That’s right, you heard me. I know most of you in fandom believe the only thing ewoks could kill is the Star Wars franchise, but that’s because your childhood was a lie and you suck at being a geek. And now I’ll prove it.
Let’s think back to the ground component of the Battle of Endor at the climax of RotJ. A small rebel strike force with nothing but small arms and demo charges square off against an entire legion of Imperial Stormtroopers backed by scout troops on speeder bikes and at least four AT-ST armored units. The Empire knows they’re coming and has, by any measure, brought overwhelming force to the fight, so much so that when the trap is sprung, the Rebel force surrenders without a shot fired. It is a complete and utter defeat.
Until the Ewoks show up. Using nothing but stone-aged weapons, the ewoks launch a surprise attack that disperses the Imperial units entirely as they completely ignore their rebel captives in favor of pursuing the Ewoks’ incursion deep into the forest. They don’t even hesitate. Everyone drops what they’re doing and throws themselves into a counter attack against stone-aged natives. At first blush, this is an insane strategy that frees up the rebel force to continue their mission to take down the shield generator. The Imperials should have simply dug in and established a perimeter. But they don’t. They dive headlong into an Ewok hunt on their own turf. This only makes sense if the Imperials know a large-scale Ewok attack represents a massive, immediate threat to their survival that required an instantaneous counter attack to survive the encounter. The Imperials learned to take the Ewoks even more seriously than trained rebels with modern weapons.
Once in the forest, the Imperials find a nightmarish maze of booby traps ranging from simple tripwires that clothesline scouts off their speeder bikes, to drastically more elaborate traps that manage to destroy two AT-ST’s outright, including a rolling log trap, and the now-infamous double battering ram trap, the rather incredible effectiveness of which was definitively proven on Mythbusters.
Which begs the question. Where did those AT-ST killing booby traps come from? There are two possibilities:
- There are animals running around Endor so goddamned big the Ewoks developed the traps as defense against dinosaur-size predators, or to hunt dinosaur-size herbivores. If this is true, it means doe-eyed teddy bears were running around routinely killing things many hundreds of times their size since long before the Empire showed up. Or…
- There are no mega-fauna on Endor, and the little furries built all those booby traps as a direct response to the Imperial occupation in a matter of a few years. This is, by far, the more terrifying possibility, showing Ewoks are not only inventive and quickly adaptable, but are capable of large-scale engineering projects using nothing more advanced than stone tools and ropes, all without their efforts being discovered by the occupying force of a technologically advanced race.
I tend to favor the first possibility, partly because of the timeframe issue, but also because morphologically, Ewoks’ squat frames, short arms and legs, relatively stubby fingers, broad noses, and thick coats of fur strongly suggest they evolved in much cooler, more northern latitudes closer to Endor’s polar regions. They are not adapted as an arboreal species, yet built their society high in the immense trees of Endor’s forests. Why would a ground-dwelling race take to the trees? As protection against the immense predators they found roaming the forest floor once they migrated south.
As cute as they are, Ewoks are clearly predators. Their large eyes and binocular vision are more adapted for hunting than being hunted. This is borne out by the fact their first reaction to finding Luke, Han, and Chewbacca in one of their nets was to tie them up and spit roast them, something they’d doubtlessly done to wayward scout troops for years. Not even the threat of Han’s blaster deterred them. Most people assume Ewoks simply didn’t understand the threat Han’s blaster represented. They were ignorant, not brave.
But how likely is that? Return of the Jedi takes place three and a half years after the destruction of the first Death Star. Chances are good the Empire landed on Endor not long after to lay the groundwork for constructing the second Death Star. The very first thing they would have built is the Shield Generator to protect the nascent super-weapon through its development. To do so, Imperial troops had to drive the Ewoks from their territory. Knowing the Empire’s tactics, they likely sent in Stormtroopers to clear whatever area was necessary.
During this forced relocation, countless Ewoks must have fallen to Imperial blasters as their territory was pacified. They weren’t ignorant of the threat Han’s blaster represented. They knew exactly what it was and didn’t give a shit.
Further proof of their warrior prowess is how utterly fearless the little bastards are once the fighting starts. They run straight into the teeth of storm troopers spitting lightning and fire from their guns without a second thought. When their arrows prove ineffective, they close to hand-to-hand range and start beating storm troopers to death with rocks. They only retreat in the face of overwhelming force, and even then, they are leading the invaders into ambushes, like the unholy offspring of Teddy Ruxpin and Leonidas.
And think of how they fight. There is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it scene with an ewok standing on an AT-ST’s foot, hammering away at its ankle with only a stone ax. At first, this scene appears comical, with an ignorant savage whacking away in a completely futile attempt against a walking tank. But is this a fair assessment?
I say no. His only problem is that he hasn’t encountered metal before. If, however, he was fighting against one of the proposed mega-fauna, his tactics make perfect sense. He’s attacking a vulnerable joint that, if damaged, would completely immobilize the animal, much like hyenas biting at the achilles tendons of their prey. And what happens when the first few blows don’t work? He adjusts his grip and goes right back at it, not giving a solitary fuck. This isn’t his first rodeo, folks. He’s hacked down colossal monsters before and isn’t sure why it’s not working this time, but isn’t about to quit, either.
This pattern continues throughout the battle. From the Redbull-chugging nutcase in the hang-glider, dropping rocks on Stormtrooper heads like a DJ droppin’ beats, to the precision of their catapult crews placing rock after rock onto an AT-ST’s head, these guys are badasses.
If it were animals and not armored vehicles they were fighting, they’d have won in the first minutes of the engagement. When things are looking bad, they don’t run, they adjust and adapt, probing for weaknesses in their foe. They suffer lopsided losses without breaking. This isn’t their first large-scale engagement. When you realize that, their eagerness to join the final battle becomes all the more amazing. They knew exactly what they were getting into, knew the impossible odds, looked at an entire Legion of the Emperor’s best troops, and said in one voice, “I’m your Huckleberry.”
And they won. Without them, Han wouldn’t have taken the shield down, Wedge and Lando wouldn’t have destroyed the reactor, and the rebel fleet would have been obliterated. Give them their due. Forget Wookiees, Klingons, Cylons, Krogan, Minbari, Elietes, and Fremen.
Ewoks are the most dangerous warriors in sci-fi.
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