Knuckles the Echidna
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Knuckles the Echidna (ナックルズ・ザ・エキドゥナ), a red-quilled echidna, is a character from the Sonic the Hedgehog series of video games and related media. First introduced in Sonic the Hedgehog 3, his existence was heavily advertised in the promotional material leading up to its release. The popularity of Knuckles met with such success that by the time the lock-on capable second half of the game was ready to be released, they gave the character second billing, calling the title Sonic & Knuckles. Since his introduction, Knuckles has maintained a strong fan following, and been featured in nearly every main Sonic title since.
After the successes of the previous games in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, it was only natural that another game would be put into the pipeline after Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and Sonic CD were released onto the masses. Taken up by the Japanese portion of the Sega Technical Institute, production soon commenced on Sonic the Hedgehog 3. While the team had many goals in mind, one element they were certain of early on was they wanted the inclusion of yet another new character in the franchise, both to expand the world of Sonic the Hedgehog and to have someone new to advertise to hype the release of the game.
The process to find this new character began in the same fashion as the one held for Sonic 2 to try and find Sonic's sidekick, an internal competition being held within the development team. Though numerous animal concepts were thrown about, winning out in the end was Takashi Yuda's design of a spiny echidna. Originally colored green, it wasn't until later in the design process that Knuckles was given his current red hue, making him distinct when on screen with Sonic and Miles "Tails" Prower.
While Yuda originally designed the character to be another friend to Sonic the Hedgehog, the team decided to take a different route with Knuckles, wanting to instead make a rival to Sonic, someone he would have to overcome during the course of the game in addition to, but not the same status as, Dr. Eggman.
Knuckles the Echidna (Video Game Character)
Origin of Knuckles
For as long as Knuckles can remember, he has been the lone guardian of the floating isle Angel Island, given the sacred duty of protecting the mysterious gems that lie hidden within - the seven Chaos Emeralds, and the Master Emerald. Thousands of years before, the Knuckles Clan was a prosperous one, able to live peacefully with its neighbors. But due to the hubris of a select few, the tribe sought more than what they should have, inciting the wrath of the gods, wiping out his people because of their insolence. Those that survived remained on the now-airborne continent, swearing to protect the Master Emerald instead of using it for selfish gain, all in the hope to prevent the terrible events from happening again. By the time of Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Knuckles is the last survivor of this ancient race, and must uphold his oath to protect the gems that his forefathers once disturbed.
Knuckles could have sat in peaceful ignorance at the many small shrines scattered about the island for the rest of his life had it not been for the events of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, the falling Death Egg crashing into Angel Island. Only moments before making sure the Chaos Emerald he was currently checking up on had not been disturbed, without warning Knuckles was thrown out of the shrine, the force of the massive airbase disturbing the island and causing it to crash into the ocean. Coming to, Knuckles ran back into the shrine, only to discover that the brilliant flash that had accompanied his being thrown out resulted in the complete disappearance of the gem that had remained for eons unmoved. Shocked, the guardian quickly began traversing the rest of the island, discovering that the same thing had happened in the six other smaller shrines - that something had happened to the Chaos Emeralds. Trying to discover what became of them, Knuckles search proved fruitless. Instead, he was confronted with the beaten Death Egg, recognizing it as the "dragon of legend," an ancient prophecy represented on a mural hanging in the entrance way of the Master Emerald shrine. Attempting to make sense of it all, he was soon approached by another foreign entity on the island - Dr. Eggman.
Because of his seclusion from the outside world, Knuckles was quick to fall for the doctor's lies. He calmly explained that he was here to prevent someone else from stealing the Chaos Emeralds on the island - Sonic the Hedgehog. And, sure enough, when Sonic finally arrived on the island with a set in hand, Knuckles had no reason to doubt Eggman, promptly stealing the emeralds away from Sonic. It was only after Sonic and Knuckles' confrontation in the Hidden Palace Zone, watching Eggman steal the Master Emerald out from under him, that Knuckles realized he had been duped. Wanting to mend his error, he assisted Sonic and "Tails" in their fight against Eggman, hoping they would be able to reclaim the Master Emerald and bring peace back to his island. Even though they were no longer enemies, Sonic and Knuckles would still be rivals in their future meetings, teaming up only when necessary.
