The legend of Yoda is deliciously intriguing, but it is also soured by an unfortunate leftover puppet.
Everyone knows about little old green Jedi master Yoda. You know, the small, backwards talking, cute but a bit ugly warrior of the light? He is an almost mythical creature, surrounded by mystery and intrigue. Endless unanswered questions surrounded him and his kind, and with the introduction of “Baby Yoda” in the new Star Wars series The Mandalorian, those same questions are stirring again. Where does his kind come from? Are all of Yoda’s species strong in the force? What is the name of Yoda’s species? And most importantly . . . Who is Yaddle?
Let me back up a little first, there needs to be more information on the species background before one can truly experience what “Yaddle” is. Unfortunately, while there are nearly forty years worth of Star Wars Legends material to analyze, Disney’s acquisition of Lucas Films and Star Wars has made all Legends continuity entirely moot. This makes gathering canon information (that basically means “real” as far as the story line of Star Wars goes) difficult. The only Star Wars material that can be considered truly canon now are the Star Wars films from episodes one through nine, their novelizations, the video game Jedi: Fallen Order as well as the animated Star Wars: The Clone Wars series – as Disney collaborated with Lucas Films to create both medias – and of course The Mandalorian. All these materials provide surprisingly little information about Yoda and his species. In fact, in all of Star Wars canon, not only do a mere three members of the species exist, every single one has no backstory, gives no hints about the species, and essentially offers no further information on the species other than what they look like.
Basically, we know how to spot a member of their species but practically nothing else. This lack of information is explained away in Star Wars continuity as Yoda supposedly hid as much information concerning his race as possible, such as it’s real name and home world. It was speculated by fans that he meant to protect his kind from potential conflict as he came from a very passive and peaceful place. The “Baby Yoda”, or as he is called in The Mandalorian, “the asset,” does not provide much more information. With the intent of avoiding spoiling the show I will not go into detail about Baby Yoda’s adventures, but I can provide basic information. The child has no given name, no meaningful background, and sadly offers no further key information about Yoda’s species except that the creature is force sensitive and ages slowly like Yoda. Perhaps more of this mystery will be revealed in the show’s next season, but for now we are again left with nothing. Also, there is no clear connection between Yoda and Baby Yoda: the name was just a cute nickname assigned by fans.
Finally, we have the last and most secretive member of Yoda’s species to talk about. A character that makes one wish Yoda’s species stayed confined to two members. Before I go in depth about “Yaddle,” the real-world reason for why we know nothing about Yoda’s species should be explained. George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, wanted Yoda to be completely unique and explicitly told writers not to name Yoda’s species and to create no background for Yoda or his kind so as to keep the magic that surrounds him. When asked directly about Yoda’s background, Lucas said, “He is a mysterious character. He is a magical character. He has no background. He comes and he goes. He is the subversive secret character that enters the film and to then exists at the end” (Shenk.) Yoda was always supposed to be a secretive character, and Baby Yoda follows this model perfectly. With no background and no explanation for Baby Yoda’s existence, Yoda’s legacy of mystery remains safe.
In fact, all materials that further explain Yaddle’s character are no longer canon.
That is, until, Yaddle was introduced to Star Wars continuity. For all the work George Lucas put into the original trilogy to create a shroud of mystery around Yoda, he threw it away in one scene when he created Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Go back and watch the movie carefully: in a scene where the council is seated and discussing the matter of training a young Anakin Skywalker, you can find a small green character with long brown hair seated in a council chair, and it looks strikingly similar to Yoda. In fact, this character is not only the same species as Yoda, but a puppet originally designed to be used as Yoda himself. The puppet, unfinished even during the time of filming, was designed to be a younger version of Yoda. It was slimmer, with long flowing brown hair. It is literally Yoda with a mullet. That is Yaddle.
