32

In Return of the Jedi, as Yoda lies dying, he speaks to to Luke:

YODA
Soon will I rest. Yes, forever sleep. Earned it, I have.

Yoda sits himself on his bed, with great effort.

LUKE
Master Yoda, you can't die.

YODA
Strong am I with the Force... but not that strong! Twilight is upon me and soon night must fall. That is the way of things ... the way of the Force.

I'm confused as to exactly what he meant by the bold text, mainly because of Yoda's, shall we say, unique speech constructs.

My confusion hinges on exactly what he is referring to the second time he says "strong". I can interpret this two different ways:

  1. He means "I am strong in the Force, but I am not strong enough in the Force to prevent my own natural death."
  2. He means "I am strong in the Force, but my body is not physically strong."

The way he pronounces it in the movie (putting the emphasis on "strong" rather than on "that") makes it sound overwhelmingly like it is his intention to convey the second meaning, but this seems very, very uncharacteristic for Yoda, as the whole point of his character is to demonstrate that the Force transcends physicality and that what we can accomplish is not constrained by our material bodies. However, he seems fully comfortable with his own death, implying that he might not be trying to use his force abilities to prolong his life, which would mean that his longevity would be dictated solely by his physical condition, which was "not that strong." This muddles the picture to the point where I am utterly confused.

Does anyone have any information regarding this that might clarify the quote? Am I just hearing it wrong when I think it sounds like he is referring to his physical strength? Is there perhaps a third interpretation I have missed?

  • 73
    Nothing but the first ever occurred to me. – Beta Aug 19 '13 at 3:14
  • In retrospect, having seen all the movies Yoda could have been using some meditation to prolong his life so that he could teach Luke/Leia about Jedi and the Jedi code. – Cherubel Sep 25 '13 at 9:30
  • I don't see that those two alternate interpretations are that different. He's not talking about weightlifting, so strong is about the strength to live on. – Oldcat May 6 '15 at 0:04
39

Yoda is referring to the first interpretation you offer. I admit, upon looking at the quote written down it is somewhat ambiguous, but in the context in which Yoda made that comment he was clearly referring to his inability to achieve immortality. The latter interpretation is only possible due to Yoda's strange speech pattern, not the intended inference.

  • 15
    When viewed in the context of the prequel trilogy, this takes on a new meaning (and one must really wonder if the reason behind Anakin's fall had been worked out by Lucas as early as 1983). It may be read as a warning to Luke: don't make the same mistake Anakin did - trying to use the Force to prevent death is part of the path to the dark side, dying is the way of the Force. – user8719 Aug 19 '13 at 7:20
  • To be honest, that thought hadn't occurred to me, though it should have. I did read more into the quote in light of the prequel trilogy, but I was thinking more of Yoda's comment at the end of Revenge of the Sith about Qui-Gon Jinn achieving immortality. – James Sheridan Aug 19 '13 at 9:22
  • 3
    @JimmyShelter: From the Jedi Code: There is no death -- there is only the Force. – Codes with Hammer Aug 19 '13 at 13:45
  • 5
    @Omegacron He might be saying it's possible, or it might be a bit of hyperbole. Usain Bolt could say, "I'm fast, but I'm not fast enough to outrun death!" In that case, he's not suggesting that it's possible for someone faster than him, he's pointing out the impossibility of the idea. – Nerrolken Apr 14 '15 at 17:06
  • 5
    @Nerrolken Of course, Death did win the Indy 500. "I didn't know I could run that fast." – KSmarts Apr 14 '15 at 20:50
10

It's also relevant to note that Yoda quite likely has already used the force to sustain his life somewhat longer than intended--he's quite sick when Luke shows up in 'Jedi', and let's entertain the idea it's not just drama that he JUST HAPPENS to die exactly when Luke returns, going from walking-around-with-moderate-difficulty healthy to holding on to the last moment when he gives Luke the final piece of information necessary to the greater struggle (as gradually weakens in the interim, repeating some of his important Jedi-pep-talk on his death bed as his speech slows): 'Do not underestimate the powers...of the Emperor. Or suffer your father's fate, you will. Luke. Luuuuuuuuke...(fading)...there is...(gathers strength)...there is...another...Sky-wal-ker...(dies, body disappears, JW scoring swells)

My guess is: he's foreseen this moment and has used his connection to the force ('life creates it, makes it grow' / 'It's an energy field that connects all living things. It surrounds us, and penetrates us: it binds the universe together [-Kenobi, Ep IV] to sustain himself until this final, necessary, predicted chat with Luke.

There's also another hint, given after he's been on his feet, even being slightly sassy, just after he gets into bed to continue his final conversation with Luke--but before he noticeably weakens much, aside from the need to get off his feet. 'Rest. Yes, rest. Forever sleep.' That's what prompts Luke to rhetorically spout that 'you can't die [on me! Now, of all times, for chrissake!]' the line that prompts Yoda's own line that we are discussing here. He knows exactly what's coming, and as you watch the scene, is tired and weakening rapidly, but seems to concentrate and partly rally, after that moment, in order to give Luke his final cosmic talk and task, before, having said 'Skywalker,' letting himself fade away. This is a man (as it were) who cannot prevent his own death, but who has been strong enough, in the force, not his body so much, to push through and hold out just long enough to do his own necessary task, telling Luke what is required.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.