Splinter (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

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Splinter thinking.JPG
Splinter as he appears in the 2003 animated series
Publication information
Publisher Mirage Studios
First appearance Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #1
(May 1984)
Created by Kevin Eastman
Peter Laird
In-story information
Team affiliations Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Notable aliases Hamato Yoshi
Master Splinter
Hamato Splinter
Abilities Highly skilled master of ninjutsu[1]
High intellect
Master of stealth
Keen sense of smell

Master Splinter, or simply Splinter, is a fictional character from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics and all related media.[2][3]

Origin story[edit]

Splinter has three origin stories, and which one is used depends on the medium. In the original version of the tale, he is Hamato Yoshi's pet. In other versions he is Hamato Yoshi himself, but always mutated into the form of a human-sized rat. In one film version, he is a mutant rat with no connection to Yoshi.

Mirage Comics, original films, 2003 cartoon and 2014 film[edit]

In both the original comics and the live-action movies, Splinter is the pet rat of a ninja named Hamato Yoshi in Japan. Intelligent for his species, Splinter is able to learn ninjutsu art by mimicking his master's movements while he practiced. Yoshi becomes embroiled in a dispute with a fellow ninja by the name of Oroku Nagi, and is eventually murdered by Nagi's brother, Oroku Saki, who is seeking revenge for his brother's death. However, in the 1990 film and 2003 TV series Nagi is removed entirely. Additionally in the 1990 film, Splinter escapes from his cage during the murder, and attacks Saki, clawing at his face. Saki in turn slices his ear off. It is suggested that this mutilation is the reason Saki took the Shredder disguise to hide the scars. In contrast, in the 2003 TMNT cartoon it was Hun's[clarification needed who is Hun?] face who Splinter clawed.

Without a home, Splinter is forced to run away and live in New York City's sewers. Due to a traffic accident, four baby turtles and a canister of radioactive ooze are sent down into the sewer. The canister mutates both Splinter and the turtles. Splinter names the four turtles Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michelangelo (after a book on Renaissance artists that he found in a storm drain) and trains them in the arts of ninjutsu, so that they can take revenge for his dead master, while raising them as his own sons.

In the 2003 TMNT cartoon, he possesses a significant reputation as a ninja master; in a multi-part episode, he is revealed to be a champion of the Battle Nexus, a multi-dimension-spanning contest where the greatest combatants of various dimensions come together to fight each other for the title of Battle Nexus Champion. When the Turtles learn of the Battle Nexus, they participate as well, resulting in Splinter forfeiting when called upon to fight Michelangelo, as he wishes to allow his sons the opportunity to fight where he succeeded in the past.

In the 2003 episode, "Fast Forward", Splinter is sent to the future with the Turtles, but the villain, Viral, blasts Splinter with a decompiler ray that scatters his bits all over the internet. While Splinter wasn't seen much in the "Back to the Sewers" season, the focus of those episodes is the Turtles' efforts to find Splinter's data bits by traveling all over cyberspace. Splinter is restored in the final episode and helps defeat the Cyber Shredder.

In the 2014 film, Splinter and the Turtles are part of a science experiment where they are exposed to a mutagen, before being hidden in the sewers by April O'Neil as a child; her father was working with Shredder's scientists before learning of Shredder's true agenda. After they mutate, Splinter teaches himself Ninjutsu from a book before teaching the turtles, but he has no direct connection to Japanese culture or heritage, and no reference is made to Yoshi.

1987 animated series[edit]

In the 1987 TMNT cartoon, Splinter and Yoshi are combined. He is a martial art instructor for the Foot Clan in Japan, and also has a passion for Renaissance art. Yoshi is framed by his rival, Oroku Saki, for trying to murder their common dojo master. Unable to prove his innocence and expelled from the Foot Clan, Splinter moves to New York City, where he lives as a hermit in its sewers and befriends the rats. One day, he comes across four baby turtles which were accidentally dropped by a boy through a sewer grate. Splinter keeps them as pets and treats them like his children. When he finds the turtles near some broken barrels that are oozing glowing pink chemical liquid, he tries to clean them with his bare hands. As a result, they are all affected by the leaking chemical, which is a mutagen. The mutagen combines the DNA of living beings who have been in contact. Thus, the turtles, being in a pet store with people touching them, turn into young humanoid turtles. Yoshi, having been in contact with sewer rats, becomes a humanoid rat.

Yoshi raises the turtles by himself, and gives them the names of his favorite Renaissance artists: Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael and Michelangelo. Yoshi is given the nickname "Splinter", due to his proficiency at breaking wooden boards, and he teaches them the art of ninjutsu in order to protect themselves. Like many real life ninja masters, he has a strong sense of honor and follows very strict rules which all four of his students adopt.

