A pony is indeed a miserable little pile of friendship. But what is a changeling? Well...
Lately, I have found the changeling stock more and more fascinating. They prey on living ponies. They regard love as power for them to claim. They revel in horror. This last characteristic is what led me to an epiphany today. I always knew there was a likeness, maybe a faint connection, but only now do I realize that it actually fits...
The CHANGELINGS are UNDEAD.
I believe that Queen Chrysalis may be an even greater monster than she says, for the Friendship is Magic comics, starting with the very first story arc, have evolved the changelings we saw in Season 2 into a nastier pest than anyone imagined.
It was a graveyard smash!
- A squirrel finds a bad acorn.
- The squirrel casts the bad acorn into a cemetery.
- The bad acorn falls through a hole and lands in an underground lake.
- From the bad acorn comes a tree.
- The tree grows over the bones of the cemetery's ponies.
- The vile tree consumes the corpse flies that gather over the bones.
- Star Swirl the Bearded detects this "bad juju" and nails a warning sign to the tree.
- The nail cracks the tree open.
- The changeling swarm emerges from the tree.
Though this may be a far cry from sugar, spice, and everything nice, here we have a very detailed recipe for a batch of these monsters: a mysterious acorn, some corpse flies, and some pony bones—and indeed they are monsters, for, according to Star Swirl, they are the work of foul magic.
The flies explain how the changelings received their insectile features. Since this happened over the bones of ponies, it seemed reasonable that the the tree should impose the features of ponies upon the unfortunate flies or some other magic cauldron hooey. I would say I made this assumption, but the truth is that I simply gave it insufficient thought. I saw "Acorn + Fly + Bone = Changeling" without thinking through how each ingredient figured into the equation.
The acorn is the key. It was bad, certainly, but how bad is hard to answer... unless we consider that it had necromantic properties. I propose that this acorn had the power to raise the dead. This acorn grew in the underground lake because it detected the skeletons of the deceased ponies and because it could rebuild these skeletons in accordance with its unholy purpose.
Admittedly, this is quite a leap. The idea that the changelings are a horde of skeletal ponies is a bold claim for a number of reasons. But I daresay there is evidence besides.
The love is the life, Mr. Renfield!
Queen Chrysalis is a surprisingly powerful figure. Alhough she is weak magically—without Shining Armor's love, she is easily beaten by Twilight Sparkle—she has plenty of other powers to make up for it, some of which may be supernatural even by Equestria's standards.
I am of the opinion that all of these powers are connected.
One of the first features we ever see of Chrysalis is her fangs, which are pointy and clearly suitable for piercing flesh. She never actually bites anyone, but they are a feature that she shares with the rest of her kind. All changelings have fangs, and the two canines on the upper jaw are the longest and pointiest.
That said, there is one feature that Chrysalis and the other changelings absolutely delight in using against other ponies—their ability to drain them of their love and/or vanity. This is how the changelings feed, and it very clearly leaves the victim looking rather wasted. They sustain themselves by sucking the vitality out of other creatures.
Third, Chrysalis demonstrates super-strength on a few occasions, especially when she invades Timbucktu. She is capable of choking multiple ponies and consuming their love all at once, and she actually does so in an animalistic fashion. Even if she should not want to feed, she is likely capable of killing a pony by strength alone. After all, she did splatter a cat across the castle wall on-panel.
Hypnosis is another of the changeling queen's powers, and she is no amateur. For example, she escaped from Celestia's volcano by hypnotizing a dragon. Whether other changelings share this ability is unknown, but one is enough. The arch-changeling herself is capable of advanced hypnotism.
Lastly, Queen Chrysalis has a spooky castle with bats in the mountains.
I should hope this is enough to establish the connection. Queen Chrysalis is fanged hypnotist who lives in a bat-infested castle and drains her victims for sustenance with the aid of her super-strength and ability to transform. In other words, she bears almost all of the trademark features of Count Dracula, the most famous undead killer of all time.
She even mimics the signature hypnotic glare of Dracula from the 1931 film of the same name in her FIENDship comic. Queen Chrysalis is based on Dracula.
With that said, it is hardly a stretch to say that the other changelings are based on vampires. They even have glassy, corpse-ish eyes. They obey their changeling queen/vampire lord and exhibit many of her characteristics and even some of her powers, including several that I have scarcely mentioned thus far—magic, flight, transformation, and... immortality. They are as vampirical as their queen.
And yes, immortality is my next topic.
To die, to be really dead, that must be glorious!
Queen Chrysalis has been alive for one thousand years, and at least one of her lieutenants is able to recount every one of her conquests, starting with the invasion of Timbucktu. Certainly, they are ageless, but unlike the princesses who have been around for just as long, the changelings have survived unthinkable injury. This is what most distinguishes the monstrous creatures from real Alicorns: they are ageless and also invulnerable.
To start, the entire changeling army has been perforated all over by the magic of Princess Celestia. FIENDship Issue 5 reveals that she unleashed her heat ray spell upon them and lasered them into submission. No ordinary creature should be able to survive such wounds for long, even in the legs, but these monsters have managed to live on.
Furthermore, since these wounds occurred hundreds of years in the past, they are proof that all of today's changelings were around when Chrysalis failed to conquer the city of Trot.
Once Celestia defeated the swarm, all of the changelings were imprisoned in an active volcano, where they stayed until Chrysalis hypnotized the dragon. These temperatures should boil the blood of any living creature and thusly kill it, but the changelings endured, albeit in extreme discomfort. Might they not have blood of their own? In any case, they survived the volcano without any serious burns or traumata.
Finally, the changelings survived the incredibly high fall from Canterlot, which should spell death for any creature of such stature. The comics reveal that all of the changelings who fell from Canterlot survived with minimal injuries. They were only weakened by the shock.
Thus, it appears that nothing has been able to harm these immortal changelings aside from Celestia's magic. Note that Celestia's magic relates to the sun, the daystar, the bane of vampires and related undead fiends. Only the power of the sun has left any mark upon the changeling scourge.
To Answer the Question...
What is a changeling?
A changeling is the reanimated corpse of a pony. A necromantic oak gives it flesh and wings like those of the flies it has consumed. Changelings have a fascination with horror, and they allude to horror films regularly because they themselves are among the undead.
Because the changeling is undead, it is able to survive extreme heat and extreme falls. However, since it does not have the anatomy of a properly living creature, it must vampirically gorge itself on love in order to function. For the same reason, it expresses distaste at pony cuisine, for it is unable to digest anything but that which it saps from living creatures.
Only solar magic can permanently harm the changeling because it is related to the vampire. Thankfully the changeling does have a reflection in mirrors, but otherwise it is just as dangerous as its blood-sucking counterpart. The changeling queen is rightly a figure of legend.
Remember the changeling when you go trick-or-treating this Nightmare Night. Never speak ill of the dead, and remember that you, too, will one day die... for the Dead ride fast!