- "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 Force-sensitive 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.
Characteristics and history
The name and homeworld of this species remains unknown. Members of the species were very small, most standing below 70 centimeters, but had extremely long lifespans lasting many hundreds of years (though because all known members of the species were Jedi, who are known to generally have longer lifespans than what is ordinary for a species, the exact average lifespan of the species is unknown). Adult members 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 pointed to a carnivorous diet. The diet of the most famous member of the species, Jedi Master Yoda, consisted of nutriment most other beings considered disgusting. Most of them, though not all, spoke an idiosyncratic dialect of Galactic Basic Standard, utilizing non-standard grammar and formalized sentence construction.
All known members were very wise and had extraordinary Force potential. 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 exactly 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. There was also a statue of an unknown Jedi of this species inside the Valley of the Jedi on Ruusan. A fourth Jedi Master of said species, Oteg, served during the Cold War. A fifth, lesser known Jedi of this species was the Jedi Knight Minch who served the Jedi Order in the time around 700 BBY. Although very little is known about him, he proved himself to be quite able in the ways of the Force when he single handedly defeated a Dark Jedi Master in combat. In contrast to the above mentioned masters who had all shown exceptional calmness and self control at all times, Minch was of a slightly more fiery temperament and was known to once have lost his cool when subjected to Dun Möch.
This species bore resemblance to the Lannik species, primarily their short stature, large pointed ears, and, as in the case of Yaddle, a topknot of hair. Whether or not this species was related to the Lannik is uncertain, though Yoda had at least once been mistaken for a Lannik. It is highly unlikely that there was a genetic connection between the species though, because Lannik were much more humanoid in appearance and seemed to have a different evolutionary history than that of Yoda and Yaddle's species (Lannik appeared to have evolved from simians, while the unknown tridactyl species had features that could point to an amphibian or reptilian ancestry).
Behind the scenes
For reasons unknown, George Lucas maintains a strict policy of keeping the history, name, origin, and whereabouts of this species unknown. This policy has resulted even in certain Star Wars publications being canceled. A significant example of this policy was when Lucasfilm (likely at the direction of George Lucas himself) 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-size statue of one of their number, led in prayer by an individual who may have been intended to be Yoda.
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.
When asked what species Yoda is, Lucas has only joked, "He's a frog." In the documentary "From Puppets to Pixels", he even joked that Yoda is "The illegitimate child of Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy".
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. Additionally, in lines cut from Revenge of the Sith, Yoda speaks of the Whills as though they were a separate species. Some fans have also been known to call them "Yoda things" or just "Yodas". The New Essential Guide to Alien Species simply refers to the species as "Yoda's species".
Another, similar fanon misconception is that Yoda is a Whill from the planet "Grentarik". This rumor originates from the fan fiction fansite run by "SuperShadow". When The Essential Guide to Characters was published, Yoda's homeworld was listed as Dagobah, leading some fans to believe that they were from Dagobah in origin. However, new material released states that Yoda was not born there.
Because of their three fingers on each hand and three toes on each foot, some have called Yoda a "tridactyl".
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 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.
Number of toes
There is actually a considerable lack of clarity as to the exact number of toes that members of this species possess (at least canonically speaking), as this significant anatomical feature has been inconsistently portrayed over the course of the Star Wars franchise, notably including the films themselves. Strictly speaking, a truly tridactyl foot would only have three toes, but this version has actually 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, there is a shot of Yoda rummaging through Luke's supplies where the soles of his feet are seen. Although there are definitely three forward-facing toes, there is also an additional digit clearly protruding in the opposite direction. This is ambiguously either a fourth toe or perhaps a prehensile heel of some kind (if such a thing is even anatomically possible); the clear presence or absence of a fourth toenail would settle the matter, but the angle of the ESB shot makes it impossible to see if this is the case. If the fourth, rear-facing digit is a toe (which seems likely), then technically Yoda's species have anisodactyl feet.
The first discrepancy appears in The Phantom Menace, where 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 being the only appearance of the species with truly tridactyl feet. However, when the TPM puppet was replaced by the fully-digital version used in Attack of the Clones, Yoda now apparently possessed five toes, arranged somewhat like a star shape and all separate from a blunt humanoid heel, although this is not actually visible in the film itself. This was revealed in the exhaustive book Star Wars Chronicles: The Prequels, which displays multi-angle views of the digital model—so, although there are no adequate close-up shots in AotC to definitively confirm that this model made it into the final film, it is highly likely that it did.
At any rate this was clearly no longer the case for the upgraded digital Yoda used in RotS, which features a full-circle return to the ESB and ROTJ 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 also 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, thus indicating that the fourth digit is indeed a toe rather than some kind of prehensile heel, however the shot is not adequately clear at DVD resolution to be definitive.
Likely as a result of the above confusion, various Hasbro action figures of Yoda produced since Return of the Jedi have featured either three, four or five toes in a variety of arrangements, although none of which precisely matched the anisodactyl appearance of Yoda's feet in ESB until RotS figures were produced. Interestingly, these RotS figures molded a toenail onto the ambiguous rear-facing fourth digit of the ESB design, clearly indicating a belief that the digit was indeed a toe. Whether Hasbro based this on a detailed RotS digital model or access to the original ESB puppet, or if this was mere speculation on their part is unknown. Naturally, these varying designs are generally not evident unless directly viewing the underside of the figures.
The controversy was notionally solved with the release in 2006 of The New Essential Guide to Alien Species, which, on page 216, states that Yoda's species had "five-toed feet, with three toes in front and two toes in back." However, as the five-toed arrangement is not actually visible in any film, this statement contradicts the more common anisodactyl version featured in the majority of the films (which naturally possess a higher level of canon). As a result, the definitively canonical number of toes possessed by this species remains unresolved.
To subsequently perpetuate the confusion, the 2008-released film and animation series The Clone Wars uses a CGI model of Yoda that has evidently reverted to the formerly one-off tridactyl arrangement seen in The Phantom Menace, with three forward-facing toes and a blunted heel. The episode Ambush has shots of Yoda's feet as having three forward toes, and one in back, as a pointed heel. At any rate, the aforementioned notionally official five-toed version thus remains the least used in any incarnation of Star Wars media.
In the "Ask Lobot" feature of Star Wars Insider 122, released in December 2010, Holocron continuity database keeper Leland Chee solved the issue by stating that Yoda has four toes: three in the front and one in the back.