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The character of Chewbacca was inspired by George Lucas’ tall hairy Alaskan Malamute

Alex A
Getty Images
Getty Images

Although it was created some 40 years ago, the cultural impact of the Star Wars universe has continued to grow, earning more and more dedicated fans as generations change. Over the decades, George Lucas’ cult film series has become a major part of pop culture and has affected the movie industry more than any other movie. Star Wars didn’t just popularize science fiction as a genre, but also paved the way for the creation of countless other movies and inspired many young filmmakers to move away from the conventional and to come up with something new like George Lucas did back in 1977.

Up to this day, no other blockbuster has surpassed the Star Wars legacy. The series has influenced and changed many aspects of our lives, but most importantly it has changed the way we think about the world around us, thus becoming a global phenomenon like no other.

The Star Wars universe is composed of numerous beloved characters who rolled swiftly into our hearts and continue capturing the imagination of people from all over the world. The much-loved universe and its characters have grown quite significantly since Star Wars hit theaters for the first time on May 25, 1977.

People continue the debate of who is the best of the many iconic characters in the saga, with everyone having their own favorite. Surely there are some that stand out, but the ongoing debate and the fact that fans pick different ones as their favorites is perhaps what makes the Star Wars series an indisputable masterpiece.

Talking about beloved fictional characters from the Star Wars series, one must admit that Chewbacca, the gold-hearted furball, is undoubtedly one of the most likable.

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

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

And that is no coincidence, because the character of Chewbacca was based on another hairy creature. A tall Alaskan Malamute named Indiana which was George Lucas’ dog at the time was 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.

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

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. Excessive hairiness was not one of the requirements.

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

Mayhew wore five identical costumes during the filming, made especially for him out of yak hair.

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 lovable fictional characters ever.