Of course, part of the problem is that the various things revealed about their history don’t always seem to fit together too well. The Joker said that if he had to have a past, he’d prefer it be multiple choice, and this is pretty much the predicament the Saiyans are in. So in this thread I’ll attempt to go through all the major things revealed about their history, starting with the manga and working through the DBZ filler, OVA, guidebooks, GT, and…more guidebooks.
The manga gives the sparsest account of the Saiyans’ history, which I suppose is probably where the idea that their past is shrouded in mystery comes from. In chapter 197, Raditz explains to Goku about the Saiyans, and this is virtually all the information we ever get about them in the manga:
(The [ ] marks indicate breaks in Raditz’s monologue, or just parts of his speech that I left out because I didn’t think they were relevant to this thread)First, you are not one of this planet’s humans!! You were born on Planet Vegeta, and are part of the strongest warrior race in the entire universe, the Saiyans! [ ] We Saiyans are a fighting race. Our job is to search for planets with good environments, and once we wipe out those who live there, we sell it at a high price to aliens who are looking for a suitable planet. Adult warriors go off to planets where guys with high battle powers live, but for low level planets like this one, babies like you are sent. [ ] The Saiyans were a scarce race even from the start, but to top it off, Planet Vegeta exploded from a collision with a gigantic meteorite…Almost all of the Saiyans vanished into space dust…Including our father and mother. Even counting you, only 4 Saiyans remain! Me and one other were off attacking another planet and so were saved. And the other one was fortune enough to have been sent off to a planet, like you were.
Besides the “meteorite collision” detail that eventually gets scrapped in favor of Freeza being the real culprit behind Planet Vegeta’s destruction, there’s another detail of Raditz’s speech that doesn’t quite sit well with what we later learn. Raditz says that he and another Saiyan were off attacking planets, while another one was “sent off” to a planet “like Goku”. This makes it sound like this surviving Saiyan was sent off as a baby to some planet, but it’s later established that when Planet Vegeta was destroyed, Prince Vegeta was already old enough to show great promise as a warrior (the guidebooks pin his age at the time as 5), while Nappa was a grown man. And if this Saiyan wasn’t sent off as a baby, in what way was his circumstance different than Raditz and the other Saiyan, who were off attacking some planet? It’s not really clear, but it seems like Toriyama’s original conception of Vegeta and/or Nappa’s back story was quite different than what it ended up being.
Amusingly, Tarble’s back story as a Saiyan who was lucky enough to survive because he had been “sent off” to some planet (as opposed to attacking a planet) seem to match Raditz’s description. Some Japanese fans have seized on this to not so seriously suggest that Tarble had been the Saiyan Raditz was speaking of all along (meanwhile, this minor plot hole doesn’t seem too well known among English-speaking fans, perhaps because translations tend to gloss over it; Viz fixes it entirely). Another thing to point out is that Raditz says he was together with one of the other surviving Saiyans when Planet Vegeta was destroyed, but in the Bardock special Vegeta and Nappa are shown to be together at this time, while Raditz is nowhere to be seen.
Anyway, moving on a bit, we get a little more information on the Saiyans from Kaio in chapter 21. As Goku is struggling with the high gravity on Kaio’s planet, which is ten times the Earth’s, Kaio notes that “the planet where the Saiyans were had about the same gravity as here…They toughened up their bodies there…” In light of some of the later material that depict the Saiyans as invaders to Planet Vegeta, it’s interesting that Kaio refers to Planet Vegeta not as the Saiyan homeworld but simply the planet where they were. Perhaps Toriyama had some inkling of that back story at this point?
Later during the Freeza story arc, Dodoria reveals that Planet Vegeta hadn’t been destroyed by a meteorite, as Raditz had said, but had instead been destroyed by Freeza:
So Raditz’s story about the meteorite is explained away as just a cover story that Freeza spread to keep the remaining Saiyans from turning on him (this is implied in the manga, touched on a bit in filler too, and flat-out stated in Daizenshuu 7).Th…the power of individual Saiyans is absolutely no match for L-Lord Freeza, but…If many Saiyans joined together, they would be-become quite troublesome…F-furthermore, among a small portion of Saiyans, outstanding warriors such as yourself were born, and had begun to increase…Since you weren’t a race who would obediently listen to orders if you started gaining power, at that point Lord Freeza thought that he needed to take steps…So he personally wiped out Planet Vegeta and the Saiyans along with it! But Vegeta! You should thank Lord Freeza! Since you, the prince, looked to have genius talent, he purposefully targeted the planet when you weren’t there!
