As the leader of the Jedi Council during the final days of the Republic, Yoda was one of the busiest characters in the Star Wars prequels. After what was little more than a cameo in Episode 1, we see him fight with a lightsaber for the first time in Episode 2. Then, in Episode 3, he is a full-blown field commander for the Clones, until they turn on him, that is. After Order 66 is given and his final push against Emperor Palpatine fails, he goes into exile, and that’s the last we see of him in the movies until Luke’s arrival on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back. But what happened in between?
Exactly 22 years pass in the meantime, and Yoda spends all of them on the swampy planet of Dagobah. As for his whereabouts and daily activities, there are two sources we can look at. The first one is the material that is considered canon by Disney. These include every book, comics, TV series and video games created after Lucasfilm was acquired. The other source is the old Expanded Universe, which are now “legends”. These include every material created before the sale, except for the movies and TV series.
This list will look at Yoda’s life on Dagobah through both sources. Even though they are no longer fully canon, the Legends contain so much information and crazy storylines that it would be a shame if they were simply forgotten. For the sake of clarity, items from the Legends will be mentioned as such. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at what Yoda was up to during his exile.
20 “Failed I Have. Into Exile I Must Go.”
When we last see Yoda at the end of Revenge of the Sith, he is overwhelmed by the power of the self-appointed Emperor Palpatine. With most Jedi having been eliminated through Order 66, Yoda feels like he and Obi-Wan alone are not enough to take on an entire Empire. This is why he goes into exile: the good guys’ numbers are drastically low, and it will take a long time to organize a resistance. Yoda is highly visible through the Force to other users (like the Emperor and Darth Vader), so his presence would put any effort to do so in jeopardy.
How does he end up on Dagobah, however? After stopping at Polis Massa to meet with Obi-Wan and Senator Organa, he stows away on a ship headed to a planet affected by the Clone Wars, where it is supposed to deliver food and medications. The ship drops out of warp for a split second near Dagobah, during which Yoda leaves for the planet in an escape pod. Undetected, he lands near a swamp (the whole planet is a gigantic swamp, really) and proceeds to make a new life for himself. As we will see in the next few entries, it wasn’t easy.
19 Purging The Jedi Archives
It seems like with every new book or TV show taking place in between episodes 3 and 4, a new Jedi never seen before is introduced. When all of those Jedi are put together, we end up with a group sizable enough that one might wonder if Order 66 really worked as well as Revenge of the Sith would have you believe. So how did so many Jedi survive the Great Purge?
In the Legends novel Heir to the Empire, we learn that before making his escape, Yoda had thirty-seven lesser known planets erased from the Jedi Archives. These planets were to serve as secret shelters for the survivors of the Emperor’s hostile takeover. If you are wondering how so many planets could go missing without anyone noticing, just imagine how many stars are in a galaxy. Then remember that in the Star Wars universe, most of those are only a short trip through Hyperspace away. With millions, if not billions of planets registered in the Archives (and most of them being inhabited), it was easy for Yoda to pick a few uninteresting ones and make them disappear. As evidence, Kamino itself was erased from the archives during the events of Attack of the Clones, and that one had an entire cloning facility on it. Evidently, escape artists had it easy in Star Wars.
18 Building A Home
Back on Dagobah, Yoda decided to take it easy at first and keep things simple. After all, the planet was riddled with treacherous swamps and dangerous wildlife, as R2D2 experienced first hand in The Empire Strikes Back. In a place this dangerous and inhospitable, Yoda’s first order of business was to transform his modest escape pod into a shelter. According to the Ultimate Star Wars reference book, the escape pod was an E3 Standard Starship Lifeboat model. These were small, but were equipped with all the necessary amenities, especially for a creature of Yoda’s stature.
More importantly, it provided protection from the various problems native to the area, such as parasites, predators, and torrential rain.
The escape pod itself was originally going to be seen at the end of Revenge of the Sith, but the scene was cut from the final edition. Thankfully, it was included in the DVD and Blu-Ray releases as a deleted scene, which you can view here if you have a few seconds. The lifeboat is clearly visible all the way through, and the inside can be peeked near the end. It definitely looks small, but it sure beats the alternative: living in the middle of a swamp without any protection from the elements.
17 Never Too Old To Be A Student
At the end of Revenge of the Sith, Yoda asks to talk to Obi-Wan Kenobi. He tells him that he has been talking to an old friend of his, Qui-Gon Jinn, which should be impossible since he passed away decades earlier. He then tells him that he has some new techniques for him to study while the two will be in exile, which I’m sure must have been a relief to Obi-Wan since there isn’t a whole lot to do on Tatooine.
