12 Things We Know (So Far) About Baby Yoda, the Breakout Star of The Mandalorian
By Alvin Ward
From the moment he appeared onscreen in the premiere episode of the new Disney+ series The Mandalorian on November 12, 2019, the creature referred to as Baby Yoda (his real name is Grogu) has become an internet sensation not seen since the likes of the IKEA monkey.
That Baby Yoda has gripped the imagination of the country is no small feat, as precious little has been revealed about his origins other than that he appears to be a member of the same unnamed species as Jedi Master Yoda, which has traditionally been shrouded in secrecy. More will be revealed as The Mandalorian continues, with a third season expected later in 2021. In the meantime, here’s what we know so far both on and off-screen about the alarmingly adorable creature sometimes known as “The Child."
(Enjoy but beware of spoilers, as this piece discusses events depicted throughout the first and second seasons of the series.)
1. Baby Yoda is 50 years old, but he still seems a bit behind developmentally.
Owing to the long lifespan of Yoda’s species—Yoda himself lived to be roughly 900 years old before expiring in 1983’s Return of the Jedi, set five years prior to the events of the Disney+ series—it makes sense that the “baby” in the show is the human equivalent of someone about to subscribe to AARP: The Magazine. We learn Baby Yoda is about 50 in the first episode, where Mando is told he’s being tasked with finding a target that age. It’s a clever bit of misdirection that sets up the climactic reveal that the bounty hunter is after an infant.
And though his habits—tasting space frogs and playing with spaceship knobs—seem developmentally accurate, child experts told Popular Mechanics that such curiosity is more in line with a 1-year-old, not the 5-year-old Baby Yoda might be analogous to in human years. He’s also not terribly verbose, putting him behind what one might expect of a person his relative age.
2. Baby Yoda is male.
After rescuing Baby Yoda from an untimely demise at the hands of bounty hunter IG-11 in the debut episode, the titular Mandalorian takes off with his young bounty to deliver him to his Imperial employer known as the Client (Werner Herzog). In episode 3, the Client receives the baby; his underling, Doctor Pershing (Omid Abtahi), refers to the character as “him.” An order page for a Mattel plush Baby Yoda also refers to the character as a "he."
We have, however, seen a female member of Yoda’s species before. In 1999’s Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace, a character named Yaddle sits wordlessly on the Jedi Council.
3. Baby Yoda’s genetics are of great interest to what’s left of the Empire.
Why was Mando sent to fetch Baby Yoda? From what we could gather in episode 3, the Client was desperate to gather knowledge from the creature, with Doctor Pershing told to extract something from his tiny body. That motive has yet to be revealed, but thanks to The Phantom Menace, we know Force-sensitive individuals can carry a large number of Midi-chlorians, or cells that can attenuate themselves to the Force. One fan theory speculates that these cells can be harvested, creating people with greater capabilities to wield Jedi powers.
in the second season of The Mandalorian, Moff Gideon (Giancarlo Esposito) captures Grogu and takes some of his blood for reasons not yet disclosed. Gideon says in the finale that his plasma can "bring order" to the galaxy.
4. Using the Force really tires Baby Yoda out.
In episode 2, a battle-weary Mando is in real danger of being trampled by a savage beast known as a Mudhorn. Channeling his Force abilities, Baby Yoda is able to dispatch of the threat, but the effort seems to exhaust him, and he spends most of the rest of the episode sound asleep.
5. Baby Yoda has Force-healing abilities.
In episode 7, bounty hunter guild leader Greef Karga (Carl Weathers) is seriously wounded by a dragon (or dragon-esque) creature en route to a confrontation with Imperials. Just when it looks like Karga will succumb to the creature's venomous strike, Baby Yoda calls upon the Force to instantly heal his wound. The power of the Force to treat physical ailments has been portrayed in Star Wars Expanded Universe content like books and comics, but much of that material became non-canon following Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012. This is the first time a character in a live-action series has demonstrated the ability.
