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The Untold Truth Of Tom Nook

Animal Crossing: New Horizons found itself a perfect little home in the Coronavirus-quarantined world – a happy little life sim full of anthropomorphic animals and an awful lot of cheer is a great way for people to escape. However, even in the saccharine world of Animal Crossing, there is still one aspect of life you can never get away from: ruthless capitalism. And no one personifies that quite like Tom Nook.


Tom Nook can be a polarizing figure. To some, the shopkeeper is the ultimate good guy, providing the player with all sorts of options to live their best life. To others, he is one of the worst villains Nintendo has ever created, manipulating the economy of Animal Crossing through shrewd business decisions and dangerous, loan shark-esque tactics. Worst of all, he does it through a thin veneer of kindness, like he's doing you a huge favor by swamping you with debt.

Regardless of which side of the fence you fall on, you probably want to know more about the well-dressed tanuki. Here are some of the best tidbits we've been able to dig up on Tom Nook.

Tom Nook has a mysterious relationship with his employees

We need to talk about Timmy and Tommy. Tom Nook employs these little rapscallions, and he views their situation as a mentor-student relationship. Contrary to popular belief, they are not related to Tom by blood (he has called them nephews, but more as an endearing term than the actual relation), despite the fact that the three of them are the only tanukis of consequence running around the place.


Where did these two come from? Where are their parents? Why does Tom Nook trust them with so much money? Animal Crossing doesn't give you any concrete answers, just more questions. There are a few hints, however.

We'll get deeper into some of these in other places here, but we do know that Tom Nook donates most of his money to a nearby orphanage. Maybe Timmy and Tommy were once residents there? After all, there are rumors that Tom found them on the streets and raised them — those are two pretty similar ideas. Maybe we'll learn more in later games.

His creators feel like he's just misunderstood

Fans of franchises are well known for taking popular theories and running with them, and Tom Nook is generally known online as a greedy capitalist and a Nintendo-flavored mob boss. However, that is definitely not the intention; Tom Nook's creators think that attitude is a combination of the internet being silly and the character being misunderstood.


In an interview with The Verge, New Horizons producer Hisashi Nogima calls Nook "a very caring, really great guy" and says that, without him, there would be no game. He says the money the player owes Tom is "one of the biggest motivations that users have to continue playing Animal Crossing."

You could argue that the game forces you to go into debt to Tom, so that's hardly a strong claim. Aya Kyoguki, director of New Horizons, makes a good point, though. She says, "Even if we borrow money from him and it takes time to pay him back, he never gets angry, he never gets mad." Try borrowing money from a real mob boss and not paying it back because you're too busy fishing. See how they respond to you (please, please don't actually do this).


Some villagers think Tom Nook is a person disguised as an animal

Most likely, you see Tom Nook referred to as a raccoon, though he's actually a tanuki (a Japanese raccoon dog) in the Japanese version of Animal Crossing. However, there are a few citizens running around the world of Animal Crossing that think there is more to Tom Nook than meets the eye. Some think he may even be a human disguised as a cute little trash panda.


Dr. Shrunk, the resident emotional expert in the Animal Crossing series, suggests at one point that everyone wears a mask, but he specifically singles out Nook, saying he "wears a raccoon suit, but it serves the same general purpose." Shrunk may be saying this figuratively (or making one of his trademark bad jokes) but it certainly adds to the aura of mystery surrounding Tom Nook. Combined with his absolute love of capitalism, you could see why some of the villagers aren't sure he fits in with the carefree nature that so many of them possess.

Tom Nook and Redd have a dark history

Tom Nook has a shady past, and even he admits as much. One part of it that has been uncovered (and that Nook himself hints at without much subtlety) is that Redd, the sneaky fox art dealer, is part of it. The internet being the internet, some fans have decided that a failed romance is what caused the bad blood there.


Here's what seems to be true between these two in the Animal Crossing series. We know Tom Nook went to the city at an early age and suffered through what he calls "terrible pitfalls." He returned to his hometown completely changed, and it seems Redd may have caused some of his suffering. Nook himself tells the player that foxes can't be trusted, and that working with Redd has caused him problems in the past.

As Polygon writes, several players have taken it upon themselves to create an elaborate backstory where Nook and Redd were an item in the past. The bad blood between them, according to this fan fiction, stems from a failed relationship. Though this seems unlikely to ever be canonized, we think everyone can agree: the internet is a weird place.


He might be tied to organized crime

We all know that the player will go into deep debt to Tom Nook, no matter which Animal Crossing they are playing. However, we don't really know what happens if you never pay that debt back. Since most of your activities in the game do help in repaying your debt, it's a problem you generally don't have to deal with. That said, Tom Nook has voiced that, were you to leave your outstanding debts for too long, he might just make you an offer you can't refuse.


