What are Sand People (Tusken Raiders)?

The Tusken Raiders play a huge role in the Star Wars films. They change the course of Anakin’s pod race, they play a pivotal role in his turn to the dark side and later also inadvertantly help Luke meet Obi-Wan Kenobi.


A nomadic and often violent species, the Sand People of the planet Tatooine are as fierce and savage as their harsh desert environment. Also known as Tusken Raiders, even their appearance – born of necessity – lends them an air of menace. Wrapped in gauzy robes and strips of cloth from head to foot, their faces are concealed with breathing masks and goggles to protect their eyes. The frightening visage of a bandit Tusken Raider can terrorize as easily as their weapons.

The Sand People are easily intoxicated by sugar water and are most dangerous during their adolescent years, when they must survive rigorous rites of passage—such as hunting krayt dragons—to become adults. Since there is no written Tusken language, the storyteller-historian is the most respected member of Tusken communities. Many Tusken Raider clans of 20 to 30 individuals return annually to their traditional encampments in the Needles, a section of the Jundland Wastes, to wait out the dangerous sandstorm season.

The Sand People have an almost symbiotic relationship with their bantha mounts. A member who has lost his bantha is considered incomplete, and an outcast among his people. Likewise, when a Raider dies, his mount engages in a usually suicidal frenzy and is turned loose in the desert to survive or die on its own.

Tuskens live in an uneasy, and frequently shattered, peace with Tatooine moisture farmers. They attack settlements from time to time, using their traditional weapon, the gaderffii (or “gaffi”) stick, a kind of double-edged ax, or older projectile rifles. Targets of opportunity also include individuals or small parties roaming the desert, such as Jawa scavenging parties.

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