Are They An Archivist?: Raven Inkwell
Updated: Aug 20, 2021
One of the problems with a long-running animated television franchise is there are times when a character is introduced for one purpose, maybe a background gag or briefly front and center to interact with the plot, only to be used again by another writer or artist without prior knowledge of what the character was previously used for. Or, they don't think anyone will notice or care. Basically, if they aren't a main character, then they're easily molded to whatever's necessary for the episode.
Such is the case with Raven Inkwell of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (MLP). When Raven makes her first appearance in the Season One episode "Luna Eclipsed," she's an earth pony (no wings or horn), but is then depicted as a unicorn in the Season Three episode "The Crystal Empire - Part 1." She then appears as an earth pony again in seasons four and six, which carries over into how she's depicted in the IDW comic books. The merchandise, however, bounces back and forth between unicorn and earth pony enough that I'm starting to think poor Raven's been having problems with people chopping off her horn for nefarious purposes.
And if there's little agreement on what type of pony Raven is, we can't expect her role in Equestria to be any clearer, can we? No, we can't. At any point in the show, comics, or merch descriptions, Raven is a scribe, aide, assistant, secretary, event organizer, and, in one instance, archivist. It should be noted, however, that she's never referred to as an archivist within the MLP canon. She's assigned the role of archivist within the fan wiki as a means of describing her specific duties within a short comic story, "Convocation of Creatures," in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #61-62 from IDW. So, let's take a look at that story, shall we?
Written by Ted Anderson with artist Andy Price, colorist Heather Breckel, and letterer Neil Uyetake, "Convocation of Creatures" features Twilight Sparkle, now an alicorn princess (don't ask), traveling with Princess Celestia on a diplomatic endeavor involving the assembly of creatures from around the world at the Hall of Unity. Finding the work of a diplomat to be overwhelming and a bit tiring, Twilight entreats Raven Inkwell and other bureaucratic representatives to a night on the town of fun and frivolity as a means of sharing culture and creating lasting bonds of friendship. It's only later, while updating the archival records that Twilight discovers a long forgotten treaty that states a large chunk of Equestria belongs to the griffons unless a sum of gold is paid in full within a hundred years of the document's creation.
Okay, there's a lot to unpack in the image above and in what I just described. Firstly, at no point does anyone refer to Raven as an archivist within the actual story. She refers to herself and the other creatures present as bureaucrats. It's only in the plot synopsis on the wiki that the word archivist is ever brought up. Secondly, Raven states that her job is to update the archives with new documentation while they happen to be there. This isn't a regular thing that she does as part of her ever-changing duties. Everyone's gathering for a thing that hasn't occurred in seven hundred years, so there's probably a lot to update. That does not an archivist make. Thirdly, Twilight Sparkle calls the archives a library. Twilight Sparkle, the former librarian in service of Princess Celestia, called an archives a library.
Let's all imagine that I handled this information with grace and move on.
It doesn't help that the archives is drawn like a library complete with Dewey Decimal classification numbers displayed on the shelving and signs that may as well say "SHUSH!" on them. There are also birds and...trees? Preservation must be a nightmare in this place! But at least Raven corrects Twilight and fills her in on what the archives holds as well as her role during the convocation. Also, did you see the Edgar Allan Pony bust? Get it? Because Raven Inkwell...might be a Poe reference even though Raven doesn't write books...
So, what does this mean for Raven? Is she an archivist?
I'm sorry, pony people, but Raven isn't an archivist. At best, she's a catch-all executive assistant charged with doing whatever's needed at any given moment. You need a scribe? Plop Raven into the scene. Someone needs to do some filing? Raven can file paper because why not? Got an archives in need of updating? Sure, get Raven to do it. Never mind that there's no Hall of Unity archivist. They'll just let any old pony bureaucrat or yak historian come in and change the societal records because apparently trust and authenticity are mutually exclusive when it comes to important historical documents.
I'm glad we cleared this up.