In honor of May the Fourth, I would like to share with you my feelings on a controversial subject that has divided our culture. A topic that has fueled flame wars since before the internet really even existed. An issue tainted with bigotry and hatred that has worked its way into the very core of what defines us. Much like the Civil War, brothers have fought against brothers in defending their beliefs. In fact, I myself find that I am sleeping with the enemy. What is this hot button issue? The Ewoks.
I unashamedly proclaim my love of the Ewoks. For years, many have dragged their name through the mud as the thing that ruined Return of the Jedi. Stories surfaced that George Lucas had originally planned to have the climactic battle between Rebel and Empire forces take place on the planet of Kashyyyk, home of the Wookies. But ultimately the idea was scrapped, the location was changed to the moon of Endor, and the Ewoks were born. Detractors have held on to the idea that a Wookie-based climax would have elevated the conflict and been more “plausible” as far as toppling the Empire is concerned. I disagree! Now, I love Wookies as much as the next guy. They’re cool. They’re strong. They’re menacing. They shoot crossbows with big metal bolts enveloped in energy. But for those same reasons, I’d expect them to hold their own against the Empire, particularly when they are teamed up with a Rebel Alliance force.
The Ewoks, on the other hand, are unassuming. They are a primitive race with simple tools, close relationships, and a belief in the mystical. For these very reasons, the Empire overlooked the Ewoks when they put a base on Endor. They left the indigenous creatures alone because they saw no threat. Had the climax taken place on Kashyyyk, the Empire would have had to go in and wipe out the Wookies first, which would be difficult and would draw attention to their efforts to establish this base. By using Ewoks, Lucas was able to perfectly illustrate the David vs. Goliath story of the Rebels and the Empire. The Rebel Alliance wanted and needed to ally with the Ewoks to infiltrate the base, and their acceptance and trust of this underdog culture demonstrated key moral values of the Alliance. Star Wars, as far as the Rebels are concerned, is a story about rising up, not just pushing back. The assumption that the Ewoks are worthless or weak was integral to the success of the story. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
The Ewoks are not weak, they are clever. I love watching them roll rocks down a hill or drop rocks from a hang glider, yank up trips lines between trees, whip rocks out of their slingshots, and hijack speed bikes. They are not warriors and they aren’t fighting because of political machinations or greedy land grabs over resources. They are standing up for their families and their community. They are simple, but they are pure. In many ways, they represent the ideals of the Star Wars universe, perhaps more so than even the Jedi.
In many ways, Wicket has become the mascot of the Ewoks. Played by a young Warwick Davis, Wicket is just about the most kind-hearted character in movie history. If you’ve never wanted him to be your friend in real life, then you have no heart. He is adorable! In the mid-80s, two movies about the Ewoks aired on TV- Caravan of Courage and Battle for Endor. Ewoks supporters like myself can see the brilliance in the shows. Granted, they are TV movies from thirty years ago, so there is a certainly level of cheesiness, but they still hold up. In fact, I’m watching those movies today to celebrate Star Wars day (which is what inspired me to write the opinion article.) The movies do a great job of shedding more light on the Ewok culture and the perils of the Endor moon. Just watch the scene from Caravan of Courage where Wicket is trying to learn how to say “star cruiser,” and then try to tell me that you don’t want him to be your BFF. If you can honestly watch both of those movies and still not love the Ewoks, then it will finally be confirmed that you’re the darkest of the Sith. And if you don’t know what that means, then you probably have no idea why May 4th is even special.
I realize that haters gonna hate. But I think that, as a society, it’s time to move on. Ewok lovers got their due in Return of the Jedi. Wookie lovers finally got to see a battle with the Empire on Kashyyyk in Revenge of the Sith. Surely, we’ll see more Wookies in Star Wars VII, Chewbacca included. But I hope that J.J. Abrams, in his infinite wisdom, sneaks some Ewoks into the new trilogy. Long may they live.