They are feared across the galaxy. Their distinctive armor is recognizable from the Corellian Sector to the Outer Rim. They have acted as hired guns for the biggest, baddest dudes in the Empire. But how much do we really know about Mandalorians? They don’t really do much PR.
Boba Fett was a man of few words, and he’s probably the most famous Mandalorian in the universe — even though he’s not ACTUALLY a Mandalorian. As Star Wars franchise writer/ producer/director Dave Filoni says, “Boba Fett is a clone, according to Attack of the Clones, and by asking [creator George Lucas], he would say Boba Fett is not Mandalorian, not born on Mandalore. He’s more of a person indoctrinated into it, into the way of life, and gets a hold of the armor.”
Of course, we’ll meet a bona fide Mandalorian — and, get to know the race a whole lot better — in the gun-slinging western-style series The Mandalorian, coming to the new Disney+ streaming service on November 12th. So, before we get better acquainted with Pedro Pascal’s be-helmeted badass, let’s get up close and personal with the Mandalorians (not literally of course, that would be fatal), learn their customs, and find out what makes them tick.
MANDALORIANS TALK WITH THEIR FISTS
If you know one thing about Mandalorian culture, it’s probably that they are double-hard warrior folk who aren’t likely to back down in a fight. Based on the Spartans, the Mandalorians prefer to let their fists do the talking, and frequently settle disputes with hand-to-hand combat. However, unlike the Spartans, the strong are rewarded but the weak aren’t discarded — losers are treated with respect if they fought bravely.
Cowardice is the only trait that is punished: Mandalorians will label anyone who shirks from a fight as a “hutt’un” (yes, based on those Hutts). As a people who defined themselves on their ability to attack and defend, Mandalorian history was forged through battle and war, leading to their fearsome reputation around the galaxy — they don’t really do bureaucracy. Basically, if you ever bump into a Mandalorian in your local cantina, whatever you do, don’t spill his pint.
MANDALORIANS ARE VERY PROGRESSIVE WHEN IT COMES TO GENDER ROLES
Yes, settling arguments by fighting is not particularly big or clever, but when it comes to gender roles, Mandalorian culture is surprisingly progressive, and is ahead of the curve compared to the rest of the male-dominated galaxy. Mandalorians are gender-neutral, meaning there is no gender division when it comes to roles or responsibilities.
The men and women of Mandalore hold the same social and legal status, so there’s no bias towards men when it comes to going to war — if you get your ass kicked by a Mandalorian in battle, there’s a 50/50 chance it’s a woman beneath the helmet. On the flipside, Mandalorian men are also expected to help with childcare as much as the women, which is a bit like going to war every day for 18 years.
MANDALORIANS AREN’T BIG HOME-MAKERS
Originally exiled from Coruscant, centuries of war left the Mandalorian home planet of Mandalore ravaged and practically inhospitable, with a punishing desert climate that lends itself nicely to Sergio Leone-esque gunfights but not so much for pottering about the garden. In fact, Mandalorian cities, including the capital Sundari, are housed inside giant cubed bio-domes that provide an artificial climate. Dome sweet dome.
Living in a giant LEGO sandpit has clearly had an influence on the way Mandalorians live — inhabitants are grateful for the small space they have, and work together in clans and communities. It also explains why many Mandalorians find work as bounty hunters — it gets them out of their cramped bio-cubes and allows them to see all the wonders of the galaxy. Even so, there’s no place like dome. (Additional note: Mandalorians aren’t big on puns, either).
MANDALORIANS ARE DEFINED BY THEIR ARMOUR
That distinctive armour is part of a Mandalorian’s identity — it informs who they are. It’s not just a cool-looking helmet — okay, it’s not not that, but Mandalorian warriors actually decorate their armour with purpose and meaning. Colours speak volumes about the soldier within: grey armour mourns the loss of a loved one, red armour is to honour a fallen parent, black represents a belief in justice, gold symbolises an owner driven by vengeance and the little-seen orange armour speaks to a lust for life. Boba Fett’s iconic green armour, on the other hand, represents his sense of duty. They don’t just chuck it on, in other words.
