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Star Wars is known for showcasing a wide variety of alien species. From the elongated Muun to the scaled Trandosians, from the musical talents of Bith to the gluttony and greed of Hutts.
Star Wars has hundreds of species of aliens across canon and legends for fans to gander at like kids in a sci-fi zoo. And those are just the sentient ones; if we explored all the nonsentient species in Star Wars, we’d need a bigger website.
One of the species that’s been canon in Star Wars for the longest is the fierce yet clandestine Bothans. Known for being excellent spies, exceptional warriors, and proficient politicians, Bothans have always been a large part of the Star Wars universe.
They have also received some of the least attention in all the decades that Star Wars has existed.
So today, I’ll take a closer look at the furry-faced Bothans, their ceaseless desire for power, and why they aren’t to be trifled with.
Bothan Anatomy & Biology
Bothans were bipedal humanoids with features resembling an amalgamation of feline, canine, and equine characteristics. In short, they were like cat-dog-cow people.
For many years, writers needed help figuring out exactly what a Bothan looked like. Though they were referenced back in the early 80s by Mon Mothma herself, Bothans didn’t see visualization until decades later. And even then, artists couldn’t quite agree on what Bothans looked like. At first, their faces were primarily human but with fur.
Then they gained bug eyes and a vampire-like hunch. As they made more appearances in graphic novels and video games, they grew longer and longer snouts, shapely beards, and rich, robust cultures.
Now, Bothans have a long mane that’s braided in some way. They’re essentially the furries of the Star Wars universe, and no one seems to mind.
Bothan History & Culture
Bothans hail from the planet Bothawui, which is located in the mid rim of the Star Wars galaxy. They learned to build hyperdrives and space-faring engines thousands of years before the Skywalker saga and became one of the first species to join the Galactic Republic.
Their entrance into the galaxy-wide government traces back to at least 4000 BBY.
Bothan culture is a weird one. When you learn all the intricacies of their society and what they place the most importance on, you start to wonder how they were ever good guys.
Bothans emphasize power, influence, and control in their society at the cost of all other attributes. Because of this, Bothans are known for choosing professions with innate levels of power built into them, like politicians and military generals.
Bothans are led by a code of ethics–or lack thereof–called simply The Way. The Way was written by an ancient Bothan named Golm Fervse’dra, and it is essentially a pirate’s rule book. It tells Bothans always to put their species above other species and to put themselves before anyone else.
It eliminates the concept of empathy from their culture and replaces it with ruthlessness. The more power and influence one has, the more good one can do for the entire Bothan race. The Way tells Bothans that any act in the pursuit of power is justified, even violence, as long as it furthers their goals.
How the entire Bothan race didn’t devolve into infighting and paranoia over their history is something of intergalactic study. It seems they only manage to survive by directing their paranoia out into the galaxy instead of at themselves.
Since The Way speaks of putting the Bothan species above others, it brings some unity to their culture. And though individual Bothans are raised to put themselves above others, their end goal is always to further the power and influence of their race, not just themselves.
It was not often that Bothans put their Way on hold, but during times of turmoil, invasion, or galaxy-wide war, the Bothans would temporarily reject The Way and adopt a new practice of Ar’krai. Ar’krai was an all-hands-on-deck order for the entire race of Bothans, it was like a military draft call.
Every Bothan, whether on Bothawui or a colony, put their careers and duties aside to focus on the survival and preservation of their race. Few situations grew so dire they required Ar’krai. But when Ar’krai was called, every Bothan answered and pivoted their lifestyle to one of war and battle.
The Way also taught Bothans to be neutral in all galactic policies. That proved almost impossible for the Bothans to uphold, considering they joined the Galactic Republic. But whenever a vote came up, Bothans were adept at playing both sides. This allowed them to always end up on the victorious side of history.
The teachings of The Way led in a very practical sense to the creation of the Bothan Spynet. Bothans are concerned about power and influence above all else, and nothing says powerful influence like galaxy-wide blackmail.
