Following the end of Return of the Jedi, some of the remaining questions fans had about the Star Wars Saga surrounded the mysterious order to which Darth Vader and the Emperor belonged. We knew they carried red lightsabers, tended to Force choke people, and had the power to shoot lightning from their finger tips. They seemed like evil Jedi due to their affinity for the Force, but inquisitive fans knew there had to be more to them then all of that.
The mystery would begin to unravel in The Phantom Menace. The title for the first Star Wars prequel alludes to many things, among them the return of this ancient Sith Order, lead by Darth Sideous, better known as Emperor Palpatine. Hidden deep within the shadows of the Republic this order is rising again, ready to take control. Having failed him in killing the Jedi, Sideous informs his pawns in the Trade Federation that he will be dispatching his apprentice, Darth Maul to track down the Queen’s ship.
Maul appears in the hologram, malice burning in his eyes, the two of them looking like specters from Hell. Scholar Bill Moyers noted in “The Arts of Myth and Men” in Time Magazine from May 1999,
“The mesmerizing figure in The Phantom Menace to me is Darth Maul. When I saw him, I thought of Lucifer in Paradise Lost or the devil in Dante’s Inferno. He’s the Evil Other–but with powerful human traits.”
Like Vader, he is instantly recognizable as a face of evil, due to his devilish appearance. Initially Maul was supposed to have totem-like feathers upon his head, but a designer mistook them for horns. Add in his tattooed red and black face that gives him an almost flame like appearance and you have a villain who resembles one who is eponymous with evil.
As George Lucas admitted in an interview with Bill Moyers in Time Magazine,
“ I was trying to find somebody who could compete with Darth Vader, who is now one of the most famous evil characters. So we went back into representations of evil… It’s a motif that I’ve been using with the Emperor and the Emperor’s minions… If you’re trying to build an icon of evil, you have to go down into the subconscious of the human race over a period of time and pull out the images that equate to the emotion you are trying to project…You wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley. But he’s not repulsive. He’s something you should be afraid of, without [his] being a monster whose intestines have been ripped out and thrown all over the screen. “
His name only adds to his menace. Like many of the Sith Lords in both the films and the Legends novels, his name is one that invokes fear and evil. George Lucas has admitted that the word “Darth” was derived from the Dutch for “Dark”, fitting as they are darkness personified. The surnames they each receive reveals a hint at who and what they are. Sideous is from the Latin word for “star”, Tyranus from the Latin word “tyrant”, Vader from the Dutch for “father”, while the very notion of “mauling” someone invokes the image of an animalistic attack. Other Sith names from the Legends books include “Bane” which means “death or destruction”, “Phobos” which means “Fear”, and Plagiues, which is derived from the word “plague”. Sir Christopher Lee who played the Sith Lord known as Darth Tyranus in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith even recounted in the book The Making of The Revenge of the Sith that his characters non-Sith name of “Count Dooku” was derived from the Japanese word for “Poison”.
As he says in the tone poem that composer John Williams wrote for him, which was not only featured in the music video for “Duel of the Fates” from The Phantom Menace but his character trailer, in what is essentially one of the main philosophies of the Sith,
“Fear. Fear attracts the fearful… the strong… the weak… the innocent… the corrupt. Fear. Fear is my ally.”
Every time Maul shows up on screen it is hard not to jump upon seeing him. The name Maul is a fitting name for this Sith Lord as he is like a wild animal, stalking and hunting his prey. This is especially seen during his duel with Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan on Naboo. Towards the climax of their battle, energy shield separate him and the two Jedi. While Obi-Wan is eager to get back into action, and Qui-Gon meditates on the Force to calm himself, and call upon it for strength, Darth Maul paces about like a hungry tiger in a pen as he becomes the physical embodiment of the Bible verse 1 Peter 5:78,
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
As Paul F. McDonald notes,
“Another indisputable icon of the prequels, Darth Maul was the first face given back to the Sith. While Darth Sideous took note from Iago ( from Shakespeare’s Othello), whispering doubt and deceit, Maul erupts onto the screen as a high-kicking, back-flipping whirlwind of pain. With little time for subtlety, he is all whirling lightsabers and showy acrobatics, a warrior of the dark side who could draw away attention away from any internal threat…”
While Sideous may be the mastermind, Maul is the muscle. While Sideous is hidden, his cloak drawn so far up that you can barely see his face, Maul throws back the cloak of shadows to reveal himself. The two couldn’t be a more perfect duo, even for the short amount of time they were together. Considering Sideous goals, lure Queen Amidala away from Naboo, get the Jedi more concerned about the threat from the outside then any internal problems on Coruscant or within the Order, Maul did exactly what was needed.
