Luke Skywalker calls Dagobah something out of a dream and a slimy mudhole. Even in his playful trickster persona, Yoda objects to Luke’s statement because this slimy mudhole has been his home for more than 20 years (which took roughly only 2.5 percent of Yoda’s entire life). During a story conference for The Empire Strikes Back in December 1977, the possibility of a swampy, eerie and misty bog planet is mentioned as the place where Luke learns about the Force. In a mythological point of view Dagobah functions as a sacred grove. Ralph McQuarrie designed a lot of creatures for Dagobah, but none of them would actually make it into the final movie. Earthly animals were eventually used to populate Yoda’s home, such as American king snakes, a water monitor, lizards, and toads.
Before the prequels and Star Wars: The Clone Wars we assumed that Yoda took refuge on Dagobah simply because nobody knew of its existence and because the planet had nothing to offer. A possible explanation was given in the Legends novel Heir to the Empire. Zahn’s novel mentions a dark side presence on Dagobah (the “dark side cave”) that neutralized Yoda’s presence on the planet. But in the prequels, and more recently in The Lost Missions of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, we learn the true value of Dagobah. According to the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn, Dagobah was one of the purest places in the galaxy. The Living Force thrived on Dagobah and therefore it was the best place where Yoda could learn from Qui-Gon Jinn how to preserve his consciousness after his physical death. Yoda spent the last decades of his long life in solitude, only in the presence of many strange invertebrates, reptiles, and amphibians. Let’s slither, hiss, and croak along with them!
Creepy and Crawly
When Yoda first visits Dagobah near the end of the Clone Wars, several bogwings are curious witnesses of his arrival. The bogwing is a flying reptavian native to Dagobah. Several types of of these territorial creatures live in the different layers of the ecosystem where they feed on small creatures and where they give birth during flight.
It also appears that a certain species of pikobi, fast-moving and flightless reptavians, call Dagobah their home. Pikobi have long pointed beaks which they use to spear their prey. Their web-like feet are adapted to live in swampy environments such as Dagobah, but they also live in the swamps of Naboo and in the jungles of Onderon.
R2-D2 has a really close encounter with a dragonsnake during Luke’s first visit to Dagobah. These long and slender aquatic reptiles reside in Dagobah’s many primeval bogs. The lagoon near Yoda’s hut is even known (probably just by Yoda) as Dragonsnake Bog. One particular dragonsnake was hungry enough to devour Artoo when the droid was swimming to the shore. Luckily the Astromech didn’t taste very well and the creature spat the droid into spooky branches where he landed near the skeletal remains of an unknown creature. Dragonsnakes can also be found on Nal Hutta.
Among Dagobah’s residents are many kinds of vine snakes; some smaller specimens even reside in Yoda’s hut. Another vine snake — hiding in the X-wing — startles Luke when he is about to leave Dagobah to rescue Han and Leia.
When Luke enters the domain of evil to confront a vision of the future, he’s being watched by two creatures. The reptilian sleen is a slow omnivorous swamp forager. It also eats insects and seeks out dark and damp environments. The nudj is a small reptile that also favors moist caves and marches. It’s considered extremely docile despite its fearsome appearance.
Dagobah also features some creatures that have never been named, such as a reptile resting on another large skeleton. The origin of both large skeletons, that can be seen during Luke’s time on Dagobah, remains a mystery. Miniaturized versions of the can-cell, the gelagrub, and the ginntho are also crawling around on Dagobah’s soil.
Tales of Legends
While the screentime of the Dagobah creatures may be limited, several Legends sources offer more information on the wildlife. The comic Luke Skywalker and the Treasure of the Dragonsnakes (2010) adds a surprising element to the dragonsnake that attacks Artoo. That particular creature was supposedly the king of the dragonsnakes and a much larger and ferocious specimen that terrorized his fellow dragonsnakes. Luke conquers the king and he seeks out his treasure, which turns out to be a tasteful accipiptero egg. After Luke defeats the king, the other dragonsnakes turn on him and the king loses his reign over the swamps. The comic offers a good amount of creatures from Dagobah throughout Luke’s adventure.
The first book that expanded on the Dagobah fauna was The Illustrated Star Wars Universe (1995), written by Kevin J. Anderson and beautifully illustrated by Ralph McQuarrie. The book tells the spooky in-universe tale of Galactic Republic scientist Halka Four-Den who leads a scientific mission on Dagobah, gathering information on several creatures. One of them is called the knobby white spider. This strange arachnid already appeared in McQuarrie’s production paintings and is described as a mobile root of a Dagobah gnarltree. When it gathers enough nutrients, the spider settles down and its legs transform into the gigantic roots of the tree. Another arachnid, though smaller and more dangerous, is the butcherbug. This creature is able to spin deadly invisible webs that are able to tear their prey apart. The spotlight sloth is a peaceful herbivorous mammal with bioluminescent patches on its chest. This creature only has to fear the largest predators on Dagobah. One of the large creatures on Dagobah is the swamp slug. This giant gastropod is considered the alpha predator of the marshes along with its archenemy, the dragonsnake. A swamp slug can grow to eight meters in length and devours all it can find. Because this creature has very few vital organs, it’s very hard to kill. The swamp slug may not have appeared in the movies, but some of its relatives did. The Nos Monster was meant to appear in Revenge of the Sith (but wasn’t used in the final movie), and the Kwazel Maw makes an appearance in Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Rodia where it befriends Jar Jar Binks in the episode “Bombad Jedi” (Season One).
The Wildlife of Star Wars (2001), illustrated by Terryl Whitlatch, shows a fantastic view on Dagobah’s wildlife. It features the amphibian scrange, nharpina and morp, three creatures that were originally designed by McQuarrie to appear in Episode V. The Dagobah python is another nightmarish predator that hunts by draping itself around low branches of gnarltrees. The book has a magnificent overview of the different layers in the Dagobah ecosystem, starting on the bottom with the marshes and ending above the canopy where the reptavian accipiptero rules the misty skies. Other, not so dangerous, creatures on Dagobah are the jubba bird and two species of rodents: the leaf-tail and the spade-headed smooka.
Zoologists from Coruscant to Zardossa Stix would probably have the time of their lives, examining and cataloging all the strange creatures on Dagobah, but some places are just not meant to receive visitors. — except from a Jedi Master in exile who made Dagobah his new home, living in harmony with the planet’s many life-forms.
Tim Veekhoven (Sompeetalay) from Belgium is president and co founder of TeeKay-421, the Belgian Star Wars Fanclub. He has contributed to Star Wars Insider (Rogues Gallery), is an administrator for Yodapedia, and has written four character back stories in ‘What’s the Story?’.