Later we learn that the Great Elder of Namek knows about Saiyans, and has even heard the legend of the Super Saiyan. Since it seems that the Namekians have given up space-faring technology and kept to themselves since the great cataclysm that ravaged their planet long ago (500 years ago according to Daizenshuu 7), this might indicate just how long the Saiyans have been feared throughout the universe. Though I suppose it’s possible that the Great Elder heard about Saiyans from some aliens who happened to visit Namek in the centuries sine the disaster, or something like that.
Speaking of the legend of the Super Saiyan, that’s another thing that’s sort of part of Saiyan history. In chapter 280, Vegeta outlines the concept:
As we see throughout the series, the details of the legend aren’t necessarily all that accurate. Still, the fact that this legend in known by Freeza, Ginyu and co., the Great Elder, and Kaio probably says something about how much influence the Saiyans had on the universe. Also, the legend says that a Super Saiyan appears every thousand years, so the Saiyans must have been around at least that long…right? Well, maybe not. After all, the legend says a Super Saiyan appears once every thousand years, but by the end of the series you can’t throw a rock without hitting a Super Saiyan. Based on this, why should we believe anything the legend says about the timescale of Super Saiyan appearances? How would the Saiyans have even worked out that a Super Saiyan appears every thousand years? I wouldn’t think that a detailed calendar would be a high priority for a warrior race like them (and that’s not even taking into account the inherent difficulties of keeping track of time when you’re wandering around space). There was a thread about this not to long ago, and the short of it is that going strictly by the manga, it’s hard to prove that there even were any Super Saiyans before Goku. Still, as we’ll see later, Daizenshuu 7 says there was a Super Saiyan before Goku, who appeared in the year 239 Before Age, 1,001 years before Goku became one in Age 762. Whether this was the vey fist one of all or just the latest in a line isn’t specified.A Super Saiyan appears once every thousand years… a Saiyan who overcomes the wall which no warrior, no matter how gifted, can overcome…That’s supposed to just be a stupid tradition…And even if the legend were true…only I would have the potential to become a Super Saiyan.
One last thing to add is that after Gohan saves Piccolo from third-form Freeza, Freeza notes that he destroyed all but a few of the Saiyans “about 30 years ago”. In the manga this is the only thing that gives any reference point for the destruction of Planet Vegeta. People give the Funi dub crap for having Raditz say the planet was destroyed 5 years ago, but to be fair, there isn’t anything in his original speech that contradicts this. It’s only in the Bardock special (which predates Freeza’s manga line here) that the planet’s destruction is first depicted as happening when Goku was a baby. Of course it was established back with Raditz that Goku came to Earth as a baby, but remember, Goku isn’t Superman: he didn’t come to Earth because of Planet Vegeta’s destruction. Going strictly by Raditz’s original monologue, it’s perfectly possible for Goku to have come to Earth as a baby, and for Planet Vegeta to have only been destroyed years later. Anyway, as a date for the planet’s destruction, 30 years is actually too long ago. Not to get too deep into the whole DB timeline thing, but Goku was 12 at the start of the series and at this point is about 24, which would put his birth 6 years after his home planet was wiped out! But of course, Freeza says “about 30 years ago”, so we can assume he’s just rounding up.
So that’s basically it for the manga: the Saiyans lived on Planet Vegeta. They were an infamous race for what seems to have been a really long time, and at some point some of them may or may not have become Super Saiyans. They went around conquering planets and selling them to rich aliens. At some point they teamed up with Freeza, who thought they were getting too powerful and so destroyed them around the time Goku was born (…if not before…), leaving only 4 survivors.
Probably the most well-known addition to the Saiyans’ history is DBZ episode 20, a filler episode where Kaio recounts to Goku their origin and conflict with the Tsufruians. However, before getting to that we should go over Toriyama’s notes to the anime staff. See, it turns out that DBZ episode 20 is one of the filler episodes that Toriyama had quite a hand in, and a memo that he wrote for the anime staff outlining the background of the Saiyans, their planet, and the Tsufruians served as the basis for that episode. This memo is reprinted in the DBZ Anime Special, Daizenshuu 5, and Son Goku Densetsu, although Son Goku Densetsu is the only book that reprints it large enough to be easily read. Anyway it goes as follows:
The biggest addition here of course is the idea that the Saiyans shared their planet with another race. It’s interesting that this memo doesn’t actually mention anything about the Saiyans fighting the Tsufruians, though it’s possible that there were additional memos Toriyama made. This is the only Saiyan/Tsufruian-related one that’s been revealed in guidebooks, though.Planet Plant is a difficult planet to live on, as its gravity is unusually strong. However, two races live here. The majority of the inhabitants of Planet Plant are Tsufruians. Their bodies are small, but knowledge-wise they have a comparatively advanced culture and civilization. The other race has an unusually small population, but their bodies are large and strong. They are a primitive, warlike race called the Saiyans. Their biggest distinguishing characteristic is that they have tails, and every one of them seems to be a warrior.
