Early & Unused Story Concepts in Bionicle
By The Shadow Emperor, aka Maku
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Over the years many tidbits about Bionicle’s original history and story have come to light. In the interest of documenting this information for myself and other enthusiasts, I have decided to catalog as much information as I can about the story ideas that never manifested for one reason or another. Much of this info is available on various websites while some comes from recent conversations I’ve had with story bible writer Alastair Swinnerton, but I will directly quote and link to my sources where possible. For an idea of Mr. Swinnerton’s role in the creation of Bionicle, this blog post explains all.
Last Updated: July 31st, 2019. If you are returning to this document, please scroll down to the “Corrections & Updates” section for details on what has been added.
Concept of Bionicle
The backstory of the Mata Nui robot was detailed by Alastair Swinnerton in the first few Bionicle story bibles. It bears some similarities to the Shattering backstory we got in 2009, but some elements were removed or retrofitted amidst story changes after Mr. Swinnerton’s departure—most notably Makuta’s original backstory, which will be detailed in a later section.
The original concept for the Bionicle universe began with the destruction of a planet. The Great Beings planned to colonize a new world and to this end they created a biomechanical evacuation ship called Mata Nui to transport their civilization, which was held in suspended animation, to a safe haven elsewhere in the universe. Throughout the journey the ship was crewed by the Tohunga, who worked with Rahi to maintain the ship and its systems*. The Toa served as security officers. Another part of Mata Nui’s systems was the Bohrok, whose job was to clean the debris from the robot’s exterior once it arrived. Upon reaching the destination world Mata Nui was meant to lay the groundwork for the civilization to thrive once again.
However, something went wrong during the voyage. An entity known as The Makuta sabotaged the mission, infecting the ship with a virus which caused Mata Nui to crash land on the planet with only its head, knees and feet emerging from the ocean. The cataclysm scrambled the memories of the crew, who, sans the Toa, disembarked onto the island of Mata Nui, completely ignorant of their true purpose. Claiming the island as his own, Makuta spread his dark infection from the robot’s interior onto the land, weakening the islanders’ abilities and enslaving the Rahi beasts that now roamed wild. Meanwhile the original inhabitants remained in stasis deep inside the robot, forgotten by all.
*This has not been explicitly confirmed, but a 2001 poster states that the villagers and Rahi once worked together in harmony. More on that in the Rahi section.
A few more things of note: the Red Star was present in the story bible, functioning as some kind of orbiting mothership (according to Gordon Klimes of Templar Studios); a post from Greg Farshtey would seem to confirm that the Red Star’s function in aiding Mata Nui’s takeoff was also planned. One line from an early story bible described the Bionicle planet as “a place that might be earth” (Greg). It is also unclear how the six environments of Mata Nui were formed in this version. Some possible clues we have is that Makuta is seen manipulating the island in the 2001 comics, and according to the Mask of Light director’s commentary the island was intentionally designed to look alien and synthetic.
A story booklet included with the Quests for the Masks card game sheds some light on the earliest incarnations of the Toa and the world they inhabited. My friend Peri, who uploaded the booklet, had a hunch that the contents were taken from one of the earliest story bibles. I showed these scans to Mr. Swinnerton who confirmed that it was at the very least closely based on the material he wrote—if not lifted wholesale. There is a possibility that it is sourced from the very first development bible commissioned by Lego in early 2000. Why that version was used for the game instead of an updated one is unknown.
The most noteworthy detail from the booklet is how the Toa were viewed in a religious light, with the six villages being dedicated to and named after the six heroes and their corresponding elements that make up the island. In a manner reminiscent of how the ancient Greeks viewed their deities, each Toa had a shrine and a temple, and as such were both worshiped for the protection they provided against Makuta and feared for the devastation they could inflict upon the island if left unappeased. Gali and Lewa are even said to create storms when they do battle against one another. This godlike front extended to the Toa’s actual characterization. Toa of Mirrors on BZPower recalls a statement from Greg Farshtey on the matter in the now-deleted “planned vs not planned” thread:
“The Toa were originally supposed to be more solemn and stoic and serious, like Gods, but the story team decided to make them more humanized, talkative, and more down-to-earth with individual personalities.”
