Death of a Fan Theory: Why Cubone’s Backstory May Be Even Sadder Than You Think

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The tragic tale of the Lonely Pokémon has persisted throughout the generations (of Pokémon) as one marred in sorrow and wild speculation over its true origins. Ever since its 8-bit debut in Pokémon Red and Blue Versions, Cubone has inspired plethora of fan theories regarding its true parentage which have circulated playgrounds and message boards alike for over two decades.

The basic story goes that Cubone was orphaned by the death of its mother and thus roams the Poké Earth mourning the loss of its mother whilst wearing her abandoned skull for comfort. The Pokédex entry of Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire Versions aptly sums up Cubone’s melancholy existence:

Cubone pines for the mother it will never see again. Seeing a likeness of its mother in the full moon, it cries. The stains on the skull the Pokémon wears are made by the tears it sheds.

Indeed, the tale of Cubone is a sad one.

However, it leaves much to be answered. Who is Cubone’s mother? How did she die? How is it that an entire species can proliferate and be sustained with the repeated death of the maternal figure at these most crucial early stages of life?

Over the years, many theories have been cropped up to answer these questions, with two leading theories currently accepted by popular audiences within the fandom—the Orphaned Kangaskhan Theory and the more recent Unlit Charmander Theory.

On the surface, these theories seemingly offer solid evidence for their respective cases, and thus have gained popular acceptance among the community. However, a consensus has yet to be reached. Additionally, upon further scrutiny, the conclusions posited by these theories are not as sound as popularly thought, and though mainstream audiences have resolved that Cubone is the orphan of either a deceased Kangaskhan or Charizard, the available evidence suggests otherwise.

Major incongruities exist within the narratives posited by leading theories and the evidence often presented is, at best, superficial in nature. Moreover, these fan theories fail to answer basic questions of logistics—such as how a population of orphaned individuals is sustained when dependent on a chance and variable outcome such as the sudden death of the maternal figure.

In an analysis of the current evidence, as well as scientific literature from our own world which can serve as an analog to the Pokémon World, we propose a new theory to reconcile these discrepancies and offer an evaluation of current theories.

 

Leading Theories

The Orphaned Kangaskhan Theory

The origins of this theory are difficult to trace as its conception aligns closely with that of the Pokémon franchise itself. The oldest and most persistent of Pokémon fan theories in general, the Orphaned Kangaskhan Theory posits that Cubone is the orphaned offspring of a Kangaskhan.

Aptly named the Parent Pokémon, Kangaskhan is notorious for its fierce protection of its young, this parental ferocity being a central theme in most of its recorded Pokédex entries:

To protect its young, it will never give up during battle, no matter how badly wounded it is. (Pokémon Silver Version)

 Kangaskhan’s maternal love is so deep that it will brave death to protect its offspring. (Pokémon Sun)

Even its ability during so-called Mega Evolution is referred to as “Parental Bond”.

It is this unwavering devotion to the protection of its offspring that compels many to believe that the most likely candidate for Cubone’s mother is a Kangaskhan who perished defending its offspring, thus leaving the orphaned babe to fend for itself, finding comfort in its mother’s bones, particularly its skull, which it dons for added protection, eventually becoming a part of itself upon evolution into Marowak.

Supporters cite an abundance of evidence which, at first glance, seems convincing. First and foremost are the obvious superficial similarities in the sprites of Cubone and the infant Kangaskhan found in adult Kangaskhan’s pouch. An artist’s rendition depicts both sprites side by side removed of their respective covers (i.e. pouch and skull) and the similarities between the design of the two Pokémon become more conspicuous. The image has since circulated the web and has become a posterchild for this fan theory.

baby-kangaskhan

Proponents of this theory also claim the shape of Kangaskhan’s cranium matches with that of Cubone’s skull, attributing the “horns” on the skull to Kangaskhan’s ears.

Furthermore, Kangaskhan and Cubone share an egg group, the Monster group, and in the Generation V and VI games, the two Pokémon are found, exclusively, in the same areas—Route 15 and the Glittering Cave respectively.

However, the most convincing evidences for this theory occur in the earliest and latest Pokémon games.

In Pokémon Red and Blue Versions, under certain circumstances (see Old Man Glitch), players can encounter ‘M—a glitch Pokémon of similar vein to the notorious MissingNo. However, ‘M differs from its sister glitch Pokémon in its ability to evolve. And what does it evolve into but Kangaskhan, a Pokémon without any natural evolutions of its own, allegedly.

