There is not doubt that the wise Grand Master and Lord Of The Force is one of the best-loved characters with ‘Star Wars’ aficionados….
Good old Yoda: how can you even begin to discuss ‘Star Wars’ saga without mentioning him too? Making his first appearance in 1980 as one of the unforgettable characters in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, his strange name would appear to derive from “yodha” which in Sanskrit means “warrior” or else from the Hebrew “yodea” which could be loosely translated as “he who knows”.
Plausible enough interpretations, seeing as how this tiny green creature with the mysterious origins (and a mere 66 centimetres tall) was trained in the use of the Force by the master N’Kata Del Gormo. He then became in his turn Grand Master of the Jedi Council as well as the most powerful Knight of the Order, of the same calibre as his “brothers” Mace Windu and Anakin Skywalker (who passed over to the Dark Side in the guise of Darth Vader).
His most famous apprentice (or padawan) was obviously Luke Skywalker (son of Anakin), but he was also master to count Dooku and even Windu. His erudition ranged from techniques of hand to hand combat (Yoda was a master of the light sabre) as well as philosophy, a blend of wisdom and the cult of positive thinking, and the implementation of cunning stratagems to get out of the direst situations.
So he is remembered for his skill in diplomacy as much as his mastery in the use of the Ataru or Form IV, his sword of choice. One of his best-known mottoes remains: «Use the Force for knowledge and defence, never for attack!». His weapons (mental ones this time) also included premonition, mind tricks (a technique used on the Light Side to distract enraged padawan), telekinesis and the famous Force Waves which allowed him to fell foes far larger than himself.
During battle, Yoda engaged in a kind of meditation which raised the morale of his Jedi knights at crucial moments in battle. He was exemplary in his humility (wearing only a humble tunic of coarse material) and his language was his own personal version of Galactic Standard where the verb always appeared after the subject and object.
He died peacefully at the age of 900 (famous catch line: «When 900 years old you reach, look as good you will not.») and his earthly demise to become one with the Force remains one of the most touching scenes in ‘The Return of the Jedi’ (1983) with Luke Skywalker overwhelmed by grief at his loss. But who was Yoda? At the end of the day, no more than a mechanical puppet operated by Frank Oz who had worked for years on the world renowned ‘Muppets Show’. Oz controlled all his movements, often spending entire days under the set stage and only interacting with the outside world through a highly effective system of monitors and cables.
The physiognomy of Yoda was designed by British artist Stuart Freeborn who apparently drew influence from the face of Albert Einstein and his own face. A true Hollywood icon was born in 1980 and hardcore fans were crushed when the new trilogy came out at the turn of the third millennium to find that the original puppet had been retired and Yoda redesigned from scratch using CGI.
But his true father George Lucas had an answer ready for the critics. Did they really want to see Yoda fighting in complex poses? Were they ready to be blown away by his sword fighting skills in ‘Attack of the Clones’ and ‘Revenge of the Sith’? Well, if they only used a puppet, none of this was feasible.
And though Lucas was probably right, we still prefer to remember our “warrior” in his more naif form, as he was in the roaring Eighties. And we still live in hope that Yoda will come back to visit us now that the Force is finally ready to “awaken”. Are you fascinated by it? Take a meticulous look at the new Disney blockbuster ‘Stars Wars: The Last Jedi’…