This article contains spoilers for Season 1 of The Mandalorian
The Mandalorian was the first live-action Star Wars TV show which premiered on Disney+ on November 12, 2019. The pilot episode was filled with surprises, but the biggest of them all was the reveal that the asset that the Mandalorian, Din Djarin, was searching for was actually a 50-year-old infant of the Yoda species that the showrunners called The Child. Since that moment nearly a year ago, “Baby Yoda” has become an iconic part of Star Wars and pop culture.
Many expected The Mandalorian to follow the tropes of hypermasculine classic western movies with a lone gunslinger finding his way in the world, but saddling our hero with an infant is a conscious choice that fits with the mythological and fairy tale themes that Star Wars is known for.
Through each episode of the first season of The Mandalorian, we not only get to know Din Djarin, his personal history, and wider Mandalorian culture, but in parallel, we also learn more about the Child. We see that the Child is Force sensitive and the Empire wants to experiment and extract something (possibly Midi-chlorians) from him.
In episode seven, The Reckoning, we finally get to see the Child use the full capabilities of his Force powers by healing Greef Karga to the astonishment of the other characters. The Child not only physically heals Greef, but metaphorically his childlike perspective partly cures Greef of his cynical outlook on life after that encounter.
Showing healing in Disney canon for the first time was great planning on Lucasfilm’s part because the episode was the same week as the premiere of The Rise of Skywalker. Nothing like cohesive mythology building where the Child heals on Wednesday and Rey and Kylo Ren heal each other on Thursday night!
After displays of such Force abilities, it’s important to discuss why the Child is significant in the canon myth of Star Wars. The Mandalorian finds the Child on a planet called Arvala-7 whose aesthetic feels strangely similar to Tatooine. The Child and Anakin were even born the same year. As a child of the Force and the Chosen One, any connection to Anakin is significant, and the Child could be our next hero.
The concept of a hidden child that grows up to be a savior is a common trope both in mythology and fairy tales. The child is often lauded, but they are also feared for their abilities. This lands them amongst protectors and attackers until they fulfill their destiny.
Moses for example was placed on the River Nile in a basket by his mother to save him from the Pharaoh’s decree against Hebrew male babies. Moses was found by the Pharaoh’s daughter who adopted and raised him. He would grow up to lead the Israelites out of Egypt by parting the Red Sea.
In Hindu mythology, Krishna was prophesied to destroy the evil forces controlling the world and kill his uncle Kamsa, the tyrant ruler of the Vrishni kingdom. Kamsa imprisoned Krishna’s parents and killed each child born to them to prevent the prophecy.
On the night of Krishna’s birth, the guards were asleep and his father, Vasudev was able to escape with Krishna in a basket. It was a stormy night and Vasudev could not cross the Yamuna River. He asked God for help and the river parted. He and baby Krishna were protected by the hood of the snake Vasuki until they reached the home of his adoptive parents. Once Krishna was grown he was able to kill his uncle and save his parents from prison.
Star Wars fans like to joke that Anakin is “Force Jesus” because of the heavy handed way George Lucas portrayed his immaculate conception and life as the Chosen One. The Foundling seen in religion and mythology hidden in a basket is so similar to how the Child is portrayed in The Mandalorian in his space bassinet. Now that he and Din Djarin are a “clan of two”, perhaps his destiny will be to elude the Empire, protect his clan, and save the Mandalorians at large.
That quote is always important to keep in perspective when looking at Star Wars. The choice to include the Child in an otherwise adult show was on purpose. On a meta level, Star Wars itself is for the Foundlings. When Luke scoffs in The Last Jedi, “and I became a legend,” it’s true in canon, but it’s also true in our world. These coming of age stories impact the children watching, the stories become part of our modern mythology, and the characters through their deeds are elevated to the status of legends. The same way kids 40 years ago clung to their Luke Skywalker action figures, the children of today have all the Baby Yoda merchandise they could ask for.
For us, as the viewers, the Mandalorian becomes someone we care about because he will always protect the Child. He isn’t a lone hero. When the Mandalorian gives his first piece of Beskar to the Armorer, she says the leftover will go to the Foundlings. He agrees because he, himself, was a Foundling and he pays it forward in that way and in the future by caring for the Child.
In Star Wars, before the Child, we meet Luke, Leia, Anakin, Ezra, Rey, Finn, Jyn Erso, Rose and Paige Tico, and the children of Canto Bight–all Foundlings. The lost children are always the future and the hope of the Star Wars myth. Through their courage and actions they are able to save the galaxy and become legends. As more seasons of The Mandalorian premiere, it only makes sense for the Child to play such a role as well.