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Many fans speculate that early in development, ‘M was in fact a legitimate Pokémon, a pre-evolution to Kangaskhan. Extrapolating further, they theorize Kangaskhan was originally planned to be part of a much larger, more complex, evolution line, one that might have involved an evolutionary divergence such as the one found in the Slowpoke and Tyrogue lines, where the hypothetical Kangaskhan pre-evolution would either evolve into Kangaskhan (possibly requiring a Kangaskhan present in the party upon leveling up), or Cubone (possibly if no Kangaskhan was present in the party) who would then evolve into Marowak. This is further supported, by ‘M’s typing, that of a dual Flying/Normal-Type, the latter of which ‘M shares with Kangaskhan.

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Twenty years later, SOS battles are unveiled in the latest main series games—Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon—in which certain wild Pokémon can call upon ally Pokémon to assist them in battle once their HP falls below 50%. Most of the time, the ally called is either an identical Pokémon, or a later stage or pre-evolution. However, in some cases the Pokémon called is not of the evolution line but bears some association or tangential relation to the caller Pokémon, typically in relation to established lore within the canon. For example, Mareanie can only be encountered as an ally to Corsola, its canonical prey according to the Pokédex, or Sableye who is mentioned in the Pokédex to steal gemstones from Carbink and will attack it if called as an ally.

Cubone also can call upon ally Pokémon, and most of the time a fellow Cubone will spawn. However, on rare occasion, another Pokémon will make an appearance, and oddly enough it’s not Marowak, but Kangaskhan. Unlike the previous two examples, there is no established lore of a predatory relationship between the two Pokémon, however, the prominence of this theory has likely garnered the attention of Game Freak who, as of late, have been paying attention to the greater ecology of the Pokémon World with is most contemporary games and Pokédex entries. And when this feature was reviled, many fan theorists clapped their hands and hailed this encounter as definitive proof of Cubone’s true parentage.

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Could this be the case? Is Cubone the orphan of a deceased Kangaskhan?

The evidence for the Orphaned Kangaskhan Theory has an illusionary conclusiveness which appeals to lay fans and popular audiences, however, under further scrutiny a number of issues arise with this proposed theory.

Firstly, the oft-cited sprite art depicting a pouchless Kangaskhan and helmetless Cubone is a non-canonical fan creation, and cannot be admitted as valid evidence no more than images of Haunter’s eyes photoshopped onto a Poké Ball prove Voltorb is a possessed Poké Ball. Even if such evidence were admissible, the Kangaskhan babe, in all of its depictions, is clearly purple, not brown like Cubone. Proponents may argue that the brown coloring is acquired post-abandonment, but have yet to propose a mechanism for this sudden phenotypic departure.

Additionally, the skull Cubone wears bears little resemblance to the cranium of Kangaskhan when examined beyond mere superficial similarities. The Kangaskhan skull appears more rounded and dome-like in shape, like Pachycephalosaurs, the inspiration for Pokémon like Cranidos and Rampardos. The “ears” found in Cubone’s skull are likely not ears at all, as most ears are mostly comprised of cartilage, with only a few, if any, ossified structures in the middle ear. These features are most likely horns of some kind, which are noticeably absent on adult Kangaskhan.

In fact, virtually any similarity between the two Pokémon vanish upon Mega Evolution, in which we have, the only canonical instance of Baby Kangaskhan leaving its pouch (aside from the anime, see below image). In both cases, the Kangaskhan bears little resemblance to what we know Cubone to look like (although, a counter to this would be that the Pokédex clearly states no one knows what its face looks like, but this does not explain the purple coloring the baby bears, as well as a conspicuous absence of plating on Cubone).

The case of ‘M being the “lost” pre-evolution to Kangaskhan is weakened by its own typing, Flying/Normal, in addition to the fact that it weighs an entire 704.2 lb. more than the Pokémon it supposedly evolves into.

Lastly, while the SOS encounter provides the greatest support for this theory, it to crumbles under critical analysis. Such inclusion could just as easily be chalked up as an Easter egg placed by the developers, who could have easily made Cubone’s parentage canon if so they chose to in the PokéDex entries for Sun and Moon if that were their true intent. Additionally, non-related Pokémon showing up during SOS battles is hardly unique to Cubone. Riolu can summon Chansey, Tentacruel can summon Lumineon, and Pichu can summon Happiny.

