Hello everyone and welcome back to the Sarlacc Pit! This week we are going to be discussing Yoda, one of the most iconic characters in the Star Wars universe. For this post I am going to be drawing from all sorts of different canonical sources with little regard for spoilers, so as usual, read at your own risk!
“For eight hundred years have I trained Jedi.” – Yoda, “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”
Yoda is an interesting character in Star Wars canon. Despite living to the age of 900 (he was 864 years old in “The Phantom Menace,” and died 36 years later at the beginning of “The Return of the Jedi”), there is little canonical knowledge about his background before the Star Wars saga. So little is known about him, in fact, that there is not even a canonical name for his species. However, there is one other known member of his species, another Jedi named Yaddle, who was a member of the Jedi High Council during the Invasion of Naboo who left the Council before the Clone Wars began. However, it is unclear whether the name of Yoda’s species is know in the Star Wars Universe (i.e. I don’t know what Yoda is, but Obi-Wan Kenobi might, it is unclear). Yoda is generally known for his small goblin-like appearance, as well as his unique way of talking, which is often a reversal of common grammar structure.
What we do know about Yoda is that he joined the Jedi Order as a youngling, same as most Jedi entering the Order. Similar to most other Jedi, he went through the ritual known as the Gathering to obtain the kyber crystal he would then use to build his lightsaber. Professor Huyang, a droid that would still be operating in service of the Jedi Order during the Clone Wars, also assisted Yoda in building his lightsaber on the Jedi ship the Crucible. Professor Huyang would later brag about this to new younglings once Yoda became Grand Master of the Jedi Order.
At the age of 100, Yoda had obtained the rank of Master and decided to begin teaching others. He spent the next eight centuries focusing his time on teaching and training new Jedi. Through the course of his life he taught about 20,000 Jedi in some capacity. Yoda’s last known Padawan (while he was still with the Jedi Order, at least) was Dooku, who eventually trained Qui-Gon Jinn before leaving the Jedi Order and joined the Sith. Eventually, Yoda became the Grand Master of the Jedi Order.
However, just because he was a great teacher does not mean that he had learned all there was about the Force. In fact, there are at least two instances where he had to once again become a student.
One instance was on a mysterious planet where a tribe of children had mastered the “stonepower” ability. This was an aspect of the Force only attainable in proximity to a special type of stone which granted non-Force-sensitive beings a Force-like telekinesis ability. On this planet, a child named Garro trained Yoda to use this ability so that Yoda could help negotiate peace on the planet.
A second learning moment for Yoda was during and after the Clone Wars. Towards the end of the Clone Wars, Qui-Gon Jinn, an avid student of the Living Force, appeared to Yoda after his death and led him to Dagobah, a planet he would later inhabit. On Dagobah, Yoda met with the Force Priestesses, who agreed to teach Yoda how to achieve life after death (Note: for more information on how Jedi viewed death, see my earlier post on Force Abilities). The Priestesses led Yoda through several trials, where he encountered the personification of his own dark side, was tempted by visions of a peaceful Jedi Order, and encountered specters of Sith warriors including Darth Bane himself. Afterwards, Yoda returned to the Jedi Order, presumably continuing his training with Qui-Gon Jinn’s spirit.
The Downfall of the Jedi Order and the Rise of the Empire
“In a dark place we find ourselves, and a little more knowledge lights our way.” – Yoda, “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”
The Clone Wars began when Yoda arrived on Geonosis with the full might of the newly cloned and formed Grand Army of the Republic, as well as many Jedi Knights and Masters. Their goal was to destroy the Confederacy of Independent Systems before their army was fully formed and to save Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, and Naboo Senator Padmé Amidala. While the Republic was able to save their three targets, the Separatists were able to escape and continue the spread of Separatist systems. It was on Geonosis that Yoda learned that Dooku, his old apprentice, had turned to the dark side and was now leading the Separatists against the Republic.
Throughout the Clone Wars, Yoda was deeply troubled at the military role the Jedi Order had taken. However, he still dedicated himself to the Order and to the Republic, unknowingly playing directly into Darth Sidious/Sheev Palpatine’s plans almost every step of the way. Yoda continued to teach younglings, and never stopped fighting for a peaceful future for his young pupils.
At the end of the Clone Wars, Supreme Chancellor Palpatine revealed himself to be a Sith, luring Anakin Skywalker to the dark side and activating Order 66, which triggered a response in the Clone troopers which made them turn on the Jedi. Yoda was able to survive the betrayal while he was on Kashyyk helping the Wookiees turn back a Separatist invasion, and returned to Coruscant. There he joined Master Obi-Wan Kenobi in investigating a signal being broadcast from the Jedi Temple. They found the aftermath of Anakin Skywalker’s (now Darth Vader) attack on the Temple. It was here (through looking at security recordings) that they discovered Anakin’s betrayal and Palpatine’s true identity.
