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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 each 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 Disney/G-canon since he did not receive one on the Blue-ray version, making the absence of medal canon.

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    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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    @gnovice: Funny you should say that. In more than one interview, Carrie Fisher said she loved big hairy men and that's why she joked about the idea that Leia should run off with Chewie at the end. – Tango Oct 31 '11 at 21:03
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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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    Jesus Christ that is one ripped Wookie. – Azor Ahai Dec 24 '15 at 21:10
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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.

  • 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
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This was addressed in the Official Star Wars Fan Club Magazine #002 from 1978. In short, Chewie's people don't agree with medals. He was rewarded with a party instead.

enter image description here

Caption reads;

At the end of Star Wars, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo each received a medal from Princess Leia. Why didn't Chewbacca receive one? The Rebel forces wanted to give Chewbacca a medal for his part in saving Princess Leia and in the destruction of the Death Star, but Wookiees don't approve of medals. So, respecting Chewbacca's wishes, they didn't give him one.

They didn't want Chewie to go totally unrewarded, however. So, after the ceremony at the Rebel base, they flew to the Wookiee planet for a celebration

5

Additional out of universe reason:

As per Bmag's interview with Peter Mayhew:

With our time running out, I have to ask him one question that’s bothered me since I was a kid. At the end of the original Star Wars, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo are given Medals of Bravery by Princess Leia for their role in destroying the Death Star. Chewie, who played just as important a role, stands off to the side without a medal. What gives?

“I think you better ask George [Lucas] about that,” Mayhew laughs. “Actually, I think it was one of two reasons. One, they didn’t have enough money to buy me a medal. Or two, Carrie couldn’t reach my neck, and it was probably too expensive to build a little step so that I could step down or she could step up and give me the medal“.

This sounds like his own theory which may be incorrect in light of some of existing answerd - but I figured given who the source is, it deserves to be posted as an answer as well.

4

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.

  • Or why he didn't just kneel down for her...? – Jane S Jan 5 '16 at 5:07
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    @JaneS: Maybe that would have made him look too much like a servant or something? But, hey, trying to make sense out of Lucas' work can be quite taxing sometime! – Tango Jan 5 '16 at 19:34
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According to Disney canon, he did get a medal.

THE WOOKIEE SIGHED, a low rumble, and gazed at the medal in his palm. On the humans it looked substantial and solid, fit to be worn around the neck. In his hand the scale was altered, and if he brought his fingers together he could conceal it entirely. A pretty thing, hastily engraved in a stylized flower meant perhaps to recall the emblem of the Republic. At its heart a rising sun, halfway above the horizon, both symbolized the dawn of a new hope in the wake of this victory over the Galactic Empire and recalled the Death Star’s destruction.

He sighed a second time, tucked the award into the satchel that hung from the bandolier of bowcaster ammunition slung over his left shoulder, and leaned forward in his seat to peer out the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon...

Despite all his posturing and swagger, there was a core to Han Solo as golden as the medals they’d all received for their part in the recent battle.
- Star Wars: Smuggler's Run: A Han Solo and Chewbacca Adventure

  • The canon Chewbacca comic also shows his medal. – Rogue Jedi Sep 7 '16 at 19:26
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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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    Are there any references for this answer? – Andres F. May 10 '15 at 15:23
  • @AndresF. - Nope. None added – Valorum Aug 15 '15 at 16:00
  • @Valorum Reference found 3 years later, lol – Skooba Mar 16 '17 at 16:12
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    @Skooba - I've treated myself to a number of classic properties, guides and artbooks recently. The snippet in my answer seems to be what Maxwell is referring to. I've not seen it described thusly elsewhere. – Valorum Mar 16 '17 at 16:48
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According to the Marvel Special Edition Star Wars comic from 1977, Chewbacca did receive a medal but he was just too tall for the Princess to put it on him during the ceremony.

enter image description here

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