The Mandalorian‘s season three premiere was a whale of a time. Specifically it was a space whale of a time. The episode marked the live-action debut of purrgil, an important Star Wars creature first introduced in animation on Rebels. They returned in all their enormous glory during Ahsoka‘s third episode, and later on the show helped Lady Tano and Huyang go after Morgan Elsbeth on a distant planet.
Who are these giant, beautiful creatures? What makes them such a vital part of the franchise? And what is their connection with both the Force and the ancient history of the galaxy far, far away? Here’s everything we know about Star Wars‘ giant star whales, the purrgil, and what they mean to some legendary Jedi.
What Are Star Wars Giant Space Whales, the Purrgil?
In the Star Wars universe, purrgil are semi-sentient, large-headed animals who most closely resemble whales, but with some notable differences. Living in deep space, they have one cloudy blue eye on each side of their head. They also have four tentacles at the end of their long blue and purple bodies which also glow in certain parts. Purrgil also sport fins that help them fly, and some even have long whiskers.
Despite their atypical habitat, the elegant creatures with oval-like teeth still require a specific, rare green gas to breathe. Without Clouzon-36, which they can locate on planets and moons, their bodies begin to turn brown and gray. But with Clouzon-36 (the same gas used as hyperdrive fuel), Star Wars‘ purgill are able to “ travel great distances” among the stars.
The graceful but imposing creatures fly together in groups known as pods, flocks, or swarms. Before Ahsoka showed much bigger pods, they were though to be as large as 12 members.
The leader of a swarm is known as a King Purrgil. Most space whales are the size of small ships, but a type known as Purrgil Ultra can grow far, far bigger. Those majestic behemoths can reach the equivalent in length of half an Imperial-class Star Destroyer. Based on their relative size to Din Djarin’s N-1 Starfighter in The Mandalorian, Grogu likely spotted Purrgil Ultras flying through hyperspace in their very own simu-tunnel. Purrgil are not only capable of traveling at hyper speeds, though. They’re said to have actually inspired humanoids own hyperspace aspirations.
Why Are Purrgil Both Hated and Revered in the Star Wars World?
Purrgil are no strangers to the smugglers, pirates, pilots, and other travelers of the galaxy far, far away. Hera Syndulla once called the animals “dangerous” because of their proclivity to wander into hyperspace lanes. Many in the galaxy far, far away have lost their lives in crashes with purrgil. But it’s unlikely the space whales meant cause those incidents even though they have a type of intelligence unto themselves. Purrgil are not immune to injury and would not intentionally crash into anyone.
Regardless of intent, pilots hunted down and killed many of the animals to make high-speed interstellar travel safer.
Yet some think the entire galaxy owes a debt to Star Wars‘ purrgil. Some believe the creatures’ natural ability to travel through hyperspace served as a guide for sentient races to learn the ways of moving faster than the speed of light. Without purrgil, travel between star systems might still be impossible in the galaxy. It’s why some of the first hyperspace ships created in the Star Wars‘ universe were named for purrgil. Their simu-tunnels were precursors to the very hyperspace lanes they wander into.
The study of purrgil brains and bodies even led both Jedi and Sith alike to create wayfinders. Those ancient relics, which proved so important in The Rise of Skywalker, allowed Force users to navigate especially difficult expanses of space.
Where Have Purrgil Appeared in Star Wars Before?
Though mentioned in some Star Wars publishing, prior to Ahsoka most purrgil appearances primarily happened on Star Wars Rebels. The mystical space whales made a big impression during their debut on the animated series, too. Despite Hera’s fears about the creatures, Jedi Padawan Ezra Bridger and Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus persuaded the crew of the Ghost to follow purrgil. During an ensuing battle at a Clouzon-36 gas refinery under Imperial control, a purrgil saved Ezra’s life. He then saw a vision in the animal’s eye, forming a strong magical connection between the two. Ezra then rode the purrgil as it helped the Ghost take the much-needed gas.
While the otherwise serene purrgil appeared on the show multiple times, their most important moment came in the series’ finale during the Ghost crew’s greatest time of need.
How Did Purrgil Help Ezra Bridger Stop Grand Admiral Thrawn?
Star Wars Rebels ended with the denizens of Lothal trying to free the planet from the Empire’s grip. Without a fleet of its own to match the one Grand Admiral Thrawn commanded, Ezra Bridger and his friends needed help.
For that, Ezra turned to the purrgil, which he summoned to fight back against Thrawn in a surprise attack. The Star Wars space whales worked with the Rebel forces to destroy many of the Imperial ships serving as a blockade.
