To Raise a Matoran

Delving further into my own headcanon, but as it pertains to the post-Reformation era I didn't think it appropriate to post under the "Bionicle" category. Though related, this is not a sequel to "To Build a Toa;" this is focused more on the changes made to the Matoran construction process after the Reformation. Just a random document for now, but most of this will become a lot more relevant when I get to posting bios for the Matoran tribes in Bota Nui.

--------

The process by which Matoran were constructed for thousands of years was unfortunately lost with the Great Spirit robot, and it took years before the robot’s former residents made at least a partial re-discovery of it, allowing new Matoran to be created once again. Some changes were inevitably introduced in the reverse engineering of the process, however, and multiple problems were encountered that could only be solved through some significant design changes. Nowadays, an uninformed observer wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a pre- and post-Reformation Matoran (referred to as “Matoran Nuva” or “Nuvatoran” in those early days), but the development of the latter was a contentious issue in Matoran society for quite some time. Its numerous setbacks did nothing to help, and it took many trials over several hundred years before the Matoran could at last claim that they had successfully developed a practical method of reproduction that did not require the resources of the Great Spirit robot to work.

The main limitation encountered was the difficulty of programming a Matoran brain before activation. Inside the Great Spirit Robot, a Matoran’s role was often assigned even before construction began and the Matoran’s brain could be programmed beforehand with all the knowledge necessary to perform the task, with some additional ‘baseline’ knowledge thrown in to allow them to function in society. In essence, a newly constructed Matoran was mentally as prepared to face the world as an Agori with ten or fifteen years alive and a couple of months on a job under their belt. However, the equipment used to program a Matoran brain in this manner was lost with the destruction of the Great Spirit robot, and techniques developed since then have proven comparatively crude and ineffective; programming a Matoran to be ready to face the world from day one as before proved impossible, and even implanting a decent baseline of knowledge with any degree of consistency was extremely challenging. Faced with a dilemma between creating new Matoran far inferior in mental capacity to their predecessors or leaving their entire species with no means of reproduction whatsoever, Matoran scientists and engineers were willing to look just about anywhere for an answer. They found one among their neighbors, the Agori, in what had up until then been little more than a curious phenomenon to the Matoran: childhood.

It had been observed early on after the Reformation by the Matoran that the markedly different physiques of the Agori and Glatorian came with a very different method of reproduction. The former residents of the Great Spirit Robot were shocked to learn for the first time about the concept of sexual reproduction, but curiosity aside, they had concluded initially that it provided their counterparts with no practical advantages. The offspring produced through it was small, vulnerable, could not take care of itself, and had to be taught how to function in the world by their creators, a process that could take years and did not truly end until the offspring physically matured to a point at which Matoran were essentially created. However, unable to create offspring that could mentally be considered equivalent to Agori or Glatorian adults (or at least young adults) from day one, the Matoran decided to take a second look at their neighbors’ methods of raising offspring. They concluded that, since Matoran capacity for learning was no less than that of their organic counterparts, creating Matoran ‘children’ and instructing them until they could function on their own was an acceptable alternative to creating no new Matoran at all, and it would not require the complicated programming that creating ‘adults’ would. Other than some basic sensory and motor skills, which were by far the easiest part of the programming to recreate, these Matoran children could essentially be activated as blank slates, filled in over time through instruction by others.

So, the first “Nuvatoran” to be created, while physically identical to their pre-Reformation counterparts, were mentally equivalent to Agori infants with more developed motor skills. They were a curious sight to many, and the many were also a curious sight to them. The process of instructing them in how to function in the world had to be developed essentially through trial and error as, understandably, no Matoran had any experience in parenting. The teaching experience of those who had worked in old Ga-Metru did help, but wasn’t easily applicable to Matoran lacking even baseline knowledge. Advice from the Glatorian and Agori was forthcoming, but not always applicable due to the marked physical differences between their children and what the Matoran had saddled themselves with. Incidents of Nuvatoran wandering off and getting into very dangerous situations out of curiosity and lack of knowing any better abounded, and a number were unfortunately lost because of them. Rumors began to circulate, unfavorably comparing the newcomers to the “shamblers” of Le-Metru during the Vahki era. It was due to this comparison that “Nuvatoran” became a derogatory term for a time, carrying connotations of mental inferiority and a penchant for foolish behavior. Many methods of instruction, of raising the accident-prone Nuvatoran were tried and discarded, and in the end a “parent” system modeled after the Agori way of raising children proved to be the best. Two older, experienced Matoran could share the load of instructing and watching over a Nuvatoran in a way that did not require them to abandon their day job, and having more than two instructors often proved confusing for the Nuvatoran right after activation. After establishment of certain baselines by the parents, further instruction through Ga-Metru style schools would become possible.

