The original Star Wars trilogy portrayed the Tuskens as barbarians, but The Mandalorian has shown us that Tuskens actually have a complex society.
The Tusken Raiders, also known as the Sand People, have played a huge role in The Mandalorian so far. The Disney+ Star Wars show has given audiences a chance to learn a lot about this fictional race of aliens, but there’s even more to their culture than what The Mandalorian has yet explored.
The original Star Wars trilogy presented the Tuskens as dangerous barbarians rather than a civilized group of people. The prequel series dehumanized them even further by including a scene where Anakin slaughters a whole village of Tuskens, referring to them as “animals.” But since these films, other Star Wars content like The Mandalorian has done a lot to humanize the Tuskens and make them more relatable characters. The Mandalorian Season 1 showed audiences that the Tuskens are not just raiders, they’re openly willing to negotiate and barter and help direct the Mandalorian on his mission. Mando explains how the Tusken Raiders are native to Tatooine and are a colonized people that have had their lands overtaken by human settlements. This is likely why the Sand People come into conflict with so many of the human characters in Star Wars: they’re trying to protect what limited resources they still have.
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Now, The Mandalorian Season 2 has taken Star Wars fans back to Tatooine, and Mando has once again recruited the Tusken Raiders to help take down a Krayt Dragon terrorizing a human settlement. As the story spends more time with the Tuskens, the audience can learn more about their culture and what makes them so unique. Here are the most important things to know about the Tusken Raiders.
Tusken Raiders Religion
It’s hard to discuss religion on Tatooine without pointing out the influence of Orientalism on the design of the planet. Many fans have pointed out before that Tatooine uses a lot of aspects of Orientalist depictions of the Middle East in its visual design, especially in Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi. Because of this, it would be easy to assume that the Tusken Raiders are a loose allegory for Arabic Muslims. However, this is not a direct one-to-one comparison, since the Tusken Raiders’ religion does not center around a God, but rather around water.
Given that the Tusken Raiders live on the desert planet Tatooine, it should come as no surprise that water is sacred to them. The Tuskens believe that they are the rightful owners of Tatooine’s water, and resent the fact that humans (like Luke’s family in A New Hope) make their living off moisture farming. This is why there is so much fighting between the Tusken Raiders and the Tatooine moisture farmers.
This conflict is referenced in The Mandalorian Season 2 in a scene where a Tusken offers the human character The Marshal of Mos Pelgo, Cobb Vanth something to drink. When Cobb Vanth refuses, the Tuskens become immediately upset, showing how important water and respect for water really is to them. Later in the episode, Cobb Vanth accepts a drink from a Tusken, showing that he now understands how to work together with the Tuskens and respect their culture.
Tusken Raiders Language (Signed & Spoken)
Throughout the original Star Wars trilogy, as well as the prequels, the Tusken Raiders are portrayed as language-less barbarians whose communication is limited to animalistic hooting. However, The Mandalorian has shown that this is not the case. The Tusken Raiders speak through a combination of sign language and spoken word, using guttural noises and growls similar to the Wookiee language Shyriiwook. And, just like Shyriiwook, humans can actually learn how to speak Tusken. When Mando actually communicates with the Tusken Raiders in Seasons 1 and 2, it’s a big character moment, because it shows the audience that the Mandalorian would rather negotiate with people than simply kill them.
Tusken Raider Dogs
The Mandalorian doesn’t just use the Tusken language to communicate with the Tuskens in this episode; the language works just as well to communicate with the Sand People’s guard dogs. These reptilian beasts are called massiffs, and the Tusken raiders use them to guard their camps. However, the Tusken Raiders aren’t the only Star Wars characters to use massiffs as several of these lizard puppies were used by the clone troopers in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. One particularly dangerous massiff called Grizzer was even used to track down Jedi Ahsoka Tano after she was framed for murder.
Tusken Raider Families
As could probably be guessed from The Mandalorian, the Tuskens are a tribal society. According to the written Star Wars canon, the Tusken Raiders subscribe to binary gender roles, where males are always warriors, and females complete the non-combat jobs within the tribe. But the most important part of growing up in a Tusken family is the process of becoming a full member of the tribe. In order to be considered an adult in a Tusken tribe, a young Tusken has to complete a very important and difficult task: killing a krayt dragon.
Tusken Raiders & Krayt Dragons
The krayt dragon may have been a one-off enemy for the Mandalorian, but for the Tusken Raiders, killing one of the gargantuan beasts is an important step to becoming an adult member of the tribe. But it’s not just killing the krayt dragon that is important: the young Tusken also has to remove a pearl from the krayt dragon’s stomach. A krayt pearl is one of the most valuable items in all of Star Wars canon, and they can be found as very rare items in a variety of Star Wars video games and tabletop RPGs. Krayt pearls are even sometimes used to power Jedi’s lightsabers in place of kyber crystals. At the end of this new The Mandalorian episode, the Tuskens cheer in celebration when they find a krayt dragon pearl because it offers an opportunity for great wealth.
How & Why Tusken Raiders Ride Banthas
Any fan of Star Wars: A New Hope will remember Obi-Wan’s iconic line about Tusken Raiders riding banthas in single file “to hide their numbers.” However, the banthas aren’t just a convenient mode of transportation, but also hold a significant social role for the Tuskens. A young Tusken is given a bantha at a young age and taught to care for it for their whole life. Banthas are treated with the utmost respect; The Mandalorian even shows a Tusken brushing his bantha’s teeth in the opening episode of season 2. The fact that the Tuskens in The Mandalorian are willing to sacrifice their banthas in order to help kill the krayt dragon is a very big deal – that denotes that this tribe is willing to give up their most beloved creatures to take the monster down.
Tuskens Have Depth, Just Like Everyone Else
Clearly, the Tuskens are not simple barbarians but are complex characters just like any other group in the galaxy. The Star Wars franchise could learn from this complexity since the more recent films have tended to simplify the more complex themes of the overall Star Wars series. Overall, The Mandalorian Season 2 shows that the Tuskens are not inherently good or bad, but are traditional people with their own lore and typical behaviors who can be trusted to step up and save the day when necessary. After all, without understanding them or gaining their trust, Mando would never have been able to save Mos Pelgo and gain access to Boba Fett’s armor – or his attention.
More: The Mandalorian: Will Din Djarin Ever Start Taking Off His Helmet More Often?
Key Release Dates
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