Kangaskhan appearing beside Cubone is at best fan service and at worse conincidence.

Furthermore, there is an incongruity between the gender ratios of Cubone/Marowak and their proposed mother—Cubone and Marowak each having a fifty-fifty split of male-female, while Kangaskhan is a 100% female species.

Now, it could be the case that Kangaskhan is parthenogenic—capable of producing fertilized eggs without male fertilization—but parthenogenic organisms typically do not produce male offspring, and on the occasion that they do, it is often part of a mictic cycle in which the males are there simply to mate with females to create additional female eggs, and as of the latest generation of games there are no male Kangaskhan to be encountered (For more on Kangakhan and Parthenogenesis, check out Kangaskhan—Parental Bond and Parthenogenesis. Be warned, it’s one of the earlier entries and needs an update).

Lastly, and most simply, the act of losing a mother does not a new species create.

 

The Unlit Charmander Theory

This theory has gained recent popularity as a competitor to the ever-persistent Orphaned Kangaskhan Theory. Popularized by Gnoggin/Lockstin and ProtoMario on their respective YouTube Channels (link here), the Unlit Charmander Theory attempts to reconcile the failings of the prevailing fan theory and argues Charizard as the better candidate for the mother of Cubone.

The theory posits a nest of Charizard eggs is abandoned following the death of the mother during a violent encounter. Proponents cite the tendency for aggression in animals when their young are threatened, as well as numerous circumstances in the anime where Charizards are shown to be particularly belligerent. Without their mother, most of the eggs perish, save for a lone survivor buried underneath the rest and thus insulated from the elements. The orphaned Charmander, upon hatching, dons the skull of its deceased mother—assumed to have died within reasonable proximity to the nest. As multiple Pokédex entries suggest, the flame on Charmander’s tail is heavily connected with its life force and health:

The flame on its tail shows the strength of its life force. If it is weak, the flame also burns weakly. (Pokémon Gold Version)

The flame on its tail indicates Charmander’s life force. If it is healthy, the flame burns brightly. (Pokémon Silver Version)

The Unlit Charmander Theory proposes that the flame is acquired post-hatching from the mother Charizard, whose fire organs ignite the initial life-giving flame which Charmander will carry for the duration of its lifetime.

However, the orphaned hatchling, lacking a mother to bestow that initial flame, subsequently fails to develop properly—fire-breathing organs never grow, its pigmentation never brightens to Charmander’s characteristic fiery orange, and the bones that would have grown into wings in later evolution stages stagnate and grow into abnormal spinal deformities along its back like the ridges found on Cubone.

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Lacking fire-breathing organs, the orphaned and malformed Charmander defends itself with and procures prey using the only tools at its disposal—bones. Upon evolution, whereas normally it would evolve into Charmeleon, because its development was stunted from hatching, it retains most of its abnormalities and fuses with its mother’s skull to become Marowak. No further evolution occurs due to the accumulation of malformities.

Essentially, Cubone is the product of a corrupted infancy in which development is halted and its life destiny irreparably changed.

The cited evidence makes for a considerably stronger case than the Orphaned Kangaskhan Theory. For starters, the skull of Charizard is a much better match. Coloring is also similar between these two species, the difference being only a few shades rather than entire hues such as with the Baby Kangaskhan.

In addition to these superficial similarities, the reasoning has precedent in nature. The earliest stages of life are crucial to development and changes early on can have a cascading effect later in life. Also, it is not unheard of for an animal to require a, for lack of better words, catalyst to kickstart development.

For example, when needed, certain bee larvae are fed a special substance called royal jelly which triggers epigenetic changes in the larvae’s genome, causing it to develop sex organs, the beginnings of a new queen bee. Even more remarkable, experiments with royal jelly have shown to have effects not only on bee larvae, but with the larvae of entirely separate species as well. When scientists feed fruit fly larvae royal jelly, they found that the larvae displayed increased body size upon further development into adult flies similar to the increase in body size found in treated bees (Morgan et al. 2016).

Lastly, a soft piece of evidence comes again from the most recent games, Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon, with the introduction of Alolan Forms, and in particular, Alolan Marowak, a dual Ghost-Fire Type whose Pokémon entry states:

The bones it possesses were once its mother’s. Its mother’s regrets have become like a vengeful spirit protecting this Pokémon. (Pokémon Sun)

Many fans speculate that the “spirit” which protects this Pokémon is that of Charizard, which is why it is a dual Ghost/Fire Type instead of a Ghost/Ground Type if its mother was Marowak, or, alternatively, Ghost/Normal if it were Kangaskhan.

