Note: This is a tale set in the world of Pokémon. While many of the characters in this story are of my own creation, I do not own the canon characters and do not intend to profit from this story in any way.
The Tale of Popolo: Prologue
is a Pokémon?
question is never fully answered within the Tale of Popolo, although it arises
whenever the plucky lass comes across another wondrous creature. What is a
Pokémon? Is it simply the
large animals that seem to wish to battle for us, or all those that seem to
have sapience, or even the objects that one looks away from and swears were
moving a few seconds ago? The Tale of Popolo asserts that anything can be a Pokémon, even a collection of magnets, a
pinecone, a rock, a tree, etc. As Mr. Elm notes, it can even be a pile of
sludge, or a plant that has legs and eyes, beyond the simple matter of large
talking animals. There’s a bit of paranoia for you, if the whole world could be
Why do Pokémon
exist? Whose idea, assuming it was someone’s idea, was it to have all these
sapient creatures in so many varieties that they practically defied
How do we live
To Dr. Juniper, who
asked me to write this introduction, the answer is easy. Treat Pokémon like
sapient creatures. Which is, I suppose, an easy concept to grasp when you find
one reading your morning newspaper before you’ve even had a chance at the
comics. But Juniper forgets that it’s not so much about sapience as it is the
fact that we’re fragile little humans
and they’re creatures that could
obliterate us if they chose.
matters is that they don’t. You’ve all read news reports of Pokémon attacking
humans far from the wild; upon further investigation, these stories invariably
turn out to be a result of a human attacking the Pokémon, or putting someone
else in danger, or a reaction to having their mothers insulted. And yet, in every
news story, it's the same thing: Pokémon attacks Human. It is a sad feature of
history that the methods oppressed people use to survive are used as excuses by
the oppressor for further oppression.
Which is why I
think this book is so important, because despite the fact that the core text
has been on the market for ten years now, we still haven’t learned from it.
What does it take to get everyone to understand the themes of Popolo’s story?
Maybe a more professional veneer. People feel free to ignore books that look
like they’re for children, but not if they look more serious.
Or maybe this is
just the right time. Hearst’s publication helped create the cultural
conversation that this annotated edition will contribute to. Maybe everybody
will pay more attention to Popolo’s treatment of Pokémon this time. Because she
seems to answer my question -- how do we live with Pokémon -- by pointing out
that it’s not just a matter of sentience, but love. Popolo treats her Pokémon
as equal partners in her journey, and however hard she trains them, it’s for
their own survival. While her world of peril is no longer ours, throughout the
millennia love remains the same. If Pokémon are sapient, they are
also moral; they have good hearts, hard as it is enough to believe, and we
can’t expect to withhold our own.
This is the effect
that Dr. Juniper told me she wanted from this book: to help end the
exploitation of Pokémon. Not that she’s going to mention it in her preface, of
course she wouldn’t be that direct, but sometimes a point needs to be hammered
again and again before people will admit that they’re on the wrong side of
Good luck to Dr.
Juniper’s effort, and may Popolo live in our hearts once more.
-- Dr. Ivy, Biochemistry Department
chair, University at Celadon
sit up in the highlands, atop a grassy hill. I really shouldn’t be there, since
the cold wind will chap my skin and set my teeth to chattering, but from this
vantage point, far outside Indigo City, I can look down from the Indigo Plateau
to the east, and survey the vast coastal plain of Kanto. In the near distance stand
the domes of Viridian City, rising just above the high pines; in the far
distance, the shimmering towers of Cerulean. Kanto is a well-settled place, it
seems, although Pokémon still hold sway in many places outside the cities.
then I look to the southwest.
the leaden grey peak of Mount Silver, there lies Johto, the narrow coastal
plain, the narrow valleys, the vast swaths of – well, it’s all wilderness now.
But it wasn’t always. Lest you forget, before our civilization in Kanto took
hold, it was born in Johto. True, it didn’t last long there, but the fact
remains that Johto, now forgotten, buried beneath soil, rock, and roots, was
the home of our civilization.
then we came back to it, as teams of archeologists, with big shovels and
painstaking tools, hoping to glean secrets of whatever remains of that vanished
world. The diggers were supported in this endeavor by the people of Pallet
Town, Viridian City, and Indigo, who retain the ancient Johto customs and songs,
being most closely related to those who fled the ruins of the Argent dynasty.
while archaeologists will uncover what they may, it’s up to the historians to help
them make sense of it all. That’s where I come in. I’ve been interested in the
pre-Kanto dynasties for some time. Unfortunately, by role as department chair
has distracted me from any further study of this particular matter – as well as
a previous lack of archeological evidence from that area. But recent
revelations in the field have led me to revisit the topic. The discovery of
Olivine Copper at the Cianwood site, for example, has upset our assumption
that the Cianwood people had no contact with the Johto shore.
has enabled me to revisit a curious text, one that has received much publicity
in the past decade – the Tale of Popolo.
