As mentioned yesterday, this week I’m talking about the now non-canon Star Wars Expanded Universe, the collection of media that made this universe we all love a much bigger and more interesting place than it would’ve been with only the films. With the announcement of the Disney merger and the plans to have new episodes of the film saga, the Expanded Universe lost its canonicity and was rebranded to Star Wars Legends. Today I’m focusing on Galactic History.
When it comes to the Star Wars Expanded Universe, most sources will agree that it detailed, in one way or another, over 36.000 years of the Star Wars galaxy. The Galactic Republic, the setting for many of the stories, characters and locations we see in the various media, existed for about 25.000 of those years, with the Jedi Order coming into existence over 10.000 years before that. The Infinite Empire of the Rakata predates both by several thousand years and their technology driving the technological evolution of future species, particularly the Humans and Duro, who adapted their Hyperdrive technology.
I’ve thought long and hard on how to write this piece and ultimately decided against giving you a complete and rather dull timeline and talking about all the different planets, customs and cultures, from the decadent lifestyle of the upper Coruscanti to the hard living on Nar Shaddah and the physical and spiritual balance ideologies of the Matukai.
Instead, I’ve decided to tell the story from four points of view, from the perspectives of four recurring ‘peoples’ in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Their actions and ideologies shape the galaxies and drive most of the conflicts in the Star Wars saga. It beats covering every single war…there are way too many and I admit I don’t know about them all.
The Jedi are more than just the lightsaber waving warrior monks we see in the films and TV series. It’s not all about being mindful of your feelings. In the Expanded Universe we saw the origin of the order, a sect focused on studying the Force and all its secrets, keeping a balance between Light and Dark but accepting both. This eventually led to the schism and the first war between Light and Dark, the formation of the current Jedi Order from the ashes of the Jed’aii and the rise of the Sith. The Je’daii settled on Tython, a planet so sensitive to the Force that even the slightest imbalance would cause tremendous storms. As such, balance was extremely important to the Jed’aii, whose members were brought to the planet by sentient ships that collected them from their various homeworlds.
In the films, we see the Jedi Masters condemn relationships and most assume that only Vader had a romantic relationship. But the truth is that most if not all Jedi had relationships, some within the order itself with fellow Knights and Masters. Obi-Wan Kenobi met and lost the love of his life during the Clone Wars, a woman as dedicated and courageous as he was, perhaps even more so. Once upon a time, he also had a fling with the Mandalorian Dutchess Satine. The Nautolan Jedi Knight Kit Fisto had secret relationship with Aayla Secura and even Qui-Gon Jinn had a string of lovers. While the order publicly condemned romantic relationships, physical ones were quite common as the Jedi understood that everyone has ‘needs’. It was only the emotional attachment they saw as perilous, and still many Jedi fell in love with one another or other people. It’s a natural thing.
If all of this makes the Jedi sound hypocritical, then you’re close. Over the course of the entire Expanded Universe, the Jedi views on the universe, life and everything else were always contradictory. The Clone Wars were a perfect example, where the Guardians of Peace and Life across the galaxy sent hundreds of Clones to their deaths because many Jedi considered them sub-human, inferior and downright disposable.
Luke’s New Jedi Order changed many things, the relationship rule was the first among them. Jedi could now find love and even marry, something Luke himself did with Mara Jade. The New Jedi Order defended the Galactic Republic and then the Galactic Alliance and was instrumental in the wars to come after the fall of Palpatine’s Empire. The New Jedi Order expanded its horizons and mended centuries long broken fences with other Force Traditions. The Old Jedi Order had the bad habit of trying to integrate other traditions into their core and if they couldn’t they would attempt to control their growth, so that they would never be a danger, and let’s not go into what happened to those that resisted. Worse still, they were quick to expel anyone with conflicting views on the tenets of the order. Gray Jedi were the first to go, as were the followers of the Potentium school of thought, which held that what’s important is not the Force itself but how one uses it. They believed the Force was inherently good and that the Dark Side was just a misuse of the gifts the Force gave them. This wasn’t a popular view and they swiftly cast out its followers.
