Yoda’s Species Finally Revealed
For a series with as much lore as Star Wars, it always amazes me when certain details are left undefined. Don’t get me wrong, I do see the appeal in leaving bits of data blank; the imagination of writers often pales in comparison to the variety and scale of the fan theories that will arise in its absence. However, Star Wars is rarely the type of franchise that leaves stones unturned. There are entire encyclopedias of information about the Star Wars universe that never makes it into the movies, games, or other official media. The ridiculous extent to which the story takes its world building is part of what rocketed George Lucas into film and sci-fi history — and why it seems so odd to me that no official name for Yoda’s species has ever been established.
Until now, that is.
Before I get into this, I’d just like to reiterate that I do understand the reasoning of leaving out some degree of background information. Not knowing where a character came from or what sorts of things they experienced in the past not only makes them mysterious, but it can make them highly unpredictable as well. This is part of why the Joker is such an effective character, especially when combined with the fact that he’s a compulsive liar. Even if he ever did tell us about his past, who could ever 100% believe him?
However, Yoda isn’t the Joker. The very core of his personality is honor, justice, and honesty. While there is a great deal of his history that’s left undefined to great effect, I find it very unrealistic that his species is considered an unknown. It seems like such a base statistic about a person, something that would probably go on every personnel file he ever had. Considering the interplanetary nature of the Star Wars universe, giving one’s species and/or home planet is probably about as mundane as mentioning eye color or blood type. I just can’t imagine that it never came up when he first entered the Jedi order, let alone in the 800 years whereupon he trained padawans. Kids are nosy; someone had to have asked him at least once, and I can’t see why he wouldn’t answer (or at least give a fake answer to satisfy curiosity). What could cause Yoda to guard something so menial? What sort of consequences could possibly arise from letting those around him know his species?
I think I’ve finally figured out the answer to those questions.
Basically, I think that Yoda is a really, really, really old mogwai.
First and foremost, one has to acknowledge the physical resemblances. Yoda and Gizmo have comparable facial structures, very similar ears that are in the same positions, the same numbers of fingers and toes, and both happen to be bipedal. Gizmo (along with the mogwai that transformed into gremlins) can speak limited English, which improves over time the longer he hears it. The fact that he’s not already speaking complete sentences suggests that Gizmo is very young and hasn’t been talking long. Furthermore, despite his limited language skills, he appears to have little to no difficulty understanding others when spoken to, much like a budding toddler. Coupled with the fact that he’s significantly smaller than Yoda, it’s not a stretch to imagine that the two are at opposite life stages.
And yes, I realize that mogwai are furry and Yoda is not. However, Yoda does have long wisps of hair lingering around his head (in exactly the same place that Stripe had hair in the original Gremlins, no less). Fur could actually be a juvenile characteristic that fades in adulthood. After all, we don’t know what Gizmo’s flesh looks like beneath his fur, and the color and texture of Yoda’s skin isn’t that dissimilar from that of the gremlins. Maybe baby mogwai need the fur to ensure they maintain a high enough body temperature; they are awfully small.
The biggest problem with the three rules isn’t whether or not they apply to Yoda; it’s more the fact that the rules themselves are poorly defined. When we take the time to dissect what they actually say, Yoda can easily live within their boundaries.
The mogwai aversion to bright light is most likely akin to photosensitive epilepsy. Whenever Gizmo is flashed with bright lights, his eyes roll wildly and he screeches in pain, followed by some degree of shaking. We assume the shaking is due to fear, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a small seizure. Certain intensities of light overload the mogwai brain, and if that overload is severe enough (say, with sunlight), their biological processes quite literally melt down all together.
Now, with that said, the second half of this rule is complete bullshit, even within the context of Gremlins itself. This is because the sun is a star, and both Gizmo and the gremlins had absolutely no trouble being out in starlight. Additionally, moonlight is nothing more than a reflection of the sun’s light — and moonlight can be incredibly bright at times — but it too failed to bother them. This suggests that there’s something specific about our sun in particular that was a problem; perhaps it’s the exact type of light it produces based on the types of gases it’s burning, or its proximity to Earth makes direct exposure too intense for mogwai to handle. Whatever it is, it’s that exact star that’s a problem, not all stars everywhere.
Again, consider the interplanetary nature of the Star Wars universe. With all types of people traveling to all corners of space, mogwai probably would’ve figured out early on what types of light they can and can’t handle. Yoda can hop galaxies all he wants; he’d merely have to steer clear of regions that are known to have the sorts of light his brain can’t process. It’s akin to a cold-blooded species needing to stick to warm areas.
It’s also worth noting that, given the advanced technology Star Wars employs in its stories, there could be medication available to limit mogwai light sensitivity, just as we have medicine to stifle epilepsy reactions in real life. Personally, I think that mogwai would become more tolerant of various types of light as they age. When a creature is young, it’s always more sensitive to stimulus. Every mogwai and gremlin we saw in Gremlins was considerably young, so there’s nothing in the movies to suggest whether or not the condition is life-long.
