Go Figure: Basic Species Demographics

There are things everybody knows about Star Wars, about what the universe contains, about the make up of that Galaxy Far, Far Away. Or at least, there are things that everyone believes they know.  The actual truth may be buried elsewhere in the fiction, in the mismatch between narrative perception and what actually appears on the page.

Numbers are one way to peer into that chasm. Unambiguous and absolute by nature, numeric values can be manipulated in ways purely qualitative data cannot. What follows is the first of a series of explorations into what the number can, and cannot, tell us about the Star Wars galaxy. The initial subject is alien populations, and the distribution thereof. Particularly, how often do aliens appear in Star Wars media, and which ones show up when they do?

Note: the following discussion relies heavily on information derived from Wookieepedia, the Star Wars Wiki. This is not ideal, as by its very nature wiki data is incomplete and filled with errors. However, it is the best source available on our beloved fictional galaxy. And the only one with the requisite data volume.

In order to look at the demographics of Star Wars, it makes a certain sense to start by taking absolutely everything together – all characters recorded in all works. This fits with the principle of a single continuity that has so far governed the EU. Additionally, this information has already been recorded, in terms of ‘Individuals’ on Wookieepedia.

Wookieepedia records 22221 ‘Individuals’  at the current date1. The same source recognizes the existence of 1825 sentient species2. These species have a decidedly unequal representation. Firstly, only 553 merit their own category page in the ‘Individuals by Species’ organization. The remainder are presumably represented by a single individual.

Looking at the demography somewhat more deeply, there are very few species in the galaxy with any large number of individuals recorded. The following table compiles all such data (using the numbers provided in the ‘Individuals by Species’ categories, and including sub-species) for species with more than 100 individuals. Though this is an arbitrary cutoff, it is close to a level of 0.5% representation of the total number of individuals.

Species
Name

of Individuals

% Total individuals

Bith

114

0.513028217

Bothan

219

0.985554205

Devaronian

115

0.517528464

Ewok

107

0.481526484

Gamorrean

125

0.562530939

Gungan

133

0.598532919

Human

9467

42.60384321

Human
Clone

504

2.268124747

Hutt

168

0.756041582

Ithorian

157

0.70653886

Mon
Calamari

196

0.882048513

Quarren

123

0.553530444

Rodian

450

2.025111381

Sullustan

234

1.053057918

Trandoshan

216

0.972053463

Twi’lek

710

3.195175735

Unidentified

3429

15.43134872

Wookiee

307

1.381575987

Yuuzhan Vong

121

0.544529949

Zabrak

220

0.990054453

The same breakdown can be represented visually:

speciesgraph

As can be seen from the above data the Human species is by far the most abundant, representing 42.6% of all individuals in the galaxy. The second largest group is the collective ‘Unidentified’ individuals, at 15.4%. Considering that this group surely includes a large number of Humans, the Human percentage of the total doubtless rises even higher.  Ex. If Humans represent 42.6% of the ‘Unidentified’ category as well, then the actual Human # is 49.1%.

Additionally the Human presence is influenced by Human Clones, listed here as their own species and 2% of all individuals. I caution that the number for Clones is likely inaccurate, as the nature of wiki categories means many clones are also listed under rank and role categories such as ‘Clone Commander’ or ‘Clone Sergeant’ and may have been left out of the general categories, while other Clones may be double counted as both Human Clones and Humans. The clone numbers do provide a good example of source bias: they are obviously inflated by the emphasis in recent years on storytelling during the Clone Wars, which have massively increased numbers of clones present compared to any other period in the galaxy’s history.

Other species display similar forms of source bias. Ewoks, for example, appear only in a small number of Star Wars sources, but the vast number of Ewoks appearing on screen in Return of the Jedi and the two subsequent Ewok films, and the tendency to name every movie character in the Star Wars universe produces a very high Ewok number.

