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.

Continue reading “Bradley asks:”

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.

Anonymous asks:

What’s your position on euhemerism in mythograhy?

(Euhemerism, for the uninitiated, is the idea that mythology derives from retellings and exaggerations of real events)

I’m not super in touch with current trends in the theory of interpreting mythology, and maybe if I were, I would have a favourite theoretical approach, but as it stands, I’m inclined to regard theories like euhemerism and structuralism and myth-and-ritual as a set of tools, which can be more or less appropriate for different jobs.  Some myths make sense through a euhemerist lens and some don’t.  Most myths can be explained using several different theoretical perspectives, and it’s probably a bad idea to expect any one theory to explain every myth.  I think it’s been quite a long time (like 100+ years) since anyone with a real stake in the field seriously believed that euhemerism is sufficient to explain every myth.

Anonymous asks:

In the course of research for a story I’m writing, I found that the Roman god Janus is a perfect allusion for my main character. Could you perhaps spare a little of your time to tell us a bit about Janus? What his place and role in the Roman pantheon was, what things made him happy/sad/angry, general personality traits he favoured, that sort of thing. Thanks in advance, Doctor-to-be!

Janus is the god of doorways, keys, beginnings and endings, change, and the New Year.  He is always depicted with two faces, on the front and back of his head, so he can look through a door in both directions at once, and images of his faces could be set above either side of a doorway to invoke his protection.  The month of January, the beginning of the year, is named after him, and his name is related to the Latin word for door, ianua.  It’s not clear where he comes from, or whether he represents a standard Indo-European mythological archetype, but he seems to have been a very ancient Italian god whose role in the pantheon may once have been extremely important, though most of his functions are vestigial by the time of the late Republic.  Continue reading “Anonymous asks:”

Anonymous:

If you were to make a themed team for Cynthia, what would you give her? Feel free to interpret any particular theme you feel is appropriate for her, and you can use Pokémon from any region you want, but you MUST keep her Garchomp.

Ehhhhhhmmmmm.  Cynthia likes mythical things and ancient mysteries and such.  Garchomp probably isn’t a Pokémon I would have chosen for that theme, given the option, but it is a big dragon, and dragons are magic, so close enough.  A lot of her other Pokémon already do have an appropriately mystic feel – Spiritomb, Lucario, Milotic… Roserade doesn’t fit; the Gastrodon she uses on Diamond and Pearl certainly doesn’t fit, though the Togekiss she replaces it with on Platinum is a bit better.  I would in principle want to replace them both with Pokémon that exist in Sinnoh.  I rather like Bronzong, which has the disadvantage of being Lucian’s signature Pokémon in Diamond and Pearl, but is workable if we just switch it out for Gallade on Lucian’s team (which is actually what happens in Platinum).  I’m tempted to go with a second Ghost- or Dark-type for the final slot… maybe Froslass, or Absol.

Anonymous asks:

What book(s) on comparative mythology would you recommend to a beginner?

To be honest, I’ve not read a book on comparative mythology that I’ve liked all that much.  It’s a good idea in principle but one that lends itself to overreaching, and making some strange comparisons between cultures that have little in common.  Actually, you’ll probably not do yourself a huge disservice by just bingeing a few Wikipedia articles, and as a university teacher I’m not supposed to say that but, well, it has a mix of the actual content of myths and interpretation of them, and can generally point you to respectable books and articles that will tell you more if you’re interested.  Just don’t take anything it says on the interpretive side as the gospel truth, and you’ll be fine.