The novelization of Revenge of the Sith goes into more details about this subject. The technique that Yoda was talking about is indeed the ability to transform into a “Force ghost” upon leaving this plane of existence, essentially becoming immortal, although in a different form. Though he was made aware of the existence of this technique, Yoda had not yet learned to control it. Thus, he spent a good part of his years on Dagobah meditating, communicating with Qui-Gon Jinn, and eventually mastering the ability.
Now imagine if Qui-Gon Jinn had shared that technique with his fellow Jedi earlier than he did. Order 66 would have been a whole lot messier for the Empire, with the ghosts of thousands of Jedi haunting the living and causing general mayhem for those responsible for their demise.
16 Keeping Up With Old Friends
Building a brand new shelter out of mud and derelict starship parts must have taken a while. Studying how to cheat the afterlife and become a ghost must have kept the master busy too. But on a planet as lonely as Dagobah, Yoda had more than enough time to take up new hobbies and habits. With all this free time, he decided to use the Force to keep tabs on the other Jedi of the galaxy which had survived the Great Purge. He was constantly on the lookout, which is how he was able to sense the arrival of Luke Skywalker.
The great comic book series Kanan: The Last Padawan gives us even more information on Yoda’s Jedi-watching habit. The Force helped Yoda simply keep an eye on other Force-sensitive beings, but it was also possible for him to talk to other Jedi face to face. He could do so through places that had a strong concentration of the Force, such as the Jedi Temple on Lothal. It was one of the only temples constructed by the Jedi Order that was still standing after The Empire took control of the galaxy. This is how he was eventually able to communicate with Kanan Jarrus, Ezra Bridger, and Ahsoka Tano, as depicted in the events of the series Star Wars Rebels.
15 Act Of God
Ha! Speaking of living in the middle of a swamp without any protection from the elements, guess what happened next? As it turns out, even fancy, Republic-built, standard issue Starship Lifeboats are not ready for the harsh reality of an entire planet like Dagobah. The conditions there, consistently damp and rainy and humid, were enough to slowly chip away at the escape pod’s precious technology. Although it was designed to provide temporary shelter to passengers in case of a crash landing on an uninhabitable planet, it was not supposed to serve as a permanent base. As such, it started degrading within a year of Yoda’s arrival on Dagobah.
Still, you might be thinking that the outer shell of the pod could serve as good protection despite the technology inside failing, and you would be right if it wasn’t for one little detail. The Ultimate Star Wars guide confirms that just like Luke’s X-Wing in The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda’s escape pod was eventually swallowed whole by the swamp on which it was resting. Sure, Yoda could have taken it out of there using the Force, but as a wise creature, he knows when a fight is over. Without any obvious need or desire to leave the planet any time soon, he finally decided to get serious.
14 Building A (Second) Home
With his first house finally out of commission, Yoda decided that it was time to build something more permanent. To do so, he would need something custom-made to fit Dagobah’s harsh climate, something more rugged and less delicate than a technologically-advanced but vulnerable pod. Once again according to the Ultimate Star Wars guide (seriously, get that book if you are a fan, it’s a gorgeous encyclopedia of everything Star Wars related), Yoda constructed himself a permanent shelter not too far from where he actually landed upon his initial arrival.
The shelter itself was constructed inside the base of a tree, using parts he repurposed from the escape pod for the structure, and packed mud to hold everything together. He used parts of the escape pod’s deck as foundations, as well as parts of the shell to create windows and doorways. Finally, he used the pod’s energy source to power the lights, the only technological parts of the ship that were still working. Other bits of scrap metal were transformed into various tools and cooking wares. Despite all of his efforts, the packed mud he used as walls was still vulnerable to the Dagobah’s weather, and according to the novel Heir to the Empire, he had to use a little bit of the Force at all time just to hold it together.
If the living conditions were so terrible, why did Yoda choose Dagobah out of all the other planets he had erased from the archives? The best explanation comes from the novel Heir to the Empire. We have seen at various times throughout the movies that Jedi can sense each other’s presence through the Force, and that this detection includes any living being. That is why, for example, Obi-Wan Kenobi senses Alderaan being destroyed, or more recently, it’s why Leia can sense the death of Han Solo in The Force Awakens.
With Dagobah being so full of bizarre creatures and life forms, Yoda believed that his presence on the planet would be undetectable in the middle of it all.
Furthermore, he had also scouted the Dark Side Cave, where Luke comes face to face with himself as Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. Yoda was a powerful Jedi, meaning that his presence through the Force shone brighter than others, basically pointing a neon arrow at his location. The presence of the cave, which was a focal point for the dark side of the Force, was so strong that he was almost invisible to other Force users. As we will see later, the cave also had many unforeseen uses.