6. Baby Yoda is probably not a clone.
Online speculation has run with the idea that Baby Yoda might not simply be an infant of the unnamed Yoda species but a clone of the Jedi Master himself. Episode 7 seemed to debunk this, however, when Mandalorian colleague Kuiil (voiced by Nick Nolte), a former Imperial, claims that he's familiar with the cloning process and that the tyke seemed to be the result of nature, not a laboratory.
7. Baby Yoda is capable of murder.
Episode 7 brought about the most shocking Baby Yoda disclosure yet: While watching his surrogate father Mando struggling in a friendly arm-wrestling contest with Cara Dune (Gina Carano), the creature grows concerned and channels the Force to choke Cara, a technique favored by Darth Vader in the original trilogy. Though he releases his hold on her, it's clear Baby Yoda does not yet realize the value of human life and might snap at any moment.
8. Baby Yoda might become a Jedi Master in a hurry.
Despite his infantile status, it seems like it won’t be long, relatively speaking, before Baby Yoda achieves the Zen-like mindset and formidable skills of a Jedi Master. It’s been pointed out that Yoda achieved that rank at the age of 100, at which point he began training Jedis. That would mean Yoda’s species is capable of some pretty rapid development between the ages of 50 and 100.
9. Werner Herzog has a soft spot for Baby Yoda.
Herzog, the famously irascible director of such films as 2005’s documentary Grizzly Man and 1972's Aguirre: The Wrath of God, portrays the man known as the Client, out to capture Baby Yoda during the show's first season. Interacting with the puppet on set was apparently a source of amusement for the part-time actor, who sometimes addressed Baby Yoda as though he were not made of rubber. "One of the weirdest moments I had on set, in my life, was trying to direct Werner with the baby,” series director Deborah Chow told The New York Times. “How did I end up with Werner Herzog and Baby Yoda? That was amazing. Werner had absolutely fallen in love with the puppet. He, at some point, had literally forgotten that it wasn’t a real being and was talking to the child as though it was a real, existing creature.”
Herzog was so emotionally invested in Baby Yoda that he reacted harshly when The Mandalorian creator Jon Favreau and producer and director Dave Filoni spoke of wanting to shoot some scenes without the puppet so they could add him as a computer-generated effect later in case the live-action creature wasn’t convincing. “You are cowards,” Herzog told them. “Leave it.”
10. Anakin Skywalker did not have a soft spot for Baby Yoda.
The fifth episode of the second season of The Mandalorian revealed that Grogu was in some serious trouble. According to Ahsoka Tano (Rosario Dawson), Grogu was raised in the Jedi Temple. That means he nearly got snuffed out by Anakin Skywalker and Emperor Palpatine when the two conspired to wipe out the Jedi. Tano tells Mando (and Grogu, though presumably he's not eager to relive the incident) that someone grabbed him before he could be executed. The identity of that individual remains a mystery.
11. Jon Favreau and company knew Baby Yoda's real name all along.
Fans had to wait for that same episode of The Mandalorian to hear Grogu's name for the first time, which is revealed when Mando encounters Ahsoka Tano in an effort to place him with his own kind. While Mando is surprised to hear it, series creator Jon Favreau and other members of the crew were not. In an interview with Vanity Fair, executive producer Dave Filoni said that Favreau settled on the name much earlier. "The name has been around for a while," he said. "Jon told me early on in season one what it would be, which made me start to think about how people could learn the name. This gave me the idea that Ahsoka, who is very compassionate, would be able to connect with the Child, and that without words they could probably communicate through memories and experiences. Through that connection, she learns the name and then tells Mando and the audience."
12. Baby Yoda makes a cameo appearance in The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special.
If you can't get enough of the precocious tyke, Grogu makes a cameo appearance in The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special streaming on Disney+. (The animated special is a homage to The Star Wars Holiday Special that aired on television in 1978 and was largely viewed as a low point for the saga.) In the special, Rey (voiced by Daisy Ridley) drops in on some seminal moments in the franchise's history but interrupts a duel with Darth Vader so both of them can admire his cuteness.