Super Mario RPG: Lessons from a Fluffy Tadpole

[Currently listening to: Undertale OST]

Since Super Mario RPG is pretty much the epitome of my childhood, I can’t think of a better way to launch this blog than by opening up a big ol’ can of nostalgia. Plus, we’re coming up on the game’s 20th anniversary! (Wow, now I feel old.)

So let’s start by talking about this game’s adorable, cottony protagonist: Mallow.

So fluffeh.
So fluffeh.

This kid cringes at fights, forgets even the most important things, is totally naïve, and thinks he is what he’s not. And yet – you won’t find a gutsier person on the SMRPG team. Why?

Consider this: lost as a baby, Mallow floats into a community of tadpoles where, though he’s fluffy and short and not at all a good jumper, he’s raised to believe he’s a frog. Say he lives eight to ten years thinking he’s a tadpole, and he tries all the while to do the things a tadpole is expected to do – but badly.

But it’s not that rotten a life for him, really. Even if he can’t play the part of a tadpole that well, his grandpa Frogfucius loves him, and he seems to get along swimmingly (haha…puns are great) with the other polliwogs.

Then, after blissfully living this lie for most of his childhood his grandpa sees fit to inform him: no, you’re not a frog. No one knows what you are or where you came from.

Say WHAT??!
Say WHAT??!

Now, the game plays this revelation for laughs (it’s clear Mallow’s more fit for a s’more than as an amphibian), but think about it: has your world ever been shaken in a similar way? How did you handle it?

Well, Mallow does this: after a bit of a cry, he bids his grandpa farewell and heads out to find his real home. Just like that! Hardly a complaint, no existential crisis, not any sort of “why me” attitude. Sure, he’s sad that he’s not a frog, but he’s also brave enough to find out what he really is.


I love the way the trope gets flipped with Mallow’s story. Instead of playing out in a Little Princess fashion – where the adopted tyke is mistreated until s/he finds her/his “real home” – Mallow has to have the courage to leave a life he doesn’t mind and a family he honestly loves. That’s a whole different sort of conflict with its own challenges to overcome.

On a note of personal application: There’s a great deal of pain in this world, and there’s a time and a place for the “why” to be asked when we grieve and are confused. But let’s not become stuck in that attitude! Sometimes we have to lose what we cling to in order to make way for a better perspective. We cry that we’re not frogs so long that we miss what Mallow found: the value of our true heritage.

Oh. Uh…spoilers.


Super Mario RPG is the property of Nintendo/Square-Enix. You can purchase it for your own enjoyment through the Wii Virtual Console.

2 thoughts on “Super Mario RPG: Lessons from a Fluffy Tadpole

  1. I have noticed that most of the worthwhile things I have done in my life have taken me from comfort to discomfort. I never thought about how most fairy tales do the opposite. Congrats on opening your blog.

    1. That’s probably why we like fairy tales: we like to see characters not having to deal with tough stuff anymore. Maybe? It’s my theory, anyway.

      Thanks for the congrats, Mum! 🙂

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