doesn't discourage his behavior are more indications he's a carrot specifically chosen to be dangled before Rarity, before being pulled out of her grip at the last moment for a laugh.
The true sign of Celestia's dark side is when Rarity, imbued with butterfly wings, competes at the Pegasus flying championships, but the spell wears out and she spirals to her doom. The Wonderbolts wing after her without hesitation, but Celestia remains in her seat despite possessing powerful wings. Even her ever-present winged guards stay where they sit.
Does she simply not care, or was she enjoying the spectacle?
You can almost imagine her guards preparing to leap to the rescue, and a long white leg holding them back.
Enjoys parties, prefers a casual atmosphere to a ceremonial one.
Pinkie is her own worst enemy with her addiction to parties apparently causing mental paralysis when they are denied her, to the extent of hallucinations, multiple personality disorder, and facial twitches. Because of this perhaps Celestia hasn't focused her wrath on this pony, except for one specific event that seemed tailored to her degradation.
Twilight is given two tickets only to the Grand Galloping Gala and seemingly has to chose two of her five friends to attend. The others have reasons to go, but Pinkie's reasoning is based on the fact that first and foremost it's a party, the best one ever. While the remaining four basically want to take advantage of the attendees, Pinkie is overjoyed at the prospect of her major defining characteristic and only goal in life made manifest. To deny her that would seem particularly cruel.
In the end Celestia's excuse for sending two tickets is 'You could have asked at any time' which is the punch line to her sordid joke on all six of them.
In the final episode of the first season Pinkie Pie does get to finally attend the party. She finds it to be a boring social gathering with classical music.
Where she got it into her head it would be a raucous celebration is left to the imagination, but it's not impossible that a certain princess planted the idea in her mind.
A hard worker devoted to her apple business, level headed, doesn't like red tape.
Celestia always turns a blind eye when Applejack is either being praised for her celebrated deeds in the valley or working herself to near death. In the former case, the ponies are often praising Applejack for rescuing them from disasters like stampedes, so much so that they actually form a committee and hold a ceremony to present her with an award. In the past for events like the Pegasus flying championship, Celestia arrives to give it her blessing. But when a local hero is honored she doesn't put in an appearance or provide anything to suggest she even pays it any mind. Conversely when Applejack periodically lets her stubbornness get the better of her and becomes crazy with work, Celestia is nowhere to be seen even given that the apple orchard seems to main source of food for the valley and stunted production would be readily knowable by a responsible leader.
At the gala again Applejack is allowed to advertise her wares, but the guests are too prudish to accept country products. Where all these aristocrats came from is a mystery because they don't live in the valley. Coupled with the fact that only a select group of ponies are invited to the Gala at all, its suggested that Celestia holds her court and parties mostly for a rich and high born audience from another kingdom, and she invites the local in just to mess with both classes at once.
-Celestia has wings and a magical horn, yet she's carried everywhere on a chariot drawn by four guards.
-Her Pegasus guards are always frowning and do not speak or move when addressed. This suggests some kind of disturbing training program instilling absolute obedience and basically depersonalizing her minions until they become literal living weapons. The other ponies express fear when told her guards will even stop by to look for someone, so it can be construed they are rough, destructive, and maybe even violent.
-Celestia has been absent for every major disaster or enemy that has struck the valley. When the Ursa Major rampaged, she didn't even show after the attack that left several homes leveled. When Trixie the wizard arrived and began tormenting and threatening her people, she did nothing to stop her. Likewise a rampaging hydra and a cockatrice have nearly killed ponies and turned them to stone, but Celestia has never sent her elite guards to clear the Everfree Forest, leaving her subjects in constant peril.
-Events and rituals of the valley seem designed to create contention and discord. Traditional races include bizarre and dangerous events, social functions usually have an element of fierce competition, and other events like Winter Wrap up specifically exclude ponies of a class or discipline.
-Celestia is referred to as a 'princess' but there has never been seen a queen or a king. This suggests Celestia is either remarkably powerful for her rank, or she chose the title herself because it made her sound younger and there is no other royalty.
-In instances of Twilight delivering letters to Celestia, she is always seen in some kind of leisure activity: sitting on her throne, reading books, taking a bath. Apparently, despite all her absences, Celestia has plenty of free time.
-The famous 'tea' sequence shows that Celestia is not above messing with well meaning people. When a family fills her tea cup as she empties it she deliberately pretends to drink from her cup so that it overflows when refilled.
Her snarky reply 'Gotcha' could've been her statement after every crime she has perpetrated.
-With her sister banished and then mortified, she now controls not only the valley but also the sun and the moon. She is practically the god of the valley and obtained this position by exiling her own flesh and blood.
