Yoda: The greatest gift to Star Wars

Frank Oz in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980). © Lucasfilm Ltd.
Frank Oz in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980). © Lucasfilm Ltd. /

We’re celebrating the holiday season with the greatest gifts Star Wars can ever give us: its characters! Here’s why Yoda is one of the best.

Almost every Star Wars character feels like a gift to fans. For personal reasons and when looking at the far-reaching impacts in the franchise and across popular culture, Yoda is the character who I consider to be the greatest gift to Star Wars.

From the very first scene when he is introduced in The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda is quirky, hilarious, wonderful, and wise. In his first scene, he drops nuggets of wisdom like “Wars not make one great” while mischievously nibbling at Luke Skywalker’s food, sorting through his possessions, and insisting that he hold onto Luke’s flashlight.

Throughout this delightfully bizarre and hilarious introduction, Yoda isn’t just messing with Luke for the fun of it. Luke doesn’t know who Yoda is, but Yoda is already teaching him his first valuable lesson to not judge a book by its cover. Luke immediately makes assumptions about the small and eccentric creature and is dismissive of him, unable to see that this individual is the great Jedi Master he seeks. Yoda is the incredible kind of teacher who can take advantage of practically any opportunity and turn it into a teachable moment.

As a teacher, I find this to be admirable. Yoda’s first scene is only the first of many moments when he proves to be a rare and invaluable teacher. Beyond his unconventional lessons and ability to create unique, teachable moments, Yoda also recognizes the unparalleled importance of connection and failure.

One of the most underrated scenes in the films that emphasize most of these positive elements about Yoda occurs in Attack of the Clones. When Obi-Wan is unable to locate the Kamino system, he goes to Yoda for help. Before Obi-Wan politely interrupts Yoda’s lesson with the Jedi younglings, Yoda is shown to be a patient and encouraging teacher. As Obi-Wan starts to ask for help, Yoda includes the younglings in the conversation and even encourages them to think of the solution to Obi-Wan’s problem. One of the younglings is able to provide the answer to which Yoda responds, “Truly wonderful, the mind of a child is.” Even though they are young and inexperienced, Yoda is consistently finding ways to connect with his students and helping them see that they have unlimited potential. Sometimes he’s silly with them and sometimes he’s serious, but he always knows how to reach them.

Sometimes an older student like Luke can be challenging, and Yoda and Luke don’t see eye-to-eye on some matters, something that is quite common between teachers and students. In fact, a short story in the first From A Certain Point of View book revealed that Yoda didn’t even want to train Luke at first — he wanted to train Leia instead. Luke is impatient and can be frustrated by Yoda’s methodical, gradual approach. Over time, though, Luke opens his mind to new possibilities and perspectives and Yoda learns to appreciate and value Luke as well.

When Luke reaches one of his lowest moments in The Last Jedi, it is Yoda’s Force ghost who provides the hope and counsel that he needs. Yoda helps Luke see what is truly important and makes it clear that it’s okay to fail, even stating, “The greatest teacher, failure is.” This is an empowering lesson that teachers, students, and all individuals need to understand. Every individual will fail at something. What matters is how individuals respond to that failure. Yoda is humble enough to recognize that he failed. His failings were significant enough to influence the downfall of the Jedi Order and the rise of Emperor Palpatine. Despite these failings, Yoda found a way forward. He found inner peace and passed on what he learned from his failures.

While Obi-Wan is the one who introduced Luke to the Force and the Jedi, Yoda is the one who really teaches Luke to understand what the Force is and what it means to be a Jedi Knight. Yoda’s teachings are instrumental in Luke’s most defining moments, first in Return of the Jedi when he casts his lightsaber aside and chooses love over hate, and then in The Last Jedi when he uses Force projection to save his friends and family, teach his nephew a final lesson, and to rekindle hope in the galaxy. Without Yoda, these beautiful and galaxy-saving moments would not have been possible.

Yoda’s gift as a teacher continues beyond Luke. In the LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special, his Force ghost counsels Rey in a moment of hopeless despair. Just as he did with Luke, Yoda makes her see that it’s okay to fail and he allows her to see that connection is the key to being a great teacher.  The connection she’s forged with Finn has already made her a wonderful teacher and has helped him grow as a Jedi-in-training. With her strong connections to others and her ability to learn from failure, he helps Rey see that she has everything she needs to fix the mistakes she made during Life Day.

Yoda’s wisdom has a positive influence on key characters and defining moments of the saga, but his wisdom also has a real-world value that everyone can learn from. His wise words are frequently quoted in the context of popular culture and are so iconic that they are often quoted in other contexts as well. Due to Yoda’s unique speech pattern, his quotes are even more recognizable and iconic than characters like Darth Vader or Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Not only is Yoda’s speech pattern distinctive, but so is his appearance. Fans are still fascinated and intrigued by his mysterious species. Without this, the world would not be blessed with Baby Yoda (Grogu) from The Mandalorian.

Even though Star Wars is in the genre of science-fiction, and despite the focus on Grogu, the majority of prominent and well-developed characters — especially in the live-action films and television shows — are human. Out of all the alien characters, Yoda is one of the few who is well-developed, nuanced, and receives significant focus. He shows that this is possible for alien characters and that these stories do not always have to rely so heavily on humans.

Moreover, Yoda is the character who seamlessly connects most eras of Star Wars. As a Jedi Master who has lived through many centuries of the galaxy’s most important shifts, he’s of critical importance in the original trilogy era and the prequel trilogy era. This is not just true of the movies, but also of his roles in animated shows like The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels. The wisdom he’s passed on as a Force ghost has made him an important piece of the sequel trilogy era as well. As Star Wars kicks off a brand new era with the High Republic, Yoda will once again be a pivotal character as fans see him as part of the Jedi Order that existed hundreds of years before The Phantom Menace. The High Republic will surely reveal even more of Yoda’s critical contributions to Star Wars.

light. Related Story. Kylo Ren: The greatest gift to Star Wars

For all of these reasons and more, Yoda is in a class of his own. The greatest gift to Star Wars, Yoda is.