In October of 2012 we were blown away by the sudden revelation that George Lucas had sold Star Wars to Disney, and new movies continuing the legendary saga were on the way. Being a huge fan of the Expanded Universe, my mind reeled at the horrifying thought that this could only mean one of two fates for my beloved EU. Either the movies would be based on the novels which take place after Return of the Jedi, (highly unlikely), or the old canon would be tossed out, (very likely). With the same certainty of outcome as watching two trains hurtle towards each other, I saw the writing on the wall. We would not see the Solo twins grow up. The devastation of the extra-galactic Yuuzhan Vong would never happen. And Chewie would never sacrifice himself . . . actually, that last one is pretty okay with me.
I came to terms with this reality fairly easily, unlike some people. The thought of a new take on where our favorite characters went after the Original Trilogy was refreshing, and I was excited to see where the franchise would go sans Lucas (no Lucas hate from this guy, just to be clear). But, I was still a little down about losing so much content. There were some really great concepts and characters developed over the years and now they were gone. I, and many of us, hoped against hope that the new story team and content creators might remember some of the amazing things from the Expanded Universe and adapt them for future projects. We were not disappointed. While some seemed obvious to happen after the fact, others were more subtle. So, I decided to run through a few of my favorites. Did you catch some of the more obscure ones?
1. Grand Admiral Thrawn
I figure we should get the most obvious one out of the way first. Grand Admiral Thrawn first appeared in Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire. Released in June of 1991, Heir to the Empire reignited the flames of fandom during the “Dark Times” between the trilogies when there were no more stories for our heroes. Although previous novels such as 1978’s Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and The Han Solo Adventures from 1979–80 gave us some additional backgrounds and tales, they were released in the middle of the original film, and thus considered contributory. When Thrawn, a blue-skinned Chiss from the Unknown Regions, burst onto the scene nine years after the Battle of Endor, our jaws dropped. Han, Luke, and Leia faced a foe, not of the dark side, but of deep intellect that seemed impossible to beat.
A fan favorite since then, Thrawn has always held a special place in Star Wars lore. So, when we learned that Dave Filoni and friends were bringing him back into the canon in Rebels, and soon after in a new novel by Zhan himself, we all flipped. Still cold. Still calculating. Still blue. Grand Admiral Thrawn was too big to remain in Legends, and thankfully Lucasfilm knew that. Who knows where our favorite Chiss will go in Season 4, but I, for one, hope he doesn’t leave us too soon.
2. The B-Wing Fighter
Okay, so not necessarily the B-Wing itself, since it is in the films. But, the origins of this craft in Legends and canon run parallel to each other. According to what is shown to us on Rebels, the B-Wing was designed and built by Quarrie, a Mon Calamari, on the planet Shantipole as part of Project Shantipole. He eventually hands the fighter over to Hera Syndulla for use by the Rebels in their fight against the Empire.
In Legends, the B-Wing was designed by a different Mon Calamari you may have heard of: Admiral Ackbar. Ackbar too designed the ship during project Shantipole, on the planet of Shantipole. So it’s almost a word for word retelling. While I’m glad they reached back into the EU for this material, I like that they switched out Ackbar for Quarrie. Not only does it refresh it a bit, but it was also a cool little homage to legendary artist Ralph McQuarrie, who created the concepts of so much of what we see in Star Wars, and whose personal style is what the look of Star Wars Rebels is based on.
3. Kyber Crystals
Now, this one can get complicated and confusing. By now, kyber crystals have become an integral part of Star Wars lore. Being truly brought into canon in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and then carried over to the mainstream audience in Rogue One, kybers are known as the unique force-attuned crystals that are used by Jedi to power their lightsabers. We’ve also come to learn that certain Galactic Empires can also use them to power planet-destroying non-moons. But, where did they fit in before Lucas brought them into the broader storytelling of his saga? This is where it gets interesting.
Originally, there was only one kyber crystal. Also, it was “Kaiburr”, not “kyber”. The Kaiburr was a single crystal housed in the Temple of Pomojema on the planet Mimban. When wielded by a Force user, it would amplify their abilities by one thousand times. Revealed for the first time in Splinter of the Mind’s Eye, it actually goes as far back as George Lucas’ first draft of A New Hope in 1975. Then called The Adventure of Luke Starkiller Episode One: The Star Wars, the Kaiburr, or “Kiber” at that time, was a plot device that the heroes needed to obtain. It evolved into the story where Kenobi needed to recapture his personal Kiber crystal from a crystal chamber on throne-world of Alderaan. Kenobi would have explained how it was stolen from him by one of his students during the Battle of Condawn, the same battle Luke’s father had died in. Obviously, we’ve come a long way from a legendary Holy Grail-type crystal to the lighsaber crystals of today.
4. The Bendu, the Ashla, and the Bogan.
Season 3 of Rebels dropped quite a bit on us, and a lot of it had its origins in the Expanded Universe. The being known as Bendu was revealed to us and with that introduction came some old school content. Bendu declared he was of neither the light side nor the dark. But when doing so, he referred to the two sides of the Force as the Ashla and the Bogan. Where did all this come from?
Well, the Bendu gets his name from one of the early drafts of Star Wars. The Jedi were originally named the Jedi-Bendu, the personal bodyguards of the Emperor. Also, the cog-like symbol used by the Clone Army and the Jedi during the Clone Wars was defined as an ancient Bendu symbol.
The Ashla and the Bogan have deep roots in Star Wars. Currently, Ashla has been shown to be the Lasat word for the Force, as well as a false name used by Ahsoka Tano during the early years of the Empire. It used to be the name of the light side of the Force in ancient times, according to the early drafts of Star Wars. In the same drafts, the Bogan was the dark side of the Force. Interestingly, in Legends there were also two moons in the Tython system, the supposed original home of the Jedi, that each carried one of those names and represented the two sides of the Force.
So these are just four examples among many of how the old Expanded Universe continues to impact the current canon. I know for a fact there’s a ton more, and likely more are on the way. It always makes me smile to see things I’d learned of years ago make it’s way back in with new content. As Dave Filoni said, “There’s always a bit of truth in legends.”