The Mandalorian, the Nativity, and the Seed of Hope
The Mandalorian is a recent installment in the Star Wars canon. The 16-episode show streamed its second season finale via Disney Plus on December 18, 2020. It’s no mistake that the closing chapter aired one week before Christmas Day. For the arrival of a mysterious green child a long time ago in a galaxy far far away has a surprising correlation to the events surrounding the advent of a child born in Bethlehem 2,000 years in the past. Let’s take a deeper look into The Mandalorian and see how it compares to the Nativity story.1
Dark Days and the Coming LightDark times have fallen upon the galaxy. Five years after Luke Skywalker and the rebel forces took down the Emperor, the galaxy has descended into a state of chaos. Now that the Empire has fallen, the organizing unit has been removed. The darkness here refers to the lack of government and of vision. It’s unclear if someone will arise to lead the galaxy out of its lawlessness and unify the randomized parts into a cohesive whole once again. The Christmas story is set in a similar state of darkness. The Roman Empire subjugated the Judeans, restricting national sovereignty and imposing foreign customs and taxes. The Romans enlisted many Judean sons for military and other services throughout the Roman world. Times were hard, and the people could not see a way out. It’s in these darkest of days that the light arrives.
Seeking the Light, Finding the Child“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders…”2 The show’s protagonist, the Mandalorian, “Mando” for short (played by Pedro Pascal), is a masked bounty hunter burying himself in work. When he agrees to take a high-paying job from an ex-imperial commander called “the Client,” he is given a tracking fob to locate the bounty. The tracking device indicates the proximity of the target by a flashing red light. The closer the target, the brighter the light. Mando is guided by light. In a similar fashion, the great star above Bethlehem serves as an ancient tracking beacon of sorts, guiding shepherds from the hill country and traveling kings (magi) from the East to the Christ child.
What Child is This?The travelers from afar find the Christ child in a cave, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Mando travels to a far planet and finds the target in a bunker inside a mountain wrapped in cloth, lying in a small hovering carriage. The target is a small Yoda-like creature called “the Child.” Though fans endearingly call him “baby Yoda” the child’s relation to Master Yoda is not given. The tracking beacon glows; Mando has found the source of light. Another member of the bounty hunter guild, IG-11, raises his gun to assassinate the Child. Mando shoots IG-11 instead. In a single blast, Mando effectively exiles himself from the guild, becoming an outlaw. It’s his sacrificial gift to the child of wonder. With the subtle tilt of his helmet, Mando expresses profound amazement. Sunlight shines upon the Child as Mando outstretches his hand in a reverential gesture. The Magi offer their riches fit for a king to the Christ Child and bow down in reverence, worshiping him in wonder. It’s not a mistake that The Mandalorian’s finale and the Nativity of Christ take place at the Winter Solstice. For it is in the dark, hidden place that the sun is reborn, and each day progressively shines brighter as the sun rises higher.
The Seed and the SoilThe lead antagonist, Moff Gideon, says in episode 16, “This child is extremely gifted. And has been blessed with rare properties that have potential to bring order back to the galaxy.”3 The Child is like a seed with the power to become a unifying leader. What do we mean by “seed” here? A seed holds the pattern of identity in potentiality. It must be materialized by a host like an egg, the soil, or a womb. The soil receives the acorn, offering minerals to grow the oak tree. The acorn offers a principle that organizes the materials of the soil into a cohesive identity. The show’s creator, John Favreau, and the writing team demonstrated the pattern of the seed symbolically and narratively. The Child’s hover pod is in the shape of an egg. The carriage provides shelter and warmth, nurturing the child’s growth. The Child in the carriage pod is symbolic of the seed inside the egg. Similarly, Mary’s womb hosts the Christ child, providing cells and nutrients to enflesh his heavenly identity.4
The Frog Lady and Her EggsIn Episodes 10 and 11, Mando helps a frog lady reunite with her husband so they can fertilize her eggs and preserve their species. It’s the pattern of the Child’s journey but told in reverse. In the case of the frog lady, Mando helps deliver her eggs to the father frog’s seed; so too must Mando deliver the Child – the seed of hope – to its womb. What womb? You might be wondering. Mando acknowledges his guardianship calling, saying, “I have been quested to deliver the Child to his kind.” This is a possible reference to the Creation story in Genesis when every living thing was identified “according to its kind.” The Jedi is the Child’s kind. The Child must be sown in the womb of the Jedi community who will nourish the padawan with skills and training. Otherwise, the seed will not be properly fertilized, and the Child will fail to properly actualize his potential. As a certain hero of virtue says in episode 16, “Talent without training is nothing.” In comparison, the heavenly seed of God is sown into the womb of Mary and produces the Christ child. Christians call this miracle the Incarnation. It’s a picture of creation, the union of heaven and earth, of principle and matter. Later on, Christ is also the seed buried into the womb of the earth in death that resurrects in new life as the King assembling his heavenly kingdom on earth. More on that later.
