Who and what were the Mandalorians? Everyone knows about Boba Fett and Jango Fett, but what about the culture that spawned these two iconic warriors? Very little information is given in the films about who they were or their motivations. Once again, Leo and Evan join forces to discuss this topic and share their knowledge with the rest of you.
Evan: If there was only one thing that I wish I could rip out of George Lucas or Ralph McQuarie’s notebooks from 1980, it’s the original concept notes and sketches of the Imperial Super-Commando that eventually became Boba Fett. I think these Super Commandos were meant to be the ones storming Echo Base instead of Snowtroopers, but I could be wrong. Regardless of where he came from, the unnamed bounty hunter from Empire Strikes Back with three whole lines somehow managed to generate this whole separate sub-fanbase. Back then all we knew was that this guy who liked to disintegrate people had something called “Mandalorian Battle Armor.” Even if you don’t know everything about them you know they’ve really become the third pillar of the Star Wars universe and, consequently, a major source of contention between the fans, EU writers, and GL himself.
Leo: Yes, today we know a lot more about Mandalorians then just that they wear badass looking armor. The entire Mando culture is one based on a dichotomy, conflict with non-Mandos but unity amongst each other. Kad Ha’rangir was the Mandalorian god of war and destruction and engaging in warfare was how Mandos worshiped him. Because of all the war and conflict and because Mandalorian society is comprised of beings from many, many different species, their culture also had many different rules intended to unify these disparate species. Foremost amongst these was the Resol’nare, or the “Six Actions.” All Mandalorians are expected to live by these tenets and they are: wear beskar’gam (armor), speak Mando’a, defend yourself and your family, contribute to your clan, rally to the Mand’alor when summoned, and raise your children in the Mandalorian ways.
E: That’s a significant point to make: being Mandalorian isn’t about species at all. In fact, the armor speaks more to their society than what’s underneath. From a certain point of view, the Mandos might be a more equal society than some in the Republic.
Also worth noting is that although they are, by definition, a warrior culture, they are not ruthless monsters. As you’d already mentioned, they are a very tightly-knit society, having their own families within their larger clans. Because they recognize that not every society they face may be warriors, they may choose to not engage them. After all, there is no honor to be found in killing those too weak to even try to defend themselves.
L: Mandalorians as a whole, however, eventually become much less warlike after the Old Republic era. After a devastating war with the Republic about 700 years before the films, several Mandos break off from the general Mandalorian population and form a peaceful pacifist society known as the New Mandalorians. But they were totally lame and no one wants to hear about them. The rest of the Mandos continued on as always until they nearly exterminated the Ithullan race. This started a movement amongst the Mandalorians to reform their culture. Instead of spreading warfare across the entire galaxy, they instead became the highly skilled mercenaries and bounty hunters of the modern era. Rather than act as a marauding army, they began to follow what was known as the “Supercommando Codex.”
Mandolorian Battle Armor
E: Of course, it’s the armor that really captivates even the most casual of fans. You’d mentioned that they are meant to wear beskar armor, but what we see Boba and Jango wear really just looks like any old plasteel you might take off a dead stormtrooper, just with a different paint job and some mods. Beskar’gam, however, is made from the mineral beskar which is one of those very few materials capable of standing up to a lightsaber. Looking at the game for a moment, I don’t think we’ll be too likely to even SEE any beskar armor until we’re at least level 50. Actually, the use of beskar was not limited solely to armor, but extended to weapons, as well. A Mando wearing beskar’gam and carrying the traditional beskade warblade was more than a match for any Trooper attacking with a rifle.
L: I think armor is captivating even for us non-casual fans. Personally, it’s what I find most fascinating about the Mandalorians. Each Mando’s armor is their most prized possession. Everyone’s armor (usually) is different and all the customization means something to them. Even different colors on the armor can have different meanings. Really the beskar’gam is a good metaphor for the whole Mando culture. Each set of armor is highly personal and individual, yet they are alike enough show unity among the various clans and species that make up the Mandalorians.
E: The helmet is also one of those things that grabs you immediately. Masks and helmets are a very prominent theme in the Star Wars universe. Aside from the droids and rebel troopers, the masked Stormtroopers and Darth Vader are the very first characters we met in the films! In Empire, Boba’s mask bore somewhat of a resemblence to the stormtroopers’, of course, being taken from the super commando sketches, but it held another level of mystery and menace for the viewers. The most important mask amongst Mandalorians is that belonging to The Mandalore, the supreme leader that can unite all the disparate clans. The Revan novel really drove home what that helmet means to the Mandalorian people and why Canderous claiming it was such a significant event in Knights of the Old Republic II. Fans of the Saga era don’t really get that backstory to any degree, although the second season of the Clone Wars peripherally touches on it and the Legacy of the Force books, especially those by Karen Traviss, do bring it back to the forefront.
L: And the gadgets. Don’t forget the gadgets. All the stuff hidden in this armor can put Batman’s utility belt to shame. Exactly what accessories a set of armor will have varies greatly from one individual to the next. Common accoutrements include grappling hooks, flamethrowers, crush gauntlets, jet packs, rocket launchers, and dart guns. The suit can even contain water and nutrients that can be ingested through the use of a straw inside the helmet.
As much as we’ve just finished talking about, there are volumes more that could be gone over. From the origin of the Mandalorian species and their evolution into a multi-species culture to the first time they served the Sith and all the way up to Boba Fett becoming The Mandalore, it would take more time than most people have in a day. However, having just scratched the surface, we hope you’ll be inspired to look into these fascinating characters further than a Wookieepedia entry. With that, even if you are a Republic loyalist, do yourself a favor and roll a Bounty Hunter on the side. I think every variation of “Boba” has been taken by now, though.