In-Depth Stories

What are Solgaleo and Lunala based on?

The new Pokémon Sun and Moon mascots had their typing recently confirmed. We dig around to try and make sense of the surprising allocations they received.

Recently we were given further details about the mascot legendary Pokémon for the next Game Freak titles, Pokémon Sun and Moon. While we saw them in the previous trailer, and had their names from leaked trademarks (albeit with one extra ‘a’ for the Japanese trademarked name), it was still nice to see confirmation of the Solgaleo and Lunala names, and find out about their typing and Abilities as well. However, typically legendary Pokémon are based on real-world myths and legends. What is the basis for Solgaleo and Lunala?

What we know

In short, we learnt the following:

  • The Sun mascot's official art.
    The Sun mascot’s official art.

    Solgaleo, the mascot legendary of Pokémon Sun, is Psychic/Steel type. It has the ability Full Metal Body, which seems to be similar to Clear Body (it cannot have its stats lowered by an opponent’s Ability or attack). It knows the special move Sunsteel Strike, which ‘disregards the target’s Ability’. It is classified as the ‘Sunne’ Pokémon. The official website also gives us some flavour text:

Since ancient times, Solgaleo has been honored as an emissary of the sun. It is referred to with reverence as “the beast that devours the sun.” Solgaleo’s body holds a vast amount of energy, and it shines with light when it’s active. It has a flowing mane with a remarkable resemblance to the sun. Its signature move is Sunsteel Strike, an attack that charges at an opponent with the force of a meteor, disregarding the target’s Ability.

Solgaleo’s Ability is Full Metal Body, a new Ability that no previous Pokémon has had. With the Full Metal Body Ability, a Pokémon’s stats will not be lowered by the effects of an opponent’s moves or Ability.

  • The Moon mascot's official art.
    The Moon mascot’s official art.

    Lunala, the mascot legendary of Pokémon Moon,  is Psychic/Ghost. It has the ability Shadow Shield, which is akin to Dragonite’s Multiscale ability (if it has full HP, the first attack it suffers has its damage halved). Its special move is Moongeist Beam. It is classified as the ‘Moone’ Pokémon (why the extra ‘e’ is anyone’s guess). We also have as its description the following:

Since ancient times, Lunala has been honored as an emissary of the moon. It is referred to with reverence as “the beast that calls the moon.” Lunala is constantly absorbing light and converting it into energy. With its wings spread to absorb the surrounding light and glittering like a crescent moon, it resembles a beautiful night sky. Lunala’s signature Moongeist Beam attack releases an ominous beam of light that disregards the target’s Ability.

Lunala’s Ability is Shadow Shield, a new Ability that no previous Pokémon has had. With the Shadow Shield Ability, a Pokémon will take less damage from an attack that lands when the Pokémon has full HP.

What is Solgaleo based on?

While the name ‘Solgaleo’ suggested a lion-based appearance (with ‘leo’ being Latin for lion) when its name had been leaked, a few people suggested that it may also turn out to be a shark, due to the Greek word for the animal being ‘galeo’, and the Spanish word as well. Naturally ‘sol’ is Latin for sun, giving the Pokémon a clear relation to the solar object. It’s clear from the shape of its head as well having a rather obvious sun motif behind it.

‘Galeo’ is not terribly far removed from ‘Galileo’ either, a famous astronomer of history, whose discoveries included that planets in our solar system orbit the sun.

Let’s backtrack a little bit now. We know that Solgaleo is of the Psychic and Steel typing. This surprised nigh everyone, because before this week’s trailer reveal, everyone expected it to be of the Fire type thanks to its relevance to the sun. (Granted, the sun is made of hot gas if you want to be pedantic, but it’s the go-to type people had assumed.) Now it’s been revealed to be “the beast that devours the sun”, and merely an emissary of the sun,  so perhaps you could see why it isn’t Fire type. Nonetheless, the Steel typing does seem rather odd – everyone knows that the Steel type is weak to Fire, after all. How does this work? Is it just another case of an obscure typing choice that flies in the face of reason, such as how Flabébé’s line doesn’t get the Grass typing?

No, Solgaleo! Put that down right now!
No, Solgaleo! Put that down right now!

