Some of the most fascinating new Star Wars properties invite us to subtly deepen our knowledge of longtime fixtures in the franchise.
Whether the new media exists in blockbuster new films or long-term streaming releases, the acquisition of Star Wars by Disney+ means many changes and additions to the existing canon.
Sometimes this means revisiting formerly entrenched characters whose backstories are given new meaning.
The advent of The Mandalorian, for example, meant that longtime fans who thought they knew the violent Tuskin Raiders were revising their opinion of the nomadic tribes once they saw Mando peacefully negotiating with them.
The Mandalorian also singlehandedly revitalized the IP, partly through solid storytelling and a return to practical effects, but mostly via the winsome Baby Yoda (also known as The Child and Grogu.)
A look back through the long history of Star Wars reveals several moments that prepared the fanbase for welcoming the little green guy.
Rebels: Ezra Bridger
We know from several Star Wars storylines and media forms that Darth Vader sent Inquisitors to not only wipe out the galaxy’s remaining Jedi but also Force-sensitive children. However, some of them escaped notice. One of these was Ezra Bridger of Rebels.
Whether he was protected by his parents’ hiding due to their anti-Imperial activities or everyone around him on Lothal was simply too busy just trying to survive, in the context of Grogu, Ezra helped serve as a four-season establishment that potential Jedi were not entirely gone.
Although The Mandalorian didn’t confirm that Grogu was formally trained until Season 2, Ezra’s journey proved that it was still possible to wield the Force without a formal Jedi training system.
The Empire Strikes Back: Surprise!
Star Wars is built on surprises. Its establishing chapter, A New Hope, took the film and toy industry by storm and forever changed the way Hollywood marketed.
The other two films in the Original Trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi unleashed in-story surprises of their own about connections in the Skywalker family. The reveal that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father was a stunner in an age of better-kept secrets.
But with the rise of the Internet, social media, and extensive merchandise production, Star Wars twists became harder and harder to keep. Except one in 2019—and it was a big, big secret.
The secret was very tiny, but its impact was enormous. The reveal of Baby Yoda in the premiere of The Mandalorian delighted older fans and those who came to the franchise through the new character. A fractured fanbase that hadn’t experienced major spoilers in quite some time wasn’t only delighted by his tiny face– they were thrilled to be truly surprised again as well.
The Clone Wars: Temple life
The seven seasons of the animated Clone Wars afforded several glimpses into everyday life at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant.
We saw how the Knights meditated (on the floor), lived (in really, really plain little dorm rooms), and trained (various cool locations.)
This gave the fanbase a visual directory of the Temple, even though it was later destroyed. When viewers of The Mandalorian met Ahsoka Tano and placed into canon Gorgu’s former life as a Jedi trainee, those who had also seen Clone Wars could picture him there.
Rebels: Kanan Jarrus
While several Jedi survived Order 66, they understandably scattered and took various paths to conceal themselves for their own safety.
Partly because his Master sacrificed herself to save him, Kanan Jarrus struggled with his Padawan past and even then underused his Force powers while in active combat in the nascent Rebellion.
Kanan’s backstory established that some Jedi beyond Obi-Wan, Ahsoka, and Yoda slipped through the worst of Order 66. The introduction of this previously unknown Jedi signaled that he might not be alone.
The Phantom Menace: Yaddle
With the hype surrounding the first Star Wars film since Return of the Jedi—and the backlash that followed it—a certain pointy-eared character on the Jedi Council was lost in the shuffle.
Yaddle, a member of Yoda’s species, was seen but did not speak in The Phantom Menace.
Fans took her unbound brown hair to signal that she was female and younger than Yoda, whose wisps of grey had long since established him as an older member of the species.
She later appeared in several comic books, young adult books, and action figure releases. But where the future of Star Wars is concerned, Yaddle served an important purpose: She underlined that others of Yoda’s species existed, that they were likely rare. They might even have a propensity to a deep connection to the Force.