Bothan Government and Military
Bothans had a robust government with many different branches and arms. Bothans were known for being excellent political teachers with a Diplomatic Corps almost unrivaled in the galaxy. Not only did essential Bothans attend the corps as a fast track to a notable political career, but plenty of off-worlders also attended.
It was a way for would-be politicians to mingle, network, learn essential duties, and align themselves with Bothan interests. Virtually every member who came out of the Diplomatic Corps was compromised as a politician. They were bought and paid for by the Bothans, meaning they furthered Bothan interests over their own.
The Diplomatic Corps was a functioning arm of the Bothan Spynet, as it was easy to induct would-be politicians into the espionage game. Now, not only were off-world leaders aligned with Bothan interests, they would give Bothans sensitive information if need be.
Because Bothans were so focused on intelligence gathering and political leveraging, they were not as focused on their military. Bothans kept a small force at each of their colonies and a planetary defense force around Bothawui.
Their planetary defense force was mostly for show, as Bothans knew they were unlikely to be caught off guard by an attack. Thanks to their spies, they’d hear of any invasion weeks before it started.
The Bothan Spynet
The Bothan Spynet was officially recognized around 300 BBY but considering it’s a spynet, I’m willing to bet it was around long before that. 300 BBY is probably just when an event catapulted the organization into the spotlight. They most likely existed well before 300 BBY.
The Bothan Spynet was said to be the most extensive espionage network in the entire galaxy. This makes sense considering all we know about Bothans: they’ve been around in the Galactic Republic for 4000 years; they’re highly concerned with power and influence over others, and they’re known for being astute politicians and military leaders.
Bothans have everything they need to be the best spies in the Star Wars universe.
Their aggressive neutrality also played in their favor as spies. They often played both sides, claiming all fronts in war as their allies and sending delegations to each. This practice allowed them to read the war better than anyone, predict who would be the victor, and decide where to put their resources.
But this also allowed them to peddle information to each side of a conflict. They would gather info from one side, since they were allies, after all, then sell it to the other side. Once they gained the favor of the second side, they’d gather some info and sell it back to the first side.
Bothans claimed they sold information to both sides in a conflict to speed up the war and bring about the end quicker. But it also allowed them to regularly profit from death on both sides of disputes for at least a few hundred years.
It also put them in a perfect position to completely screw over the Emperor when the Galactic Empire showed up to the party.
“Many Bothans Died to Bring us this Information…”
In many ways, Bothans were the ultimate rebels. They were one of the few species that managed to keep neutral ties with the Galactic Empire throughout the war, preventing the Empire from sending troops to Bothawui and establishing some bases.
But despite that neutrality, Bothans were actively working against the Empire across the galaxy.
Bothans single-handedly helped the Dressellians fight off Imperial occupation. Bothan scouts, while mapping the galaxy hundreds of years prior to the rebellion, discovered the peaceful mining planet of Dressell and its inhabitants. They decided to leave the Dressellians alone, allowing them to evolve and join the galactic community at their own pace.
But during the Galactic Rebellion, Bothans checked on their friends only to find them subjugated by the Empire. By smuggling weapons and information to the Dresselians and training them in guerilla warfare, Bothans helped the Dresselians rebuke the Empire and claim their freedom.
And then, of course, we have the rebellion itself. While it was highly rare to see a Bothan physically hanging out with rebels–on their ships, in their bases, on their planets–they were always in close contact.
Bothans were responsible for giving the rebellion critical information on the second Death Star, including that Palpatine would personally be aboard.
The problems started when the Emperor learned the Bothans sold information on him.
While the number of Bothans involved in stealing the plans for the Death Star was small, the number of Bothans who suffered from the espionage was high. Once the Emperor learned the Bothans turned on him, he was rightfully upset. It’s said that hundreds of Bothans died personally at his hands, and more died from his troops.
New Republic Bothans
By the time the second Death Star began blowing stuff up in space, the Bothans had all but forgotten about neutrality. They were fully committed to stopping the Empire at all costs. Gone was their grey stance; gone were their plans to pit each side against the other. They knew that if the Empire won, they would lose.
