The second season of The Mandalorian was plagued by a single recurring question — what does it mean to be a Mandalorian? Star Wars: The Clone Wars introduced us to the culture and history of Mandalore through its dynamic and conflict-ridden storyline, while Star Wars Rebels doubled-down on depicting Mandalorians, not only as warriors or politicians, but as a civilization struggling to survive and retain their identity. Since its premiere, The Mandalorian has expanded our knowledge of the Mandalorian culture and has forced us to question whether we knew the whole truth of Mandalorian society.
So, just what does it mean to be a Mandalorian? How do Mandalorians define themselves? Are there any differences among characters claiming (or not claiming) to be Mandalorians or are they all the same? To try and answer these questions, I am going to breakdown Mandalorians into three groups, briefly discuss what we know of them, and give examples of characters for each grouping. By doing so, I hope that we might be able to gleam what future storylines of The Mandalorian (and other upcoming Star Wars projects) have in store for us.
NOTE: The names of the first and third groups are entirely made-up, since the franchise has yet to provide us with more accurate terminology. “Blue-blood” refers someone of true and noble (or elite) birth, while “bastard” refers to someone of illegitimate or inferior birth. If you are confused, think of Robb Stark and Jon Snow of Game of Thrones.
Blue-blooded Mandalorians are individuals who are born and raised in the Mandalorian way of life. In Mandalorian culture, individuals are born into family groups known as clans which are led by a single leader. These clans act as vassals or subordinate groups to a stronger and more influential house (i.e. a greater clan that rules lesser ones). When a Mandalorian wishes to identify themselves to another Mandalorian, it is customary for them to say their first name, followed by their clan name and then the name of the ruling house.
The star system of Mandalore is structured similarly to the Mandalorian clan system. The Mandalore System is divided into several vassal worlds, conquered during the ancient days of Mandalorian expansion, that are all under the authority of a single home world — the planet Mandalore. Many clans live on these vassal worlds, each ruled by a clan head — Krownest, the ancestral home of Clan Wren, is governed by Countess Ursa Wren — but they ultimately are subjects of the ruler of Mandalore. In those ancient times, this ruler shared its title with the name of the home world. They were known as the “Mand’alor”.
While renowned as a warrior culture throughout the galaxy, not all blue-blooded Mandalorians adhere to the warrior traditions (otherwise known as “the way of the Mandalore”). Lady Bo-Katan Kryze of Kalevala led a warrior faction known as the Nite Owls, yet her sister, Satine, led a pacifist government as the Duchess of Mandalore. This is just one example of how different the ways of thinking are among Mandalorians. Clans have always struggled with one another due to conflicting or radical ideals. Despite acknowledging and respecting her culture’s history, Duchess Satine was deeply disturbed by Mandalore’s violent past and exiled the warrior clans from the home world.
Beskar is a metal that became nearly synonymous with Mandalore and its people. All Mandalorian warriors craft their armor and weapons from beskar, usually re-forging and retrofitting armor that has been in their family for generations. Clans may also paint heraldry onto their armor as to distinguish one family or faction from another. In essence, beskar is more precious to Mandalorians than any other metal in the galaxy and they staunchly believe that all beskar belongs to their people. Anyone who they deem as unworthy of their beskar, even among themselves, is often discredited as being a true Mandalorian.
Blue-blooded Mandalorians also revere the Darksaber as a mythic symbol of their culture. The Darksaber is a legendary lightsaber crafted by Tarre Vizsla, a Mandalorian-Jedi of the Old Republic, who wielded it and united the Mandalorian clans. After his passing, the Darksaber remained as an artifact in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant until members of House Vizsla recovered it during a raid. Since then, the legend and power of the Darksaber has only increased. Now, anyone who claims the Darksaber in combat may also claim the title of “Mand’alor” and can unify the clans under a single ruler. For that reason, it is sought after by many who would see the glory of Mandalore restored or would wish to control the greatest warrior civilization in the galaxy.
Mandalorian foundlings are individuals who are adopted, not born, into the Mandalorian culture. According to Mandalorian creed, any warrior that rescues a foundling must either return them to “their own kind” or raise them as their own until the foundling comes of age. Foundlings that are raised in clans receive the same treatment and study as any other clan member — they are recognized as true Mandalorians. They are indoctrinated into the ways of the clan and the culture of Mandalore. Some are trained as warriors to support their clan or join them in battle. As every Mandalorian family has their own unique traditions and interpretations of the Mandalorian Creed, the foundling is expected to follow those doctrines completely lest they dishonor themselves and their adoptive clan.
