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At the end of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, there is a medal ceremony where Princess Leia awards Luke and Han a medal for their heroism. Why didn't Chewbacca receive one?

A new hope medal ceremony

Note : While Chewbacca's Wookipedia entry states that he did receive one, this information is not canon since he did not receive one on the Blue-ray version, making the absence of medal G-canon.

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17  
Because the Rebel Alliance is racist. –  Jack B Nimble Oct 31 '11 at 16:18
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You can tell he's mad about it, too. He's yelling at Leia in the picture. –  OghmaOsiris Oct 31 '11 at 16:26
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@OghmaOsiris: If we could translate it, he'd probably be saying something like "Princess Leia doesn't care about hairy people." ;) –  gnovice Oct 31 '11 at 16:50
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Please note that R2 doesn't get one either, DESPITE being nearly killed in the run on the Death Star. –  Jeff Oct 31 '11 at 17:53
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Yea, but R2 is just a droid. He's hardware, not people... :) –  BBlake Oct 31 '11 at 19:04

5 Answers 5

up vote 20 down vote accepted

Although not depicted in the film, according to the Star Wars movie novelization ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster and the comic adaptation, Chewbacca did receive a medal.

From the comic:

Chewbacca receives a medal for his heroic efforts during the Battle of Yavin.

From the novel:

She placed something heavy and golden around Solo's neck, then Chewbacca's--having to strain to do so--and finally around Luke's.

Since from the Expanded Universe's perspective, Chewbacca did receive a medal, you are unlikely to see an explanation outside of the films for why Chewbacca does not receive a medal on-screen.

If you want documented evidence of Carrie Fisher placing a medal on Chewbacca on video, Chewbacca got a MTV Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997. This award ceremony was detailed in Star Wars Insider #35 "Chewbacca's Lifetime Achievement Award" by Athena Portillo (page 28), along with a brief mention to your question.

Was the 7'2" Chewie too tall for the petite princess to reach during the ceremony? or...Was the medal too small and not accommodating enough for such a furry Wookiee? The answer? Simply none of the above. It just wasn't written into the Star Wars script.

Chewbacca accepts his medal of honor at the 1997 MTV Movie Awards

The answer from Star Wars Insider is probably the best answer you will get from Lucasfilm.

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It is possible that when it was first filmed, as per aerial military tradition, only the captain would receive a medal of achievement (whatever medals given to people killed in action would of course be received by all). Since Chewie is only a crewman (although he clearly does most of the work), he wouldn't have received one.

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This is what I always assumed. –  Raven13 Nov 1 '11 at 18:13
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to explain further: the captain receives the commendation on behalf of the vessel, not as a personal reward. Those can be handed to any individual, but are usually presented by their direct commanding officer (which in case of Chewbacca would be Solo) in a separate ceremony on the vessel. –  jwenting Nov 2 '11 at 14:08

In either the book or the comic book, there was another line that stated Chewie also got a medal, but due to his height, Leia couldn't put it around his neck, so he would get it later.

That would evade the canon issue, since it adds to what's there without contradicting it, but it doesn't explain why he wasn't presented with the medal and allowed to put it on himself.

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In Adywan's Star Wars Revisited, a number of changes were made to correct production mistakes in the movie, revert ill-advised changes (e.g. Han shoots first in, the Han and Jabba scene in Mos Eisley was reverted), etc.

Changes #4 and 5 under "Celebration" are related to Chewie getting a medal. (SWR is discussed in Episode #12 of Back to Work: Chewie's medal is non-canonical).

Although the title of the episode suggests that Chewie's medal is non cannon, Benny's answer about it being in the novelization--in a way that doesn't contradict the movies--suggests it actually is, which ironically makes this revisited version of the movie more canonically descriptive than the official revised editions. Plus, Han shoots first.

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The canon reason for it was the Wookiee race don't approve of tangible rewards like medals, so the Alliance chose to have a private celebration on Kashyyyk. George Lucas later said he did get a medal, but not during the official ceremony because Leia was simply too short, and it wasn't dignified for either party to stand on a table or kneel, respectively.

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