“Old Jedi Mind Trick”: The Rosetta Stone of the Star Wars Universe
February 18, 2015
During the first encounter between Jabba and Luke in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, did you ever find it odd that every word in Jabba's Huttese is foreign to our human ears with the exception of the phrase "Old Jedi Mind Trick?" Well, I did some digging and here's what I came up with...
In 1799, an ancient stone stele was discovered near Alexandria, Egypt that featured a royal decree translated into three different languages: Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Demotic Script, and the known Ancient Greek. Dubbed “The Rosetta Stone,” this artifact unlocked our modern ability to understand the language of the Ancient Egyptians – a mystery to scholars for nearly 1,000 years. While translating across only three languages in our world would have proved impossible without the Stone, imagine the challenges encountered when translating the millions of languages across the Star Wars universe. Enter “Old Jedi Mind Trick.”
During the early days of the Old Republic, language translation was a pressing issue. Even the core worlds struggled to communicate with each other and fringe planets and galaxies were entirely unrepresented in the lexicon of official languages. It was at this time that a young Jedi on a mission to the then distant planet of Nal Hutta discovered that, while he was entirely unable to converse with this new, slug-like species called Hutts, when he tried to influence them with his Jedi skills, they appeared to deride him for attempting to use the “Jedi Mind Trick.” This got the young Jedi’s attention as this term was identical to that of the common tongue of Coruscant.
Over the next several thousand years (no doubt a period where Tatooine’s Sarlacc Pit was slowly digesting its victims), many in-roads were made in translating not just Huttese, but many languages, which inexplicably all used the same term for the “Jedi Mind Trick.” However, this three-word phrase was still not enough to develop a thorough and accurate translation of all galactic languages – something else was needed. Fortunately, the Jedi Mind Trick had now been around for a long time and had casually become known in various systems as the “Old Jedi Mind Trick.” As before, it quickly became apparent that “old” was also common across languages – just enough semantic, phonological and linguistic information to provide the missing pieces needed to garner complete and accurate translations across all planets and systems.
So next time someone tries the Old Jedi Mind Trick on you, don’t get mad, get grateful. Without it we wouldn’t be able to communicate with our alien brothers across the universe.