Jun 13 2013 10:00am

Bring Me the Head of Jabba the Hutt—Star Wars: Tales From Jabba’s Palace

Star Wars Tales From Jabba's Palace cover, Kevin J. AndersonThe title of this anthology should really just be “It’s Tough to Be A Gangster.” (Or maybe, “If Your Criminal Life Doesn’t Work Out, Become A Bodiless Monk.”) Because if you ever wanted the secrets behind all those characters in Jabba’s entourage, all you really need to know is pretty much everyone wants him dead. In fact, if he hadn’t given Luke and Leia a reason to come after him, it probably wouldn’t have changed his Date of Expiration by that many dual sunsets.

Also, monks built his palace way before he came to live there? Monks that keep their brains in jars attached to droid spider bodies? I know. It’s madness. But it’s all true.

There is an arc running through Tales From Jabba’s Palace is actually pretty hard to keep track of, so let’s see if I can’t break it down: Tessek, Jabba’s accountant, wants the crime lord offed and enlists the help of several others: Barada (a Klatoonian—yeah, that’s for serious right there, just like Admiral Ackbar is a Mon Calamari), Ree-Yees the three-eyed Gran, and some Weequay guards. Ree-Yees’ part of the plan involves having pieces of a bomb delivered to the palace one at a time, which he knows about because he’s ordering them from a panel he had Imperial surgeons place in Jabba’s frog-dog, Bubo.

Bubo is decidedly not happy with this arrangement. Poor Bubo.

A lot of the palace crew are spies for, or interact with spies for Lady Valarian, who is apparently Jabba’s competition on Tatooine. Which is cool because she’s a lady running a casino and also because it makes sense that Jabba would have someone to contend with on-world. Wish we’d seen her in the films, trash-talking Jabba as he slithered by. It would’ve been like Bring It On, but with desert criminal syndicates instead of cheerleaders.

One of the spies for Lady Valarian is a Whiphid named J’Quille, who pays a kitchen boy to put poison in Jabba’s food, but the kid blackmails him in return. (Somehow J’Quille doesn’t guess it’s the kid, even though that is most logical course of action a lowly kitchen boy could take.) He kills one of the B’omarr monks thinking he’s the blackmailer, but the corrupted monk was also a spy who worked for Lady Valarian. More bodies! Gartogg, the dumbest Gamorean guard at the palace decides to investigate the murders, and carries the dead guys around with him because… evidence! The poor palace chef, Porcellus, gets caught up in the plot when Jabba assumes that he is the one trying to poison him, and only accidentally got the kitchen boy killed. Porcellus just wants to make good food for Jabba without everyone else on staff getting their hands on the delicacies first.

Porcellus is buddies with Malakili—remember that guy who sobs when Luke kills the rancor? (That’s the fun in these anthologies, the moment when you get an explanation for those weird little asides….) Malakili is the rancor’s handler and doesn’t have any nasty designs on Jabba at all; he just wants to take the rancor away someplace nice where they can live out a happy life together in peace. He doesn’t get his sunny ending, but he and Porcellus open up one of the greatest restaurants in the Outer Rim once Jabba gets chain-choked, so that’s nine kinds of adorable right there.

The dancing girls don’t get off easy, not that anyone expected them too. Oola’s tale (she’s the green Twi’lek that Jabba feeds to the rancor before offering up a Jedi dessert) lets us in on the finer points of Twi’lek slavery. After being lured off her homeward with a friend by Jabba’s majordomo, Bib Fortuna, she finds that the deal they made to dance is nothing like the one promised. And then winds up dead for her trouble. Mara Jade poses as a dancing girl to get to Luke and kill him, but she makes the mistake of using the Force at the palace and loses her shot. Mara’s story is particularly fun in light of the Heir to the Empire Trilogy—we get to see one of the many times she tried to kill Luke and failed as the Emperor’s Hand. Yarna, the six-breasted dancer on Jabba’s floor has a very interesting tale as well. We find out that Jabba has her shimmying out there because she reminds him of his mother. (Keep in mind that Hutt’s reproduce asexually, so Jabba’s mom is also technically his dad? Um...) Basically, we discover that she has altered her appearance to look more like a Hutt, making the story a fascinating take on what beauty means to different individuals. She gets a happy ending at least, and frees her children from slavery.

We get another soup-y poetic tale about assassin Dannik Jerriko, and the Reeves-Stevens team give us a highly disturbing story about EV-9D9, the droid who assigns 3PO and R2 their roles at the palace. EV’s piece is particularly memorable, not just due to its sadomasochistic content, but due to the fact that EV’s programming is female, something that is incredibly rare from what we’re shown in the Star Wars universe. (But as I said in the Tales of the Bounty Hunters article, gender programming for robots is a pretty goofy concept in the first place.)

There are a contingent of Jabba-ites (can I call them that?) who join the ranks of the B’ommar monks, creatures who live in the depths of the palace. This is terrifying because not everyone who ends up a monk got a choice in becoming one. And if someone’s going to rip out your brain and put it in a jar connected to a droid spider body, they should at least have the decency to ask you first. So let’s have a moment of contemplation for poor old Bib Fortuna, majordomo extraordinaire, and Tessek, who were not consulted before they were “recruited” by the B’ommar. Actually, Bib sold people into slavery, so let’s not feel bad for him. Bubo was all for it, though. Because being a frog-dog is probably not as cool as being a walking brain.