Further while Vader may storm into a rebel base flanked by his army, and Dooku may be surrounded by the clanking machines of war, Maul is cloaked in silence. Vader and Dooku are military leaders, while Maul is more of an assassin. Vader has more of the look and fighting style of a samurai, and Dooku like a swashbuckler, while Maul moves and looks like a Ninja. All three however, are willing to do what is necessary to win a battle, even if it means killing their underlings for failing.
Maul doesn’t speak much, nor does he have to. Darth Vader may have spoken with Obi-Wan and Luke but that was due to the relationship he had with both of them. Dooku speaks in an eloquent grandiose fashion, often times to mock Mace Windu, Obi-Wan, and Anakin. Maul, however is all kenetic energy in battle. As David Begor notes in “Defense of the Clones” from Bright Lights Film Journal,
“One should hardly expect the Maul from The Phantom Menace to engage in casual Tarantinoesque banter any more than the Maul from The Pilgrim’s Progress. Both are allegorical figures meant to represent emotional and psychological aspects of other characters.”
His main bits of dialogue are spoken to Sideous on Coruscant upon tracing the transmission to Queen Amidala’s ship and discovering they are on Tatooine. He tells him,
“Tatooine is sparsely populated. If the homing trace is correct, I will find them quickly, Master…At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge.”
He heads to Tatooine where he engages in a duel against Qui-Gon he fails to kill the Jedi and is later sent to Naboo to aid the invasion an army. His appearance is an area of great concern for the Jedi as the Sith had been thought to be extinct for over a millennia. They had been a secret cult that had gripped the galaxy with fear and killed many Jedi. For them to return would mean destruction for the galaxy.
When the Queen and her party return it is up to Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan to handle the Seth Lord, engaging in an epic duel. Qui-Gon is struck down by Maul, who is then later sliced in half by an angry Obi-Wan and falls down a reactor shaft. At-Qui-Gon’s funeral, Yoda and Mace Windu know that this isn’t the end as when it comes to the Sith, there are always two, as was established by one of the earliest Sith Lords, Darth Bane,
“Two there should be; no more, no less. One to embody power, the other to crave it.”
This lead to a constant power struggle between Sith Lords. Darth Bane even instructed his apprentice to kill him when his training was complete and then take on his own apprentice. The first hints at the power struggle came in the early drafts and story discussions concerning Return of the Jedi. As it was noted in the book The Making of Return of the Jedi, George Lucas stated,
“The Emperor and Vader are in total agreement about what’s going to happen. They both want to get a hold of Luke. They both want him converted to the Dark Side. The Emperor to replace Vader, and Vader to replace the Emperor. They are the perfect bad guys.”
As such, Sith Lords have no loyalty to one another, only to their desire for power. Fear, anger, mistrust, and deception are what fuel this desire. As such as soon as a Sith Lord found a worthy apprentice, they would kill their master. At the same time, the master could also seek out a better apprentice. For example, not long Maul died, Dooku came in contact with Sideous and began his tutelage, all while Sideous had his eyes on Anakin. Meanwhile Dooku, not only tried to get Obi-Wan to become his apprentice and overthrow Sidious, he would go on to take under his wing a dark assassin by the name of Assaj Ventress as was seen in The Clone Wars.
Later, in The Clone Wars episode “Witches in the Mist” from season 3, after disappointing him again, Dooku nearly had Ventress killed and she fled to her homeworld of Dathomir. Desperate for revenge she sought out help from the leader of the order Mother Talzin. With the help of two of her sisters, Ventress attacked Dooku, causing him to seek Talzin’s help in finding a new body guard, a process that he didn’t know was in the hands of Ventress.
She selected Savage Opress, one of the Nightbrothers who was imbued with power from Talzin. Savage was so brutal that when seeing some of the horrors he had committed, Kenobi wondered if it wasn’t Darth Maul. Unknown to Dooku, Savage was under a spell in which he had to do whatever Ventress ordered. He survived their attack and was given a new mission from Talzin, to seek out his brother, who happened to be Darth Maul.
This was a shocking reveal as everyone both in-universe and viewers knew Maul to be dead. However, because of Maul’s huge fan basis, and thanks to some clever tricks from the writers, they found a way to resurrect Maul, and give him even more mystery. Aided by a talisman from mother Talzin, Savage traveled to a junk yard planet of Lotho Minor. There he was greeted by a talking serpent named Morley who offered to guide him. Morley however was a deceiver, bent on eating the “left-overs” of Savage when Maul was finished with him, almost harkening back to Gollum leading Frodo to the Shelob in the Lord of the Rings.
