Our first look at the sandpeople AKA Tusken Raiders, is a brief violent attack in A New Hope. For a very long time, that was it. Beyond Kenobi’s comments that they are easily startled by krayt dragon calls and ride in single file to hide their numbers, we knew little.
And of course, they rode on giant, hairy steeds with curly horns, known as banthas.
The Illustrated Star Wars Galaxy changed that. Using McQuarrie illustrations, we were taken into their world from the point of view of anthropologist and shapeshifter, Hoole. The tuskens showed no difference between the sexes, all wrapped in the same garb and sharing duties. The very young became full members of the tribe at around ten years old. Most important, they never shed their masks or clothes. It was anathema and would lead to the perpetrator being cast out. It was said in legend it came of one of the suns (the brother) attacking the other, and showing his true face. So now the one eternally pursued the other.
Based on hints in Dawn of the Jedi and others, this may have been based on the use of a super weapon on the primitive natives of Tatooine, which turned it’s lush beauty into the desert millenia ago.
Also fatal was to lose a hand or limb in combat. Combat with a creature like a krayt dragon was a rite of initiation. But there is no mercy for the weak or maimed. Those so crippled committed ritual suicide. Often, their banthas, with whom they formed a special bond, would mourn to the point of wandering alone into the desert to die as well.
Years later, the new Dark Horse Comics Star Wars series, set in the Prequel era fires up and gives us new views.
Soon to be called Star Wars Republic, it visits Tatooine early on. It turns out the former Jedi, Sharad Hett is living among the tribes, with a son, and calling himself a war leader. It’s more than simple settler vs tusken fighting: the Hutt’s are involved, stoking the conflict to sell weapons. Sharad’s tribe fairs badly at the hand of the Hutt’s and this begins a cultural change. Asharad Hett, his son, goes on to join the Jedi.
The few tusken raiders seen without masks are gray faced with feline like muzzles. (Dark Forces 2. These are outcasts and were taken off world by Dark Jedi.) They cannot interbreed with humans, so the matches among tuskens have to be carefully chosen to allow the tribe to flourish. Hence Asharad’s parents were both human.
Attack of the Clones revealed what appeared initially to be conflicts with our established views of Tuskens. We saw them as having brutally tortured Shmi Skywalker to death. But we see woman and children are garbed differently, unlike those Hoole encountered. This incident too, would have a profound effect on the tusken culture. Anakin Skywalker took his revenge on the entire tribe.
Between the loss of Hett’s clan and then the clan Skywalker decimated, the numbers remaining of the Tusken warriors were fewer. Losses which would’ve have been absorbed before were no longer easily accepted. They had long kidnapped people to add to their numbers, but it was no longer enough.
Kenobi, the novel of this character’s life on Tatooine, reveals much.
Tribes, adapting to the loss had finally accepted their woman as warriors, explaining the differences Hoole discovered from the tuskens of Attack of the Clones era, as well as the other apparent conflicts in the Expanded Universe.
Between this, and opportunities in the Knights of the Old Republic game, one sees that the sandpeople can, on occasion, be negotiated with. One man even came close to succeeding in brokering peace but was stopped by the Empire (Tales of Mos Eisley anthology.)
There are even a few cases of Tusken Raiders being taken off world to act as security to places like Sulon. Given their nature, I suspect these may have been outcasts even of their own people. However it’s also possible they were kidnapped, as they were in Children of the Jedi.
Famous members include:
Alkhara (rogue human?)
Sharad Hett (Former Jedi, adopted human)
Asharad Hett (Former Jedi, born of adopted humans)
Plug Eye (Leader of a small tribe, a rare female)
Tahiri Veila (Jedi, adopted human)
Find Out More about Tusken Raiders:
- Illustrated Star Wars Galaxy
- Dark Forces Jedi Knight 2 (game, novella)
- Knights of the Old Republic (game)
- The Last One Standing (an Obi Wan story by Jude Watson)
- Drawing the Maps of Peace: The Moisture Farmer’s Tale (Tales of Mos Eisley short story)
- Dark Horse Comics: Empire: Darklighter story arc
- Dark Horse Comics: Republic: Outlander story arc
- Tatooine Ghost
- Children of the Jedi
Read More about these characters:
Illustrated Star Wars Galaxy
Junior Jedi Knights
- The Golden Globe (First appearance)
- Lyric’s World
- Anakin’s Quest
- Vader’s Fortress
- Kenobi’s Blade
New Jedi Order
- Agents of Chaos II: Jedi Eclipse
- Edge of Victory I: Conquest
- Edge of Victory II: Rebirth
- Star by Star
- Dark Journey
- Enemy Lines I: Rebel Dream
- Enemy Lines II: Rebel Stand
- Destiny’s Way
- Force Heretic I: Remnant
- Force Heretic II: Refugee
- Force Heretic III: Reunion
- The Final Prophecy
- The Unifying Force
- The Joiner King
- The Unseen Queen
- Swarm War
Legacy of the Force
- Legacy of the Force: Betrayal
- Legacy of the Force: Inferno
- Legacy of the Force: Revelation
- Legacy of the Force: Invincible
Fate of the Jedi
- Fate of the Jedi: Outcast
- Fate of the Jedi: Omen
- Fate of the Jedi: Abyss
- Fate of the Jedi: Backlash
- Fate of the Jedi: Allies
- Fate of the Jedi: Vortex
- Fate of the Jedi: Conviction
- Fate of the Jedi: Ascension
- Fate of the Jedi: Apocalypse
Dark Horse Comics: Republic:
- Outlander story arc
Dark Horse Comics:Republic:
- Outlander story arc
- Emmisaries to Malastare story arc
- The Hunt for Aurra Sing
- Battle of Jabiim part 4
- Enemy Lines
- Siege of Saleucami
Dark Horse Comics:
Fate of the Jedi:
- The Life and Legend of Obi-Wan Kenobi