-Even though Celestia forces her pupil to make friends and report daily on her progress, Celestia herself is never seen to have any friends of her own.
-The Gala of Misery: Final Proof Celestia is Evil
The final episode of the first season 'Best Night Ever' is the closing argument that, even if Nightmare Moon is in fact a wicked tyrant, Celestia is far worse.
The first mention of the Grand Galloping Gala is in the episode 'The Ticket Master' in which Celestia gives Twilight two additional tickets only after inviting her to the party. This is only the third episode, right after the final part of the pilot, so Twilight is already being forced to put every friendship she's made to the test.
All six eventually go to the gala, but in the beginning of the final episode they sing a song about all the things they expect to do
at the gala. Apparently they all have short memories, they didn't actually attend the gala after all, or the gala changes completely every year. What they are singing about also turns out to be entirely wrong.
Somehow Rarity, although she's already been to the gala previously, still harbors dreams that Celestia's nephew will be a gentleman. Did Celestia not allow Rarity to meet him the time before?
Pinkie Pie dreams of it being a wild and crazy night. Was the previous gala less formal, and the new one changed to be a stiff and prim affair?
Fluttershy muses that she'll get to see the gardens. Did she not see them before or are they changed as well?
The desires of the ponies are as follows
Twilight: Spend time with Celestia and talk with her
Fluttershy: Visit gardens, get to know animals.
Rainbow Dash: Meet and join Wonderbolts.
Rarity: Meet and woo Celestia's nephew.
Pinkie Pie: Dance and party.
Applejack: Sell apples.
In every example the wildest dream of the ponies becomes their worst nightmare.
Twilight: Gets to stand by Celestia...while she ignores her .
Fluttershy: Shunned by the animals until she gets fanatical.
Rainbow Dash: Ignored by the Wonderbolts despite her increasingly reckless actions.
Rarity: Discovers that Celstia's nephew is a jerk.
Pinkie Pie: Finds out the ball is a formal one without decorations or crazy music.
Applejack: Finds out the attendees are all aristocrats who refuse her wares.
After the ponies frantically try to obtain their ideals, literally destroying the party in the process (complete with shattering the main statue and toppling the pillars and risking much life and limb) the six retire in disgrace to drown their sorrows at the local ice cream parlor.
Celestia, in a rare example of actually going somewhere, arrives at the parlor and listens to their tales of woe.
But she greets their tears and apologies with laughter.
In another rare moment where Celestia reveals her games, she blatantly tells them she always hates galas because they're boring
and she deliberately invited them to 'make things interesting'.
So to recap
-Celestia holds balls at great expense she doesn't even enjoy.
-Celestia chooses ponies to attend not based on merit but based on how much their neurosis and bumbling amuse her.
-Celestia is willing to stand by and watch her guests plunge into manic depression so they will be driven into destructive frenzies for her own entertainment.
-Celestia will watch as guests are hurt, nearly killed, and even as her own halls fall down around her ears, just so she won't be bored at a social function.
It's not stated but it can be interpreted that Celestia also carefully set up the circumstances for each pony to be denied their dearest wish.
This is all she would have to do...
Twilight: Deliberately ignore her after stating plainly you intend to spend time with her.
Fluttershy: Train the animals to be furtive.
Maybe Celestia in her natural state, alone without witnesses, is so terrifyingly evil the animals themselves have learned to stay away from any living thing.
Rainbow Dash: Provide no assistance in recommending her to her favorite team.
Rarity: Do nothing to improve the manners of your own nephew. Maybe even invite him purposely, knowing his handsomeness will lure some poor love-starved pony into an evening of despair.
Pinkie Pie: The previous gala may have been closer to Pinkie Pie's impression of what a party should be, raising her hopes. All that needed to be done was to make the proceedings as boring as possible and invite a bunch of arrogant high brows to drive her insane.
Applejack: See Pinkie Pie.
In conclusion Celestia implicitly states that the happiness, comfort, self-respect, the very LIVES of her subjects mean less to her then amusement.
This is the mark of an unabashed tyrant.
Celestia is not just apathetic, not just shortsighted, not just lazy and unfeeling and unjust, but she is unremorsefully evil... BY HER OWN ADMITTANCE!
Maybe in the second season the poor, bereaved Nightmare Moon will return to power and the ponies may have a chance to once and for all cast aside their chains of authoritarianism, the ancient lies will be dispelled, and Twilight Sparkle freed from the yoke of a heartless goddess.
For now however the golden helmed guards roam unchecked, the 'lessons' continue to become more and more deadly, and the lives of the six blameless ponies remain the playthings of the true malevolence lurking in the valley's midst.