So, how does the Unlit Charmander Theory hold under similar critical scrutiny?

While definitely more plausible than the prevailing fan theory, similar oversights and contradictions plague the Unlit Charmander theory as well.

Firstly, while embryonic development and the stages which immediately follow are crucial in determining an organism’s life projection, such drastic changes at so early of a time are often deleterious, if not fatal. The more likely outcome of Charmander failing to obtain its initial flame would be death rather than a drawn-out series of malformities. This is further supported by Pokédex entries:

From the time it is born, a flame burns at the tip of its tail. Its life would end if the flame were to go out. (Pokémon FireRed Version)

Even the newborns have flaming tails. Unfamiliar with fire, babies are said to accidentally burn themselves. (Pokémon Stadium)

Here, the tail flame is a trait Charmander is born with rather than one acquired later from its mother. Additionally, the necessity of this flame for life heavily implies a fatal outcome for any offspring unfortunate enough to fail to obtain this life-giving flame.

Incongruent gender ratios also remain an issue—Cubone and Marowak being 50:50 split male-female, while Charmander and its evolutions 87.5:12.5, skewing heavily towards male.

All in all, the Unlit Charmandder Theory suffers from the same issues and incongruities as its sister fan theory.

 

Assumptions and Hypothetical Restraints

Considering the myriad of conditions which would have to align to yield a single viable Cubone, nonetheless, multiple breeding Cubone individuals, it is unlikely that an entire population could be sustained by either of the leading fan theories. However, most of the aforementioned problems are resolved if we accept the following two assumptions:

  1. Only Marowak beget Cubone.
  2. Marowak and Cubone exist on their own as an entirely unique species.

To support the first assumption, we can apply Occam’s Razor—that among competing hypotheses, the one which makes the fewest assumptions should be accepted—to the question of Cubone’s maternal lineage. When we apply Occam’s Razor, the most parsimonious explanation results in a Marowak mother, as both the Kangaskhan and Charizard theories requires several extraordinary circumstances to be true. Additionally, Marowak maternity also resolves many of the issues that affect both leading theories, namely, the issues of skull structure and gender ratio. Marowak is a better fit for the Cubone skull helmet than Kangaskhan and involves fewer convoluted steps than Charizard, and the two Pokémon share the same gender ratio (50:50 split male: female).

Regarding our second assumption, Occam’s Razor can once again be applied to give us the explanation with the fewest leaps, namely that Marowak and Cubone existing as their own species requires fewer complications than the leading theories which rely on not only the chance tragedy of offspring being abandoned, but for this to happen so frequently as to sustain a stable population of Pokémon in addition to the population of the “base” species.

Furthermore, the majority of documented Pokémon, excluding Legendary Pokémon, abide by some variant of these two assumptions, as it typically assumed that each Pokémon exists entirely as its own species and begets its own kind.

Given what we do know for certain, we can define some criteria which are to be required of any future theory on the origins of Cubone. We define the criteria as follows:

  1. The mother of Cubone must perish prior to offspring hatching.
  2. The cranium of the mother must be in proximity of the site of hatching.
  3. The maternal cranium must be removed of all flesh within a relatively short time following the offspring’s hatching, if not immediately available.

Additionally, any such explanation must propose some adaptive advantage which would allow such frequent maternal death to persist generation to generation.

Thus, we propose a theory which accounts for the three criteria and gives a clear evolutionary advantage, which shall be known collectively as the Semelparous Marowak Theory.

 

The Semelparous Marowak Theory (or Sacrificial Birth Theory)

The tale of the Lonely Pokémon becomes considerably more macabre under the proposed Semelparous Marowak Theory, or, alternatively, the Sacrificial Birth Theory. However, we first must define a few terms of importance—semelparity and matriphagy.

Semelparity describes one of two possible reproduction strategies in which an organism experiences only one reproductive episode before succumbing to an impromptu death. This contrasts with iteroparity, where an organism reproduces multiple times throughout its lifetime*. Either mode of reproduction is used to the benefit of an organism’s offspring. Specifically, as a trade-off against other factors to provide the best chance of survival for the next generation. Essentially, organisms make a gamble when they reproduce and must decide which wager is worth their wild—to divvy up their reproductive resources throughout multiple reproductive cycles (as reproduction can be a costly endeavor) hoping that most offspring survival till a reproductive age, or, in the case of semelparity, reproduce once but invest all their resources into that single reproductive episode.

