Master Yoda (896 BBY–4 ABY) was one of the most renowned Jedi in the Galaxy, and one of the few Old Republic Jedi to survive into the Galactic Civil War.
Standing a mere 66 centimeters tall, Yoda was the Grand Master of the Jedi Order, one of the senior members of the Jedi Council in the last days of the Galactic Republic, and arguably the wisest and most powerful Jedi Master in the Galaxy.
In his nine centuries, he had trained almost every Jedi in the Galaxy—since he instructed all younglings in the Jedi Temple before they were assigned to a master—from c. 800 BBY to 19 BBY. He had trained notable Jedi like Count Dooku, Ki-Adi Mundi, Mace Windu, and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Perhaps the only Jedi of the Old Republic not to have been directly taught by Yoda was Anakin Skywalker - which may have contributed to the young man's fall to the dark side.
Yoda's most important student was arguably Luke Skywalker, whom Yoda trained to become the future of the Jedi. Having trained the first member of the New Jedi Order, Yoda served as the conduit between the two orders, passing the flame he kept alive for so long to the next generation.
The Republic (896 BBY to 22 BBY)
Details about Yoda's past are very difficult to determine, but some facts have been established. He had exceptional skill in lightsaber combat, employing whirling and acrobatic Form IV techniques capable of quelling even Sith Lords. It was believed that he was tempted by the dark side at some point in his life, like everyone is; as he said, "I carry a darkness within me."
Yoda was one of the Jedi Masters who led the mobile academy aboard the starship Chu’unthor, which was constructed circa 500 BBY. He chose to leave the ship's data tapes in the care of one of the natives when the ship crashed on Dathomir in around 400 BBY.
In 32 BBY, Qui-Gon Jinn brought a young Anakin Skywalker to the Jedi Council, requesting to train him once Obi-Wan Kenobi had completed the trials necessary to become a Jedi Knight (Jedi can only have one apprentice at a time). Yoda, as the teacher of many of those on the Council, and its most venerable and respected member, played a key role in that body's initial decision to deny the request. Yoda believed that the boy was clearly affected by his years as a slave and that he still clung too tightly to the memory of his mother to be trained safely. His future, Yoda thought, was clouded.
After Qui-Gon Jinn's death at the hands of Darth Maul, however, the Council rescinded its previous decision, though the reasons for this are unclear. Personally, Yoda somewhat disagreed with the decision.
The Clone Wars (22 BBY - 19 BBY)
A decade later, during an investigation of a strange poisonous dart, Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi discovered a massive army of clones was being created on the planet Kamino. After much debate Yoda traveled to the planet to see these clones for himself. When several Jedi and Senator Padmé Amidala were captured on the planet Geonosis by a powerful droid army it was decided that the clones would be used to save them.
As the battle begun, Yoda learned that the droid army was controlled by his old apprentice Count Dooku, who had left the Jedi Order to become a powerful Sith Lord and create the Confederacy of Independent Systems to oppose the Old Republic. An epic duel unravelled between the puissant Jedi Master and his fallen apprentice. They seemed to be matched in Force power, but Yoda was too powerful for the Sith Lord with the lightsaber, and the battle ultimately went unfinished when Dooku dropped a crane on the wounded Obi-Wan Kenobi and his apprentice Anakin Skywalker. Yoda was forced to use his power to stop the crane which gave Dooku enough time to escape.
Though the Republic won the Battle of Geonosis under the direction of General Yoda, he soon sensed that the Clone Wars would be a long and tumultuous period for both the Old Republic and the Jedi Order itself. During the Clone Wars, Yoda, along with many other Jedi Masters, became a long-term general who fought in various battles for the Republic, on planets like Axion and Thustra.
In one such battle, Yoda confronted a Bpfasshi Dark Jedi on Dagobah. Yoda defeated the Dark Jedi, who died in a tree-cave. As a result, the cave became strong in the dark side of the Force.
Another time, near the end of the war, Yoda journeyed to the planet Vjun, after recieving a communication from Count Dooku, stating his intention to defect. However, it was nothing more than a trap, although one Yoda easily escaped from.
Overall, Yoda remained on Coruscant and coordinated the war effort on behalf of the Jedi.
While Yoda was on the planet Kashyyyk, Palpatine, now revealed as Darth Sidious, ordered the clones to implement Order 66, which was the extermination of all Jedi. Yoda sensed his Jedi bretheren being killed all over the galaxy, and was able to stop commander Gree and his troops from assassinating him. With help from the Wookiees Chewbacca and Tarfful Yoda was able to escape to meet with another surviving Jedi Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The two soon learned that Anakin had become Darth Vader and fallen to the dark side. They agreed that the two Sith Lords must be destroyed; Yoda would remain on Coruscant to confront the newly crowned Emperor Palpatine, while Obi-Wan would battle his apprentice. Quickly dispatching Sidious' guards with the skill only a Jedi Master could harness, Yoda began the battle that would decide the fate of the galaxy. The Grand Master of the Jedi Order and the Dark Lord of the Sith were counterpoised, as he was unable to defeat him, for during the fight his vision pierced the veil of the dark side and he was able to see a glimpse of the future. What he might have seen was unclear, but one thing is certain -- Yoda gained an insight that bore the hope for the galaxy and he could not risk dying here.
When an explosion of the Force, caused by Yoda's deflecting of the Dark Lord's Force Lightning, hurled them apart, both Masters were able to grasp the edge of nearby Senate pods, with Sidious barely managing to right himself and achieve the high ground.
Yoda, however, unable to maintain his grasp, fell several hundred feet down, to the floor of the Senate chamber. The ancient Master then retreated, and, thanks to Bail Organa, escaped to Polis Massa.