After this document was originally published, he clarified some details on the TTV message boards about how the story team decided how to portray the Toa:
“The one major time I was able to influence something was at the very beginning, because the original notion was that all the Toa would essentially talk like Thor and be very godlike. And I suggested it should be more like the JLA or the FF, where everyone had distinct personalities and they didn't always get along. And I did win that one.
“It was when the first comic script went out for review. I had written it in my style and Bob came back and told me how he thought the Toa should sound. To his credit, he was willing to listen to my reasoning and agreed to give it a try.”
Elements of this characterization are still present in the Mata Nui Online Game and The Legend of Mata Nui PC game; the former depicts the Toa as mysterious, stoic warriors from the islanders’ perspective—especially in the early chapters, where the Toa are largely silent save for the jovial Pohatu—while the latter gives the Toa an otherworldly elemental undertone beneath their robotic voices.
During our talks Mr. Swinnerton suggested that Lego was uneasy about religious elements in Bionicle, hence its disappearance from the line in later years. Greg also once mentioned that Lego received negative feedback online for perceived religious messages in Bionicle, which seems likely to have played a role in Lego’s decision to cull it from the franchise.
One oft-overlooked retcon from Bionicle’s early years is the original purpose of the Toa Stones. The Quest for the Toa GBA game establishes that the stones were used to tell the Legend of Mata Nui at the Ajama Circle, and that they were stolen from the villages rather than being hidden long ago by the Toa Metru. The game even ends with Takua restoring the stones to their rightful places around the Kini-Nui Ajama; this dovetails nicely with the Legend of Mata Nui PC game, which is named as such because the legend is now coming to pass.
“Makuta has also stolen the sacred Toa Stones that used to tell the legends! [...] If the Toa Stones are not recovered, the Legend of Mata Nui cannot be told.” — Whenua, upon his rescue in Quest for the Toa
Another discarded concept, which was also present on the earliest bios on Bionicle.com, was the idea of the Toa having different ages. Based again on the story booklet, Tahu was intended to be the oldest member while Lewa was the youngest. This idea was never referenced in any official story, but Lewa certainly remained the youngest of the team in spirit. (There is a fandom misconception that Onua was the oldest; as best I can tell this is from an old Q&A with Greg, but he is unsure in the quote and could very well be misremembering.)
According to Greg, one early story bible established that the Toa were meant to perform a ritual dance upon discovering a mask. He opted not to include it in the 2001 comics as he didn’t feel it made sense and looked silly to boot. Notably, said dances were also left out of the Legend of Mata Nui game.
The Legend of Mata Nui glossary has an interesting tidbit. The Kini-Nui entry reads:
“The Great Temple, where Toa learn to be Toa Kaita and the Turaga learn to be Turaga Nui.”
In a cutscene we see the Toa enter special transformation chambers in order to become Kaita, something which wouldn’t be mentioned again or featured in the Tale of the Toa novel. It may have once been the intention that the Toa could only form Kaita in special chambers like these in the Mata Nui robot.
Greg is also well known for his dislike of the Treespeak dialect. Bob Thompson, the story team head from 1999–2005, was the one who mandated that Lewa use the language (Greg).
Mr. Swinnerton had no involvement in the development of the Metru Nui backstory. As such, the plot point of the Turaga being former Toa themselves was, most likely, a later addition by Bob Thompson. As Peri notes, there were some early implications that the Toa Mata once worked alongside the islanders—which is consistent with the backstory of the Toa as security officers of the ship. Presumably the Turaga were the leaders of the Matoran while they crewed the evacuation robot, but this is unconfirmed.
