Our eighth destination in our tour of the Pokémon world is the Galar region. The eighth generation introduced Pokémon Sword & Shield, with Galar being based on the United Kingdom. The new games introduced regional evolutions for established Pokémon, the Dynamax gameplay gimmick, and the first to feature DLC. However, the releases were mired with controversy; specifically the shallow story, easy gameplay, and the “Dexit” complaints (i.e. a limited Pokédex).
As a Brit, it was a fun, surreal experience seeing the UK appear as a Pokémon region; recognising all the little cultural nods, use of slang, and familiar locations. However, Galar’s name does not have a direct meaning like previous regions. It may come from “galar”, an Irish/Scottish Gaelic word meaning “disease”. This may reference the true nature of Dynamax and its source, Eternatus. “Gallant” is another possible origin, related to knights and chivalry, which is a notable theme in the games.
Per the norm, we’ll be exploring the geographical, historical, and mythical inspiration behind Galar. Galar is an upside-down version of the UK, mostly covering England and a little bit of Wales. Furthermore, the DLC additions; Isle of Armor and Crown Tundra, represent the Isle of Man and Scotland respectively. There are many tiny details to appreciate; the presence of phone boxes, the region’s obsession with curry, and even the British slang.
The Sword and the Shield
The titular Sword & Shield references the two legendary Pokémon; Zacian and Zamazenta, a pair of wolves who wield a magical sword and shield. In the games’ lore, the two siblings repel the power of Eternatus, a space dragon who fell to Galar in a meteorite. In the present, Chairman Rose of the Pokémon League summons Eternatus in order to use Dynamax energy to prevent a potential crisis that may occur 1000 years in the future. A royal family is connected to the legendaries, though their greater history isn’t thoroughly explored. The wolves’ sword and shield wound up left in the Slumbering Weald to rust, until used again to summon their owners.
Right off the bat, the use of a mythical sword and shield is taken directly from Arthurian legend. The two weapons placement in an altar references how King Arthur removes a sword from the stone. The sword is generally believed to be Excalibur, though in older texts, Arthur gains his legendary blade later on. Arthur also had a shield named Pridwen, mentioned in several Welsh traditional stories. The two wolves had to retreat and rest in the Slumbering Wald after defeating Eternatus; a reference to Arthur’s end, resting on the Isle of Avalon in eternal slumber until Britain needs him again.
Wolves were once native to Great Britain, rendered extinct after centuries of deforestation and hunting. Zacian and Zamazenta may have been inspired by Roman or Norse mythology. They may reference the brothers Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome, who were raised by a she-wolf. Alternately, they may reference Sköll and Hati, a pair of gigantic wolves who chase and devour the Sun and Moon during Ragnarok. And, well, the seventh generation was about the Sun and the Moon…
Green and Pleasant Lands
Now, we can move on to exploring Galar’s geographical inspiration. As mentioned earlier, Galar is an upside-down, flipped version of the United Kingdom. Unlike other regions, where locations relatively match their real world counterparts, Galar features composited locale.
All of the towns and cities in Galar incorporate Anglo-Saxon suffixes commonly used for English settlements. The early locations in-game are based on Cumbria and the Lake District, a popular holiday destination. Although Postwick, the player character’s home, shares a name with a Norfolk village, it is likely based on Keswick, Cumbria. As a market town, Keswick developed into a tourism hub in the 18th century. Postwick does resemble a stereotypical English village, complete with cottages, patchwork fields, sheep (Wooloo), and windmills.
In contrast to the country scenery, Wedgehurst introduces Galar’s prominent railway network; visually based on the London Underground maps. The village is based on Bowness-on-Windermere; located on the shore of Lake Windermere. Route 2 leads to a lake, where Professor Magnolia happens to live. This route appears to reference the neighbouring villages Near and Far Sawrey. The lake may be based on Windermere, and Magnolia’s house is similar to Hill Top Farm, home of Beatrix Potter; famed author of The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
The Slumbering Weald is a magical forest west of Postwick, home to Zacian and Zamazenta. It stands in for Grizedale Forest, which features over fifty sculptures of fantastical design. Perhaps coincidentally, one of the newest sculptures is a pair of wolves, introduced in 2021, which is similar to another piece of art introduced there in 1993.
The Wild Area is an expansive open landscape, split into two area. The southern area is a direct nod to the Lake District, made up of several large lakes. However, the northern area may be inspired by the Peak District, known for its sharp peaks and rolling hills.
