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 ll The tale of Popolo: Part 2 -->


I’d never seen anyone breathe fire before.

But, here was a little furry creature on the table, spitting tiny flames at me, occasionally shooting wisps of fire out of its back.

“So dragons exist after all?” I said to Mr. Elm.

 Elm laughed, and said, “Oh, no, Popolo. This is no dragon. At least, as far as I can tell from the legends, dragons were all much more large and fierce.”

We stood in a room crammed with shelves of books. Some of these shelves were tall and dark with age; others I had helped build out of raw lumber, in a desperate effort to organize the space. Despite this, piles of books stood in any space that wasn’t occupied by an older shelf or Mr. Elm’s desk.

In the center of the room stood Elm’s tiny desk, upon which two creatures jostled for space. One was a large blue reptile, with a red crest on its back and snapping jaws. The second was the little fire-breather.1 It had dark fur on its back, a tan underside, no ears, and a long snout. It chirped again as I scratched its head.

I turned to Mr. Elm. “So what are these things?”

“These are Pokémon, my dear.”

 “Are you serious?” I shook my head. “Pokémon aren’t like this. They’re just bigger versions of animals, right? Admittedly, some of them can speak, but I never thought – ”

 “Young lady, you know less about Pokémon than I do.”2 Elm arose, and grabbed a heavy book off a shelf. “One thing you are going to learn is that Pokémon can be any sort of thing.3 Look here.” He opened up the book, and pointed to a page full of handwriting. “This account is from someone in Olivine, asserting that there are Pokémon made entirely of metal. And this one –” he flipped to a page in the back – “This person claims that there are Pokémon made entirely out of sludge. I’ve received the occasional letter from people in Azalea town, who want me to know that certain plants uproot themselves at night, walk on two legs, and attempt to make friends with the local children.4 Ever since I began to call myself a Pokémon professor, everyone has been sending me this information.” He shut the book with a thump. “Heck, I’ve got more information about Pokémon than Dr. Oak, despite his fancy title and spacious fanciness and his glittering -- ”

“What does all have to do with me?”

“Where you come in is finding Ethan.” He harrumphed. “You must go out and find my son. I sent him out to check reality against the colloquial accounts, and I haven’t seen him since. He probably has a good deal written. You would merely have to retrieve his work, and him, if he’s willing to come home.” He tugged his beard. “I must admit, it’s not surprising he would leave. I haven’t treated him very well. Never really let him contribute to my work, not like you have.” He sighed. “ I just want to publish, for once. Put together a work of my own. People will respect that.”

“I thought you wanted me to do the research,” I said, picking up a set of books and cramming them onto a shelf. “I’ve been taking notes on the Rattata for you for years. And you sent Ethan out to do my job?” I turned to Mr. Elm. “What were you thinking?”

“I was thinking…well…” Elm tugged his beard again.

“Spit it out.”

“Young lady, you are not permitted to talk to your elders that way!” Elm glared at me. “I thought Ethan was more likely to survive because he’s physically stronger. Hardier. He’s a strong young lad.”

“So you thought my sex made me unfit for such a task?”

“Only physically – ”

“What about the Pokémon I would have brought along with me? I gestured to the two Pokémon on the table. “Surely they could keep me safe.”

Elm sighed. “I’m certainly willing to send you out now. You were the only one who could actually keep pace with Ethan. But, young lady, have you ever actually seen a Pokémon battle?”


“They fight viciously. They die often. Are you willing to risk the lives of your Pokémon for your own sake?”

 I began to take a strong visual interest in my shoes.

“You’re a promising Pokémon trainer,” said Elm, stroking the blue reptile. “It’s clear you want the Pokémon you know to be strong. You’re always bringing one Rattata or another with you when you run around the village. Ethan brought us the Rattata, and you helped them build their endurance. But, Popolo, all you do is run. If you go out into the wild, your Pokémon will have to fight as well.” He scooped up the little furry creature, and brought it close to my face. “You will have to believe that this little fellow can fight beasts twice his size. I didn’t believe, at first. But I learned quickly.” He tickled the little Pokémon on its chin. It giggled. “I’m sending you out into the world. Three years ago, when Ethan disappeared, I was reluctant to do so. That’s why I hesitated. But now you’ve grown a bit, you’ve gotten stronger. I just want to make sure you’re determined enough. It’s a rough world.” He put the Pokémon back down on the desk. “Popolo. Are you willing to risk the lives of your Pokémon? Are you willing to make them face danger so that they will grow strong? Are you willing to believe in them?”

I nodded.


I nodded.

Elm fixed me with a glare.

“I promise,” I said.


“But,” I said, “what about researching Pokémon?”