The more you learnt of the Old Republic Jedi Order, the happier you were that Luke had a chance to correct their mistakes. At the best of times, the Old Jedi Order was seriously misguided and at worst, as insane as their enemies. The Jedi were guardians of life, but you’d be amazed how quickly they jumped to hacky-slashy conclusions.
The Sith in the Expanded Universe are fascinating. From the Films we know they’re an ancient enemy of the Jedi but the truth is much more complicated. The Sith were originally a species living on Korriban (or Moraband, its Clone Wars era name), a race of red-skinned individuals with what we would consider a barbaric society and a natural affinity to the Force, particularly the Dark Side. It’s not just that they were racially proficient in its use and were pretty much all evil, but they actually fed off the Dark Side in Korriban, as did other species on the planet.
When I mentioned they had a barbaric society, I meant it. War was a common thing to them, as was murder, betrayal and reaching new heights on the backs of your slaves and your enemies. But to them this wasn’t evil, but just part of life, to conquer those beneath you. It’s no surprise they had a rigid caste system.
When the first Dark Jedi fled after the defeat at the hands of their Light-sided Jed’aii compatriots, they landed on Korriban and over the course of a couple thousand years, they interbred with the Sith species and genetically manipulated their descendants to weed out those qualities they thought were unnecessary, such as compassion and trust. Only hatred and ambition remained, along with a handful of other dark qualities, terrifying powers and the secrets of Sith Alchemy and Sorcery. The new Sith, a new species dedicated to dark arts, would eventually invade the Republic under Dark Lord Naga Sadow’s command. The Republic and Jedi forces won and scattered the Sith, but its leaders would always escape, find new people to corrupt and in doing so keep the Sith code alive, sometimes doing so after death. Naga Sadow’s influence led to the rise of Freedon Nadd who in turn trained Exar Kun.
Every time the Sith rose, they would attempt to battle the Jedi or try some mad scheme for control, but infighting eventually caused their downfall—or the massive armies they always underestimated. This held true even for the True Sith Empire in the Galactic Cold War (the era where the MMO The Old Republic takes place), where powerful Sith would form splinter groups and name themselves emperors only to be brought down by the combined forces of the True Emperor and the Republic.
This all ended with Darth Bane, one of the last Dark Lords of the Sith before the time of Palpatine. Living a thousand or so years before the Clone Wars, he grew tired of the cycle of betrayal that kept the Sith down, so he formed the Rule of Two. There would only ever be One Master and One Apprentice. This allowed the Sith to survive in small groups of two. Though this didn’t stop the apprentices from constantly trying to overthrow their masters. Betrayal would forever be part of the Sith ideology.
That rule defined the Sith for centuries to come, and formed the basis of the Empire and those organisations that drew from it after its fall, until the rise of the Darth Krayt and the One Sith.
This philosophy was much different from others before it. The One Sith had a single Dark Lord, Krayt, and he ruled over lesser Sith, all of whom were devoted to him. His Sith were fanatical and would go to any length for their Lord. It’s not only that he was powerful, but in making them his Sith, he forged a link between them, so they could always feel his oppressive presence no matter where they went.
When you think of the Mandalorians, you probably picture Boba or Jango Fett, mercenaries in armour and with cool looking helmets. But what if I told you the first Mandalorians were the Taung, a humanoid species and the native people of Coruscant millennia before the Republic set its government there?
The Taung, much like the Sith, had a warlike culture. They desperately fought the other native race of Coruscant, but the Zhell defeated them and forced them out of the planet and into the Outer Rim. Under the command of Mandalore the First, they conquered a planet, named it after their leader and renamed themselves the Mandalorians, the sons and daughters of Mandalore. But the Taung were dying out, and so Mandalore the Indomitable began taking in people from all species and taught them the Mandalorian ways.
