I noticed that a lot of my posts recently have been about Force stuff and Force users. Well. Force Shmorce! There are a lot of cool things in the Star Wars universe that don't have anything to do with Jedi or Sith. Though I was never a 'fan-boy' of Boba Fett (afterall, he did go out like a punk), I have always been intrigued by the Mandalorians as a whole. As with many things in the 'frontier' days of the Star Wars setting, you kind-of had to make things up based on rumors and hearsay and snippets of information that may or may not have been 'Canon'. And as with most things, I kind-of filled in the blanks as I went, taking information from various sources as they were presented. This post is going to outline what my current concept of the Mandalorians are and how they fit into the setting as a whole.
The Mandalorians are a warlike nation of clan-based people consisting of members from multiple (though mostly human) species. Their culture revolves around that of battle and war, both a source of honor and pride in their community. Mandalorians took their name from the warlord Mandalore the First after he led them in the conquest of their current ‘homeworld’. Since that time, when a great leader emerges to rule over all the clans, he or she generally takes on the title of “Mandalore”.
Though they played a part in the Old Sith Wars of Exar Kun, some 4,000 years ago, the Mandalorians did not come to the forefront until a new warlord (assuming the title of Mandalore the Ultimate) led them in a bid to bring down the Old Republic and conquer the galaxy- a goal they very nearly achieved. The so-called Mandalorian War ended with their defeat at the hands of Jedi Generals Revan and Malak but cemented the fame (or infamy) of the culture up until the present day.
Despite their reputation, after their defeat in the war, the Mandalorians went into a long decline- their clans exiled to Mandalore or scattered to hundreds of other systems in the Outer Rim. Many turned to piracy, brigandage or mercenary work. The latter, highly-skilled warriors-for-hire became known as ‘Supercommandos’, and their distinctive battle-armor became a cultural icon.
Civil war and a backing of the Separatists during the Clone wars further shattered the Mandalorian’s culture and led to the eventual enslavement of their homeworld by the rising Galactic Empire. It was during this oppression that a resistance movement grew, led by several Supercommandos, including Fenn and Tobbi Dala. With the help of Princess Leia, and through the sacrifice of Tobbi Dala, the Mandalorians struck their first blow for independence in 3 ABY—overthrowing the tyrannical rule of ‘The Suprema’, an Imperial appointed slave-master.
Unfortunately, internal strife and galactic instability kept the planet in a state of constant warfare for years—well past the fall of the Emperor. It was not until after Grand Admiral Thrawn was defeated that the New Republic was finally able to lend its support. A small task force under then-Colonel Rick Oman joined forces with Fenn and was finally able to free the planet completely of outside oppression.
Since that time, Mandalore has remained a free-planet, joining the Republic under the leadership of Fenn who (through a strange series of temporal events) actually turned out to be Rick Oman after the latter became trapped in the past. Gradually, Mandalore began to emerge from its near devastation—rebuilding its industry and infrastructure through the cooperation and assistance of the New Republic and many private investors (including Lando Calrissian). Helping to economically bolster this recovery, the Mandalorian Supercommandos have been reformed under Fenn. They serve alongside the regular military to defend the planet, but also hire out (in small units) as Mercenary forces for various Republic Sympathetic or Neutral parties throughout the Galaxy.
Recently, as the chaos of the Nagai invasion swept the Galaxy, Boba Fett gathered around him the scattered remains of his clan and made a bid to become Mandalore of all the clans. Meeting in the asteroid ruins of the Malachor system, the heads of the major clans fought a trial by combat to decide the matter. Fett faced Fenn in the final trial and after an epic struggle, it was a battered Fenn who emerged victorious.
And so it is that the latest Mandalore has called all loyal clans to return to their homeworld and prepare for the coming counterattack on the Nagai.
Mandalorian culture is both clan and caste based. Clans are groups of extended families who all share allegiance to a specific clan name (usually the bloodline of a great warrior from Mandalorian history). Thus, several different family surnames can all be found within one overriding clan.
Within each clan are three major castes: Warriors, Scientists, and Workers. Though all are necessary, it is the Warrior caste that holds the power and prestige in the culture. These are the leaders and warriors that the society revolves around.
The scientist caste represents the ‘thinkers’ of the Mandalorian culture—this includes engineers, technical experts and medical specialists as well as more traditional scientists and scholars. Not surprisingly, much of the scientist caste’s work is geared towards supporting and improving the warrior caste’s performance in battle. It is the scientist caste that has developed and perfected Mandalorian battle-armor, and in the past they were responsible for innovations such as the Basilisk war droid.
The worker caste is the foundation of Mandalorian culture. Workers include miners, factory-linesmen, mechanics, traders, farmers, etc.—all the ‘mundane’ professions that modern galactic culture is made up of. Like the scientist caste, a large part of the worker’s duty is in supporting the warriors—constructing and maintaining weapons, armor and vehicles.
