Much like Woody Allen Wednesdays took a hit when teaching slowed my participation in joint blogging adventures (papers don’t grade themselves…phooey), I’ve been sadly absent from Anakin and His Angel‘s Star Wars ComLINKS for a few months. But I’m back baby! This month, in honor of the Forces Of Destiny cartoon shorts on the Disney YouTube channel, Jenmarie has focused our ComLINKS posts on favorite female characters. There are so many strong women I love in Star Wars. Where would we be without Princess Leia?? And we have Padmé Amidala, Mara Jade, Jaina Solo, Admiral Natasi Daala, Shmi Skywalker, and Ahsoka Tano too! But for me, this post belongs to Mallatobuck. Malla is Chewie’s wife and their relationship serves as a moving meditation on the strength of love.
Okay, before we go any further I have to acknowledge that Malla’s first appearance was on the…uh, I don’t really have the right adjectives for it…1978 Star Wars Holiday Special. Let’s just all agree that maybe this wasn’t Star Wars at its best okay? If you’d like a) a minute-by-minute account of the painful experience of watching it, b) a hilarious/wonderful reflection on how it’s worse than you think/remember, or c) a chance to watch it for yourself, I suggest you check out Nancy’s post on the special over at Graphic Novelty². But, if nothing else, we have to thank the Star Wars Holiday Special for introducing us all to Kashyyyk, the homeworld of the Wookies, as well as Chewie’s wife Malla and their son Lumpawaroo (or Waroo).
Questionable holiday specials aside, as with so much of the Star Wars Saga, it is in the Expanded Universe novels where we really get to understand the strength, grace, dedication, and love of Malla. Never having seen the holiday special myself (although I did enjoy Nancy’s post!) I first met Malla in A.C. Crispin’s Rebel Dawn. It’s the final novel in her trilogy about Han Solo set before we meet him in A New Hope. The third volume shows Han winning the Millennium Falcon from Lando, rising and falling in favor with Jabba the Hutt, and taking the tentative steps that will lead him to his work with the Rebel Alliance. But, in my personal favorite segment of the book, it takes us to Kashyyyk where we get to meet Chewie’s family!
We meet Chewie’s father Attichitcuk, his sister Kallabow, her husband Mahraccor, and Chewie’s cousins Freyyr, Kriyystak, and Shoran. Most importantly, we meet Mallatobuck, the great love of Chewie’s life. We learn that Malla works as a teacher and a caregiver in a Nursery Ring in a village neighboring Chewie’s home of Rwookrrorro. She has striking blue eyes, a gentle nature, and she’s witty too. It’s so cute to see her playfully banter with Chewie, as they flirt back and forth! Most moving of all, we see how deeply she loves Chewbacca. Their exchange when Chewie comes to propose is perhaps my favorite moment in the book and it’s certainly one of my all-time favorite moments in the entire Expanded Universe:
Malla – “I had proposals, you know. People told me I was foolish for waiting so long. They said that you were dead, you would never return to Kashyyyk. But I knew, somehow…I knew that was not so. I waited, and now my joy fills the world.”
Chewie – “Malla…you know about the life debt I have pledged to Han Solo?”
Malla – “I know. I cherish your honor as my own, my husband-to-be. But let us be married quickly, so we may have as much time together as possible before you and Captain Solo must depart.”
Chewie – “Nothing would please me more. How quickly can you be ready? How long will it take you to prepare your wedding veil?”
Malla – “It has been ready for fifty years, Chewbacca. Ready and waiting.”
Chewie – “Tomorrow, then, Malla…”
Malla – “Tomorrow, Chewbacca…”
Yes, Wookies do have a lifespan far longer than a human’s but this still shows the power of the love that bonds Malla to Chewie. He’s been gone for fifty years! He was enslaved by the Empire! She had no idea if he would ever return! But she loved him nonetheless. She didn’t move on with her life. She couldn’t. Instead, she waited.
If I’m being honest, I get a little emotional whenever I read this. Remember how emotional that scene in The Office is, when Jim gives his speech about waiting at the rehearsal dinner the night before he marries Pam?!?
Jim Halpert – “Four years ago, I was just a guy who had a crush on a girl, who had a boyfriend. And I had to do the hardest thing that I’ve ever had to do, which was just to…wait. Don’t get me wrong, I flirted with her. Pam, I can now admit in front of friends and family, that I do know how to make a photocopy. Didn’t need your help that many times. And, uh, do you remember how long it took you to teach me how to drive stick?”
