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Chewbacca, Han Solo's trusted copilot and the galaxy's most well-traveled Wookiee, is one of the most important and ubiquitous supporting characters in all of Star Wars. He's had roles in all three trilogies and played a major role in one spinoff film alongside a younger version of Han, but he's also a character we don't get to spend a lot of time with on an intimate level. Chewie's often relegated to the role of sidekick, which means his inner life isn't a major concern of the films.
This is especially true of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, a film that's so jam-packed with plot and major moments for its stars that any supporting character other than C-3PO barely gets any screentime. Chewie does get a couple of vital moments tied to his surrogate sister General Leia Organa, but other than that he's basically just playing copilot to various characters and acting as a plot device for a bait and switch. Thankfully, Rae Carson's The Rise of Skywalker novelization explores a different side of Chewie's emotional reaction to the war between the Resistance and the First Order, one tied directly to Ben Solo.
**Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker's official novelization ahead.**
As you probably recall, Chewbacca was there in Star Wars: The Force Awakens when Kylo Ren killed Han Solo. In that moment Chewie had to watch his best friend, the man he'd sworn to stand by forever, die at the hands of his own son. In a rage, he fired on Kylo, who he'd probably once been close to when he was young Ben Solo. Then, in The Last Jedi, Chewie had to journey to find Luke Skywalker and tell him what had happened to Han. Through all of that, though, we never got to see much of how Chewie felt about the whole thing, beyond the obvious sadness. He kept up the fight, did what Leia asked of him, and we assume he mourned the disintegration of his human family in his own way. In The Rise of Skywalker novelization, we see a little more of what that looked like.
After Chewie is captured by the Knights of Ren on Pasaana and taken aboard Kylo Ren's ship, Kylo personally goes to interrogate him about Rey's mission. What begins as an angry confrontation on both sides soon turns emotional, as Kylo reaches out with the Force to pry the answers he needs from Chewbacca's brain. What he sees there, though, is not anger, but a profound sadness over all the happiness that was lost.
"He saw flashes of the Wookiee laughing with a much younger Han Solo than he himself remember. Felt Chewbacca's joy when his best friend married the woman he'd come to love like a sister. Saw the Wookiee cuddling a human toddler, teaching an older boy to fly a speeder, target practice with a young man, their blasters set on stun against a haphazard dummy made of rocks."
Though he fired on his pseudo-nephew in act of rage not long ago, it's clear when Kylo reaches into Chewie's mind that it's not filled with rage now, even after all they've been through. Instead, Chewbacca remembers the good in Ben. Like Leia, he still sees the promising young man he once was, and that's something that's carried over into a later scene. When Lando Calrissian first returns to the Millennium Falcon to fly it out one last time, he spends a few moments walking through it, and wanders into Chewie's quarters. There he finds a hologram disk that looks worn from frequent use, and activates it. While he expects to find a relic of Chewie's Wookiee family, he instead finds images of Chewie and a young Ben together.
One of the most intriguing things about Chewbacca is also a bit of a narrative drawback on film: We as an audience can't understand him, which means it's a little hard to dig into the nuance of his thoughts and feelings at any given moment. With the benefit of prose, Carson makes it clear that Chewie longed for Ben's redemption just as much as anyone else did. He never stopped loving the boy he knew, and he never really let go of the possibility that Ben could be better. Hopefully when he learned what Ben did at the end of his life, Chewbacca felt rewarded for his hope in a way that a medal never could convey. Hopefully he knew he'd been right all along.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker's official novelization is available now.