The Origin of the Life Debt

June 13, 2018 at 12:09 am | Posted in Ewok Corner, Regular Feature, Star Wars | 1 Comment

With the Solo movie, a lot of people have been talking about the life debt between Chewbacca and Han. Many of us expected to see that moment in the film, but it didn’t happen, at least not explicitly. We certainly see Han and Chewbacca saving each others lives, but there’s never any mention of a life debt. Some people are even wondering if the life debt is being written out of canon, but there’s also the question of where did this whole idea come from in the first place? Now that’s the kind of question that get’s a die hard Star Wars fan thinking. Where did that idea come from?

If you venture to Wookieepedia, they won’t exactly give you the answer, but you can shift through the reference materials to find the oldest source. That in turn leads you to Brian Daley’s Star Wars novel Han Solo and the Lost Legacy. Back in August of 1980, prior to West End Games’ involvement with Star Wars and just a couple months after The Empire Strikes Back hit movie screens, this book introduced fans to the idea of a life debt between Han and Chewie. In fact there are no less than seven mentions. Here are a few of the more important ones, including the first mention ever.

Once, in an uncomfortable situation stemming from an abortive Kessel spice run, Badure had saved both Han’s and Chewbacca’s lives. That he should have sought them out here could mean only one thing.

“I won’t waste your time, kid,” Badure said. “There are some that would like to see my hide hung out to dry. I need a ship with punch, and gait to spare, and a skipper I can trust.”

Han realized that Badure wasn’t going to be first to mention the life-debt the two partners owed him.

Han Solo and the Lost Legacy

Cover art for Han Solo and the Lost Legacy. Note the crystal skull of Xim the Despot which appeared in Solo on one of Dryden’s trophy tables.

What do we owe Badure?” Han hollered back. “He made a business offer, Chewie. ” But he knew better. Wookiees will honor a Life-Debt over anything else; he’ll never walk away from it, Han thought.


Life-Debt or no, it’s everyone for himself. He had trouble selling the idea to himself, though.

Then the decision was taken from him. Issuing a deafening Wookiee battle cry, Chewbacca moved off, holding up the gong to protect himself. Han looked back and saw that Hasti and Skynx were watching him. The girl, he thought, would surely run to help Badure if he didn’t.

“Don’t just stand there,” he snarled. “Get to cover!” He gave her a shove toward the edge of the field and dashed off the other way, laying down heavy fire as he sprinted, zigzagging after the Wookiee.

“You crazy fur-face! ” he roared at his first mate when he had caught up to him. “What’re you doing, playing captain again?” Chewbacca took a moment from angling and maneuvering the gong for an irritated, explanatory growl.

Life-Debt?” Han exploded, dodging around his friend into the open to snap off a pair of quick shots. “And who pays up if you lose us ours?”

“The guns came in handy, didn’t they? Besides, it gave Chewbacca a chance to pay back his Life-Debt.”

Brian Daley, also uses the term “Honor Family” when talking about the life debt from Chewbacca’s perspective.

He prepared to die as he would be expected to, head of a Wookiee Honor Family, his life so intimately intertwined with that of Han Solo that there existed no human word for the relationship.

So, we know Brian Daley explored the idea of a life debt between Chewbacca and Han in the old Star Wars expanded universe, but where did he get the idea? Thanks to the Star Wars Fanboy Association, they still have an old interview with Brian Daley that was conducted by Alex Newborn. In that interview, Brian talked about where the life debt idea came from.

Alex Newborn: I’ve noticed several of your original concepts being bastardized in recent Bantam novels, with terms like “Wookiee Honor Family” and the itching associated with synthflesh being resurrected but slightly confused by the new author. Do you feel that such half-hearted attempts at continuity, possibly imposed on them by LFL, are worthwhile?

Brian Daley: I’d say no blame accrues to LFL, which has an enormous amount of marketing tie-in to keep track of.

(By the way, that “Wookiee Honor Family” isn’t my invention but that of George Lucas, who put the concept forward in some in-house material he generated in the wake of ANH. I recall “Life-Debt” as being mine but, after all, the expression’s only a natural take on, and extrapolation of, what he’d already put in place.)


Thus, in the end, it all comes back to George. One has to wonder if fans would backpedal on the life debt idea if they knew it originated with the maker himself. I know I would not want them to abandon it. Not only does it go back to George Lucas’ original ideas for the characters, but it creates an interesting bond between Han and Chewbacca, and it certainly provides fertile ground for future Han and Chewie origin stories. So whether you like the idea or not, there’s your answer on the origin of the life debt.

Posted By: Skuldren for Roqoo Depot.

1 Comment »

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  1. Excellent post

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