Master Splinter doesn't have a father/son relationship with the turtles, as suggested in other versions, but more of a teacher/student bond. In fact, in Turtles Forever the old toon turtles are surprised when the 4kids turtles call Splinter 'father'. However, in this movie, the 2003 Leonardo comments that it feels right to be with the 1987 Splinter regardless of the differences between the two worlds. Splinter's assurances that he feels the same, coupled with his comment that Leonardo and his brothers will always be welcome there, helps Leonardo see the common similarities between the teams, regardless of their different styles and methods. In addition, in an episode called "The Old Switcheroo", Splinter shows a glimpse of fatherly concern for Leonardo when he is injured by one of Donatello's contraptions. Master Splinter gets the chance to be human again in the episode "Splinter No More", but realizes he prefers being with the turtles. Master Splinter always has a wise quote or speech for the turtles, and often steps in with his ninja skills when the turtles are caught in a, seemingly inescapable, predicament.

Archie TMNT Adventures comics[edit]

Archie Comics published the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Adventures which is the 1987 TV series in comic form. In the comic, they maintained Splinter's human background even when they started publishing original storylines.

2012 animated series[edit]

In the 2012 series, Splinter is again introduced as Hamato Yoshi, a Zen philosopher and expert of ninjutsu. His relationship with Oroku Saki is mostly intact, with the Hamato and Foot Clans later revealed to have had a long-term conflict with each other. Despite being raised as brothers, both Yoshi and Saki become rivals due to their affection for Tang Shen, and Saki wishes to discredit Yoshi in front of her. Yoshi loses his temper and the altercation ends their friendship, culminating with Saki learning of his true heritage and starting a battle that burns down the Hamato Clan monastery, killing Shen and, seemingly, Shen and Yoshi's daughter, Miwa.

After moving to New York City, Yoshi has just purchased four pet turtles when he stumbles upon an exchange in an alley between two Kraang droids. Seeking to silence Yoshi before he can share what he has seen, a fight ensues and the canister the droids have been carrying smashes open, splashing both Yoshi and his turtles with a mutagen. As the result of stepping on the tail of a black rat upon entering an alley, Yoshi mutates into a humanoid mutant black rat, while the Turtles take on human characteristics. Realizing he can no longer live a normal life, he retreats to the New York sewers where he raises his pets as sons and teaches them ninjutsu.

Splinter's sons, along with their new friend April O'Neil, soon become involved in the conflict with both of Splinter's old enemies, the Shredder and the Kraang. Reluctantly allowing the group to get involved, Splinter appoints Leonardo as their leader and continues to offer counsel and lessons as they engage various foes. Recognizing great sensitivity in April, he begns training her as a kunoichi, and comes to regard her with a fatherly fondness. Splinter ventures from his lair on only two occasions. The first is when he falls under the control of the Rat King, who attempts to persuade him to forsake his humanity and embrace the life of a rat. Splinter eventually breaks free with the Turtles' help and defeats the Rat King. The second is when Shredder kidnaps April and lures Splinter to his stronghold for a final confrontation. Splinter overpowers Shredder's men and engages his old foe. Shredder reveals that Splinter's daughter, Miwa, had not died and that Shredder had taken her and raised her as his own. Splinter nearly defeats Shredder, only to be attacked by Miwa; Miwa, whose name si now Karai, has been taught, by Shredder, that Splinter is responsible for her mother's death.

As the second season progresses, Splinter tells the turtles about his true relationship with Karai. He is able, eventually, to convince Karai of the truth about their past, but she subsequently mutates into a snake-like being when Shredder's plan for revenge backfires. Later, Earth is invaded by the Kraang and, in the ensuing battle, much of Splinter's lair is destroyed before Splinter is able to defeat Kraang Sub-Prime. Splinter then leaves the lair to find his missing sons. Splinter again engages Shredder in battle and, seemingly victorious, Splinter prepares to reunite with his sons, April, and Casey Jones, only to be attacked from behind by Shredder and thrown into a sewer drain. He is rescued from drowning by Karai and left in an area of the sewer to recover.

At the end of the 3rd season, Splinter asks Shredder for a truce to stop the alien triceratons. Shredder agrees but at the end of the battle, Shredder stabs Splinter in the back (literally). The turtles hold him one last time before they, Casey and April flee as Earth is sucked into a black hole. (Splinter had been trying to stop the generator before Shredder stabbed him, thus it is Shredder's fault that the earth is destroyed.)