In Yaddle’s Extended Universe adventures, she proved a powerful Force user indeed. Not only did she earn a seat on the Jedi High Council– a rare achievement– she was considered a legend in certain parts of the galaxy before the Republic fell. Perhaps there were others?
Return of the Jedi: Baby Ewoks
The presence of baby Ewoks is perhaps the first stirring of en mass fan dissatisfaction in the Star Wars universe.
By the time they appeared in Return of the Jedi, the Star Wars IP was well and truly established as a marketing juggernaut. Some viewed the Ewoks with a cynical eye, considering them ready-made toy line insertions rather than characters who believably contributed to the storyline.
While George Lucas insisted the Ewoks were originally envisioned as Wookies, the little teddies were derided by older members of the fandom as moneymakers rather than warriors.
Children did, however, embrace them. The Ewoks spawned several animated properties.
Those children have now grown up and are watching The Mandalorian, ready to accept a sweet, cooing baby Yoda where they once embraced an infant Ewok in his nest.
And this time around, many of those wary of the Ewoks now welcome the rather more complex character of Grogu.
Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith: Younglings
The sight of adorable little kids wielding adorable little training lightsabers, a favorite scene of many in the otherwise unpopular Attack of the Clones, was subverted in Revenge of the Sith when the newly turned Darth Vader wiped out the younglings in the Jedi Temple.
It’s been long established that most Jedi were identified early and trained from childhood. (“too old to start the training,” Yoda snaps to a disembodied Obi-Wan in Empire, even though Luke is sitting right there next to him in the hut all, “You.. know I can hear you, right?”)
The prequels provided visuals to match this embedded knowledge.
Given the Star Wars timeline, we know that Grogu was a Temple youngling for quite some time, but whether he was given a tiny green “laser sword” is probably a question for later seasons. Previously disclosed information about younglings gave the franchise a firm footing on which to place Grogu.
Rebels: The Child
There are three characters from Rebels on this list, yes, but listen: This was one of the last Star Wars offshoots Dave Filoni worked on before turning to The Mandalorian.
Watching Rebels with this in mind, we can see his consciousness working through a few themes and switchbacks.
The feints that made the reveal of Baby Yoda such a shock was how the audience was prepped for a 50-year-old bounty target. Who was ready for a slow-aging species that we’d only previously seen as aged and more aged?
Filoni pulled a variant of this red herring before. On Rebels, Zeb, one of the last of his species, was escorting other refugees from his home planet. One of them is a spiritual leader and refers to the need for “a child” to guide them to a mythical new planet.
Although Zeb is in is early 40s, he was indeed “the child.”
A New Hope: Daddy issues
For all of its stops along the hero’s journey, Star Wars is a story of father and son relationships.
Although the decision to biologically tie Vader to Luke Skywalker wasn’t made until later, the Original Trilogy was always a story of the search for a father.
Luke butts heads with his foster father, “Uncle” Owen, and looks to Ben Kenobi as a mentor. He is understandably fascinated by Obi-Wan’s description of his father. Even though not even George Lucas fully knew where the overarching storyline would lead as he filmed this conversation, Dad was always a very big deal.
In a reverse of the thematic elements of the Original Trilogy, Din Djarin didn’t go out in search of anyone except a bounty score.
He didn’t mean to become a father but instead found himself sacrificing his own identity to protect the adopted son he never meant to take on.
The Clone Wars theatrical animated debut: Baby Jabba
I had but a sliver of interest in The Clone Wars when it debuted as a theatrical release in 2008; this wasn’t a section of Star Wars history in which I was particularly interested, and when I head this new venture involved a baby version of Jabba the Hutt named Stinky (this turned out to be Ahsoka’s grim nickname for the mini-Hutt, but still), I was out: Lucas hadn’t learned one single thing, I just knew he’d find a way to drag JarJar into he proceedings, and I was out, out, out.
I was partially right. But that meant I was partially wrong, too, and missed out on the many good qualities of Clone Wars. And one of the lessons it taught was that just about every species is cute when it’s tiny.
Even when it’s a Hutt.
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