The answer is actually no! There is a historical basis for Solgaleo, and to see it you have to dig into the fabled art of alchemy (the act of ‘purifying’ and transforming certain objects – think of the elixir of immortality also known as the Philosopher’s Stone, or the art of changing base metals into gold). The sun features heavily into this practise, including in a famous written work titled The Rosary of the Philosophers. And coupled with the sun is the alchemical symbol of the green lion devouring the sun, relating to the notion of purifying metals, or as explained on this site:

On a chemical level this is a metaphor for when a green, liquid sulfate called “vitriol” purifies matter, leaving behind the gold within the matter. Very pure vitriol is an acid that eats through practically anything, except gold.

In short, Solgaleo represents a notion or process in alchemy that concerns itself with metals, and hence it has found itself with the Steel typing. Its ability of ‘Full Metal Body’  further reinforces the relationship (although it should be pointed out to The Pokémon Company that claiming this is a new ability, when the likes of Clear Body exists which functions in the same way, is not quite true.)

There is no obvious link between this basis and the Psychic type, but given it shares this type with its counterpart in Lunala, there may be something else not yet revealed about these legendaries – that would have some plot significance – that explains this link. A large number of legendary Pokémon do have the type though, including Deoxys, and the Psychic/Rock duo Solrock and Lunatone also have a connection to space. That said, exceptions exist – the legendaries of space and time (or spacetime – Palkia and Dialga) only share the Dragon typing. Alternatively, at least for Solgaleo the Psychic typing relates to the mystical nature of alchemy. Regardless, certainly the knowledge that it is the “beast to devour the sun” helps suggest at possible plot events within the Sun and Moon games.

Speaking of…

What is Lunala based on?

‘Luna’ was the obvious word to pull out when the names were leaked thanks to trademarks, as it is the Latin word for moon. ‘Lunula’ meanwhile means ‘little moon’. Prior to seeing Lunala, some people considered that it could take the form of a moth or butterfly-fish going on existing species names, but instead we have a skeletal bat with several crescent moon and star shaped patterns woven into its design.

Camazotz, probably not the bat Lunala is based upon.
Camazotz, probably not the bat Lunala is based upon.

Is there any obvious basis for the bat-like Pokémon then? They are nocturnal creatures, so you may also think it may be as simple as that – a god-like or mythical bat that has a tie to the moon, an object typically associated with the night (despite the fact the moon is also visible in the daytime). However, there is no link quite as obvious like with Solgaleo linking bats of legend with the moon. We have vampires which cannot survive in daylight (usually, anyway), and Camazotz, a ‘death bat’ figure in Mayan mythology, but neither have a link with the moon, only the night.

There does exist an African myth of the Kono which is as close we can get. In short, the sun and moon lit up the day and night respectively, in a time before darkness. A god called Yataa placed darkness into a basket and told a bat to deliver it to the moon. A mishap resulted in other animals opening the basket and releasing darkness, and so the bat sleeps in the day and flies at night to try and recapture the darkness. Does Lunala hence call the moon to try and help corner or capture the darkness?

Its definitely-not-a-renamed-Multiscale ability in Shadow Shield suggests some sort of protector motif, but there’s little else to draw from that. Meanwhile, its typing is Psychic/Ghost, which gives it a perhaps surprising four-times weakness to Dark (not so surprising if you consider Dark type to be the ‘evil’ or ‘dirty fighting’ type, rather than the absence-of-light type). Bats do have a frequent link in mythology to life and death, so perhaps that is the link used to justify the Ghost typing.

It just wants a hug.
It just wants a hug. Image source.

There is one other possible basis to consider, and it’s a much less exciting idea if you like mythology. There is an animal called the ghost bat. It’s native to Australia, and its appearance does seem closer to Lunala’s than other animals can claim, thanks to the very thin membrane of its wings. Recall also that ‘lunula’ means little moon, and consider the average size of this bat (11 cm/4.3 inches), and it may not be so unlikely to be the source of inspiration for Lunala! Maybe it is simply this species of bat that inspired the Ghost typing, and the fact it is nocturnal deemed ‘close enough’ to warrant adding the moon motifs to Lunala’s design.

What do you make of these potential explanations, and which mascot legendary Pokémon do you like more? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Edited by El Héroe Oscuro and Jake.