Twi'leks sometimes referred to disparagingly as "Tail-heads", were an omnivorous humanoid species originating from the planet Ryloth. They tended to eat cultivated molds, fungi, and rycrit meat. Their distinctive features included colorful skin, which varied in pigment from individual to individual, and a pair of shapely prehensile tentacles that grew from the base of their skulls. The tentacles, called "brain-tails", "lekku", "tchun-tchin", or "head-tails" were advanced organs used for communication and cognitive functions. Twi'leks possessed a fairly standard humanoid vocal structure and were capable of learning most alien languages; however, they usually preferred their native language of Ryl, which incorporated subtle movement of the lekku. When they wished, they could even communicate in complete secrecy using their versatile brain-tails. Twi'lek females were often used as slaves or dancers because of their beauty.
Biology and appearance
The Twi'leks were a sentient species of mostly hairless mammals. They were humanoid in form, with two legs and two arms.
Males had humanoid ears, and among females there was equal biological evidence for humanoid ears and ear "cones". While some headdresses were cultural decoration to denote status, quite a few were originally introduced as "muzzles" to prevent the slaves from having access to a language that non-Twi'lek handlers could not understand.
Both males and females have little to no body hair, with the only notable exception being eyelashes to aid in keeping out the sand and heat of Ryloth. Females typically had painted eyebrows or had their eyebrows tattooed on, in order to appear more palatable and less alien to more base-line humanoid offworlders.
Boc Aseca had body hair under the armpits and on his chest, though it is unknown whether this was the result of some genetic mutation, a rare subspecies, or something else.
Female Twi'leks have been considered especially attractive and slender, which made them favorite subjects for slavery and entertainment. The beauty of female Twi'leks was well known throughout the galaxy, and as a result many young Twi'leks were sold into slavery, becoming dancers or status symbols, most notably by Jabba Desilijic Tiure.
The Twi'leks were omnivores. This diet was essential given that food was scarce on their homeworld, Ryloth. Twi'leks possessed multiple stomachs, an unusual trait that enabled them to eat almost any food. When traveling off their homeworld, Twi'leks rarely refused food, which frequently led to obesity among starfarers. Twi'lek society also associated obesity as a sign of affluence and success. In the case of obese Twi'leks, ear flaps enlarged to store fat. Although unsubstantiated, some in the New Republic speculated about a possible relation between the Yevetha and Twi'leks.
The two most striking features of a Twi'lek were their broad range of skin coloration within the species, and pair of brain-tails. The brain tails, also called "tchun-tchin" or "lekku", protruded down the back of the skull and contained part of a Twi'lek's brain. The very word "Twi'lek" was believed to be derived from semi-Basic "twin lekku". A Twi'lek's brain-tails served many purposes in their daily lives and culture, storing fat and being used as erogenous zones. The Twi'lek's native language of Ryl was spoken using a combination of words and subtle movements of the lekku. Newborn Twi'leks had no lekku, as they presumably grew out during childhood.
A Twi'lek's brain-tails were highly sensitive, and grabbing them forcefully was so painful that it could easily incapacitate almost any Twi'lek. Sometimes, damage to the brain-tails caused lasting damage to the Twi'lek's brain. They could be replaced by cybernetics, however, as in the case of Rianna Saren.
Long or shapely lekku were considered great status symbols, and often went hand-in-hand with respect, influence, and wealth. A Twi'lek's brain-tails could be likened to phallic symbols, and for both sexes, larger lekku brought with them some indistinct positive connotations.
Their brain-tails were a source of great pride to Twi'leks, especially when confronted by other species. The name "tchun-tchin" actually referred to each lekku—'"tchun" being the left lekku and "tchin" the right. In casual conversation the Twi'leks would usually refer to their lekku as "tchun" or "tchin."
The Twi'lek species developed and mutated in such a way as to provoke changes in their skin pigmentation, which resulted in many races and subraces. These races were all physically identical, except for their skin color. The wide and vivid variety of skin coloration included many variations of blue, red, yellow, orange, deep green, white, pale brown, pink, and lavender. Some Twi'leks even exhibited varied phenotypes, including stripes, orange with red mottling, red with pink palms, and blue with pink lips.
There was not an even distribution of skin colors across the Twi'lek population. The Lethan Twi'leks, red in coloration, were a rare subgroup, perhaps even the most rare. In contrast, the Rutian Twi'leks, which exhibited a blue phenotype, were more common among the population.
Rutian referred to one of the many skin tones of the Twi'lek species, generally denoting a color somewhere between dark blue and aquamarine. Other variations included teal and turquoise, and some Twi'leks possessed a lavender color. These were among the rarest skin hues of Twi'leks, second only to the mutated red-skinned Lethans.
Rutian Twi'leks included Jedi Master Aayla Secura, Jedi Knight Alema Rar, Taris native Mission Vao, twin masseuses Ann Gella and Tann Gella, Galactic Republic Senator Orn Free Taa, Padawan Ara Barotta and missionary Astraal Vao.
