On the 30th of April, the Star Wars fandom paid its homage to silver screen actor Peter Mayhew; Hollywood’s gentle giant who portrayed the iconic Chewbacca.
Mayhew’s acting career spanned at least three decades. Although he was most known for playing the charismatic Wookie mechanic in Lucas’ saga, Mayhew starred in several other TV shows, including Donny & Marie, Glee, and, The Dark Tower.
Since Mayhew’s destiny was to give life to Chewbacca, in wanting to honor his memory, we have prepared a list of 10 least-known facts about Chewie. Some of them are from the movie, others from the books. We also got a couple of tidbits from the canonical Star Wars saga.
So, without further ado, here’s what Chewie’s been up to when he’s not fixing Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon for another Kessel Run.
It is really old
Apart from Yoda, who, as we know, was around 900 years when Luke met him in the Dagobah swamplands, Chewie’s also to be considered a senior. Well, at least by our standards.
In A New Hope, Chewbacca was around 200 years old. Still, considering that the average lifespan of a Wookie was 400 years, one could consider Chewie middle-aged rather than the senior.
Is it a dog? Is a walking carpet? No, that’s a Wookie.
Did you know that Chewie’s character was actually modeled after Lucas’ pet dog? In a brief interview taken in the late 70s, George Lucas admitted that he got the inspiration by watching Indiana, his Alaskan Malamute pet dog, staring out the car’s window while he was riding to the Star Wars set.
Where do Wookies come from?
The Star Wars series features various extraterrestrial life forms: Chagrians, Gands, Dugs, Devaronians, Gungans, Biths, and, of course, wookies. A least-known fact about Chewie is that his home planet is called Kashyyyk.
Chewie’s a family man
For those of you who are still wondering, yes, Chewie’s a male, although he could be anything considering his rich coat. Moreover, according to the Star Wars lore, Chewie has a spouse on Kashyyyk called Malla with whom he had a son called Lumpawaroo, which literally meant Limpy. As the story goes, Lumpawaroo and his mother spent most of their lives serving the Empire, after the fall of Kashyyyk.
Heeding the call of duty, Chewbacca, a fearsome warrior, and a skillful mechanic left his home planet and family behind to join the Rebellion at Han’s side. He planned on returning home once the Empire’s was defeated. Unfortunately, he never got around to keeping that promise, because he would pass away at the age of 225, right after the Battle of Yavin.
The truth behind Chewie’s growling
George Lucas once declared that Chewie’s voice was pieced together using sound effects from various animals such as tigers, bears, badgers, lions, rabbits, walruses, and, yes, even camels.
Chewie’s a Wookie of many talents
Kashyyyk’s society is tribal and led by strong warriors. Although most Wookies prefer a simpler way of life, Chewie proves that his species can outwit anyone in any field. Throughout the movies, Chewie’s seen repairing the Millennium Falcon, pieces together C3PO, and even riding a mech! What can we say? There’s more to him than a crooked smile and a bandolier.
Chewie’s weapon of choice
Though Chewbacca would like nothing more than to punch and kick his way out of any situation, some cases call for another approach. In the movies, Chewie uses an odd weapon which kind of resembles a crossbow. His peashooter is called a bowcaster, a weapon design born on Kashyyyk.
Moreover, Chewie made his weapon from scratch while he was busy fixing C3PO. By the way, there are no armories on Kashyyyk or stores selling bowcasters. When a Wookie comes to age, he must prove to his tribe by facing several challenges, one of which is building a weapon.
How’s he even holding stuff in his hands?
Many Star Wars fans have been wondering about Chewie’s hands: does he have finger, tendrils, or what? Well, according to the Wookie Wiki, all the members of this species have very sharp claws. However, they are mostly used as tools, never as weapons. Of course, one wonders what would be the purpose of having razor-sharp talons when all you do is kick, punch, and shoot?
Well, according to Wookie laws, using claws in combat is a dishonorable act. Guess it’s the proverbial knife brought to a gunfight. Anyway, those who are caught performing this act in public are banished from the tree city (yes, Wookies live in trees; the higher, the better).
What does Chewbacca even mean?
In Wookie tongue, Chewbacca’s apparently a name as common as John or Jake. The name itself comes from the Russian word Sobaka, which literally translates as a dog. Lack of inspiration or pure genius? We’ll let you decide on that one.
What is he even saying?
To use, Chewie’s speech may be nothing that a dissonant collection of growls and roars, but, according to the lore that’s not entirely true. Shyriiwook is called the dialect, and it’s mostly used by Wookies tradesmen. Interestingly enough, Chewie and most members of his species can understand plain English (called Basic in the Star Wars universe), but they can’t speak it.
No, it’s not about cultural heritage. It has more to do with Wookie anatomy. Apparently, their vocal cords aren’t flexible enough to articulate Basic. Yes, it’s a wonder that anyone even understands them, let alone have a brooding conversation.
Chewie is indeed one of the most interesting characters in cult-classic Star Wars, and that’s a fact.
However, Chewie’s tinkering and growls would not have been possible without Mayhew’s appeal and personal charm. Wherever you are Peter, give the Empire a run for its money!
We hope you’ve enjoyed our article on lesser-known facts about the saga’s most iconic character.
Now, if you feel like there’s anything missing from the list or some of the facts may be off, don’t be a stranger and leave a comment.