Pokémon and Folklore: Absol -The Modernist Son

Image Credit: Photo taken by the author. This image depicts Pokémon Sword and Shield: The Crown Tundra. Retrieved November 15, 2020.


The Pokémon Absol might not be a legendary Pokémon in terms of its existence, but certainly fell into the rare category throughout its earliest appearances in video game canon. Absol serves as entry 359 within the National Pokedex database, making its video game debut in 2003's Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire versions from Generation Three. In terms of folklore, Absol's presence indicates a forthcoming disaster or the end of days. However, Absol primarily makes its presence known as a means of warning humans their lives are at risk from natural disasters, or even other-worldy threats such as Deoxys. Therefore, Absol is a peaceful yet proud creature. Certainly, this was not the first time a creature made its presence known in order to issue a warning to humans within folkloric narratives. For instance, something I discussed in my first book Folklore Studies: A Collection of Essays (2020) was the mythical creature known as the Kitsune. The Kitsune is a staple of Japanese myth, and can be interpreted by readers in several different ways. Although its appearance is closer to the Pokémon Ninetales (this was a direct inspiration for that Pokémon in 1996) Absol and the Japanese Kitsune share some narrative characteristics. With respect to the Kitsune or "nine tailed fox", this creature appears as either a blessing for the people of Japan or it could be a way of warning them of a bad omen which has yet to come. Furthermore, I will discuss the issue of disaster and premeditated warnings from the Pokémon which has earned itself a cult following throughout the last seventeen years at the time of writing this article.

Absol and its Presence:

According to Bulbapedia:

Absol lives in the mountains far from civilization, and it rarely ventures down from its alpine home. Using its horn, Absol is able to sense even subtle changes in the sky and the land to predict when a disaster will occur and will try to warn people when one is approaching. Absol is also known to protect fields from natural disasters as well. This often has the unfortunate effect of Absol itself being blamed for the disaster, notably by the elderly. The hatred for Absol was stared by superstitions surrounding it. Despite this, the elderly are interested in its ability to predict disaster. Absol has been referred to as a bringer of doom. (Bulbapedia)

As a fan of the Pokémon franchise, it is evident most of the original 151 Pokémon were based on real world animals.Unsurpisingly, the names behind the world renowned series have stated that themselves. Furthermore, it is also not necessarily surprising that background stories for certain Pokémon were inspired by real world Japanese folklore, as well as folklore from other parts of the world. With respect to the nature of Absol, this Pokémon seldom appears to humans and usually only allows its presence to be known when there is impending danger. Absol primarily lives in the mountains, and makes its best effort to avoid contact with human beings. However, Pokedex entries within the video game universe indicate that Absol's power is derived from its horn. Furthermore, the issue of power has allowed elderly people to become more or less obsessed with the aforementioned Pokémon.

Although most people who share their world with Pokémon (specifically referring to those living within the video game universe) believe Absol is there to protect people, and is a creature with a pure heart. However, there are some elderly people who believe Absol is responsible for the tragic events which transpire. Moreover, this is not much different from the mythical Kitsune. Throughout Japanese culture, people believe the Kitsune is either good or evil based on which version of the story they were told. In terms of Absol, one family might believe the creature is good whereas the family down the street are adamant this Pokémon is a bringer of mass destruction. In terms of interpreting folkloric legends, people will always have different beliefs than others. This is why variation is important, and continues to maintain the relevance of legends in folklore. With respect to the Pokémon Absol, let's look at this hypothetically: people living within the world of Pokémon have various opinions based on the creature's existence. For instance, the elderly are convinced Absol is the reason there is disaster in the world. Although this very well could be the case in some instances, most Absol (referring to the species of Pokémon) serve and protect the people living around them. Absol possesses supernatural intuition because of its horn, and uses its abilities as a means of saving the world.

Final Thoughts:

Nevertheless, the varied cultural opinions on the aforementioned Pokémon is comparable to how people feel about legend narratives in the real world. Based on an individual's beliefs and which version of the story they have heard, they will be compelled to choose that version of the story. Variation becomes an integral aspect of folklore because a specific version of a story means something to the story-teller, as well as the audience. The legend narrative surrounding Absol intertextualizes legends such as the Kitsune, as a means of honouring culture from the real world. Much like folklore as a discipline, the societal culture existing within the Pokémon universe remediates and recreates stories from around the world and makes it their own. Consequently, the significance of folklore and legends survives in the process.

(c) The Modernist Son, 2020

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