the truth of the great beings
My brain is buzzing today. In a discussion with Beeslow on Discord, he offered a theory to me that slotted a few puzzle pieces together in my head. This has, for me, finally made sense of the Big Question of Bionicle – the one I have turned around in my mind for years… who were the Great Beings?
...with the caveat, of course, that I am discussing the original concept for the Great Beings – not the scientist-kings as they came to be depicted in later lore. Bionicle veterans will recognize that the earliest incarnation of the Great Beings was two individuals, known under the names Papu and Rangi; bastardizations of, respectively, the names of the earth mother and sky father of Māori belief. Out of respect, I will henceforth refer to the Bionicle characters that took these names as simply EM (earth mother), and SF (sky father).
Beeslow presented the idea that “[EM] might have been another deity, [in addition to Mata Nui], based on the evac robot and that [SF] was a deity based on the red star.” The thinking here being, as I understand it, that the two Great Beings were mythological constructs that the islanders used to represent things their memories had been wiped clean of. This is an interesting theory that is well-rooted in how the Bionicle creators approached their storytelling. I will leave it to Beeslow to elaborate on his ideas as he wishes – for today, though, I want to discuss my own idea that his theory suggested to me.
It starts with the spatial separation of EM and SF. I had always thought of the two Great Beings as an inseparable pair – sitting, perhaps, aboard the red star mothership, keeping a watchful eye on the robot down on the planet below. In retrospect, I was really overthinking to have come to a conclusion like this. Why would the Bionicle creators have taken names from the Māori creation story, if not to apply them to at least vaguely similar characters? Beeslow gave it plainly: SF as the red star. SF as the sky itself.
And that means… EM is the robot, down below? Maybe, but… what if we went deeper? What if, just as the secret of the island was that it was the mask of a giant robot, the secret of the planet that the robot fell upon, the earth on which it rested… was that it was the second Great Being? This is the thought that got me buzzing, that made it all suddenly make sense.
Because there are fucking clues!!!! There was a landmark on the island called the Papu Niho Reef, which was one of two landmarks renamed following the Māori intervention (to Papa Nihu Reef, which hardly solved the problem but whatever). All other landmarks on the island have names that describe parts of the robot’s face, the reef is the sole exception. Its name means something more like… “EM’s teeth”. What?? The significance of this has bothered me for a long time. It’s not anywhere near where the robot’s teeth would be:
Hey, wait a minute. I've taken for granted for so long that the BS01 wiki description of the reef is correct - that it refers to "a rocky section of land just off the coast," the group of islets you see in that picture. But... islets are not a reef. I'm sure you know as well as I do that reefs are an underwater formation. The official map label, above, does in fact reflect this, placing the reef underwater. That would mean the landmark with EM's name in it is a part of the material of the planet, not the robot's face!!!
Now, let’s round things back to where this mystery all began: Nokama’s dialogue in MNOG. This was the first place fans online noticed the names of the Great Beings, after they were mistakenly left in a seldom-triggered context. In the text following this name drop, Nokama has this to say:
Even the Turaga do not have record of all that has come before. But the ocean remembers. Like history, the water holds many secrets in its forbidden depths. It surrounds Mata Nui, and it covers it; it watches the island as it sleeps, and remembers. It caught the Toa gently when they descended, and delivered them to us.
The ocean. A part of the planet, a part of the earth. It cradles its ailing child, embraces it, cares for it. It even administers to the robot its medicine, so that it will be well again!!! EM is not just the planet… she is the robot’s mother, holding it as it sleeps.
The father is close at hand as well, also looking after his child’s wellbeing. SF delivers the medicine that EM administers, and his red eye gazes down, watching over events. The islanders can chart his positioning and shape, points of light in constellation with one another, through which he communicates to them.
This, then, is the truth of the Biological Chronicle – or so I believe. We already knew the robot is the body, whose microscopic cells and organisms are the center of the drama. But no body, nobody, is ever truly alone. And this body, it turns out, has a mom and a dad.
There are further things to explore in this space (what the fuck does it mean now that the Toa were made alongside the formation of the planet??), but for now this is where I want to close. Happy late fathers day to the only dad that matters, the glowing red orb in the sky that told you when you would get to see the next cool Flash animation of robots fighting eachother.