There is no Han without Chewie, and there is no Chewie without Han — that much is clear to every Star Wars fan. So the origin story of the Han-Chewie friendship was one of the biggest expectations fans had from the 2018 spin-off, Solo: A Star Wars Story.
With the only source of Han’s backstory declared non-canon, the spin-off film now holds the sole version of how Han met Chewie.
According to the 2018 Han Solo movie, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Han meets Chewie as his meal for the day.
Punished by the Imperial troops for his attempts to defect, Han is thrown into a cell to be devoured by a “beast,” which turns out to be a very angry Chewbacca.
However, their first meeting was not what fans had long since imagined it would be.
Star Wars Legends, formally known as the Expanded Universe and later declared non-canon, has long been the only source of Han’s origin story.
That was until Disney, the brand new owner of Lucasfilm, decided to make a Han Solo origin movie.
The 2018 spin-off did not disappoint fans and stayed true to the spirit of the Legends’ version but carving out details of its own along the way.
The canon version of how Han met Chewie is only beginning to tell Han’s story with the one spin-off film. We know he can understand Chewie’s language but not how he came to learn it.
There are hints to be found in the material released around the time Solo: A Star Wars Story was released. But there is not much in the film itself about Han’s story, mostly before he met Chewie.
1. The Comic Deviation
The expanded Star Wars universe was rejected by creator George Lucas long before the Han Solo movie.
The Prequel Trilogy borrowed from the expanded universe mythology created over the years in books, games, and magazines but wrote a completely different history.
The events in the movies have always been considered canon over the expanded universe history ever since.
So it is not a surprise that when writing for Disney’s Han Solo spin-off, writers Jon and Lawrence Kasdan reimagined some parts of the Solo-Chewbacca story.
So what exactly do the now un-canonized comics say about the inception of the Han-Chewie saga? According to the Legends, Han Solo had met Chewie while serving as an Imperial Navy officer.
The big guy was caught after the Imperials captured a slave ship, which Han refused to destroy as a TIE pilot.
The Imperial in-charge officer of the mission, Peter Nyklas, was being very abusive with Chewie, but then he went too far one day and was on the verge of killing Chewbacca when Han stepped in and saved Chewie’s life.
In this way, Chewie ended up in a life debt to Han, concomitantly following the smuggler-turned-Rebel around the galaxy, forever. Or at least till Han is alive, that is.
According to A.C. Crispin’s The Hutt Gambit – the second novel in Crispin’s The Han Solo Trilogy – Han saves Chewie from being whipped to death because he owed his own life to another Wookiee.
Han owed a debt to a Wookiee named Dewlanna for saving his life from under Garris Shrike’s control. Now, Han in Solo: A Star Wars Story also saves Chewie from the Imperial Army, but it doesn’t happen in the same way.
2. How Han Really Meets Chewie?
In Solo: A Star Wars, which is now the official Star Wars version of how Han met Chewie, things happen a little differently. The crux of Han saving Chewie while going against the Imperial Army still holds, but the exact details are altered.
The film begins with a younger Han (Alden Ehrenreich) stuck on the murky Corellia, a grim industrial planet with Imperial troopers on all its corners.
When his first attempt of leaving the planet with his pal Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) goes awry, he enlists with the Empire’s army, hoping to become a fighter pilot and return for her someday.
But as it turns out, Han is just too disagreeable to stick around in the Imperial army’s disciplined corridors. The next time we meet him, three years have passed, Han is kicked out of the flight academy, and we are dropped into the trenches of a chaotic battlefield.
Mid-battle, we see him being caught by his commanding officer while trying to defect — with con-men Val (Thandie Newton) and Tobias Beckett (Woody Harrelson) — and tossed into a giant pit housing a “beast”. Of course, the pit is laced with human bones, and no points for guessing who its inhabitant was!
In what is the Star Wars franchise’s most crude depiction of Chewie ever, we see Chewie attempting to kill and devour Han when they first meet.
But Han’s knowledge of the Wookiee tongue, Shyriiwook, helps him strike a deal with the beast – his life in exchange for Chewie’s freedom. The duo then has one of the cutest pretend mud battles and manages to escape.
This is how the film says Chewie is indebted to Han. Of course, there are other incidents of Han saving Chewie’s life along the way. But this is now the inciting incident of the decades-long bromance of Han and Chewie.
3. How Can Han Understand Chewie?
Now, for the one big thing that remains unexplained in the Solo spin-off. How does Han know Shyriiwook, the Wookiee language?
That said, the movie does get credits for Han speaking Shyriiwook for the very first time. It is probably the first time a non-Wookiee has spoken Wookiee tongue, ever!
There are hints to be found in the material released around Solo: A Star Wars’s release.
According to this material, Han picked up some broken Shyriiwook while running errands for the gangster Lady Proxima.
The subtitles in the movie also prove that Han’s Shyriiwook isn’t all that great — he may understand it well enough, but his verbal skills leave a lot to be desired.
While the film may not have told us how exactly Han came to learn one of the Galaxy’s most challenging languages, the Legends saga has its own version.
According to the Legends, Han could understand Shyriiwook because he was taught by the Wookiee Dewlannamapia, short for Dewlanna, a cook on the smuggling vessel he joined as a boy.
Dewlanna had joined the crew of Trader’s Luck, a starship captained by a human-slaver, Garris Shrike, and crewed with children who worked for him as thieves.
During her days aboard the ship, she met a nine-year-old Han. As the mother figure to an orphaned Han, she oversaw his education and even saved him from dying due to the Corellian Tanamen Fever.
According to this version of events, it was Dewlanna who had discovered Han’s last name, Solo, which Shrike was keeping a secret.
Around 10 BBY, Han made his first attempt to flee Shrike’s slavery. When he came to bid goodbye to Dewlanna, the two were found by Shrike.
A brawl ensued, and Dewlanna sacrificed her life to protect Han. After managing a successful escape, Han goes on to join the Imperial army as an officer.
4. About Solo: A Star Wars Story
The 2018 Star Wars spin-off film Solo: A Star Wars Story follows the adventures of Han Solo and his friends Chewbacca and Lando Calrissian in the early years of the Empire. Han is out to make a name for himself in the seedy galactic underworld all while dreaming of flying among the stars.
He is seen in the classic will they/won’t they relationship with fellow Corellian scrunge rat Qi’ra. One of the greyest characters of the franchise, Qi’ra helps Han survive the ruthless criminal organization, Crimson Dawn. However, by the end of the film, she is seen spearheading Crimson Dawn.
The film offers a treat for Han Solo fans, answering so many questions from the original trilogy about the galaxy’s favorite hero. However, it has been termed as redundant and irrelevant to the original canon plot.