Why Chewbacca Didn’t (But Did) Get A Medal

The outcry has been heard for decades, and rightfully so. It is injustice. A travesty.

Chewbacca should have gotten a medal!

When Han and Luke walk down the procession in the throne room, they do so to a heroic fanfare and the adoration of the entire Rebel Alliance. A Rebel Alliance that still exists because of what these heroes did. Chewbacca is one of those heroes!

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So why didn’t he receive a medal? Well, actually, he did. In the Chewbacca comic miniseries, we see that after the ceremony that ends A New Hope, Chewbacca received the same medal as his peers.

Okay, so why didn’t he just get one at the ceremony? This is where things get into the theoretical so as to justify the retcon, but there is actually a great amount of context that lead us to the answer to this long lasting question.

Chewbacca did not receive a medal at the award ceremony because doing so would go against the Wookiee code of honor.

Honor has long been considered one of the foundational elements of Wookiee society, namely because of its natural connection to loyalty. Despite it not being mentioned in Solo, the Wookie life debt is a thing. In the book Life Debt (shocking!), Han mentions that part of the reason he feels the need to help Chewbacca free his homeworld, Kashyyyk, is because he feels indebted to Chewie. Chewie, Han says, claims that he has some kind of life debt, but that in actuality they have always been equals.

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A life debt implies, in and of itself, a sense of honor and loyalty. The person who was saved is repaying the other party with their life. That takes dedication, brews loyalty, and thus includes honor. Jar Jar Binks, the only character we see directly talk about a life debt, comes from a society, being a warrior culture, that is based on honor. Even after Qui-Gon’s noble end, Jar Jar continues to pay that debt back by working for the galaxy, and Naboo in particular, that Qui-Gon died protecting.

Taking this narrative and expanding on it, it is plausible (and my own “headcanon”) that Chewbacca declined getting a medal at the ceremony. A Wookiee, being a part of an honorable culture, does what he does not for the acclaim but because it was the right thing to do. Thus, he should not receive award or adoration for his actions. It could possibly be a Wookiee cultural expectation to decline such awards.

Chewie does take the medal after the ceremony. Han is insistent in Life Debt that he and Chewie have always been equals, and thus, at the behest of Han, he takes the medal after the ceremony. When we get to the Chewbacca comic, Chewie has the medal we all want him to receive.

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One final element puts the shine on this tinfoil hat. After the events in between Zarro and Chewie finish up, Chewie gives Zarro his medal. This, in a way, is a sign of adding Zarro into his family, and reminding her that he will be there should she need him. Immediately after that, in a wonderful piece of Star Wars rhyming, Chewie travels back to Kashyyyk to present his child a bandoleer.

In all actuality, not giving Chewbacca a medal was probably just an oversight on the part of an overstretched crew on set. But Star Wars wouldn’t be Star Wars if it weren’t for all of the over analyzing and preposterous theories the fandom comes up with. This one, for me, makes Chewbacca all the more lovable. As if he needed to be. 

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