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Yoda's story explained

History he has. Know it, do you? Yoda is easily one of the most recognizable faces in all of Star Wars. He made his first appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, and ever since then, his wrinkly mug has shown up everywhere, from T-shirts and lunch boxes to posters and, well, mugs. But despite his popularity and well-known quotes, not many fans can say they know all about Yoda's long, long history in a galaxy far, far away. What is Yoda? How did he become so wise? Why does he talk the way that he does? What happened to his hair?

Admittedly, the little green dude is a bit of a mystery. But today, we're going to clear our minds and use the Force to explore everything there is to know about this powerful Jedi. From his shadowy origins to his final moments with Luke Skywalker, here is Yoda's story explained.

What is Yoda?

Linguists have been having some interesting conversations on the subject of Yoda's speech pattern. Talk the way he does, why? His backwards way of communicating has left researchers scratching their heads, and that might be the way George Lucas likes it. The creator of Star Wars was notoriously shifty when it came to any information involving Yoda's species and homeworld. There are others of his kind, like Yaddle, who became Jedi, but Lucas has never so much whispered the name of Yoda's species. 

Before Yaddle's creation, Lucas discouraged anyone from making more beings like Yoda, suggesting that he perhaps wanted Yoda to be the only one of his kind. Jokingly (we think), Lucas has gone from saying that Yoda is a frog to saying that he's the illegitimate child of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy. There are a lot of things about Yoda wrapped in mystery, and Lucas has done a great job keeping Yoda's origin stories a secret because to this day, we don't know what Yoda is. Maybe he really is descended from Kermit and Miss Piggy.

Yoda as a youngling

Before Yoda was a Jedi Master, he had a Jedi Master himself. As unimaginable as it is, Yoda was just a youngling once. The legend goes that centuries before the events of the films, Yoda and a human friend crash-landed on a swamp world. Luckily for them, they found Jedi Master N'Kata Del Gormo, a Hysalrian and Jedi Master. Del Gormo told the two that they were Force-sensitive and trained them as his Padawans. Eventually, Yoda went to Coruscant to continue his training at the Jedi Temple. 

There — as many, many younglings before him were — Yoda was trained by Huyang, a Mark IV architect droid professor. Once Yoda had his own lightsaber, he was paired with a mentor. It's theorized that Del Gormo returned to Coruscant to complete Yoda's training, but the truth is that the Star Wars canon gets murky here. What we do know is that Yoda was influenced by a story his master had told him about the Jedi Masters K'ungfu and Chuang. When Chuang died, his apprentice celebrated, saying that death is just a way that people become a different part of the Force.

From Padawan to Master

Yoda became a Jedi Master at the age of 100. He was pretty young and spry at the time if we consider that he only became geriatric at the ripe old age of 900. Those 800 years as a Jedi Master gave him a lot of time to pass on his own knowledge, something that's kind of his life's calling. Apparently, around 20,000 starry-eyed younglings called Yoda their "Master." That's a whole lot of Padawans. 

Having trained so many Jedi, Yoda became a well-respected member of the Jedi Order. At some point in his long, long tenure, he was honored with a seat on the Jedi High Council. Made up of 12 members, the council ruled over the whole of the Jedi Order, which was independent but supportive of the Galactic Republic. Think of Yoda as a congressman of sorts, alongside his usual duties of teacher, Jedi, and general badass.

Yoda's last Padawan, Dooku

Not all of Yoda's Padawans were exemplary Jedi. Yoda's very last Padawan was a human man called Dooku. Yes, that Dooku. Before he became the villain we know and love to hate, Dooku was Yoda's pupil, impressed with his master but not entirely sold on the rules of the Jedi Order. However, Dooku wasn't your typical wannabe Jedi. He was something of a political idealist, and so after witnessing the corruption of the Galactic Senate and struggling with the Jedi Code, he abandoned his rank of Jedi Master and went home. 

