Happy Star Wars Day everyone!
The Star Wars’ anthology novel, Tales from Jabba’s Palace (TfJP), is probably one of the most underrated stories ever to be produced in the Star Wars’ universe. So many funny, clever, and important stories happen in this oft-forgotten book that I wonder why it’s not discussed more often. I daresay, this is the book that help got me into Star Wars back when I was in Junior High (a time that I hardly ever read to begin with). After reading this book, I read the other two Tales books (Tales from Mos Eisely Cantina and Tales of the Bounty Hunters) and played great Star Wars video games. TfJP was my definitive first look behind the movie’s curtains and peer into the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
Why? Why did this book capture me and drive me towards my eventual Star Wars obsession?
Well, remember in Return of the Jedi when Luke killed the Rancor and while he was hustled away, a chubby, shirtless guy ran forward to the now dead Rancor and begin crying? That scene, both humorous and poignant, spoke volumes about a character, about a history, that we as an audience have not been nor will ever be exposed to.
It is this character’s history, Malakili, whose tale we read first (aptly titled “A Boy and his Rancor”) in TfJP. A strong story to start on, we are given an in-depth look at Malakili and his developing friendship with his Rancor. The story, one of the longer ones in the book, takes its time and shows how Malakili and the Rancor eventually trusted each other as more than just a master and his pet but as actual friends, as comrades.
As a reader, we are hooked into this story and empathize with Malakili. He is a likable character that has goals and feelings. All of our admiration with him, and even his Rancor, culminates in the end as the Rancor’s death leaves us even sadder than if we had only see the movie. After reading his tale, you want to learn more about the tales that this anthology has to offer.
Malakili and his Rancor’s tale establishes the foundation that the rest of the anthology builds off of. Not only do we have a good reason to hate Jabba (besides all the stuff he did in the movie) but we are exposed to the variety of characters whose journey we’ll also follow (e.g., Gartogg the Gamorrean and Porcellus the chef) later on. Through these interactions, we realize that there is so much more going on in Jabba’s Palace than we realize and that Malakili’s tale is only a part of it.
Indeed, as you read through the anthology, a feeling of unease begins to creep into you as you read each of the characters’ tales. The protagonists might run into a dead body with an unknown murderer or find out that their plot has gone awry by an unseen force. Many of the questions we faced during their stories are not answered until much later in the novel though hints are certainly sprinkled here and there on who (or what) are the actual puppeteers.
Generally speaking, as you progress through the novel, the protagonists’ tales usually start or end later compared to protagonists near the beginning of the book. Hell, many of the protagonists’ stories that make up much of the latter half of the book end with Jabba’s Barge blowing up or shortly thereafter. Even the last two stories (Boba Fett and Yarna) take place after Jabba’s death and a majority of the time spent with these two characters does not even take place in Jabba’s Palace. As such, the editor’s deliberate action in placing all of the tales in certain sections of the anthology give a sense of an overarching story in the novel that would seemingly be lost if the stories were randomly distributed. The result of which is quite amusing to me.
This overarching story works really well for each of the protagonists’ tales. The best example of this I would say is Ephant Mon’s Tale. There seems to be a shift in our overall mood towards this novel as we read his tale. Not only do we progress further in the timeline compared to the protagonists beforehand but we get to confront Jabba through the eyes of a friend, something that no other protagonist can claim. It’s a different side of Jabba that we rarely see and really hones in how unique all of the characters are in this book. More importantly, Ephant Mon’s Tale hints that the Force was acting very strong in Jabba’s Palace for the past few days. Major events, whether seen or unseen in the movie, transpired in the awful establishment and it’s hard to believe they happened purely by chance.
Speaking of chance, I want to talk about one of my favorite protagonists, Gartogg the Gamorrean. God, this guy is great. He means so well but he’s just so stupid, haha! He has this uncanny ability to stumble upon a freshly murdered body with maybe even the murderer to boot. He’s so good at this that he found the crime scene for all four murders in Jabba’s Palace! But everyone always tricks him for the sole reason that they don’t get into trouble with Jabba and he believes them! And he’s just so cheery about it and wants to please his boss and oh my gosh this guy is hilarious.
One of the underlying themes in TfJP is that not everything is as it seems. Characters that the protagonists perceive as incompetent or inconsequential are actually quite formidable or intelligent. Ree-Yees is an interesting example of this as he disguises his competence with his alcoholic tendencies and plays the fool most of the time. Even though he’s an idiot, his plot goes unnoticed by many people, including the conspiracy-sniffing Ephant Mon. Bubo is probably the best example though as even the reader does not give Bubo two cents until we realize he is a sentient being!
I have to talk about the B’omarr monks as they are definitely an important part in the anthology. Though none of the protagonists are monks, quite a few of them interact with the monks to some degree such as J’Quille, Bib Fortuna, Bubo, Tessek, and Ree-Yees. I think because we lack a monk POV we find them unsettling as we know little about them. Even Bib Fortuna, who arguably is the most familiar with them out of anyone in the Palace, did not foresee the Monks takeover when Jabba was killed. When we are revealed the fate of Jabba’s Palace, there is another uneasy shift in the novel as we wonder if the next protagonist will be able to survive both Jabba’s barge blowing up and unwanted removal of their brains in jars.
At least, that’s the way I feel, especially for the last Tale involving the fat dancer, Yarna, and the hunter, Doallyn. Just as we begin TfJP with a strong story starring a likable pair of protagonists, we end it once again with two protagonists only this time, the game has changed. We fear that Yarna and Doallyn do not have much time in the Palace as they could easily be killed by Dannik Jerriko or operated on by the creepy B’omarr Monks. What’s more, there is an actual risk for the two that we do not experience often in the previous Tales. The previous Tales take place (mostly) during the events of Return of the Jedi. As such, we know who may succeed and who may fail. Yarna and Doallyn’s Tale, however, takes place afterwards, and therefore we venture into completely unknown territory with them. Without the movie tying them down to any plot specific requirements, the author goes all out in making their tale stand out from the rest.
And what’s more, unlike Malakili and his unfortunate pet Rancor, they succeed, ending the dour novel in a heartwarming light.
Ever since I first read this novel, I was mesmerized and impressed on how every Tale matched the other Tales almost perfectly. The protagonists meet each other constantly and as such, the exact same interaction can be found in two different chapters. So many of these events, which go unnoticed in the movie, are of such importance to the characters that I’m willing to bet that someone made a grand, master timeline of the events and gave it to all the authors in making sure they follow it. The fact that these interactions happen at all always surprises me.
But as far as I know, no one has recreated this timeline. It’s quite daunting, that’s for sure, as you would have to be a big nerd to do that. And guess what? I did just that! Tomorrow, I’m going to release my interpretation of the overall timeline of Tales from Jabba’s Palace! Check it out because I’m super proud of the end result!
If you had read the novel, I would like to hear your opinion on it as I know only a few people who have. Who are your favorite characters and Tales? If I were to pick my favorite Tales/Characters it would Ephant Mon, Gartogg, Malakili and his Rancor, and Yarna and Doallyn.