The people in Indigo City, and in Viridian to a lesser extent, regard Popolo as
their cultural heroine, not merely as the fictional character that Hearst
presented her as when he stole Geet’s work. Popolo is a figure of western
Kantonese mythology as it was passed down from its Johto ancestors. The people
of Indigo City have preserved the Song of
Popolo, a fanciful poetic account of her life from the eighth century, and
they always managed to find a copy of whatever new translation of the tale of Popolo came along, sometimes
obtaining the only copy. The books, from the ancient Grisly text (9th
century) to the Kameha text (26th century), all of them in readable condition,
have occupied pride of place in the Indigo City Library since its inception.
It’s a pity no earlier copies could be found.
To the end of
rehabilitating Popolo’s reputation, I decided to take whatever sources I could
from history, archaeology, and mythology, and provide a bit of cultural and
historical context for this tale. It’s important to provide historical context
for a story like this. It has existed, in one form or another, since the
dawn of civilization. It’s lived through a lot, been molded a great deal by its
There is much it could tell us. More
than as simply a work of fiction.
to the Second Edition
Popolo, of all
our legendary figures, is one of the more mysterious. Other heroes have source texts that have the authenticity of great age, such as the numerous records
of the Rojo dynasty and its overthrow of the previous regimes. But Popolo’s
life is placed much farther back in history than the Rojo dynasty, much closer
to the beginning of paper and writing. Indeed, some say her exploration of Alph
Ruins was when Unown bestowed writing on the world. The Song of Popolo presents her as a far more mythic figure than the Tale of Popolo, one who is the source of
all sorts of “just so” stories, such as why the sea is blue and why the Lake of
Rage is full of carp.
This text does
not deal with moralistic children’s tales, but with her character – not her
reality, but her character. Her reality is lost. Not only has this particular
text been translated at least three times, with the attendant additions and
probable subtractions and distortions so common to eras of transcription before
peer review, but it’s not even clear how close to reality the original may have
been. We cannot know now; that text is lost. All we have now is this saga,
which has lived through more than a few eras.
My intention is
to elucidate, as best I can, how this text has been shaped by those eras. What,
in other words, this text picked up as it rolled along like an especially dirty
snowball. In this context, the text becomes a repository of ancient stories and
songs that might otherwise be forgotten, and the result is a mythological
mash-up of the previous three thousand years. What aspects of the Rojo dynasty
do we see in the story? What aspects of the Argent dynasty? What of our early
modern period? What did the people sing, long ago, and what did they believe
that might have contributed to the initial writing of the text?
through all the required source texts would be daunting for any researcher, and
indeed, when I was asked to take up this task I was certain it could not be
done. Despite the large financial incentive, which promised to benefit by
circumstances immensely, there just seemed to be too much to sort through, and
so much of it scattered across the land. Then I remembered that M. Lee Geet did
this same thing a half-century ago. He was the one who took the Tale of Popolo, which had been ignored
for centuries, and wrote it in a more contemporary format. Only, nobody appreciates
his work, however insightful it was, because his footnotes were far more
opinionated than factual. He was a far better translator than historian.
He may have
picked a poor time period as well. This century has been marred by the
widespread maltreatment of Pokémon. Scores of slanderous articles at the turn
of the century, sensationalizing Pokémon attacks on supposedly innocent humans,
led the public to turn against the sentient creatures that they shared the
world with. The public, having simmered against Pokémon for years, called for
show trials, and received them. Pokémon became second-class citizens, when they
were counted as citizens at all.
In the nadir of
this era did Geet publish his critical edition of the Tale of Popolo. And nobody noticed, at least at first. Annotated
editions don’t usually get much press to start with, and a story about Pokémon
that didn’t portray them as beasts to slay was quite against everyone’s general
It was only a
decade ago, when Lou Hearst took Geet’s work, removed all his annotations, and
spiffed up the cover, that people started to read the tale of Popolo again.