Let me be clear from the start that I have no explanation whatsoever for the whole they-multiply-when-wet thing. I think of it as something that’s just too alien for me to comprehend, so I’m not going to bullshit you with why that is or isn’t a thing. It’s inconsistent as hell just within the Gremlins movies anyway, so I’m not even going to bother trying to explain it. What I will say, however, is that Yoda seems to walk a fine line with regard to it. He’s apparently not concerned enough about water to avoid living on a frickin’ swamp planet, but at the same time, we really don’t ever see him get wet. He even specifically tells Luke to avoid the water in Episode V because it’s “dangerous”. Maybe the dangers he was concerned about included the ones that could sprout from his own back.
If that’s the case, it could in fact be the one thing that causes Yoda to hold back on revealing his species. Even if he’s able to overcome the problems with certain types of light, I wouldn’t imagine he could willfully stop himself from creating offspring. Enemies that managed to find out that Yoda is a mogwai would be able to fend him off with little more than a moat. Hell, this is Star Wars, they probably have fancy space moats. Maybe a Star Wars moat is actually a complete circle of water, like the bubble ballet in Episode III.
Before I leave this subject, I’d just like to point out that Gizmo’s offspring in the two Gremlins movies suggest that when mogwai multiply by water, the offspring come out ill-tempered and mischievous. This immediately begs the question, what is the proper way for mogwai to reproduce? We’re never given a clear picture of the mogwai life cycle, so we don’t know where a mild-mannered mogwai would come from; hell, we don’t even know where Gizmo himself came from. Regardless of how mogwai are “supposed” to breed, I can at least say that when we look at the spread, it’s Gizmo that’s abnormal, not the others. Everyone but him seems to be innately mischievous and succumbs to urges to trash their surroundings — Yoda included.
This may mean that the ones produced from water multiplication aren’t ‘worse’ than those that originate via mogwai nookie (if such a thing exists). It may just mean that mogwai as a whole are prone to trouble-making, at least from time to time, and Gizmo is abnormally pious. I think it’s unfair to villify his offspring too harshly; after all, they’re just babies, and babies mess things up by nature. Yoda may have had hundreds of years to mature, but if even he’s being a pain in Luke’s ass, what can you really expect from newborns?
I’ve always believed that this has less to do with an exact time and had more with pacing out caloric intake. As a kid, I used to always wonder at what time mogwai could start eating, if midnight was the stopping point? I eventually reasoned that this means “don’t feed them in the morning,” and they should only eat in the afternoon. Still, that doesn’t really answer why it’s those exact times, and the concept of the length of a day will vary from planet to planet.
I think the real message here is that mogwai need a 12-hour buffer between some of their meals. Maybe they’re like shriekers and have a specific caloric threshold that sets off their cocoons, and limiting feeding to a given window of time is just a simple way of preventing them from crossing that point (assuming they don’t pig out, of course). After the half-day of not eating, they will have burned off most of the energy they’d stored, thus freeing them to eat again.
With that being the case, Yoda can manage his diet regardless of the time or what a day even means on a given planet. He’s had hundreds of years to learn how his body works, and if he’s wise enough to become the Grand Master of the Jedi Council, I’m pretty sure he can tell when he’s had enough to eat.
I’ve always wondered about the relationship between mogwai and gremlins, long before Yoda ever entered the picture. Yoda offers us an interesting lens through which we can look at both of these creatures, because as much as he resembles a thoroughly aged mogwai, he’s not that far off from the gremlins, either. He seems to retain the mogwai appearance and proportions, but has the physical strength, endurance, and ingenuity of a gremlin.
My best guess is that cocooning produces a ‘corrupted’ form of an adult mogwai, in terms of biological make-up. Maybe something weird happened along their evolutionary path which allowed a juvenile mogwai to rapidly progress to the adult stage, but said rapid growth causes certain features to come out off-kilter (such as the longer arms and spikey jawlines). Gremlins are the quasi-adult form of mogwai that took the shortcut, whereas Yoda is the normal adult form of a mogwai that did not. Since the gremlin variant is essentially a child in an adult’s body, they don’t have the maturity to handle their power, which is why they’re known to wreak such havoc — thus the emphasis on giving mogwai a 12-hour buffer between meal periods.
In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter, since the two franchises aren’t really related, but it’s still fun to find connective threads between two disparate stories. George Lucas may never give Yoda a full backstory, but even if he doesn’t, I’ll at least have a little more information in my own personal headcanon.
Obligatory Legal Crap
Gremlins, Gizmo, mogwai, and all other elements and characters are the property of… Amblin Entertainment, I think? I know Warner Brothers had a hand in it, but I don’t know if that gives them ownership. Either way, I stake no claim in the franchise.
Star Wars and all related characters and world building are the property of Disney, which continues to blow my mind to this day.