From the MoviesAn immense, fur covered warrior of great strength and loyalty, Chewbacca the Wookiee was a well-known figure in both the underworld and in the Rebel Alliance. Born on Kashyyyk over two centuries before the Battle of Yavin, Chewbacca was a wise, sophisticated being with exceptional skills in starship piloting and repair.
Chewbacca is a veteran of the Clone Wars, the galaxy-wide conflict that pitted the clone armies of the Republic against the droid forces of the Confederacy of Independent Systems. The Wookiee was part of the high command tasked with protecting Kashyyyk from droid invasion. There, he served with fellow Wookiee Tarfful and the Jedi Master Yoda.
The wise Yoda had maintained a good relationship with the denizens of Kashyyyk, earning the respect of the mighty Wookiees. When events surrounding the rise of the Empire resulted in the clone forces betraying their Jedi generals, Chewbacca and Tarfful remained loyal to Yoda, helping the Jedi Master escape the clone trap.
For their brutish strength and technological savvy, Wookiees were enslaved by the Empire for use as labor. For a time, Chewbacca was a slave, toiling away for the betterment of the Empire until an impudent Imperial cadet named Han Solo freed him.
Drummed out of the military, Solo had few options but to return to the fringe lifestyle he knew so well. Chewbacca swore loyalty to Han, and became his partner in crime. The two of them became a well-known smuggling duo. When they came into ownership of the freighter Millennium Falcon, their exploits became legendary.
Chewbacca and Solo spent hours modifying and tinkering on their beloved Falcon, souping it up far beyond its original performance specs. Although the Falcon's upkeep was a labor of love, many a time Chewie unleashed his legendary temper on the recalcitrant freighter, banging his massive furry hands against delicate components that refused to behave.
Chewbacca became Solo's conscience of sorts. Though the smuggler maintained a mercenary air of bravado that refused to adhere to any ideals other than self-preservation, Chewie was openly the more compassionate of the two. Perhaps it was the ordeal suffered by his people at the hands of the Empire that caused Chewie to feel this way. Although Solo steered clear of any allegiance during the Galactic Civil War, Chewbacca definitely supported the Rebel cause, though the two of them tried to avoid the struggle altogether.
Ironically, a simple steerage assignment landed them in the heart of the Rebel Alliance. Desperate for cash, Chewie and Han took on a charter of two passengers and their droids from Tatooine to Alderaan. Little did the two smugglers realize that their cargo consisted of a legendary Jedi Knight, the son of the prophesied Chosen One in Jedi mythology, and a pair of droids containing information vital to both the Empire and the Alliance. This trip inextricably drew Chewbacca and Solo into the Rebel fold, and they continued flying missions for the Rebellion for years after that.
Chewbacca stood over two meters tall and had a coat of ginger-brown fur. He wore nothing, save for a bandoleer that held specialized ammunition for the bowcaster that he carried, and a simple tool pouch so that he could enact the many repairs the chronically malfunctioning Falcon required.
From the Expanded UniverseUnlike most Wookiees who rarely stray from the lush forests of Kashyyyk, Chewbacca's youthful wanderlust took him far from the confines of his green homeworld. His travels first included many remote and dangerous locales on Kashyyyk before taking him to the stars. Chewbacca's heart, however, was firmly rooted on Kashyyyk, and he would always try to make it home for important Wookiee holidays to share with his family.
Following the Clone Wars, the Empire subjugated the planet -- ostensibly to punish the world for harboring Jedi fugitives, but mostly to exploit the Wookiees as slave labor. Chewbacca escaped capture for a time, helping his people as best as he could while living the life of a fugitive.
Early on in their smuggling career, Chewbacca stunned Han Solo by returning to Kashyyyk to marry a female Wookiee named Mallatobuck. Solo never pegged Chewie as a family man, but Wookiee customs allowed Chewbacca to continue his flying with Han -- protecting him as the Wookiee life debt demanded -- while still being a husband and, eventually, father. Chewbacca's son, Lumpawarrump, was raised mainly by Malla and Chewie's father, Attichitcuk. Chewie continued to fly the spacelanes, avoiding Imperial patrols and smuggling contraband for various clients, but he returned often to Kashyyyk, to celebrate the Wookiee holiday of Life Day.