Development of proper parenting methods ensured that, while it took several years of instruction, the earliest Nuvatoran eventually did reach a true adult stage of development and became quite indistinguishable from their pre-Reformation counterparts. Their reputation steadily improved because of it, and the now shared experience of parenting became a bridge of sorts between Matoran and Agori cultures; in spite of their physical differences, the two suddenly seemed less alien to each other. Eventually, adopting newly created Nuvatoran became normal for Matoran pairs confident that they could raise one together, introducing the concept of ‘family’ to Matoran culture, though it never became as prominent a social tie for the Matoran as it was to the Agori. Nuvatoran that made it to the adult stage of life and left their parental home usually kept in contact to at least some degree, but unless proximity kept parents and child close over time, they eventually came to regard each other as little more than acquaintances; the parental dynamic always remained a temporary one, adopted by the Matoran rather than biologically ingrained in them, and over the enormous lifespan that a well-maintained Matoran could achieve the period spent in childhood would eventually become little more than an insignificant blip in memory. The lack of any physical differences between those Matoran who had had a childhood and those who hadn’t in some ways reinforced this attitude; few saw a reason to dwell on or revel in a period of life that many of their companions could never share. For some Matoran, however, the effects of childhood would extend beyond close ties to parents or time spent under instruction; already mimicking the Agori in mental development early in life, similar developments could be brought to the Nuvatoran physique as well through concept of “diminished building.”

The idea of a diminished Matoran was nothing new even before the Reformation; the entire population of the island of Mata Nui was diminished for most of their time there, for example. A diminished Matoran is markedly smaller and weaker than a regular one, and pre-Reformation, there were a number of ways in which this condition could be acquired. In the case of Mata Nui’s residents, the cause lay in the time they spent in Matoran Pods constructed by Makuta Teridax. Various mutative powers could also turn regular Matoran into diminished ones, and some Matoran who spent time in Karzahni were rebuilt in simpler, diminished forms by its ruler. In the former two cases, the underlying mechanism was the programmable nature of the protodermic materials from which Matoran were constructed; Matoran spheres and mutative powers in essence instructed the very material the Matoran were made of to re-shape in ways that mutated the body into a diminished form. In the case of the Matoran Spheres, the additional material left over was siphoned off to power the spheres as well; Matoran left inside for too long could physically be drained into oblivion. Diminished Matoran could be re-built, or in rare cases, re-mutated in to regular forms if materials were provided, but outside of the reconstruction of the Mata Nui population materials were rarely made available. Diminishment therefore had obvious negative connotations to the Matoran, but during development of the Nuvatoran one did note that diminished Matoran were a good physical analogue to Agori children. The image stuck, and the idea of building Matoran in diminished ‘child’ forms to be upgraded to regular ‘adult’ forms later on was developed further, though not openly for common use due to the aforementioned connotations.