Matriphagy is another example of a reproductive strategy that, like semelparity, is used to maximize the overall survival of offspring. In the case of matriphagy, the mother sacrifices itself to be cannibalized by its offspring, or, as one paper so poignantly puts it, “an unusual self-sacrificial form in which young eat their mother at the end of the care period.” (Toyama 2001).

Coming from the perspective of iteroparous organisms who scoff at the general idea of cannibalism, one may ask what purpose these seemingly self-defeating strategies serve in the evolutionary arms race. However, both adaptations can yield great advantage in the reproductive arena.

For species in which females regulate sexually selective pressures (i.e. are the “gatekeepers” of sex), males often compete for the opportunity to spread their seed—a biological imperative so pressing that many organisms will perish pursuing this objective, often at the hands of another competing male. Additionally, reproducing is taxing—both energy and timewise—and from the male perspective, is a gamble where even if they secure a viable mate, they are betting that their chosen female will survive from the time of mating to siring offspring, or in some cases, even beyond that until the offspring are of an age where they can survive without maternal aid. What a pity it would be to invest so much time and energy in a female mate only for them to befall a tragic demise whilst carrying your progeny.

That is why, in species with high rates of female mortality, males will often implement semelparous strategies, as is the case with dasyurid marsupials such as Antechinus agilis, one of the few mammals which display semelparity. This strategy is meant to give the males the best possible chance at siring offspring, a sort of “hedge-betting” against the high mortality rates of their mates in contrast to their iteroparous cousins which have significantly lower rates of female mortality among their populations (Kraaijeveld et al. 2003). This behavior is also easily selected for:

Males are likely to face a trade-off between mating effort and post-reproductive survival. If high female mortality rates select for increased male promiscuity, as argued above, there might be a threshold beyond which males must invest all their mating effort in a single season. In other words, a male that invests resources into survival after the first mating season instead of in mating may fertilize insufficient females during his lifetime to ensure his genes are passed on to the next generation. This predicts that species with male semelparity should have higher levels of female mortality. (Kraaijeveld et al. 2003).

Essentially, rather than spread reproductive energies throughout a lifetime and risk not impregnating enough females to overcome the probability that his mates will befall an unfortunate fate, male A. agilis put all the cards on the table and forgo their own survival—nourishment, rest, hydration—to maximize their reproductive potential, or, in even fewer words, they play the numbers game.

Similarly, matriphagy is also a trade-off, one of post-reproductive survival and offspring survival. For example, for Chiracanthium japonicum—foliage spider—matriphagy increases the size of the spiderlings threefold, as well as delays their dispersal, allowing for increased survivability as solidary hunting predators. Additionally, matriphagy prevents sibling cannibalism, thus raising the overall survivability of the entire brood (Toyama 2001).

Here, the benefits of self-sacrifice outweigh the costs, and personal survival is secondary to the overall goal of propagating the species, and more specifically, the genes.

With precedent established in our world, we theorize that a combination of semelparity and matriphagy is responsible for the orphaned state for Cubone, and our ideas can be summed up in the following hypothetical scenario:

A mother Marowak lays a single egg and henceforth foregoes its own dietary needs and abandons all sense of self-preservation in an extreme act of self-sacrifice, fending off Mandibuzz and shielding its egg from the cold. Thanks to fat reserves built up prior to egg-laying, Marowak is able to sustain itself long enough to witness the first cracks of Cubone’s eggshell. However, with its fat reserves depleted, Marowak succumbs to starvation and expires. The young hatchling, a Cubone, emerges from its egg and proceeds to consume the fresh corpse of its mother. Even in death, its mother continues to provide for it. This first meal will sustain Cubone for an ample amount of time as it gets its bearings together in the safety of the nest, while also hastening its development for when it wanders into the greater Pokémon wilderness. When the skeleton has been picked clean, Cubone arms itself with its mother’s bones as primitive tools and dons Marowak’s skull which serves to insulate the tender cranium of newborn Cubone until its cranial plates fuse upon evolution into its final form, Marowak. Soon it finds a mate, copulates, and prepares to make the same sacrifice its own mother made so many years ago, for the sake of its offspring and the greater species.

