In this recurring series, I’ll analyze the origins of Pokémon designs, their culture, and their historical allusions to British culture.
On February 27, 2019, two legendary Pokémon were teased in the premiere trailer for Pokémon Sword and Shield. These were the box legendaries, both based on wolves. Both are classified as the Warrior Pokémon.
Living in the foggy Slumbering Weald, they were rarely seen by the people of Galar. When they were seen, it was only with a streak of color. These rumors played into the mythos of each Pokémon. They have not been seen by the people of Galar for centuries.
This is similar to real life wolves living in Great Britain. Early writings on the island suggested that wolves were plentiful and common. However, kings implemented mandates and bounties to hunt these wolves until they disappeared around the start of the sixteenth century.
Although reviled by shepherds, in popular culture at the time the wolf was seen as a symbol of nobility and courage. Many noble families would use a symbol of the wolf on their family coat of arms in England and throughout Europe.
Zacian is covered in blue fur, what one may also call cyan. People living in medieval Galar would refer to it as “the cyan”, which eventually was modified into “za cyan” and then “zacian”. Its overhanging fur with the star pattern in the back may be inspired by caparisons, a ceremonial cloth over a horse which is used for parades.
In its base form as the “Hero of Many Battles”, it appears to be weakened over the many centuries of life since The Darkest Day with a clipped ear. Zacian is a Fairy-type in this form.
Known as a legendary hero, this Pokémon absorbs metal particles, transforming them into a weapon it uses to battle.
This Pokémon has slumbered for many years. Some say it’s Zamazenta’s elder sister—others say the two Pokémon are rivals.
Although the Pokédex calls Zacian the elder sister, the Pokémon does not have any specified gender.
Zacian has the signature ability Intrepid Sword, which boosts its attack by one stage when it enters the battle.
Through the story of Sword, the player obtains the Rusted Sword which transforms Zacian into its “Crowned Sword” form. In this form, it becomes a Fairy and Steel-type. Its body grows more regal as it gains a helmet with wings that resemble winged helmet of the Roman deity Mercury. Winged helmets have also been worn by celts. A sword is held in its mouth.
Now armed with a weapon it used in ancient times, this Pokémon needs only a single strike to fell even Gigantamax Pokémon.
Able to cut down anything with a single strike, it became known as the Fairy King’s Sword, and it inspired awe in friend and foe alike.
The Pokédex makes reference to its ability to strike Gigantamax Pokémon, referring to its signature move Behemoth Blade. The attack’s damage doubles when used on a Dynamax Pokémon.
Zacian may be inspired by Excalibur, the legendary sword of King Arthur from the Arthurian legends. Also known as the “Sword in the Stone”, the legends state that Arthur was able to pull a sword embedded from an anvil which could only be done by the true king.
Another myth is the “Lady of the Lake”, a fairy who lives in a body of water. In this tale, the lady gives King Arthur the enchanted sword as a gift. This tale may be a reason for Zacian’s feminine tendencies. Alternatively, it may be an allusion to Morgan le Fay, an enchantress who is the half-brother of Arthur.
Interestingly, the unreleased shiny form of Zacian has very cyan fur, making one wonder which Pokémon exactly the people of Galar saw.
Zamazenta is covered in a red fur, with blue accents. It may also be said to have magenta fur. People living in medieval Galar would refer to it as “the magenta”, which eventually was modified into “za magenta” and then “zamazenta”. There is a star pattern on its torso. On top of its head is a hackle, a feather plume which is worn in the military costume primarily in British armies.
In its base form as the “Hero of Many Battles”, it appears to be weakened over the many centuries of life since The Darkest Day. It has a clipped ear and a scar across its eye. Zamazenta is a Fighting-type in this form.
In times past, it worked together with a king of the people to save the Galar region. It absorbs metal that it then uses in battle.
This Pokémon slept for aeons while in the form of a statue. It was asleep for so long, people forgot that it ever existed.
Zamazenta has the signature ability Dauntless Shield, which boosts its defense one stage when it enters the battle.
Through the story of Shield, the player obtains the Rusted Shield which transforms Zamazenta into its “Crowned Shield” form. In this form, it becomes a Fighting and Steel-type. Its body grows more elegant as a shield forms around its head, extending to its sides.
Its ability to deflect any attack led to it being known as the Fighting Master’s Shield. It was feared and respected by all.
Now that it’s equipped with its shield, it can shrug off impressive blows, including the attacks of Dynamax Pokémon.
Zamazenta has the ability to use its signature move Behemoth Bash, whose power doubles when used on a Dynamax Pokémon.
Zamazenta may be inspired by the shield of King Arthur. The name of this shield is either Pridwen (“fair face”) or Wynebgwrthucher (“face of evening”), depending on the story. If Zacian is based on Morgan le Fay, then it would follow that Zamazenta would be based on King Arthur, or at least one of the knights of the Round Table.
Interestingly, the unreleased shiny form of Zamazenta has very magenta fur, making one wonder which Pokémon exactly the people of Galar saw.
When considering the box legendaries for Pokémon Sword and Shield, wolves make a lot of sense. They were closely associated with courage and strength in medieval England. In the game’s story, both Zacian and Zamazenta have been asleep and forgotten. This aligns with the eradication of wolves in Great Britain. Additionally the player works to find and revive the hero of many battles, much like how conservatory groups in Great Britain are now working to reintroduce wolves to their habitat.
The mythic nature of this legendary duo is reminiscient of the legends of King Arthur, particularly around his sword and shield. King Arthur is one of the most iconic legends, and provides a rich cultural base for Zacian and Zamazenta.
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