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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 -->


Foreword

            What is a Pokémon?

            This 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 watching.

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 categorization?

How do we live with them?

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.

Perhaps what 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 history.

Good luck to Dr. Juniper’s effort, and may Popolo live in our hearts once more.

 -- Dr. Ivy, Biochemistry Department chair, University at Celadon 

 

Author’s Preface

            I 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.

            And then I look to the southwest.

            Beyond 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.

            And 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.

            But 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.

            This 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 translators.

 There is much it could tell us. More than as simply a work of fiction.

 

Introduction 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?

To search 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 mood.

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.

This edition, 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 account.

 

Acknowledgements

            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.

            I’d 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.

 

Introduction to the first edition

            This 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.

            This 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.

            Popolo’s 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.

            This 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.

            Hear now the tale of Popolo, the greatest trainer of old.

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