Personality and Traits
Knuckles the Echidna is a 16 year old red echidna who lives upon his ancestral home, Angel Island. He has a fierce loyalty to his homeland, and does whatever is in his power to protect it and the Master Emerald, the source of power that allows the island to float over the Earth. Although there are times in which he is called away from the island (often to stop Dr. Eggman as he threatens the Master Emerald), he prefers to stay near whichever emerald shrine is in use, keeping a watchful eye over everything.
Even though he can be clever and knows the island like the back of his hand, Knuckles can be easily deceived due to his naive and gullible nature. Being secluded from the outside world, he grew up believing in honesty, and was not prepared for the manipulation and deceiving nature of Dr. Eggman. Even after being shown the error of his ways, Eggman has been able to trick Knuckles since, making him think that Sonic was out to get the Master Emerald shards in Sonic Adventure, and convincing Knuckles to pilot one of his robots in Sonic Advance 2.
Knuckles also has quite the temper, and while it can be helpful channeling it when fighting whoever might be threatening his island, it can also get him in trouble, such as his interactions with Rouge the Bat. He also is extremely shy around girls, which may be an after-effect of living in isolated before being thrown into the Sonic the Hedgehog story. While he would never admit it, Knuckles has become a bit envious of the lifestyle that Sonic has, being able to live carefree without anything holding him in one place. Even so, Knuckles would never trade away his duties to live Sonic's life, far too devoted to his role as guardian. He is also an avid treasure hunter, exploring the island on his down time as well as other locales when he knows the Master Emerald is safe. He is also well versed in the martial arts, and has quite the liking toward fruits, especially grapes.
While Knuckles can not reach the speeds that Sonic can, or jump as high as either Sonic or "Tails," he does have some unique abilities that neither of them have. He is the strongest of the main characters in the Sonic series, said to be as strong as Sonic is fast. He is also able to use his spiked knuckles to punch through structures that Sonic can not break by rolling through, and shatter boulders with his fists. Additionally, he is a master of martial arts, with a specialty in punching. His spiked knuckles also give him the ability to climb almost any surface, compensating for his low jump. Also, he can glide, aided by his dreadlock-like spines spreading out as he slips through the air. He also enjoys burrowing underground, and is sometimes mistaken as being a mole because of this. Curiously, the only times in-game that Knuckles digs downward into the earth, like a real echidna, are in Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2, and only then with the assistance of the Shovel Claw. In addition to all these unique moves, Knuckles possesses his own variations on the spin attack and spin dash. He also, albeit only in Sonic Adventure 2, shares Tails' ability to swim.
Knuckles also has the capability to transform into various super-powered states, featured in Sonic 3 & Knuckles. The Chaos Emeralds give Knuckles the ability to turn into Super Knuckles, while the Super Emeralds allow him to turn into Hyper Knuckles. Although the aforementioned game is the only one in which he can assume these forms, he does use a pseudo–Super form during the finale of Sonic Heroes.
Knuckles in Other Media
As is the case with Sonic the Hedgehog, Knuckles the Echidna's storyline has been modified as he has been adapted into other media. Oftentimes attempting to fit in Sega canon into other, often western stories, they have been met with varying degrees of success.
Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie comics)
Knuckles the Echidna was introduced in the Archie series Sonic The Hedgehog in issue #13, a loose adaptation of Sonic the Hedgehog 3. In the issue, Dr. Robotnik finds the Floating Island because of the Chaos Emerald energy it is emitting, and sets off to steal it for his own use. Sonic the Hedgehog and Miles "Tails" Prower follow the Doctor, wondering what interest he has in the island, but assume that it has something to do with a Chaos Emerald, the only explanation Sonic can think of which could cause the island to float. When they land, they are quickly confronted by Knuckles, who has already been tricked by Dr. Robotnik into thinking that they want to steal the Chaos Emerald keeping the island afloat. Eventually, the guardian of the island realizes he's been tricked, and teams up with Sonic to get the emerald back and to keep the island safe.