There was an economic argument, or perhaps rationalization, that underpinned diminished building as a viable concept: just under half the height of a regular Matoran, a diminished Matoran only required a little over a third of the materials to build. For a time, this was seen as quite a significant advantage, but leaving Matoran in a diminished state was certainly unacceptable; eventually, a Matoran built diminished would have to be re-built at regular size at the cost of the materials saved in their initial construction. Still, diminished building’s potential to reduce the frontloaded nature of material investment in the creation of new Matoran made it an attractive alternative for when materials happened to be scarce; having been activated, the diminished Matoran could aid in the gathering of those materials themselves, in effect earning back on their construction cost even before their upgrade to regular status. With the rise of this economic argument, the initial idea of diminished building offering the Matoran a ‘physical childhood’ kind of fell by the wayside, but before the concept was mothballed entirely its development in that role was taken one step further through the very same mutative properties that had led to the creation of most pre-reformation diminished Matoran. Matoran scientists managed to engineer an artificial growth cycle, a process by which, provided adequate consumption of protodermic materials as building blocks, a diminished Matoran’s body could slowly ‘grow’ into a regular-sized body. The process was slow, taking a little over a decade in total, but it could provide a Nuvatoran with an even closer experience to Agori childhood and would not require an intensive re-build at any point in their lives. However, outside of a few test cases it was never seen in practice on Spherus Magna; materials for Matoran construction were never hard to come by and no one articulated any practical advantages to giving Matoran a physical childhood to match their mental one. Diminished building was developed on Spherus Magna mostly out of curiosity and as a test for the Matoran to see how well they truly understood their own biology, but no arguments for its widespread adoption ever emerged.

The development of Matoran childhood, a concept that would have been utterly foreign to the residents of the Great Spirit robot years before, is a good example of how these beings designed originally to function in the controlled environment of that robot had to adapt themselves to live on Spherus Magna afterwards. It is not the only change that can be observed between the pre- and post-Reformation Matoran, though; it is merely the largest item of a long list that contains several other major changes. For example, many changes were made to the Matoran mouth and digestive system to allow them to more easily derive all their nourishment from consumption of food and drink rather than through the use of charging points; in the early years after the Reformation, Spherus Magna lacked any infrastructure for charging points and hence the dietary change was forced on the robot’s former inhabitants. The other major change was the practical elimination of elemental gender-locking, the practice of basing Matoran gender on their element. This wasn’t so much a conscious choice on the part of the creators of the Nuvatoran as it was a natural outcome of the differences introduced in the creation process; within the Great Spirit robot, the personality and hence gender of a Matoran were always programmed in beforehand, and this simply wasn’t possible with the comparatively crude programming methods available for Nuvatoran creation. Ce-Matoran notwithstanding, the Great Beings’ reasons for linking elements with gender were never clear to the Matoran regardless, so the development of ‘tribally unusual’ personalities among the Nuvatoran was greeted curiosity rather than hostility. The first female Ta-Matoran and male Ga-Matoran were a disruption to the order, sure, but not to an order that anyone could make a practical argument for retaining. It wasn’t long before the populations of all the tribes included members of both genders, though tendencies towards one or the other remained; most tribes eventually settled around a 65:35 split in favor of the gender associated with their element, with the Ce- and Su-Matoran emerging as the most prominent outliers with percentages closer to 90:10.

13 Likes

Headcanon accepted!

3 Likes

Very detailed and well thought out, SS.

saaaaaaaaaame

1 Like

And we have yet another brilliantly thought out BIONICLE scientific stufy. Bravo.
do you have any thoughts on how the mingling of agori and matoran culture would work? Especially with the addition of 'child' matoran?

I think the societies would integrate together to some extent, but it wouldn't be without friction; there's always members who are going to view the other side with suspicion due to one difference or another, regardless of how much there is to go around resource-wise. The addition of Matoran 'children' would remove one of those differences, but they're still miles apart in physiology and background. For instance, I think most Toa and Turaga would balk at the arena system pitting warriors against each other in drag-down fights for resources, something that by this point was as much a cultural value to the Agori and Glatorian as a necessity due to their living situation pre-reformation. Agori'd probably be similarly concerned about Matoran activities like Kanoka toss and the outlandish powers that many beings from the Matoran universe possess. Basically, there's lots of material there that anyone seeking to stir up tension could work with, and I don't doubt that some would try.

1 Like

True, I'd imagine the Agori would be a bit more aggressive than the Matoran as they'd be hardened by their rough lifestyle in Bara Magna and so it might be harder fot then to adjust.

1 Like

I LOVE this- very detailed and thoughtful. Fantastic job.

1 Like