So, Bothans joined the rebellion with gusto. They threw their considerable resources behind the mostly Mon Calamari fleet and helped liberate the galaxy.
After the Battle of Yavin and the destruction of the second Death Star, Bothans were welcomed into the New Republic like old friends. Not only were Bothans one of the longest-running members of the Republic, but they’d actually helped defend it instead of hiding on their planet. That earned them new standing in the galaxy.
Before the rebellion, Bothans were seen as paranoid, nervous, and untrustworthy beings. After the rebellion, they were still seen as paranoid, but they’d earned a good bit of trust.
From there, Bothans continued their positive feedback loop. They started designing unique classes of starships and frigates to compete with Mon Calamari and Corellian-built ships. They started picking a side in conflicts more, focused on building their military power, and decided neutrality wasn’t always the best option.
They still kept their spynet functioning as usual, but they stepped fully into their role as defenders of the New Republic.
Asyr Sei’lar was an X-Wing pilot and one of the longest-serving members of Rogue Squadron. Asyr was born of Bothawui and joined their Martial Academy at a young age, against her parents’ protests.
She excelled in her studies and immediately set herself apart from her peers. But she knew the quiet world of Bothawui was a waste of her combat powers.
So, Asry left her homeworld and explored the galaxy. She came to hate the arrogance of humans and joined an anti-human terrorist group as a pilot and commando. During her radical time as a terrorist, her deadly skills only grew. It was when she met a human with the rebel alliance that she started to change.
The human, Gavin Darklighter, showed Asyr human empathy and kindness. He helped Asyr escape her terrorist past and join the rebellion. Asyr distinguished herself early on and was invited to join Rogue Squadron along with Gavin.
Asyr left Rogue Squadron and the Republic altogether when the Bothan representative on Coruscant at the time, Borsk Fey’lya, reminded Asyr of the Bothan Way. He reminded her that she must put her career and political influence over all other desires.
Though she and Gavin had fallen in love, Asyr faked her death and left the Republic. She went back home to lead her people and train the next generation of Bothan pilots.
Master Kai Hudorra was a Bothan Jedi master of no small standing. He joined the Jedi Order at a young age and didn’t complain when the Clone Wars began. He took on the rank of general and led several platoons of clone troopers throughout the war. He even survived Order 66 along with fellow Jedi Noirah Na.
Master Hudorra was one of the few Jedi who lived for years after the fall of the Jedi Order. At first, he was lost and confused and didn’t understand why the clone army had turned. But after making his way to Coruscant and watching a lone Jedi attempt to take the temple, he understood the state of things.
He cast away his lightsaber, his robes, and even Noirah. He rejected the Jedi and its teachings and became a new man. However, he kept his connection to the Force, as it allowed him to be a successful gambler.
After earning enough winnings to purchase his own casino, Kai became a generous manager and wise leader. He treated his staff with trust and respect, and they were honored to work for him.
After years of a decadent lifestyle, Kai’s past came to haunt him. Fellow Jedi sought him out and asked for help to assassinate Darth Vader. It turned out Kai had been stockpiling armor for years just in case such an event happened, and he’d even rebuilt his lightsaber.
Kai, wearing golden battle armor and dueling a Dark Lord one-on-one, will go down in history as the only Jedi to look Darth Vader in the mask and tell him to “Go to hell.”
Kai sacrificed himself so his fellow Jedi and his casino staff could escape. And he did it like an absolute badass.
Borsk Fey’lya is everything a Bothan was taught to be. Calculating, manipulative, strategic. Borsk knew from a young age that he was destined for great things. He joined the Diplomatic Corps and went straight into the Bothan Spynet.
He rose immediately to a delegate position and started attracting followers. Even in his early days, Borsk knew he would rule the galaxy.
Borsk was personally involved in stealing the plans for the second Death Star. After receiving countless intelligence reports about the Empire–their anti-alien culture, their depravity, the destruction they wrought, he decided neutrality was not an option.