That's right: Tom Nook threatens to send Knuckles and Tiny over to break your kneecaps. He asks for 1000 bells per week to pay off your debt, then adds "Otherwise, I'll send the raccoon goons after you!" It may sound like he's just joking around with you, but that's what mob bosses would do, too. "Boy, it sure would be terrible if something happened to your business, wouldn't it? It's a good thing you pay off your debts — you probably have nothing to worry about!"

Keep an eye on Don Tom Nook; you might wake up with a severed fox head in your bed.

His capitalist streak comes from a failed journey into the big city

The Animal Crossing series rarely delves into deep backgrounds of its characters, but it often provides little hints at where they come from. This allows the player to fill in the blanks and essentially tell their version of the story. Tom Nook's early days have actually been spelled out pretty well, and we have a pretty good idea why he became the capitalistic tanuki we know him as.


Tom grew up in a rural community, where he and Sable were best friends. Sable recalls that he had a pure spirit, and the whole community was worried that his "dreams before money" view of the world would get crushed by the big city.

They were right. After Tom set out to make his way in the city, he was blindsided by harsh reality. He was denied a bank loan, ran into financial trouble (partially due to Redd, it seems) and eventually returned home a changed being. It seems he then dedicated his life to making money, as that seems to be Tom's main concern.

His childhood friendship with Sable was crushed after he returned home

Tom was best friends with Sable growing up, and Sable tells the player in Animal Crossing: Wild World that they spent a lot of time together as children. The two would climb on top of the observatory and gaze at the stars together. However, Sable couldn't follow Tom to the city, and the two struggled to keep their friendship intact.


They certainly tried. Tom wrote letters to Sable, telling her all about his experience in the city. Sable tells the player that she prayed for Tom every night, wishing that he could keep his spirits up even while struggling to make his way. Tom even sent her a special pair of scissors on her birthday, despite hardly being able to afford them.

We don't know why, exactly, Sable and Tom's relationship didn't pick back up when he returned from the city. CheckPoint argues that he feels guilty about leaving her, although it might just be because Tom's personality was altered so dramatically by the city. Maybe we'll find out in later installments.

Tom Nook repeatedly wins "Best Villain" awards

Nintendo has created some of gaming's most iconic villains. The Super Mario Bros. series has Bowser and Wario. The Legend of Zelda has Ganon/Ganondorf. Even the company's less mainstream franchises have well-recognized and beloved villains. Nintendo's penchant for great villains is so strong that, even when making a game that didn't have a villain, it still succeeded in creating one of the best out there: Tom Nook.


Mr. Nook regularly wins "Best Villain" awards from a variety of outlets; kind of odd, considering his creators view him as misunderstood. You rarely see programmers behind Bowser trying to argue something like, "You see, the giant turtle king who keeps kidnapping people is actually a good dude."

Business Insider argued that Nook "puts on this cute animal facade while exploiting your hard work in order to expand his business empire." GameTruth called him "The Worst Villain of All." Complex said of Nook: "In reality he's a cheat who wants nothing more than to keep you in debt so that you're chained to him and his stupid store for the rest of your life." In the court of public opinion, Nook is one of the worst.


Tom Nook's markups are insane

Part of what makes Tom Nook so easy to target is how comparable his tactics are to some real world predatory tactics. It can be odd to see a video game character utilizing tactics like high interest debt, scam travel agencies and ridiculous markups for reselling, but that's Tom Nook for you.


Vice ran an article trying to calculate the real world value of bells, the currency used in Animal Crossing. On one hand, the outlet found that many things sell well under what you'd expect them to be priced. On the other hand, Vice found that Nook's store regularly marks up items about 300% more than what the player sells them for. That would even put GameStop to shame!

Let's not forget that, at the beginning of New Horizons, Nook sends you to a deserted island, then expects you to improve the island and pay him for the privilege. There are some seriously shady tactics going on here, and it isn't hard to figure out why people have such a low opinion of Nook.

He's actually gotten nicer as the series has gone on

If you start searching the internet for things about Tom Nook, you're bound to find all sorts of memes and thinkpieces decrying him as a heartless, capitalist crook. Interestingly, Nook has actually gotten nicer as the Animal Crossing series has progressed, and that's because the developers made a conscious effort to change the character.


In an interview with CNET, the minds behind Animal Crossing discussed how Nook's role has changed in New Horizons versus previous games. They still think he's been misunderstood throughout the series, but they argue that he plays more of a caretaker role in New Horizons than just a facilitator role.

Aya Kyoguku, the director of New Horizons, said this of Nook: "Even if the player didn't have any money, he would offer you a new home. And he'd even offer you a loan. And then if you can't pay him back, then he'll wait forever without really bothering you, and he'll never get angry that you've never paid him back, either." Kyoguku also notes that Nook actually asks you in New Horizons if you want your house upgraded, instead of just doing it and then charging you. Now that's progress!