Industrial Revolutions and Ancient Runes
Motostoke is a large, industrious city where everything is mechanised. The presence of red bricked buildings, a lengthy canal, and the industrious landscape reference Manchester; the UK’s third largest city. Manchester was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution, spanning nearly one hundred years. Motostoke is primarily based on Castlefield; the revolution bringing first canals, then the railways, followed by engineering factories and warehouses. The Town’s development is described as possible through the steam engine. The first self-propelled steam engine was tested in Wales in 1804. Additionally, Motostoke’s gym is based on the majestic Manchester Town Hall.
East of Motostoke lies Route 3, home to one of Chairman Rose’s factories, and the Galar Mine. This area is based on Astley Green Colliery, a former coal mine in Greater Manchester, as well as Standedge Tunnels, four canal tunnels that run under the Pennine hills. This area collectively references the Black Country, an area of the West Midlands known as one of the birth places for the Industrial Revolution. Coal mining was common there, the nickname “Black Country” coming from the soot that was produced from the numerous factories and mines.
Turffield is a town that takes much influence from Britain’s ancient past. It is surrounded by rolling farmlands and numerous standing stones. The biggest draw from this is that Stone Henge played a role in the location’s design. However, Turffield may take its circular landscaping and stones from Avebury, the name of both a village and its local standing stones. Both Stone Henge and Avebury are shrouded in mystery, their exact age and purpose unknown. The large hill figure of a Gigantamax Toxtricity may be based on several ancient British artworks. The most obvious is the Cerne Abbas Giant.
Finally, the Turffield Gym involves the player character herding a flock of Wooloo across the arena. This references British county fairs and sheepdog trials.
Lighthouses and Castles
Hulbury is partially based on Liverpool, a major seaport best known as the hometown of the Beatles. There are statues of Toxtricity next to the lighthouse; reference to the Liver bird, a mythical bird that is considered Liverpool’s symbol. Interacting with the Toxtricity statues causes the end credits to play, where a Pokémon rock band play, referencing the Beatles. Alternatively, Hulbury could be based on Birkenhead, located on the Wirral Peninsula. So the city’s lighthouse may be based on the New Brighton Lighthouse.
Hammerlocke is the central city in Galar, dominated by an ancient castle shaped like a dragon. Yet, supposedly the city is based on Birmingham, the second largest city in England, that lacks anything remotely close a castle. Hammerlocke’s castle serves as the city’s gym, with Chairman Rose’s energy plant built on top. The plant’s tower fuses Birmingham’s Joseph Chamberlain Memorial Clock Tower, and the BT Tower. Moreover, the castle has been suggested to take inspiration from notable castles, such as Warwick Castle or Edinburgh Castle.
Stow-on-Side, being the desert town, may feel a bit out of place in a region based on the UK. It may come as a surprise to some that England actually has a desert of sorts. Dungeness is a headland in Kent, having such little rainfall that it could be considered a desert, though the Met Office has discredited this idea. Stow-on-Side’s name may also reference Stoke-on-Trent. The route to Stow-on-Side is based on Cat and Fiddle Road, a road between Buxton and Macclesfield. It weaves through the Peak District, classified as the most dangerous road in the UK.
The ancient mural in Stow-on-Side resembles a large doorway. This could draw inspiration from Fingal’s Cave; a Scottish sea cave, which is associated with the hero Fingal, known in Ireland as Fionn mac Cumhaill (or Finn McCool!).
Glimwood Tangle is a deep forest illuminated by gigantic, bioluminescent mushrooms, and home to several fairy-type Pokémon. Fairies are common in British folklore and stories, particularly in Celtic mythology. Though the modern era depicts fairies as magical, friendly creatures, older tales featured more nastier and dangerous beings from the Otherworld. They prominently feature in Irish, Welsh, and Cornish mythology.
Glimwood itself is based on Sherwood Forest, best known as the setting for the legend of Robin Hood. However, Ballonlea is the most striking location in Galar, its colourful mushrooms giving off a Wonderland vibe. It is home to the fairy-type gym, which is based around a theatre run by the elderly Opal. The town is a fusion of Stratford-upon-Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare, and Lavenham, a town that was subjected to witch hunts by the Witchfinder General.
Roman Baths and Street Punks
Route 8 on the western side of Galar appears as ancient ruins, home to Falinks and other Pokémon. This area is based on Glastonbury Abbey, the remains of an 8th century monastery that was burnt down in 1184. It was eventually rebuilt and became quite prosperous in the 14th century, until the Dissolution of the Monasteries on the orders of Henry VIII. The abbey is associated as the potential resting place of King Arthur, complete with a plaque claiming so.