Morley calls back even more so to the biblical origins of Darth Maul’s appearance, as it was noted in “Drawing from the Imagination: Mythological creatures in Star Wars, pt.1”
“Another biblical creature is the serpent of Eden, a trickster who managed to tempt Eve to taste the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. Was it a coincidence that Savage Opress encountered the treacherous Morley, a member of the snakelike Anacondan species, during his search for his lost brother on Lotho Minor? Morley claimed that Maul was just a local legend, but in fact he was leading Opress towards his master’s lair. When Morley wanted to snack on Opress’ leftovers, the enchanted Nightbrother ended the life of the surprised Anacondan by choking him to death.”
Savage found his brother, a deranged monster with a make-shift spidery robotic body that was cobbled together form spare parts, leading to the fan nick name of “Spider-Maul”. Believing Morley had done this to his brother Savage killed the serpent and tossed his body in the flames. All the while Maul was rambling,
“Years, and years, and years… my chains are broken, the chains… the chains are the easy part. It’s what goes on in here that’s hard… Always remember I am fear, always remember I am hunter, always remember I am filth… always remember… I am nothing!…That scum, he took them from me! He took them!…Jedi!… Jedi. Mercy, master… mercy is a lie. A delusion of the weak to make themselves strong. I ask not for mercy… To the filth, to the grief… Jedi! … Revenge. I must have revenge.”
Maul was taken back to Dathomir where Talzin restored his mind and rebuilt his robotic legs to something more streamlined. At last, Savage had found his brother, and Maul had returned to the galaxy. Maul, not in as close to a right mind as a wild animal like him can have, reveled to his brother in the following episode ‘”Revenge” just how he believed he survived,
“It has been soo long and my path has been soo dark. Darker than I ever dreamed it could be… Of course I survived… My hatred kept my spirit intact even though my body was not. As I was lost and became a rabid animal, and such is how you found me, brother. Discarded, forgotten… I have missed soo much. The force feels… out of balance…I was apprentice to the most powerful being in the galaxy once. I was destined to become… so much more. But I was robbed of that destiny by the Jedi, by Obi-Wan Kenobi…Yes, we will start with revenge…”
Further, along with a desire for revenge, the Sith all desire ultimate power, namely that over life and death. Whether it’s Anakin wanting to stop the people close to him from dying, or Maul somehow cheating death, they reject death, while the Jedi understand that it was part of life. As Sam Witwer, the voice of Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Clone Wars with USA Today prior to the launch of the show’s fifth season,
“The Sith do not conceive of a life beyond what they have right now. The more things they get, the more things they want, and these things lead them to more irrational decisions to reach further and further for more power and more things. Because they’re reaching so far, bad things happen to them, and yet they can’t let themselves go. If they let go and move on and die and become one with the Force, that doesn’t make any sense to them. There is no afterlife or existence beyond them…Palpatine is this bent, old twisted man and Vader is this half-man/half-droid and Maul has been cut in half, and the reason they’ve survived is they cannot let go of themselves…The Sith do not conceive of a life beyond what they have right now. The more things they get, the more things they want, and these things lead them to more irrational decisions to reach further and further for more power and more things…Because they’re reaching so far, bad things happen to them, and yet they can’t let themselves go. If they let go and move on and die and become one with the Force, that doesn’t make any sense to them. There is no afterlife or existence beyond them.”
Maul declared Savage his apprentice and took him under his wing to not only deal with Kenobi, but to eventually overthrow Sideous. The first thing Maul and Savage did, was attack a peaceful planet and kill civilians in order to lure Kenobi to him. Kenobi, arrived at the planet to find the people slaughtered and much of the village reduced to a flaming pile of rubble. Maul emerged from the inferno like the devil out of hell, taunting Kenobi. Even amidst the horror Obi-Wan tried not to show him fear and instead quipped that he didn’t think he made his acquaintance before, only upsetting Maul and making him all the more thirsty for revenge.
As the Maul told him,
“Jedi! I have been waiting for you…I am surprised you could have forgotten me soo easily. After I killed your master and you left me for dead on Naboo…It is you…You have forgotten me, but I will never forget you! You cannot imagine the depths I would go to stay alive. Fueled by my singular hatred for you…I will make sure you stay awake long enough to feel every single cut, your death will be beyond excruciating. You will suffer… as I have suffered.”
