As many of you, I grew up watching The Smurfs on TV. I always wondered how do these damn things reproduce. This is a hotly debated topic out on the Internets, but hardly anyone gives this pressing question enough attention. I want to do an in-depth analysis and come up with some solid theories on the Smurf Reproductive cycle based on what we know about the species.
Almost all known Smurfs live together as a single tribe of roughly a 100 specimens. They are short, bipedal, intelligent humanoids. They walk upright, have hands with opposable thumbs and have a highly developed skill of using tools to build their mushroom carved houses, and simple garments they wear. Few members of their species also seem to have a high affinity for magic. Most smurfs wear simple white trousers with a hole for their tale, and a Phyrgian style cap. Removing the hat seems to be a taboo in their society.
Most specimens appear virtually identical, and exhibit male sexual characteristics. They all refer to themselves using masculine pronouns. Only few members of the tribe have special identifying characteristics and those seem to be special cases. One of these is Papa Smurf which seems to be the elder of the tribe, and wears an impressive gray beard while all the other smurfs do not seem to be able to grow facial hair. Another is Smurfette which exhibits female sexual characteristics. She however is not a natural member of the species. More on that later.
Smurfs seem to be sought after by alchemists because they seem to be able to function as a biological Philosopher’s Stone. I was unable to uncover whether they are a mere catalyst that enables transmutation, or whether they actively participate in the reaction. The census among researchers seems to be that the smurf is “used up” during the transmutation which may explain why they are so rare.
We also know that Smurfs don’t reproduce in captivity. All attempts to breed them for research purposes to this date have failed. Not only that, but the wild smurfs have developed advanced defense mechanisms that make if very difficult to locate their settlements. They utilize some sort of chemical or magical deterrent which makes it nearly impossible for predators and/or human researchers to locate their village. Because of these factors their reproductive cycle was never observed or documented. There are quite a few theories on their mating customs, and actual reproductive mechanisms. I would like to discuss the most popular and most probable of these.
Sexual Reproduction: Hive Queen Theory
Most people who have never really did any research on the Smurf species, naively assume that they reproduce sexually by means of the Smufette – the single member of the species who exhibits female sexual characteristics. This model of reproduction is very popular among insects, which usually have a single queen per hive and majority of their population is either male, or asexual. Considering the existing natural parallels it is easy to see why this theory seems to enjoy great deal of support.
Unfortunately this theory can’t be correct, since the Smurfette since she was artificially created by Gargamel. This prominent Smurf scholar noted that all the Smurfs in the tribe exhibited male characteristics and decided to see how they would react when a “female smurf” was introduced into their mist. It is not clear how exactly did he produce the female specimen, but it is clear that she was a man made construct and she was not a full fledged smurf. For example, she could not be used in transmutation. Smurfs initially deemed it a defective specimen, and only assimilated her into their society after Papa Smurf uplifted her into state of “full smurfdom”. After that magical ritual she theoretically became a viable Philosopher’s Stone, but she did not lose her female characteristics.
Interestingly enough, the other Smurfs seemed to accept her and even exhibited primitive courting behavior. No actual copulation was observed, and the Smurfette never became pregnant. This suggests that the smurfs were either not biologically equipped to actually mate with this particular specimen, or that due to her origins Smerfette was sterile.
Either way, she cannot function as the hive queen for the Smurf tribe because she is a man made construct and tribe itself predates her.
Sexual Reproduction: Parthenogenesis
The smurfs must have been able to reproduce before Smurfette was introduced into their midst by Gargamel. Some researchers suggest that Smurfs are a singe sex race, and that they reproduce via process similar to Parthenogenesis. Unfortunately, parthenogenesis is a reproductive process which allows to take the male part of the population out of equation. It allows the female of the species to conceive and give birth without fertilization taking place.
Since all members of the species seem to exhibit male characteristics, this mode of reproduction seems unlikely. Then again, it is actually unclear whether or not smurfs are actually male. They do have a mammalian, almost human appearance but it does not mean they are mammals and that their sexual differentiation occurs among the same lines as in humans. It is entirely possible that all smurfs are actually female, despite of their outward appearance.
We have actually seen a very similar example in the movie Enemy Mine. In the film, Dracs (an alien species of reptilian looking humanoids) appeared and sounded masculine to humans – but in fact were a race of females reproducing via Parthenogenesis.
