- "You sing a song of a legend. I'm just a soldier, Gobi."
- ―Cham Syndulla
Cham Syndulla was a revolutionary Twi'lek male from the planet Ryloth who formed and led the Twi'lek freedom fighters during the Clone Wars. Before the war, Syndulla, a member of his planet's nobility, opposed both the Galactic Republic and Ryloth's senator, Orn Free Taa, believing Taa to be uncaring of the fate of the Twi'lek people. After the Clone Wars had begun, the Confederacy of Independent Systems invaded Ryloth. Reluctant to take power but wanting the best for his people, Syndulla formed the freedom fighters to combat the oppression and launched a campaign against the Separatist Droid Army. However, Syndulla and his forces were forced to retreat from the battlefield, and his fighters set up camp in the remains of several fallen droid vehicles on the plains of Cazne.
Syndulla's leadership qualities led his friend and minstrel, Gobi Glie, to compose a song about him, though Syndulla was opposed to the ballad's exaggeration of his traits. After Jedi Master Mace Windu arrived with Republic forces to liberate Ryloth, Syndulla resolved his issues with Taa and the Republic and entered into an alliance with them. During the ensuing assault on Ryloth's capital of Lessu to free the city from Separatist control, Syndulla led the combined forces of his freedom fighters and the Republic unit Lightning Squadron to besiege the captured city, and he was eventually able to liberate his homeworld from the Confederacy.
Tensions with the Republic
Hailing from the planet Ryloth, the Twi'lek male Cham Syndulla lived during the last decades of the Galactic Republic's rule and was one of his planet's nobility. Before the Clone Wars, Syndulla held political rivalries with the Republic. He mistrusted both the galactic government and his planet's Twi'lek senator, Orn Free Taa, believing him to be indifferent to his people's fate while he remained on "comfortable Coruscant," the galactic capital and headquarters of the Galactic Senate. Because of Syndulla's favoritism and reputation among the Twi'lek people, Taa himself believed that Syndulla sought to gain power on Ryloth and was seeking to disband the democracy that Taa represented in the Senate. In addition to his tensions with Taa, Syndulla also opposed his planet's leadership.
The invasion of Ryloth
Leader of the resistance
- "With our forces stretched so thinly, I'm going to enlist the help of the freedom fighters, led by Cham Syndulla. His fight against the droids has made him a symbol of freedom for the people."
- ―Mace Windu
In the year 22 BBY, mere months after the Clone Wars began, Corporate Alliance Magistrate and Separatist Council member Passel Argente visited Lessu, Ryloth's capital city. Argente met with Artruk, a Twi'lek broker that he had hired to conceal treasures from conquered worlds. While the two conferred, Syndulla and fellow Twi'lek Voyla spied on the pair, believing that they were simply watching another off-worlder coming to steal from their planet. However, Syndulla noted that Argente was bringing treasures to Ryloth, not stealing from it. With the additional presence of Confederate battle droids, Syndulla suspected that the war was coming to Ryloth. His suspicions proved to be true when the Techno Union Foreman Wat Tambor sought to steal Argente's treasures and invaded Ryloth with the Separatist Droid Army. Although reluctant to take power and untrained as a soldier, Syndulla wanted his people to be free of the Separatist oppression and formed the Twi'lek freedom fighters, a group of his admirers, to combat the Confederacy. By doing so, he hoped to free his homeworld without the help of the Republic.
With Syndulla acting as their general, the freedom fighters were the first to engage the Confederate forces. Aided by a Republic garrison under the command of Jedi General Ima-Gun Di and Clone Captain Keeli, Syndulla and his fighters mounted a defense of a Twi'lek village from a large army of Separatist battle droids. While a refugee encampment was established under a cliff face for the freedom fighters' families—who had been caught on the battlefield with the soldiers—Syndulla commanded the insurgents' charge on the approaching B1 and B2 battle droids and Armored Assault Tanks from his blurrg mount, assisted by his close friend and fellow soldier, Gobi Glie. Despite their efforts, however, the resistance soon began to run low on food, water, and ammunition. Di contacted the Republic fleet that was battling the Separatist blockade of the planet and had Admiral Dao relay news of their plight to the Jedi High Council, but the fleet was soon annihilated by the Separatist blockade, and the Republic's supply lines were severed. Now cut off from the Republic's re-supply efforts, the Twi'lek–clone forces lost their right flank to the droids, thereby becoming trapped on the battlefield with the refugee families.
