While details about Sabine’s past remain largely uncovered, a few instances about the state of Mandalore during these dark times have appeared in Star Wars Rebels and in accompanying reading material.
We last left Mandalore in the hands of Prime Minister Almec, after the death of Duchess Satine Kryze. Dave Filoni’s writer conference sketches for the later seasons of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, however, point to a separate arc focused on Mandalore with Bo-Katan Kryze and Ahsoka Tano present.
Writer Brent Friedman had also divulged via Twitter that he had written a “bridge story” focusing on Mandalorians for a LucasDigital motion comic project, but it never became a final product.
“[It] filled in [the] story between Season 4’s ‘Friend in Need’ episode and the Season 5 opener. [It] showed [the] spiritual side of Mandalore,” he added on Twitter, further stating that it was some of his best writing.
It remains unclear how these separate stories factor into and shape the Mandalore that exists in Star Wars Rebels, but with the Empire suppressing and ruling with an iron fist, it appears much of the culture may have become stagnant.
Mandalore: No Room to Grow
Hera, you know what happened when I was a cadet at the Imperial Academy on Mandalore. I trusted the Empire, followed its orders blindly, and it was a nightmare.
–Star Wars Rebels, “Out of Darkness”
As we all know, Sabine is an artist, surging with creative energy and thoughts. In Rise of the Rebels by Michael Kogge, she expressed the desire to become a famous artist, but noted how impossible it would be with the Empire limiting personal freedom, “including suppressing creative talent. They cracked down on anyone whose work didn’t glorify the Emperor’s New Order” (35). If Mandalore was headed towards a resurgence of some kind with Bo-Katan kicking things off as a provisional leader, we could have seen her attempt to fulfill Pre Vizsla’s original goal of restoring the glory of Mandalore’s past as warriors. However, given that the Republic got involved with the planet’s affairs after Maul’s hostile takeover, the rise of the Empire clearly thwarted any efforts Mandalore may have taken to establish a new identity for itself.
Mandalorians: Rare and Unwelcome
While [Sabine] was examining [Ezra] behind her helmet, he was also scrutinizing her. “Are you a Mandalorian?” he asked. “A real one?”
If he hadn’t been a kid, she probably would have answered his question with her blasters. Mandalorians were unwelcome in the galaxy those days, ever since the Empire had outlawed their mercenary practice and occupied her homeworld of Mandalore. The few who still roamed the stars were usually armored impostors, which Sabine Wren was not. But the kid didn’t need to know that. He didn’t need to know anything about her people. She remained silent.
–The Rebellion Rises by Michael Kogge, Page 60
The second sentence of the passage would have sounded better and more consistent if it had started with “Armored Mandalorians were unwelcome in the galaxy those days…” Armored Mandalorians, as previously seen in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, were generally rooted in the warrior and mercenary ways of Mandalore’s past (e.g. Death Watch), individuals who had been exiled to Mandalore’s moon, Concordia. For random individuals to take up the armor and parade through the galaxy as an armored Mandalorian would insinuate that Mandalore either reverted back to those traditions to some capacity or that Death Watch continued to grow and made it “popular” enough for others to take notice and appropriate the armor for themselves, building on the legend that existed before.
After all, Sabine’s helmet is a modified Nite Owl helmet, which is a similar design worn by members of Bo-Katan’s squad in Death Watch. Fans (including myself) have also spotted the similarities between Sabine and Rook Kast, a character established in the Son of Dathomir comic book series. Ultimately, these observations simply bring back into question Sabine’s origins and those answers would ideally reveal more about the state of Mandalore. Did she grow up in a clan of traditional Mandalorians or is her pride of being Mandalorian something she took up on her own?
Boba Fett: A Representative of Mandalorians
[Sabine] hoped that if one of the stormtroopers did spot her, he would pause in fear at the sight of her Mandalorian helmet. There were few signs of her people in the galaxy these days other than the notorious bounty hunter Boba Fett, who wore Mandalorian armor. His captures and kills had only helped spread the legend that the Mandalorians were the most fearsome warriors in the galaxy. One day, maybe her own name would have a similar effect.
—Rise of the Rebels by Michael Kogge, Page 39
It’s been long debated whether Boba Fett is Mandalorian or not. As Sabine pointed out, Boba Fett wears the Mandalorian armor. In fact, Obi-Wan Kenobi said something similar about Jango Fett in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, “I recently encountered a man who wore Mandalorian armor, Jango Fett.” To which Prime Minister Almec replied, “Jango Fett was a common bounty hunter! How he acquired that armor is beyond me.” Almec’s personal views can’t be taken as fact, however, since he saw Mandalorians like Jango as common bounty hunters and not as representatives of Mandalore. In this excerpt from Michael Kogge’s Rise of the Rebels, Boba Fett comes across as Mandalorian. He’s not an armored impostor as previously seen with Sabine’s thoughts about other “Mandalorians” roaming the galaxy, especially since this particular passage seems to praise his actions in spreading the Mandalorian legend of them being fearsome warriors. She even wants her name to hold the same notoriety.
In the end, as Dave Filoni once said about Jango Fett in an interview with RebelForce Radio, “People ultimately believe what they want to believe.” Some choose to see Mandalore and Mandalorians in the way Karen Traviss wrote in her novels, while others accept the Mandalore depicted in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. With the exception of a few details clashing here and there, I believe both visions work well together to make Mandalore a highly interesting planet both culturally and politically.
Whatever the case may be for Mandalore during this time as the rebels fight back against the Empire, Bo-Katan’s words accurately captured the Mandalorian spirit in the face of adversity, “Mandalore will survive. We always survive.”