‘I’m the Great Wart, ahahaa!’, the frog king proclaims before the final battle in Super Mario All-Star (スーパーマリオコレクション) unfolds. In this pop-cultural article, I’m going to talk about Nintendo’s forgotten prince of darkness, speculate about his origin as well as some froggy customs from Japan. Will this mischievous warden remain only in our dreams or will Wart eventually make a return out of the state of decade-long slumber?
Wart, Nintendo’s Frog King 👑
Wart or Mamu (魔夢・マムー; lit. bad dream in kanji spelling), how the protagonist is called in Japanese, is one of my favorite characters out of the Nintendo universe – right up there with Link, Wario and Kirby – so I decided to dedicate an article to him as part of my pop-culture & subculture series. If it was not for the several different Nintendo video game console remakes over the years, Wart would indeed have lied dormant for over 3 decades. That is like a bad dream or what!? Quite long for a sublime character like his, don’t you think so too? – Wart is more than a day-fly 🪰!
Wart entered into the annals of Nintendo as the second great end boss in the Super Mario Series (スーパーマリオシリーズ) behind prominent nemesis Bowser, King of the Koopas (King Koopa; クッパ), but despite of that little is known about this ambiguous character. Well it is hard to grasp a frog after all, isn’t it 🐸 Wart is primarily known for his role as the main antagonist and veggie hating final boss in the adventure game Doki Doki Panic (夢工場どきどきパニク, Yumekoujou dokidoki paniku), the latter remodeled Super Mario Bros. 2 (Super Mario USA), and his short, but significant cameo in The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (The Dreaming Island goes the Japanese title; ゼルダの伝説 夢を見る島, Yume o miru Shima), where he handles an indispensable ocarina melody to the hero Link after a pricy jam session of the Frog Soul Song in a state of dream 。。。ケロケロ (kerokero, the croaking sound of a frog as a Japanese onomatopoeia)
Role shrouded in mystery
Though Wart seems to be in a kind of constant slumber himself with his eyes pinched together all the time, raising the question who is actually dreaming; Wart or the heroes to overthrown him 🤔 Maybe Wart is a sort of sleepwalker 😴 There are also some theories out there that he could just be a puppet boss to the effeminate dinosaur Birdo (or in Japanese Catherine; キャサリン), who deceived him into the main role and installed him in the castle of the dream factory at the end of the game to get the main beating from Mario & Co.. Although Birdo is in fact a henchman of Wart (see further below) in Super Mario Bros. 2, there might be something to this conception because when looking closely at it, the fat bubbly toad frog seems indeed just confined in his own ‘four’ castle walls (in a 2D game 😉), kept in check by the veggie machine nearby.
Be it as it may, even the official Mario Encyclopedia doesn’t reveal much about Wart and his nature, giving him an all the more a mystified profile. Maybe this is the aspect that makes up his fascination and endless speculations in the fan communities. How comes there is just so little known about Wart? – It would be really interesting to see behind curtains on how Nintendo is working out those character stories and designs … or more precisely I shall say Fuji TV in this case, which was initially creating Wart in its ‘dream factory‘ for Doki Doki Panic prior handing the game characters to Nintendo for corporation. Doki Doki Panic is no longer a secret, however Warts character still leaves some room for research and speculations, yay 😃 。。。ケロケロ
Possible fabled origin
Interestingly, the original Japanese name Mamu could point us into the direction of ancient Assyria and Mesopotamia, where Mamu was named a deity (male or female depending the region) of dreams or of ceremonizing dream rituals. The word Mamu is then a synonym for dream. Smooch me a frog 💋🐸👑, isn’t that a coincidence? Doki Doki Panic has an orientalist setting to it after all. The creators must have done their research and would go in the tradition to source well on mythological components from around the world, as also done in anime, too. For mythology always playing in nicely with video games, too, doesn’t it (Super Mario Odyssey etc.). And then it makes sense, then the character Wart can only be met within the realm of dreams as seen in Super Mario 2 and The Awakening of Link. Dreamland is what he calls his reign and is the place, where the bubble spitting villain needs to be faced. But this is not an easy task, for the 2 NES games are considered some of the hardest to beat for the game system. In Doki Doki Panic it takes all four heroes to beat him before one can clear the game. Reaching Wart alone is already challenge enough, quicksand surprises, slippery slopes and grotesque chasing masks – what a nightmare!
