Yoda Origins Explained
Script written by Michael Wynands
He’s small, he’s green, he’s extremely powerful and people never seem to get tired of him! Welcome to WatchMojo and today we will explore the origins Jedi Master Yoda.
George Lucas’ galaxy far, far away is populated by numerous unforgettable characters. But even amongst steep competition, this unassuming and mysterious creature managed to distinguish himself as a stand out from his very first appearance in 1980’s “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back”. Since then, he’s go on to feature in films, animated series, comic books, video games and countless novels. We’ve met many a wise and inspiring jedi over the decades across all manner of Star Wars media, but there are a few more highly regarded, memorable or beloved than Yoda.
And yet, despite his place of prominence in both the current Star Wars canon and the expanded universe (which has since been labelled “Legends”), very little is known about Yoda’s backstory. In fact, despite there being hundreds of named species in the Star Wars universe (amongst a reported 20 million sentient ones throughout the galaxy) Yoda’s remains unidentified.
From the very outset, when first drafting “The Empire Strikes Back” and long before he’d settled on a final character design, George Lucas envisioned Yoda as an inherently mysterious being - a character with a magical elusiveness to him. With the success of Star Wars came a rapid expansion of the brand, but even as more and more creatives contributed to this universe, George Lucas maintained a very strict policy in place that protected Yoda’s backstory, including his species, from being explored.
Over time, a few more of Yoda’s species were permitted; examples include Oteg from Star Wars: The Old Republic, as well as Minch and Vandar Tokare - Jedis all of them. Such characters were few and far between, however, and revealed revealed very little about their species. Moreover, when Star Wars was sold to Disney, like so many other characters and stories however, these other members of Yoda’s species became non-canon characters.
So… what can we say about Yoda with any sort of certainty? Well, what we do know for sure is that he was born roughly 900 years before the Battle of Endor in 896 BBY. We also know that he died in 4 ABY, meaning that he was approximately 900 years old at the time of his death. You’d think that that lifespan would have provided him with ample opportunity to share his personal history, but apparently not!
While we may never learn about his planet of origin or its culture, we do know that, in keeping with jedi custom, Yoda joined the order when he was still a youngling, and that he was identified as having a particularly strong connection to the Force. Under the guidance of Professor Huyang, an architect droid who served the Jedi for millennia, Yoda traveled to Ilum, collected a kyber crystal, and built his first lightsaber. The Jedi knight under whom he studied as a padawan is unknown (at least according to the current canon), but it’s estimated that Yoda ascended to the rank of Master at the approximate 100 years of age, meaning that he had hundreds of years worth of adventures before the films caught up with him in 32 BBY.
Within the current canon, little is known of Yoda’s time before Anakin Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine destroyed the Jedi order. As acknowledged in the films, he took on padawans over the years, with the man who would become Count Dooku (aka Darth Tyrannus) being his last. During their time together, Yoda and Dooku visited the planet Kashyyyk, the home of the Wookies. Yoda’s multiple visits to Chewbacca’s birthplace saw him honored with the title “"Defender of the Home Tree". This was a sign of gratitude for his essential role in negotiating peace between the Wookies and the neighboring Trandoshans.
Beyond that, most of our knowledge about Yoda’s life, death (return of the jedi) and afterlife (the last jedi), comes directly from the films. And in keeping with George Lucas’ wishes, the movies and series have thus far refrained from exploring Yoda’s origins. With the introduction of Yaddle in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace”, however, it was actually George Lucas himself who pushed the envelope the furthest. Not only is Yaddle another member of Yoda’s species, but she’s female (the first fans had seen to date), and a member of the Jedi High Council. Born in 509 BBY, a few hundreds years after Yoda, Yaddle not only distinguished herself among the jedi, but also lived to see her padawan, Oppo Rancisis, join her on the council.
Like Yoda, much of her life remains shrouded in mystery, she was similarly recognized as being extremely wise. Unlike Yoda however, she has yet to receive a definitive fate within the current canon. In the Legends timeline she sacrificed herself before the Clone Wars, but in the 2019 game, Jedi: Fallen Order, which is considered canon, it’s suggested that Yaddle has survived Order 66, and is apparently living in hiding during the time in which the game is set.
As the sequel trilogy reminds us, Disney isn’t bound by George Lucas’ vision for the franchise. That means that, moving forward, we could be learning a whole lot more about Yoda and his mysterious species. Among the most shocking additions that Disney has made to the franchise is that of “the child” in the Disney+ original series, “The Mandalorian”. Like Yoda himself, this approximately 50 year old member of Yoda’s species is shrouded in mystery. Is he a clone of the Jedi master? Yoda reincarnated? Could he be the secret offspring of Yoda and Yaddle? Or is he just a random youngling of the same mysterious, elusive and apparently strongly Force-attuned species?
Only time will tell, but of the various ways in which the Star Wars universe is expanding, this undoubtedly among the most compelling.