May the Fourth be with you, and RIP Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew, May 19, 1944 – April 30, 2019).
Wikipedia will not tell you this, but the original Chewbacca was female.
Chewbacca was based on a drawing by Ralph McQuarrie, which in turn was based on an illustration by John Schoenherr for George RR Martin’s 1975 short story “And seven times never kill man”:
On the world of Corlos, the Children of Bakkalon reside within the City of Steel Angels. Outside the city are the forest folk called the Jaenshi, living quiet lives in harmony with planet and gathering around their clan’s pyramid. The Steel Angels come out from their city and destroy the pyramids, hunting and killing the Jaenshi, calling them soulless animals. The trader neKrol has come to Corlos in his ship, the Lights of Jolostar, in an effort to save the Jaenshi. Is there room on this planet for more than one race?
Just imagine, Star Wars might have had a species of lady and gentleman wookiees alike roaming the forests with their bandoliers and bowcasters, in the same way the sand people roam the deserts. Instead, we got a poorly explained male buddy movie, with Han Solo and Chewie as the dude-bro buddies. Of course we might also have ended up with some kind of animated teddy bear like the Ewoks, so it could have been a lot worse. But it was a missed opportunity to have a wookiee queen or warrior, or even a warm-hearted bandit mercenary, the female equivalent of a Han Solo.
It was never explained how Han Solo and Chewie could be buddies if they could not communicate, but never mind, the fans steadfastly refused to have Chewie cast as a mascot or sidekick, and were incensed when Chewie did not get a medal along with the humans at the end. There was a back story that they had gone to the wookiee’s home planet for a separate ceremony, but in the end they gave Chewbacca a lifetime award, with Leia doing the honors and Mayhew in costume giving the acceptance speech in Wookiee language (Was it voiced by someone else? Not sure of all the credits, but Google is your friend.) (If it doesn’t play, just copy/paste the URL in a new tab.)
I hesitate to mention this, but it is canon, the truly awful Holiday Special, but there is a female wookiee in this one. Unfortunately she is truly boring and like the rest of the Holiday Special, not worthy of the Star Wars legacy. As women on Wikipedia are frequently considered not in their own right but only in relation to their family members, this wookiee, Malla, is only known as Chewie’s wife, a stay-at-home mom reduced to watching daytime television.
I confess I have not seen the whole thing, having discovered about halfway through that bootleg video #11 of the series was missing, but having suffered through the first half, I doubt very much if the second half is worth watching.
This short segment is a snapshot of what was wrong with the Holiday Special in general. Here Malla is watching a cooking show and trying to cook along with it. “She” (Mickey Morton – red link) turns in a credible performance, in spite of the script, as does Harvey Gorman, who plays the four-armed alien cook Chef Gormaanda. But the entire script seems to have been written by 14-year-olds, and is a total departure from the genre, as none of the cast has ever worked blue before. As a joke, it is unfunny and seriously breaks the fourth wall. You can find a clip of this, or even the entire show online, but perhaps this wookiee, and this entire show, are best forgotten.