Sexual Reproduction: Hermaphroditic Race
Continuing along with the same line of reasoning, all smurfs could also be hermaphrodites. In other words, they could all poses both male or female genitalia. Popular, but rather silly theory claims that the smurf hats actually conceal a male sexual organ, while their trousers conceal female organ. According to that theory Smurfs reproduce communally via stacking where the whole tribe gets in a circle and copulates with each other. This is rather silly.
It is actually more likely that Smurf reproductive cycle is similar to that of Gethenians from Ursula K. Le Guin novel Left Hand of Darkness. The species described in the novel was peculiar in that it’s members exhibited no sexual characteristics whatsoever during most of the year. They looked androgynous or slightly masculine most of the time. The also seemed to refer to themselves using masculine pronouns – at least when communicating with humans. Once a month however they would enter a state they dubbed Kemmer in which they would develop either male or female characteristics. Each member of the species could develop characteristics belonging to either sex and they could alternate assuming male or female roles from Kemmer to Kemmer. In fact, the sex they would assume was largely dictated by the sex of their partner. Thus if one of the “lovers” started exhibiting male characteristics, the other would automatically and reflexively start developing female traits.
This model of reproduction seems very applicable to Smurfs. Their androgynous, slightly masculine appearance could be their asexual form. Papa Smurf exhibits super-masculine traits (the beard) which might be required by his position (the elder leader, and the alpha male of the tribe). It would also explain why some Smurfs would court Smufette which was permanently exhibiting female characteristics. They were reflexively responding to her femaleness which in turn was triggering their own reproductive instincts. However, as we established before – the Smurfette might actually be sterile.
Asexual Reproduction: Spores
It is possible that Smurfs reproduce asexually. They seem to live in a strange symbiosis with various species of mushroom. My personal pet theory is that Smurfs are actually an intelligent species of fungus and that they reproduce via Spores similarly to Orks from Warhammer 40000 universe. Let me quote you some of the fluff that explains Ork reproduction from the Gorga Morka background materials:
Orks have not only survived, they have prospered and are more numerous than humanity. This at least is due in part to how they reproduce. Orks reproduce through the release of spores, which grow into a plant-like womb underground that nourishes the bodies of the various Orkoid species. This is the entire basis of the Orkoid ecosystem, producing first Squigs, then Snotlings who cultivate the Squigs and fungus, then Gretchin to build the settlements, and finally the Orks themselves. This means the Orks, where ever they go, will have an abundance of food, slaves and other resources, a moving ecosystem that supports them as they go on their Waaaghs!
Smurfs could use a very similar mechanisms. Their bodies release spores throughout their lifetime. Some of these spores grow into the giant mushrooms they use for housing. Others may be used for food. Some spores grow and gestate and produce new Smurfs. New smurfs would probably grow in fungal cocoons either underground, or inside of the big mushrooms found around their village. They would emerge from them fully formed and adult looking. This would actually explain why all Smurfs appear to be roughly the same age. Papa Smurf looks older, since he probably belongs to an older generation. He was probably born elsewhere, and the current smurf tribe might likely grown from his own spores.
No Reproduction: Homunculus
Lastly, we must consider and alternative theory. It is entirely possible that Smurfs are not able to reproduce at all. A lot of evidence such as their peculiar alchemical properties, their all male appearance, and the fact that Gargamel was able to produce faux Smurfs with relative ease suggests that they are actually an artificially created species. The Smurfs may actually be a breed of rogue Homunculi that was created by Alchemists to aid in transmutation studies, but somehow escaped into the wild and established their own society.
If this is the case, they likely have no genitals and are probably unable to reproduce since most known examples of Homunculi are sterile and asexual. It is however possible they are able to replenish their numbers via magical means. For example, Papa Smurf seemed to be able to correct Gargamels flawed design of Smufette. This suggests that he has at least functional knowledge of the magic involved in Smurf creation. It is entirely possible he would be capable of making new smurfs from scratch.
Of course it would help for us to know how exactly did Gargamel create his experimental female smurf. Unfortunately no detailed notes of that experiment have survived, and as far as we know he was unable to examine his specimen after it was transformed in the Smurf village.
Before you say anything, please take into account that I do realize that this whole article is entirely pointless. Yes, smurfs are fictional, and this whole essay is simply me, over-analyzing a kids cartoon that never really meant to be analyzed this way. Still, it amused me and I hope it was an entertaining read. Please feel free to post your own alternative theories on smurf reproduction in the comments.