Home for Dooku was the planet Serenno, where he reclaimed his royal-ish heritage. This is how he became Count Dooku, serving as head of state of the Confederacy of Independent Systems during the Clone Wars. What was kept on the down-low was that he had a new master: Darth Sidious. Dooku had fallen to the dark side. Shocker.

Yoda, Defender of the Home Tree

During our first encounter with Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, he seemed like an eccentric, cranky, yet incredibly wise creature. However, in his heyday, Yoda was a straight-up badass. There was a reason why he was so revered, and it wasn't just because he was quick to dole out deep, merchandisable quotes. 

Yoda was demonstrably tight with the Wookies, having served as an honored negotiator between the big furry guys and their Trandoshan neighbors, with whom they weren't so tight. He likely earned the Wookies' trust when he and his young Padawan, Dooku, came to the Wookie homeworld of Kashyyyk to do some pest control. See, it turns out the planet was full of massive, rampaging monsters known as Terentateks. These venomous creatures craved the blood of the Force-sensitive, meaning the Terentatek that Yoda defeated must've seen him as a frog-shaped delicacy. This, and his negotiation efforts, earned him the title of Defender of the Home Tree. Yoda was also adopted into the families of many Wookie leaders because who wouldn't want to have a monster-slaying uncle?

Grand Master of the Jedi Order

Has any other Jedi trained as many younglings? Has any other Jedi served the Order so dutifully for so long? Could any other Jedi prove to be so measured and wise? If there was such a Jedi, we haven't heard of them. Yoda made such a name for himself that he was the obvious choice when it came to appointing the Grand Master of the Jedi Council, a title only given to the oldest and wisest of Jedi. 

Yoda was the Grand Master when Naboo was invaded, which means he was the head honcho when a small and slightly sassy Anakin Skywalker was presented as the possible Chosen One. Yoda told him how fear can lead to the Dark Side, foreshadowing Anakin's eventual descent. As Grand Master, Yoda had a lot of difficult decisions to make as the Clone Wars fell upon the galaxy, but he was first and foremost a teacher. He assigned a Padawan named Ahsoka Tano to Anakin in order to help the Jedi Knight to get over his fears of losing loved ones. If only that had been enough to curb Anakin from giving in to the Dark Side.

His duel with Dooku

Dooku served as the head of state of the Confederacy of Independent Systems, which essentially made him the leader of the Separatist movement that fought against the Republic and the Jedi Order during the Clone Wars. Yoda would get to face his former Padawan head-on when he and a strike team went to rescue Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker, who were defeated and captured by Dooku. 

Despite Count Dooku claiming that the Dark Side had allowed him to become more powerful than any Jedi, Yoda quickly proved that his power was much greater than his diminutive size suggested. Yoda hobbled in with a cane, but he turned Dooku's Force lightning against him with ease. When lightsabers were drawn, it was clear that Yoda was still the master in this fight and that Dooku had much to learn. Dooku only escaped because he distracted Yoda by nearly squashing Anakin and Obi-Wan, allowing him the chance to jump on a ship and fly away from his former master.

Was Yoda going senile?

Toward the end of the Clone Wars, Yoda began to hear voices. Was the old, old Jedi going senile? This is what fellow Council members wondered when Yoda appeared distracted during a meeting, Was the toll of the war too much for such an old creature? Well, as it turns out, Yoda was just wondering how Qui-Gon Jinn could've contacted him from beyond the grave, as he had during an earlier meditation session. 

This was unheard of, and the other Council members were unable to hear anything or anyone while meditating. This led Yoda to undergo a procedure that would bring him as close to death — and by extension, the Force — as possible. Inches away from dying, Yoda heard Jinn again, who told him to go to Dagobah. On Dagobah, Yoda was led by Jinn to a cave strong with the Dark Side. There he saw a vision of the future, with a Sith Lord slaughtering Jedi. Hmmm… who could that be?