Plots to Crush the ChildMando vaguely knows the Child’s power, as do his adversaries. For instance, Grogu uses the force to save the Mandalorian from a deathly blow by a giant rhino monster called a mudhorn and heals Greef Karga’s fatal wound.5 An antagonist, Dr. Pershing, reports that the Child’s blood contains high levels of midi-chlorian, the substance that measures one’s capacity to yield the Force. Mando makes good on his bounty. He delivers the Child to the Client. Mando’s conscience weighs heavily. He holds the Child’s favorite toy, his ship’s round instrument nob, and he recalls the crushed carriage discarded in the trash outside the Client’s lair – both symbols of the egg without the seed. He realizes that the Child’s potentiality will never reach actuality. The unsown seed will not become a tree. And Mando would be at fault. He discovers the Client’s true vampirical aim – to extract the Child’s blood and “terminate him.” Mando has unknowingly delivered the Child to its tomb, not its womb. Similarly, a plot develops to crush the Christ child before he can reach maturity. Herod, the king of the Roman province of Judea, tells the Magi to report back to him the whereabouts of the Christ child, informing them that he wishes to worship the future king. After the Magi make their offerings to the infant, they are intercepted by an Angel in a dream cautioning them of Herod’s true intentions to kill the Christ child. Simultaneously, Joseph receives a similar cautionary dream that prompts a great escape. Mando, like the Magi and Joseph, makes plans to protect the seed of hope at all costs.
Plots to Preserve the ChildThe Mandalorian changes course. He takes great risk to rescue the Child and flee to foreign planets far away. Mando fights off assassins, stormtroopers, darktroopers, and Moff Gideon to guard the Child from corruption and destruction. Likewise, the Magi make a risky move. Breaking the promise to Herod, they return home another way without consulting the King. It’s important to recall that Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus. The first plot to preserve the Christ child begins when Joseph decides to voluntarily adopt the Child. Joseph should have returned the pregnant fiancé to her father who was expected by Judean social law to put her to death. But instead, Joseph took her and the child into his guardianship. In a move of desperation, Herod orders all children in Bethlehem close to the age of the Christ child to be executed in what became known as “the slaughter of the innocents.” Herod thought that he had eliminated the young contender to his throne, but he was mistaken. When Joseph becomes aware of Herod’s intentions to destroy the Christ child, he leaves his hometown of Bethlehem, making a daring flight to Egypt with his wife and child. Joseph jeopardizes cultural shame and personal safety; the Magi risk the penalty of treason by refusing to heed a direct order from the King; and the Mandalorian gambles losing his place in the bounty hunter guild and the Mandalorian Creed, as well as being killed by an infuriated imperial force. All to preserve the seed in the hope of its germination.
Delivering the Child, Becoming the KingIn the show’s finale, Mando successfully delivers the Child to the Jedi community. To avoid spoilers, let’s just say that he couldn’t have passed the Child into more capable hands. The moment Mando completes his guardianship calling, he unlocks another. By defeating Moff Gideon in a sword fight, Mando inherits the Darksaber. Like a king’s scepter, the Darksaber signifies Mando as leader of Mandalore. The government is now upon his shoulders. How Mando carries out his new kingship remains to be seen. All the parts and players are already in place. Once the King arrives, he unifies the parts into a cohesive whole. Christ assumes His role as King of the Cosmos, drawing His people into His Heavenly Kingdom. C.S. Lewis described the Incarnation of Christ as “the missing part of the work…on which the whole plot of the novel really turned.” 6 It illuminates all the parts and pulls them together.7 The seed of Christ was ultimately sown into the womb of the earth in death on a cross and burial in a tomb, like the cave in which he was born. As an acorn must die to raise an oak tree, Christ died to the old nature and rose in the New Creation. His new nature was given to His disciples, which was multiplied through the rest of the Church. The seed was sown in the soil and sprouted as a tree that seeded a forest. On the other hand, the actualization of the Child, whose name was revealed to be “Grogu”, is unknown through two seasons. The seed of hope has been sown into the ground. Now we must patiently wait to see how the tree will grow – how the king will assemble his kingdom. Will Grogu rebuild the ancient Jedi ruins? Help Master Luke Skywalker establish the Jedi academy? Or perhaps he will restore the glory of the Republic, reinstituting the order of the galactic government, like Master Yoda? If he lives as long as Master Yoda, Grogu has hundreds, maybe thousands, of years to make it happen. For now, we know that Grogu contains great potential to bestow peace on the galaxy and goodwill towards all lifeforms.8
Watch video essay version
- This article was originally published as a video essay by Derek J Fiedler and Pano Kostouros on Derek’s YouTube Channel. Christmas Symbolism in The Mandalorian. December 25, 2020.[↩]
- Isaiah 9:6 NKJV[↩]
- Compare to the Angel speaking to Mary in Luke 1:31-33 (NKJV), “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. “And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”[↩]
- For more on how Mary hosts the Incarnate Christ without being consumed, see Derek’s article The Symbolism of the Burning Bush: a response to Matthew McConaughey and Joe Rogan on the Symbolic World Blog.[↩]
- Nicholas Raymond. The Mandalorian’s Mudhorn is Actually an Animal (sort of). Jan 20, 2020. www.screenrant.com[↩]
- C.S. Lewis. Miracles. Collins 2012; first published 1947. page 175. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13650512-miracles[↩]
- See the Symbolic World Articles for more on the Incarnation: Possibility, Intelligibility, and the Incarnation and The Incarnation of Meaning in a De-Incarnated World[↩]
- An application of Luke 2:14. For more Christmas articles on the Symbolic World Blog, see Hosting the Spirit of Christmas[↩]
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