Star Wars: Who Was General Grievous Before Clone Wars?

When it comes to science fiction, cyborgs are all the rage. From Star Trek‘s Borg to the Terminator machines, half-human robots have been a popular storytelling device for decades, and there’s no indication that it will ever go away. One of the most effective of these machine people is General Grievous™ from Star Wars.

Though he was grossly underused in his debut, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith™, the character went on to get hours of screen time with the Clone Wars™ series and a host of comic books. He was given an interesting, almost Nietzschean backstory about the quest for power and improvement, and his background is one of the more interesting things about the pre-Empire days. Grievous also comes with a warning: How far will humanity go to improve itself? Would combining ourselves with cybernetic technology make us stronger, or would it simply add to our weaknesses and produce dangerous pride?

Taking cues from The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Phantom of the Opera, Grievous is a menacing character with a hulking form and a creepy old cyborg-man cough. But what’s his motivation? What about his past made him such a stone-cold villain? Read on for everything you wanted to know about the droid commander.

Early Days

Grievous was born Qymaen jai Sheelal™ on the planet Kalee™. The people of this world were fierce, with warfare being more important than anything else.

It didn’t take Qymaen long to become a feared warlord. In addition to combat prowess, he was a brilliant tactician with an eye for master plans. He spent his life waging war campaigns in various parts of the galaxy, conquering planets and siding with anyone that made him a good offer. Relishing combat, he aimed to be the strongest warrior in the galaxy. Naturally, he never had any love for the Republic or their Jedi™ peacekeepers.

Grievous attracted the attention of the Sith™, who offered him cybernetic upgrades and planned to enlist him in their vendetta for the dark side. The canon isn’t clear on this, but the Sith eventually pushed him past the point of no return by causing his shuttle accident and blaming the Jedi.

Rather than merely enhanced, the weakened remains of Grievous became almost fully cybernetic. Alterations were even made to his brain without his knowledge. The Sith tricked him with the promise of power, but he was nothing more than a temporary pawn. Clearly, this being suffered greatly in his quest for dominance and recognition.

A Deal With the Devil

His hatred grew as powerful as any dark Force-wielder. When a few worlds split from the Republic and formed a Confederacy, Grievous became the Supreme Martial Commander of the Separatist Droid Armies™. Behind the scenes, the Sith continued to pull the strings. While Darth Sidious™ was the mastermind, his apprentice, Darth Tyranus™, was responsible for Grievous.

Known mostly by the moniker of Count Dooku™, Tyranus controlled the Confederacy and trained Grievous in the art of lightsaber dueling. With four mechanical arms and an agile body, Grievous became quite skilled. He would hunt Jedi down and keep their lightsabers as trophies – all without using the Force.

Separatist General

Grievous was feared by the whole galaxy for his brilliant war strategy. While Dooku was the face of the Confederacy, Grievous was the face of the military. He commanded vast armies of battle droids. However, he had grown to hate the fully mechanical beings. While he saw himself as superior being because of his upgrades, he loathed the droids for their lack of spirit and ambition. Even so, most of the Republic saw him as nothing more than a glorified — but dangerous — battle droid. The clones called him “the head clanker.”

Even with a mostly mechanical body, his remaining organic components still gave him weakness and vulnerability. Imperfections in the merging of organic and cybernetic components gave Grievous a persistent cough that interfered with his activities. This likely infuriated him to no end, serving as a reminder that trading life for machinery is an inherently flawed idea.

Though brilliant and deadly, Grievous also came to be viewed as a coward. He would often run from confrontations, especially against Jedi like Obi-Wan Kenobi™, who pursued him relentlessly. Grievous put up some good fights but was often defeated. He was even apprehended once by the Gungans™ and then traded for the safe return of the captured Anakin Skywalker™.


Towards the end of the conflict, Grievous, in one of his last acts as a war leader, executed a grandiose plot to kidnap Chancellor Palpatine™ and occupy Coruscant™. Of course, the Chancellor was actually his boss, Darth Sidious, the Sith that pulled the strings of Grievous, Dooku, and the entire war.

But the Jedi didn’t know that, so they sent two of their best to rescue Palpatine from Grievous’ dreadnought™ ship. A massive battle ensued in the planet’s orbit as Kenobi and Skywalker boarded the craft. In a cowardly move, Grievous allowed his robotic bodyguards (modeled after the flesh and blood ones he had on Kalee) to fight the two Jedi while he escaped.

During that mission, Skywalker killed Count Dooku. In the Separatist movement, Grievous was next in command, so this made him the new leader. The Republic knew they had to capture or eliminate him, which would end the war once and for all.

As the minds of the Jedi were clouded by the Sith and as Skywalker slowly fell into the dark side, the final battles of the Clone Wars were fought. One of these was on Utapau™, where Kenobi had located Grievous. Grievous went all-out with his speed, flailing limbs, and acrobatic ability, but Kenobi was far too powerful for the Force-less cyborg. An intense lightsaber duel saw Grievous lose most of his hands, and eventually, his life.

The legacy of Grievous had come to a rather unceremonious end. He led brutal and brilliant military campaigns, struck fear into the hearts of millions, and became known as the face of evil. In the end though, he was a bit player in the grand scheme of things, being used for purposes he — and even the Jedi — could never have guessed.

Despite his flaws, the Kaleesh warrior has gone down in history as a fierce fighter, a bio-mechanical marvel, and the coolest-looking villain in the galaxy. Just ask any fan. To neglect this warlord commander would be a grievous mistake.

Is General Grievous one of your favorite Star Wars characters? What does he represent to you? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to Let Your Geek Sideshow!