Turaga Matau’s elemental powers were at one point going to include flight, according again to the booklet. The relationships between the Turaga are also more fleshed out, with Vakama & Matau and Nokama & Nuju being close friends, while Onewa & Whenua are close trading partners.
One aspect of the early Bionicle story that remains unclear is how the Turaga retained some knowledge of the Toa and Mata Nui’s past while everyone else in the villages remembered next to nothing. Mr. Swinnerton did not remember the reason for this, but the Drop a Brick blog, whose author Mister-N also focuses on the earliest iterations of the Bionicle story, is a fantastic read in its own right and presented an intriguing theory that I thought was worth mentioning here. As the author explains, the Kini entry in the Legend of Mata Nui gallery reads as follows:
“Great temples where the Turaga go to think the great thoughts. They are centers of wisdom and learning and usually have an Amaja.”
Furthermore, the Kini-Nui description (posted in the Toa section above) states the Turaga could learn how to form Turaga Nui at the temple. These details, as Mister-N theorizes, may suggest that some or all of the Turaga’s knowledge of the past came from studying at these centers of knowledge.
The number of villagers present in each Koro varied a lot during the early years. It was Bob Thompson’s intent for there to be 12 per village initially, but when Mask of Light showed hundreds of Matoran in the Kohlii stadium this was adjusted to 1000 in total (Greg).
Takua’s origin has always been a bit of a mystery—was he created by Templar, Saffire, the web team, or the story team? After I asked about it Mr. Swinnerton confirmed that he created the character and the concept of the Seventh Toa concurrently, which makes sense as he was the story consultant for the Quest for the Toa GBA game. It’s unknown when precisely Takua was added to the mythos, as Templar internally referred to him as the “Visitor” or “George” early on.
There is no information on Hahli and Nuparu prior to their appearance in 2002, which probably means they did not exist in story before that year. An early Mask of Light solicit mentions three islanders going on the quest for the mask, whereas in the final release we see just Jaller and Takua. Given her prominence in the movie and the fact she appears to have been expressly created for it, Hahli may have once been intended to play an even larger role in 2003. As for Nuparu, Lego likely created him as they lacked an engineer character to serve as the Boxor’s inventor, or they simply wanted a new villager to be packaged with the Boxor set.
In 2001 Lego bandied about the idea of a seventh tribe on the island, which would have worshipped Makuta and worked to carry out his will on the island (Gordon Klimes). This idea apparently never went very far beyond the Koli ball trader (later named Ahkmou) in MNOG, and Mr. Swinnerton was unfamiliar with it.
Maku and Huki’s romantic relationship was not featured in any story bible (Greg, also confirmed in conversation with Mr. Swinnerton). The decision to include it was made by Templar and the web producer independent of the story team (Greg).
A direct quote from the 2001 story bible was included by Templar in a recent blog post:
“...it is Vakama’s secret wish that Kapura’s single minded nature will enable him to learn the secret art of covering large distances, quickly by walking slowly. Kapura has a habit of coughing and farting flameballs which often tries Vakama’s patience and is a constant irritation to the studious Ahi.”
“Ahi,” which is a Māori word for “fire,” is most likely an early name for Jala.
A 2001 poster hints at the original role of Rahi in the time before time:
“In the time before time, the island of Mata Nui was a paradise to behold. Many great beasts, known as Rahi, worked in harmony with the Tohunga villagers. Then the Makuta came and cast a dark shadow across the land. The Makuta brought a great hunger to the Rahi, a hunger for the sacred Kanohi masks. And the Tohunga made stone carvings to warn of these awesome beasts.
In these dark times Rahi challenge Toa without respect, and Rahi will challenge even their own kind. Such is their hunger.”
This differs from the Metru Nui storyline where the Rahi function much the same they did on Mata Nui, acting antagonistic or indifferent to the villagers. It sheds a new light on the practice of Rahi taming, which is really about restoring Rahi to their natural, nonaggressive state. A Quest for the Masks story card supports this. Additionally the Rahi having a hunger for masks is referenced in Quest for the Masks, but doesn’t appear anywhere else. It certainly gives a story justification for why the Rahi sets are pitted against one another for play.
