While the Pokémon anime focuses a lot on young characters like Ash, little is revealed about many of the older characters like Delia Ketchum. Did they once go on Pokémon adventures of their own? In Delia’s case, she very nearly became a Pokémon professor, according to one early Pokémon movie.
Ash’s mother has never really been shown to have much interest in Pokémon. She gets along with them quite well, as many of Ash’s Pokémon seem to love her as if she was their own mother, and she befriended and caught her Mr. Mime without any battling. Still, she doesn’t seem to watch Pokémon tournaments aside from when Ash is competing, and mostly lives a quiet life at home in Pallet Town, not far from Professor Oak’s Lab.
As it turns out, her proximity to Oak’s lab isn’t a coincidence. In the Pokémon movie Entei and the Spell of the Unown, Delia Ketchum is shown to have worked with Professor Oak as a research assistant when she was young, alongside a man named Spencer Hale. Delia gets dragged into the plot of the film when she finds out that he has disappeared and goes to his hometown to help search. A group of Unown who took pity on his daughter, Molly, abduct Delia to be her new mother, and so Ash, his Pokémon, and their friends have to save his mother and defeat the Unown, as well as the Entei they’ve created to watch over her. Once they’re defeated, Spencer is returned to Molly, and Delia is free to go back home to Pallet Town.
Did Ash Prevent Delia From Succeeding Professor Oak?
Within the anime and films, this is the only bit of backstory ever offered for Ash’s mother, but it’s certainly an interesting one. Many characters act as assistants to the Professor, such as Dexio and Sina in X and Y, or Sonia in Sword and Shield. Sonia even goes on to become the new Professor, suggesting that Ash’s mom was likely on that track as well. It’s unknown why Delia abandoned this career; one can’t help but wonder if Ash’s birth might have had something to do with it, especially considering how conspicuously absent Ash’s dad has been throughout Pokémon. It does, however, suggest that she still lives in Pallet Town specifically because she used to work with Professor Oak, and it wouldn’t be surprising to learn whether she heads over there to help out with Ash’s Pokémon from time to time. Her successor seems to have turned out to be Oak’s grandson, Gary, who became a Pokémon researcher himself.
It’s very unusual in the world of Pokémon to have a character like Delia, who used to be in a Pokémon-related career but now isn’t. While the mysteries of Ash’s mom’s past may never be fully explained, a detail like this adds a bit of depth to an otherwise flat character.