As Syndulla began to lose hope in the Republic's efforts, Di devised a plan to use their remaining LAAT/i gunship—which was too small to carry all of the refugees—as a bomb to collapse an adjacent pass, allowing the Twi'leks to escape from the battlefield with their families. Di and Keeli, who were willing to sacrifice their lives for the safety of the refugees, would then provide cover with their troops so that the Twi'leks could retreat. Setting the plan into motion, Syndulla and Glie readied their people to leave. As soon as Di and his clone troopers had distracted the droids with the trap gunship, Syndulla led his people away from the battlefield, and though Di and his troops were slaughtered while providing cover for the Twi'leks, the Republic was able to send a trio of Pelta-class supply ships—having used the nearby planet Toydaria as a staging ground—through the Separatist blockade. The Republic frigates sent down escape pods with much-needed food and medical supplies for the Twi'leks, much to the relief of Syndulla and his fighters.
Besides fighting the Separatists at the Twi'lek village, the freedom fighters launched a campaign against the Confederacy on the plains of Cazne. The plains became littered with scars and craters, but though many Separatists were defeated, the droid forces overwhelmed Syndulla and his fighters and ultimately drove them into hiding. Without the Republic's assistance, the Twi'lek rebellion was left on its own, setting up refugee camps on the Cazne plains while continuing to fight and ambush droid patrols. By that time, Syndulla had become celebrated as a folk hero on Ryloth, and many believed that he should rule his people, though he did not agree. When Glie, who was a minstrel in addition to his friend, wrote a song about him, Syndulla was uncomfortable with being considered a legend, viewing himself as a mere soldier. Glie, however, informed him that having legends was important and a key advantage that the Twi'lek people had over the Confederate battle droids.
Alliance with the Republic
- "I was wondering when you'd find me, Master Jedi."
"General Syndulla, I've come for your help."
"What makes you think you'll get it?"
- ―Cham Syndulla meets Mace Windu
The Republic eventually mounted a major offensive to liberate Ryloth, and after several initial victories against the Separatists, High Jedi General Mace Windu landed on Ryloth with clone trooper forces and sought to retake the capital of Lessu from Wat Tambor's command. After Windu and his detachment, Lightning Squadron, suffered losses in an engagement with the Confederacy, the Jedi Master required the aid of Syndulla and his freedom fighters if Ryloth was to be liberated. Windu arrived at Cazne with the Advanced Recon Force troopers Stak and Razor, and after the freedom fighters ambushed a battle droid patrol, Syndulla revealed himself to the Jedi. Leading Windu and the two clones into the resistance's hideout under a downed Confederate C-9979 landing craft, Syndulla conferred with Windu and informed him of the rebellion's defeat at Cazne. Entering the camp's main hall, Syndulla picked up a young Twi'lek girl and met with Glie. Discovering that the minstrel had injured himself, Syndulla told his friend to get better and that he needed him. Even though supplies were short and despite his misgivings about the Republic, Syndulla offered Windu food and beverage, practicing the Twi'lek tradition of hospitality.
When Windu at first requested that Syndulla ally himself with the Republic, the rebel leader was reluctant to do so because of his mistrust of Taa and the senator's plans to station the Grand Army of the Republic on Ryloth once the Separatists were defeated. However, after Clone Commander CC-6454, nicknamed "Ponds," reported to Windu that the Confederacy had begun a bombing campaign and had targeted several Twi'lek villages, Syndulla agreed to enter into negotiations with Taa. In the proceeding holoconference, Syndulla exchanged verbal blows with the senator before Windu restrained the pair from bickering. Shortly thereafter, Jedi General Anakin Skywalker reported to Windu that his forces had engaged the droid bombers that were attacking the Twi'lek villages, and both Taa and Syndulla realized that Tambor was destroying what he himself could not possess. With resolve, Taa promised that the Republic Army would not occupy Ryloth after the Confederacy was defeated, and Syndulla vowed that he would not seek political power. Now allied with the Republic, Syndulla rallied his fighters and joined forces with Windu.