With each subsequent adaptation of a game Knuckles was featured in, the Archie series took the opportunity to add layer after layer to Knuckles' backstory and the history of the echidna civilization that once resided on the island. Originally, Knuckles grew up on the island with only his father, very rarly interacting with any other living being. Aside from a brief moment where the future guardian met a young Princess Sally before the coup of Mobotropolis, Knuckles lived in near solitude. One day, his father mysteriously disappeared in a wall of fire in front of Knuckles' eyes, forcing him to take on the mantle of guardian at the age of ten. Ignorant of the many secrets the island held, his sudden thrust in the role of guardian caused Knuckles to become wary of others. Even so, he was able to make friends early on with two future members of the Chaotix, Vector the Crocodile and Mighty the Armadillo, the pair similarly being alone in the world due to the hand fate had delt them. Even after having been reintroduced to the outside world with Robotnik's intrusion and the forming of the entire Chaotix, the guardian would still find himself most comfortable being alone in these early adventures.
Knuckles' entire existence would soon shift after the introduction of Archimedes, a fire ant who became a mentor to the echidna as he began to mature into his role as guardian of the Floating Island. At first teaching him from the shadows, the ant emerged just in time to aid Knuckles when he discovers that one of his ancient ancestors - his Grand-Uncle Dimitri - is still alive, having been sealed off for ages because of his Chaos-infused powers that drove him to become the villainous Enerjak. Though Knuckles and the rest of the Chaotix are able to defeat him, the battle opens the door for Knuckles to realize he is not the last of his kind any longer. This becomes especially evident when, not much later, Knuckles encounters a group known as the Dark Legion, a group of echidnas that had defected from his people generations beforehand. While the Legion wanted to embrace the powers of technology, the elders of the main tribe wanted to disavow any connection, causing a rift in the very fabric of echidna society.
Eventually, Knuckles would also discover that the entire echidna civilization - including his father - was in fact still alive, the city of Echidnapolis having been displaced in an alternate zone. With some effort, the entire city was eventually restored to the island, allowing the echidna tribe to flourish once more, with Knuckles able to fully understand the role of the Brotherhood of Guardians.
The scope of Knuckles' supporting cast allowed the creation of his own short-lived series, appropriately named Knuckles the Echidna, penned by Ken Penders. It was in these pages that Knuckles' long-term love interest Julie-Su was introduced. Originally a part of the Dark Legion, Julie-Su eventually defected from the group, falling in love with the guardian of Angel Island. With the two beginning to date near the end of the comics run, their relationship progresses to the point that, at least in one possible future, the two have a child named Lara-Su, the next in line to the guardian lineage. Knuckles is also one of the few characters in the comic series to have a sibling, a half-brother named Kneecaps the Echidna, first revealed inissue #138
It is of note that, once Sonic the Hedgehog reached its 100th issue, Knuckles turned from red to green for a story arc, an homage to his original concept art. Having already been predisposed to Chaos energy due to experiments his father ran on him as a child, Knuckles turned green and danced on the line between good and evil, eventually giving up his life in battle with Mammoth Mogul. Though mourned, Knuckles returned to the land of the living in issue #125, being restored to his classic red hue in the process.
Sonic the Comic
Introduced in a similar fashion to the games, Knuckles, guardian of the Floating Island, is thrown into the story of Sonic the Comic when the Death Egg crashes into the isle. Investigating, he finds Dr. Robotnik, pinned under some derbies. Passing himself off as a benevolent scientist, he tricks Knuckles into thinking Sonic the Hedgehog is his enemy, and that he is after the six Chaos Emeralds that allow the landmass to float in the first place. When Sonic arrives, he and Knuckles go the rounds, which gives Miles "Tails" Prower the opportunity to capture Robotnik. Still believing Robotnik to be the good guy, Knuckles gives chase, freeing the dictator from the prison inside Sonic's hidden base, in the process stealing the set of six Chaos Emeralds that were hiding within as well.
