Warning: SPOILERS ahead for The Mandalorian.
Yoda's species are one of the greatest mysteries of Star Wars - but just what do we already know about the alien beings? The first episode of The Mandalorian ended with the unexpected introduction of a baby Yoda, and viewers were left reeling. Suddenly The Mandalorian became essential viewing, with the infant's very existence radically altering the canon.
The baby Yoda is apparently 50 years old, which means it was born 10 years before the events of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. It's been secreted away for decades, possibly in the care of an Imperial group - which suggests that it may have been hidden at Palpatine's command. The Mandalorian episode 2 revealed that the good-nature toddler is a powerful Force-user; the episode began with the baby attempting to heal the Mandalorian several times, and it ultimately demonstrated its power when it levitated a rampaging beast.
It looks as though Star Wars is finally going to address one of the franchise's greatest, most enduring mysteries. Just what race is Jedi Grand Master Yoda - and what are the rest of his species like?
Yoda's Race Has Been A Mystery Since The Empire Strikes Back
Yoda was introduced in 1980's The Empire Strikes Back, and Lucas imagined him as fulfilling the classic Buddhist trope that wisdom and power are found in the most unlikely beings. Luke Skywalker arrived on Dagobah seeking a powerful warrior, and instead he found a whimsical, diminutive philosopher who delighted in giving cryptic advice. Amusingly, since 1980 Lucas has remained every bit as cryptic as the Jedi Master himself when it comes to giving an account of Yoda's origins. When questioned about Yoda's species, he once suggested he was really the secret love child of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy.
Star Wars boomed in the early '90s with the launch of the Expanded Universe, and Lucasfilm welcomed writers and artists to play in George Lucas' sandbox. But Lucasfilm actively discouraged anyone from exploring Yoda's backstory, still less his race of origin. They went so far as to pulp the entire print run of a trading card depicting a group of Yoda-like beings worshiping an idol, likely at Lucas' own insistence. The rules were relaxed a little after Lucas himself introduced another of Yoda's race, Yaddle, in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and Lucas subsequently allowed the EU to create a couple more Yoda-like beings. Like all the rest of the EU, these were rendered non-canon after the Disney purchase, treated as "Legends."
Only Three Members Of Yoda's Species Are Known
Star Wars fans have taken to calling Yoda's race "Tridactyls," after the number of toes on their feet, but that's surely not going to be their canon name. Whatever the aliens are called, though, only three of them currently exist as part of Star Wars canon. Yoda is the most famous of these, the Jedi Grand Master whose Midichlorian count was so high it was exceeded only by Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One who was conceived by the Force. Yoda lived to 900 years old, and learned the secret of living on in the Force after death. He's even been seen manifesting as a Force Ghost decades after his death, in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Precious little is known about Yaddle, another of Yoda's species, who served in the Jedi Council in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. She seems to have withdrawn from active service in the years that followed the Battle of Naboo, and had left the Council by the time of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Yaddle's fate is unknown, but tie-in comics have suggested that Darth Vader believed she had died before the Empire was formed.
The Mandalorian's baby Yoda is the final member of Yoda's race to appear in the Star Wars canon, and already it's confirmed new details about the race. It seems that these aliens aren't just long-lived; rather, they age at a slower rate than other species, meaning the baby is actually 50 years old. That raises the possibility that the infant is linked somehow to Yoda or Yaddle, but any connection is currently speculative.
Do All Of Yoda's Species Have The Force?
It's surely no coincidence that, so far, all members of Yoda's species have been shown to be strong in the Force. Both Yoda and Yaddle became prominent members of the Jedi Council, with Yoda becoming the Jedi Grand Master. Likewise, the baby Yoda seen in The Mandalorian seems to be remarkably powerful, instinctively drawn towards healing and capable of levitating a massive beast.
This is also true of the old Expanded Universe. Lucas allowed the creation of three more members of Yoda's race in the Knights of the Old Republic era, set several millennia before the classic Star Wars trilogy. Significantly, all three were Jedi Masters, powerful Force users, and associated with the light side of the Force. This suggests that Lucas envisioned every member of Yoda's species having the ability to wield the Force. Notice also that every one of these beings has been drawn towards the light side, which may well be a natural predilection.
The Mandalorian Could Feature More Of Yoda's Species
The Mandalorian is currently claiming that he intends to follow through on his commission, but in truth viewers are expecting him to change tack. It's far more likely that he'll decide to try to get the baby Yoda back to its own people; and if so, that smeans The Mandalorian will surely feature more of Yoda's race. There's some evidence to support this idea; in October, Making Star Wars reported that they'd seen photographs taken during production of The Mandalorian, of five or six Yoda-species puppets in various stages of production. These were uncorroborated, and at the time were generally dismissed, but it now looks as though there may be truth to these reports.
Interestingly, Making Star Wars' sources also claimed that George Lucas himself had been involved with The Mandalorian. They were told that Lucas had contributed story elements to an episode that features more of these mysterious beings, apparently episode six. If that is the case, then it's entirely possible The Mandalorian will be true to Lucas' own vision of Yoda's species, and that this is all done with his blessing.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019