The intent for Mata Nui’s wildlife varies over the course of the series. Initially they (and the flora) were to have a much more organic-looking biomechanical design, as can be seen here in these Christian Faber concepts and this Legend of Mata Nui trailer. A later revision of that cutscene appears in the beta build, showing a shift to purely robotic wildlife. Later in the Mask of Light commentary the creators [Dave Molina and Terry Shakespeare] state that the island’s fauna has become more biomechanical over time. Thanks to Peri for the transcription:
"Bob Thompson, the creative producer, was explaining to us the story of Mata Nui the island (and its inhabitants as far as like, wildlife), is it's going through a transition right now. From things that were natural are starting to turn into biomechanical [sic]. So we had to approach all the wildlife (the birds, the ash bear, and the fish and I believe also one of the Gukko birds) so you'd see them so they're almost half and half. Actually, really, in a way the ash bear was handled almost all the way mechanical, but the other characters are almost halfway transitions between natural and mechanical"
It’s unclear what they were building toward with this, because as with some other MoL concepts the idea of Rahi evolution rarely came up again in the series. (One possibility could be that the “natural” animals are native to the planet where Mata Nui crash landed, whatever it was meant to be at this point in development.) Since the interior of the Mata Nui robot was intended to have a greater focus on a biomechanical/organic theme, which is supported by Faber concept art and Mask of Light storyboards for Metru Nui, the island’s flora and fauna may have been meant to evoke that origin.
At one point in MNOG’s development the player was going to be able to build Rahi with the help of a Biodermis Smith (tcrf). which appears to be an early word for Protodermis based on this preliminary dialogue for one of the Onu-Koronan guildmasters:
“They make goods and livestock from the protodermis. Without it they cannot trade for stone! We will lose that market.”
The bolded part was removed from the final game. The idea of villagers building and using Rahi to help them certainly supports the idea that they worked together aboard the evacuation ship.
Lastly, a Quest for the Masks card states that the Mana Ko are the leaders of the Manas, which is the only time this idea was ever referenced.
Despite its inclusion in the Legend of Mata Nui PC game, the Vahi was not mentioned anywhere in the story bibles (according to Greg). Its appearance in the Bohrok-Kal storyline was in response to fan interest in the mask on BZPower (Greg).
There is contradictory information on how the Toa were meant to acquire their Golden Kanohi. Nowhere is this better exemplified than in MNOG, where Lewa gets his golden mask from his Suva in the Le-Koro chapter. (This is also the method of acquisition seen in the Quest for the Masks card game.) The Toa inexplicably lack their golden masks when at Kini-Nui in MNOG, whereupon they suddenly gain them upon climbing the temple stairs. This sequence was adapted from the Legend of Mata Nui PC game. The PC game complicates things even further, with the Toa losing their golden masks after Makuta separates the Kaita—which also somehow leaves the Toa Kaita’s masks behind—and then inexplicably having them again in the final cutscene. The final explanation of the gold masks’ acquisition would eventually be relayed in Bionicle Chronicles #1: Tale of the Toa, where the Toa place their collected masks on statues at Kini-Nui and receive the Golden Kanohi.
One rather contentious topic in the fandom is whether the Toa utilized the Noble Masks during their quest in 2001. The removal of the Legend of Mata Nui game from canon left MNOG and the online animations as the only sources to show the Toa using them. Greg Farshtey’s current explanation is that the Toa opted not to use them as they were weaker than the Great Masks, but he offered a longer rationale in 2003:
“All I can tell you is the story as I have always read and understood it. The Toa were told to go out and collect six Great Masks a piece. Once that was done, they would get their Gold Masks. That has been repeated multiple times in multiple places. Obviously, the folks doing the movies chose to interpret the story differently. I'm not saying they are wrong and you should ignore the movie, I am simply saying that is not how I understand the saga. I could certainly be wrong, and I know it has been established pre-gold mask that the Toa made use of Noble Mask powers. But here is what I wonder -- there are six Noble Masks per koro, one of which is being worn by the Turaga. So if Tahu decides he needs to call on the Mask of Concealment, what happens? Vakama is wearing it. That is part of the reason I always tried to avoid the 'Toa using Noble Masks" issue in my stories. The other reason is that it would have made the initial story even more complicated if the emphasis was that the Toa had to collect 12 masks before they could progress -- I did not have room in the comics to collect Great and Noble Masks.”
