The Legendary beasts is a one of the fan term used to refer to the 2nd Generation Legendary trio of Entei, Raikou, and Suicune. The old debate: what exactly are these Legendary Pokemon supposed to be based off of? has inadvertently been reignited with arrival of Suicune, Raikou, and Entei in Pokemon Go.
For decades, Pokemon fans have fluctuated between referring to these Pokemon as the “Legendary Beasts,” “Legendary Dogs,” and “Legendary Cats,”.
Origin of Legendary Beasts
Legendary trio Entei, Raikou, and Suicune origin starts roughly 150 years prior to the events of Pokemon Gold and Silver.
Ecruteak City’s Tower, which burned down in a mysterious fire, ignited by a bolt of lightning and put out by a sudden downpour after. In it, three nameless Pokemon were caught with no escape and burned together with the tower.
After the tower has burned, a huge rainbow came down from the sky, swirling around the tower – the legendary Ho-Oh has appeared. Ho-Oh used it’s immense power to restore the three Pokemon that vanished during the fire.
Afraid of what they just witnessed, citizens of Ecruteak City started attacking the beasts. The Legendary Beasts chose not to retaliate, but to flee in exile.
They are said to embody the three events that happened to the tower: the lightning that struck the tower, the fire that burned in the tower, and the winds and rain that put it out. It is unknown whether these three were already a Suicune, Raikou, and Entei before they were revived, or whether Ho-Oh actually reincarnated them from three non-Legendary Pokemon.
Why are they roaming?
Raikou, Entei and Suicune were the first introduced “roaming Pokemon” – Pokemon that could appear anywhere in the world, seemingly running around the region. Additionally, the Pokemon would run away on first turn unless you stopped them with a trapping ability.
What are the Based off?
Raikou is based off of Raiju, a mythical thunder beast from Japanese mythology. The Raiju could take many forms, including that of a tiger, a wolf, a dog, or even a weasel. Raiju was the companion of the Shinto god Raijin, who was the god of thunder. When thunderstorms rolled in, Raiju would supposedly grow agitated, lashing out with its claws and “striking” down trees and buildings.
While Raiju most commonly appeared as a wolf in Japanese mythology, Raikou appears to be based off of its tiger form. Raiju’s wolf form was used as the basis for the Gen 3 Pokemon Manectric. Raikou’s design also has some similarities to the saber-toothed tiger, a prehistoric creature found in the Americas.
Suicune is likely based off of the qilin, a Chinese mythological creature often mistaken for a unicorn by Western sources. The qilin has giant antlers that roughly correspond to Suicune’s crystalline headpiece. The qilin is also associated with crystals and gyms, which matches Suicune’s status as the mascot of Pokemon Crystal. Both creatures also have the ability to walk on water. While later depictions of the qilin depicted the creature as a giraffe, it often looks similar to a Chinese dragon.
Suicune’s markings also have significance. The creature’s spots are a homage to Fujin, the Shinto god of the wind. Fujin typically wore leopard skins and is always depicted with Raijin, the Shinto god of thunder.
Entei’s inspiration is likely the Chinese guardian lions, the majestic creatures often seen outside of Chinese palaces, temples, and other Imperial Chinese buildings. While the Chinese recognize these creatures as giant felines, Westerners often call guardian lions “Foo dogs” due to their long snouts. A variant of the guardian lions, called the shisa, were popularized in Japan and were often called guardian dogs. One shisa, built in Okinawa, is even said to protect a nearby village from fire.
Entei’s crown is likely a reference to its name, which was derived from the Japanese words for “fire” and “emperor.”