Star Wars: The History of the Mandalorian People
With The Mandalorian debuting on Disney+ soon, curiosity in the culture and history of Mandalore is at an all-time high. It’s been of interest to Star Wars fans for years because of the popularity of Boba Fett, who wears the armor of a Mandalorian – but we learned through the course of Star Wars: The Clone Wars that the iconic bounty hunter was not actually a member of the culture of Mandalore and neither was his father, Jango. At this point, it’s still a mystery how they came by their iconic Mandalorian armor, though these secrets might be revealed in the future.
So who are the people of Mandalore? What is their history? What makes them tick? Like any fully realized fictional culture, the history of Mandalore spreads back for thousands of years. In terms of the Star Wars universe, this means that their history goes back to a time even before the formation of the Republic.
ON THE OUTER RIM
Mandalore itself is positioned in what is known as the Outer Rim. Its closest neighbors include Yavin and Dathomir, but it’s in the same area as Tatooine and Geonosis. From the films, we know the Outer Rim to be a place where the Republic has little, if any, influence. Mandalore was completely independent of the Republic and did its best to remain neutral to the Separatists and that caused significant problems for them during the Clone Wars.
In its history, the planet was once a lush paradise but, after centuries of war, the humans who lived there were left to live in massive domed cities.
CRUSADERS AND THE JEDI
In the Star Wars canon, the history of Mandalore stretches back to the oldest eras of known history in the universe. Mandalorians began as a warlike people, ever-seeking conquest in the days before the Old Republic. This warrior culture eventually led to a need to colonize and conquer other nearby systems. Those Mandalorians that were sent off into these battles were known as Crusaders. Two noteworthy planets that were conquered by these sword-wielding, space-faring Crusaders were Krownest and Concord Dawn, both planets that were seen in animated Star Wars tales. Concord Dawn bore the largest scars from Mandalorian conquest, as the planet was literally shattered, fractured from the war that had racked the planet. These attacks weren’t limited to the Outer Rim, either. The Crusaders made their way in as far as the Inner Rim of the galaxy, though their territory appears to have shrunk in the later years of the Republic. The trouble with this era of the timeline is that all we have are vague references to it, spoken second-hand through characters or in reference books that make even more oblique mentions.
Because of their bloody conquests, the Crusaders eventually caught the notice of the Jedi order and this sparked generations of war between those who would dedicate their lives to conquest and those who sought to keep the peace in the galaxy. They commemorated the battles in their artwork which implies a healthy respect for their Jedi foes. It’s said that the Mandalorians were unstoppable conquerors, but the Force abilities of the Jedi confounded them and they were forced to adapt against their new foes. It was in these fights that the weapons and armor that are iconic to the Mandalorians were developed, each layer something designed specifically to counter the Force abilities of the Jedi.
Regarding Mandalorian armor, Sabine Wren once explained to Jedi apprentice Ezra Bridger on Star Wars Rebels, “Ezra, the armor I wear is five hundred years old. I reforged it to my liking, but the battles, the history, the blood all lives within it. And the same goes for every Mandalorian.”
Truly, a race of warriors.
TARRE VIZSLA AND THE DARKSABER
Despite these prolonged wars with the Jedi, there were definitely times of peace enjoyed in the galaxy. It was during one of these lulls in the conflict that Tarre Vizsla was brought into the Jedi order, the first Mandalorian to ever have done so.
According to Journeyman Protector Fenn Rau, as he recounted this story to Jedi Kanan Jarrus in Star Wars Rebels, Tarre Vizsla’s entry into the Jedi Order took place over a thousand years before the galactic civil war that we know so well.
Because he was the first Mandalorian to become a Jedi, he was revered among his people. During his training with the warrior monks, Vizsla crafted what became known as the Darksaber. It was an ancient design of lightsaber with a black blade.
According to Rau, Tarre Vizsla was able to free himself from the Jedi Order enough at some point to rule over Mandalore, uniting all of the clans. During this time, the Darksaber became a symbol of power to the Mandalorians he ruled, specifically his own clan of Vizsla. Unfortunately, after his death, the Jedi took possession of the weapon and opted to keep it safe at the Jedi Temple.
This didn’t last long, though. At the dawn of the fall of the Old Republic, Clan Vizsla raided the Jedi Temple and took the Darksaber back. It was recognized as a symbol of authority for the ruler of Mandalore and it could only be passed from one owner to another with a trial of combat, else the claim on the saber would be considered illegitimate.
THE MANDALORIAN CIVIL WAR
In the years prior to the Clone Wars and even before the crisis on Naboo, Mandalore’s united clans split once more, thrusting the planet into a prolonged civil war.
The Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn and his padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi were involved in one side of the war, helping the pacifist House Kryze survive against the more aggressive clans and houses that wanted to plunge Mandalore into further war and conquest.
“Master Qui-Gon and I spent a year on Mandalore,” Obi-Wan Kenobi recounted on The Clone Wars, “protecting the duchess from insurgents who had threatened her world. They sent bounty hunters after us. We were always on the run, living hand to mouth, never sure what the next day would bring.”
Eventually, the pacifists, led by the Duchess Satine Kryze, won the conflict and Mandalore spent decades at peace. They refused to take a side in the Clone Wars and ultimately paid a price for it.
Wielding the Darksaber, a Mando named Pre Vizsla (voiced on The Clone Wars by future The Mandalorian Executive Producer Jon Favreau!) took a splinter group of disaffected Mandalorian clans and formed a terrorist organization named Death Watch. Death Watch was dedicated to toppling the pacifist government of Mandalore in order to bring about a return of Mandalore’s warrior past.
