Leo M. R. asks:

Did the concept of cousinhood exist in Ancient Greece? I JUST learned that Jason and Odysseus were cousins on their mothers’ sides (side note: their grandfather was a master thief?!), and I was wondering if this ever translated into the concept of kinship to the Greeks back then, and if it ever influenced why the two of them had notable similarities (like being known for legendary naval journeys and having flings with powerful sorceresses).

So, on the specifics of Jason and Odysseus: a lot of minor characters in Greek mythology have very different family trees depending on who you ask, and the mothers of Odysseus and Jason are very minor characters.  Our main source for Odysseus is, of course, Homer, and Homer says that Odysseus’ mother Anticleia is the daughter of the legendary thief king Autolycus.  Now, Homer was probably alive in the 8th or 7th century BC (side note: Homer isn’t real, Google “the Homeric Question” some time; it’s wild, but this is 100% not the time to litigate that $#!tstorm).  Our main source for Jason, on the other hand, is Apollonius Rhodius’ Argonautica, which was written in the 3rd century BC, centuries after Homer was dead in the ground (if he was real, which he wasn’t), and Apollonius says that Jason’s mother was Alcimede, the daughter of Clymene, who was herself the daughter of Minyas, the legendary king of Orchomenos – no mention of Autolycus.  In addition, though, we have the scholia to Apollonius, which are basically the margin notes made on the text by scholars in the Early Byzantine period (like, 5th to 8th centuries AD), and they are the ones who, quoting other texts now lost to us, give her name as either Polypheme or Theognete and claim she was the daughter of Autolycus.  I think the only primary text we actually have that backs this up is a 2nd century BC encyclopaedia of myth attributed to Apollodorus, but he gives yet another name for the mother, Polymede, and he probably got that from Hesiod, who gives that name in his Catalogue of Women but doesn’t explain who she is (at least not in the bits we have, because there is no complete text of the Catalogue of Women and we have to rely on quotations in other authors; are you beginning to appreciate the scope of the insanity we have to deal with here?) (side note: Catalogue of Women is an awful, awful title in the 21st century; it sounds like what a pickup artist calls his diary).

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Cosmog, Cosmoem, Solgaleo and Lunala

Cosmog

Time to tackle the sun and moon Pokémon of Pokémon: Sun and Moon!  Today we look at the Nebula Pokémon, Cosmog, the Protostar Pokémon, Cosmoem, and their two final forms, the legendary Solgaleo and Lunala.  This is, I warn you now, going to be a long and treacherous journey through complicated blind alleys of astronomy and mythology.  My position on the big version-mascot legendary Pokémon is usually that they aren’t supposed to reference any one specific mythological character or tradition (obligatory link to me ranting about the “Norse mythology” interpretation of the XYZ legendaries).  Instead, they’re attempting to tap into general mythological archetypes that the designers think will be meaningful across many cultures (hence, the version mascots are some of the very few Pokémon whose names are more or less constant across all translations of the game).  This means that interpreting them is… kind of as simple or as complicated as you want to make it, and… well, when have I ever made anything simple?  As with the four Tapu, I’m going to forgo any discussion of the competitive merits of these Pokémon, partly because they’re both crazy powerful and it’s just hard to go wrong with them, but mostly because just scroll down and I think you’ll agree that I have more than served my time here already.  So let’s get into it – starting with why these Pokémon are the types that they are. 

Continue reading “Cosmog, Cosmoem, Solgaleo and Lunala”

N asks:

Do you think there is a case for objectuve morality exsisting in the Pokémon world given that a literal creator god exsists?

I think I reject the premises of the question, which is something I have a bad habit of doing and try not to do, but sometimes I’m just too stubborn and argumentative to avoid it.

‘cause, like, 1) most people alive on Earth today would say “but a literal creator god does exist in the real world,” and that hasn’t solved the problem for us, 2) some people who don’t believe in a supreme being still think that morality is objective anyway, and believe you can discover moral truths through scientific means, and 3) apart from anything else, I’m not convinced that Arceus is a literal creator god – just that some people in the Pokémon world have claimed that it is, which to my mind is not conclusive proof of anything (and this is something I used to be willing to accept but have become steadily more and more sceptical of in the years I’ve been writing for this blog).

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VikingBoyBilly asks:

Something’s been on my mind for a long time since I stopped lurking, but I need to say how I feel.

In our long argument about Odysseus, you ended it with “i know what I’m talking about; so there.”

No, you didn’t, because if you did, you wouldn’t have been a misanthrope. Reading mythology is what made me fall in love with humans, and it’s unsettling that you never acknowledged the irony of being a misanthropic archaeologist. The lessons the Oddessey taught me is that life is a journey full challenges and misery, but by keeping your wits and the strength to continue, you can reach your goals. Oddysseus’s goal was to reunite with the wife an son that he loved, and it’s so cynical to think he enjoyed having sex with women that kept him stranded on those islands, and it doesn’t mesh thematically when these are supposed to be a series of hardships. The optimist in me believes this was something to be overcome, either as a temptation like the lotus fruits and sirens, or a situation to get out of like the cyclops. His devotion and loyalty to his crew, his homeland, and family are values I live by, and I don’t like that being tarnished by accusations that he’s a scummy womanizer. I could just be satisfied with my own opinions and not be bothered by what anyone else thinks, but you know what the internet does to us.

