What's Under Cubone's Mask in the Pokemon Games?

Is it a baby Kangaskhan? Or is it something else?

Most of the creepy stories and urban legends involving the Pokemon series are of human invention. Contrary to popular myth, listening to the music in Pokemon Red / Blue’s Lavender Town won’t cause you to go mad, Pokemon Lost Silver doesn’t exist outside of fan projects, and Gary’s Raticate probably didn’t die on the SS Anne.

That’s not to say the Pokemon games lack instances and characters worthy of double-takes.

Each game’s PokeDex directory is filled with multiple examples of Pokemon that are not necessarily kid-friendly. Some are downright eerie.

One Pokemon that’s long been the target of legend and speculation is Cubone. Cubone is a small brown dinosaur-like Pokemon that carries a club. This ground-type warrior is a super effective smasher of electric-types, but it’s better known for the skull it wears on its head. That’s because, according to the PokeDex entries in several Pokemon games, Cubone’s boney mask is actually the skull of its dead mother. Eternally lonely, Cubone frequently isolates itself and cries for its loss. According to in-game lore, its mask is even stained with tear-tracks.

Yikes.

All of Cubone’s PokeDex entries across several game generations speak of a lonely critter that wails at the moon. Many PokeDex entries also make mention that no-one knows what Cubone looks like under its mask, since the Pokemon never seems to remove it.

The Pokemon franchise has been around for years, and we still have zero idea of what Cubone looks like beneath that tear-stained skull.

There’s been plenty of time for speculation, though. One popular theory holds Cubone is a baby Kangaskhan that witnessed the death of its mother and crowned itself with its parent’s skull.

You don’t have to stretch your imagination too far to understand why this might be the case: Kangaskhan are depicted with babies in their pouches, and the babies even exit the pouch and stand up on their own when Kangaskhan Mega Evolves in Pokemon X and Y. When you get a good look at the infant, its stature does resemble a Cubone’s.

So are Cubones actually an orphaned collective of Kangaskhan joeys? Game Freak isn’t saying one way or the other, and it probably never will.

Believe it or not, alternative explanations would be potentially more grim than the Kangaskhan baby theory. One blogger, Matthew Julius, points out that Cubone is a species. So according to the Pokemon’s PokeDex entry, every single Cubone born into the world quickly loses its mother, then pries the dead skull off her body and claims it.

“[T]hose Pokedex entries write rather consistently about Cubone’s mom being dead,” Julius writes. “That would be like if you looked up ‘giraffe’ on Wikipedia and it said ‘A giraffe wears the skull of its dead mother.’”

Nature is not kind, even in the world of Pokemon, but Cubone’s story is a particularly twisted take on the Circle of Life.     

Even Julius’s, er, scientific breakdown of Cubone’s life cycle neglects to answer important questions.

In Pokemon Red and Blue, Lavender Tower is haunted by a Marowak (an evolved Cubone) that died defending her Cubone child. Said Cubone, by the way, has the same skull mask characteristic of its species. Going by in-game dialogue, the Marowak’s death happens not long before the player arrives in Lavender Town. Moreover, Team Rocket was attempting to steal the Cubone to sell its skull mask.

Both tidbits of info indicate the Marowak and Cubone lived together long after the Cubone’s birth, so it couldn’t have been orphaned or abandoned in its first moments of life. Also, if Cubone’s mother was still alive, how did it get the skull mask that Team Rocket coveted?

The Mystery of the Loneliest Pokemon seems poised to keep Pokemon fans speculating for years to come.