Describing the Star Wars expanded universe as crowded and confusing is sort of like calling a nuclear submarine a really high-tech paddleboat. The amount of useless trivia at the disposal of Star Wars fans rivals only that of Trekkers. For example: did you know N’a-kee-tula translates to “sweetheart” in the language of the Shadda-Bi-Boran? (It’s from the Attack of the Clones deleted scenes, duh.) But to really go down the nerdy Sarlacc pit, where your dignity will slowly be digested over a thousand years, you’ve got to check out the little talked about Star Wars read-a-longs. Previously, I revisited the rowbutt (robot) infested Droid World, and now I’m crashing headlong into what is probably the most ridiculous premise in all of Star Wars; The Planet of the Hoojibs.
Like Droid World, Planet of the Hoojibs is set in between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, though none of the emotional pathos or sense of dread seems to have stayed with the characters one bit. This problem was largely avoided in Droid World by having the story focus on C-3PO and R2-D2 who despite having feelings don’t really let all the Skywalker family drama get them down. In this adventure however, Leia and Chewie are the stars of the action and Leia is about as happy-go-lucky as it gets. With her voice sounding a lot like Ariel from the Disney version of The Little Mermaid, our favorite princess kicks things off by making jokes about Chewie being “hairy.” Leia is apparently coping with her grief about losing Han by pursing a half-hearted career as stand-up comic.
Because the whole Hoth thing didn’t work out, the Rebels are searching for a new base, and the tree-covered world of Arbra is looking pretty good. When Leia describes how great the climate is on Arbra it sounds more like a vacation spot than a planet to house a military operation. The only life on the planet at first seems to be cute cuddly rabbit creatures known as Hoojibs (pronounced “Hoojibs”) who kind of seem like faux-Ewoks, and make one wonder if the author of this story had an influence on the script of Return of the Jedi. Anyway, when everyone is asleep the cute little creatures go all Mynock on the Rebel camp and start draining the power from all their gizmos. From lights to lasers, everything is non-functional, which ends up being a problem when a giant flying green lizard thing called the Slivilith shows up and starts showing the Rebels and the Hoojibs who’s boss.
As is revealed by Plif (the Hoojib leader), the Hoojibs normally eat “pure energy” in a cavern of crystals, but have been driven out of their home by the Slivilith (pronounced “Slivilith,” seriously say all these words out loud right now, it will make you feel good.) And because the Hoojibs can’t eat their energy from the crystals, they have to go to other sources for energy-food, forcing them to drain all the power from the Rebel’s camping site. The notion that even the blasters run on some kind of crappy batteries is pretty sad and somehow manages to render the coolest ray guns in all of sci-fi super lame. At some point, we’re also introduced to the oh-so-memorable character of Gemmer, chief of the rebel guard, who is in the story for some reason, I’m sure. I always like imagining that Leia has a serious “shut up and do what I tell you” rapport with all the soldiers under her command, as is evidenced by the way she schools that “two fighters against a Star Destroyer?” guy at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back. This happens in this story too when Gemmer gives Leia the only working blaster, because everyone in the story is basically Leia’s bitch, Hoojibs and Slivilith included.
When the Rebels and the Hoojibs team up to take back the Hoojib crystal cavern, Leia gets the funniest line of the entire storybook when she exclaims “Put that Hoojib down!” She then shoots the Slivilith, because it didn’t listen to her. Unfortunately, this doesn’t kill the flying tentacled beast and it eventually has to be brutally murdered by Chewbacca who slams it into the pointy walls of the crystal cavern. At this point, the Hoojibs and the Rebels rejoice and vow to form an alliance. After “recharging the radio” Leia calls back to the fleet and tells them not only did they find a good spot to set up shop, but also something more important: “We found friends.” This line has to be heard to be believed.
In the months leading up the release of Revenge of the Sith I unsuccessfully attempted to start a rumor that the Hoojibs would feature prominently in the film, but what’s odd is that I wasn’t that far off in terms of their appearances in the spin-off media. Characters from Droid World show up in Star Wars novels years after the fact and several of the characters and creatures from Planet of the Hoojibs also appear in the New Jedi Order novel series. The Slivilith is even revealed to be a product of the Yuuzhan Vong! Additionally, Plif constantly hangs out with Luke and becomes a straight-up regular character in the 1970s/1980s Star Wars ongoing comic! Plif resurfaces in the New Jedi Order era with a plan to use his energy draining crystal magic against the Yuuzhan Vong. Amazing. It is clear to me that the people who write the Star Wars novels are totally deserving of their jobs since they are clearly the biggest Star Wars nerds of all time. Who else would want to incorporate the Hoojibs into the EA and take them seriously?
I for one am thrilled about the Hoojib love, and as a general rule think we could all have a little more Hoojib in all of our lives.
Link to video of the storybook plus the amazing audio track here via NeoZaz.com
Ryan Britt is a staff blogger for Tor.com. He doesn’t know what pure energy is or why it pops up in science fiction so often.