Wookiees define family differently than most species. To a Wookiee, an "honor family" contains the closest of friends, and Chewbacca swore loyalty to all of them, offering protection even at great personal risk. When Han Solo and Leia Organa married and began to raise their own family, Chewbacca took their children into his honor family, and helped guard and raise the three young Solos -- Jacen, Jaina and Anakin.
When Chewbacca learned that Solo had been captured by the bloodthirsty Yevetha during the Black Fleet Crisis, he disobeyed Leia's orders and flew straight into the heart of enemy territory: the Koornacht cluster. With the help of his cousins Jowdrrl, Dryanta, and Shoran, and his son, Lumpawarrump, he rescued Han from Yevethan clutches.
At the start of the Yuuzhan Vong invasion, Han Solo and Chewbacca were on the planet of Sernpidal when it became a target of the alien menace. Using massive gravity-altering creatures called dovin basals, the Yuuzhan Vong began to drag Sernpidal's moon of Dobido from its orbit to the planet's surface. Han Solo, his teenaged son Anakin, and Chewbacca began organizing a desperate evacuation, cramming as many escapees aboard the Falcon as they could.
Solo and Chewbacca have had many close calls in the past, and have executed countless last-second escapes; Sernpidal was not to be one of them. As the moon rushed closer to the surface, Chewbacca was cut off from the Falcon. Anakin was faced with a terrible decision. The Falcon could not wait any longer. Rather than endanger everyone aboard, Anakin piloted the ship away, leaving Chewbacca behind. Chewbacca stood his ground, howling defiantly at the immense moon as it crashed into Sernpidal's surface, killing the mighty Wookiee.
Behind the ScenesGeorge Lucas' inspiration for Chewbacca was his loyal pet Alaskan malamute, Indiana, who would also inspire the name of a globetrotting archaeologist several years later. Chewie's original suit -- made of knitted mohair and yak hair, was designed by Stuart Freeborn. Numerous versions of the suit were made to handle the wear and tear of filmmaking. The suits were borrowed from the Lucasfilm Archives during the making of Episode I and slightly redressed to become Senator Yarua of Kashyyyk.
Chewie's voice was a combination of numerous animal sounds from Sound Designer Ben Burtt's personal library. Walruses, camels, bears and badgers were all blended in different ratios to come up with Chewbacca's various utterances. One of the key ingredients in the mix was the sound of Tarik, a black bear from the Happy Hollow Zoo in San Jose, California. Tarik passed away in 1994 due to congestive heart failure.
Chewbacca was played by Peter Mayhew, who donned the suit in all three classic Star Wars movies, and would again wear the Wookiee wool for a number of notable television appearances. In 1978, Chewbacca returned to Kashyyyk (then called Kazhyyyk, and pronounced "Kazzook") to visit his family in the rarely seen "Star Wars Holiday Special" television extravaganza. The heavily dated artifact of the late '70s has only aired once, and is unlikely to ever surface again.
In 1980, Chewbacca was kidnapped by a group of madcap Muppets in a special episode of "The Muppet Show" that also starred Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, and R2-D2. By show's end, audiences were treated to a rare glimpse of Chewbacca's dancing skills.
In 1997, Chewbacca won the Lifetime Achievement Award at the MTV Movie Awards. A visibly moved Mike Myers introduced the mighty Wookiee, who walked to the podium amidst a standing ovation. Chewie, again played by Peter Mayhew, finally received the medal he had been waiting 20 years to get from Carrie Fisher.
The Lifetime Achievement Award came just in time. In 1999's Vector Prime, the first novel of The New Jedi Order series, Chewbacca was one of many casualties in the war against the alien Yuuzhan Vong. In a shocking turn of events, Chewbacca died in the novel, marking the first time one of the main characters of the Star Wars films has been killed off in publishing.
Chewbacca nonetheless returned thanks to the prequel trilogy. When his character was announced to appear in Episode III, it made headlines around the world. The Episode III Creature Shop constructed a new Chewie mask and costume, made of modern, more versatile and durable materials. Peter Mayhew returned to the role for a single day of shooting that resulted in Chewbacca's return to the Star Wars movie saga.
Keywords: Databank - Episode IV, Databank - Episode V, Databank - Episode III, Databank - Episode VI
Filed under: Vault, Character
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