Let’s talk about legendary Pokémon

So this image was doing the rounds a little while ago.

It’s a bit compressed by the format of my blog, so here’s a link where you can see it full-sized: http://i.imgur.com/mbPDZ94.jpg

I vaguely recall promising someone I would talk about this at some point, since I agree with some of what it says, but think that other parts are a bit simplistic, and others based on faulty assumptions.

So, basically – obviously enough – this purports to be a ‘family tree’ of sorts, showing the connections between all known legendary Pokémon and the way they relate to each other.  The basic concept is more or less sound.  I think it’s debatable whether the content of the Pokémon world’s myths can be, or is intended to be, taken as fact – in some places, Game Freak seem to imply that Arceus isn’t actually the creator of the universe, just a very powerful Pokémon who was worshiped as the creator by the people of ancient Sinnoh, while in other places they seem to state quite unequivocally “yes Arceus is god shut up.”  I think it’s debatable.  Most of what we know about Arceus is in-universe information from the perspective of modern humans, who (as they freely admit) don’t know much about anything.  Still, setting that particular debate firmly aside for the moment, since it’s clearly beyond the scope of what this schema aims to deal with anyway… Some of the ideas are interesting, but I take issue with some of the specifics, which I shall discuss herein:

– I am mystified by the author’s choice to connect Latias and Latios with Dialga.  I can only assume that this stems from the twins’ species designation – the Eon Pokémon – since an eon is a period of time (an extremely long one).  However, they don’t actually have any time-related powers, or any obvious connection with time other than that name.  The only convincing explanation I’ve ever seen for the designation “Eon Pokémon” is that it’s a reference to the Gnostic concept of the Aeons, a series of divine beings understood as ’emanations’ of God (this is a… complicated idea that goes back to Neoplatonist movement of the third century AD, and ultimately has its routes in the doctrine of creation put forward by Plato’s Timaeus, where all reality is thought of as an expression of the mind of the creator, but let’s not go there).  The fact that they exist as a male/female pair (the defining characteristic of Gnostic Aeons, who are unable to fulfill their proper functions in the absence of their counterparts), along with their Psychic typing, are what makes this theory attractive to me.  In short, I don’t think time has anything to do with it, and I don’t think Latias and Latios are directly subordinate to Dialga.  In fact, I think it’s really very difficult to say anything about Latias and Latios other than that they are extremely powerful and intelligent Psychic Pokémon, since there are no stories about them.  They are explicitly said to be herd animals (even though we never actually see them in herds) and they are especially good at sensing emotion, but that’s about it.  I honestly suspect they have no part in the mythology at all.  If they do, and if they are intended to recall the Aeons of Gnosticism, they have some very strange implications for the nature of the Pokémon universe since Gnosticism is based around the idea that the creator (i.e. Arceus) is actually imperfect, and that the physical world is a result of the creator’s flawed nature and acts as a barrier to union with the true divine force.  The Aeons themselves, however, are above that, which would make Latias and Latios, theoretically, a more pure version of what Arceus is supposed to be.  Again, though, in the absence of any firm evidence, I’m hesitant even to give them a place in the cosmology.

– I likewise dispute associating Deoxys with Palkia, since I think this just relies on a fundamental misunderstanding of the word ‘space.’  We often use ‘space’ to refer to everything outside of our own planet, which I think is the sense being employed here – Deoxys is believed to be an alien life form, so must therefore fall under the domain of the ruler of ‘space.’  The trouble is that, when we say that Palkia controls ‘space,’ a very different sense of the word is meant – the three dimensions of space, the x, y and z axes, if you will, the kind of ‘space’ which is occupied by things that have volume.  This ‘space’ does not end at the earth’s atmosphere; everything on Earth exists and moves in these three dimensions, including us.  Deoxys does fall under Palkia’s domain, this is true – but so does every other Pokémon, just as everything that is, was, and will be is within Dialga’s sphere of influence.  There is absolutely no reason to suggest a particularly close link between Deoxys and Palkia, any more than there is to suggest a link between Palkia and Sentret.  What is interesting about Deoxys is that, since it doesn’t seem to be from earth, it’s clearly outside the traditional influence of most other legendary Pokémon.  Deoxys is clearly not descended from Mew, for instance (we know it grew from a virus).  It presumably has no connection with Uxie, Mesprit and Azelf.  Is it even part of the creation of Arceus at all?  I’m not sure.

– The association of Kyogre, Groudon and Rayquaza with Palkia, I can only assume, is to be taken as an assertion that Palkia created the physical world – since it exists in space?  This, again, seems like a faulty link – the earth, sea and sky exist in time as well, so why not connect them with Dialga?  For that matter, since Arceus supposedly created the world, doesn’t it make more sense to assume that those three primal forces were his creations as well?

– I am skeptical of giving Cobalion, Virizion, Terrakion and Keldeo a special role in the cosmology.  Their backstory very much seems to suggest that they were reacting to what they saw as human aggression and recklessness.  They weren’t set up as guardians by Arceus at the beginning of time or anything like that; they took on that role themselves.  Dispute Cobalion, Virizion and Terrakion if you must, but Keldeo is definitely a late addition to their group, and nothing suggests that he was anything special before deciding to join them.  The interesting implication here is that they were not born as legendary Pokémon, but achieved that status later in life.

– I am extremely skeptical of the notion that Regigigas was created by humans.  True, Regigigas and its subordinate creations do have a complicated relationship with humanity (to wit: Regice, Regirock and Registeel were sealed away by humans who feared their power, and Regigigas’ own eternal sleep is presumably – though not necessarily – a result of that same action against them) but the mere fact that Regigigas is supposed to have towed continents (an aetiology for continental drift) surely implies that it is far, far older than humanity.

– Although the belief that Giratina was banished by Arceus is clearly what is supported by the extant mythology, I can’t help but think that a more critical reading may be necessary here.  The events of Platinum version make it clear that Giratina and the Distortion World actually serve a vital purpose in maintaining the balance of forces in the real world.  The Distortion World stabilises our own reality – and, indeed, is so effective at doing so that Dialga and Palkia, the masters of time and space, working in tandem, are unable to destroy it as long as the Distortion World exists.  In fact, the way Cynthia describes it, the Distortion World almost seems like a kind of photo negative to the real world – a backup copy that can be used to repair any damage done to the fabric of existence.  Giratina, it is implied, guards and protects that universe.  Responsibility for an entire universe seems like an awfully important job to give to a being that was “banished for its violence.”  I think it’s more likely that Giratina gained that reputation later on, based on accounts by humans who encountered it for one reason or another and fell afoul of its territorial nature, and that its actual role in Arceus’ creation was originally quite different.

– Finally, I have my own interpretation of Mew, although I’m aware that this one is rather idiosyncratic and many will disagree.  See, I don’t believe that Mew is the ancestor of all Pokémon at all.  I believe that the scientists who originally came to that conclusion prior to the events of Red and Blue were using very faulty logic.  The evidence for this claim is that Mew appears to contain the DNA of all Pokémon, which is how she is able to Transform into any of them and use all of their powers – but that is simply not how evolution works.  The whole point of evolution is that organisms change; an ancestor wouldn’t have all of its descendants’ DNA.  The ‘canon’ explanation of what Mew is just doesn’t make sense.  You can read about what I think is really going on in this entry.

That’s just what jumps out at me.  I might come up with some other points to disagree with if I ever try to examine all of the legendary Pokémon in detail, as I have with Mew.  But that’s another rant entirely.

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