Returning to the island, the two sets of Chaos Emeralds are able to merge together, being restored as they had been separated millennia beforehand. With the emeralds now at full power, Robotnik reveals that he is not the hero of the story, attempting right then and there to harness the emeralds for his own nefarious purposes. Once Knuckles realizes how easily he was tricked, the echidna tells the doctor his own secret - that the gray Chaos Emerald, previously though lost, was in his possession the whole time. Using its neutralizing powers to prevent Robotnik from using the emeralds, he is able to cast the evil doctor off his island.
Hoping to peacefully return to guarding his island without any interference from the outside world, Knuckles would discover this was not to happen, as Robotnik struck once again, sneaking back onto the island to reactivate his still-crashed Death Egg fortress. Using his newly-built Metallix Mark II to steal the green Chaos Emerald (which had turned into the Master Emerald once fully restored), Knuckles was forced not only to fight the robot but then also defend himself from the neigh-unstoppable Super Sonic, who briefly appeared from the high amount of Chaos energy present in the Master Emerald. Even so, the emerald is transported to the Death Egg, forcing Sonic and Knuckles to team up, in the end stopping Robotnik and destroying the fortress once and for all.
In the aftermath, Knuckles attempted to restore his island to normality, but was unable to escape from the conflicts that Dr. Robotnik would begin time and again. By the request of Sonic and as an apology for allowing his arch-enemy to find his secret hideout, Knuckles agreed to hide the Emerald Hill folk in the Mushroom Hill Zone, away from the evil dictator's watch. Though annoyed at having them live on his island, he knew the arrangement would only be temporary, the refugees returning home once Robotnik was usurped from power.
After a brief interlude in the Special Zone where Knuckles met the Chaotix, the guardian was soon to discover that he wasn't the last of his race to survive after all. At first pretending to be friendly, the echidna scientist Doctor Zachary quickly revealed his intentions, destroying the Master Emerald with one of his own creations. Though he hinted that he could tell Knuckles the answers he craved as to the fate of his people, the guardian refused to let this cloud his judgment, defeating the evil echidna and being forced to venture to an area of the isle he never traversed before to find a new Master Emerald to replace the shattered one.
Knuckles would become one step closer to understanding his past when he would cross paths with Captain Plunder, a sometimes-villain who asked for Knuckles' aid. Though initially refusing, the guardian agreed when he discovered the pirate would give him a chest in return, full of documents pertaining to the Floating Island and his people. Though he does get the chest after helping Plunder, Knuckles finds himself stranded on a remote part of Mobius, beginning a world tour of sorts as the guardian tries to get home. Running into mischief and mayhem that he'd rather not be involved in, Knuckles does eventually return to the Floating Island just in time to play a part in the overthrowing of Robotnik detailed in issue #100, going up against Doctor Zachary once more in the process.
Although Nigel Kitching, the main writer through most of Sonic the Comic's lifespan, had intended to wrap up the threads involving Knuckles' lost people, the comic was canceled before he was given the chance. The final arc in the series, and adaptation of Sonic Adventure, revealed that Knuckles actually lived thousands of years before, and that his tribe had been attacked by the Drakon Empire. Had the series continued, it would have been revealed that it was the Drakon's who had been the cause of the fall of the Echidna's, and that the few who had survived were now scattered across the galaxy, enslaved on numerous planets. Being present during the fall of his people, somehow Knuckles was able to enter some form of suspended animation, allowing him to live long after his civilization disappeared, able to continue to protect his ancestral home.
It is also interesting to note that while the white markings on Knuckles' chest are part of him in every other continuity, in Sonic the Comic it is actually a necklace that he wears.
