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The character of Chewbacca was inspired by George Lucas’ tall hairy Alaskan malamute, Indiana

Chewbacca, the gold-hearted furball, is undoubtedly one of the most likable fictional characters from the Star Wars series.

Everyone who has watched Star Wars at least once must have been touched by the loyal companionship between the hairy Wookie and the captain Han Solo.

The unbreakable bond between Chewie and Solo closely resembles the bond between a dog and its owner.

Chewbacca at Star Wars exhibition in London.Photo Credit
Chewbacca at Star Wars exhibition in London.Photo Credit

That is because the character of Chewbacca was based on another hairy creature. A tall Alaskan Malamute named Indiana was George Lucas’ dog at the time and the muse for the creation of the gentle Wookie.

Seeing Indiana sitting up on the passenger seat of his car inspired Lucas to create the “hairy co-pilot” and Captain Solo’s loyal companion.

George Lucas in 1986
George Lucas in 1986

I had an Alaskan Malamute when I was writing the film. A very sweet dog, she would always sit next to me when I was writing. And when I’d drive around, she’d sit in the front seat. A Malamute is a very large dog—like a hundred and thirty pounds and bigger than a human being and very long-haired.

Having her with me all the time inspired me to give Han Solo a sidekick who was like a big, furry dog. Not quite like a dog, but intelligent.

―George Lucas

An adult Alaskan-malamute.Photo Credit
An adult Alaskan-malamute.Photo Credit

Judging by the name of the dog, one might think the Alaskan malamute was the inspiration for the nickname of Dr. Henry Walton Jones Jr, and one might be right.

The name Chewbacca allegedly derives from the Russian word chudovishye (which means monster) combined with sobaka (which means dog). The combination of these two words literally translates to “Monster Dog.”

When Lucas created the character of Chewbacca, the tricky part was finding a very tall actor who would play the role of the gentle Wookie. Excessive hairiness was not one of the requirements.

Eventually, Peter Mayhew, a  7’3″ (2.2 m) tall actor, was chosen to play Chewie.

Peter Mayhew sitting in front of an image of his most famous role as Chewbacca. Photo Credit
Peter Mayhew sitting in front of an image of his most famous role as Chewbacca. Photo Credit

Mayhew wore five identical costumes made especially for him out of yak hair.

Photo-by-bonnie-burton-on-the-oficial-star-wars Photo Credit
Photo-by-bonnie-burton-on-the-official-star-wars Photo Credit

Here is another Star Wars story from us: Ksar Ouled Soltane: 15th-century granary used as a slave quarters in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

Chewbacca makes an appearance in 5 out of 7 Star Wars episodes, and we are truly glad of Lucas’s old dog Indiana for inspiring one of the most amusing fictional characters ever.