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

Is it a baby Kangaskhan? Or something else?

Most of the creepy stories and urban legends involving the Pokémon series are human inventions. Contrary to popular myths, listening to the music in Pokémon Red or Pokémon Blue's Lavender Town won’t cause you to go mad. Pokémon 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 Pokémon games lack instances and characters worthy of double-takes. Each game's Pokedex directory is filled with multiple examples of Pokémon that are not necessarily kid-friendly. One that’s long been the target of legend and speculation is Cubone. In this article, we explain who, or what, Cubone is and the mystery of what's beneath its trademark skull mask.

Who Is Cubone?

Cubone is a small, brown dinosaur-like Pokémon 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 Cubone’s boney mask is actually the skull of its dead mother, according to the Pokédex entries found in several Pokémon games. 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 entries also mention that no one knows what Cubone looks like under its mask since the Pokemon never seems to remove it. But, a Cubone plushie released in early 2020 gives us a clue. Underneath the fearsome skull, Cubone is surprisingly...adorable?

Is Cubone a Baby Kangaskhan?

One popular theory among Pokémon fans is that 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 who exit the pouch and stand up on their own when Kangaskhan Mega evolves in Pokémon X and Y. When you get a good look at the infant, it does indeed resemble a Cubone.

Baby Kangaskhan Pokemon
A baby Kangaskhan in its pouch.  The Pokemon Company

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

Is Cubone an Orphaned Pokémon?

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

"The Lonely Pokémon because of its tendency to keep to itself and avoid social situations, as it was apparently traumatized by the death of its mother. Cubone will often weep at night in mourning of its mother."

Nature is not kind, even in the world of Pokémon, but Cubone’s story is a particularly twisted take on the Circle of Life. Even Julius's breakdown of Cubone's life cycle neglects to answer important questions.

The Mystery of Lavender Town and Cubone

In Pokémon Red and Pokémon Blue, Lavender Town 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. Moreover, Team Rocket was attempting to steal the Cubone to sell its skull mask.

Pokemon Lavender Town
Lavender Town from Pokemon Red and Blue. The Pokemon Company

Both tidbits of info indicate the Marowak and Cubone lived together long after the Cubone's birth, so it likely wasn't 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 Pokémon seems poised to keep the franchise's fans speculating for years to come. Until then, we may never know what lays beneath Cubone's mask.