Real-Life Pokemon: The Mythological History of Animals

Animals and storytelling have been a part of human culture since Homo Sapiens came into existence. Living in a world filled with majestic creatures that we hunted for food, skinned for clothing, and kept as pets has influenced our lives in powerful ways: religion, politics, even warfare.

From sacred Egyptian cats to Hinduism’s holy cows, animals represent more than biological life-forms, they are intertwined in every aspect of our culture. Pokemon taps into this deep-seated psyche by extending the powers that animals have, and thus, their utility in human society.

Created by Satoshi Tajiri and Ken Sugimori, Pokemon (originally called “Pocket Monsters”) were adapted from real-life animals in the early 1990s. In the original video game, the player must capture Pokemon using specially design Poke Balls, and use them to fight fictitious competitors, collection various specialty badges with every defeat. Pokemon taps into our human instincts of companionship, competition, and journey. As a result, Pokemon became one of the largest pop culture trends throughout the work in the 90s.

Millennials grew up playing Pokemon video games, watching its cartoons, and playing its card games. As technology advanced, Nintendo, which publishes Pokemon, updated versions of the video games to play on advanced hardware. As smart technologies progressed, Niantic, a San Francisco Software company specializing in augmented reality, worked to create one of the most successful smartphone applications in history: Pokemon Go. Tapping into the public’s nostalgia of this cultural phenomenon, combined with new technologies, Pokemon Go allows users to catch their own Pokemon in their community through their smart phone.
Although Pokemon Go integrates novel technology to create a fundamentally unique experience for users, it has more than just software to thank for its success. At the core of its appeal to consumers is its connection to human psychology. Humans have always had an affinity for animals because they have shared our spaces since the development of our species. Because of this, our ancestors told stories and created mythologies around animals and the symbols they represent.

If we skim through history, we will discover countless interactions between humans and animals, and stories based off of them which relayed important cultural messages. For example, lions represent authority, power, and dominance; lambs and snakes are often symbolized in religious texts, and eagles are seen as heralds of freedom.
One culture that was particularly influenced by animals was ancient Greece, which based a large portion of their religion on mythological creatures. One of the most famous storytellers of Ancient Greece, named Aesop, was famous for incorporating animals in his anecdotes which were used to convey important moral tales. These were used by politicians, religious leaders, and teachers to explain to audiences life-lessons in easy to understand ways.

Aesop relied heavily on the application of archetypes, which is a significant symbol or motif. Examples of archetypes include a mouse representing weakness and a turtle representing languidness. Aesop utilized motifs to express certain virtues or vices. One example of an Aesop’s fable is the tale of The Fox and The Crow, which can be found on AesopsFable.com, and which can be viewed on YouTube – Timeless Tales: The Fox and the Crow. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hACpLj0_EiA

A Fox is awoken by a Crow who landed on a branch above, a piece of cheese in her beak.

Timeless Tales: The Fox and The Crow
“Oh Miss Crow! How great the morning is with your beauty! How lovely and glossy are your feathers? And those eyes, like glowing reflections of your soul. What a beautiful voice you must have, beyond all the other birds in the forest. Please, may I hear just one song to prove you really are the queen of all birds?”

The Crow, softened by the Fox’s compliments, lets out a loud “Caw!” However, as soon as she opens her mouth, the cheese falls to the ground, allowing the Fox to gobble up the morsel.

With a snicker he says, “Miss Crow, in exchange for your cheese, I shall give you advice: never trust a flatterer.”

Since the 6th century BC, when Aesop was alive, there have been thousands of fables attributed to his name across the world. From England to India, Aesop’s fables are used to instill values or warn of vices in children and adults alike. The Fox and The Crow is just one example of the many unique, fun, and thought-provoking fables that uses animals as symbols to convey a message in an entertaining manner. This tradition has carried into our current culture, proven by the resurgence of Pokemon through the augmented reality game, Pokemon Go.

Human evolution and its culture is deeply connected with animals, which is why they pervade so many of our myths and stories. For anyone interested in the mythological influences of Pokemon Go, and how animals and stories connect us, they can access thousands of Aesop’s fables at AesopsFable.com, one of the best resources for fables. You can scan through their catalog or search for previous versions and reiterations of Fables. They even have a growing catalog of narrations, animations, and books available.

One project that AesopsFable.com is developing is its Timeless Tales animation series which seeks to bring moral fables to the modern age in fun and engaging ways. Timeless Tales seeks to build self-worth to children and adults alike, allowing audiences to critically think about the virtues and vices of human nature – lessons which they can apply in their own lives. In modern media, there are few programs that offer opportunities for children to analyze and interpret the world around them from a moral standpoint. Timeless Tales hopes to give children insight into more complex human emotions and values so they may understand themselves and the world on a deeper level.