Circhester is a snowy, spa city directly based on Bath. A hot spring runs beneath Circhester, making the spas there popular amongst the locals. And so Hotel Ionia’s architecture is based on Bath’s iconic rows of houses known as the Circus. The city has a signature restaurant based around a jolly-looking mascot, referencing either KFC or the defunct Little Chef chains.
Wales sadly does not get much attention in the games. Certain landmarks like Mount Snowdon and the Severn Tunnel are referenced. Spikemuth supposedly represents Llandudno, a Welsh seaside resort, but has nothing in common with it. Frankly, Spikemuth could represent any rundown town across the UK, home to street gangs and shady alleyways. The town is home to the Dark-type gym, but also Team Hooligan, the rabid fans of the character Marnie, inspired by both football supporters and punk rockers.
Old Wyndon Town
At the top of Galar lies the metropolis of Wyndon, obviously based on London. This is the largest location in the region, with plenty of references to the British capital. On the Galarian map, the city is shown protected by a wall. This is likely referencing the London Wall that circles the City of London, built by the Romans in 200 AD.
Upon entering Wyndon, you enter a large square, where a large, circular monument stands depicting Corviknight and its pre-evolutions on four podiums. This area is a fusion of Trafalgar Square, home to Nelson’s Column and four artistic podiums, and the Victoria Memorial located outside Buckingham Palace. Additionally, the train terminal here resembles Waterloo Train Station.
Two streets can be explored to reach the back of the city. Firstly, one is a high street featuring the huge video displays and neon signs of Picadilly Circus, whilst the street’s architecture resembles Regent Street. The other route is home to a row of townhouses, a large park, and a pair of zebra crossings resembling the famous Abbey Road crossing that the Beatles walked over. London has many parks, including Hyde Park, Richmond Park, and The Regent’s Park.
The rear section of Wyndon features adaptations of London’s iconic landmarks. Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster are reimagined as a hotel called the Rose of the Ronderlands. It is appropriately named after Roselia, a Grass-type Pokémon. The rose has a significant presence in British history, particularly in the War of the Roses, the inspiration behind A Song of Ice and Fire.
Wrapping things up, the London Eye appears as a background detail, renamed as the Galar Hurricane. The Wyndon Stadium is the largest in the region, home to the Pokémon League. The size references Wembley Stadium, though the design, resembling a rose, may come from the 2012 Olympics Stadium. The Rose Tower is the tallest building in Galar, based on the Shard, but also the bizarre ArcelorMittal Orbit, the torch-shaped tower also built in the Olympic Park, which features a large slide.
Isle of Armor and the Crown Tundra
The final two locations on our tour were introduced in official DLC for Pokémon Sword & Shield. The Isle of Armor introduced the new legendary Kubfu, who is a bear that knows kung fu. Not very British, but it is cute enough. However, the island’s Asian culture and influence of wushu, may reference Britain’s relationship and history with China.
Geographically, the location is based on the Isle of Man, an island in the Irish Sea, that is a crown dependency on the UK. The island has many myths and legends, as well as the Manx language of Celtic origin. Kubfu can evolve in Urshifu, which can be a Water-type or Dark-type depending on which island tower it visits. The Water typing may reference the sea god Manannán, said to protect the Isle from invaders.
Certain areas of the Isle of Armor mirror those of the Isle of Man. The Forest of Focus references the Fairy Bridge, where people cross and greet the unseen little people. Whilst Honeycalm Island is based on the Calf of Man; and Loop Lagoon is Ramsey Ban.
The Crown Tundra is a snowy, mountainous region, based on the Scottish Highlands. It introduces three new legendaries: Calyrex, a regal hare that was once the ruler of Galar, and his steed(s) Glastrier and Spectrier. Calyrex references the British monarchy, whilst his horses are possibly based on the Scottish unicorn and a kelpie.
The Crown Shrine, a ruined castle atop a mountain, is based on Edinburgh Castle. The mountain itself references Ben Nevis, the largest Scottish mountain. The Old Cemetery and Giant’s Bed supposedly reference Crosbie Castle and the Fullarton estate. This location features the ruins of a chapel, a mansion, and a large cemetery. Additionally, Ballimere Lake features a large Dynamax tree, where the player can encounter the Galarian variants of Moltres, Zapdos, and Articuno. The lake could be based on any Scottish loch, but the most likeliest is Loch Lomond. Its name means “Lake of the Elms”, perhaps referenced in the tree.
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