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The 'Legendary' roots of Solo: A Star Wars Story

Contributed by
Sep 18, 2018

Ron Howard's Solo: A Star Wars Story, written by Jonathan and Lawrence Kasdan, wrapped up much of Han Solo's legend — which had been swirling in the aether for decades — and brought it together into a cohesive story that pleased fans the world over.

But where did all of that material come from? In short, Star Wars Legends fans dream of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Some of that old material repurposed by Solo seems as though it was downloaded straight from the brains of fans, though no one can really remember exactly where it comes from. Here, we'll do our best to connect those "legendary” dots.

CARIDA AND HAN'S IMPERIAL SERVICE

In Solo, Han joins up with the Empire and is immediately sent to the Imperial Navy Academy at Carida. Before that Carida was first seen (canonically) on Star Wars: The Clone Wars in the episode "Point of No Return." After that, the planet and Academy were both mentioned in the novel Tarkin (2014).

But before the split between Canon and Legends, Carida had been around since 1994. Specifically, the first mention of Carida came in Kevin J. Anderson's book Jedi Search.

Meanwhile, Han's service in the Empire is something that's always felt well-known but was first explored in detail in A.C. Crispin's now-Legends Han Solo trilogy, which published in the late '90s. In the first book, The Paradise Snare (1997), we see Han's hard-scrabble upbringing on Corellia lead to a life of crime with a villain named Garris Shrike. When Han finally escapes the employ of Shrike, he meets a girl named Bria Tharen who he falls for. She convinces him to join the Imperial Navy but breaks up with him soon after. Han joins the Navy on Coruscant and is immediately shipped off to Carida.

In both the Legends and streamlined versions of Han's story, his service to the Empire ends when he frees Chewbacca. In the Han Solo trilogy, Han frees Chewbacca, who is working as a slave, by attacking his superior officer. The attack gets Han bounced out of the Empire and Chewbacca pledges a life debt to him. The rest is history.

Now, they're immortalized on-screen in Solo.

THE SPICE MINES OF KESSEL AND THE KESSEL RUN

Although it's one of the first things we hear about in Star Wars: A New Hope, with Threepio hoping not to get "sent to the spice mines of Kessel and smashed into who-knows-what," we didn't know an awful lot about the planet of Kessel. We did know there's a run for it that can be made in less than 12 parsecs if you're Han, but that's about it.

Once more, the origin of information about Kessel outside of a casual namedrop in a film came from Kevin J. Anderson's now-Legends Jedi Academy trilogy. In those books, Han is sent to Kessel as a representative of the New Republic but is quickly imprisoned in the spice mine. Han and Chewbacca stage a daring escape that, in small ways, informed the escape they lead in Solo: A Star Wars Story. Both the escapes from Kessel in Jedi Search and Solo culminate smack dab in the middle of the Maw Cluster.

As for the Kessel run itself, it was also expanded upon in A.C. Crispin's Han Solo books. As laid out in these books, the Kessel Run was an 18-parsec route through a cluster of black holes, including the "Maw.” There, pilots would do their best to fly as close to the black holes as possible without getting sucked in. When you look to Solo, that's pretty much what happens when Han takes the Millennium Falcon foolishly through the Akkadese Maelstrom and right by the Maw.

MIMBAN

The oldest, deepest cut in Solo is the inclusion of Mimban, the setting of the very first novel in the Star Wars Expanded Universe: Splinter of the Mind's Eye, written by Alan Dean Foster in 1978.

Foster was given directives to write a book that could be used as the blueprint for an extremely low-budget sequel to the original Star Wars, which is why the opening space battle was cut and the setting, Mimban, is basically a field of fog in a muddy forest. It would be cost-effective to shoot in such an environment (and is essentially all Dagobah was, too). The planet was mentioned briefly in The Clone Wars episode "Rookies," but that was about it for canon appearances until Solo.

Ironically, Han Solo is the one character that never appeared on Mimban in the old Star Wars Legends. Since Harrison Ford hadn't signed a contract for the sequel, it was insisted that his character not appear in the book. That's the same reason you don't see Luke and Leia's face on the cover of the book. While Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher had signed for future films, they hadn't yet signed their likeness rights, which is why their faces are turned away from the reader. Darth Vader is the only recognizable character they had the rights to show on the cover.

SABACC

Thanks to Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, we always knew that Han won the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian in some sort of game of chance. But how did we know it was a game of sabacc?

In early an early draft of the screenplay for The Empire Strikes Back, Han mentions that he won the Falcon in a "sabacca” game, but that obviously never made it into the film.

In the Legends of Star Wars, the first real appearance of sabacc came in 1983 in L. Neil Smith's delightfully underrated Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu. In fact, that whole trilogy of Lando books was obliquely canonized over the course of Lando's storytelling in the context of Solo: A Star Wars Story.

The books documenting Lando's adventures came and went, but sabacc stayed in everyone's mind and then came back in a major way in 1989 when West End Games, makers of the Star Wars Roleplaying Game, released Crisis on Cloud City. Included with this adventure module were complete rules for sabacc, as well as a deck of cards to use as part of your own game. Using dice and discards to simulate the displacer field of the original, this mechanic would carry through pretty much every iteration of the game.

Solo isn't the first time in the canon we've seen Lando playing sabacc, though. That honor goes to the episode of Star Wars Rebels called "Idiot's Array." In that episode, Lando wins Chopper from Zeb. Probably by cheating, though I have no evidence of that.

CODA

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the influence the Legends material had on Solo: A Star Wars Story. And thanks to screenwriter Jonathan Kasdan's handiwork, I'm not sure we'll ever succeed in finding all of them. In fact, he points out even more in a massive list of interesting tidbits that he posted on Twitter in lieu of an audio commentary for Solo.

Check it out!

Solo: A Star Wars Story is now available digitally. It hits physical formats on September 25.

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