12 Cooking Keeps Busy
Though Dagobah was full of life forms, few of them would have been considered edible, and even less would have let themselves be captured for these purposes. Not that it really mattered, as the Star Wars Legends have shown us that Yoda was a vegetarian. As such, he had to scavenge for most of his food, mostly mushrooms, seeds, and tree bark. His favorite meal, however, was rootleaf stew. He liked it so much that he prepared it for Luke Skywalker when he arrived on the planet for his initial training.
The Star Wars Galaxies trading card game tells us that the rootleaf stew used a wide assortment of plants from the swamp planet. Eventually, the hearty meal’s recipe made its way to other parts of the universe. Space travelers could even buy approximations of the original recipe in faraway places, though most of those knock-offs used cheap filler, including fiberplast, a material usually reserved for making clothing and ship hulls.
Strangely, the rootleaf stew eventually made its way to the real world.
As part of a campaign to promote the radio version of The Empire Strikes Back, NPR asked renowned chef Craig Claiborne to come up with a recipe for the stew which would use ingredients available on Earth. It was published in different newspapers across the USA, but I was, unfortunately, unable to find a copy.
11 Helping The New Generation
The TV series Star Wars Rebels, which is truly fantastic, shows the training of Ezra Bridger, a Force-sensitive apprentice, by Kanan Jarrus, a Padawan which never made it to the rank of Jedi Knight when his old Master was eliminated in the Great Purge. Jarrus was afraid that the fact that he never finished his training would make him a bad teacher for someone with the potential of Ezra Bridger. That’s when Yoda’s Jedi peeping finally came in handy.
When Jarrus brought Ezra to the Lothal Jedi Temple to continue his training, he was surprised to find out that the temple allowed him to speak with Yoda himself. Jarrus was basically invisible to Yoda in the past, having let go of the Jedi ways after the fall of the Republic. Training Ezra Bridger was a chance for Jarrus to finally come to peace with his past. Yoda tells him that it’s a dangerous time to be a Jedi, with the Empire being on the hunt and all that. Then, because he is a tough teacher, he also tells him that this is his final chance, and that failure could be catastrophic. This somehow encourages Jarrus, who leaves the temple more confident than ever in his abilities to teach his Padawan. As for Yoda, his work had only just started.
10 Fear Leads To Hate
While Yoda is chatting it up with Kanan Jarrus at the entrance of the Jedi Temple, he is simultaneously talking to Ezra Bridger, because he can be in different places at the same time with his mind, because that’s the magic of the Force. While still on Dagobah, Yoda observes the different trials of Ezra, serves as a guide, and even gives him some pointers along the way.
Wanting to know why Ezra even wants to become a Jedi in a time when the Empire will basically eliminate anyone who remotely looks like one, Yoda asks for the young man’s motivations. Ezra’s answer kinda makes him sound like a young Anakin Skywalker, which must have raised a thousand red flags in Yoda’s mind: he wants to become more powerful to make the Empire suffer for what they did to him. Because he is that good of a Jedi Master, Yoda makes Ezra look through his fear and anger, and realize what he really wants to do: he wants to be powerful to protect his friends from the Empire, which is just a more gently worded version of his previous motivation when you really think about it. Still, Yoda seems satisfied and wishes the young Padawan well before gifting him a kyber crystal, an essential component when it comes to building lightsabers. All in a day’s work for the Jedi Master, without even leaving his living room.
9 A New Jedi Knight
As Yoda keeps on watching the Jedi from afar, he notices Kanan, Ezra and Ahsoka returning to the Lothal Jedi Temple once more about a year later. This time around, though he still teaches a few things to Ezra, he concentrates the majority of his attention on Kanan Jarrus, with the goal of finally making him a Jedi Knight. The Star Wars Rebels episode Shroud of Darkness shows something we always suspected:
Yoda can be pretty mean with his powers, no matter how noble the objective is.
Using the force, Yoda casts the illusion of a Sentinel and two other Temple Guards watching the place. Then, he makes them declare that Ezra will turn to the dark side, and that there is nothing Kanan can do about it. This is followed by a lightsaber duel which probably lasts only a few minutes but seems to go on for hours. Then, just as Kanan is getting tired, the Sentinel reveals itself as The Grand Inquisitor. Kanan obviously thinks that this spells the end for himself, but he kneels and awaits his fate, happy that he at least fought until the end. Instead, the Sentinel/Inquisitor knights Karan with his lightsaber, finally making him a true, bona fide Jedi Knight. And that was all an illusion created by Yoda from all the way back on Dagobah! Was it necessary to send Kanan Jarrus on such a roller coaster of emotion before knighting him?
