Star Wars Canon Catch-Up: Who Is Yoda?

Star Wars is going through a state of transition. For twenty years, an Expanded Universe of novels, comics, and games have supplemented the films and TV shows to create an incredibly deep and detailed Star Wars universe. Soon after Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, however, they wiped the canon slate clean, saying they would no longer adhere to the stories of the Expanded Universe in order to have the greatest creative freedom with their new Star Wars films starting with The Force Awakens.

But with the new films, so comes new books, comics, and games in a new continuity to replace the old one. So, what is canon and what isn’t anymore? After twenty years, are these the same characters and planets we’ve always known and loved? Is it even the same universe? Well, in our new column Canon Catch-Up, we’re here to answer those questions and set the record straight.

Today, we’re discussing Jedi Master Yoda.

So, what’s the deal with Yoda in the current continuity? 

Yoda’s past is a mystery. All that is known is that after receiving his lightsaber crystal as a Padawan, he constructed his first lightsaber aboard the Jedi ship Crucible. Eventually, Yoda became a Jedi Master taught many students over the years as they were younglings. Yoda also took on Count Dooku as his personal Padawan. Eventually, Dooku became a Jedi and took Qui-Gon Jinn as his Padawan.

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By the time of the Naboo Blockade, Yoda was serving as the head of the Jedi council. When Master Qui-Gon brought Anakin Skywalker to his attention, believing the boy to be the chosen one prophesized to bring balance to the Force, Yoda and his council dismissed the boy for training. After Jinn’s death, however, Yoda elevated Jinn’s apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi to the rank of Jedi Knight and allowed him to take Anakin as his Padawan.

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Dooku would eventually leave the Jedi and become Palpatine‘s Sith apprentice, eventually insight a secessionist movement from the Republic that led to the Clone Wars. Yoda, like all Jedi of the era, served as a general to the Republic’s Clone Troopers. Near the end of the war, Yoda was contacted by the disembodied spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn, who put Yoda on a path that would allow him to discover the secrets of becoming a Force Ghost.

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Unfortunately, the end of the war also meant the end of the Jedi Order. After the betrayal of Anakin Skywalker and Order 66, most Jedi were either dead or on the run. Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi worked together to warn Jedi to go into hiding. They subsequently turned to eliminating Darth Vader and the Emperor. Yoda fought Palpatine in the senate, but was unable to best him in combat and went into exile on the planet of Dagobah. Yoda stayed in solitary exile, though he sometimes communicated through the Force with Jedi in need of his guidance.

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Luke Skywalker came to Dagobah after fleeing Hoth, looking to train as a Jedi. Yoda was at first reluctant, but the spirit of Obi-Wan convinced him to train Luke as a Jedi. Yoda put him through an intense regimen that including telekinesis, visions, and confronting the dark side of the Force. When Luke saw a vision of his friends being tortured at Cloud City, he rushed off to face Darth Vader despite his master’s protests.

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A year later, Luke returned to Dagobah hoping to resume his training. Yoda, however, informed Luke his training was complete with one exception: he must confront his father. With his last words, Yoda told Luke that there was another Skywalker, who the spirit of Obi-Wan Kenobi would later confirm as Leia Organa.

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Yoda became one with the Force, appearing once more to Luke along with the spirits of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi after the destruction of the second Death Star.

What about the Yoda in the Expanded Universe?

While there are no official stories concerning Yoda’s early life, there is a legend that Yoda did not know he was Force sensitive when he was young. The story goes that Yoda left with a friend to seek employment in the core worlds when their ship was damaged. They crash landed on a swampy planet where they met Jedi Master N’Kata Del Gormo, who told both Yoda and his friend they were both Force sensitive. He trained them both until they were picked up by a Republic ship and take to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant.

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By the age of 96, Yoda had become a Jedi Master and was training his own students for hundreds of years. He trained many Padawans, the last of which was Dooku: heir to the Count of the planet Serenno. Following the Naboo Blockade and the death of Qui-Gon Jinn, Dooku left the Jedi Order and became Darth Tyranus, the apprentice of the Sith Lord Darth Sidious aka Palpatine.

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When Dooku became the head of the Confederacy of Independent Systems and attempted to execute Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and Padme Amidala on Geonosis, Yoda intervened with a Clone Army. Yoda tried to prevent Dooku from escaping, even engaging him in a lightsaber battle, but Yoda was unsuccessful. Dooku fled the planet and the Clone Wars engulfed the galaxy.

During the Clone Wars, Yoda not only acted as a general but also as a diplomat and front line warrior. For three years, Yoda oversaw the war effort with the support of the Jedi Council. However, it was during the Battle of Kashyyyk that Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader and Palpatine executed Order 66: the execution of all Jedi by the clone army. Yoda was powerless to stop the Jedi massacre across the galaxy, but he survived with the help of Chewbacca and partnered with Obi-Wan Kenobi to warn the rest of the Jedi of the Sith’s trap. Yoda took it upon himself to overthrow Palpatine, now Emperor, through force. Yoda, however, was unsuccessful and went into exile on the planet Dagobah.

For the remainder of the Empire‘s reign, Yoda remained on Dagobah. He was, wild life aside, alone. However, he did have visitors in the form of wayward travelers from time to time including the smuggler Jorj Car’das, Rebel Alliance historian Major Arhul Hextrophon, and the clone of Starkiller.

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Three years after the destruction of the first Death Star, Luke Skywalker came to Dagobah seeking guidance in the ways of the Force. Seeing the same flaws in Luke that he saw in Anakin, Yoda was reluctant to train Luke into a Jedi. It was the spirit of Obi-Wan, however, that convinced him to be Luke’s teacher. Before Luke could complete his training, however, he rushed off to fight Darth Vader when he saw a vision of his friends being tortured on Cloud City.

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A year later, Luke returned. Yoda, however, had nothing else to teach him. He charged Luke with a final task: confront his father, Darth Vader. Before he died, he told Luke that there was another Skywalker, which Luke would shortly discover was Leia Organa.

After the Rebel’s victory at Endor, Yoda appeared to Luke with Anakin and Obi-Wan… finally content and at peace. In the coming years, Luke would often return to Yoda’s teachings for the basis of his new Jedi Order that he would start at his Jedi Academy on Yavin IV.

What does the Expanded Universe tell us about Yoda in the new continuity?

Miraculously, Yoda is a character who has had very little elaboration as far as back story. In neither continuity do we know Yoda’s race or origins. In fact, the narrative of his life is very similar across both time frames, which at this point seems very unlikely to change…

… with one possible exception. If a Yoda anthologies movie is in fact made, then we imagine the new canon will probably be diverging pretty heavily from the old Expanded Universe, especially if the film is an origin story. We’ll just have to wait and see what Disney and Lucasfilm has in store.

While we’re waiting for more post-Return of the Jedi information, check out our previous entry of Canon Catch-Up about Emperor Palpatine.

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