Besting him in a duel, he took Kenobi prisoner, where Kenobi was forced to work alongside Ventress in order to stay alive. All the while, Maul kept trying to get under Kenobi’s skin, trying to rouse him to anger, as Palpatine would later do with Luke. Maul even went so far as to bring up Qui-Gon, telling Obi-Wan,
“Your master, Qui-Gon Jinn. I gutted him while you stood helpless and watched. How did that make you feel, Obi-Wan? Your rage has unbalanced you. That is not the Jedi way, is it?”
Kenobi resisted and he and Ventress escaped with their lives. Savage encouraged Maul to go after him but he refused. Maul had waited for over a decade for revenge and could wait a little longer. He had other plans in store. It would not be good enough to simply kill Kenobi, he had to destroy his soul. When Kenobi returned to Coruscant with news of Darth Maul, and asked to take a battalion of Clone Troops to deal with him, Palpatine dismissed the notion and charged Obi-Wan with being obsessed with a personal vendetta, and began to form his own plans for dealing with his old apprentice.
Unknown to him, Maul, as was the case for any Sith Lord, decided it was time to amass power. Recovered by the Mandalorian terrorist group known as Death Watch, Maul and his brother joined forces with them, even receiving new prosthetic legs. With the assistance of the Mandalorians he seized control of three crime syndicates including the huts, gaining him financial power. Then with the help of the crime lords he stages a series of attacks on Mandalore in order to get Duchess Satine thrown out of office, and place Pre Visla in charge.
Maul, however, betrayed Visla and slew him in combat, taking the black lighstaber. In the episode The Lawless, Kenobi traveled to Mandalor at the request of Satine to help her free her people. Because of Mandalore’s neutrality Kenobi came alone, just as Maul wanted. Maul taunted Kenobi yet again, urging him to give into the Dark Side. Kenobi refused and learned about Maul’s past, and ever the Jedi, actually felt compassion for Maul, saying,
“You can kill me, but you will never destroy me. It takes strength to resist the Dark Side. Only the weak embrace it…And those who oppose it are more powerful than you’ll ever be. I know where you’re from, I’ve been to your village. I know the decision to join the dark side wasn’t yours. The Nightsisters made it for you.”
Maul as a child had been chosen by Talzin and had been imbued with powers from the Dark Side by her long before he trained under Sideous. However, at this point in his life, there would be no turning back to the light. Maul still thirsting for revenge, responded,
“Your noble flaw is a weakness shared by you… And your Duchess. You should have chosen the dark side, master Jedi. Your emotions betray you. Your fear, and yesss… your anger! Let your anger deepen your hatred!… It is more powerful than you know…You think you know me? It was I who languished for years thinking of nothing but you. Nothing but this moment. And now, the perfect tool for my vengeance is in front of us. I never planned on killing you, but I will make you share my pain, Kenobi.”
Maul murdered Satine in cold blood, running her through with his saber, in hopes of getting Kenobi to give in. The Jedi fought the Sith, and with the aid of Satine’s sister, a member of Death Watch who was fighting to rid her own sect of Maul, Kenobi escaped. Kenobi’s mission had been a failure, and Maul was still in charge of Mandalore. Then finally, Sideous traveled to Mandalore to deal with Maul and Savage himself. His former apprentice was throwing a kink in his plans and had to be dealt with.
Killing Savage, he captured Maul and tortured him, taking him to a prison that was impossible to escape from, claiming he had other plans for him in mind. In the comic book series Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir, that sought to resolve some of Maul’s remaining plot threads from the unfinished seasons of The Clone Wars, Sideous revealed just what these plans were. Sideous knew it was more than just anger and a thirst for vengeance that kept Maul alive. Talzin was behind it as she was out to undermine him at every turn. Talzin and Maul’s Mandalorian Death Watch faction would pose a threat to his quest for power and had to be dealt with. Maul actually was the son of Mother Talzin and as such she protected her child.
Talzin and Maul attempted to convert Dooku to their side, telling of how Sideous had stolen her son from her, only to leave him to die when he was of no use and warned him that a similar fate awaited him. Kenobi and another Jedi were sent to engage Maul and Death Watch only to see Maul and Dooku working together. This played right into Sideous plan, leading them to believe for a time that Dooku had been the master and Maul the apprentice diverting any attention for a while from Palpatine.