Lethan Twi'leks were Twi'leks who had the rarest of all skin colors: red. This was caused by a mutation in their genetic code. Although rare in the galaxy, there were many female Lethan Twi'leks on Naos III.
Shakka, Alora, Kelad'den, Fa'ale Leh, Yadira Ban and Darth Talon were Lethan Twi'leks. Senator Orn Free Taa also had one who acted as his consort and aide. B'ink Utrila, Yadira Ban and Zhar Lestin were all examples of Lethan Jedi, Zhar even being a Jedi Master and teaching Revan, while Darth Talon and Darth Ruyn are examples of a Lethan Sith.
Society and culture
The natural grace and exotic beauty of the female Twi'leks made them a popular target among slave traders. Slavery was the main currency of Ryloth, which was tolerated by the Galactic Republic.
Some saw it as a chance to make money by kidnapping or selling orphaned children, while others saw slavery as a way of saving children from growing up in Ryloth's harsh environment. A number of Twi'leks believed that slavery was an efficient way to proliferate their species and preserve their culture, as the Twi'leks lacked their own means of inter-planetary travel. Regardless of how it came about, many Twi'leks lived as slaves or entertainers and were considered status symbols, especially the females of rarer skin hues: the Rutian and Lethan Twi'leks. Twi'leks that managed to escape from captivity usually turned to a life of thievery or prostitution, with both genders making use of their powers of seduction.
Twi'leks preferred to "ride the storm" rather than "defeat it," as a proverb goes, and avoided taking a stand on most issues. This was exemplified when, during the Clone Wars, their politicians were loyal to the Republic but other individuals kept negotiations open with the Separatists.While many Twi'leks lived their lives as merchants or even criminals, the species also had a proud and honorable warrior tradition. It was Twi'lek warriors who invented the Chir'daki, or Deathseed, starfighters that married the TIE Fighter cockpit to the S-foils of the X-wing starfighter as well as using a rotation system similar to what allowed the B-wing starfighter. During the Bacta War, Twi'lek warriors assisted Wedge Antilles in the fight against Ysanne Isard.
The clothing of Twi'leks depended on their gender. While most male Twi'leks wore long, loose robes, female Twi'leks typically wore tighter, more revealing clothing to maintain their elegant figures and enhance their value to males. Twi'lek dance costumes were typically made up of silky veils that clung to their bodies, although other kinds were used, such as a revealing net costume Oola once wore.
When meeting a stranger or guest for the first time, Twi'leks would usually exchange gifts or something else as a welcome. When welcoming a large number of beings they would usually throw a party and use their traditional dances as entertainment. As Cham Syndulla once said, "it is customary to share what we do have."
Twi'leks, when on Ryloth, lived in simple mud brick dwellings that protected them against the scorching heat of their homeworld. They often decorated them with native textiles and simple things. When in a city, Twi'leks used more standard dwellings with technology though they were still modified to survive Ryloth's environment.
Some Twi'leks were known to worship an unnamed goddess.
Twi'lek society was divided into clans, with each clan having its own city. Each city had its own government, which was led by a five-member head-clan. These five Twi'leks would lead the society in all matters until one member of the head-clan died. At that point, the remaining members of the head-clan would be cast out into the barren landscape on the day-side of the planet, presumably to die, thus allowing the next generation to take over. If the next generation was not yet ready to claim their inherited positions, then a set of regents would be selected to rule until the proper time.
"The joining of personal and clan names is, among us, a sign of belonging. Breaking the names apart is a statement of the distance between that person and his people."
Rather than having separate personal and clan names, a Twi'lek would have a single name that combined these two elements. The personal portion of the name would be selected with the clan name in mind, often involving an intentional alteration of the words or a shift in the letters to change the meaning of the name as a whole. This change was meant to symbolize a way of unity. A Twi'lek's name would also be split into multiple parts if they were exiled as a criminal, as this was considered very dishonoring.
In some cases, Twi'leks would combine the multiple-part name of a non-Twi'lek into a single name, often changing the pronunciation in the same way that they would alter their own given names and clan names. For example, Twi'leks often pronounced Wedge Antilles's name as Wedgan'tilles so that his name meant Slayer of Stars—if a Twi'lek were to use the Galactic Basic Standard pronunciation, it would mean, in a generous translation, "one so foul he could induce vomiting in a Rancor."
An example of a true Twi'lek name would be Nawar'aven. This name would be split into two parts when used outside of the local culture, becoming Nawara Ven (the clan name in this case being Ven, but the name Nawara was selected with the intention of moving the last a into the second half of the name, thus changing the meaning).
It is worth noting that this naming convention did not appear to be in use during the waning days of the Galactic Republic, when even prominent Twi'lek leaders such as Ro Fenn and Pol Secura preferred using their core names even in private conversation with each other on Ryloth.