Not only does Marowak’s death serve to provide reproductive advantage of Cubone, but this theory also aligns with much of the lore establish through the collection of Cubone and Marowak Pokédex entries, namely, references in which Cubone/Marowak utilizes its mother’s bones as defensive and offensive tools, as well as references to Cubone’s memories of its mother’s face, implying that it did at one point view its mother prior to decomposition:

A Marowak is the evolved form of a Cubone that has grown tough by overcoming the grief of losing its mother. Its tempered and hardened spirit is not easily broken. (Pokémon Sapphire, Ruby, Emerald Versions)

From its birth, this savage Pokémon constantly holds bones. It is skilled in using them as weapons. (Pokémon Diamond, Pearl, Platinum Versions)

Cubone pines for the mother it will never see again. Seeing a likeness of its mother in the full moon, it cries. The stains on the skull the Pokémon wears are made by the tears it sheds. (Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire Versions)

When it thinks of its deceased mother, it weeps loudly. Mandibuzz that hear its cries will attack it from the air. (Pokémon Sun)

However, like with previous theories, the Semelparous Marowak Theory is not free of problems. Firstly, the strategies of semelparity and matriphagy are used to maximize reproductive output, however, this theory postulates, or rather, requires, that Marowak only produce a single egg, a wasteful use of semelparity and matriphagy. These extreme strategies appear to serve no other advantage than to prop up a single offspring on which the genetic legacies of two individuals now depend upon (only children know that feeling all too well). Additionally, this theory, dependent on females having a high mortality rate, requires for males to be semelparous which we have no current evidence of yet.

While issues remain unresolved with fan theories regarding the origins of Cubone and its true parentage, and further inquiry on the subject should be encouraged, the Semelparous Marowak Theory explores the potential for a darker underbelly to the Pokémon World that goes beyond the occasional creepy Pokédex entry or mysterious ghost girl, one where evolutionary forces drive populations to extreme strategies for survival and where the interactions between Pokémon can result in life or death.

The enigma of Cubone will forever continue to resonate in the minds of the Pokémon fandom, as its tale evokes feelings mutually shared by most of humanity, those of longing for lost figures, of grief for those we once knew, and a clinging to things left behind. It is good to keep the tragic tale of Cubone close to our hearts, whatever the truth may be, as it serves as a reminder to not let the work and sacrifices of those before us to go to waste, that we should rise and arm ourselves with the tools they left behind and fortify ourselves for the tribulations of a world indifferent to our suffering, and, hopefully, come out on the other side, tougher and stronger than before.

“Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.”

– A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin

Accurate Pokédex Entry: Cubone weeps for a mother it knew all too well, as she offered herself up as a first meal to her offspring to maximize its survivability. Cubone wears its mother’s skull to protect its soft cranium and arms itself with her bones so that no part of her carcass is wasted.

What do you think? Does the Semelparous Marowak Hypothesis hold up? Did we leave anything out about the two leading fan theories? Do you have a different theory about who the mother of Cubone is? Leave it down in the comments, and be sure to join us for more bits of Pokémon-inspired biology by hitting that GO POKEMON button! We post new blogs every week. To stay updated on all things Pokémon Biology related, follow The Biology of Pokémon on Twitter @PokeBiology and, while you’re at it, follow the author, @JaredIsAWriter.

15 thoughts on “Death of a Fan Theory: Why Cubone’s Backstory May Be Even Sadder Than You Think

  1. suisekicat

    There is still one problem with this. If Cubone wears the skull of its dead mother, that means when a Marowak dies, there are two skulls left over: its own, which was part of its skeleton, and that of its mother which it wears on its head. How does the young Cubone decide which one of these skulls to pick? And if your theory were true, wouldn’t you expect Marowak skulls lying around everywhere?

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    1. Rixie

      Actually, this is an excellent fix for one of the problems mentioned above. The biggest problem with the semelparous theory is that a female Marowak can only have one offspring, which would lead to a population that cannot grow and would only decline with time as some individuals do not survive to reproduce successfully. If the mother leaves behind two skulls, that could actually solve the problem. Each female Marowak could have two offspring instead of one. One of them would get an older skull, the grandmother’s skull, while the other would take the skull of the mother.

      That being said, I personally assumed that when a Cubone evolves and its own skull grows strong enough to protect it, it sheds its mother’s old skull. This assumption is based on the appearance of the skulls mostly, so it may very well be faulty. The skull of the Cubone usually looks pretty degraded and cracked, so I thought perhaps by the time Cubone grows up, the skull would no longer be particularly functional.