But with Thrawn around, Lothal would never have been safe. That led Ezra Bridger to concoct a secret plan to sacrifice himself, saving his friends and his planet. He used the Force to make three purrgil Ultra attack Thrawn and his ship.
The purrgil took hold of the Grand Admiral and jumped into hyperspace, taking both Thrawn and Ezra with them to an unknown region of the Star Wars universe.
In Star Wars Rebels‘ final scene Sabine Wren and Ahsoka Tano set out to find Ezra, whose whereabouts still remained unknown at the start of Ahsoka. The live-action series then revealed just how far away the creatures had taken Thrawn and Ezra.
What Was the Significance of Purrgil Appearing on The Mandalorian?
There were two likely reasons purrgil made their live-action debut on The Mandalorian in such a quick manner, and they are not mutually exclusive. The first is that the purrgil offered a way to establish yet another connection between the show, Star Wars Rebels, and Ahsoka. When Rosario Dawson first brought Ahsoka Tano to live-action on The Mandalorian, she was seeking information about the location of Thrawn. She had not given up hope of finding her friend Ezra, either. Dawson’s former Jedi and her Padawan Sabine resumed their hunt for both the Grand Admiral and Ezra on Ahsoka.
Lucasfilm is not shy about having their Star Wars shows’ plots overlap in significant ways, and the dual appearances of purrgil in live-action certainly accomplished that.
But the sight of purrgil might ultimately prove important to The Mandalorian‘s little green star. We know from Ezra Bridger’s experiences with those magical animals that they have a special connection with Force users. And since they’re rarely spotted traveling at hyperspeed, it’s significant a powerful little Jedi saw them flying alongside him. Purrgil might one day prove to be as significant in Grogu’s life as they were in Ezra’s.
They’ve proven to be that important in Ahsoka’s.
What Did Ahsoka Reveal About the Importance of Purrgil in the Galaxy’s Ancient Past?
Before Ahsoka most of the biggest questions about purrgil had to do with their potential future in Star Wars. Will Grogu eventually meet them and become friends with the space whales? Will they bring Ezra Bridger back to his home galaxy so he can meet other surviving Jedi? Might those beautiful tentacled beings who travel among the stars fight alongside Grogu and save Mandalore the way they saved Lothal? Could they help stop Thrawn once more?
But while seeing purrgil for just a brief moment on The Mandalorian raised countless possibilities for what role they might still play in Star Wars, their role on Ahsoka gave us reason to look back at the role the space whales played long ago. Huyang revealed the Jedi Archives contain record of old intergalactic hyperspace lanes. The galaxy far, far away once had established space roads to entirely different galaxies, including the Pathway to Peridea. And those hyperspace lanes, whose existence changes everything we know about the galaxy far, far away, were based on the natural migration paths of purrgil.
Not only did those Force-sensitive explorers inspire hyperspace travel, they once connected distant galaxies throughout the universe. Those lost galaxies contain secrets about Star Wars‘ past that not even the Jedi know about. That involves how “the travelers” helped the Nightsisters leave their native world of Peridea and travel across the universe to Star Wars‘ galaxy far, far away.
That important planet is also where purrgil go to die. Peridea’s low orbit area is a graveyard littered with the star whales’ bones. Is that because purrgil return to their home to die? Or did they chose that ancient wasteland as their final resting place for another reason? Every new piece of information about the lives of purrgil raises new questions, some of which we might never get answers to.
Ahsoka did confirm something about them we learned during their first appearance on Star Wars Rebels is still true. It’s the reason purrgil can be a Jedi’s greatest ally.
How Did Ahsoka Make a Connection with Purrgil?
Ahsoka‘s fifth episode saw Anakin Skywalker give his former Padawan her final lesson. That trip through her past trauma helped Ahsoka lift the shadow over her heart, and when she emerged from the World Between Worlds Ahsoka she was able to do something we’d only seen Ezra Bridger do before. She used the Force to make a strong spiritual connection with a Purrgil Ultra who agreed to take Ahsoka, Huyang, and their ship into deep, unknown hyperspace in across galaxies. The purrgil made it possible for Ahsoka Tano to go after Sabine Wren and the Eye of Sion. Without the creatures who saved Lothal, Ahsoka never would have found Ezra Bridger, either.
The purrgil fled Peridea after leaving hyperspace to find an Imperial minefield waiting for them in Ahsoka. Where did they go? Are they on to yet another distant galaxy we don’t know about? Will the purgill return on Ahsoka to bring their Jedi friends back to their home galaxy? Or has their time on the show come to an end?
We don’t know yet, but we do know purrgil are even more important to Star Wars’ story—its past, present, and future—than we ever could have imagined when they first took to the sky on Rebels.
This post originally published on March 1, 2023.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike, and also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.