As a member of a clan, the foundling has the right to own their own set of beskar armor and weapons. Unlike blue-blooded Mandalorians who pass down their armor from generation to generation, however, the armor of a foundling must be earned or freely given by a senior clan member. Eventually, once the foundling comes of age, they may either form a clan of their own or leave the clan to live whatever life they choose. Foundlings who follow their own paths may be disavowed as true Mandalorians by more traditional or conservative individuals.
While the rarity of foundlings is unknown, it has been shown that they are not immediately recognized by their fellow Mandalorians without some type of identification — be it physical or philosophical. Currently, there have only been three known Mandalorian foundlings: Jango Fett, Din Djarin, and Grogu.
Jango Fett was a Mandalorian foundling who claimed to be from Concord Dawn, one of the vassal worlds of Mandalore. He was adopted into an unknown clan and trained as a commando (warrior), eventually being given a set of beskar armor by his mentor and even fought in the Mandalorian Civil Wars. Afterwards, Jango left his adoptive clan and pursued a life as a bounty hunter, although he would come to train his son in the same war-craft that he had learn from his Mandalorian mentors. Prime Minister Almec of Mandalore, a traditionalist, denounced Jango Fett as nothing more than a mere bounty hunter who acquired his armor through unknown means.
Din Djarin was a Mandalorian foundling rescued by Mandalorian commandos of Death Watch during the Clone Wars. He was adopted and raised by the Children of the Watch, a cultist faction that seemingly splintered from Death Watch before the rise of the Empire. Din worked as a bounty hunter to support members of his “tribe”, eventually earning his own set of beskar armor. After ensuring the safety of the diminutive Grogu, another foundling, Din formed Clan Mudhorn with the promise of returning his charge to the Jedi. Grogu was eventually handed over to Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight, thus ending Din’s role as his guardian.
A bastard Mandalorian is the child of someone once recognized as a member of Mandalorian society. While the child may not consider themselves to be Mandalorian, nor might they be considered as such by other Mandalorians, they may nevertheless be trained in the martial practices of a Mandalorian commando. Bastards, however, are often confused as true Mandalorians by those who are unfamiliar with the culture due to wearing beskar. Much like foundlings, a bastard Mandalorian is free to choose their own way of life, although it is unknown if they may be accepted into a Mandalorian clan should the opportunity arise.
There is only one known bastard Mandalorian — Boba Fett, the clone and son of the Mandalorian foundling Jango Fett.
Boba Fett was raised by his father in the clone factories on Kamino, trained at a young age in Mandalorian war-craft and groomed as a bounty hunter by Jango and his associates. After Jango was killed at the outbreak of the Clone Wars, Boba spent time in and out of the Republic prison system, slowly building up his skills and reputation as a bounty hunter within the criminal underworld. Choosing to honor his father, Boba eventually reclaimed Jango’s arsenal, painting his beskar armor and donning it as his own.
Despite not considering himself to be a Mandalorian, Boba was aware of the history and current events surrounding Mandalore. He recognized Bo-Katan Kryze as the heiress-apparent to the throne of Mandalore, although he felt no loyalty towards her claim or her cause — he mockingly referred to her as “princess”. Regardless, Boba Fett deeply respected his father Jango and those who adopted him as a Mandalorian, feeling honor-bound to assist Din Djarin in his mission to rescue Grogu and believed Jango’s beskar was rightfully his by matter of succession. While Din respected Boba’s claim, after seeing evidence that the armor had indeed been given to Jango as proof of being raised as a Mandalorian, Bo-Katan insulted his father, disgusted that Boba should lay claim to wear the beskar. A brief skirmish erupted between Koska Reeves of the Nite Owls and Boba Fett, following the latter’s threating of Bo-Katan’s life. Inevitably, Din, Bo-Katan, Koska, and Boba all worked together to rescue Grogu from the Imperial Remnant.
At the end of The Mandalorian Season 2, we find that Din Djarin has won ownership of the Darksaber, having defeated Moff Gideon in single combat. Ignorant of its legend, and unaware of Bo-Katan’s ambitions, Din may now find himself at odds with the leader of the Nite Owls whose sole obsession appears to be the reclaiming the throne of Mandalore. I have no doubt that the overarching plot of the series is concerned with the restoration of Mandalore and the reunification of the clans. If what I have summarized here is any indication, however, it will not be easy to bring some many conflicting beliefs together under a single banner. Regardless, I look forward to learning more about Mandalorian culture in future seasons of The Mandalorian and can’t wait to see where our characters go from here.
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Categories: Writings & Errata