|The Root of the Problem|
|Published:||January 28, 2015 (#27)|
March 18, 2015 (#28)
Katie Cook (#27, pp. 24-25, #28, pp. 24-25)
|Credits • Gallery • Allusions|
The Good, the Bad and the Ponies
Friendship is Magic #29
The Root of the Problem is the tenth story arc of IDW Publishing's comic series, spanning issues #27 and #28. In the story, the Mane Six investigate the Everfree Forest to find out what is causing its inhabitants to flee. A sequel storyline to the arc, entitled "Crispins and Clovers", was included in Gameloft's mobile game.
The Mane Six and Spike are having a picnic in the park when Zecora is suddenly chased out of the Everfree Forest by Timberwolves and living vines. The ponies get rid of the Timberwolves and save Zecora, but the vines spread all over Ponyville. Zecora explains that the vines raged through her home and drove her out of the forest, and she doesn't know how to stop it.
Twilight Sparkle has Spike send a letter to Princess Celestia about the situation, but a response letter states that every town on the Everfree Forest's border is facing the same situation and that Celestia and Princess Luna are trying to contain it in Canterlot. Celestia tells Twilight and her friends to seek out the "Heart of the Forest" for help. Despite Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie's stories about this fairy-tale creature, Twilight and her friends set out.
Immediately after entering the forest, the ponies are confronted by numerous ferocious creatures. They run away and use the nearby trees to block their path. Farther into the forest, they meet a deer named Bramble. He tells the ponies to leave the forest, stating the Heart of the Forest will be displeased by their presence. They ask him to lead them to the Heart; Bramble refuses at first, but he changes his mind upon learning it's a request by Princess Celestia.
The group comes to a large hole in the ground. Twilight uses a tree to make a bridge, but this greatly upsets Bramble. He defends the animals living in the tree and berates Twilight for knocking over their home. Using water from the small cask around his neck, Bramble magically restores the tree and creates a bridge of vines across the ravine. Another deer named Blackthorn appears to escort the ponies the rest of the way.
Blackthorn leads the ponies to the forest city of Thicket. There they meet the Heart of the Forest himself: the deer leader and Bramble's father, King Aspen. He turns the ponies away, saying they are not welcome and that the deer's magic is responsible for the Everfree Forest's plant invasion. Aspen explains that the forest's delicate ecosystem is out of balance; the deer are using their magic to expand the forest toward the towns on its borders because a construction crew of ponies and minotaurs are cutting down the forest's trees. Despite Aspen's efforts at negotiation, the minotaur in charge refuses to stop construction.
Twilight and her friends meet with the crew manager Well-to-Do, who says he is clearing the land to make room for an amusement park and had even offered to make new homes for the deer—all in the name of "progress." When Twilight and company say he's progressing too fast and inform him of what his actions are doing to the forest and surrounding towns, Well-to-Do is less than sympathetic and kicks them out of his office.
Defeated, the ponies return to King Aspen. Twilight asks for another chance to change Well-to-Do's mind, but Aspen resolves to replant the destroyed trees and expand the forest outward, regardless of how many ponies are affected. Twilight and her friends are determined to help Aspen save his home, and Spike sends a letter to Celestia to inform her of these recent events.
In Canterlot, vines have overtaken the city, and Celestia and Luna are trapped in vines as Twilight's letter arrives.
As the situations in Canterlot and Ponyville worsen, the ponies and deer in the Everfree Forest don't fare much better; as a result of Well-to-Do's "progress," the ground that his construction crew has cleared is unable to grow plant life. Any messenger birds that King Aspen sends to inform Princess Celestia are intercepted by Well-to-Do's assistant Jargon.
Twilight and her friends attempt various nonviolent resistance methods against Well-to-Do, including a peaceful protest and a boycott. However, the minotaur is undeterred, planning to market a Twilight Sparkle lookalike as the mascot for his amusement park and a brand of organic smoothies. Aspen decides on a more aggressive approach, but he refuses further involvement from Twilight and her friends and tells them to return home the next morning.
That night, after the others have gone to sleep, Rainbow Dash and Spike notice Bramble sneaking out and follow him to the construction site. As Bramble discovers that Well-to-Do's smoothie mix has caused plant life to grow, he is suddenly captured by Well-to-Do.
Rainbow and Spike race back to Thicket to inform the others. Just as King Aspen is about to declare war on Well-to-Do for taking his son, Well-to-Do arrives to make a deal. In exchange for Bramble's safe release, Aspen is forced to sign away the rights to the forest and become the mascot of the amusement park. With Aspen signed into Well-to-Do's permanent service, Blackthorn steps in as the deer leader and plans a retaliatory assault on the construction site.