What you can’t see is that modern Mandalorian armour is kitted with all sorts of hi-tech gizmos: you’ve got your jetpack and magnetised boots, which are pretty jazzy, but the helmet is designed to heighten the wearer’s senses, and allows them to use voice commands to operate their weapons. Whichever way you look at it, it’s the kind of clobber that can’t help but boost the confidence of the man or woman wearing it — there’s a reason they don’t check them into cloakrooms.
MANDALORIANS HAVE THEIR OWN LANGUAGE
Although most Mandalorians speak the universal language of Galactic Basic, the native language is called Mando’a, commonly known as Mandalorian. By all accounts it’s an aggressive form of the spoken word, but one — like the culture it serves — that is not gender biased, lacking grammatical gender in its nouns and pronouns. Take that, French!
Different strains of Mandalorian are spoken off-world, including a dialect called Concordian that is spoken on the moon Concord Dawn. Interestingly, there is no word for “hero” in the Mandalorian language, as everyone is expected to be heroic by nature. Generally speaking though, Mandalorians agree that actions speak louder than words, and — like our friend Silent Boba — are encouraged to project an air of mystery and menace by staying schtum.
MANDALORIANS LIVE BY A CODE
Mandalorians are not so much a single race, more a ragtag collection of different species and bloodlines, split into various clans but bound by a single truth: adherence to the Resol’nare aka the Mandalorian Code. They don’t do religion, and their government and intergalactic alliances are shaky, but Mandalorian Code keeps them on the straight and narrow.
If you wish to don the helmet and represent Mandalore, men and women must obey the six requirements of the Resol’nare: 1. You must learn and speak Mando’a, the language of the Mandalorians; 2. You must wear the Mandalorian armour with pride; 3. You must defend your family with your life; 4. You must honour your clan and ensure its prosperity; 5. You must answer a rally if called to fight; and 6. Your children must also follow the Mandalorian Code. Not a bad way to live, in all honesty — it sounds like a lot less faff than being a Jedi, anyway.
MANDALORIANS ARE BIG ON FAMILY
The battle-forged Mandalorians put much faith in family, and are always aware that their warring nature means that each breakfast, bio-dome school run or bath time could be the last. Unsurprisingly, this means that Mandalorian orphans are not uncommon. Cue the sad violins.
Mandalorian culture adapts well to parents that are lost in war. If children are orphaned through battle, they are automatically adopted into the family of those who were closest to the dearly departed, and are raised like the foster parents’ own kids. When Mandalorian children reach a mature age, they may even wish to fight wearing the armour of their fallen parents. It’s all very dramatic, but you’d expect nothing less from the Mandalorians, who aren’t exactly renowned for their easygoing nature.
MANDALORIANS LIKE BOARD GAMES
Little is known about how Mandalorians enjoy their downtime, or if ‘downtime’ is even a concept they understand. Star Wars Rebels gave us an insight into the dynamic of Mandalorian game night when it introduced Cubikahd, a ‘fun’ strategy game for all the family.
Cubikahd takes the form of a holographic board, much like Dejarik, the battle game onboard the Millennium Falcon, although unlike that chess-like game, it’s a cube-shaped board. Each player has four knives — what, you didn’t think weaponry would be involved? — that they move around the board in order to strategically capture the opponent’s pieces. It’s informally known as ‘Stabble’ to those in the know, but at any rate, it’s liable to lead to fewer murders than your average round of Monopoly.
MANDALORIANS ARE ARTISTS AT HEART
For all the blood and bluster surrounding Mandalorian culture, the Mandalorians do have an artistic side, and have even named their own unique artistic style: Cubism. Who knows where they got that idea? Maybe they nicked it from the outer reaches of the Picasso quadrant.
Like cave paintings and tapestries of historical record, the Mandalorians used the cubism movement to depict images of war. The style itself utilises thick black outlines and sharp, jagged edges to create beautiful yet harsh imagery. Like renaissance art, Cubism went through a resurgence during times of war, and some modern Mandalorians, like Star Wars Rebels’ Sabine Wren, keep it alive in the form of graffiti. They’re just a bunch of big softies really, aren’t they? Softies who could murder you with just a paintbrush.
The Mandalorian arrives on Disney+ in the US on November 12.