Back before Star Wars: Episode III came out, we had some fun spreading the rumor that General Grievous was secretly Darth Maul. It was complete bunk, of course - we made it up on the spot - but Grievous's true backstory remained a mystery until much later.
A fearless warrior, Grievous is one of the greatest military soldiers of his people. As is the Kaleesh custom, he wears, during combat, a bone mask passed down to him from his ancestors. His outstanding military record catches the attention of the Banking Clan, who want to use his expertise for their growing Separatist movement.
It was pretty easy for the Banking Clan to recruit Grievous - then known as Qymaen jai Sheelal. The Kaleesh were deeply in debt due to their war with the Yam'rii (like the praying mantis-shaped guy in the Mos Eisley cantina), and the Bankers agreeed to handle the debt if Sheelal would lead their forces in the coming Galactic Civil War. Happy to have something to fight for again, even if he didn't quite agree with their goals, he agreed.
Apparently before becoming the killer robot we all know and love, Grievous was sort of a desert nomad. He's got a turban, cape and various body wraps. He wears a double-layered loincloth, and a bandolier presses his scarf against his chest, then pokes out again through his cape to hold a scabbard. His rough skin is a reddish brown, and his nails are dark grey. His clothes are all various earthtones, and there's a faded red symbol on the back of his cloak.
Even back when he was organic, Grievous was a big guy: at 4¾" he's an inch taller than the average Star Wars figure. Articulation is okay, but it could definitely be improved. The balljointed head is nice - it's easy to pop off so you can remove his cape - and the balljointed shoulders work well. His waist is a swivel, he has swivels in his forearms and balljointed knees. He could really use some sort of ankles to help get his feet flat on the ground, and the lack of elbows means his arms are set at a permanent 90° angle.
Grievous is wearing his ceremonial bone mask,
which is the same pattern that would eventually be re-created on his robotic faceplate. Remove that, and you can see what he actually looked like: remarkably ugly. He has a bulbous forehead, bushy black eyebrows, large pointed ears, a sunken nose, two small spikes on his chin and a large tusk growing down from each cheek, and a pair of fangs jutting up in what mustbe one heck of an underbite. This guy is indisputably alien, staring at you with his sickly yellow eyes and vertical pupils. You may be tempted to leave the mask on!
In addition to the removable headgear and cape,
Pre-Cyborg Grievous has two accessories: a sword and a gun. The blade - which fits in his scabbard perfectly, by the way - is a Lig sword, the use of which was taught to him by his partner Ronderu lij Kummar. The gun is a "slugthrower," a primitive type of munition that uses an explosive chemical to launch a solid projectile. How ridiculously low-tech!
So how did we get from Lawrence of Arabia to Gort,
the Mechanical Man? The Banking Clan screwed him over. Grievous was showing signs of independence, so they put a bomb in his ship and tried to assassinate him. When that wasn't enough to kill him, they opted to tweak his memories so he'd blame the Jedi and be more loyal to the Separatists. They also transplanted what was left of his broken body into a durable cyborg body, which is his more familiar appearance. Pre-Cyborg Grievous may not be the most famous iteration of the character, but it's cool to see where he came from.