[Picture of Tsufruians, with scouter and blaster gun, labeled “Tsufruian”. We see a colored version of this guy in DBZ episode 20 when Kaio introduces the Tsufruians] Due to the heavy gravity, they are about half as big as the Saiyans.
[arrow pointing to scouter on Tsufruian's head] This scouter, for instance, and other such things were originally Tsufruian inventions.
[picture of three caveman-like Saiyans, all three of which ended up appearing in Kaio’s flashback] The Saiyans of long ago
[picture of the Saiyans’ rocky housing] The housing area that the ancient Saiyans lived in (perhaps more varied shapes might be good?)
Interestingly, Toriyama’s memo refers to the Saiyan and Tsufruians’ world as “Planet Plant”, which is later mentioned in “Plan to Eradicate the Saiyans” as being the original name of Planet Vegeta before the Saiyans took it over, but is not actually mentioned in DBZ episode 20. Oddly, the DBZ Anime Special and Son Goku Densetsu pictures of the memo show “Planet Plant” crossed out in red the first time it’s written, with “Planet Vegeta” written in, but the Daizenshuu 5 picture doesn’t have this. This implies that there are at least 2 copies of this memo, or that they took photos of the memo both before and after this correction was made.
This use of “Planet Plant” could indicate that Toriyama came up with the idea of this being Planet Vegeta’s original name prior to the Saiyans taking over, but that this detail was left out of the actual episode for whatever reason (perhaps to save time). Or it could be that when writing the memo Toriyama forgot that he had already named the Saiyans’ planet “Planet Vegeta” and that he corrected this once he realized his error, but that the anime staff then later made use of this accidentally created alternate name for the OVA.
Episode 17 of DBZ features Tenshinhan, Yamcha, Kuririn, and Chaozu making a mental journey into the past so that they can learn firsthand the ferociousness of the Saiyans. The place which they visit is a desolate city filled with the skeletons of dead Saiyans, and it looks as if these Saiyans died fighting amongst themselves. On seeing this, Kuririn wonders whether this is the Saiyans’ planet, but the question is never really answered in either the episode or guidebooks. Daizenshuu 3’s episode guide refers to this place as a “Saiyan city”, but whether or not it’s located on Planet Vegeta isn’t clarified. It’s possible that it’s some sort of ill-fated Saiyan colony, I suppose. But if it is part of Planet Vegeta, it certainly raises a lot of questions; the place already looks like some post-apocalyptic landscape even before Freeza destroyed it. Why were the Saiyans fighting among each other? Or if they were fighting some enemy, who was it? Why is the city seemingly deserted save for two living Saiyans? The Daizenshuu 7 timeline might shed a little light on this, but I’ll get to that later.
Episode 20, meanwhile, is a landmark episode where Goku learns about his Saiyan roots, gains new understanding about his life and place in the universe, and manages to hit a talking cricket with a big hammer (in that order). Kaio’s story about the Saiyans’ past and their conflict with the Tsufruians is as follows:
The main elements found in this episode that weren’t in Toriyama’s memo are the details about the Saiyans’ war with the Tsufruians, the way in which the Saiyans joined up with other aliens, and how the god of Planet Vegeta was the cause of the meteorite collision which Raditz mentioned. Now, it’s possible that these elements were included in some other memo of Toriyama’s that hasn’t been featured in guidebooks, but we have no way of knowing that. However, the fact that the Toriyama memo we have mentions the Tsufruians and even notes that Scouters were originally their invention, but says nothing about the Saiyans fighting them and taking their technology makes me suspect there was another memo detailing at least that much. But we’ll probably never know. The part about Planet Vegeta’s god destroying the planet by making it collide with a meteor is a well-known plot hole, since of course later on the fact that it was Freeza who destroyed the planet become a very important plot point. I guess you could try rationalizing it by saying that Kaio didn’t want to reveal the whole truth to Goku, lest he go off and fight Freeza, so he made up the whole part about Planet Vegeta’s god.Long, long ago…Two races lived together on a planet called ‘Vegeta’. These were your ancestors the Saiyans, and the Tsufruians. Planet Vegeta had gravity ten times stronger than normal, just like my planet. Because of this, the Tsufruians, who made up the majority of Planet Vegeta, had bodies only about half as big as the Saiyans. However, they were intelligent and had a rather advanced culture. On the other hand, the Saiyans were a very scarce people, but their bodies were large, and what’s more, they were a strong and aggressive primitive race. Their biggest distinguishing characteristic was that they had tails. All of them were like