Star Wars Characters in Medieval Manuscripts

Close examination of the miniature illustrations in medieval manuscripts reveal characters familiar to a galaxy far, far away…

The jewel in our Star Wars crown is the very Yoda-like creature below, which can be found in an book of canon law now known as the Smithfield Decretals. Written probably in Toulouse, the manuscript arrived in London in the early part of the 14th century, where numerous marginal illuminations were added. When we first meet Yoda in the Empire Strikes Back, his age is given as 900 years, meaning that he would have been about 260 at the time of the illumination of the Smithfield Decretals. It is therefore entirely possible (if not probable) that this is a portrait drawn from life.

Detail of Yoda (or a look-alike), from the Smithfield Decretals, southern France (with marginal scenes added in London), c. 1300 – c. 1340, Royal MS 10 E IV, f. 30v

Yoda is not the only inhabitant of the Star Wars universe to be found on the pages of our medieval manuscripts. For example, a brief suspension of disbelief might allow one to see Leia wielding two light-sabres in the lady below.

Detail of a lady, from the St Omer Book of Hours, France, c. 1320, Add MS 36684, f. 3v

Chewbacca has a precursor in the wodewose or wild man, though these medieval half-human creatures did not generally cooperate with humanity quite as well as the noble Wookiee.

Royal MS 2 B VII f. 173r G70031-80a
Details of wodewoses, from the Luttrell Psalter, England (Lincolnshire), 1325-1340, Add MS 42130, f. 70r, and
from the Queen Mary Psalter, England, 1310-1320, Royal MS 2 B VII, f. 173r

With diligent searching, a whole host of other characters appears:

An early Sith? Detail from the alchemical treatise Splendor Solis, Germany, 1582, Harley MS 3469, f. 18r

A progenitor of Bib Fortuna: detail of a panotii from the Marvels of the East, England (Canterbury), 2nd quarter of the 11th century, Cotton MS Tiberius B V, f. 83v

Add MS 26968 f. 284v d40054-21a
Royal MS 2 B VII f. 179v G70034-77a
Ewok-ish creatures: from an Italian rite prayer book, Italy, 1383, Add MS 26968, f. 284v, and from the Queen Mary Psalter, Royal MS 2 B VII, f. 179v

<Yates_thompson_ms_13_f180v copy
Jedi or Jawa? Detail from the Taymouth Hours, England (London?), 2nd quarter of the 14th century, Yates Thompson MS 13, f. 180v

A creature at home in Mos Eisley Cantina, from the Luttrell Psalter, Add MS 42130, f.48r

An unguarded (and unhelmeted) Darth Vader, from the Smithfield Decretals, Royal MS 10 E IV, f. 116v