8 An Entire Day?!?
The Legends are full of crazy stories which are such coincidences that it feels like the author was reaching just to include more well-known characters. On the other hand, that’s how we ended up with stories like the time Yoda saved a smuggler named Jorj Car’Das, courtesy of the novel Vision of the Future.
Car’Das was a simple smuggler when one day, a group of rogue Dark Jedi seized his ship and disposed of everyone inside, except for him of course. The Dark Jedi eventually forced Car’Das to land on the nearest planet, which of course happened to be Dagobah. Because Yoda does not appreciate people invading his home, he engaged the bad guys. The novel states that the battle raged for almost an entire day, during which Jorj Car’Das was just sitting there, wounded and frightened. At the end of the hostilities, Yoda stood victorious. Feeling bad for Car’Das, who had been tortured and maimed by the Dark Jedi, he decided to heal him through the power of the Force. Finally, back on his feet, Car’Das was able to repair his ship and leave the planet without a hitch. This is weird because you would think that Yoda would be weary of strangers knowing the exact location of his hiding spot. I guess he’s just a lot more trusting than I would be.
7 Meet “The Children”
If you thought that a story about Yoda fighting a lightsaber battle for an entire day was crazy, you haven’t seen anything yet. In the 90s, the expanded universe took a detour through the land of teenage horror novels, as made popular by the Goosebumps series, with the Galaxy of Fear series. The results were as absurd as you would expect, with one book eventually taking a detour through Dagobah for a token Yoda appearance.
The story of The Hunger, the final book of the series, is about “The Children”, who are descendants of a Republic survey team which crashed on Dagobah about 40 years earlier. These people, because they were only half as resourceful as Yoda, had to resort to cannibalism to survive. Sure, they would only eat the freshly deceased members of their group, but it’s a practice they were still doing when they met the Jedi Master. Thankfully, Yoda is not human, and with the Force on his side, he had a few ways of scaring the roaming gang of cannibals. As such, he even became somewhat of a boogeyman for these already scary people, to the point where they would purposely avoid the area where he lived. They even had a nickname for Yoda: The Imp.
6 Just Spreading Some Knowledge
The Star Wars video games gave us some very interesting characters throughout the years. One of them, the Jedi Master Qu Rahn, was created for Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II. During the game, he appears to Kyle Katarn as a Force ghost, telling him on how to find the Valley of the Jedi and instructing him in the ways of the Force. So what is Qu Rahn’s relation with Yoda?
As we know by now, one does not become a Force ghost without having learned it from Yoda or Qui-Gon Jinn.
Having survived Order 66, Qu Rahn learned that Yoda had escaped to Dagobah, which tells me that it might not have been that good of a hiding place after all. He journeys to the planet because he wishes to know more about the Force and further his training, which Yoda is happy to help with despite the disturbance. At the conclusion of his visit, he officially makes Qu Rahn a Jedi Master, and gives him a gold lightsaber, which I guess was just lying around this whole time. Finally, he also teaches Qu Rahn how to become a Force ghost instead of simply vanishing into the afterlife. That is how he is then able to keep teaching new things to Kyle Katarn from beyond the grave.
5 Potential Recruits
The parade of people visiting Yoda in his supposedly secret hiding place continues in Galaxy of Fear: The Hunger. This time, it’s siblings Tash and Zak Arranda who stumble upon the Jedi Master’s humble abode during an emergency trip on Dagobah. The Star Wars galaxy is a gigantic place, but it has a tendency to feel small because it feels like the same characters are everywhere at the same time. As such, the reason why the kids and their uncle had to land on the swamp planet was that Boba Fett himself was in pursuit, hoping to collect a bounty that had been placed on their heads.
As it turns out, both Tash and Zak were Force-sensitive, something which was immediately noticed by Yoda. He wished to spend some time to show them the basics, but it was impossible. After all, this is the same novel which had cannibals roaming around Dagobah, and they also had an eye on the kids. Yoda was once again able to fend them off, but that was enough to convince the Arranda siblings that hanging around the planet was not such a good idea. The fate of the Arrandas is unknown, as The Hunger was the last book of the series, and their last appearance overall. Yoda, unsatisfied that he couldn’t pass his knowledge to Tash and Zak, went back to waiting for a Skywalker to show up one day.