I also was put off by your use of the vague buzz-word “western civilization.” It’s nonsensical to anyone with an understanding of geography, and condescending, as if any other civilization doesn’t count (and because I think an archaeologist/anthropologist would only use such a simplification of jargon when talking to a layman). Funny how people angry with the state of the world will defend “western civilization” as the best thing that ever happened.

I hope your outlook of your own species has changed since then, and if you want to reply non-publicly, my email is [REDACTED]

[This is what Billy is referring to – linking to the Tumblr version of the original question-and-answer post rather than the WordPress version because that’s where the relevant comment thread is, but I might actually move it over here for posterity’s sake]

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Bradley asks:

Hi Chris! I’ve been a big fan for years and you’ve been super informative on the history of Pokemon. I too am a big fan of drastically overthinking how the Pokemon universe actually *works* and recently went on a big tirade trying to explain it all. You were a big influence on certain parts of the theory so hopefully you’ll enjoy what I came up with! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-0_3ButdKzw

[Warning: the following is far too long and contains copious italics for emphasis, in order to create the illusion that I am in the room with you, gesticulating wildly at my own string diagram]

Okay, let me say first of all I am genuinely flattered and I am sorry this has had to sit in my inbox for almost two months on account of my being a lazy piece of $#!t

In the grand tradition of overthinking pop culture on the internet, I’m going to apply my standard method of engaging with anything I find even slightly fun or interesting: passionately disagreeing in excruciating detail (for other examples, see: this entire blog; my life as an academic).

Arrrright. *cracks knuckles* Let’s break this $#!t down

Now, to begin with, this whole “figure out the Pokémon world’s cosmology and all the relationships therein” thing is a project I kind of have mixed feelings about, because on the one hand, it’s exactly my type of nerdy bull$#!t as a lifelong mythology geek and strange person, but on the other hand, I think there’s basic reasons any such project is doomed from the start.  But it’s still bloody impressive that anyone ever does it, because frankly I’m too scared to, although I might give it a go if I have any time left between finishing up generation VII and the release of generation VIII.  The general problems, then.  These days, I have this sticking point with a lot of other Pokémon fans, where people tend to point at some piece of Pokémon’s mythology and say “there, it’s in the games; it’s canon” and my response (other than to explain that I don’t even like the word “canon”) is “well, no, it’s canon that this is their mythology”; we should take these as stories told by people who understand no more about the Pokémon universe than we do, and possibly much less.  Arceus says he created the universe, but, well, he would say that, wouldn’t he?  The ancient Sinnohans wouldn’t know the difference.  There’s probably other historical cults in the Pokémon world that once worshipped Rayquaza, or Xerneas, or even Celebi as creator gods.  Further to that, all these different legendary Pokémon are from different regions of the world with different mythological traditions, so even expecting to be able to fit everything into one consistent mythology might be a stretch.  We’re not talking “Zeus, Poseidon and Hades,” who have a “canonical” relationship based on the traditional stories about their family history, respective powers or domains, and forms of worship.  We’re talking “Zeus, Freyja and Nü Wa,” who not only have nothing to do with each other, but aren’t even really the same class of entity, because their cultures of origin have incompatible ideas about what a god even is.  But let’s put all of that firmly aside, and talk about Bradley’s analysis on its own terms: on the assumption that there is a single consistent cosmology, elements of which are recorded more or less faithfully by the myths referenced in the games.

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Jeffthelinguist asks:

So (almost) all Pokémon evolved from Mew. What about the rest of life, did Arceus created humans and/or other animals separately? If humans came from Mew as well (I mean humans supposedly married Pokémon and I think there were other hints that early humans didn’t see themselves as that different from Pokémon), then what type are humans? If they have their own type… what would their weaknesses and resistances be?

This is an area where I have a few old sticking points that make me possibly the wrong person to ask. I’m on the record as not believing the standard line about Mew being the ancestor of all Pokémon and thinking that the Pokémon world’s scientists must simply be wrong about that. They believe it because Mew’s DNA has been shown to contain the genetic code of all known Pokémon – which is not something that any real-world geneticist or evolutionary biologist would expect a common ancestor to have. In fact it strikes me as basically impossible for a common ancestor to contain the genetic code of all its descendants, barring some kind of bizarre time loop in which Mew is somehow also descended from every known Pokémon. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that genetics and evolution don’t work the same way in the Pokémon world, and that the idea of Mew being the original ancestor must be correct given the unknown biological laws of that world. Or it’s literally magic, in which case, who knows? Continue reading “Jeffthelinguist asks:”

Anonymous asks:

Why are foxes across different cultures always portrayed as being sly and cunning tricksters? From Western and Northern Europe to East Asia to South America to West Africa, what’s the deal with foxes getting such a rap?

I’m very much not a comparative mythology person so I don’t know if I can help you with that one, but I would guess because they’re stealth hunters, quite intelligent, and despite being similar to dogs and wolves, are much less social.