warriors, so to speak. Eventually, these warriors joined together and began raiding the Tsufruians. The Tsufruians faced them with the advanced weapons which they had made themselves. The Saiyans were absolutely outnumbered, but were absurdly strong and gradually overcame the Tsufruians. The full moon, which on Planet Vegeta appeared only once every eight years, proved to be the decisive factor. This was because when Saiyans look at the full moon, they transform into monsters. For the Tsufruians, this was the biggest threat of all, because it resulted in so much damage. In this way, the Tsufruians’ culture was replaced bit by bit as the Saiyans grew in number. In the end, they controlled all of Planet Vegeta. And so, the Saiyans went out into the universe in search of battle. However, because they had wiped out the Tsufruians, their culture did not develop any further. So, searching for battle but unable to travel even further out into the universe, the Saiyans joined forces with rich aliens with advanced cultures. In exchange for supplying those aliens with planets they wanted, they obtained culture and money. For the warlike Saiyans, this was like killing two birds with one stone. The Saiyans escalated things more and more, so that even babies were sent off to various planets, the way you were. This produced a far-reaching strategy whereby these babies would wipe out the planet’s inhabitants once they grew up. However, Planet Vegeta had a god as well. Perhaps because of the Saiyans’ evil deeds, he personally summoned a gigantic meteor and had it collide with Planet Vegeta, causing it to explode. Only four Saiyans survived, including you.
There are some other bits and pieces of filler that fill in details of the destruction of Planet Vegeta and whatnot though they don’t add anything too major to the sequence of events established in the manga. The main thing is that we see King Vegeta and some of the other Saiyans grow restless of being ruled by Freeza and try and stage a revolt immediately before Freeza destroys their planet.
The OVA centers around the Tsufruian scientist Dr. Raichi trying to gain revenge on the Saiyans, so naturally we get a retelling of the Saiyan/Tsufruian conflict. This time it is again Kaio who tells the story (Goku, for his part, doesn’t seem to remember anything about the Tsufruians):
The most important addition here is the idea that the Saiyans were not native to Planet Vegeta, but only invaded it like they eventually did so many other planets. A lot of people see this as contradicting what was previously said about the Saiyans and Tsufruians. To be sure, there’s nothing earlier that really suggests this, though there are some things that seem kind of consistent with it, like Kaio describing Planet Vegeta as simply the “planet where the Saiyans were”. This is also the first place the idea of the Saiyans’ planet not originally being named “Vegeta” gets spelled out (though as we’ve seen it might have been floating around earlier). It’s pretty much a logical necessity if you’re going to say that the Saiyans invaded the place, unless they just showed up and said “Vegeta, that’s a good name! We should name all our leaders that!”Long ago, Planet Vegeta was called Planet Plant. The Tsufruians, who possessed advanced science, lived there. Then one day, a spaceship carrying the Saiyans drifted there, and the Saiyans sought help from the Tsufruians. The Tsufruians approved of the Saiyans living on Plant, and the two races began to live together. And so the Saiyans, being a warrior race, gradually increased in number, and a man with excellent intellect superior to the Tsufruians was born. This man, who would later be known as King Vegeta, led the Saiyans in revolt against the Tsufruians. Afterwards, Planet Plant had its name changed to Planet Vegeta, and became the Saiyans’ planet.
The thing about the Saiyans reaching Plant in a spaceship gets a little tricky. There’s no true plural form in Japanese so it’s not clear if they showed up in one spaceship or a bunch. GT shows them all showing up in a bunch of classic “Attack Ball” spaceships, but it seems that most translations of the OVA and the Daizenshuu 7 timeline just use “spaceship”, singular, creating a contradiction between them and GT. I don’t think there’s any necessary contradiction though, since I don’t think we ever actually see the Saiyans show up on Plant anywhere but in GT. Another sticking point some people have is where the Saiyans would have even gotten any spaceship(s), if they were just a bunch of primitive morons at this point. But I think that can be easily explained by assuming they just stole it/them from someone, the same way they later stole the Tsufruians’ technology. Though I guess that does make you wonder how they got off their original home planet in the first place. Did they share that planet with some more advanced race too, or did some really unlucky tourists or explorers just happen to stop by one day, only to become the victims of the most significant carjacking in history?
