If you were a child of the nineties, you probably tried your best to catch ‘em all. Back then, there were only 151 Pokemon to catch and train. Kids now really have their work cut out for them trying to catch all 898 pocket monsters. The creators behind the game deserve some serious credit for the imagination it takes to come up with that many critters, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and evolutions. Unsurprisingly, some of the Pokemon we know and love were inspired by folklore and some pretty creepy folklore at that. In celebration of National Pokemon Day ( February 27th), here are 5 Pokemon with real-world backstories:
Sneasel looks like a cat with feathers and long claws, but it was inspired by a creature known as Kamaitachi –a sneaky weasel-like creature that you do not want to meet in a dark alley. The word Kamaitachi is a compound of the words sickle and weasel. The sickle part refers to the horrifying claws they use to prey on humans.
Kamaitachi hunt in packs of three, and they move so fast most humans don’t see them until it’s too late. Weasel number one trips you and knocks you down, weasel number two uses its sickle-like talons to flay flesh from your legs, and weasel number three heals the damage, so you don’t know you’ve been attacked. All this happens in the blink of an eye, leaving the hapless human to think they’ve tripped, while a trio of weasels runs off into the night, munching on their flayed skin.
I guess it’s nice that they heal you, but wow, I’d keep this Pokemon under lock and key.
The aptly named Ninetails looks like a fox with nine tails and specializes in fire powers. It’s the evolved form of the adorable Vulpix. According to its Pokedex entry, Ninetails possess strange supernatural powers that keep it alive for up to 1000 years. It can also hypnotize people with the flames it spews from its mouth and control minds with its glowing red eyes. All of these traits point to its origins in east Asian mythologies that commonly feature supernatural nine-tailed foxes.
The details differ depending on the story, but our Pokemon Ninetails seems to resemble the Korean Kumiho and the Japanese Kitsune. The Kitsune can have up to nine tails, and you can tell how old and wise it is by how many tails it has. A nine-tailed Kitsune would be the oldest, wisest version of the creature. Kitsune are sometimes said to have red eyes that can hypnotize humans. In some stories, they are shapeshifters who can appear in human form. Depending on the tale, they use this ability to trick humans or settle down with a human mate and live a human life.
The Kumiho is a more malevolent version of the nine-tailed fox. It can take any form and often appears as a beautiful young woman to seduce young men before eating their liver or heart.
Hopefully, the Pokemon Ninetails is more the Kitsune kind.
This strange Pokemon looks like a humanoid figure with a crocodile’s snout coming out of the back of her head. That’s creepy on its own, but the legend that inspired it is even worse. Mawile resembles the Futakuchi-onna. According to Japanese folklore, a woman who engages in extreme dieting risks growing a second mouth under her hair on the back of her head. This second mouth is ravenous, and it doesn’t wait to be fed. If the afflicted woman doesn’t feed it enough, it will use her hair as tentacles to snatch up any food in sight. Ugh.
This Pokemon is based on the American urban legend of the Hopkinsville Goblins. In 1955 five adults and seven children showed up at a police station in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, claiming that their farmhouse outside town had been under attack by small goblin-like creatures. They claimed they had engaged in a shootout with them for over two hours. The police were concerned that the farmhouse residents had actually been shooting at their neighbors, so they called in backup and went to check things out.
They found nothing other than bullet holes in the farmhouse from where the residents had been shooting through windows and walls. At about 3:30 that morning, some of the residents left the house claiming that the creatures had returned. An investigation determined that the likely intoxicated adults were mistaking great horned owls for supernatural creatures. Great horned owls stand nearly a meter tall, have large glowing eyes, and aggressively defend their nests. These details seemed to fit with the witness’s claims about short creatures with glowing eyes and pointed ears that seemed to “float” through the air.
Newspapers at the time used the term “little green men” when detailing the claims, even though it’s not clear that the witnesses ever described the creatures that way. As the media coverage of the event went the 1950’s version of viral, the popular imagination turned the Hopkinsville Goblins into small alien creatures with glowing eyes and skin that was either green, purple, or silver. Sableye was created to resemble the famous aliens. Like the Hopkinsville Goblin, it is nocturnal and rarely seen.
Manectric is based on the famous lightning-wolf of Japanese folklore called Raiju. His body is made of lightning, and he most often appears as a blue or white wolf or dog. In some stories, he can travel through the air as a ball of lightning. His cry sounds like thunder, and when a tree is struck by lightning, it’s said that Raiju clawed it. Raiju is a companion of Raijin, the Shinto god of lightning. Like most dogs, Raiju is usually harmless, but he gets excited and wreaks havoc when a storm comes.
For some strange reason, Raiju likes to curl up and sleep in a human’s naval. When Raiju falls asleep, Raijin shoots lightning at it to wake it up. To avoid becoming a bed for Raiju and getting an electric wake-up call, people are advised to sleep on their stomachs during storms. Some people say that you only have to worry about this if you sleep outside.
Manectric has the same association with lightning as its legendary predecessor. According to its Pokedex entry, Manectric gathers electricity in its mane and then discharges it, forming a thunder cloud. It was born from lightning and likes to make its nests where lightning has struck. It sounds like a great Pokemon to have on your side.