Per the Quest for the Masks booklet, originally masks were stored on a totem as opposed to the Suvas. The booklet also mentions that a Kanohi is missing from Gali’s shrine at Ga-Koro, and Nokama sent out villagers to recover the mask. A similar scenario is present in the Legend of Mata Nui, where a Ga-Koronan tells Gali that a Kanohi Rau was stolen from the village. However, the game only features a single Rau for Gali to collect, so the significance of this particular mask being missing is unknown.
Makuta is one of the most interesting concepts in Bionicle. The conniving, backstabbing genius Teridax is only the latest incarnation of Bionicle’s main antagonist. In fact there are at least three distinct versions of the character present in the franchise.
“I am the darkness in the heart of Mata Nui.” — The Makuta, Comic 3: Triumph of the Toa
The first iteration of Makuta closely resembles the Devil—and intentionally so, according to Mr. Swinnerton. The legends regard him as an omnipresent evil, a shapeshifting spirit of destruction who controls and manipulates the environment of Mata Nui, corrupts wildlife and has terrorized the population for eons. Whether he is a character at all or merely a force of nature is ambiguous. The villagers are ignorant of his true nature and his 2001 Bionicle.com bio is suitably enigmatic, repeatedly emphasizing that what we know of him, or it, is only a legend. This version of him appears in the Mata Nui Online Game, which plays up a creation vs. destruction dichotomy between Mata Nui and Makuta, the latter of whom is referred to as “nothing” and “the void.”
“In creation, there is destruction. In destruction, there is rebirth. There is no such thing as void; all things are in flux.” — Nuju
According to Gordon Klimes of Templar Studios, the dialogue surrounding Makuta in MNOG was their doing, albeit based on the 2001 story bible (his famous “vortex form” was, per my conversation with Mr. Swinnerton, also their interpretation). Klimes’ interpretation of the character is worth a read (also see Templar’s latest blog entry regarding the final chapter):
“'The void' above Makuta is indeed a swirling mass of lego pieces, though it's not supposed to be representative of his true form. Makuta is chaos and nihilism, Mata Nui is order and creativity.”
“For me Makuta represents the destructive aspect of playing with Lego. You would build something and then destroy it in order to build something new. Makuta is a maelstrom of swirling pieces, he represents the pile on the floor that all lego creations come from and will eventually return to.”
Makuta is represented by an infected Hau in the first year—Mata Nui’s own symbol, corrupted. This is because Mr. Swinnerton’s intention for Makuta was for him to be the inner darkness within Mata Nui, a part of the Great Spirit fallen from grace. This casts one of Makuta’s most iconic quotes in a new light:
"The people of the world are builders. But look into their hearts, and you will find they also have the power to destroy. I am that power. I am destruction. And I WILL destroy you."
Since Makuta takes the form of a villager in this scene, it may appear that he is referring to them alone. But he is actually describing Mata Nui and everyone else—including the Toa. Their inner darkness manifests as the Shadow Toa, which is how Makuta was once going to appear in 2001. Initially intended to appear in the Legend of Mata Nui PC game, it appears the Shadow Toa were originally Makuta shapeshifting into six beings at once, rather than being mere illusions created to test the Toa as they were in Tale of the Toa. Evidence for this can be found in the game data, where the final level dialogue reveals that Makuta appears to each of the six Toa individually and beckons them to complete a final challenge:
“You have come very far, bold Onua...
