Strong. Silent. Helmeted. Aside from the fact that he’s the galaxy’s greatest foster parent, there’s not a lot we know about the title character of The Mandalorian. We do know a fair bit about the warrior race’s history and culture, but as is the case with Star Wars, there’s been a lot written which has since been de-canonized.
With the Disney+ series continuing to shroud the character’s origins in secret, let’s take a deep dive into the world of the Mandalore system and find out exactly what makes its people put on helmets and go to war.
Wasn’t Boba Fett a Mandalorian?
Well, sort of. Before The Mandalorian came along, a lot of people’s knowledge about Mandalorians began and ended with Boba Fett. When The Empire Strikes Back was still in the conceptual phase, Mandalorians were conceived of as a group of highly-specialized warriors. Released just after the film in 1980, The Empire Strikes Back Sketchbook by Joe Johnston and Nilo Rodis-Jamero floated that the original idea was that Mandalorians were “a squad of super commandos, troops from the Mandalore system armed with weapons built into their suits.”
Throughout the development process, this concept eventually was reduced to the single character of Boba Fett, the mysterious bounty hunter who was described by Donald F. Glut in the Empire Strikes Back novelization as “dressed in a weapon-covered, armored spacesuit, the kind worn by a group of evil warriors defeated by the Jedi Knights during the Clone Wars.” However, when Disney bought the franchise, they removed the novelizations and expanded universe from canon. This retroactively changed Boba Fett’s origin.
That didn’t help. What about his dad?
Most people familiar with the franchise know that Boba Fett’s father was a bounty hunter named Jango Fett, who appears in Attack of the Clones as the genetic source of the titular soldiers. However, Jango wasn’t a Mandalorian either. In the episode of The Clone Wars entitled “The Mandalore Plot,” Almec, the Prime Minister of Mandalore, refuted a claim by Obi-Wan Kenobi that Jango was a Mandalorian. Producer Dave Filoni later confirmed in an episode of the podcast Rebel Force Radio that George Lucas had explained to him that Jango was not connected with the Mandalorians.
Oh, George. The Mandalorians were in The Clone Wars, right?
Indeed. The aforementioned episode “The Mandalore Plot” was responsible for introducing Mandalorian, um, lore and culture. Beginning with a mural that tells the tale of the ancient Mandalorians, it shows their violent crusades across the galaxy that eventually caused them to run afoul of the Jedi Knights. Despite this, one of the Mandalorians, Tarre Vizsla, became the first of his kind to be a Jedi, one thousand years before the Battle of Yavin. A myth is told of the lightsaber he built called the Darksaber, which had a pure black blade. With this, he took the title of Mand’alor, therefore becoming the leader of the Mandalore system. After he died, the Darksaber found itself in the hands of his descendants, who used it to rule Mandalore as Clan Vizsla.
The Mandalorian-Jedi war led to the devastation of Mandalore’s surface, forcing the population to live in sealed dome cities. While the people did their best to heal, a civil war erupted before the events of The Phantom Menace during which insurgents attempted to wrestle control of the planet from the New Mandalorians, who preferred pacifism over the traditional warrior ways. Again the Jedi were involved, with Obi-Wan Kenobi explaining in the episode “Voyage of Temptation” that he and Qui-Gon Jinn were dispatched to Mandalore to protect the New Mandalorian Duchess Satine Kryze.
After the insurgents were driven to Mandalore’s moon of Concordia, the Duchess rebuilt Mandalore, however, the peace did not last long. Since the Clone Wars broke out across the galaxy, the insurgents — now calling themselves Death Watch — joined Sith Lord Count Dooku and the Separatist movement. As told in the three-episode arc of “The Mandalore Plot,” “Voyage of Temptation,” and “Duchess of Mandalore,” Death Watch, led by Pre Viszla and the Duchess’ sister, Bo-Katan, made several attacks against the Republic and Mandalore. Their goal was to force a Republic invasion of Mandalore so they could repel the invaders and be seen as gallant Mandalorian heroes. However, a vote to begin a Republic intervention was not supported in the Senate.
Not to be deterred, Death Watch then shacked up with another Sith Lord, Darth Maul, who was running his own clan called the Shadow Collective. However, these things never go well and Maul ended up murdering the leader of Death Watch after he betrayed the Sith Lord. This is told in the trio of “Eminence,” “Shades of Reason,” and “The Lawless,” which ended with Maul back in the company of Darth Sidious, who decided to torture him. After Order 66 and the formation of the Galactic Empire, Imperial forces occupied Mandalore, and Rebel warrior Sabine Wren, who had left Mandalore after originally signing up for the Imperial Academy, came into possession of the Darksaber in the Star Wars: Rebels episode “Visions and Voices.” After campaigning against the Empire, who were using Mandalorian commandos against their own people to subjugate, and in many cases exterminate them, Wren gave the Darksaber to Bo-Katan so she could unite the Mandalorian clans as a new Mand’alor and lead them against the Empire.
So what happened next?
Only Lucasfilm knows. No one even knows if Bo-Katan’s crusade was successful, but one thing that might key us in to the ultimate fate of Mandalore is the “Great Purge,” as mentioned in the first episode of The Mandalorian.
Okay, so what’s the Great Purge?
Well, the thing is, no one’s exactly sure. Previously, any references to great purges were about the great Jedi purge, which began with Order 66 as depicted in Revenge of the Sith when all the clone troopers murdered their Jedi leaders. But this one is potentially a reference to the Imperial occupation of Mandalore, describing the Empire’s murder of Mandalorian people and the subsequent exile of tribes such as the one seen in the show.
What about that Beskar stuff? Have we seen that before?
Beskar, the special metal that the Mandalorian receives as payment for The Child, is really tough stuff and designed for creating armor. Able to not only take blaster fire but also lightsaber swipes, the metal was invented in the Dark Horse Comics book Tales of the Jedi in the old, old Republic era. It later received the name Beskar in an article about Mandalorian culture in a 2006 issue of Star Wars Insider magazine. In 2017, an episode of Star Wars Rebels named “Heroes of Mandalore” featured a deadly Imperial weapon that targeted Beskar armor and heated it to a level that disintegrated the wearer. Let’s hope for the Mandalorian’s sake no one in the Empire still has the plans.