Despite the emphasis on the warrior caste, there is balance to the system. Each depends on the other for survival, and wise leaders throughout Mandalorian history have realized this. Though movement from one caste to another is a rare thing, it is not unheard of—Mandalorians are, afterall, a pragmatic and practical people. Ability matters more to them than tradition.
Throughout their history, Mandalorians often took slaves and captives during their conquests. But unlike many cultures, these ‘bondsmen’ were not doomed to a life of servitude. Through hard-work and aptitude, bondsmen were gradually accepted into one of the three castes. In this way, Mandalorian culture grew faster than it would have based solely on typical family procreation. It is also in this way that various non-human species were introduced into the culture—either as groups or individuals. To be Mandalorian is a way of life, not a genetic code.
In the modern era, since the reunification of the Mandalorians on their homeworld, the traditional practice of taking bondsmen has been curtailed. It has, however, begun to evolve into something else. Outcasts, vagabonds and young adventurers from across the galaxy have willingly journeyed to Mandalore in the hopes being accepted into the culture.
Though the many Mandalorians who endured the enslavement are hostile to the Empire, the culture as a whole does not entirely embrace the New Republic they are now a part of. Trust and respect come slowly to this proud culture, but with the leadership of their latest Mandalore, Fenn, it is possible that this once powerful people will rise again to a new ‘Golden Age’.
MAJOR MANDALORIAN CLANS
The current dominant clan with its main power-base on Mandalore itself. Most of this clan is comprised of ex-slaves freed by Fenn. As such, they are extremely loyal to their leader. Since many of the Warrior caste in this clan were killed during the occupation, a great many ‘non-traditional’ warriors have emerged, rising from different castes or the surviving children of warriors—and even some warriors from other clans who decided to return home and swear allegiance to Fenn. Overall, this clan is more forward-thinking and ‘civilized’ than the others.
A collection of mercenaries, pirates, bounty-hunters and bandits—mostly ‘Clanless’ Mandalorian warriors. Formerly scattered around the outer-rim, the Clan was recently assembled by Boba Fett in his bid for power. Clan Fett has very little in the way of a support apparatus—being comprised mostly of warriors. This is perhaps the most fractious of the major clans, with only half answering Fenn’s call to return to Mandalore. All are fierce warriors, but with a decidedly vicious streak that could become a problem if left unchecked.
One of the oldest of the Mandalorian Clans. Clan Ordo maintains its own homeworld (the aptly named desert planet ‘Ordo’). This clan perhaps best represents ‘traditional’ Mandalorian culture, with a thriving three-caste organization and balance. Though powerful, they are perhaps hindered by the often straight-line logic of their clan-heads and their love of combat (i.e. they tend to shoot first and ask questions later, not always thinking out the consequences of their actions). More tradition-bound than most clans, the Ordo tend to chafe a little at the thought of cross-caste promotion (at least into the warrior caste). During the reign of the Empire, they willingly (but grudgingly) submitted to the New Order and even worked as Mercenaries, but they bore no love for their Imperial task-masters. Currently, their world maintains neutrality—set apart from the Empire and New Republic both (though this may change with their endorsement of the new Mandalore and his open alignment with the Republic).
Tracing their lineage back to the legendary bounty-hunter Calo Nord, Nord is one of the craftier clans—preferring subterfuge and stealth to direct confrontation—a philosophy that is often at odds with Clan Ordo. The Nords operated throughout the reign of the Empire as a kind of underground syndicate—offering protection and ‘muscle’ to other criminal organizations. They were also reknown as assassins. Though Clan Nord has thrown in its lot with the new Mandalore, swearing their allegiance to him, there are some within the clan who are no doubt still scheming to gain power in some fashion. They are, at best, dangerous allies.
Though operating as scattered bands, leading a nomadic existence across the outer-rim of the Galaxy, Clan Valen actually maintains a very traditional and tight-knit Mandalorian community. The small, family groups usually include members of all castes, working together at various mercenary jobs. Once a year, the families gather on one planet to make clan-wide decisions and maintain intra-clan relations, so no matter how far apart they operate, they still consider themselves one people. Their philosophical outlook also helps differentiate the Valens from other clans—they have a very mystical and metaphysical view of combat, fate and the galaxy as a whole, believing in ‘signs’, ‘portents’ and visions to an extent that makes the other clans question their sanity. Of late, their visions have told them to back the new Mandalore and, gathering now, they form some of his staunchest supporters.
Not an official clan, the shadowy and mysterious Deathwatch represents a dangerous philosophy that still exists among the Mandalorians. Though first begun decades ago to try and ‘preserve the warrior traditions’ of the culture, the ultra-violent beliefs of the Deathwatch have perverted over the years to near nihilistic levels. It is rumored that in his later years, Fett subscribed to this philosophy—that his efforts to become Mandalore stemmed from his desire to launch one final, glorious war of destruction against the entire Galaxy—Republic, Empire, Nagai, it didn’t matter. The goal of the Deathwatch (which has now become an underground cult) is to bring about a great galactic apocalypse in which only the strong will survive.