As Twilight, Applejack, and Fluttershy recruit the Everfree Forest animals to help, Pinkie Pie, Rarity, and Rainbow Dash inform Aspen of the impending attack. Jargon overhears their conversation and warns Well-to-Do. Blackthorn's army of ponies, deer, and animals is met by Well-to-Do and an assemblage of bulldozers. When the minotaur refuses to back down, the animal army attacks, with Bramble telling them to aim for the barrels of organic smoothie mix. With the smoothie mix spread all over the ground, the plants begin to regrow. The construction site is destroyed by the overgrowth, and Aspen is freed from captivity. Well-to-Do vows to rebuild his amusement park, but before he can do so, he is devoured by a hydra.
With the Everfree Forest restored, King Aspen and the deer work to fix the damage they caused to the towns on the forest's borders. Princess Celestia arrives to assess the damage in Ponyville and apologizes to Aspen for not reining in Well-to-Do much earlier. Pinkie Pie approaches Celestia to commission a new stained glass window for Canterlot Castle depicting this recent adventure—a commission that Celestia almost immediately regrets after the window is made.
A bonus two-page spread shows Well-to-Do, inside the hydra's stomach, selling intestinal real estate to a jackalope.
- Zecora: HELP!
- Rarity: Zecora!
- Rainbow Dash: Well, that didn't rhyme.
- Fluttershy: Is now really the time for that?!
- Applejack: This'll be easier than cow tippin'!
- Fluttershy: Those poor cows...
- Rainbow Dash: Is now really the time for that?!
- Applejack: You know... running away would probably be a great idea right now...
- Rainbow Dash: I second that plan. Let's go.
- Bramble: A tree is not just a tree, you reckless ponies! Look what you've done. That tree was someone's home. You just evicted dozens of animals from their home.
- Fluttershy: Oh no! We're monsters.
- Twilight Sparkle: We have to ask you about the vines and trees that are spilling out of the forest! They're destroying our homes!
- King Aspen: That is called "tit for tat," young princess. Ponies have broken the golden rule. Ponies have shown their true colors... You can be just like them.
- Well-to-Do: Equestria doesn't need trees and fluffy bunnies...
- Fluttershy: You're horrible.
- Princess Luna: Hey, Celestia...
- Princess Celestia: Don't say it.
- Princess Luna: Hey, Celestiaaaaa...
- Princess Celestia: Don't say it.
- Princess Luna: You can reply back that we'd love to help, but we're too busy hanging around! Ha!
- Princess Celestia: You said it.
- Rainbow Dash: What if we let Well-to-Do build the theme park and just... you know... take the hit on our side? We lose some of Ponyville and whatever but we rebuild somewhere else?
- Applejack: That's a terrible plan! If we don't stop Well-to-Do, who's to say he won't just finish up this park and then decide to tear up more of the forest to build more tacky junk? Or another parking lot? Or a Quills and Sofas outlet? Where does it end?
- Rarity: I love outlet shopping!
- Spike: Not now, Rarity.
- Fluttershy: What are you doing here?
- Wheat Grass: Oh! We'd never miss a good environmental rally, would we, dear?
- Flax Seed: Make friendship, not war!
- Applejack: That minotaur jerk needs to get his comeuppance! I'd like to boot him right in the...
- Pinkie Pie: Sporkle?
- King Aspen: The minotaur wants a fight? I'll take him on head-to-head! Horns to horns.
- Blackthorn: I shall rule in his absence... And I signed no such agreement. Retaliation sounds like a fine idea right about now, don't you think?
- Rainbow Dash: I like your style.
- Blackthorn: Citizens of the forest! Today, we unite for a fight that will show those hard-hat clad villains there that they cannot take away our homeland! Today, the tiniest bluebird is just as important as the mightiest dragon!
- Well-to-Do: I don't care about if your home is a tree. I will cut that tree down, build a house out of it and sell it to you. I don't care about your forest. I don't care about cute little squirrels. I don't care about your flora and your fauna. I care about this. My business is my business and I will crush any of you that try to take it away from me! As long as this park is still standing, you aren't getting rid of me. So learn to accept change, all of you!
- Fluttershy: Oh dear.
- Rainbow Dash: Uh... I'm sure he's fine.
- Princess Luna: It's... charming. Celestia! We can put it in your bathroom!
- Princess Celestia: I think we should send it to the Crystal Empire as a present... don't you? Shining Armor would love this.