According to Ashaa, the Mother Machine, the Twi'leks originated as a synthetic lifeform she created under orders from the Rakata, as part of experimentation they hoped would give them insight into the loss of their connection to the Force.This would place the origins of the species c. 25,200 BBY. However, despite the fact that it is known that the Mother Machine's creation of her "children" on the planet Belsavis postdates the fall of the Infinite Empire, an advanced Twi'lek civilization was already present on Ryloth in the year 36,453 BBY, when a visiting Tho Yor starship took a group of Force-studying mystics to Tython.
Around 10,000 BBY, the Twi'lek homeworld of Ryloth was discovered by the Galactic Republic. Although their society was still in a primitive state, the Twi'leks had spent the past several centuries in relative harmony with one another, the Twi'leks had spent the past several centuries in relative harmony with one another and they joined the Republic soon after being discovered.
Twi'lek society was comprised of a series of clans of various sizes. When the galaxy took a sudden interest in Ryloth's wealth of ryll spice, the Twi'lek clan leaders increased production of the drug and prepared to ship it offworld
Unfortunately, the clans were inexperienced in the galactic economy, and Hutt criminal cartels soon took control of the planet's mining operations. The Twi’leks were enslaved and labored in their own mines for the profit of the Hutts, or were sold outright on the open market. After generations of slavery, the Twi'lek species became far more numerous across the galaxy than on Ryloth,and most felt little connection to their own homeworld
Sometime after 3641 BBY, the Twi'lek clans regained control of their planet from the Hutts, but the prosperity of their ryll mines still made them targets of pirates and mercenaries. To ensure their continued wealth, most of the Twi'lek clan leaders chose to deter such threats by selling their own people—in particular, their women—into slavery The sale of Twi'lek dancing girls was continually tolerated by the Republic, and slavery remained Ryloth's primary currency as it had for past millennia, while the ryll trade fueled the planet's black market economy.
Ruusan Reformation era
During the Clone Wars, Ryloth was occupied by the Confederacy of Independent Systems and Twi'lek Resistance movement arose to combat the Separatists, led by Cham Syndulla and assisted by the Galactic Republic. Working with the Grand Army of the Republic and the Jedi Order, the Twi'lek Resistance managed to expel Separatist forces under Wat Tambor. The Republic then annexed Ryloth.
Following the end of the Clone Wars, the Republic was transformed into the Galactic Empire and Ryloth was annexed by the Empire.The planet became an Imperial protectorate and the Twi'leks living on Ryloth were subjected to Imperial rule. While Ryloth was nominally independent and was still represented by Senator Orn Free Taa in the Galactic Senate, real power lay in the hands of the Imperial Moff Delian Mors.
About five years after the establishment of the Empire, Cham reorganised the Twi'lek Resistance as the Free Ryloth movement in order to expel the Empire from Ryloth. While most of the Free Ryloth resistance fighters were Twi'leks, it included a number of non-Twi'leks like Colonel Belkor Dray. The Free Ryloth resistance consisted of hundreds of fighters, a network of informants and spies, and staged raids which led to the deaths of dozens of Imperial personnel. After Darth Vader killed one of Cham's lieutenants Pok and his comrades after the theft of an Imperial freighter from the Yaga Minor shipyards, Cham decided to shift from half-hearted measures towards taking full action against the Empire.
Emperor Palpatine conspired to lure the Free Ryloth rebels into a trap by organizing a visit to Ryloth with Darth Vader and arranging for information on the trip to be leaked to the Ryloth rebels. Cham seized the opportunity to kill the two Sith Lords and fragment the Empire. The two Sith Lords traveled to Ryloth in the Imperial Star Destroyer Perilous. Cham's rebels attacked the Perilous with space mines, Vulture droids, and rebels disguised as rescue crew. However, Vader and the Emperor managed to escape to Ryloth. Following a prolonged pursuit, the Free Ryloth rebels tried to close in on the two Sith Lords in a remote village. Imperial forces under Moff Delian however arrived at the village and routed the rebels. Cham and his surviving comrades fled to resume their struggle.
Cham's daughter Hera Syndulla became a key leader in the rebellion against the Empire and led her own rebel cell. She believed that Ryloth's freedom was linked to the rebellion. Hera disagreed with Cham's focus on Ryloth and the two parted company. Three years before the Battle of Yavin, the Empire used a Quasar Fire-class cruiser-carrier to bomb Ryloth. Despite their differences, Cham and Hera's rebel cells joined forces to steal the cruiser-carrier for the Phoenix rebel cell. As a result, ties were established between the Free Ryloth movement and the wider rebellion.
Two years before the Battle of Yavin, the Empire dispatched the Chiss Grand Admiral Thrawn to deal with the Ryloth insurgency. By studying Twi'lek art, culture, philosophy, and history, Thrawn was able to devise successful tactics that led to the fall of Tann province. The Free Ryloth movement lost many fighters and Cham was forced to flee his own home. Hera, Cham, and the other rebels then took part in an unsuccessful attempt to recover a family heirloom, the Kalikori, from Thrawn. Despite failing to recover the object, the rebels escaped an attempt by Captain Slavin to capture the rebels and Cham.