There, he was instrumental in deciding the fate of the Skywalker children, recommending that Luke and Leia be hidden from Darth Vader and the Emperor in unsuspecting and remote locations. Other than the ancient Jedi Master, only the Organas, the Lars, and Kenobi would know of their placement. He would also tell Obi-Wan another secret — the way in which to retain one's identity after death, a skill he learned from his old friend, Master Qui-Gon Jinn.
After the Purge (19 BBY to 4 ABY)
During the Great Jedi Purge, Yoda escaped to Dagobah and hid on the swamp planet during the Galactic Civil War. The tree, which Yoda's hut was built into, was Force sensitive. It would absorb the force power around it, hiding Yoda's imprint on the Force, preventing Vader from ever finding his sanctuary.
Shortly afterwards, Qu Rahn went to Dagobah and was taught many skills by Yoda. Before the Battle of Hoth, Jan Arranda, Tash Arranda and Zak Arranda encountered Yoda.
When Luke Skywalker, son of Anakin Skywalker, arrived, old Master Yoda— after some expressed reluctance because of the boy's age and traits similar to those of his father—agreed to train him in the ways of The Force. The Jedi Master proved how great a teacher he was, summing up Jedi training to fit in the limited time they could afford. Prior to finishing his instruction, however, Luke chose to leave Dagobah, without completing his training, in order to confront Darth Vader at Cloud City and save his friends. Yoda was strongly against this, thinking Luke not ready to face Vader yet, and the revelation to come. However, neither Yoda nor the spirit of Obi-Wan could persuade Luke otherwise. The brash young Luke promised to come back in order to complete his training.
Luke returned a year later to find the elderly Yoda in poor health, obviously unable to continue his teaching. Yoda told Luke that his last test would be to face Darth Vader. Yoda then died at the age of 900 and became one with the Force.
Powers and abilities
Yoda achieved a legendary mastery of all forms of lightsaber combat, though Form IV (Ataru) was his preferred choice, since it enabled him to overcome the limitations of his height and reach. He was an exceptional swordsman, displaying amazing speed and dexterity, leaping through the air and twirling as he battered at an opponent's defenses. Yoda was a great contributor to the highest level of Jedi strategy, and was also a worldly diplomat comparable to Windu. Master Yoda could mind trick soldiers such as Captain Typho, dissipate and deflect Force Lightning, telekinetically lift enormous objects, including a C-9979 Landing Craft, and use Force Push to an untold degree. He had a talent for sensing the future that was on par with Darth Sidious and was completely incorruptible by the dark side (particularly in the Clone Wars when Yoda turned to the dark side for a short while to see why Dooku went there in the first place. Also, Dooku claimed that Sidious would have been annihilated if "Dark Yoda" fought him). Yoda was even able to win battles by lifting the morale of thousands of companions while simultaneously dampering the spirits of thousands of his opponents, using a valued Force technique called Battle Meditation. He could purge Dark Side manifestations through the use of Force Light and feel the deaths of individual people and identify them. These skills, in particular, showed a far more profound knowledge of the Force than most Jedi Masters or Sith Lords possessed.
Personality and traits
To his students, the elfin luminary Yoda could appear as either very strict or like a grandfatherly figure, testing them to mental and physical extremes one moment and showing warmth the next. Students often strongly disagreed with him at first, but gradually came to understand his attitudes. Amongst his colleagues on the Jedi Council, he was known to have a penchant for mischief and practical jokes. To all of them, the humble Yoda, who offered enlightened leadership, epitomized the ideals of the Jedi Order; a grandmaster of that august body, he was widely known as a sage instructor.
Yoda spoke an unusual version of Basic. He tended to place verbs (especially auxiliary verbs) after the object and subject. (This is an Object-Subject-Verb format.) An example of Yoda's speech pattern: When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good you will not.
Yoda walked with the aid of a cane later in life, although he was capable of throwing it aside and moving nimbly while using the Force. One of his canes was a gift from the Wookiees. His rare gimer stick cane contained nutrients that could sustain him were he to chew on it.
Another item unique to Master Yoda was a blissl, an instrument similar to a panflute, which he wore around his neck while on Dagobah.
Behind the Scenes
Yoda is voiced by Frank Oz. In the original trilogy, he was realized as a Muppet (controlled by Oz). Yoda's appearance was originally designed by British makeup artist Stuart Freeborn, who based Yoda's face partly on his own and partly on Albert Einstein's. Rendered with computer animation in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, Yoda appeared in ways not previously possible, including his participation in elaborate fight scenes. For the radio dramatizations of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, he was voiced by veteran character actor John Lithgow.
Yoda's popularity is such that the comedy musician, "Weird Al" Yankovic, parodied the song "Lola" by the Kinks with a version called "Yoda" included on the album Dare to Be Stupid (1985). More recently, the Great Luke Ski parodied the song "YMCA" by the Village People with a version called "Y.O.D.A." included on the albums Fanboys ‘n Da Hood (1996) and Carpe Dementia (1999).
Yoda also made a cameo in It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, voiced by Eric Jacobson.
The name Yoda is derived from "Yoddha", the Sanskrit word for "warrior." The name may also be connected to the Hebrew "Yodea", meaning "He knows" or "One who knows." Additionally some believe the name might also be a reference to the teachings of Yoga, an ancient eastern mind, body and spiritual practice that influenced many vital energy based martial art forms in the far east, such as Tai Chi, and almost certainly inspired many of the concepts and abilities demonstrated by both light and dark side force users in Star Wars.