After investigating the Temple and warning surviving Jedi to stay away from there, Yoda sent Master Kenobi to face his former apprentice, while Yoda confronted Darth Sidious in the Senate Building Auditorium. While the duel was mostly even-sided, Yoda was eventually overpowered, and he ended up fleeing from the Senate in defeat.
Afterwards, Yoda met with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Senators Mon Mothma and Bail Organa. There they determined what to do with the twins that Anakin Skywalker’s wife, Padmé, gave birth to, and what to do about the rise of the Galactic Empire. Yoda put himself in exile on Dagobah, partly because he deemed his inability to stop Darth Sidious as his greatest failure, partly to continue his training to master the Force ghost ability. He also assigned Obi-Wan his final lesson: to train under the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn, presumably in the ways of achieving life after death.
Exile and His Final Student
“Do or do not, there is no try” – Yoda, “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”
During his exile on Dagobah, Yoda kept up with his training, and monitored the surviving Jedi across the Galaxy. From Dagobah he watched Luke Skywalker growing up on Tattooine, communicated with Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger when Ezra went to collect his first kyber crystal, and directly helped Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka Tano escape from the Jedi Temple on Lothal when they were attacked by Inquisitors.
As far as we know, Yoda stayed in total (physical) isolation on Dagobah until just after the Battle of Hoth. Luke Skywalker was led to Yoda by the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Skywalker, having gained some skills in the Force already but eager to become a true Jedi, found Yoda and after some very strange interactions where Yoda pretended to be absolutely insane Luke (and Obi-Wan Kenobi), convinced Yoda to train his last pupil.
During this initial training, Yoda taught Luke the intricacies of the Force. He showed Luke how to use the Force to enhance his own abilities, and how to use the telekinetic powers given to Force-sensitives. He also taught Luke about the dark side, and led the young Skywalker to face the dark side within himself in a cave strong in the dark side of the Force.
During this time, Luke sensed his friends were in danger, and raced off to Cloud City on Bespin to rescue them against Yoda and Obi-Wan’s urging. On Cloud City, Luke discovered a trap waiting for him (just as Yoda had predicted). Luke’s friend, Han Solo, was captured and taken to Tattooine by the bounty hunter Boba Fett, and Luke lost his hand and his lightsaber in a duel with Darth Vader.
Afterwards, Luke returned to continue his training with Yoda, where he eventually gained enough skill to earn the title of Jedi Knight.
Yoda’s Death and Legacy
“Twilight is upon me, and soon night must fall. This is the way of things…the way of the Force.” – Yoda, “Star Wars Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi”
A year after Cloud City, Luke Skywalker assisted his friends in freeing Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt. Afterwards, he returned to Dagobah and found Yoda ill and dying. Before finally passing away, Yoda confirmed that Vader was, in fact, Luke’s father, and that Luke had a sibling as well (referring to his twin sister, Leia Organa). Yoda cautioned Luke to not turn to the dark side and to be careful of Vader and the Emperor. With those final words, Yoda became one with the Force, not even leaving a body behind.
Yoda’s training stuck with Luke, and he was able to defeat Vader and the Emperor without succumbing to the temptation of the dark side of the Force. During a celebration after the Battle of Endor, Yoda’s ghost appeared with those of Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, all joining in celebrating the victory over the dark side.
It is unclear if Yoda showed himself to anyone else after the Battle of Endor. However, during Rey’s vision in the basement of Maz Kanata’s castle, Yoda can be heard describing the Force. So perhaps Yoda is not done teaching Jedi just yet…
Yoda was a powerful Jedi and undoubtedly a great teacher. He taught almost a millennium’s worth of Jedi and assisted in overthrowing some of the greatest evil ever seen in the galaxy. Furthermore he is a very interesting and mysterious creature, with little backstory about anything outside of his tenure as the Grand Master of the Jedi Order. Hopefully more will come out to fully flesh out this character in the future.
As for next week, over the past few months two pieces of canon have come out focusing on Captain Phasma. So in preparation for “The Last Jedi,” I am also going to do a post about the chomium-plated First Order captain. This post will cover “The Force Awakens,” As well as the novel Star Wars: Phasma, and the Marvel mini-series Star Wars: Captain Phasma. As always, thank you for reading, and may the Force be with you!