He put his full support behind Leia and the rebellion. Borsk joined the rebellion along with his entire clan and never looked back.
Borsk lived an incredibly long life. He survived almost every single controversy and conflict the New Republic endured. He survived Thrawn and the Black Fleet crisis and didn’t even bat an eye when Dark Lords and Sith threatened the Republic.
Borsk was, unfortunately, a bad guy sometimes. He was guided by The Way more than any other philosophy, which made him a legend among his own people and a dangerous pariah among other species. “All those not on my side are enemies,” Borsk declared to Leia during a heated argument, and he meant her.
The characteristic paranoia of Bothans was exemplified and then injected with space steroids in Borsk; he didn’t trust the military, he didn’t trust Rogue Squadron, he didn’t trust the New Republic, and he certainly didn’t trust the Jedi.
All he wanted was power. And he often argued that his pursuit of power was to do the most good for the most people. But it was ultimately just to scratch that God-complex itch he had.
Eventually, when Leia stepped down as Chief of State of the New Republic, Borsk took her position. He immediately fired the old cabinet and installed people loyal to him.
Alas, the government didn’t last long, thanks to the Yuuzhan Vong. Borsk realized the galaxy after the destructive Yuuzhan Vong war would be worthless; after all the mistakes and backstabbing he’d done, he would not have a powerful seat.
Realizing his reign had come to an end and the Yuuzhan Vong were literally evil, Borsk sacrificed himself. He took 25,000 Yuuzhan Vong warriors with him, solidifying his place as a Martyr for his people and the Republic.
Question: When was the First Time we Saw a Bothan in Star Wars?
Answer: Bothans are first described in the novel Heir to The Empire by Timothy Zahn, which sort of counts. But the first time we see a visualization of a Bothan is in the graphic novel Heir to The Empire.
It’s not what Bothans look like now. We also got a different version of them in the old Star Wars: Battlefront 2 video game. Players have since released a mod for the game that changes their appearance to resemble canon Bothans.
Question: Didn’t the Emperor Let the Bothans take his Plans Since he was Going to Trap Luke Skywalker and the Rebellion the whole Time?
Answer: Shhh. Shhh. Shhhhhhhhh. Don’t let the Bothans or die-hard Star Wars fans hear you say that. Also, kudos for paying attention in Return of The Jedi. Palpatine was laying a trap for the entire rebellion at Endor’s moon, as he wanted to destroy them all in one grim swoop.
So yes, he leaked his own plans to the Bothans and even added a bonus; he let them know that he would personally oversee the final installations. All the Bothans who died to bring that information to the rebellion, the Martyrs, may have been set up. Palpatine was cleaning house.
But Bothans, especially Borsk, treated those Martyrs as more than heroes. To say that they were tricked and the Emperor actually let them have the plans is the quickest way to start a fight with a Bothan.
Question: If Bothans had the most Extensive Network of Spies in the Galaxy, wouldn’t they be, like, Running the Universe?
Answer: Yes. There are numerous theories that Bothans are indeed running the whole show. That nothing significant transpired without them allowing it. At least until Palpatine showed up. Bothans showed up to the galactic community shortly after the Sith War, so they were only experienced in dealing with non-Force-sensitive espionage.
After the Empire, the Yuuzhan Vong, and the Imperial Remnant, the spynet wasn’t as established as they’d like. Now that they have experience with Sith and Force-sensitive espionage, they may be more prepared next time. They are running the show on most smaller-scale planets, and their Diplomatic Corps connections are limitless.
Bothans, the loveable yet cantankerous furries of Star Wars, are historically underrepresented. In all the decades Star Wars has been around, we’ve never had a Bothan character with lines on any screen.
Considering their incredibly long history with the Star Wars universe and their pivotal role in so many events, it’s an apparent wonder why we don’t see them more.
Hopefully, after learning all about Bothans, you, like me, will want to see more of them in the galaxy far, far away.
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