But your luck...and that of your fellow Toa...is about to run out!
I am but one form of Makuta...your friends face the others as we speak!
Defeat my challenge and you defeat me...
Fail in your effort, and Mata Nui falls with you!”
Bionicle fans would have to wait to get the Shadow Toa battle until in 2003’s Tale of the Toa, by which point Makuta’s nature had changed and he was now a physical character with a single form. Accordingly, they dissipate following the Toa’s battle. But this was not always the case: the extended Hungarian translation of the novel, which was evidently based on an earlier manuscript, mentions the Shadow Toa’s remains retreating into tunnels after their defeat. If you’ve read the English release and wondered why the Toa don’t go on to confront Makuta after the Shadow Toa, it’s because initially he was the Shadow Toa.
The most up-to-date recounting of the Shadow Toa battle, written by Greg, differs from Cathy Hapka’s version in that it depicts the Toa acknowledging the darkness within themselves and absorbing their dark counterparts into their bodies. Ironically, this later version actually fits better with the original intent for Makuta as Mata Nui’s dark side.
While Makuta was established as a shapeshifter early on, we wouldn’t get him as a set until his 2003 Shadow Titan form. Makuta having no concrete form in 2001 was intentional, and indeed, Mr. Swinnerton was actually against Makuta having a set form at all. Of course this changed for 2003 and Mask of Light, where the lord of shadows appears as more of a character than a force of destruction. But elements of his original nature remain. Makuta is hinted at having deeper, perhaps altruistic motivations for his behavior, such as his reluctance to unleash the Rahkshi on the island, his genuine offer to spare Jaller’s life in exchange for the mask, and his own stated desire to protect Mata Nui by keeping him asleep. (Peri has a post about this that goes into greater detail on this topic; it’s well worth a read.) He is also regarded as a “troubled soul” in the director’s commentary.
Mr. Swinnerton was not able to elaborate on the meanings behind these lines because he did not write the final Mask of Light script. However, the ending the film does appear to align somewhat with the original vision. Makuta and Takanuva fall into the protodermis and fuse into a new, benevolent being, whose Makuta components are no longer rusted and pitted. The original idea was that was Makuta is a part of Mata Nui. With light and darkness joined together, Makuta is redeemed and the Great Spirit can awaken once again.
...Or can he?
I asked Mr. Swinnerton if Mata Nui was ever meant to rise at the end of the film, as the film’s dialogue, imagery, and even director’s commentary repeatedly implies. He responded with a very clear and unambiguous “no.” Based on how far they planned these things in advance, Bob Thompson may well been intending to tell the Mask of Life saga back then as the third of his “seven books of Bionicle, which as a side note was only known to the members of the story team (Greg) and was abandoned after Thompson’s departure (Greg).
On his blog, Christian Faber has another interpretation of Makuta’s role in Mask of Light, which references the original idea of Makuta being an infection:
“Takanuva had to merge with Makuta to defeat him. Light and darkness are connected and Makuta actually did god [sic] by securing that only the right heroes reentered the giant robot to restart it. Just like the body actually grows stronger and more immune after a virus.”
One final point: Mr. Swinnerton says Makuta was not originally conceived as part of a species or Brotherhood, which is never referenced until Makuta beckons Vakama to join him and his “brothers” in the second movie. That was probably a Bob Thompson or Greg addition.
Very little is known about the early characters Papu and Rangi, who were involved with the creation of Mata Nui. The two seem to be based on Ranginui and Papatūānuku, the sky father and earth mother respectively, of Polynesian mythology, hence their immediate removal after Lego was contacted by Māori representatives. Mr. Swinnerton was understandably reluctant to reveal much about them so barring the improbable event that an unrevised 2001 story bible is released, we will never know for sure what they were meant to be. I can say with near certainty that they are the original Great Beings, however there could well have been more than just the two of them.