This forever changed what it meant to be a Mandalorian. For them, blood wasn’t what made a family, as they collected orphans and strays from battlefields and adopted them into their clans. It was culture, tradition and loyalty that formed it and the Mandalorians led their lives with a few core tenets. One of these was loyalty to the Mandalore, to answer his call if a new one should appear. The other was raising their family as Mandalorian, to teach them what it meant to be a son or daughter of Mandalore, so they could join the collective of souls after death. For a Mandalorian father, the greatest pain was for his children to become Dar’manda, soulless, ignorant of their heritage.
But even these mixed Mandalorians were dedicated warriors and so under their Mandalore they expanded their territories, eventually becoming such a force that the Republic had to act and meet them in battle in what would be called the Mandalorian Wars, the battles that gave rise to the Dark Lord Darth Revan and his apprentice Malak and would force Meetra Surik, the Jedi Exile, to sever her connection with the Force following the activation of the doomsday weapon, the Mass Shadow Generator, at the battle over Malachor V. Even after their defeat, their formed splinter groups that continued to harass the Republic for centuries to come, even joining their enemies when the pay was good enough.
Even in the days of the old Republic and beyond the rule of Palpatine’s Empire, Mandalorians served as Mercenaries and Bounty Hunters across the galaxy. Their warlike nature drove them to seek battlefields or new challenges. During the Empire, Mandalorians had a leader, Fen Shysa, who led the sons and daughters of Mandalore against the Imperial occupation of their planet, driving them out and then taking the fight to them wherever they could. Years later, Fen would pass the title to Boba Fett, the greatest Bounty Hunter of their time and one of the most feared and respected Mandalorians out there, but we’ll get to him in a future article.
The first race to hold any power over the galaxy, in technology and Force prowess was the Celestial race. These beings travelled the galaxies and took other species under their wing—read slavery. One of these was the Kwa from Dathomir, who had an ideology of Balance to the Force and developed gateway technology that let them teleport across space.
In expanding the Celestial rule and taking on a similar role as their masters, the Kwa brought their teachings and technology to the Rakata. Sadly for them, the Rakata were all force sensitive monsters, and I mean so in the moral sense. The Rakata were deeply connected to the Dark Side and were as warlike as the Sith. Soon the Rakata developed their own Force-powered technology, from Hyperdrives to massive weapons like the Star Forge, a massive star and Dark Side-powered battleship factory.
The Rakata, now the Infinite Empire, expanded quickly, conquering thousands of Force worlds—that is, those with Force sensitive people—enslaving or completely wiping out their people. From the Wookies homeworld of Kashyyyk to the Selkath home of Manaan, the Rakata had the largest empire in the Galaxy, and even succeeded in driving the Celestials away.
But much like every other Dark Empire in the Galaxy, the Rakata wound up destroying themselves. The Star Forge they abused twisted their minds and made them fight each other, creating tensions and leading to civil war. Their destruction came later with a plague unleashed on their species, which killed part of the population and left their remaining numbers powerless. Without Force abilities, they couldn’t even use their own technology and so as the centuries passed they devolved into primitive tribal societies, still warring one another. Their caste system dissolved, they instead followed their tribal elders and while the original Rakata felt superior to every species out there, the new primitive Rakata understood their limitations and weren’t above asking for help if they needed it. They also came to revere the same powers that once drove their Infinite Empire.
Through these four, their history, the lessons they impart and the mistakes they made, we get a glimpse into the vast and complex history and lore the Expanded Universe created for this saga.
Their cultures also reflect some of the recurring themes in the Star Wars Expanded Universe: Dark Empires collapsing under their own weight, hypocritical and self-conflicting ideologies in constant reorganisation but making the same mistakes, and lastly, Family, the bonds that keep us together and strong to create the future we envision for our children.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this piece and make sure to come back tomorrow for the next one on Worlds and Locations.
- Wookiepedia (For when I don’t remember all the details…and source of all images)