MAUL AND MANDALORE
Death Watch and the legitimate government of Mandalore fought bitterly in a series of engagements. Count Dooku, leader of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, secretly supported Death Watch, which complicated matters for the Republic, since Mandalore had stated their neutrality and they couldn’t interfere without starting a diplomatic crisis. There was a way around that, though; because of his prior involvement with the Duchess, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s presence was personally requested to help settle the conflict.
Eventually, Death Watch’s repeated failure to capture Mandalore was enough that they sought new allies and found themselves in an alliance with Maul and his brother, Savage Opress. With Death Watch backing Maul, the former Sith lord was able to gather the criminal underworlds of the galaxy including the Pyke Syndicate and Black Sun, into what became known as the Shadow Collective.
Using the Shadow Collective as a ruse, Maul had these criminal forces attack Mandalore and had Death Watch “rescue” the people from this terrible fate, thereby proving that they were more capable of protecting them than the Duchess Satine. This worked and the Duchess Satine was overthrown and Death Watch took control of the government with Maul as its head.
“I am Pre Vizsla of Clan Vizsla,” he told the people of Mandalore on The Clone Wars, “Death Watch is here to save you from these intergalactic gangsters that threaten our great city. This is a war, and we will win. Join me, and let us defend Mandalore against the criminals. We need action, not pacifism!”
Naturally, Pre Vizsla worked to take the planet back for himself and replace Maul, but things didn’t work out for him. Maul killed Vizsla and then the Duchess Satine, and kept control of the planet for himself.
When Darth Sidious finally removed Maul from the equation, Bo-Katan, a former member of Death Watch and sister to the Duchess Satine, was named the Regent of Mandalore, a position she held only briefly. After the conclusion of the Clone Wars, the Empire took over the galaxy and Bo-Katan was not sympathetic to them. Clan Saxon, led by Gar Saxon, was loyal to the Emperor and took control of the planet with Imperial backing.
IMPERIAL OCCUPATION AND THE SUPER COMMANDOS
During the Imperial occupation of Mandalore with Gar Saxon as Imperial Viceroy, young Mandalorians such as Sabine Wren were forced into Imperial Academies. At these schools, Mandalorian youth were trained to fight for the Empire as Imperial Super Commandos, but also forced to do research and development that would aid the Empire in pacifying the planet. During her time there, Sabine Wren was forced to design and build a prototype weapon that specifically targeted Mandalorians. Sabine’s weapon could arc deadly energy between Mandalorians wearing their signature armor. She named it “The Duchess.” Sabine left the academy and escaped Mandalore when she came to her senses and eventually joined up with the Rebellion.
For his part during the dark times, Gar Saxon led an elite group of Mandalorians that became known as the Imperial Super Commandos. They were deadly enforcers for Emperor Palpatine and their armor became a blend of Imperial and Mandalorian styles to pay respect to both of their masters.
These super commandos ruled Mandalore with an iron fist and terrorized the galaxy at large, helping Mandalore live up to its warrior roots, just as Death Watch had hoped.
GALACTIC CIVIL WAR
As the Galactic Civil War began to coalesce at the end of the dark times (as documented on the animated series Star Wars Rebels), many Mandalorians were growing ready to fight back against the Empire’s oppression alongside the rest of the galaxy. Sabine Wren was able to recover the Darksaber from Maul on Dathomir and used it to unite some of the more disaffected clans of Mandalore, including her own Clan Wren.
It began with the rebel Sabine Wren traveling to the ancestral home of Clan Wren, the Mandalorian-controlled planet of Krownest. There, Sabine sought to reconcile with her family, but Gar Saxon and his Imperial Super Commandos arrived to attack. In the conflict, Gar Saxon was killed, tossing Mandalore into a new fight for power. Because the political situation was so fraught, Mandalore was unable to offer the Rebellion any assistance at that time.
It wasn’t until the Battle of Atollan, where Grand Admiral Thrawn engaged the Rebels of Phoenix Squadron (as seen during Star Wars Rebels Season 3), that the young Jedi rebel Ezra Bridger was able to escape the blockade and convince the Mandalorians to enter the conflict. Mandalorians led by the Wren’s helped the Rebels survive that conflict so they could regroup on Yavin IV.
The Rebels, in turn, would offer their help to Clan Wren as they infiltrated their still-Imperial occupied homeworld and free it from the reign of the Saxons. With the death of Gar Saxon, rule of Mandalore was left to his brother, Tiber. Tiber Saxon was as much or more a tyrant as his brother and set to work rebuilding the weapon of mass destruction designed originally by Sabine Wren. The rebels led by Sabine Wren, and a group of Mandos led by Bo-Katan Kryze destroyed the weapon and liberated the planet.
It was at this point that Sabine Wren gave Bo-Katan the Darksaber, installing her as the rightful leader of a newly-free Mandalore.
To date, there has been no new information about the fate of Mandalore. We’re not sure what happened after Bo-Katan took control or how long she even had that control. Did the Empire come back and firebomb the entire place for their defiance? Or did the Empire decide they had bigger problems to deal with, especially after the loss of the Death Star? With The Mandalorian about to debut, there’s every hope that it will offer clues to the future of Mandalore.
In the preview footage screened from The Mandalorian, Werner Herzog’s character offers the Mandalorian with no name (played by Pedro Pascal) a case full of beskar, the metal used exclusively in Mandalorian armor, stamped with Imperial logos, as payment for a job. It certainly reminds one of Nazi gold and implies a lot about the relationship the Empire had with Mandalore and how the remnants of the Empire might still be using that stolen wealth.
With Dave Filoni (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars Rebels) involved in the show, there’s little doubt that we’ll get small hints about the fate of Mandalore. Whether they’ll be anything larger than that is anyone’s guess.
The Mandalorian premieres on November 12, coinciding with the launch of the new Disney+ service.