- "They have Master Yoda's species listed as Lannik, and his midi-chlorian count at 4 million. That's just ridiculous!"
- ―Coleman Trebor
The Jedi Master Yoda was the best-known member of a species whose true name is not recorded. Known in some sources simply as Yoda's species, this species of small carnivorous humanoids produced several well-known members of the Jedi Order during the time of the Galactic Republic.
Biology and appearance
The name and homeworld of this species are unknown.
Members of the species were much shorter than an average Human, most standing below 70 centimeters, with lifespans of many hundreds of years (though their average lifespan is unknown because all known members of the species were Jedi, who generally lived longer than ordinary members of a species). Adults of the species were characterized by sharp, elfin ears, ridges on their foreheads, tridactyl hands and (most commonly) anisodactyl feet. Their leathery skin and blood were both light green. Their sharp teeth suggested a carnivorous diet. The diet of the most famous member of the species, Jedi Master Yoda, consisted of nutriment most other beings considered disgusting.
This species resembled the Lannik species, both having a short stature, large pointed ears, and, in some cases, a topknot of hair. Whether this species was related to the Lannik is uncertain, though Yoda was at least once mistaken for a Lannik. A genetic connection between the two species was unlikely, though, because Lannik were much more humanoid and appeared to have evolved from simians, while the unknown tridactyl species had features that suggested an amphibian or reptilian ancestry.
All known members were very wise and had extraordinary Force potential. Most of them, though not all, spoke an idiosyncratic dialect of Galactic Basic Standard, utilizing nonstandard grammar and formalized sentence construction. Members of this elusive species were rarely seen in the known galaxy.
Yoda, the most famous member of this species, was the Jedi Grand Master during the time of the Galactic Republic for over two centuries and one of the most powerful Jedi in the history of the Order. Master Yoda died from natural causes at the age of 900 standard years.
Two other Jedi, Yaddle and Vandar Tokare, were also powerful Masters who both sat on the Jedi Councils on Coruscant and on Dantooine respectively. A fourth Jedi Master of said species, Oteg, served during the Cold War. A fifth, lesser-known Jedi of this species, Jedi Knight Minch, served the Jedi Order around 700 BBY. Although little is known about him, he proved himself quite able in the ways of the Force when he single-handedly defeated a Dark Jedi Master in combat. In contrast to the other four masters, who had all shown exceptional calmness and self-control at all times, Minch had a slightly more fiery temperament and was known to have once lost his cool when subjected to Dun Möch.
Behind the scenes
For reasons unknown, George Lucas maintained a strict policy of keeping the history, name, origin, and whereabouts of this species unknown. When asked what species Yoda is, Lucas has only joked, "He's a frog." In the documentary "From Puppets to Pixels," he joked that Yoda is "the illegitimate child of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy."
Prior to the creation of Yaddle for The Phantom Menace, Lucasfilm actively discouraged licensees from exploring Yoda's species, wishing to avoid confirming that an entire species of Yoda-like individuals even necessarily existed. Lines cut from Revenge of the Sith simply refer to the species as "Yoda's species."
Lucas's policy has resulted in certain Star Wars publications being canceled. A significant example was when Lucasfilm (likely at the direction of George Lucas) ordered the pulping of the entire print run of a yet-to-be-released Star Wars trading card depicting a group of the unknown tridactyl species worshiping a larger-than-life statue of one of their number, led in prayer by an individual who may have been intended to be Yoda.
Santa Claus appears to be a member of Yoda's species (as shown in Star Wars Adventure Journal 8), though this is an Easter egg and therefore is non-canon in Legends. In Star Wars: X-Wing, which also includes a cameo of Santa Claus, what appears to be a member of this species can be seen on the floor of a hanger of the starship Independence.
Because of their three fingers on each hand and three toes on each foot, some have called Yoda's species a "tridactyl."
Many fans have speculated that this unknown species is the Whills (as in the Journal of the Whills), but, in an interview, George Lucas has denied this. A misconception that Yoda is a Whill from the planet "Grentarik" originated on the fan-fiction site run by "SuperShadow."
Number of toes
The number of toes that members of this species possess has been inconsistently portrayed over the course of the Star Wars franchise, including in the films. A tridactyl foot would only have three toes, but this version has only appeared once, in The Phantom Menace, whereas the puppet used in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as the digital model from Revenge of the Sith, all have four toes.
In the Empire Strikes Back shot of Yoda rummaging through Luke's supplies, Yoda's soles are visible. Although there are definitely three forward-facing toes, an additional digit protruding in the opposite direction is ambiguously either a fourth toe or a prehensile heel of some kind (if such a thing is anatomically possible). The clear presence or absence of a fourth toenail would settle the matter, but the angle of the shot makes it impossible to see whether one is there. If the fourth, rear-facing digit is a toe, then Yoda's species have anisodactyl feet.
In The Phantom Menace, the puppets of both Yoda and Yaddle feature three forward-facing toes and a blunted Human-like heel instead of the original puppet's anisodactyl arrangement, thus having truly tridactyl feet. Attack of the Clones has a fully digital Yoda but contains no close-ups adequate to discern the toe arrangement.
The digital Yoda in Revenge of the Sith returns to the original trilogy puppet's anisodactyl design, as seen in shots of Yoda plummeting to the Senate Rotunda floor at the conclusion of his battle with Darth Sidious, and when jumping down into Bail Organa's speeder shortly afterwards. One earlier shot of Yoda lying momentarily stunned on a senate pod during the battle also seems to display a rearward fourth toenail, indicating that the fourth digit is indeed a toe, but the shot is not adequately clear at DVD resolution.
Likely as a result of the above inconsistency, various Hasbro action figures of Yoda produced since Return of the Jedi have featured three, four or five toes in a variety of arrangements. None of these precisely matched his anisodactyl feet in The Empire Strikes Back until Revenge of the Sith figures molded a toenail onto the ambiguous rear-facing fourth digit of the Empire Strikes Back design, definitively making the digit a toe. Whether Hasbro based this on a Revenge of the Sith digital model or access to the original trilogy's puppet, or if this was speculation on their part, is unknown.
The 2006 reference book The New Essential Guide to Alien Species, on page 216, states that Yoda's species had "five-toed feet, with three toes in front and two toes in back." However, the five-toed arrangement is not visible in any film, so this statement contradicts the more common anisodactyl version featured in the majority of the films (which naturally possess a higher level of canon). This five-toed version remains the least used in any incarnation of Star Wars media.
The 2008 animated film and television series The Clone Wars uses a CGI model of Yoda that matches the one-off tridactyl arrangement from The Phantom Menace, with three forward-facing toes and a blunted heel. The episode "Ambush" has shots of Yoda's feet showing three forward toes and a pointed heel in back.