Pam Beesly – “Like a year!”
Jim Halpert – “I’ve been driving stick since high school, so… For a really long time that’s all I had. Little moments with a girl who saw me as a friend. And, a lot of people told me I was crazy to wait this long for a date with a girl I work with but I think, even then I knew that…I was waiting for my wife.”
Yeah, everyone who watches this gets waaay teary eyed there. How could you not?? Jim was always The Office‘s towering romantic hero. And he was just waiting four years for Pam. Malla waited fifty years for Chewie! Chewie wasn’t even just dating someone else either! He was off-world, enslaved by the Empire. But Malla never gave up hope. She knew he would return. And, if he didn’t, her heart would always be his regardless.
Their vows to each other on their wedding day also show the power of the love that binds Mallatobuck and Chewbacca. A.C. Crispin writes, “Yes, they loved each other beyond all other beings. Yes, each other’s honor was as dear to them as their own. Yes, they promised to be faithful to each other. Yes, death could part them, but could not end their love.” Let that line sit with you for a moment. Not even death will end their love. This isn’t simply a matter of “till death do you part.” No, they have given their hearts to each other forever. Han recognizes the rare beauty in this as, “Han felt a wave of unaccustomed solemnity wash over him. For a moment, he almost envied Chewie. He could see love shining in Mallatobuck’s eyes, and felt a pang. Nobody had ever loved him that much. Except maybe Dewlanna, he thought, remembering the Wookie widow who raised him.”
Han’s absolutely right. This sort of love is rare. And this sort of love illustrates the incredible strength of the lover in relation to her beloved. Malla loves Chewie so much that she was willing to live her life alone, waiting on the chance he would return to her. Then, once he does, she gives herself to him…knowing he’ll have to leave her again. Because Han Solo saved Chewie’s life, Chewie has a life debt with Han. That means wherever Han goes, Chewie goes for as long as Han lives.
Han, unaware of the strength of this bond, prepares to leave Kashyyyk while Chewie and Malla are off in the woods on their honeymoon. Chewie appears suddenly, upset that Han was planning on leaving without him. Han tells Chewie that he understands he’s married now and, life debt or not, his place is on Kashyyyk with Malla, not bouncing around dodging Imperial cruisers with him. However it’s not Chewie but Malla who sets the record straight!
“The Wookie had just started in again when a loud angry roar from behind Han made him jump and dodge. A large, hairy hand grabbed his shoulder, and Han was swung around as though he weighed no more than a scrap of flimsy. He looked up to see Mallatobuck towering over him. Chewie’s wife was furious, teeth bared, blue eyes narrowed. Han put up both hands, and shrank back against his friend’s hairy chest. ‘Hey, Malla! Take it easy now!’
“Mallatobuck roared again, and then launched into an angry tirade. Humans! How could they be so ignorant of Wookie customs and Wookie honor? How dare Han imply that Chewbacca would abandon a life debt! There was no greater insult he could offer a Wookie! Her husband was possessed of great honor! He was a courageous warrior, a skilled hunter, and when he gave his word, he kept it! Especially about a life debt!”
So Malla not only accepts that Chewbacca will have to leave her, that he will have to spend the majority of their lives together away from her, but she fights to make certain he does. Who would want this? Honestly. Imagine getting married to the love of your life, a lover who has finally returned to you after fifty years away, and then making certain they leave you again a few days after your wedding, having no idea when they will return. I think even Gabriel García Márquez would say that seems a little intense. Yet this is exactly what Malla does. She knows that this is something Chewie has to do and she wants what he wants. She puts aside all her own desires or, rather, in a beautiful example of unconditional love, his desires become her desires. Chewie is free to honor his life debt knowing Malla wants that too. They will cherish the short times they get to spend together but her love asks no more of Chewie than he can give. Rather, her love makes his life debt easier to carry because he knows she loves him for his honor, not in spite of it.
In embracing the life debt, Malla essentially chooses the life of a single parent while Chewie accompanies Han Solo across the galaxy, always to be by his side. Raising kids is hard. Doing so on your own seems all but impossible to those of us who haven’t done it. However Malla willingly shoulders that responsibility, being both mother and father to Waroo through his young life. It’s not like Han and Chewie will never return to Kashyyyk after the wedding but, a short time after they marry, Han and Chewie will find themselves a part of the Rebel Alliance and then the New Republic. They will never have a quiet life. They will never have long stretches of peace. As a result, Malla will never have her husband home with her for more than a few fleeting moments at a time.