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      1. fricht

        I nearly replied with the same point you did. With the proposal that the mother dies, that leaves cubone with a negative population growth–especially with a 50/50 gender split. That doesn’t even take into account those that are preyed upon. Quite the opposite of Occam’s Razor…Now there needs to be an explanation as to either A) their species has not already died out or B) what has caused the species to take on such an inherently flawed method of reproduction.
        Having two offspring assuages this a bit…But even if they birth one male, one female–we’re still only operating at replacement levels. Even humans are a prolific species namely because there are those of us who tends to have upwards of a dozen children (then, obviously, y’know…That whole intelligence thing). Of course, there are egg groups that could be taken into consideration…but where are the skulls coming from?
        In that regard, I’d actually favor re-looking at the Unlit Charmander theory again. The ‘Dex entry could be a result of oversight or human error and mythology. It may be possible for a newborn charmander to go without its tail being lit (what happens if the mother is hunting when they hatch? Or do they sense when she’s around and not hatch until then? Or do they reproduce often enough that losing a clutch isn’t an issue?).
        The gender bit is more interesting. It could be that charizards that give birth to female young, as rare as it is, also have a genetic abnormality that predisposes them to an earlier death…Or they only begin to birth female young
        more often towards the end of their life.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. regentvoo

    I read a theory by a guy nicknamed Adamant. His theory made alot of sense. We should be viewing Cubone sort of like a chimp. His theory is as below:

    Pokedex inaccuracy
    There are many signs that we shouldn’t take the Pokedex information from the games at face value.

    For example, with respect to Marowak, Gold says:

    It collects bones from an unknown place. A Marowak graveyard exists somewhere in the world, rumors say.

    However, Crystal presents the same information as fact:

    Somewhere in the world is a cemetery just for Marowak. It gets its bones from those graves.

    This suggests that some Pokedex entries are presenting rumor as fact. There are many other examples where Pokedex entries just make no sense. For example, we are told that Banette used to be a plush doll:

    A cursed energy permeated the stuffing of a discarded and forgotten plush doll, giving it new life as Banette. The Pokémon’s energy would escape if it were to ever open its mouth.

    But how does this fit with its pre-evolution, Shuppet, which may have been a discarded puppet, but was certainly doesn’t look like a plush doll?

    Fire Red tells us that:

    It happened one morning – a boy with extrasensory powers awoke in bed transformed into Kadabra.

    But this same information is presented as rumor in Pokemon Sun:

    A theory exists that this Pokémon was a young boy who couldn’t control his psychic powers and ended up transformed into this Pokémon.

    And of course, this all makes little sense when we consider that it evolves from Abra, so why would its origin be a little boy?

    There are many other examples of Pokedex entries that make little sense, or outright contradict themselves or other Pokedex entries.

    In the end, I think the most sensible thing to conclude is that the Pokedex is flawed. It incorporates myth and rumor as well as research, and sometimes (as the previous examples show) passes them off as fact.

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    1. regentvoo

      which means that cubone is a tool user and it so happened the original cubone caught by Ash was wearing its mother’s skull, and Prof Oak who studied it came to this mis-conclusion. Another add on commentary by Zephyr is as below:

      n the first game, the Pokedex is considered a recent innovation, to the point that Professor Oak, a leading expert on Pokemon, has only just received one. From this, it is possible to assume that your journey in Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow are a part of Professor Oak’s research using this new tool.

      Professor Oak describes the Pokedex as “a high tech encyclopedia”, which is to say it is a device used to aggregate information on a subject, rather than a tool for observation or measurement.

      Since data is only recorded AFTER you catch a Pokemon, this may mean that Pokemon you catch are studied by Oak, and his findings and notes are uploaded to some sort of cloud information hub which your Pokedex can access. This would be consistent with being the bleeding edge of technology, as the recent development of the internet in the Pokemon world is considered significant news, as evidenced by talking to the man outside of Oaks lab, and Bill’s relative fame for his contributions. Therefore the newest technological innovations coming out would be relating to long distance digital telecommunication.

      Therefore, it is feasible that your adventure in the original Pokemon games were the foundation for the data available on Cubone in all subsequent pokemon games. The Pokedex, in this case, would be acting as a sort of Wikipedia for researchers to share notes on their observations of Pokemon, and what you see in accounts of Cubone are simply the originals notes Oak took on the Lavender town Cubone in the care of Mr. Fuji.

