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Villain Overview
Long live the king.
~ King Sombra

King Sombra (or simply known as Sombra) is one of the main antagonists of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. He is a tyrannical unicorn and the former ruler of the Crystal Empire who is bent on reconquering the empire and later taking over all of Equestria. In the IDW comics, it is stated that Sombra is actually an Umbrum created to destroy the Crystal Heart and release the Umbrum army trapped underneath the Crystal Empire; although this is considered non-canonical to the series.

He appears as the main antagonist in Season 3's premiere, "The Crystal Empire" and in Season 9's premiere, "The Beginning of the End". In the IDW MLP comics, he appears as the secondary antagonist in the 13th story arc Siege Of The Crystal Empire; the real main antagonist being his "mother" Rabia.

He was voiced by Jim Miller in Season 3, and is voiced by Alvin Sanders in Season 9.

Personality

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 evilest 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.

In Season 9, though he still comes close to conquering Equestria and displays intelligence by tricking the Mane 6 into revealing their source of power, he is also shown to be pompous, arrogant, and overconfident, preferring to not work with Grogar's evil alliance in favor of taking Equestria for himself, and disregarding his warnings about working together, which ultimately proved to be his downfall. He is too overconfident in fact, that he left the Mane Six to be trapped in his crystal cage instead of controlling their minds, saying there is no point, thinking that without the Elements, they are powerless to stop him and his army of slaves. Also, when he reached the throne room of Canterlot Castle and saw that Princesses Celestia and Luna weren't there, he immediatley assumed it was because they were too scared to face him, when in fact they were responding to the threat of the Everfree Forest's overgrowth. When he was overpowered by the Mane Six's magic, he is seen cringing in disbelief and despair at his own defeat.

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 used hidden portals, animated doors, and even pocket dimensions as part of his defenses for the Crystal Heart.

Weaknesses

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. After revival, his second death comes from magic powered by friendship, which he was unable to penetrate either.

Despite his intelligence, he is also shown to be overconfident, which led to his second downfall.

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 retconned by Season 9.

Reception

Sombra growling at Shining and Flurry S9E1
Sombra initially received a mixed reception from both critics and viewers alike, with much criticism 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.

King Sombra's design has also been criticized 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.

His reappearance in Season 9 has gathered more positive reviews, with fans saying that Sombra finally has more screentime, lines, and has done more evil actions, though his origins are still yet to be explored. However, Alvin Sander's performance as King Sombra in the episode has gotten a mixed reaction, with some calling his voice not fitting for the character. However, Jim Miller has explained that when he voiced Sombra, he voiced him as an ethereal and not completely formed being, like a ghost, while Alvin Sander's voice is his real actual voice. Despite this, his appearance in Season 9 helped the character to become more popular with fans of the show.

Conversely -- other fans have complained that his new portrayal in the Season 9 premiere was too comedic and reckless compared to his original appeal as a no-nonsense threat, and/or too generic compared to his development in the aforementioned comics. In fact, some people have compared him unfavorably to Supreme Leader Snoke in The Last Jedi

Episodes and Appearances

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

Season 3

Season 5

Season 6

Season 7

Season 9

Comics

Friendship is Magic

Friends Forever

My Little Pony: FIENDship is Magic

Nightmare Knights

Quotes

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic

Season 3

Crystal Heart...
My crystal slaves...

Season 9

I don't do "ours"; I only do mine! I will take back the Crystal Empire on my own, and I will destroy anypony who gets in my way! (Grogar: Such confidence. Go! Try to take back your kingdom. I shall send you there myself. If you prevail, you may keep it. But when you fail, you will submit to me!) And if I refuse this deal? (Grogar: Then i shall return you to the darkness from which you were summoned.)
~ King Sombra to Grogar in The Beginning of the End.
Ha! You're no match for me! I will finally rule the Crystal Empire. (gasps) Wait, with you out of the way, I will rule ALL of Equestria!
~ King Sombra
No! This can't be possible! Your magic can't defeat mine! I DESTROYED THE SOURCE OF YOUR POWER! (Twilight: You can't destroy our friendship, Sombra!) (Rainbow Dash: And we keep telling bad guys.) (Applejack: But y'all just don't seem to remember.) (Mane Six: Friendship is Magic) (Try to retaliate but it's no use and the Mane Six unleashes a magical explosion that annihilates him.) NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!
~ King Sombra's last words before being destroyed by the six's power, this time for good.

Comics

What do I do with this power? Why am I the only one with it?
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.
~ King Sombra
I am not just any monster, Hope. I am king of the monsters!
~ King Sombra

Trivia

  • Prior to his introduction in the series, King Sombra first appeared on Hasbro's Pony Wedding micro-site 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."
    • Sombra is also 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.
  • 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 on Q).
    • A pony who is not 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), Sombra is the first who is actually confirmed). He also dies a second time in the The Beginning of the End - Part 2, only this time, he dies a permanent death.
  • 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. This is confirmed to not be canon to the show, however, and his past remains a mystery.
  • 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 would regenerate from his horn. However, at Unicon 2013 Meghan McCarthy confirmed that Sombra is dead. The Fiendship is Magic comic books have, in response to this theory, depicted him as a ghost tied to his horn, from which he is revived. In the show, his severed horn is not shown when Sombra is revived by Grogar, and thus does not seem to be significant.
  • 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 with Tirek and Grogar, the darkest and evilest villain in Friendship is Magic.
    • However, his evil intentions are revealed in the Fiendship is Magic comics. Though non-canon to the show, this incarnation of Sombra was tragic and redeemable.
  • 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 are now confirmed to be non-canon, this might not have held true to the show, in which Sombra is more violent and murderous.
    • Ironically, the pony who defeated him the first time, 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, but this was cut due to time constraints.
  • He, along with the Storm King and the Mean Six, is so far the only characters on the show to actually die. 
    • Sombra is also the only villain to actually be destroyed by the Mane Six.
    • He died twice in the show. First is in Season 3's premiere, where he was shattered to pieces by the Crystal Heart powered by the Crystal Ponies. He was resurrected in Season 9's premiere but was killed again by the power of friendship, powered by the Mane Six, and is turned to dust. Since Grogar decided not to revive Sombra, this proves that Sombra is now gone for good and will possibly never return again in the series. 
  • 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. This, however, was proven to be false.
  • 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.
  • Meghan McCarthy has stated 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.
  • He says "Kneel before Sombra", a reference to a similar quote by General Zod.
  • 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.
  • His voice is different in Season 9 than in Season 3. Jim Miller explained that this is because in Season 3 he is "ethereal and spectral", implying that in Season 3, he may be a ghost, though he could just refer to him being in a disembodied state like Lord Voldemort, whose voice in this form was also different than when he was restored to power.
  • He is the first villain who has actually managed to destroy the elements of harmony, the original source of their powers.
  • He is the third villain to be the main antagonist twice, first two being Starlight Glimmer and Queen Chrysalis.
  • He is the second villain to destroy a significant tree, first being Lord Tirek. However, in Sombra's case, this was not permanent.
  • His second death has often been compared to those turned to dust by Thanos at the end of Avengers: Infinity War.

Navigation

           My Little Pony G4 logo Villains

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

Equestria Girls
Dazzlings (Adagio Dazzle | Aria Blaze | Sonata Dusk) | Juniper Montage | Principal Cinch | Snips and Snails | Sunset Shimmer | Vignette Valencia | Wallflower Blush

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 | Pseudocorns | Rabia | Shadowfright | Vampiric Jackalope

Movie
Grubber | Storm Creatures | Storm King | Tempest Shadow

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