IDW comics and 2014 film[edit]

The IDW Comics series, which began in 2011, presents a new origin for both Splinter and the Turtles. All five were originally test subjects at Baxter Stockman's bioengineering firm, Stockgen Corporation. When agents of the Foot Clan break into Stockgen and attempt to steal an alien mutagen, Splinter and the Turtles escape but are exposed to the mutagen in the process. While the element of Splinter being Hamato Yoshi is still present, Oroku Saki is now the Foot Clan's medieval leader, with Splinter and the Turtles being the reincarnations of Yoshi and his sons.

In the back-story, Hamato Yoshi was a member of the Foot Clan in feudal Japan. He is initially known for his unruly temper and lack of discipline, but with the help of his Master, Masato and his love, Tang Shen, he learned to control his temper and becomes a skilled warrior. His contemporary, Oroku Saki, seeks to make the Foot a clan to be feared. When Yoshi openly objects to the needless slaughter of a village connected to an assassination target, he and his family are declared traitors. Yoshi cannot save Tang Shen from being murdered, but does save his sons. Yoshi raises and trains his sons for eleven years until Saki and the Foot find them. When his sons are executed before his eyes, Yoshi swears that he will destroy Oroku Saki before he, himself, falls under the blade.

Splinter credits their reincarnation as the result of prayers that he (as Yoshi) made to Bhudda to grant him the opportunity to face Oroku Saki again. Only in present day does that wish come to pass, as Splinter comes face-to-face with Oroku Saki, now calling himself the Shredder. What begins as an initiation to test Splinter's ninja skills quickly becomes a duel to the death, once Saki realizes the truth. Despite his best efforts, an exhausted Splinter is bested by Shredder and almost killed until his sons arrive with Casey Jones to save him.

The live action 2014 reboot uses the test subject origin story, but Splinter is neither a reincarnation of Hamato Yoshi nor is he associated with him in any way. In fact, Yoshi is written out of the script entirely and Splinter simply learns ninjitsu from a discarded book after being mutated. In the movie, Splinter tells April that he does not remember his life before being in a laboratory, implying that there may be more to Splinter's character.


Splinter in the 2008 season of TMNT

Splinter's physical appearance remains fairly consistent in all incarnations of the character; he is portrayed as an elderly rat dressed in robes. In the original live-action movies, he is missing part of his right ear, which was cut off by Saki. In the 2003 animated series, Splinter is depicted as having gray fur instead of the brown fur of his other incarnations. In the 2012 series, Splinter is physically taller and younger than he was in past incarnations. He also has a more rat-like design along with distinctive body marks on his fur.


Splinter is portrayed as wise, intelligent, and a skilled "elderly martial arts master". He is nearly always calm and, even when angry, refrains from raising his voice. He is the quintessential calm, all-knowing, wise master of all martial arts with a dry sense of humor.

He cares for his adopted sons with fierce devotion, rescuing them in very critical moments in the series, such as when Shredder attempted to execute the four on a building, or when Bishop tried to literally tear them apart for science. He is furious when the Foot attempts to slay the Turtles with a robot Splinter and goes all the way to Japan after the four are kidnapped by the Tribunal.

Despite his love for his sons, he is fairly militant with them, especially when they are young and inexperienced. Splinter's main fear is that he and his family will one day be exposed to the outside world and is, understandably, protective. He disciplines the turtles when they become disobedient or unruly. His punishments include making them do backflips repeatedly in the second live-action movie, or being sent to the Hashi, a form of punishment in the 2014 film using chopsticks for balance.

Splinter is not completely cut off from the pleasures of modern culture; he enjoys soap operas. This is more fully displayed in "Fast Forward", when his hobby is mentioned several times. It is also mentioned in both the 2007 animated film and the 2012 series that he very much enjoys dessert, particularly popsicles.


Video games[edit]

Splinter appears in most video games based on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise. He is a playable character in the 2003 video game, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: Battle Nexus, TMNT: Mutant Melee and TMNT: Smash Up. In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the NES, he transforms into a human in the ending.


  1. ^ "TMNT: The Rennaissance [sic] Reptiles Return". Kung Fu Magazine. Retrieved 2009-12-27. 
  2. ^ Simpson, Janice C. (2 April 1990). "Show Business: Lean, Green and on the Screen". Time. Retrieved 3 March 2010. 
  3. ^ Greenberg, Harvey R. (15 April 1990). "Just How Powerful Are Those Turtles?". The New York Times. Retrieved 7 August 2010. 
  4. ^ Michael Bay's "Ninja Turtles" Casts Splinter
  5. ^ "Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub Lend Voices To 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles'". Deadline. Retrieved 2014-04-03.