      In Pokemon Crystal, the entry given for Cubone is

      It lost its mother after its birth. It wears its mother’s skull, never revealing its true face.

      This is written in a style that seems to indicate an individual, rather than speaking of a broad group, which might support this. Additional evidence would be the very premise of the games. In Pokemon Red and Blue Oak sends you on your mission to fulfil his dream of creating a comprehensive listing of all Pokemon, however the Pokedex knows information you could not possibly know yourself, such as the local distributions of Pokemon in areas you have not visited. The combination of the fact that Oak requires you to go on your journey to complete the Pokedex along with the fact that the Pokedex updates with data you cannot have learned yourself indicates that some of this data must be coming from an external source, namely Oak.

      Thus, the inconsistent/implausible data for Cubone can be attributed to an oversight of researchers in the Pokemon world, not updating Cubone’s entry with more accurate data after Oak’s original survey. As to the real explanation for Cubone, it is likely that Cubones and Marowaks in general are mamalian scavenger pokemon which have developed rudimentary tool use, specifically using bones from their findings. Typically they use the bones picked from corpses as armor and weaponry to defend themselves from predators, particularly using skulls of larger pokemon to protect their heads. The Cubone from the original games in particular used it’s mother’s bones after it’s death, but this is not always the case.

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  3. Chris

    Here’s a theory/fanfiction about these Pokemon, with a bunch of assumptions about their biology!
    It provides a possible background for the difference between the Cubone and Marowak helmet shape, the mysterious plating on the Kangaskhan’s head, and the relationship this species of Pokemon has with the Charizard species.

    I’ve been planning to turn this into a comic or something, but I never did, and I’ve always wanted to put this in writing somewhere, so I guess this is the place! I’d love to see this turned into something like a cartoon or comic.

    The Kangaskhan/Marowak species (let’s call them Khan) live in migrating herds. Male offspring are less common than female. The adult female Khan hibernate seasonally (in caves) during their pregnancy, and during their hibernation period, the young (Cubone) and some of the elder (Marowak) go off hunting and gathering during this time. The strongest Marowak stay behind to protect the hibernating females.

    Meanwhile, the Char species (Charmander, Charmeleon, Charizard), strong and intelligent carnivores, track the Khan herds, and wait for the hibernation period so that they can prey on the Khans. Char have a small population and travel in small packs. When the Char go to the Khan hibernating grounds, the Marowak try their best to defend their herd focusing on the Charizards, as they are the strongest, and their bones are the biggest of their species. They manage to slay a few of them, but many Khans die, and many young (non-winged) Chars escape, taking the bodies of their prey with them.

    The Char are territorial, so their ritualistic feeding takes place on a high mountain where they only go to feed on Khan, their most precious delicacy. They use their fire powers to cook the Khan meat. Khan bones are very high in carbon and respond well to the heat, and become tempered to a strength comparable to that of a diamond.

    One of the surviving Khans tracks the Chars back to their feeding ground, as they need to gather their fallen kin’s bones to use for weapons and armor.
    The Khan returns to the hibernation grounds, and waits out the season with the rest of the survivors. When the Khan hunters return, they form a group that will go to the feeding ground to recover the strengthened Khan bones.

    They recover the bones and give them to the young male Khan. They place a skull atop their head as a helmet, and choose any of the bones as their weapon and begin training with it. The strongest male Khans, usually the ones who defended the herd, receive Charizard skulls as their new helmet and are held in high regard and are recognized for their merit.

    When a Charizard-helmed Khan (or now, Marowak) places the skull on their head, it gives more room for the growth plate (bone) on the top of their head. When the growth plate is not under pressure, this triggers neurological signals for their bodies to grow. They grow larger and their intelligence increases. This is why the males (Cubone, Marowak) are generally much smaller than females, (Kangaskhan). Males who do not receive any helmet usually become gatherers for the herd, and grow to about the size of females and are nearly indistinguishable.

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  4. tymime

    I think Marowak mothers dying all the time isn’t really all that realistic. There’s this fanon article on TV Tropes that suggests instead that the mother is just more *likely* to perish while giving birth than other Pokémon, rather than dying 100% of the time: https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/FanonPokedex/Cubone
    It also suggests that the skull helmet is taken from any deceased Marowak, instead of just the mother.

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