To enter the capital of Lessu, Windu and Syndulla were faced with a problem—the only access to the city was via a retractable bridge of plasma energy, and its controls were inside the city itself. Furthermore, Tambor had moved the Twi'lek populace out of the city to sit in front of the capital as "living shields," preventing the Republic from mounting a direct offensive without causing civilian casualties. While observing the city's defenses, Syndulla noticed several Confederate Multi-Troop Transports traveling along a nearby cliff and reported to Windu that his spies had informed him that they were carrying treasures for Tambor. Windu took Stak and Razor to infiltrate one of the transports to get across the bridge; once they were detected by the bridge's B1 battle droid guards, it was believed that they would only have a few seconds before the pass would be deactivated. Syndulla, Ponds, and Tae Boon, Syndulla's second-in-command, led the combined forces of Lightning Squadron and freedom fighters to give Windu and the clones as much time as possible.
Windu and the clones were able to get across to the city, and riding a blurrg mount, Syndulla immediately led the charge toward the bridge. The pass was activated just in time, and Syndulla and his men held off the Confederate battle droids in the city while Windu went to find and capture Tambor. After the Techno Union Foreman was cornered, several Separatist Hyena-class bombers attempted to destroy Lessu on orders from the Confederate Head of State, Count Dooku, but the timely intervention of Skywalker and his Padawan, Commander Ahsoka Tano, in their Delta-7B starfighters prevented the capital from being bombed. Tambor surrendered to Syndulla, and the freedom fighters' leader thanked Windu for his assistance in freeing his homeworld. Later, with his rivalries with Taa resolved, Syndulla joined Windu, Ponds, and Taa in watching a parade celebrating Ryloth's liberation.
When a Jedi Knight representative from the Jedi High Council came to Ryloth to follow a Republic Intelligence lead on the Dark Acolyte Asajj Ventress, the Jedi Knight sought out Syndulla and asked him for information on Ventress, who had been spotted on Ryloth. Although Syndulla was initially not pleased to see a representative from the Jedi Council, he agreed to pass on his knowledge, revealing that Ventress had been seen on Ryloth before she had left for the planet Tatooine with the smuggler Gha Nachkt. The Jedi Knight then went to Tatooine to speak with Nachkt.
Personality and traits
- "Another armed occupation is not a free Ryloth! How long before I am fighting you, Master Jedi?"
- ―Cham Syndulla, to Mace Windu
Although initially untrained as a soldier and not a warrior until the Clone Wars, the revolutionary Cham Syndulla was a brilliant tactician and an exemplary leader. Compassionate, inspirational, and determined to free Ryloth from the Confederacy, he was a role model to the people he led, and his fight for the Twi'leks' liberty made him a symbol of freedom for his people. Although he had a sense of pride about him and was even a noble, he was humble and disagreed with his friend Gobi Glie's song that illustrated his reputation, believing himself to be a soldier, not a legend. He became celebrated as a folk hero for his actions on Ryloth, but though many believed that he should lead the Twi'lek people, he had no intention to assume such a role. He knew that the galaxy widely saw Ryloth as an outlet for spice and slaves, but he truly loved his homeworld. Even with low supplies, Syndulla offered Mace Windu food and beverage at the resistance's hideout to express the Twi'lek codes and tradition of hospitality. Syndulla respected the Jedi as warriors but felt that they were tools of a rotten Republic if the Grand Army was to occupy the liberated Ryloth.
The early stages of the Battle of Ryloth tested Syndulla's faith in the Republic and the Jedi, as he felt betrayed when Republic reinforcements could not be sent to aid his people. He even voiced his eroding belief in the Republic directly to Ima-Gun Di, with whom he remained frustrated following the severe delay in Republic relief supplies. A dedicated fighter, Syndulla did not tolerate dishonesty or corruption in any form. He did not trust the Republic or its Grand Army and sought to devise a way to liberate his beloved Ryloth from the Confederacy on his own; nor did he trust Orn Free Taa, whom he saw as uncaring of the Twi'lek people's fate. He also believed that any sort of armed occupation, even one installed by the Republic, was not what Ryloth needed. Despite his rivalries with Taa and his opposition to Ryloth's leadership, Syndulla was hesitant to become the leader of the freedom fighters. However, he sincerely cared for his people; to that end, he believed that he had to act with the best interests of the Twi'leks in mind. He swore that the children taking refuge in the rebel camps would inherit a Ryloth that was free of the Separatist occupation, and he was ultimately successful in fulfilling that promise.