Frogs 🐸 & dreams 💭
That Wart exists only in dreams, limits him and is probably the reason for his scarce appearances with Nintendo … 井の中の蛙大海を知らず (いのなかのかわずたいかいをしらず), the frog in the well or dreamland, knows nothing of the great ocean, one could almost say. But why is the character looks of an amphibian frog anyway and not some other fantastic being? – There is plausibility to this, too. An interesting fact that actually brought me about the topic of Wart or Mamu, is that frogs 🐸 are also believed to appear in dreams, which is relevant as part of the oneiromancy, fortune-telling based on dreams, known in Japan as Yume Uranai (夢占い・ゆめうらない). In the world of dream interpretations, frogs stand symbol for gods of fortune, governing mainly economic luck (i.e. salary raise, promotions), developments and transformations. Their hidden messages deliver different meanings – good or bad – depending on how frogs are encountered in the dreams, what colors they have and so on. I couldn’t find anything about veggie hating frogs though lol 笑
Here I picked out a positive and negative example what frogs have to tell us through dreams:
+ Many might be reluctant to catch a frog in real life, but in a dream it would be a well-boding message in that you are about to acquire a new work, an important project or see an extraordinary revenue coming in for you. It’s like catching good luck!
– On the contrary, frogs can also convey the signal of warnings for approaching dangers. For instance a screaming frog could convey a hint that you will be having a quarrel or dispute some time soon. Time to go on your guards and brush up your communications skills to prevent the worst!
Maybe when people still were working in the paddies, such dreams were more prevalent, but as humans tend to disconnect ever further from nature, frogs and other species in dreams may fade. Or have you dreamed of any frogs lately? – A pity, as they might have quite some things to tell us, but an interesting background, isn’t? 。。。
ケロケロ。。。there we go, frogs and dreams! Frogs then have long been dear to Japanese since ancient times, with numerous vivid depictions in art and praised for their sounds in poetry as part of the seasonal landscape as well as in modern pop-culture with various appearances and guises, just like Wart. They enjoy quite some popularity and have a fellowship of their own. A frog cult, one could say 😉 Some people even may put a little frog charm as a lucky token into their wallets, because frogs are called kaeru (カエル・かえる) in Japanese, which spells the same as the verb, meaning ‘to return’ – money to return/kaeru to one’s wallet is the belief behind it. The frogs association with wealth also in other lands of the world, maybe gives Wart his lavish bling-bling looks, somewhat like a crowned gangster boss. This all nicely matches up for the character and contributes another puzzle piece to the making of the game 🧩
Wake-up call from the dreamy depths?
Whereby we come back to the game character Wart, who unlike some of his underlings seems to have fallen into obscurity and off the minds of producers – as if an ominous dream 💭 Even the weakling Shy Guy, Bomb-omp got promoted over him, especially true so for Birdo, having clearly outranked him by now with regular appearances in the Mario game series. Thinking back at it, possibly the sheer thing of somehow becoming the end boss of a game, felt like a dream to sleepy Wart himself 🤔 Fact is, Wart fell in the lineage and has not even yet received an own plush doll or an amiibo figure either – inconceivable! A dream-like character he is, Wart seems to be bound to the whims of his makers until somebody wakes Sleeping Beauty out of the deep slumber one day yet again. So the question looming in the room, when he will be making his next major return?
The reintroduction from his reverie could create complicated, but Wart surely lures in his dream world for the chance to kaeru for his long awaited revenge! Nintendo must have something up its sleeves for a brilliant comeback of Wart into the universe and onto screens. Plain at hand, would be in either Super Smash Bros. (大乱闘スマッシュブラザーズシリーズ) or Mario Maker (スーパーマリオメーカー), but how about something new Nintendo, like a tag team with Bowser?! For a turtle and a frog seem not too bad a combination for a team, are they. Imagine Mario & friends chased, day and night! A castle in the sky? – Maybe, but common, we can dream on!
„Ribbit“ … well, this makes the end of this post. Wart or Mamu and some froggy myth stories, how about that? – I think this little bit of background information adds to the appeal of Wart, even though the secrets around his true nature are kept hidden with Nintendo. It remains to be seen what is going to happen to the frogster in the future, but maybe that dream machine gets kicked on sooner than we think or producers have some other revelatory dream about Wart appearing in a dream book like that of Doki Doki Panic 🤗
Some trivia subcultural research I could conduct here, and even though insignificant, I found great joy in playing around with words and learning new things in the process. It doesn’t make this world wiser, but daydreaming is allowed still, isn’t it. It made my day. Two flies with one stroke, so to speak, which is what a frogs anyway like much better than any veggies – right Wart 😋!? For I like to tell stories and researches here and there in search for insightful and entertaining content – curiosity is the key!
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- Words in luminous vivid amber color link🔗 to other articles/pages on MyLittle Dejima
- Words in pale pink color link🔗 to external references/pages
- Words in simple bold, titles and article relevant information without external reference
For Japanese related words Hiragana (ひらがな), Katakana (カタカナ) and Kanji (漢字) are added for those interested in Japanese terminology.
- First published: April 13th, 2021
- Posted on Twitter: April 13th, 2021
- Adding titles & making corrections: April 18th, 2021
- Minor revisions: April 19th, 2021