Another interesting addition is the idea that King Vegeta was the one who led the Saiyans against the Tsufruians (and was also some kind of super genius, apparently). This would only allow for a pretty short timeframe for the Saiyans’ planet-conquering business and partnership with Freeza, if they went from getting rid of the Tsufruians to being blown up by Freeza in just one generation. Though I suppose it’s possible that the King Vegeta Kaio talks about is some earlier king and not Vegeta’s father, since the Saiyans seem to have zero imagination when it comes to naming royalty and planets. They call this guy King Vegeta and regular Vegeta “Prince Vegeta”, but I guess that doesn’t prove anything. I don’t remember anything in the OVA flat-out identifying this King Vegeta as regular Vegeta’s father, but I admit that I did fast forward a lot through the thing. Anyway, the daizenshuu and GT go with the idea that this is indeed Vegeta’s father.
Later in the OVA, when the gang finally confronts Dr. Raichi, he gives his whole routine about never forgiving the Saiyans and whatnot, to which Vegeta replies “What are you babbling about? You worked our ancestors like slaves! You Tsufruians are the ones who are unforgivable.” This isn’t elaborated on, and we never hear anything about it again, not even in GT when Vegeta is confronted by another Tsufruian who babbles about getting revenge on the Saiyans. It’s particularly odd that Kaio doesn’t mention anything about the Tsufruians using the Saiyans like slaves during his exposition earlier in the OVA. I’m tempted to think this is just something the Saiyans made up to justify wiping out the Tsufruians.
The manga-based Daizenshuu 4’s race guide offers a brief history of the Saiyans, which basically just recaps what was said in the manga:
None of the purely manga-based daizenshuu (1, 2, 4) mention anything about the Saiyans being alien invaders to Planet Vegeta; only the ones that reference the anime do (logically enough, since this is only mentioned in the anime). It’s kind of interesting that they never mention the Tsufruians though, since Toriyama did come up with them. But he came up with them specifically for the anime, so I guess that’s why they’re not referenced. You could argue that the way it refers to Planet Vegeta as the Saiyans’ home-world contradicts the OVA’s idea that they’re invaders, but they did make Planet Vegeta their home, even if their species didn’t originate there. At any rate, even the anime guidebooks that talk about the Saiyans invading Planet Plant/Vegeta still refer to the place as their home-world.Their home-world's destruction!! Four people escape.
Previously the Saiyan made their living by searching out and attacking planets with good environments, then selling the captured planets off to other aliens. But their home-world was completely annihilated by Freeza and his men, people in the same planet-selling business whom the Saiyan had formed an alliance with. On top of that, the survivors were told by Freeza a false history where their planet had simply collided with a gigantic meteorite. Two Saiyans who escaped alive from this devastation eventually learned the truth and wiped out Freeza and his men. After that they moved to Earth and left descendents.
On that note, Daizenshuu 3 has a page on the Saiyans’ history, specifically as depicted in the anime. It mostly just goes over stuff I’ve covered above, but it’s got some interesting notes too (things written in brackets describe pictures, and the things written after the brackets are the picture captions).
Daizenshuu 7 is the only daizenshuu to cover both the manga and anime, and its elaborate series timeline is a sometimes odd mix of manga-only and anime-only events. It assigns specific years to the various events gone over above (the actual Daizenshuu 7 timeline has various non-Saiyan related entries in between the following stuff, but I’ve cut them out):Variety of DB: A Look at the Anime Version’s Saiyan History!!
The Saiyans are the strongest fighting race in the universe!! We’ll disclose the anime-only worldview and background material relating to them!!
Contact with Freeza!!
The Saiyans tricked the Tsufruians, and made use of their science. Because of this, their scientific advancement stagnated after the massacre of the Tsufruians. From there, they joined forces with Freeza, and in exchange for invading other planets, they were able to receive weapons and other things!! Reference: DBZ episode 20
[Tsufru] The Tsufruians in battle with the Saiyans!! You can see that the scouter was also a product of their science!!
Discord with Tsufruians!!
The Saiyans’ home is Planet Vegeta, which has gravity ten times that of Earth!! With a full moon arriving every eighty years, at this time the Saiyans became Oozaru and massacred the Tsufruians!! Reference: DBZ episode 20
[big Saiyans and small Tsufruians] The Tsufruians have small bodies but superior intelligence.
The Saiyans are a nomadic people?!
Planet Vegeta was formerly called Planet Plant, and was inhabited by the Tsufruians. One day, a spaceship ridden by a tailed race drifted there! These were the primeval Saiyans, the roots of the Saiyans. However, it is a mystery why the primeval Saiyans were drifting through space!! The true home-world of the Saiyans is also not revealed…!! Reference: the official visual guide “Plan to Exterminate the Saiya-jin” (distributer/Bandai)
[cavemen Saiya-jin] These are the primeval Saiyans, ancestors of the Saiyans!! At this time, their intelligence was low, and they were a scarce and simply violent race!!
