This year is the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, and like last year’s celebration of The Phantom Menace, Fantha Tracks will be covering this movie with a couple of articles. From behind the scenes to source and merchandise, we go in-depth to hopefully show you the movie in ways you have never seen it before.
“Mudhole? Slimy? My home this is!” – says Yoda to Luke when they meet. By this time Yoda has been living on the swamp planet for over twenty-two years, ever since his self-imposed exile started after the fall of the Republic. However, this is a home he shares with a wild variety of creatures, making Dagobah a world that is teeming with life. What follows are all the canon creatures and other flora.
The first creature we experience in the movie is that of the bogwing. This reptavian (part reptile, part avian) are actually native to the planet Naboo but can be found on many other worlds like Aleen, Zygerria and Dagobah. These appearances on the other worlds actually happened during season 4 of The Clone Wars and by the time that the series actually returned to Dagobah for Season 6’s episode “Voices”, it came in quite handy to have a bogwing model ready to be used. This episode showed also that there are fireflies on the swamp world as the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn used them to manifest himself as and guide Yoda with them.
The other very well-known creature that dwells on Dagobah is the one with which R2-D2 has his nasty encounter, the dragonsnake. This large predatory reptile has also appeared quite a few times in other media like in The Clone Wars, which showed the full creature in the Nal Hutta episodes where it attacked Obi-Wan. Unfortunately for this dragonsnake a Jedi armed with a lightsaber makes for an even poorer food source then a tin can droid, the latter you can spit out, the former kills you for trying. For The Empire Strikes Back just a small part of the back and a tail was made, with a diver underneath it dragging it along. They filmed this in the pool of George Lucas’s house. In The Clone Wars the dragonsnake appeared in full.
The vine snake is one of the two serpent types that we can see in the movie, it is one of these that Luke has to avoid while in Yoda’s hut eating the rootleaf stew.
There are various breeds of the vine snakes, there is the thick one with brown scales and black mottling and a thinner smaller breed which was black with yellow striped patterns.
When Luke enters the Cave of Evil a lizard can be seen scurrying away: this is a nudj. Not much is known of these lizards, other than that in Legends sources they are mentioned as being responsive to Force energy, which would explain why there is one at the Cave of Evil. Before seeing the nudj however we hear some screeching of another creature, as if Luke nearly steps on it while entering the cave. It is unknown which creature that was, possibly it was another Nudj.
The other serpent type we can see in the movie is one that only recently got identified as the Dagobah Python. It was identified in “Star Wars By The Numbers” on Youtube, and can be seen when Luke is just past the nudj. He even pauses to look at one of these pythons before continuing on in the other direction, where a second one can be see along the tree branches. Before this identification Dagobah pythons were known to exist, but never pointed out or connected to the ones seen in the movie.
And the last creature we see is also found in the Cave of Evil, a sleen. This is an insect-eating lizard that liked to live in holes in the ground and hollowed-out logs. A Water Monitor lizard was used to portray the sleen, and unlike the sleen the water monitor eats not insects but rather rodents, eggs, smaller lizards and anything else they can overpower.
Dagobah swamp ambience
As per usual Ben Burtt used many strange sounds to make the ambience noise heard on the planet. While he recorded general ambience at the Point Reyes National Park, he added to these a recording of birds from a zoo with an echoey aviary, which when slowed down sounded like eerie howling, and the sound of a couple of raccoons in a bathtub from which they could not get away.
Thanks to guides like Absolutely Everything You Need to Know, Complete Locations and The Complete Visual Dictionary (New Edition) we have a wide variety of plants and seeds that Yoda’s diet consists of, but most of them are just mentions and only occasionally shown by a picture of a prop. These are: galla seed (a nutty snack for the Jedi Master), lahdia plant (shown to have berries in The Wildlife of Star Wars: A Field Guide), marsh fungi (mashed into a sweet, creamy yoghurt), rootleaf (from which he made a stew that he offered to Luke), sohli bark, stickle tree (producing a brown and bitter fruit), swamp squash (a plant of a yellowish-brown color), yoghurt plant (as the name implies, probably combined with the marsh fungi) and Yarum seeds. This last one he gathered from the land between his hut and the Dragonsnake Bog and was used to make tea from. These seeds can actually be seen in Galaxy’s Edge at Kat Saka’s Kettle, a small shop with various seeds and spices from around the galaxy. Another plant, but not edible, was the blackvine, a parasitic plant that formed natural bridges. Yoda’s home was located at the base of a particularly large gnarltree. These were originally in Legends part of the life cycle of a knobby white spider, but current canon sources seem to have ignored or overwritten that. Gnarltrees were inspired by banyan trees.
Join us next time for another article to celebrate The Empire Strikes Back 40th Anniversary!
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