Finally, Sideous, aided by General Grievous went to rescue Dooku. Between the power of Sideous and Dooku and the skills of Grievous, Talzin and Maul were out matched. The Death Watch urged Maul to retreat by he insisted on staying by his mother’s side. She ordered him to go, informing him that if she fell she would no longer be able to protect him and he would die. As she was struck down Maul fled while the Separatists descended on Dathomir and destroyed it once and for all. Dooku apologized for his failure to kill Maul, but Sideous told him it was of no concern. With Talzin and the witches out of play, Maul was no longer a threat to them, and Sideous could continue on with his plan uninterrupted.
With the ending of The Clone Wars series, this left Maul’s fate a mystery. Perhaps he gets taken down by another member of Death Watch. Perhaps a Jedi kills him or during the Rebellion against the Empire he faces off against Vader and falls. Or perhaps he seeks out his old foe, Obi-Wan Kenobi for one last shot at a rematch. This idea was first put forward in the non-canon Star Wars comic book story “Old Wounds” form the Star Wars: Visionaries collection, which were written and illustrated by concept artists for Revenge of the Sith.
In this story they gave their first hints at a possible return for Darth Maul. Having barely survived his encounter with Obi-Wan he traveled the galaxy seeking him out hoping for revenge but arriving too late. Finally he tracked him down on Tatooine, bent on killing Luke to get to him.
“I knew if I found the boy, I’d find you…There is no Palpatine. No Empire. No Jedi. There is no light, no dark… just you and I here now!…That day in Theed I fell so far from what I was..When I came to rest all I could see is you. But I rose from my ruin to find myself greater…And all the days since has been to your end.”
Kenobi emerged from the sand where he had been hiding and drew his lightsaber and engaged him in a final duel to the death, battling the demon that had haunted him and chased him since his days as a Padawan,
“We can do this for old time’s sake. But I was a Padawan then…now… you won’t heal so clean!”
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TV SHOW: Dunlevy, Kyle (Dir.) “Eminence” Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Starring: Sam Witwer, Clancy Brown, Jon Favreau, Kevin Michael Richardson, Core Burton, Katee Sackoff, Matt Lanter, Clare Grant, Dave Filoni, Anna Graves, and Tom Kane. Chris Collins (Writer). Original Airdate: January 19, 2013. LucasAnimation/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
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TV SHOW: Lee, Steward (Dir.) “Revival” Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Starring: James Arnold Taylor, Matt Lanter, Sam Witwer, Jim Cummings, Clancy Brown, Angelique Perrin, Tom Kane, TC Carson, and Ian Abercormbie. Chris Collins (Writer.) Original Airdate: September 29, 2012. LucasAnimation/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
TV SHOW: Ng, Bosco (Dir.) “Brothers” Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Starring: James Arnold Taylor, Clancy Brown, Ben Diskin, Sam Witwer, Corey Burton,Nika Futterman, Tom Kane, Ashley Eckstein, Matt Lanter, Clare Grant, Barbara Goodson, and Matthew Wood. Katie Lucas (Writer). Original Airdate: March 9, 2012. LucasAnimation/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
TV SHOW: Ng, Bosco (Dir.) “Shades of Reason” Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Starring: Sam Witwer, Jon Favreau, Julian Holloway, Anna Graves, David Acord, Katee Sackhoff, Clancy Brown, Corey Burton, Tom Kane, Dave Filoni, and Matt Lanter. Original Airdate: January 26, 2013. LucasAnimation/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
TV SHOW: O’ Connell, Brian (Dir.) “Revenge” Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Starring: James Arnold Taylor, Sam Witwer, Clancy Brown, Nika Futterman, Barbara Goodson, Tom Kane and TC Carson. Katie Lucas (Writer). Original Airdate: March 16, 2012. LucasAnimation/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
TV SHOW: O’Connell, Brian (Dir.) “The Lawless” Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Starring: James Arnold Taylor, Anna Graves, Sam Witwer, Katee Sackoff, Ian Abercrombie, Clancy Brown, Omid Abtahi, Whit Herford, Tom Kane, Julian Holloway, David Acord, Brian George, and Stephen Stanton. Chris Collins (Writer). Original Airdate: February 2, 2013. LucasAnimation/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
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TV SHOW: Volpe, Giancarlo (Dir). “Witches of the Mist” Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Starring: Corey Burton, Clancy Brown, Nika Futterman, Barbara Goodson, James Arnold Taylor, Matt Lanter, Stephen Stanton, Dee Bradley Baker, Angelique Perrin TC Carson, Brian George, Tom Kane, and Matthew Wood. Katie Lucas ( Writer). Original Airdate: January 21, 2011. LucasAnimation/Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.
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