Chewbacca: A two-hundred-year-old Wookiee and copilot of the Millennium Falcon. That’s how he is described inside the Return of the Jedi storybook, and that’s how I grew to know him for most of my childhood. But Chewbacca is so much more. Chewbacca is that friend everyone wants and probably needs. He’s funny, intelligent, skillful, and caring. Chewie is loyal to no end, but if you cross him, you might lose an arm. He’s great to have around if you are prone to making bad decisions (Han, I’m looking at you. Heck, I could use a friend like Chewie).
Unfortunately, Chewbacca was also a tricky character to write for in Legends. His inability to speak Basic was deemed a positive trait in Wookiees in the novel Heir to the Empire (1991). But in reality, it gave authors a handicap writing his dialogue. Eventually, it was for this reason that his character would be killed off in Vector Prime (1999). One of the prominent name characters needed to go to shake things up in the storyline and Chewie’s name got picked. I don’t think I ever got over that, I know Han didn’t. Considering the influx of content containing the giant furball, I wanted to regroup and take a look back at Chewie’s major appearances in chronological order.
The earliest in the timeline Chewie makes an appearance is in the last episode of season 3 of The Clone Wars, “Wookiee Hunt” (2011). In this episode the cargo ship carrying Chewie crashed on Chewie meets Ahsoka on Island Four, an island hunting ground used by the Trandoshan to hunt their prey in a game of cat and mouse. Subsequently, he teams up with a trio of Jedi padawans, including Ahsoka Tano, and together they were able to send out a distress signal and soon receive the aid of a group of Wookiees, including Tarfful. Once they defeated the Trandoshans, Chewbacca, Tarfful and the rest of the Wookiees accompanied the padawans to the Jedi Temple where they went their separate ways.
A few years later, during the events of Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005), Yoda recruits the Wookiees in the war against the Separatists. Once Order 66 is implemented, the war is over with the Galactic Empire gaining rule and the subsequent enslavement of the Wookiee culture. Nine to ten years later, Chewie is starved and held captive again, this time by the Empire in Solo: A Star Wars Story where he finally meets Han for the first time.
In my opinion, the real story of Star Wars is written from the point-of-view of the droids, as initially intended, and Chewbacca. These characters aren’t the main heroes of the fight against the Empire or First Order. They’re not human, and in Chewie’s case, don’t even speak English. But they are there in full support of their friends, doing whatever they need to do to be victorious in the name of freedom, displaying courage and strength in fighting the forces of evil.
It’s the Chewbacca (2015) comic, which takes place shortly after A New Hope, that initialized the idea to write about Chewbacca. In the story, Chewie meets a young girl and her father who are forced to work the mines on an Imperial occupied planet. The girl, Zarro finds Chewbacca laying in a field of flowers next to his crashed ship. Finding some quiet alone time since the destruction of the first Death Star, Chewie was reluctant to help Zarro despite her desperate pleas for help. It’s Chewie’s history of being a slave that gives him no choice but to help Zarro. It is in this comic series where we discover that the reason Chewie didn’t receive a medal during the throne room scene in A New Hope is that it goes against the Wookiee culture to earn such rewards.
After creating a list of Chewie’s main appearances, it’s not a stretch to say that most of his character building has been left to the comics, spin-off films and television series. Chewie, in the saga films, is there to lend his mechanical skills and be Han’s conscience. The feeling I got from The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi especially, is that it looks like Chewie is going the way of getting voted off the island Legends-style. Although I don’t know if that would ever happen or not, I would like to see the old Wookiee have the opportunity to contribute more in the fight against the First Order.
Solo: A Star Wars Story did a phenomenal job of giving us the Chewbacca we all knew was there. Chewbacca the fierce warrior, the selfless hero, the loyal friend. I think a lot of Chewie we got in Solo had to do with actor Joonas Suotamo’s athletic background in Finnish basketball. Joonas was able to give the character a more active role. Something we’ve only seen in comics or television shows. This is no way a knock against Peter Mayhew. On the contrary, it was Peter who gave us the Chewie we got to know first, and the one we initially fell in love with. With his arm on Han’s shoulder, he was telling his new friend, standing solo in the sun, that they’ll produce memories longer than an outstretched road.
Looking back at just a small sample of his long life, Chewbacca didn’t have the privilege of being human and, as a result, got enslaved and discriminated against. He got called names either meant as an insult or in jest. But regardless of all the atrocities, he had to endure. I’ve always admired Chewbacca for still living his life with honor.
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