Origin and inspiration

A woman feeding imps

Sableye's design and behavior draws a lot of inspiration from the imp. A small demon from Germanic lore, the imp was portrayed as being mischievous but not evil; it liked to play pranks on people, but it meant no harm. Since imps were often very lonely, they tried their best to be noticed by people through their tricks; when they were lucky, they became friends with them - and that's exactly what happens to the Sableye of the anime episode AG029! This is also where the term "impish" comes from, and wouldn't that be a perfect description for Sableye?

Folk stories have that imps could be bound to objects like crystal balls (Poké Balls?) and that they were often kept by witches as their familiars to sneak and spy on people.

Imps were said to be as immortal as any demon, but not very high in rank; in some tales they were attendants of the devil, while in others they served the gods. One of the reasons they wanted to be noticed is because they wanted to prove their worth despite the fact they are lesser creatures. Imps were often associated with fairies in which they are just as lively and free-spirited; in some cases they were described to be "fallen fairies".

The kobold

Another source of inspiration for Sableye is the kobold, a sprite related to the goblin. Some of them were house spirits which helped in domestic chores and sometimes played tricks, but there was one type of kobold referenced in Germanic and Celtic lore which was said to live in mines. In Wales, this variety of kobold was called knocker. In some tales, they fooled miners into taking poisonous ore; this is also where the term "cobalt" comes from - it was used to describe the worthless ore which kobolds suggested miners to take (kobaldt). In other tales, they were beneficial spirits which indicated the right direction to miners and protected them. These mine kobolds were described as being the same size of a child, having short legs and a hunched back, much like Sableye; in some cases, they were described as having the face of an old man. The fact that they were spirits also brings some more light to Sableye being partially Ghost-type.

Although they are related to gnomes and dwarves as well, kobolds differ from the former in which they weren't described as especially industrious - they just happened to live in caves and interact with miners who crossed their way.

The karzełek

A creature from Polish folklore, the karzełek or skarbnik is a kind of a variation on the kobold theme. They are small humanoid creatures said to live in mines and caves; they guard and protect crystals, gems, and other shiny things. They are described as being creatures who are usually kind and protect good miners and guide them to treasures, and help them not to get lost; however, they have no tolerance for evil people or for anyone who insults them, and will do anything in their power to put them in danger and lead them to disaster.

I don't think that Game Freak would have taken inspiration from this particular piece of folklore, but it has to be said that the story of this creature bears a very strong resemblance to Sableye's character. The only big difference between this creature and Sableye lies in that the karzełek isn't really said to be mischievous, but only dangerous to bad people.

The Hopkinsville goblin

Witness sketch of the Hopkinsville goblin

A big source of inspiration for Sableye's design draws from the so-called Hopkinsville goblins, extraterrestrial beings which were presumably sighted in Kentucky in the year 1955. According to the witnesses, these creatures had pointed ears, glowing eyes, thin, long limbs with claws, and walked in a rhytmic, swaying motion. Think of Sableye's stance in Pokémon Colosseum...and well, that picture over there is a witness sketch of how the creatures presumably looked like. It's uncanny.
Apparently, these creatures garnered a lot of attention in Japan, and many other references to the Hopkinsville goblin exist in modern Japanese culture.

(Big thanks to Littleloup for sending me info about this!)


Other fictional characters which look and act a lot like Sableye.
If you have any ideas, don't hesitate to mail me.

A minion from Overlord

The Overlord minions

The guy on the left is a minion from Triumph Studios' Overlord game series. Overlord plays a lot like Pikmin in which you have to manage your small army of creatures and get them to do the work for you...with the only exception that, in this case their work would be being eeeeeeeevil.

In the original game there were four kinds of controllable minions; the one in the illustration is a fighting minion, but the other three types look very similar to this one in appearance - they just have a different color and some different details. They look a lot like Sableye, don't they? Even their voice sounds very similar to how our Pokémon talked in the anime.



Alright, this is SO obvious. Now, I was introduced to Tolkien when I was six through the beautiful graphic novel adaptation of The Hobbit, from which I took the pic on the left. When a few years later the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy came out, I didn't really like how they made Gollum so humanoid-looking, I liked the graphic novel's imagery best.

While Gollum and Sableye are very different as for what concerns their behavior and story, I can't help but see a certain similarity in their design. They both live in caves, they are purplish in color, they mostly crawl around...they are attracted by preciousssss things.



Destinie pointed out that Sableye also looks like Stitch from Disney's 2002 movie, Lilo and Stitch. Although they have nothing to share character-wise, their appearances...they are both purplish in color, have big eyes, big ears, heads significantly larger than the body, huge mouths filled with teeth...Stitch looks a lot cuter than Sableye, but still!
What do you think?