The Mandalorian’s season 2 premiere prominently featured the desert-dwelling Tusken Raiders – but what kind of face lurks under those heavy masks?
As a Mandalorian sworn to never remove his helmet in front of other people, Din Djarin has something in common with the brutal desert-dwelling Tusken Raiders. Though they have been a part of the Star Wars franchise from the start, Tusken Raiders have almost never been seen without their masks. In The Mandalorian‘s season 2 premiere, the Sand People ended up forming a rare alliance with Mando and a town of human miners in order to defeat a greater enemy: the Krayt dragon.
Native to Tatooine, the planet where both Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker grew up, Tusken Raiders made their first appearance in Star Wars: A New Hope. After ambushing Luke Skywalker and attempting to rob him, they were frightened away by Obi-Wan Kenobi’s imitation of a Krayt dragon call – something that comes full circle in The Mandalorian season 2.
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Living a harsh life out in the Jundland Wastes and the Dune Sea, the Tusken Raiders are always seen wearing robes, gloves, heavily shrouded faces, goggles and breathing apparatus to protect them from sandstorms and the scorching twin suns of Tatooine. Like Mandalorians, they are forbidden from ever removing these outfits in front of other people (except in a few circumstances, such as privately in front of their significant other). There are only a few instances in which Tusken Raiders’ faces have been shown, but these appearances were not consistent and have since been wiped from official canon. The first time was in the 1997 video game Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II, which featured a mercenary gang called the Grave Tuskens, who had cat-like faces.
The second instance was in the 2004 comic Star Wars: Republic #62, in which Anakin Skywalker had nightmarish visions that included a half-unmasked Tusken Raider. In this interpretation, the Sand People are depicted as having frightening fanged maws in the shape of their breathing apparatus (reminiscent of how the Predator looks underneath its helmet). However, it’s unknown whether this is what Tusken Raiders actually look like, or whether it’s simply Anakin’s imagination – especially given that he’s never (as far as we know) seen what a native Tusken looks like. He did, however, get to witness a Tusken unmasking just a few issues earlier… sort of.
It’s been speculated that, like the Mandalorians, the Tusken Raiders are not a single race but different races sharing the same culture. The only other instance of a Tusken Raider being unmasked was in Star Wars: Republic #59, where the Jedi Master A’Sharad Hett (who later became the Sith Lord Darth Krayt) removed his face covering in front of Anakin to reveal that he was actually a human. When Anakin expressed surprise at the fact that he wasn’t a Tusken, Hett explained, “in my skin, I am not. In my heart, I am.” He and his mother were captured by Tuskens when he was still a child and he was raised among them. Hett later found out that he couldn’t even be half-Tusken, as Tuskens and humans are not genetically compatible, which indicates that Tuskens are indeed a specific race.
Between the conflicting depictions of unmasked Sand People and the fact that Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm consigned these depictions to the non-canon realm of Star Wars Legends, what Tusken Raiders’ faces actually look like remains a mystery – and not one that The Mandalorian season 2’s premiere was ready to ruin. Ultimately, if a Tusken Raider is close enough for you to start wondering what’s underneath its mask, you’ve got much bigger problems to deal with.
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