And because it’s me, I have to shriek excitedly for a while about Boba Fett’s story, which explains how he escaped that Mighty Sarlacc. Daniel Keys Moran hated the changes Lucasfilm made to his tale so much that he insisted it be published under a pseudonym, and that’s a shame, because the conceit of Fett’s time being digested is pretty fascinating. It suggests that the Sarlaac (and other beings like it) has a special bond with the first person it gobbles up, a symbiotic link, if you will. And Susejo, the person that this Sarlacc swallowed first, likes to pass time by getting the stories of every other being the Sarlacc eats. Fett, naturally, does not want to play ball. A battle of wills ensues. We get some awesome flashbacks that Susejo forces out of Fett’s head, and then the bounty hunter escapes by literally blowing up the Sarlacc and jetpacking the hell out. After sustaining major acid burns and psychological terror and whatnot.

The point is—no one is more hardcore than Boba Fett.

And those are the tales of those poor souls bound to Jabba the Hutt. Practically no one was sad to see him and go, and everyone was better off without him around. Nearly all of them got a second chance, a most of them made use of it. I suppose what it proves is that no one’s life in the Star Wars universe is uneventful. Which is one of the reasons why we love Star Wars so much, I’d say. Here’s to those Weequay guards—at least Fett shortened their period of digestion inside the Great Pit of Carkoon.

Emily Asher-Perrin still feels bad for the Max Rebo Band, though. She was recently on the Geeks Guide to the Galaxy podcast talking about Star Trek Into Darkness, and an essay of hers can be found in the newly released Queers Dig Time Lords. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

William Frank
1. scifantasy
we get to see one of the many times she tried to kill Luke and failed as the Emperor’s Hand.

Not just one of the many times. Recall that Luke first became aware of Mara Jade in his return to Dagobah in Heir to the Empire, when he saw what would have happened had Mara been on the sail barge. That was the moment. Her one big chance. And...she blew it. And to her, that failure led directly to Endor, to Luke and Vader's fight, and to Luke and Vader turning on the Emperor together. (Remember, she didn't get the real story until Luke told her on Wayland.)
2. searchub
As if you are saying us to bring you Hitler's head :)
3. Cybersnark
Nitpick: Ree-Yees is a Gran. The Gand are Zuckuss' people (the bug-like people who can't breathe oxygen).
4. Jeff R.
Between "Han Shot First" and "Boba Fett died in the Sarlacc pit", the latter is infinitely more important to the integrity of the work. Bringing Fett back was always pure pandering, and nothing associated with it can ever be honestly considered good.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
5. Lisamarie
This was the first anthology I read, and in fact, one of the very first EU books I read. So, it is of course, one of my favorites :) I was 14 that summer, and I thought Boba Fett escaping from the Sarlaac pit was one of the coolest things EVER, and helped cement him as a 'favorite' character of mine. Sorry Jeff R., haha.

I think one of my favorite stories was Yarna's tale, if for no other reason, we finally have something to think of her as other than 'Fat Dancer', which is how she's referred to in the credits.

This one also has the Ephant Mon story too, right? He was the only creature that pretty much DIDN'T want Jabba dead, right? And silly Max Rebo, signing a contract for food ;)
David Thomson
6. ZetaStriker
I don't think Fett dying in the Sarlacc pit was in any way integral to the work, especially not in the way Han shooting first helped establish his character. Fett got knocked over and killed by a blind Han Solo, which was probably the most underwhelming death in the entire franchise. For someone who drew so much attention, discarding him so easily was a huge let down, so on that matter I disagree that his death was in any way important.

You are totally right that bringing him back was fan pandering though. Even if it was correcting a mistake that shouldn't have been made in the first place, they only brought him back to please people, not because it added any narrative weight. The damage was already done, and bringing him back just doesn't change any of it.
7. BrandonH
Dark Empire already had Boba Fett in it, and it was set after Return of the Jedi, so something like this was needed to explain how he could still be alive.
8. Jeff R.
Yet another reason why trying to integrate Dark Empire with the books into a single EU was a horrible, horrible idea.

And being so obsessed with killing the last Jedi that he completely overlooks the possibility of Han being any kind of threat is exactly the way he ought to get killed. (Of all of the elements in the prequels, Fett's backstory is the one I'm absolutely sure Lucas actually had planned out from the beginning. Practically the only other thing Fett does is take a completely unnecessary potshot at Luke in Empire, spoiling Vader's prepared trap. So the pre-prequel EU-uses of Fett are not only pandering, but also tend to get the character completely wrong, casting him as Han's nemesis rather than Luke's...)
9. slybrarian
I have never understood why people got so obsessed with a character who'd defining features were (a) being told not to disintergrate the people he's supposed to capture alive, because apparently that's something he's had problems comprehending in the past, and (b) getting knocked into the sarlacc pit by a blind guy. He's not exactly a stunning example of competence.
10. Cecrow
I enjoyed most of this trilogy, esp the Ephant Mon and EV9-D9 stories, and I was impressed with the threaded plot that you only really understood by reading the whole anthology and piecing it together yourself; but the Weequay story - that was horrible, so horrible I'm glad you forebore mentioning it all, that just shows how forgettable it was. Except for being horrible. Apparently they subscribe to a religion based around a Magic 8-Ball. Nonsense. Then again it's all nonsense ultimately so hey, whatever.

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