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Darth Maul sure looks a lot like traditional depictions of the devil. Many people have assumed he was designed to look like Satan. After all, Star Wars has always taken inspiration from major world religions like Christianity.

Back in 1999, Star Wars director George Lucas gave fans a look into his intentions behind Darth Maul. Lucas said Darth Maul was inspired by monsters in several religions. In addition, inspiration came from other sources, like Lucasfilm employees and circuit boards.

A wax figure of Star Wars character Darth Maul | Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images

The evolution of a ‘Star Wars’ villain

Believe it or not, Darth Maul was originally female. Artist Ian McCaig was assigned with the task of creating a character that resembled his worst nightmare. McCaig designed a villainess with red hair and metal teeth resembling a frightening figure he once saw outside his window when it was raining.

Lucas found the design of the character too frightening for his film. This is understandable, as Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was aggressively marketed to children. Lucas asked McCaig if could instead design a figure that looked like his second worst nightmare.

The female Darth Maul

Later, McCaig took to drawing a Sith lord version of his co-worker, David Dozoretz. McCaig drew a circuit board over Dozoretz’s face, making him look ominous and menacing. Lucas liked the idea. He put McCaig down the path of crafting a different design.

McCaig was intrigued by the disgusting idea of his flesh being removed from his own face. He said “The idea of a flayed flesh face was both beautiful and frightening to me. In addition [I took inspirations from] markings on all kinds of dangerous animals: snakes, tigers, wasps-a dark black stripe on top of red or yellow is often a warning sign to other animals to keep away. Defenseless animals will even adopt this pattern to scare others off.”

A circuit board, flayed flesh, and dangerous animals all inspired McCaig’s design. He also took inspiration from clowns. If you think about it, Darth Maul’s tattoos do vaguely resemble clown makeup. Perhaps modeling Darth Maul on clowns helped the character strike a chord with audiences, as coulrophobia has been pretty common ever since the release of Stephen King’s It. Darth Maul was also inspired by something scarier than clowns: Satan.

The religious influences on Darth Maul

A British depiction of the devil | DeAgostini/Getty Images

Lucas was interview by scholar Bill Moyers in 1999. Moyers noted a resemblance between Darth Maul and the devil as portrayed in the writings of Christian authors John Milton and Dante Alighieri. Speaking about Darth Maul, Moyer said “He’s the Evil Other–but with powerful human traits.”

Lucas agreed with Moyer’s assessment. He also revealed he took inspiration from figures in Hinduism, Greek paganism, and other religions. Lucas noticed evil figures from religions often have horns, which is why Darth Maul has horns. Many viewers noticed the resemblance between the Sith lord and the devil, but the influence of Hindu and pagan iconography on the character was less obvious.

Also see: ‘Star Wars’: The Secret Symbolism in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’