A mere seven alien species are represented by 200 or more individuals. Bothans, Rodians, Sullustans, Trandoshans, Twi’leks, Wookiees, and Zabraks. Of these I find the numbers for Rodians, Sullustans, and Trandoshans the most surprising. Investigation of those species suggests that their numbers are heavily augmented by large numbers of NPCs recorded from the MMO Star Wars Galaxies. This suggests that species abundant as NPCs in Star Wars the Old Republic, such as Chagrians, Nautolans, and Togruta, may rapidly rise in individual number as more of that game’s lesser characters are added to Wookieepedia.

The finding that did not surprise me at all is that Twi’leks are, by a full percentage point or more than two hundred and fifty individuals, the most numerous alien species in the Galaxy Far, Far Away. I hypothesize that the reason for this abundance is the long-standing trend to utilize Twi’lek females as sexual symbols in Star Wars materials – a subject for a future column.

Some conclusions can be drawn from this demographic data. First, the number of species we see represented in the EU is extremely biased. The nineteen entries in the table above (removing the ‘Unidentified’ block) account for 61.6% of all individuals in Star Wars media (for now anyway, this number changes constantly, and is particularly subject to additions to TOR or new TV or movie material).

Second, the counts of individuals are dominated by visual media, particularly large cast video games (TOR has, to date, over 5000 characters, many of whom have not yet been given their own Wookieepedia pages). A key point of evidence here is the Yuuzhan Vong. Despite being more or less the only antagonist for a massive series of novels, there are only 121 named individuals. This is also supported by the relatively small proportion of Unidentified species individuals. Though 15% seems large, a great number of such species are drawn from purely written narratives, such as novels and prompts like the HoloNet News Reports series.

Third, we see a galaxy that is ruthlessly dominated by species in the ‘humanoid’ structural form. Out of those nineteen species only one, the Hutts, is non-humanoid. This probably won’t surprise any long-term fan of Star Wars, but based on these numbers it is probably not unreasonable to assume that less than 5% of all individuals in Star Wars media are non-humanoid.

Now, these numbers only reflect what appears in the collective works of the Star Wars universe. The next critical question is how well they reflect the way the galaxy is ultimately supposed to be. A Human population equal to perhaps that of all other species combined? The abundance of non-humanoids very low? Large numbers of species so rare that they cannot be regularly identified? These assumptions all actually seem quite reasonable, points where the numerical data matches the sense of narrative to a fair degree. Other data points seem less sound. I doubt anyone would have guessed that Twi’leks and Rodians were collectively 5% of the galactic population off the top of their head, or that Wookiees are more common than Zabraks, or that there are more Quarren than Yuuzhan Vong.

Despite these difficulties, the data examined above shows our ability to use quantitative analysis to illuminate certain aspects of the Star Wars galaxy. It also reveals many of the key limitations. It will be important to keep both in mind going forward.

  1. July 7, 2013, referenced by addition of the ‘Individuals by Gender’ category pages []
  2. July 4, 2013, referenced by the addition of the ‘Species by Name’ category pages []

5 comments

  1. I’d be interested to see a similar breakdown but only including main characters

    • Mike Cooper Mike Cooper says:

      I’m certain something along those lines will show up sooner or later, but in the meantime, the OP in my Diversity Thread compiles a great deal of novels’ Dramatis Personae casts–and comes to the conclusion that around 2 of every 5 main characters is a white human man.

      http://boards.theforce.net/threads/ignorance-is-bias-the-diversity-manifesto.50003195/

    • Michael Lind says:

      The thing about focusing on ‘Main Characters’ is that it is inherently arbitrary, since someone has to go through and decide what qualifies as ‘main,’ which seems like a way to end up with a lot of fighting and little useful analysis.

      I do hope, if I get the chance, to conduct breakdowns across certain lines based in media type (video games versus novels for instance) and of characters who possess an associated image of any kind versus those who do not. I also hope to look at the impact of TOR in particular on the ‘populace’ of Star Wars in the future.

  2. Eyrezer says:

    A good encouragement for people to go create articles on Wookieepedia for all the alien characters currently lacking! Interesting analysis though.

  3. Nick Adams Nick Adams says:

    At 196 characters, the Mon Cals are pretty close to being in that category of alien species with large representation in the EU. I am actually surprised to see only 196 named characters, to be honest.

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