Why does General Grievous cough?

Image via Lucasfilm

General Grievous, Supreme Commander of the Droid Armies, was one tough cyborg. More machine than man, the Kaleesh warlord earned a reputation as the most successful Jedi hunter in the galaxy, with the trophies to prove it. 

Grievous killed more than a dozen Jedi Knights (some speculate upwards of 30), after being secretly trained in lightsaber combat by Count Dooku. Equipped with all manner of cybernetic enhancements, by the time Grievous faced off with General Kenobi, the only organic body parts he had left were his eyes and brain. Talk about commitment. 

Yet, more striking than his signature appearance was his unmistakable cough. Wheezing his way across half the galaxy, Grievous’s recognizable rattle created an even more menacing villain. The Star Wars prequel films do little to explain away his affliction though, and have left fans wondering where the iconic eccentricity comes from. 

There are actually two accepted explanations for General Grievous’s cough — one much cooler than the other, so take your pick. The first, cited by George Lucas in the documentary Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed, is due to cybernetic technology. An intentional precursor to Darth Vader, Grievous’ cough foreshadows the physical toll robotics have on the body—pretty straightforward.  

The second, more badass reason for the frog in General Grievous’ throat comes down to one incomparable Jedi Master and two beautiful words. Mace Windu and force crush. That’s right, Mace Windu is responsible for giving Grievous his famous phlegm. Take a look at the video below.

If this clip seems unfamiliar, get to know Genndy Tartakovsky fantastic 2003 animated television series, Star Wars: Clone Wars. A spiritual predecessor to the beloved animated phenomenon Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Genndy’s take on Star Wars was a more bare bones approach than the latter seven-season opus. 

Utilizing 2D animation and striking visual storytelling, Star Wars: Clone Wars was responsible for introducing Grievous in all his terrifying glory. As an unstoppable vassal of death, Grievous is surgical in his technique and never believably shows signs of weakness. Here is his first bit of screen time in the galaxy far, far away. 

It’s safe to say that with General Grievous around, there was no telling what could go wrong. As his character evolved, he lost his chaotic edge, but took on a more symbolic role in the space saga. Regardless, Grievous is a fine addition to the ever growing collection of Star Wars villainy, even if he fizzled out with a croak. 

About the author

Parker Whitmore

Parker Whitmore

Parker is a writer, filmmaker, and storyteller who really hates talking about himself in the third-person. Couldn't he just say something like; Hi, I'm Parker, check out some of my articles. Or don't, I'm not the boss of you. (I promise I'm not an AI bot out for blood.)