Their environment makes their faces the same?!
The Saiyans’ appearance is divided into limited types!! Furthermore, because they are raised sorted into different classes, it seems that there are numerous cases of people in the same class having the same face!! The types of faces among the disposable lower-level warriors are particularly limited, and Goku and the movie character Turles have the same face and voice!! Perhaps the facial resemblance between King Vegeta and Vegeta, and between Goku and Barduck, is not due to just their lineage, but also related to their class?! Reference: the movie “Super Decisive Battle for Earth”
[Turles] Turles’ face and of course his voice too are identical to Goku!!
[Broli] Broli, he appeared in the movies. His brutality could be said to be that of a true Saiya-jin warrior!!
The name Vegeta is a symbol of might and political power!
The royal house of Vegeta stands at the summit of Saiyan political power!! It is established that below the royal family are noble families of elite warriors such as Nappa, and then below that are low-level warriors. Incidentally, it seems that the establishment of the royal family was immediately after the massacre of the Tsufruians. The original king was Vegeta’s father, King Vegeta, and there is a hereditary system where the king’s child afterward inherits kingship!! Reference: the official visual guide “Plan to Exterminate the Saiya-jin”, and others
[King Vegeta] Even King Vegeta, who master-minded the massacre of the Tsufruians, reluctantly obeyed Freeza!!
[Goku in battle armor] Perhaps even Goku would have become a fearsome warrior if he had not come to Earth?!
So basically, 1,000 years before Goku becomes a Super Saiyan on Namek, there was another Super Saiyan who made the “universe tremble with slaughter and destruction”. 789 years later, the Saiyans arrive on Plant. About 200 years after that, over the course of ten years they wipe out the Tsufruians, take over the planet, and start their planet selling business. A year after that, they join up with Freeza. Their partnership lasts all of 6 years, at which point Freeza is already fed up, and blows them to hell. Apparently the great Saiyan Empire barely lasted longer than the average dotcom company. But I guess that’s the kind of timeframe you’re stuck with if Vegeta’s father is the one to overthrow the Tsufruians. Of course, even before reaching Plant the Saiyans were apparently wandering around the universe already, and many centuries before then the Super Saiyan made “the universe tremble”, which implies he wasn’t confined to a single planet. So even if the Saiyans’ big official planet-conquering business didn’t last that long, they were still apparently travelling around the universe being rat bastards for centuries on end.Around 239 Before Age: The appearance of the Super Saiyan, considered a legend among the Saiyans. He made the universe tremble with destruction and slaughter.
Circa Age 550: The primitive Saiyans drift to Planet Plant on a mysterious spaceship.
Circa Age 720~730: On Planet Plant, the Saiyans unite and start a revolt. They rush into all-out war with the Tsufruians. The Saiyans overwhelm the Tsufruians. The Tsufruian scientist Dr. Raichi dies. The Saiyan extermination weapon, Hatred Amplification Device Hatchi-Hyakku is launched into space. The Tsufruians are wiped out. The Saiyans take complete control of Planet Plant, and change its name to Planet Vegeta. At the same time, they absorb Tsufruian technology, such as the scouter. The Saiyans begin setting out into space. The Saiyans hit upon the idea of having other aliens sponsor their wars.
Circa Age 731: The Saiyans team up with Freeza and begin a universal land shark business. King Vegeta takes a queen.
Age 732: Vegeta is born
Circa Age 735: The Saiyans’ animosity towards Freeza begins to strengthen. On Planet Vegeta, there are repeated insurrections among the Saiyans.
Age 737: Kakarotto (Son Goku) is born. Planet Vegeta gains control of Planet Kanassa and Planet Meat. King Vegeta starts a revolt against Freeza, but it ends in failure. Freeza commences a war against the Saiyans. Goku’s father Barduck dies in battle. Planet Vegeta is annihilated by Freeza. Kakarotto escapes from Planet Vegeta, and arrives on Earth.
The entry for (circa) Age 735 is interesting for its description of insurrection among the Saiyans. I wonder if this was intended as a reference to DBZ episode 17, with its depiction of a Saiyan city where the Saiyans had all apparently killed each other.
Later in Daizenshuu 7 is an in-depth look at the major races of DB, the Earthlings, Saiyans, and Namekians. The section on Saiyans has an interesting note on the Saiyans’ possible origins:
Even the book says this is “perhaps” the case, so even if we take this bit as 100% canonical I don’t know what real consequence that would have (“it’s undoubtedly certain that this may possibly be the case”). Still an interesting bit though.Since the Saiyans never stop fighting even amongst their own race, perhaps the race now known as the Saiyans are a species who won and survived a historical battle.
