After re-watching Return of the Jedi recently, I started to wonder about Jabba and his criminal empire.

All the sources I've read agree that Jabba is immensely powerful, and his influence was such that even the Imperial forces were reluctant to cross him.

But physically, Hutts just don't seem particularly intimidating. Sure, they're big, and they have huge mouths, but Jabba seems practically immobile, and the Wookieepedia entry on Hutts indicates that this is not uncommon for older Hutts.

My first thought was that perhaps Jabba leveraged a family inheritance to build a criminal empire, but Wookieepedia indicates he started small, as a "high risk gunrunner". The details are very sparse:

Jabba started small, finding early work as a high-risk gunrunner, along with his lifelong friend Ephant Mon. During Senator Palpatine's rise to power, the Hutt was one of several gangsters who made his bid for dominance. His competitors included Sise Fromm, the then-kingpin of organized crime in the galaxy and Prince Xizor, fledgling heir to the Black Sun criminal empire. Though neither Xizor nor Jabba were by any means young, both had just been handed the reins of power established by their respective criminal families. While Fromm played war games, Xizor and Jabba sensed the winds of change and spent their resources garnering favor with those who seemed to be shifting into power.

I guess being a slow, ponderous slug-like being is less of a disadvantage once you're flying a ship, but even then its not like their arms look particularly dextrous. It seems like the Huttese physiology would be nothing but a series of disadvantages for an aspiring crime lord.

How did Jabba parlay a career as a high-risk gunrunner into a notorious crime lord? Currying favor with up-and-coming galactic powers would seem to only lead to becoming a lackey to one or more of those powers, yet Jabba seemed to have evolved into a power in his own right, beholden to none.

Are there any canon references that provide details on his rise to power?

  • 9
    Great question. Perhaps we could rephrase as 'how does a giant slug become in any way threatening?' :) Dec 16, 2013 at 15:39
  • @JBRWilkinson Answer for your rephrasing of the question: ask to Leto Atreides II. Dec 17, 2013 at 13:28
  • 3
    Also, it should be noted that Hutts being big, slow slugs is a common misconception, even in the SW universe - they can be quite fast when they want to and they're mostly muscle... like a python, with blubber over that. The fatness is not just a by-product of their lifestyle, either - size is a major status symbol to Hutts, so they often get fat on purpose.
    – Omegacron
    Feb 19, 2014 at 14:41

5 Answers 5


To rely purely on your own personal abilities would be a disaster. A business, and crime is a business, survives by collecting people of diverse talents together and using those talents to gain an advantage over the competition.

You do what you do better, faster, or cheaper than those other guys. So Hutts are slow of body? They are quick of brains. You don't spend years learning martial arts when you can hire 5 goons to follow you around for the same price. You gotta be smart. You gotta spend where it matters.

You don't bill an ox as a chessmaster, you bill it as a beast of burden. You don't bill Einstein as a prizefighter, you bill him as a mathematician.

You understand? It isn't Jabba's physical power that everyone fears. It is the army of mercenary scum he has on retainer. It is the dangerous bastards he keeps as friends. It is the politicians and peace-keepers he has in his pocket. It is his ability to direct trade of important resources away from your supply-lines. It is his knowledge of your weaknesses and the close friends of yours he owns.

Jabba doesn't win a fight with you by shooting you in the face. He wins it by paying the captain of your dropship to dump his cargo - you - into space.

  • 5
    +1. For an illustration of this, check out the (admittedly imperfect) Batman prequel show GOTHAM. Penguin on that show is a perfect illustration of how someone can accumulate power without ever being remotely intimidating in a personal sense.
    – Nerrolken
    Apr 9, 2015 at 21:57

Leaving aside Dampe's great answer, another answer was quite simple: a dash of nepotism.

Jabba was the nephew of Jiliac, the head of already-powerful Desilijic kajidic (src: Rebel Dawn by Crispen, Book 3 of Han Solo Trilogy).

He became a powerful crime lord because his family was powerful crime lords, and he showed them he was worthy of taking his place at leadership.

As an aside, Jabba's Hutt physiology offered its own direct benefits:

  • Long life

  • Natural protection (Hutts have tough hide and are very hard to kill overall)

  • Resistance to Jedi mind tricks


Though neither Xizor nor Jabba were by any means young, both had just been handed the reins of power established by their respective criminal families.

Jabba was no doubt a formidable figure in Galactic mob politics, but his empire had a great deal of provinence, even before he took the helm of it.

The Hutt families are a millennia-old powerhouse in the galaxy, controlling vast economic resources and employing sizeable mercenary forces. Hutt Space is a large chunk of the Galaxy that remains more or less independent throughout much of Galactic history. Jabba advanced to a position of power within his family before he started consolidating his criminal empire. His career would look something like this:

  • Born into top tier of powerful Hutt family.

  • Establishes a reputation as daring, enterprising and generally proactive through his independent gun-running business.

  • Impressing his family, rises through the ranks of the Cartel (most likely in a bloody and untoward Fashion).

  • Eventually reaches the top as head of the Cartel.

  • Consolidates power during the rise of Palpatine and the Empire by adapting and cutting deals with the new powers-that-be.

Jabba's climb to power is still impressive, but he it is not an entirely self-propelled journey from independent freighter pilot to Head of All Crime in the Galaxy.

Edit: also, what the other guys said.


Jabba got most of his power from his family so the main question we ask is how did the Hutts in general get so much power? To put it shortly, the Hutts were once on a planet (not Nal Hutta) where they were ruled over by another alien species until they got their hands on some neat technology from their rulers and rebelled and conquered their world. Then the Hutt empire was formed and focused their main efforts on commerce which got them very wealthy. However, eventually it fell apart but joined back into the Hutt Grand Council.

Now despite the Hutts looking like fatties, they were pretty formidable fighters and could their fat into muscle. They could also wield blasters like any other species. However, it wasn't the Hutt who was dangerous, it was his army of mercenaries.

  • 2
    What are you basing all of this on?
    – Valorum
    Jan 5, 2018 at 0:25

Well Jabba looks really weak because he is lazy but hutts themselves are actually physically strong. Specifically, a hutt called Grakkus is known to be illustrated with biceps bigger than Lukes head. It's also shown in one of the choose your own adventure books, I can't quite remember which but Jabba the hutt himself is actually extremely fast. Knowing this and the fact that he's been known to eat people whole like in Jabba the Hutt: The Dynasty Trap and his sheer physical defences I personally wouldn't want to fight a hutt in battle even with a large gun.

It's entirely plausible that the Hutts would be able to amass the power that would one day be inherited to Jabba.

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