Even though he hated working with Taa, a politician whom he deemed to be corrupt, Syndulla did not hold onto his pride, his rivalry with the Republic, or his personal disputes with Taa if doing so meant the loss of his people's lives or freedom. He believed in democracy and promised Taa that he would not seek to gain political power before entering into an alliance with him and Windu to free Ryloth. Syndulla was able to speak Galactic Basic Standard and understood Twi'leki, his native tongue. He had orange eyes and skin and was eighty-two kilograms in weight and nearly two meters in height. He had Twi'lek clan tattoos on his head. Despite his non-warrior origins, he was trained in riding blurrg mounts and became an expert at controlling the creatures' powerful bite for use against his adversaries. An honorable fighter, he became known for employing an open-handed chop known as the "Hammer of Ryloth," while also becoming accustomed to using blasters as his primary weapons as a result of the war on Ryloth. Additionally, he had a certain degree of proficiency in recon and military expertise.
Besides wearing an armor breastplate as a clan heirloom, Cham Syndulla also sported trousers made of Jalavash worm silk. For weaponry, he used the DL-44 and LL-30 models of blaster pistols, often employing a customized version of the former.
Behind the scenes
- "It really poses an interesting question about how Cham sees the occupation by the Separatists and by the Republic. To him, it's just another army. Who is on the right side here? And characters like Cham Syndulla question that."
- ―Series Director Dave Filoni, on Syndulla's questioning of the Republic's intent to occupy Ryloth following its liberation
Cham Syndulla was created for the 2009 Star Wars: The Clone Wars television series and first appeared in The Clone Wars webcomic Covetous, though he was not identified by name until the later-released webcomic The Ballad of Cham Syndulla. He was voiced by Robin Atkin Downes in the television series and was featured in the series' first season episode "Liberty on Ryloth," as well as The Ballad of Cham Syndulla, which led into the episode.
With the television series' prominent French influence on Twi'leks, Downes voiced Syndulla with a French accent. Consequently, the Twi'leks' symbolism and parallels to the French also caused Syndulla to emerge as the leader of the "French Resistance" on Ryloth opposing the Separatists. Syndulla was originally a conniving religious figure affiliated with the Separatists in "Liberty on Ryloth," but because of later changes to the episode's plot, he was changed to a freedom fighter leading the Twi'lek resistance.
In 2011, Syndulla was given a role in the Nintendo DS edition of the non-canonical video game LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars. In addition to presenting a more humorous and comical adaptation of "Liberty on Ryloth," the game modified the episode's storyline, with Syndulla being captured by Separatist forces and necessitating Mace Windu's help to free him. Syndulla is made available as an in-game playable character following the "Liberty on Ryloth" level. In a similar fashion, in the PlayStation Portable version of the game, Syndulla is captured by the Separatists and is imprisoned in a cage inside a cave on Ryloth. Once he is freed from his battle droid captors by Windu and two clone troopers, Syndulla gratefully leads them out of the cave system and points them in the direction of a guarded Multi-Troop Transport, which Windu and his comrades later commandeer to cross the plasma bridge to Lessu. After the level, Syndulla is also made available for in-game purchase, to be used in the game's "Free Play" mode.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Head-to-Head introduces a non-canon matchup between Syndulla and Brother Viscus, the leader of the Nightbrothers of Dathomir. Given his honorable conduct, Syndulla avoids using his blasters upon seeing that Viscus is not using any ranged weapons. Howver, Viscus does not hesitate to employ a deadly chained blade, exploiting Syndulla's ethical code to defeat him.
- The Clone Wars: Covetous (First appearance)
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Supply Lines"
- The Clone Wars: The Ballad of Cham Syndulla (First identified as Cham Syndulla)
- The Clone Wars: The Battle for Ryloth
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Liberty on Ryloth"
- The Clone Wars: Jedi Heroes
- The Clone Wars: Planets in Peril
- LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars (Non-canonical appearance) (PlayStation Portable & Nintendo DS versions only)
- Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures – "Card Commander"
Notes and references
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars The Complete Season One
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Liberty on Ryloth"
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars Character Encyclopedia
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Head-to-Head
- The Art of Star Wars: The Clone Wars
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – The Official Episode Guide: Season 1
- The Essential Reader's Companion
- The Clone Wars: Covetous
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Supply Lines"
- The Clone Wars: The Ballad of Cham Syndulla
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Storm Over Ryloth"
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars – "Innocents of Ryloth"
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Visual Guide Ultimate Battles
- Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures – "Card Commander"
- The Clone Wars: Planets in Peril
- LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars (Nintendo DS edition)
- LEGO Star Wars III: The Clone Wars (PlayStation Portable edition)