Sonic the Hedgehog (Anime)
While this two-part direct-to-video anime was produced with the supervision of Sonic Team, Knuckles is presented with a simpler backstory, omitting all references to Angel Island and the Chaos Emeralds. Instead of being the guardian of the Master Emerald, he is a worldly treasure hunter who seeks out adventure wherever it hides. While he and Sonic the Hedgehog seem to have a rivalry, Knuckles is far more laid back about their relationship, going as far as calling himself Sonic's best friend. Being levelheaded, he is portrayed as far less naive than his gaming counterpart. He is also never seen without wearing his trusty hat, even if it happens to be on fire.
Becoming involved in the story by chance, Knuckles' happens to be burrowing about the Land of Darkness in search of treasure when he spots Sonic and Miles "Tails" Prower going up against Black Eggman. Swooping in at the last minute, he is able to help the duo defeat the presumed-rogue robot, and joins up with Sonic and "Tails" as they enter the heart of Eggmanland. Present as Sonic goes up against his robotic duplicate Hyper Metal Sonic, him and "Tails" return to South Island when Sonic is presumed dead, Knuckles helping to repair the broken Tornado. When everyone learns that Sonic is indeed still alive, Knuckles also plays a part in the battle that takes place in the arctic regions of Planet Freedom, being the one who, at the end, holds Sonic back as Hyper Metal Sonic meets his final fate.
Returning to the classic Robotnik-tricks-Knuckles origin, Sonic Underground was the first Western animated series to feature the echidna, once again the guardian of the Floating Island and the Chaos Emerald inside. While Dr. Robotnik and his cohorts Sleet and Dingo try to get the emerald for their own purposes, Knuckles eventually realizes his folly and joins up with Sonic, Sonia and Manic and defeats the doctor, getting him off his island. Knuckles becomes a permanent ally of the team, even though he spends most of his time on the island in solitude, even if Sonia wishes otherwise.
Curious enough, not much is said of Knuckles' ancestry, the idea of Knuckles being the last of his kind completely absent, removing one of the major plot points that other media had been using in regards to Knuckles' character and story arc. The only hint of any lineage is when Knuckles speaks to his great-grandfather Athair, who becomes a part of the Chaos Emerald Crisis three-parter. In Flying Fortress, Sonic and his siblings call Knuckles for help when they suspect Robotnik has gotten hold of a separate Chaos Emerald, evidenced by the sudden appearance of a flying fortress. Able to destroy the fortress but unable to reclaim the emerald, they soon discover that the emerald has broken due to the clumsy nature of Robotnik's henchmen. In the subsequent parts of the saga, Knuckles looks to Athair for advice, in which he is told he must make a bargain with the dictator if he is able to get to the broken emerald and restore it. Placed into a role where he must surrender his friends to Robotnik to save the planet, Knuckles at the last minute rescues Sonic and the rest from the robotocizer, the four able to put a stop to a Chaos-powered Dingo and return the emerald to normality.
Caught up in the Chaos Control wave that sends the rest of the main cast to planet Earth, Knuckles finds himself on a unfamiliar planet as Sonic X begins, without Angel Island to guard. While he eventually finds Sonic and company on the planet, he tends to avoid them whenever possible, instead going off on his own, determined to find the Chaos Emeralds so he can return home. In the aftermath of the events in "The Birth of Super Sonic," Knuckles does not find himself back on his home planet, but his purpose in life is restored when, after another burst of Chaos Control, more elements from his home appear, including Angel Island. Quick to rush off and return to his duties as guardian, he initially continues to avoid the rest of the main cast, being thrown right back in during the series' adaptations of Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2.
Though at first reluctant, Knuckles also plays a major role in the second series of the animated show. Back on their home planet, the cast becomes involved in the battle with the Metarex, and in order to pursue the alien species into space and also recover the Chaos Emeralds must use the Master Emerald to power the spaceship. Convinced by the female cast of the series to help them out, Knuckles and the Master Emerald also become important as the troops rally together on their final assault against the Metarex.
Since the series was produced under the supervision of Sonic Team, Knuckles tends to stick close to his video game persona, although certain characteristics such as his anger and gullibility are enhanced during the series.
Television Series and Film
Game Books and Novels