They paid attention to her, to her love for her Pokémon, her heartbreaking
losses, her defeat of so many ancient evils. Through Hearst’s literal hack job
the world read once again of Popolo’s meeting with Lugia, her dominance over
the great serpents, and her defeat of the Johto League. Popolo became once
again a heroic figure.
And Hearst gets
all the credit for making Popolo popular again, despite the work Geet did. I’ve
called Hearst out on this on more than one occasion, but he gets away with it
by saying, “perfection is achieved when there is nothing left to take away,”
and “theft is the sincerest form of flattery”, and other platitudes that make
everyone laugh and ignore me. I mean to prove his stupid platitudes wrong.
Annotated editions, after all, provide insight into the cultural context of
texts by including relevant stories that are tangent to the main one.
Annotations are spice, where an un-annotated text is meat without spice. Tasty,
perhaps, but not as much as it could be. Hearst presented Popolo as a purely
fictional character, removing her entirely from context.
I mean to make Popolo’s position in our
mythology clear once more. To this end, I have included many of the lyrics of
the Song of Popolo, leaving out the
long listing of heroes forgotten, numerous folk songs that take the perspective
of Pokémon, and excerpts from other sagas of heroic Pokémon trainers,
especially as they relate to that red-headed boy known everywhere as Question
Mark. I have also made note of certain passages that have changed their
meanings through each new translation; some concepts are difficult to
translate. Some of these passages are crucial to judging the character of
Popolo and those set against her.
I will also
note places that have obviously inserted later technology into earlier eras.
Pokéballs, for example, were developed just before our early modern era, and
contributed to the development of the modern world. People of previous eras
used Apricorns, which, due to their widespread use, were eventually driven to
extinction, which led to the development of Pokéballs.
the second annotated edition, is meant to both cement Popolo’s reputation in
our collective memory, and to make people remember M. Lee Geet, as well as
coincide with the new archaeological expeditions into Johto. For the first
time, we are seeing the reality of the world that Popolo lived in, as well as the subsequent
era she is said to have created.
Geet did not
deserve to be ignored and then to have his work stolen. Popolo does not deserve
to be misunderstood. Popolo does not deserve to be commemorated in a work that
does not make her historical context clear; both Geet and Hearst failed on this
book could not have come together without the help of the Fujieda family, who
provided much in the way of previously unknown source material; Madame
Murakama, whose insight was invaluable; the Gate Guardian clan, by whose grace
I once again tell the story of their mythic founder; Professor Ivy of the
University at Celadon, for informing me of Pokémon biology (kisses, Ivy); and
Lou Hearst, whose treatment of Popolo spurred me to take up the task of telling
this story properly. As well as his treatment of my Rattata. For a fellow who uses
his supposed love of Pokémon to justify stealing Geet’s work and presenting it
in a new format, he doesn’t seem to mind kicking Pokémon around.
also like to thank all the Pokémon I know, without whose efforts this world
would not be possible; they provide our electricity, clean our drinking water,
and shoulder so many of the burdens frail humans cannot. I’d like to thank my
own Ryhorn especially, for being such a good friend.
to the first edition
is the Tale of Popolo, a misty figure out of the distant past. This work is a
modern transcription of a centuries-old edition, the last such edition before
this work was written. Popolo has sat forgotten, or little respected, on the
shelves since then.
is the story of Popolo, as she told it to the guard of the gate into Kanto,
when she established him in his role. She had not written her story down. The newly
appointed guard had to do it for her. As such, it is impossible to know whether
or not everything she said was true, or if the guard managed to transcribe
everything. And perhaps he left some parts out. And perhaps his daughters did
the same, when they took his notes, after his death, and made them a saga. He
wasn’t around to object to any changes. Of course, all of these figures –
Popolo, the guard, the daughters – are legendary figures. They are part of the
mythical founding history of the Gate Guardian clan. The Gate Guardians, of all
families in this region, have lasted the longest; they have existed for at
least two thousand years. Their duties probably originated in prehistoric
times, although the family itself may not have existed then. Popolo is thus,
despite being not of the family, one of their founding figures.
story is not recounted after she passed into Kanto. There are no Kantonese
legends of such a trainer. Kanto has its own mythical figures, whose stories
barely interact with those of Johto heroes until the later Aurum period, long
after most people stopped believing in Lugia and Arceus.
annotated edition will make note of the mythological significance of Popolo,
and how she relates to other heroic figures. I will also make note of places
where I have substituted a modern word for an Early Modern one, because an
exact translation would ruin the cadence.
now the tale of Popolo, the greatest trainer of old.