Master Splinter, or simply Splinter is a fictional character in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles universe. Splinter is a Japanese anthropomorphic rat who is the master and adopted father of the Ninja Turtles.
Splinter's name (and in fact much of the TMNT's origin story) is a similarity of the origin of Daredevil (Marvel Comics). After being blinded by a barrel of toxic waste, Matt Murdock (Daredevil) was trained in the art of ninjitsu by a sensei known as Stick. Splinter, then, is a spoof of Stick. His status as a "sewer rat" is somewhat of a pun on the artist's name Seurat seeing that the four turtles are also named after famous artists.
Splinter has two origin stories, and which one is used depends on the medium. In the original version of the tale, he was Hamato Yoshi's pet, and in the other, he is Hamato Yoshi.
In both the original comics and the live-action movies, Splinter was the pet rat of a ninja named Hamato Yoshi in Japan. Intelligent for his species, Splinter was able to learn his master's art by mimicking his movements while he practiced. Yoshi became embroiled in a dispute with a fellow ninja by the name of Oroku Nagi, and was eventually murdered by Nagi's brother Oroku Saki.
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Official Site: Mirage Studios
Links: Wikipedia Entry TMNT Bio: Splinter Official Site Profile