In GT we get another revenge-crazed Tsufruian, so of course we get yet another recap of how the Saiyans wiped out the Tsufruians. In GT episode 27, Baby manages to take control of Vegeta’s body, but is nice enough to explain all about his origin (these are Steve Simmons’ subtitles):
Mainly of course this just serves to insert Baby into the previously established story of the Saiyans vs the Tsufruians. We again see Vegeta’s father flat-out identified as the one who led the Saiyans against the Tsufruians. Also new stuff about the Saiyans evolving, and we learn that the Tsufruians had a “King Tsufru”. In this depiction, we see the Saiyans land on planet in the same “Attack Ball” spaceships that they and the rest of Freeza’s men are shown using in the series.Baby: Our world, Planet Tsufru was a world of scientific development, one of true peace and abundance. But then, along came you barbaric monkeys, the Saiyans. Do you remember?
Vegeta: And who was it that was driven off by those barbaric monkeys?
Baby: We miscalculated the speed of your evolution. The Saiyans’ murderous instincts grew more powerful, and you killed the Tsufruians one after another, like insects…And at the center of your wickedness…was your father, King Vegeta. Having been cornered by you Saiyans, we took the remaining scientific ability that we had, and created a parasitic life form. And then, King Tsufru inserted his own genes within its cells, and launched it into space.
Vegeta: And those cells became you, right?
Some fans complain that Baby’s bizarre appearance contradicts the Tsufruians’ depiction in the DBZ filler and OVA as essentially like Earthlings, only shorter. But GT also depicts them this way; it’s only Baby who looks the way he does. Even the clothing worn by the Tsufruians is consistent with what we’ve seen before.
I can’t believe I never noticed this before, but Baby refers to the Tsufruian planet as “Planet Tsufru” instead of Planet Plant. I always thought it was kinda weird how the reconstructed Planet Plant/Vegeta that Baby uses the dragonballs to create was called “Planet Tsufru”, but I guess that explains it. Why they decided to re-rename (or re-pre-rename?) the place, I have no idea. Also odd is how when Vegeta realizes Baby’s Tsufruian identity, he says “So that’s it. I’m starting to remember…your wretched ki. Tsufruian!” But according to the Daizenshuu 7 and GT Perfect Files timelines, Vegeta was born a few years after the Tsufruians were wiped out. And even if we ignore those, if Vegeta were old enough to remember the Tsufruians before they were wiped out, that would give an even more cramped timeframe for the Saiyans’ planet-conquering business. Unless we just make Vegeta a few years older than his official age. Well anyway, maybe the Saiyans kept a few Tsufruians around after they took control of the planet, just for fun or something. But then Vegeta wasn’t supposed to have even been able to sense ki on his own before he came to Earth…
The first volume of the GT Perfect Files has a section on the Saiyans and Tsufruians, detailing their societies, characteristics, and history. This includes a section speculating on the Saiyans’ true home-world:
I’m pretty sure that caption at the end is the first and last place to mention the idea that the Saiyans evolved from Oozarus. I love how it’s phrased as just being a theory (the ID people must have gotten to Shueisha!), just like how the thing in Daizenshuu 7 about the Saiyans surviving some historic battle is phrased as terms of “perhaps this happened”. Apparently they just can’t make up their minds or something.Where is the Saiyans’ true homeland?
The mysterious “Planet Saiya”
Planet Vegeta (formally Planet Plant) was originally the Tsufruians’ planet, and not the homeland of the Saiyans. The roots of the Saiya are unknown, and all that is recorded is that “the primitive Saiyans drifted to Planet Plant on a mysterious spaceship”. Perhaps the launching point of that spaceship could possibly itself be the Saiyans’ true homeland. And just maybe the Saiyans’ home world still exists somewhere in space!?
[picture of an Oozaru] There’s also a theory that Saiyans were originally Oozarus, who gained intelligence and became human!!
Then later in the same section is a timeline detailing Saiyan/Tsufruian history. It’s mostly based on the Daizenshuu 7 timeline, but adds in stuff about Baby and the start of GT.
SEGComplete Inspection Part 2: The Universal History of Saiya and Tsufru Interaction!!
Things in bold are new bits of history that came to light in “DragonBall GT”
C. 238 Before Age: The appearance of the Super Saiyan!!
The Super Saiyan, told of in legend, appears and pushes the limits of slaughter and destruction.