The characters were briefly mentioned in MNOG and were promptly removed from the game’s data once the Māori lawsuit hit in 2001—and apparently from the story bibles themselves, as Greg recalls there was nothing on them in the original story bibles. They are established as mythological godlike beings to the islanders, much like Mata Nui and the Toa. In the game’s dialogue, Nokama tells the player character that the two have great plans for him, and a conversation with Jala in the German translation suggests they were involved in the creation of Ta-Koro, or at least the villagers believe such.
Two other things of note: at one point, Mata Nui and possibly Makuta fell under the moniker of Great Beings (Greg). They also were conceived of as the creators of the Toa, which makes sense as they created the biomechanical evacuation ship and the Toa are one of its components. An early bio for Onua on Bionicle.com stated:
“Onua is an Earth Spirit, and was created by the Great Beings when the continents of the planet were forming from the fiery molten lava.”
The Bohrok’s awakening has a few different variations. In an unused early direction, which I suggest reading in its entirety on Faberfiles, the Toa attempted to reboot Mata Nui with a new consciousness using the Makoki Stone, but Makuta’s virus was strong enough to prevent the robot from rising. Only the robot’s left hand emerged from the ocean, but the process also released the Bohrok to begin the process of cleaning the debris from the robot.
In 2002 the “If you wake one, you wake them all” tagline was suggested as the reason for the Bohrok invasion. According to Mr. Faber in the post linked above, the Toa were responsible for waking up a single Bohrok which started the chain reaction—I’d wager it’s the same Bohrok seen in The Legend of Mata Nui in the room underneath Kini-Nui, which is the same one in the Project Bugs development video. It would seem the idea of Makuta being the one to awaken the Bohrok was a retcon.
A Faber concept diagram shows the kinship between the Bohrok and the main characters, with Toa corresponding to Bohrok, Turaga corresponding to Bohrok Va, and a Bohrok equivalent of the Matoran that never showed up in the story. I asked Mr. Swinnerton if Bohrok were meant to have villagers like Matoran, and unfortunately he did not remember.
Corrections & Updates
Since its initial release I have periodically updated this document with new information, links, and edits for the sake of clarity. Below are the major updates.
July 17th, 2018 (correction, Bohrok section):
An earlier version of this document stated the following as evidence for the Bohrok villager theory:
“Peri brought this image to my attention, which suggests McDonalds was planning to release more Bionicle sets as part of Happy Meals in 2002 instead of just trading cards, although they use the last year’s Matoran as placeholders.”
Thanks to user “Shattered Slumber” on BZPower, we now know the image in question actually advertises a 2002 Russian and/or East Slavic set that includes a Matoran and Bohrok cards. It has no connection to McDonald’s.
December 16th, 2018 (update, Toa section):
Updated with new information from Greg Farshtey regarding the Toa’s original personalities and why the story team changed them.
June 15th, 2019 (update, Tohunga section):
Updated with some new information regarding Jala’s original name.
July 25th, 2019 (update, Turaga section):
Updated with a theory about how the Turaga learned about the Toa and Mata Nui’s past, courtesy of Drop a Brick.
July 31st, 2019 (update, Toa section):
Updated with some information regarding the Toa Stones that I forgot to cover in earlier versions of this document.
Well, not entirely sure how I should end this big honkin’ thing, but yeah! Special thanks to Peri, a fellow 01–03 Bionicle enthusiast who proofread this for me and helped dig up quotes and various old material. She’s done some fantastic MNOG-styled animations so if you’ve got a hankering for authentic Bionicle content you should definitely check out her channel: Peri Animates Things. And a big thanks as well to Alastair Swinnerton, for being kind enough to answer an excited Bionicle fan’s questions. He recently released a book called The Multiverse of Max Tovey which I recommend giving a look, especially if you enjoyed the mythological parts of Bionicle as I did. For further reading I highly recommend Mister-N’s blog Drop a Brick, which is an ongoing blog that delves into early Bionicle story elements much as I have done for this document.