Achieving life after death

Having seen this horrible future, Qui-Gon Jinn directed Yoda to go to the Wellspring of Life, home of the midi-chlorians. There Yoda met with a Force priestess who would help him to achieve life after death, which is easier said than done, believe it or not. First, Yoda was forced to fight a sharp-toothed shadow-version of himself — his Dark Side motivated by hubris. He was only able to defeat this wraith when he accepted that he did have a Dark Side, but that it was a part that he refused to give into. 

He went on to undergo some trippy, vision training in order to learn how to appear as a Force spirit after his eventual death. This ordeal had him fighting Darth Sidious, witnessing his own death, and getting taunted with visions of everyone as one big, happy Jedi family (Dooku included), but he eventually overcame these trials. Upon returning to Coruscant, he decided to downplay things and said that his little trip had been entirely uneventful.

Yoda vs. Palpatine

Before the Empire raised its ugly head, Jedi Council meetings essentially went like this: "Wow, that Chancellor Palpatine is gaining way too much power, but he's so popular that it's hard for us to do anything about it." Therefore, the Jedi were pretty uncomfortable when Palpatine appointed a fearful Anakin Skywalker to be his representative at the Council. Thanks to some Sith-level manipulations and creepy visions of Padme Amidala dying in childbirth, this relationship between Anakin and Palpatine led to the creation of Darth Vader, the Sith Lord that Yoda had feared would come in the future. 

As Jedi were being slaughtered under Palpatine's Order 66, Yoda and Obi-Wan conspired to take down Darth Sidious and Darth Vader, aka Palpatine and Anakin. At the Galactic Senate, Yoda faced off with the yellow-eyed Emperor Palpatine and found his opponent was super-charged with Force lightning. Cut to a fight where Yoda's main tactic was flipping around as Palapatine laughed like a maniac. At first, they seemed evenly matched, but once Palpatine gained the high ground, Yoda (unlike some people) knew he was defeated and fled for his life.

Yoda's exile

Upon defeat, Yoda placed himself into exile, claiming that he had failed. Before he ran off to Dagobah, he witnessed the birth of Luke and Leia and the death of Padme. Sensing the twins' connection to the Force, Yoda helped with the plan to separate and hide the babies. Yoda also planned on training with the Force spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn, and he passed this knowledge on to Obi-Wan Kenobi

Because of this, Obi-Wan used his time hiding out on Tatooine to also learn how to maintain his identity after death, which meant that like Jinn and Yoda, he would be able to pass on wisdom long after he was gone. While Obi-Wan made himself comfortable in the sandy desert of Tatooine, Yoda made the swampy planet of Dagobah his home. He made a modest house there among all the little creatures of the muck, waiting for the Skywalker twins to grow up and inevitably cause trouble. Though he was physically stuck on the planet, Yoda was able to keep an eye on surviving Jedi throughout the galaxy, helping them to avoid the Inquisitors that sought to snuff them out.

Passing on what he knew and passing on

Around two decades after Yoda's defeat at the hands of Palpatine, a grown-up Luke Skywalker went to Dagobah in search of a great warrior, the Jedi who'd taught his own mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi. He found Yoda, who didn't appear to be much more than a senile hermit. But soon, Luke would find out that Yoda was the stuff of legend, powerful and wise, revered and feared. Plus, he was pretty dang cryptic when he wanted to be, but ultimately, he was an excellent teacher who mentored Luke in the ways of the Force. 

However, their relationship had its ups and downs. During his training, Luke ignored Yoda's advice and went to confront Vader when he sensed his friends were in danger. He didn't return to Dagobah until a year later, when he found Yoda ill and dying. With Yoda gone, Luke would be the very last of the Jedi, so Yoda asked him to pass on what he knew to others and become a mentor as Yoda had been for centuries. With his final breath, Yoda also dropped the bomb that there was another Skywalker. 

Upon his death, Yoda became one with the Force. But he wasn't gone, not really, thanks to his training to maintain his identity after death. Yoda would appear again, many years later when Luke was at his lowest during his own exile, and he would use his wisdom to help restore Luke Skywalker's faith in the Force.