Tragically, they have very few of those moments, especially by the standards of a Wookie’s lifespan. In what was the most heartbreaking thing I’d ever read in my entire life at the time (and remains one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve ever read to this day), Chewie dies making sure Han’s son Anakin Solo lives in R.A. Salvatore’s novel Vector Prime. (I know Chewie lives longer than Han in the Disney Canon but that’ll always be an alternate timeline narrative for me – the EU’s the true Star Wars story in my heart.) Chewie and Anakin are trying to evacuate refugees in the ruins of Sernpidal City as its moon Dobido descended towards the planet. Chewie and Anakin save children from the rubble and Chewie’s certain to make sure Anakin gets onboard the Falcon…but there’s not time enough in the chaotic storm swirling around them for Chewie to get onboard too. Malla’s beloved dies honoring his life debt, protecting the child of his adopted brother.
Roughly thirty-five years after their wedding on Kashyyyk, Malla will lose her husband. Given how much of that time Chewie spent fighting first to bring down the Empire and then to protect the New Republic, how many moments could they have shared together? How many stretches of uninterrupted time? How many nights in each other’s arms? In loving Chewie, Malla becomes a single parent for years at a time and a widow far too young. Yet her absence from so many of the stories in the Star Wars Saga shows her strength in carrying that load. She doesn’t seek out Chewbacca again and again, demanding more than he can give. Rather, she waits for when he can come to her, never asking more than her beloved can offer. In her love Malla finds the strength to raise Waroo by herself and love Chewie across a galaxy, wherever he may be. And in her love, Chewie finds the strength he needs to always be there to protect Han, his wife Leia, and their children Jacen, Jaina, and Anakin.
Malla embodies love without possession. Love without possession. This is an interesting and often foreign concept to us culturally. Yet it should be central in our quest to love. If we need something specific from the other, then we aren’t really loving unconditionally. We have placed a condition (often a common/expected condition to be fair) on our love. That condition can changes our love into something else. Possession is different than loving. To possess is to have another live how you want them to live, in the life you envision where you’ve dropped them into it. To love is to understand, “suffering occurs when we want other people to love us in the way we imagine we want to be loved, and not in the way that love should manifest itself – free and untrammeled, guiding us with its force and driving us on.” Love is divine. As such, it is beyond our ability to control. To believe we can control love is as ridiculous as believing we can bend God to our whims. Malla understands this. Malla lets love guide her. It can’t be the life she’d choose with Chewbacca. It can’t be the life she dreamed of when they were young. But it is the life love has given them, binding them in the mysterious ways in which the divine likes to move. Malla also sees, “You must understand that love never keeps a man from pursuing his Personal Legend. If he abandons that pursuit it’s because it wasn’t true love…the love that speaks the Language of the World.” Chewie’s life is forever bound to Han Solo’s. Malla sees this. She understands this. And she will love Chewbacca in and through this, for the rest of her life.
Mallatobuck is a character who appears only momentarily throughout the Star Wars Saga. Yet the incredible strength of her presence, support, and love can be felt around Chewbacca in everything he does. Chewie is there to fly the Millennium Falcon as Han shoots the TIE fighters off Luke Skywalker’s tale so he can destroy the first Death Star. Chewie is there to help lead the assault on Endor to bring down the shield generator so the Rebellion can destroy the second Death Star and topple the Empire. Chewie was there for twenty-five years, fighting to bring peace and stability back to the galaxy with the New Republic and Malla’s love was with him every step of the way, no matter how far from her he travelled. Malla never considered making Chewbacca choose between her and his life debt. For her the choice was unnecessary because her love was strong enough to envelope Chewie, life debt and all. In all of this, Malla’s example in the movement of love she makes with her Beloved serves as a powerful testament to the strength of love and what love can truly do.
 A.C. Crispin, Rebel Dawn: The Han Solo Trilogy Book 3 (New York: Del Rey, 1998), 75-6.
 Ibid., 86.
 Ibid., 87.
 Ibid., 101.
 Paulo Coelho, The Zahir, trans. Margaret Jull Costa (New York: Harper Perennial, 2005), 294.
 Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist, trans. Alan R. Clarke (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1999), 120.