Who Are The Mandalorians?

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Star Wars media has seen multiple portrayals of the Mandalorian culture. “The Mandalorian” is the last of these attempts. We are yet to see how much of their culture will be shown by the end of the series. So far, “The Mandalorian” has captured the essence of who the Mandalorians are in a concise manner, accessible to new audience. What are these, and how do they differ from other depictions of the Mandalorians? And what other versions of Mando portrayal have we seen in the past – and what can we expect “The Mandalorian” to still pick up as inspiration?

Who Are They According To The Show?

Jon Favreau’s “The Mandalorian” has introduced the Mandalorians as a culture with several simple traits, like bullet points in a powerpoint. They are cool. They always wear their helmets. They are obviously a warrior-culture with certain cultural norms and ways, or “the Way” (we are not told what exactly these are). They are a tight-knit community, secretive, keeping to themselves. In the context of this particular series, we do not know whether this particular community is in contact with any other Mandalorian communities, or how many Mandalorians there are overall in the Galaxy, and if all act in the same way. There seems to also be high importance of family, which does not necessarily mean biological family (adoption has been hinted at, basically begging for various fan-speculations about how the “baby Yoda” could become a Mando via adoption).

A first-time viewer can cross-reference this knowledge with what little is showed about Jango and Boba Fett in the films. (Now leaving aside the jungle of problems that already the old canon never seemed completely decided on, whether Jango was a Mandalorian, an ex-Mandalorian or simply a guy who stole a Mandalorian armour somewhere.) Bounty hunting seems to be a natural choice of profession for the Mandalorians. They possess the skills necessary, while at the same time, it may be one of the very few jobs they may be able to do, given their reclusive and nomadic (as hinted at in the third episode) nature. Similar jobs, like mercenary work, or simply getting one’s livelihood by hunting seem to nearly exhaust the remaining options.

That is, unless they happen to stumble upon a huge paycheck – say, for giving their genes to build the greatest army in the Galaxy.

Jango Fett and the clone army created after his template (Episode II promotional poster)

The History According To Many Canons

In the light of “The Mandalorian”, it is also easier to understand why would the Kaminoans (or rather, their clients) be interested in cloning the Grand Army of the Republic out of a Mandalorian warrior. It is all there – the deadly skills, the will to survive and to fight in spite of any odds, the loyalty to the “brothers and sisters” – be it the clan or the clone army.

These aspects of the Mandalorian culture were examined in greatest depth in the series of novels by Karen Traviss, Republic Commando. Especially from book two onwards, the insight into Mandalorian culture is one of the chief themes of the novels, if not the chief theme. Karen Traviss has also created a Mando’a dictionary, which has been used as the only source for Mando’a ever since.

Mandalorians as a group were for the first time introduced in the KOTOR and KOTOR 2 video games, not by chance created around the release of Episode II. The hints of Boba Fett picking up the Mandalorian heritage, however, dated long before – just in broad outlines, however.

Canderous Ordo, the first major Mandalorian Star Wars character (after the Fetts), introduced in Knights of the Old Republic video game

Beef With The Jedi?

The last important thing to consider is the Mandalorians’ long-term up-and-down relationship with the Jedi Order. According to old canon lore, which may or may not be restored (but I assume it would, at least in broad outlines), the Mandalorians first encountered the Jedi in a war. As old warrior culture, they longed to test the other most powerful warriors in the Galaxy – the Jedi. That led them to being used as pawns by the Sith in the times of the Old Republic. The Jedi-Mandalorian rift has been occasionally resurfacing as an old grudge, and in some way, it is reflected even in the use of (Mandalorian) clones as Palpatine’s weapon to bring down the Jedi.

This long enmity becomes a very interesting factor to consider if we look at the Mandalorian’s relationship with “baby Yoda”. Who, if nothing else, shows Force sensitivity.

We can only make guesses where this is going, and whether “baby Yoda”‘s appearance is meant to have any significance in this larger picture. Dave Filoni (who has co-written The Mandalorian) showed in his previous scripts some attempts to reconcile the Mandalorians with the Jedi. Examples are many: Ezra in Rebels working side-by-side with Sabine Wren and advocating for ending the occupation of Mandalore by the Empire. The still-unexplored affair of Obi-Wan Kenobi with Duchess Satine Kryze, and the hints at both Ahsoka, Anakin and the Mandalorians playing major role in the upcoming Clone Wars season. And, perhaps most importantly, the ancient Mand’alor Tarre Vizsla’s past with the Jedi Order and the creation of the Darksaber as explained in the Rebels episode “Trials of the Darksaber”.

Tarre Vizsla in the “Tales of the Darksaber” visualisation of his legend.

What Is The Show Going To Show?

With this track record, I would not be surprised of “The Mandalorian” turned out to steer the Mando-Jedi relationship towards positive rather than negative terms. At the same time, it is unlikely the show will make space for more than a passing mention of the Jedi, if even that.

What is still likely to be mentioned are more details from the recent history. The old canon had before undergone the transformation from “Boba Fett was essentially the last Mandalorian” through Filoni’s retcon in the Clone Wars that “Mandalorian culture changed into peaceful one during the millenia, with a few radicals trying to revive the violent tradition”, to “the Mandalorians revived their culture but were crushed by the Empire” in Rebels. The first few episodes of “The Mandalorian” indicate that we may be close to making a full circle now, with many of the Mandalorians getting crushed during further unspecified “Great Purge” (Imperial?). Now is the time when, at least the community we are following, is picking itself up from the dust.

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Rostislav Kurka
Rostislav is a Protestant theologian and a self-trained Sith, counting Jan Hus, Dorothee Sölle, Darth Revan and Darth Traya among his main influences. He hails from the hundred-towered city of Prague, where he had spent a large part of his life creating worlds and inspiring young generations to roleplay. His involvement in organising children's camps led him to accidentally writing a Lord of the Rings musical, which made him temporarily famous, and a Three Musketeer-Jedi fanfilm, which didn't. He has recently moved to the frozen waste of Finland, because that's it, the Rebels are there.