Saturday, March 10, 2012
Chewbacca: A Lost Opportunity
Photo via Wookieepdeia
I love Wookiees. To love Star Wars is to love Wookiees. In fact, I've long held that R2-D2 and a dozen Wookiees could have taken out the Empire in short order. Alas, Chewbacca, of all the original Star Warriors (as they are charmingly referred to in the old Marvel comics), is by far the least developed character, droids included. His species and their home world seem such an obvious direction for exploration and yet they have been largely neglected. Yes, we got a glimpse of the story in Revenge of the Sith but I, for one, hunger for more. I've only just begun to scratch the surface of the Expanded Universe but scanning titles, Wookiee stories are notably rare.
(Side note: Yes, I've seen the unspeakably horrible Christmas special of old which features Chewbacca's family. I think it best that we follow Papa George's example on that one and pretend that it never happened!)
Photo via GalacticBinder.com
Chewbacca has had undeniable success as an icon of the brand. After all, one of the best online resources for all things Star Wars is called Wookieepedia. However, George Lucas & Co. painted themselves into a corner as far as Wookiee narrative possibilities were concerned. Could a civilization evolve with the mechanical facility to fly and repair spacecraft but only sub-verbal communication skills? Perhaps, though it does strain credibility. Lucas has more or less admitted to the problem. He originally intended to employ the Wookiee home world in Return of the Jedi. He created Ewoks instead because he thought a "primitive" Wookiee world would not be credible for devoted fans well-acquainted with Chewie's capacities.
Photo via io9
I believe the early and tragic decision to limit Chewbacca's lingual abilities has been the main hindrance to his story. The Jawas got a language in the films. The Ewoks got a language. Heck, even the ill-fated Greedo got a language. In the original trilogy, only Han Solo and C-3PO appear to understand Chewie at all. We, the audience, are never privy to a direct translation. In the Marvel series (debatable canon value but we'll address that another time), Threepio even goes so far as to say that Wookiee is not a language in his database.
The Expanded Universe has done somewhat better by Wookiee linguistics. According to the above-mentioned Wookieepedia, there are in fact three Wookiee languages: Shyriiwook, Xaczik and Thykarann. Perhaps there is room yet in fan fiction for Chewbacca and his kin to finally get their just due.