C. Age 550: The primeval Saiyans drift to Planet Plant!!
The primeval Saiyans drift on their spaceship to the bountiful Planet Plant, where science had flourished in peace. Reproducing quickly, in the next few hundred years the primeval Saiyans evolve to an extraordinary extent and gain intelligence. But at the same time, their instincts for slaughter grew as well.
[ ] The Tsufruians approve of the Saiyans’ residency, but…
C. Age 720~730: All-out confrontation between the Saiyans and Tsufruians!!
The all-out war between the Saiyans and Tsufruians begins. Cornered, the Tsufruians use their remaining scientific power to develop a parasitic life-form (later to be known as Baby). This life-form inherits the genes of King Tsufru, and is launched into space. The battle results in the Saiyans’ overwhelming victory, the Tsufruians are wiped out, and Planet Plant is renamed as Planet Vegeta.
[ ] The thing in the cultivation pod is Baby, and the sleeping man is King Tsufru.
Age 731: The Saiyans and Freeza join forces!!
[ ] King Vegeta obeys Freeza, but inside he is filled with hatred.
Age 732: Vegeta is born!!
Age 735: The “Universal Tsufruization Plant” goes into operation!
While drifting through space, Baby swears vengeance against the Saiyans for wiping out the Tsufruians. Furthermore, he devises the “Universal Tsufruization Plan”, in order to revive the Tsufru.
C.Age 735: Repeated incidences of insurrection among the Saiyans!!
Age 737: Kakarotto (Son Goku) is born!!
Kakarotto is born. King Vegeta and Goku’s father Barduck die in battle against Freeza. At the same time, Kakarotto’s space pod is shot out into space. Planet Vegeta is wiped out by Freeza. The four remaining Saiyans are Kakarotto, his older brother Raditz, Vegeta, and Vegeta’s subordinate Nappa.
[ ] Kakarotto, immediately after arriving on Earth in his space pod. Found by Grandpa Gohan, he is given the name Son Goku!!
Age 740: Doctor Mu is born!
Baby manufactures Doctor Mu in order to gather the resurrection energy he needs to obtain a powerful body. Baby programs Mu with the method of developing machine mutants, and production begins on Llod, M-2, and the others.
Age 760-770: Planet M-2 is completed
Doctor Mu makes the alien Rild a general, in addition to restructuring his body. At the same time, the super gigantic planet-type machine mutant (Planet M-2) is completed, its functions having been linked to General Rild. Using Planet M-2 as a base, the M-2 Army begins gathering energy from throughout the universe.
Age 766: Trunks is born!!
Age 767: Goten is born!!
Age 775: Doltaki becomes Baby’s underling!
Doctor Mu makes the space swindler Doltaki one of his subordinates, and gives him Lood, the strongest machine mutant. Doltaki uses his skills as a swindler to create the scam religion Loodism, and begins gathering energy from its adherents.
Age 779: Pan is born!!
Age 780: Bra is born!!
Age 789: Goku, Trunks, and Pan depart from Earth!
Age 789: Goku encounters Baby!!
Several months later, they encounter Baby in his larval form. After that, Baby continues to infect various aliens, accumulating power.
Age 789: Baby appears on Earth!
Nine months after Goku and the others left, Baby arrives on Earth, infecting all the Earthlings and bringing them under his rule. Furthermore, he creates Planet Tsufru through the power of Shenlong, and uses it as the base for the Universal Tsufruization Plan.
Age 789: Super Saiyan 4 appears!!
War breaks out between a Saiyan survivor (Son Goku) and the last remaining Tsufruin (Baby). Through this battle, the Tsufruin are completely exterminated.
[big black text] Brawn (Saiya) VS Science (Tsufru)!! The grand history of the battle between these alien races!!
Finally we have the Super Exciting Guide: Character Volume. In the Q&A in the back, Toriyama answers a question about how many planets Freeza ruled, which results in him going on a brief tangent about the Saiyans:
Then he talks about how Freeza and co. subjugated the Saiyans. This lifestyle Toriyama describes sounds more like simple piracy rather than the planter-conquering business they worked together with Freeza on. So maybe that’s what they did before they started the business and joined Freeza. This actually fits in fairly well with the OVA and GT and whatnot giving such a small timeframe for the Saiyans’ business. The business wasn’t around that long, but the Saiyans have basically been space pirates since “ancient times”, which is why the Great Elder knew about them. Perhaps.The Saiyans are a fighting race who since ancient times have lived a violent and inhumane lifestyle where they attack numerous planets to build up wealth and goods.
I was wanting to conclude by trying to make a timeline that puts all this together into a halfway coherent form, just to see if I can. Well, maybe later.