So if you did not think the names are unusually similar, maybe the puppet’s ridiculous appearance puts it over the top on the this-is-a-complete-rip-off-scale. Yaddle has no lines in the movie. She – yes, she – was completely ignored in the movie novelization and her existence was denied for years. Eventually, the outcries of fans were answered in a series of Star Wars Legends books called Star Wars: Jedi Quest. Yaddle appears in only one book in the series called The Shadow Trap and it ends with Yaddle absorbing a bomb into herself and – get this – imploding instantly. The book is no longer canon, but it does seem fitting that one of the only expansions on Yaddle’s character is her death. In fact, all materials that further explain Yaddle’s character are no longer canon.
The only reason Yaddle’s name can even be trusted is because in the new Star Wars video game Jedi: Fallen Order, there is an Easter egg conversation that even hints Yaddle might still be alive: “‘Growing up we heard tales of a green, pointy eared, legendary Jedi Master and…’ ‘Are you talking about Master Yoda? Yes, he is very legendary.’ ‘Wait? What? Who? No, no, I’m talking about Master Yaddle.’” Personally, it seems hilarious that the only moment Yaddle is ever named in Star Wars canon is during a conversation in which she is instantly confused with Yoda and ends up being the punchline to some script writer’s joke.
The kicker in all of this? Yaddle’s literal (figurative) existence makes the attempt of having Yoda and his species seem serious, mysterious, and rare laughable. Not because there are now three members of the species, not because Yaddle is also a Jedi, and not even because she looks a bit silly. No, it makes the concept seem funny because Yaddle is a rip off of Yoda in every fiber of her existence; she is like a plagiarized Muppet. Speaking of which, George Lucas once joked that Yoda is “the illegitimate love child of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy” (Shenk) and that makes Yaddle the defuncted, mullet rocking, gender-bender version of that.
No one has ever explained why the decision to put the unused Yoda doll in The Phantom Menace scene was made.
Any sources, such as the Star Wars fan made Wookieepedia or the Star Wars Databanks found online, offer short descriptions of the character. Anything relating to her personality can just as easily be attributed to Yoda, aside from her trucker haircut of course. “Yaddle was highly sought after for her great wisdom . . . patience and kindness . . . Yaddle had auburn hair, green-gold eyes, green skin and a height of approximately half a meter” (Djarin). Here are some other notable traits about Yaddle: she was strong in the force like Yoda, she came from the same species as Yoda, she wore the same robes as Yoda due to originally being a puppet made to be Yoda (seriously, the clothes were not even changed), she sat on the Jedi council with Yoda, she wielded a green lightsaber like Yoda and liked talking to the younglings as Yoda did, she also spoke in the same backwards speech pattern as Yoda. The one unique trait about Yaddle was an origin story in which she was enslaved underground for a couple hundred years. But that was explained in a Legends comic book and therefore no longer canon, which strips away anything that really defines Yaddle as different from Yoda.
No one has ever explained why the decision to put the unused Yoda doll in the Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace scene was made. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe George Lucas thought it would be funny. Maybe they didn’t hire enough extras to dress as aliens and the unwanted Yoda puppet was the next best thing. What is most unfortunate is that even after the mistake of creating this character was made, the Star Wars team seemed to double down on the fact that Yaddle is basically a clone of Yoda. There was certainly potential for an interesting Star Wars Legends story to be told. After all, there was a total of fifteen years before Disney bought Star Wars to do it. There may still hope that Disney will reinvent Yaddle’s story, or maybe it is better this puppet is just forgotten.
- Djarin, Din. “Yaddle.” Wookieepedia, StarWars Databanks, 2011, starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Yaddle.
- Lucas, George, and George Lucas. Star Wars. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Lucas Films,1999, http://www.amazon.com/gp/video/detail/0GQFRN62IW9DPPT8UQN98KZDI3/ref=imdbref_tt_wbr_pvt_aiv?tag=imdbtag_tt_wbr_pvt_aiv-20.
- Shenk, Jon, director. From Puppets to Pixels: Digital Characters in ‘Episode II’. From Puppets to Pixels: Digital Characters in ‘Episode II’, 22 Apr. 2002, youtu.be/rh-5UhwcBW0?t=2015.
- Watson, Jude. Star Wars: Jedi Quest: The Shadow Trap. Disney Book Group, 2012.