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The Epic of Pricklymolp

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<< Eighth Journey Period The Epic of Pricklymolp The Fluttermolpy Discussion >>

The Epic of Pricklymolp is one of the periods of the xkcd comic Time, within the Mountain Era.
It lasted from frame 2015 to 2065.

This period is marked by a whimsical encounter with wildlife and a slowing of the pace of time per frame resulting in an exquisite degree of detail to the sequence when viewed quickly as an animation. For these reasons, it has quickly become one of the most endearing and beloved of the periods of Time thus far.


As Cueball and Megan continue to head up the mountain, they enter a new terrain scene, where on a jutting rock ledge the audience sees a medium-small round mammalian molpy with a prickly-furry looking back, though it is not immediately within sight of Cuegan. As they approach the ledge, it also heads to the right of the frame, to another rock, where it climbs and turns around.

Meanwhile, as Cuegan approach the ledge, the biggest they've come to up to this point, Cueball says, perhaps in jest, "It seems we've reached our journey's end." Megan asks if he'd like to find an easier spot, and he says no, that he can do and but will help her up first. She removes her bag and he helps give her a boost so she gets up on the ledge. Cueball hands her bag up to her, then his, and she sets them on the ground. He then climbs up as well. Up to this point they still haven't noticed the molpy (which has turned around and is now facing them), but after one full frame of Cueball standing atop the ledge he notices it, points, and says, "Oh!" causing Megan to turn and notice it as well.

The next sequence of animation decreases the amount of time represented per frame to the point where each of Cueball's footsteps gets two frames--one of the most detailed animation segments of the comic. He walks toward the animal, which, upon Cueball's approach, rolls into a defensive ball, causing it to roll off its rock. Cueball bends down, his hand stretched out towards it. Megan warns, "Careful!" but Cueball says, "It's okay." He picks it up.

Cueball holding the pricklymolp.

Megan asks, "Does it hurt?" to which Cueball responds, "It's a little prickly." Megan warns him that it might bite, though when Cueball asks if she's ever seen one before, she responds, "Not this close." Megan pronounces it "really neat," to which Cueball agrees and then addresses the poor frightened molpy directly, saying, "OK, we'll stop bothering you." He puts it down again, they retrieve their bags, and then continue along off the screen to the right. After they've been completely out of view for 2 frames, the molpy finally comes out of its defensive ball shape and returns to the place on the ledge where it began the period.

Discussion of the PricklymolpEdit

When the pricklymolp was first seen, it was not immediately identified for what it was. Due to its shape and location amidst new, uniquely shaped terrain, it was first assumed on the One True Thread to be a rock for the first half newpix of its appearance. It was Bluecrab who first proposed that it might be some sort of animal, proposing many possibilities in her initial post on the subject, including both hedgehog and rock hyrax (which would later each enjoy a run as the predominate theory for a while) as well as a tortoise and a land crab. Besides a humorous enhance picture from Rule110, nobody else other than BlueCrab at first seemed interested in what they still assumed was a rock until in moved with the next newpix, at which point it came to rule the forum for a time as the primary topic of discussion.

Many varying opinions regarding the species identification of the "prickly" animal arose quickly. It was quickly agreed generally that it was NOT a porcupine (first proposed by Kieryn after noticing that it had moved when he grabbed the ONG), due to both size and shape (and later confirmed by behavior inconsistent with a porcupine). Early on, jjjdavidson pointed out that it looked somewhat like an armadillo, but admitted that it didn't seem to have a tail. This was more an observation than an actual attempt at identifying the molpy, and discussion of it possibly being an armadillo was also quickly discarded. Soon, however, the four following suggestions became the primary candidates, each with varying degrees of support throughout the period on the thread:

  • Hedgehog: This suggestion eventually came to have the strongest support among all the major candidate species, and most posters after the period referring back to it refer to it now as some sort of hedgehog-molpy, though admittedly a complete consensus was never reached (much like the earlier divergence of opinions regarding the snake. Primary support for this opinion was due to the shape and behavior of the molpy, and no doubt aided by a large number of admitedly adorable hedgehog gifs (especially infants) posted (especially by BlitzGirl) that seemed to inadvertantly gain support for hedgehog identification through emotional/popularity means. Primary dissension against the hedgehog theory was due to the featured molpy being slightly larger than average for a hedgehog (though it was countered that perhaps Randall drew it slightly larger to highlight detail), and some concerns about limited range (also debated). This is generally a favorite of adherants to the Africa theory.
  • Rock Hyrax: First proposed by BlueCrab in the thread's first post suggesting it might not be a rock, she actually was skeptical of the idea herself later due to the fact that hyrax species are not generally prickly. However, before Cueball actually described it as "prickly" in words, this was for a short time the prevailing candidate species on the thread, gaining a lightning-fast slew of endosements early on from BlitzGirl, kenmelken, k.bookbinder, and Valarya, followed by many others referring to it as the "Rock Molpyx". Its accurate size, wide range of distribution, and propensity for basking on rocks in mountains worked in its favor, as well as its cute pictures on Wikipedia. However, once it rolled into a defensive ball, and especially once Cueball described it as "prickly," most support for the Hyrax quickly dissolved, with many earlier proponents publicly posting their changing allegiances to other species.
  • Tenrec: Like hedgehog and rock hyrax, the idea of a tenrec was also first proposed by BlueCrab, who liked the hedgehog-like features, coupled with its Madagascar-range. This thus became the favorite candidate species of the followers of the Madagascar Theory. Dissenters point out that tenrecs are even smaller than hedgehogs, which are already considered potentially too small to be the molpy; they also point out that the molpy's nose doesn't look pointy enough, and have expressed skepticism as to whether tenrecs exhibit the same defensive behaiviors as hedgehogs, like those displayed by the molpy.
  • Echidna: First proposed (and later retracted) by Kazza3, this is a smaller side theory, that was actually discussed more near the end of and after the period, primarily rallied for by the few adherants to the emerging, though not largely accepted Australia theory. Not much discussion of echidnas was given in the thread, though it was pointed out that, like the tenrec, echidnas have noses perhaps too pointy to be the pricklymolp.

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