“Ah, yes,” said Elm. “That is also something for you to do, in case Ethan never got around to it. But, be sure to take accurate and detailed notes. We must be scientific about this.” He tugged his beard. “We must have fact where we have rumor. We must live up to the standards of the ancients, who built a world of wondrous things using fact and knowledge, not rumor and legend. You will go and do this for me, as well. The road is long, and I am old and tired.” He sat down in a soft chair. “The road is dangerous, and I am feeble. I can employ a Pokémon to fly me here and there, but I cannot descend to the road. The last thing I was able to do for anyone was bring a phone line to this place and that place, and not even all of them, maybe not even half. Now I am feeble. I cannot travel.”

“And the road is really that dangerous?”

 “ Quite,” said Elm. “It’s a disconnected world, Popolo.5 It’s a world full of strong beasts, and the only people who can survive the journey between towns and cities are those who can employ these beasts to their own service 6 – and few of us have the courage to do so.”

I looked out the window. A giant purplish rat 7 was on top of a roof, holding tools for someone as they fixed a few shingles.

“The Rattata,” said Elm, looking out the window with me. “The only Pokémon you’ve ever seen. We give them food and shelter, and they protect the town. They shelter us. They sheltered you especially, for some reason. Perhaps they could smell something about you that seemed predisposed to athleticism. But who knows if any more will come to us, now that Ethan’s gone?” He went back to the shelf, and took the giant book down again. “It’s a disconnected world. I believe if we can categorize these Pokémon, organize our perceptions of them, we can organize our response, and begin to reconnect our lives. Humans are a clever lot, but I hate the feeling that we’re prisoners of mighty creatures.” He gestured to the two Pokémon. “You must take one of these on your journey, to guard you and to be your companion. The roads are lonely when they are not full of bandits.”

 I looked at the blue reptile. It caught my eye, and backed away. The little fire-breather drew closer.

 “Suppose I take the fiery one,” I said, “just because you shouldn’t have open flame in a place like this.”

  Elm laughed. “I hadn’t thought of that. Although the young Totodile can do a fair amount of damage as well. I have them both well-trained, though.” He patted the reptile’s head. “Perfect guardians for a young lady out on the road.”

I scooped up the little long-nosed thing into my arms. It chirped again.

 “What shall you name him?” said Elm.


 “Name, child. All Pokémon need a name that you give them. Some of the Rattata say that they have their own names, but these are not pronounceable by humans. You must have a way of calling to your Pokémon, and of seeing them as sentient creatures.”

 I looked down at the little – “What is his species, exactly?”

 “Cyndaquil,” said Elm. “Not native to this land. I got him from a captive breeding program in Cianwood, along with the little Totodile here.”

 “He looks so cute,” I said, “I’m going to name him Koosh.”

 “I expect you two will get along well.”



 1: The crocodilian known as Totodile is native to Kanto’s westernmost regions. Cyndaquil, on the other hand, is wholly fictional, appearing mostly in this story and the Saga of Unown.

  2: Elm is frequently associated with learned arrogance.

 3: The problem of defining Pokémon is explored in this section of the Song of Charizard (Ed. Sketchy Sketcherson. Fuschia City: Kanto Press, 3391):

                  But what unites us?

                  We are all creatures of mind and soul.

                  We are all creatures of battle.

                  This divides us.

                  What can unite us?

                  Our minds and our souls.

                  But we use them for battle.

                  We are falsely divided.


 4: From page 53 of Hikiko Mori’s Child Ballads: “In the Cerulean region, children still play the Oddish game. This is a version of tag that has the seeker keep their arms firmly at their sides, and tag people by headbutting them. It is interesting to note that children seem to have their own lore and folksongs, set quite apart from those of adults, who may forget their childhood entertainment; this subculture survives by being transmitted to a new, young generation each year, as the older children grow up and begin to eschew the songs they were so fond of but a few years ago. Despite this rapid transmission between people, certain songs and games, such as everything to do with Oddish, survive largely unchanged. Perhaps these games depend on being transmitted in their exact form.” (Cerulean: Wave Press, 3399.)

 5: Before the founding of the Rojo Dynasty, which is itself semi-mythical, there was the Pre-dynastic period, which saw the invention of writing, the spread of agriculture, and the first large-scale construction projects, mostly in the form of earthworks. Local rulers had varying amounts of control over their city-states, usually having their tyranny backed up by powerful Pokémon. It was a stable world, although only safe within communities; strongmen came to power by promising to keep the darkness at bay. And then came that figure of the early records, the Shadow Trainer, who overthrew each ruler in turn and then, instead of ruling in their place, moved on, singlehandedly spreading chaos wherever they went and leading the world into the Lost Years. It was only with the founding of the Rojo Dynasty that order was spread throughout the land. See the Classic of the First Emperors.

 6: Every story of Pokémon has its own version of how Pokémon are made to battle for us. Sometimes it’s a magical lasso, sometimes a net, sometimes a special feather. Sometimes it’s Apricorns, although the actual success rate of Apricorns was historically low enough that their place in the stories was always superseded by some type of wishful thinking. Pokéballs have improved on this success rate substantially, but capturing Pokémon remains difficult. See footnote 60.

 7: The Rattata of Popolo’s tale are much faster than their modern form, but equally helpful in all situations. 

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