4 Visions Of A Clone
In The Force Unleashed II, we meet Starkiller, who is a clone of Galen Marek, the protagonist of the original Force Unleashed video game. Possessing the same memories as his template, he wished to find the love interest of the original Marek, Juno Eclipse. At first unsuccessful, he eventually has a vision that sends him to Dagobah. Why? Who knows! At this point, in the old expanded universe, it seems like everyone drops by for a visit every once in a while.
Once on Dagobah, Starkiller used the Force just to probe the place and see if anything interesting was in the area. He, of course, noticed Yoda and made his way towards him, only to discover that the Jedi Master had also been spying on him. Yoda, learning of the goal of Starkiller’s journey, leads him to the Dark Side Cave, and suggests he enters. Inside, he encounters not only Darth Vader and Boba Fett, but also a vision of Juno Eclipse being hurt by the Empire. As he exits the cave, visibly shaken, Starkiller asks for Yoda’s advice. Our favorite diminutive Jedi, probably eager to get rid of yet another intruder, tells him to follow his vision. That’s good enough for Starkiller, who leaves for Malastare. Yoda goes back to his hut, and waits for the next lost soul who will wander his way.
3 The Empire’s Most Wanted
The Force Unleashed II gives us another interesting tidbit concerning Yoda. At the time of the game, the bounty on his head had reached 30,000 Imperial Credits. The story doesn’t say if that is a lot, but it is enough to land him at the top of the list of the eight most wanted people by the Empire. Of course, with a bounty like that, there were many hunters who tried to collect through nefarious means.
One particular hunter went so far as to cosmetically alter a deceased Jawa so that he would look like the green Jedi Master.
Unfortunately, it seems like Jawas have an incredibly strong stench, and the Empire discovered the ruse. For his efforts, the bounty hunter was sentenced to capital punishment. From that point forward, the Emperor made it so that the bounty could only be collected if Yoda was still alive upon delivery.
As for the rest of the “Most Wanted” list, Yoda was in good company. Also on the list were fellow Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, Princess Leia Organa, and Mon Calamari Senator Meena Tills, who can be seen in Revenge of the Sith. These bounties were often updated, and were always displayed during training videos for new Stormtroopers. Despite the enticing prize attached to it, the bounty on Yoda would never be collected, despite the many people who would visit him during his exile.
2 Making History
The Star Wars Legends are so numerous and vast that one can find information about their favorite characters from the weirdest sources. This one comes to us from The Movie Trilogy Sourcebook, a guide for a role-playing game based on the series. In it, we learn of the existence of Arhul Hextrophon, a historian working, thankfully, for the Rebel Alliance. He is such an esteemed member of the Alliance that he even appears during the medal ceremony at the end of A New Hope. Through his efforts for documenting the war in a way that wouldn’t be as biased as the Empire’s official documents, he found a possible location for the long-thought-lost Jedi Master Yoda. He thus makes his way to Dagobah, hoping to find some answers.
Yoda at first pretends to be old and nearly senile, an act which Hextrophon does not buy at all. After admitting the truth, Yoda finally becomes worried that his hiding spot might not be so secret after all. Starkiller showing up wasn’t an issue, and neither were the Arrandas siblings or the bounty hunter that was there when he first arrived, but an overeager historian finally was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Yoda considered wiping the poor Hextrophon’s mind to preserve his secret, something he would ultimately decide against. Instead, he made the historian promise never to reveal his location, and instead spent the next several days chatting it up with someone who could finally understand the significance of everything that had happened since the fall of the Republic.
1 The Return Of The Smuggler
Remember Jorj Car’Das, the smuggler that Yoda saved after a fight against a Dark Jedi that lasted an entire day? The novel Vision of the Future tells us a little bit more about his life. After being revived by Yoda, Car’Das felt a connection to the Force which had not been there before. Seeing it as a gift from Yoda, he used it as an advantage against his competitors in the smuggling business. Because he was able to see things before they happened, he was able to establish an operation which at one point rivaled the Hutts in significance.
Of course, nothing lasts forever, and Car’Das’ health started to fail. Going back to Dagobah, he confronted Yoda and demanded at gunpoint to be saved once more. Yoda, because he is a Jedi Master, simply flung Car’Das’ blaster into the swamp with a flick of his wrist. He then proceeded to put him down for wasting away his second chance at life on simple things like money and power, and finally told him to get lost. That was enough to make Jorj Car’Das break down in tears. Yoda isn’t completely insensitive, so as a parting gift, he told Car’Das about the Aing-Tii, a bunch of alien monks who had a certain mastery of the Force and could possibly help him make things right.
With Car’Das gone, Yoda could finally prepare himself for the imminent arrival of Luke Skywalker, as he had foreseen through the Force.