Sand People

The SW movies really portray the Sand People as a savage, dangerous, and fierce people. I was wondering if there was additional information on this people group? There are tantalizing glimpses in some of the encyclopedia and on the wookipedia but they are only glimpses. I’d really like to know more about their culture, and family life. Thanks for digging about for me! — Michelle

Tusken Raider costumes
A family of Sand People

We are first introduced to the Sand People in A New Hope with Luke’s exclamation, “Sand people, or worse!” Tusken Raider is actually a pejorative, a name given to these mysterious nomads after a series of attacks on Fort Tusken. They attack Luke for no apparent reason in A New Hope, and we learn a few things from Obi-Wan Kenobi about them — that they are easily startled but not easily driven off (returning swiftly with reinforcements), that they travel single file to hide their numbers, that they are not extremely accurate with blasters. Luke simply describes them as dangerous. In Attack of the Clones, Cliegg Lars brusquely defines them as animals, as does Anakin after destroying an entire village. In Phantom Menace, we only see them camped out on the Podrace track to take potshots at the racers.

Packers! Wooo! Wait, what?
Packers! Wooo! Wait, what?

So really very little is expressed in the films about their culture. We find them to be responsible for the death of Luke’s grandmother (though what kind of mentally deficient person goes out before dawn to pick mushrooms alone, in an area known for the presence of Sand People and during a period of excessive hunting by them — smacks of collusion to me), and nearly for the death of Luke himself. But why did they kidnap Shmi and torture her to death, if you believe that happened?

A typical family; children dress in a unisex fashion
A typical family; children dress in a unisex fashion

Lucas’ inspiration for the Sand People is clearly seen in the American Indian tribes as well as the nomadic Bedouin of the Middle East. They live in small tribes and war with both each other and the “invaders” of Tatooine, the moisture farmers and other settlers that imposed themselves on the arid planet. Unlike the Jawas, which quickly adapted to colonists and their technology, the Sand People resisted all attempts at infiltration, peace, and even extermination. Completely suited to the desert and untraceable, they are actually only vulnerable to the meddling settlers when they attack — which they do regularly in an attempt to protect and keep separate their sacred places, particularly hidden springs, which are of great interest to the settlers for obvious reasons.

There are two banthas down there, but I don't see . . . wait a minute--
There are two banthas down there, but I don’t see . . . wait a minute–

The men are warriors, and each one is specially bonded with his bantha — great shaggy creatures that roam the Dune Sea and form a close and intimate relationship with their riders. When a warrior is killed, the bantha is driven into the desert, never to be ridden again. When a bantha dies, the warrior goes out alone into the desert where he will face death, or, if the spirit of his bantha wishes him to continue on, he will find a new bantha and return home with it.

Mrs. Raider to you
Mrs. Raider to you

Children are not differentiated male from female until they come of a certain age, and the women, as in a typical tribal system, care for the homes, meals, and families. Wood, such as the ancient poles they use for their tent supports, is jealously guarded and protected. The Sand People consider it greatly humiliating for anyone apart from their spouse to see any part of their skin, but their elaborate and heavy coverings serve many practical purposes as well; the eye guards filter out sand and harsh desert light, and the mouth protectors contain tubes to a water supply and prevent dehydration. Their skin is protected from the elements, and they are not much bothered by the harshness of their environment, although as a result, no one actually knows what a Sand Person looks like beneath.

Sand Children are called "Uli"
Sand Children are called “Uli”

Marriages are always arranged. Because they always hide their features from even their own family members, it is important that meticulous records be kept and managed so that no one will accidentally marry a close family member. In this capacity, the Storyteller — who is also the tribal historian — is really the most important person in the entire village.

Ralph McQuarrie's beautiful concept art of a Sand People village
Ralph McQuarrie’s beautiful concept art of a Sand People village

The Sand People are as harsh as the environment in which they live, and there are really no such things as mistakes or small slips; this is very evident in the explanation of the apprentice storyteller, who must memorize the exact wording to each story, each exact syllable. If he so much as forgets or changes a word, the master storyteller is waiting to kill him. No room for mistakes or alterations.

A warrior with a gaffi stick
A warrior with a gaffi stick

Their primary weapon is the gaffi stick, which has a sharpened point and four sharp blades, as well as a fearsome pointed knob on the other end. They are very deft with these and can cut a man to pieces readily. Their “bandage” footwear enables them to move easily in the sand without leaving any trace and without stepping on anything dangerous.




1 Comment

Use the comlink?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s