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Chewbacca, Han, and Luke walk down the aisle. The rebels are standing at attention in parade formation on either side, facing the aisle. Chewbacca howls. The rebels stamp their heels and turn to face the front of the room. The medals are handed out (I know, Carrie couldn't reach Chewbacca's neck, and Wookiees supposedly shun medals anyway). Then Chewie turns around and howls, and the rebels applaud.

Is this just coincidence, or is Chewbacca giving orders ("Face Front!", "At ease!", etc)? Was he an officer at this point?

The script only says "Chewbacca is confused", which doesn't seem to match what we see on film, and also insults his intelligence.

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    The novel is no use; "She placed something heavy and golden around Solo’s neck, then Chewbacca’s—having to strain to do so—and finally around Luke’s. Then she made a signal to the crowd, and the rigid discipline dissolved as every man, woman, and mechanical present was permitted to give full vent to their feelings." – Valorum Apr 6 '15 at 21:57
  • @Richard - that actually helps a bit, insofar as it says that SOMEONE made a signal. In the movie, Chewie might be the one giving signals. In the book, it is Leia. It seems unlikely that everyone in the room understands Shyriiwook, but if we assume he is saying "Face front!"/"At ease!", it isn't hard to imagine that people would correctly figure out what he is saying. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Apr 6 '15 at 22:09
  • It seemed more like he was an emcee or smth? – ASH-Aisyah May 4 '16 at 15:45
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As far as I can tell, not. The majority of troops aren't likely to speak conversational Wookiee and the script indicates that the event was pre-planned.

Given that the novelisation doesn't even mention Chewie's dialogue, the closest we can get to a reliable source is the NPR radio drama script, originally considered G-Canon but alas now merely a "legend".

Luke : You're supposed to be serious!

Han: I bet they're tired of staring at each other. Chewie, give 'em "eyes front"!

Chewie: HOOTS A COMMAND IN WOOKIEE

Sound: Either by coincidence or by cosmic predetermination, the massed rebels obey, facing the dais.

Han: Good discipline there.

Luke: Han, behave!


As @wadcheber has pointed out, although the official novelisation doesn't mention Chewie's dialogue, it does show that the crowd cheered on Leia's signal, not Chewie's bark.

She placed something heavy and golden around Solo’s neck, then Chewbacca’s—having to strain to do so—and finally around Luke’s. Then she made a signal to the crowd, and the rigid discipline dissolved as every man, woman, and mechanical present was permitted to give full vent to their feelings.


Interestingly, it appears that the clapping at the end was not the dismissal of the troops. According to the new Marvel Comic Princess Leia #001 (considered a canon source of information about the events following "A New Hope") the troops actually remained in place for a speech by Leia, a minute's silence for the fallen of Alderaan and were then dismissed by General Dodonna.

enter image description here

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    That seems to confirm that Chewie is telling them what to do/when to do it, or at least trying to. In a parade formation, commands as simple as "Face the part of the room where all the stuff is happening" and "Applaud the heroes" are so obvious that all the person in charge has to do is yelp and the troops will know what he/she means - it isn't about giving them instructions so much as it is about telling them "Do the thing you were waiting to do, NOW!" – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Apr 6 '15 at 22:13
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    By way of analogy, racers start running when the gun is fired, even though the gun isn't saying "Start running now". The sound isn't a recognizable word, but everyone knows what it means. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Apr 6 '15 at 22:33
  • I corrected the spelling of "Wookiee." The second instance might be worth looking at, though, since the radio play script might actually have misspelled it. – Adamant Oct 5 '16 at 9:14
  • @Adamant - Meh. The script book is riddled with spelling errors. I tend to just correct them as I go. – Valorum Oct 5 '16 at 11:19
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I found the answer in someone else's answer to a different question I asked. In an Ask Me Anything with Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca), this exchange happened:

QUESTION: As for me, I think that Chewbacca deserved a [medal] after the first death star destruction. What was that last word he spoke in Episode IV? Did it have something to do with not getting a [medal]?

PETER MAYHEW'S ANSWER: No, actually, the last words Chewie spoke in Episode IV was to dismiss the troops and thank them for their service.

Clearly, he was indeed giving orders.

I asked my buddies - one is an officer, helicopter rescue pilot, and instructor in the U.S. Coast Guard, the other is a Sergeant in the U.S. Army - what they think.

The Coast Guard officer, who is also a Star Wars buff, says this (by the way, Capy is my dog):

Interesting...hadn't watched the scene in months, and if you'd asked me cold I would have told you my recollection of Chewie's roaring was as if you'd taken Capy to city hall to get the key to the city and she randomly barked. But watching it now it seems clear that Chewie is, in fact, calling out the commands.

The US Army Sergeant said:

Well I'm an NCO, not an Officer, but I would point out that the majority of drill and ceremony commands have a preparatory command followed by a command of execution: Forward_March, Column-Right_March, Company_Attention, etc. There also single word commands knows as combined commands: Rest, Fall-Out, Fall-In, etc.

Some notes from a military study guide may help:

"a. The preparatory command is the command that indicates movement. Pronounce each preparatory command with a rising inflection. The most desirable pitch, when beginning a preparatory command, is near the level of the natural speaking voice. A common fault with beginners is to start the preparatory command in a pitch so high that, after employing a rising inflection for the preparatory command, it is impossible to give the command of execution with clarity or without strain. A good rule to remember is to begin a command near the natural pitch of the voice."

"b. The command of execution is the command that indicates when a movement is to be executed. Give it in a sharper tone and in a slightly higher pitch than the last syllable of the preparatory command. It must be given with plenty of snap. The best way to develop a command voice is to practice."

"c. In combined commands, such as FALL IN and FALL OUT, the preparatory command and command of execution are combined. Give these commands without inflection and with the uniform high pitch and loudness of a normal command of execution."

So one could infer that the Wookiee is simply giving a combined command: "Clap." Which would preclude the use of a preparatory command and command of execution. However I would note the slight rise of inflection near the end of the first instance which may merely be an example of poor form.

  • Although I hate to be a party pooper, Mayhew's comments contradict the novel. Given that that's the case, an actor can't override the novel any more than the novel can override the film. – Valorum Apr 9 '15 at 5:45
  • Also, he may have been being facetious/funny. There's no indication that this was actually the case. – Valorum Apr 9 '15 at 5:47
  • Judging by the rebels' reaction, this is closer to the truth than anything else. And since it jives with what we see on screen, it confirms the canon. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Apr 9 '15 at 19:55
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    Actually, it explictly contradicts both the script and the novelisation. I'm not saying it's not a good find, just that it's not the answer you're looking for (waves hand). – Valorum Apr 9 '15 at 20:17
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    Let us continue this discussion in chat. – Valorum Apr 9 '15 at 20:42
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Being ex-military, the immediate response to both barks would lead me to believe they are orders.

As far as being an officer, giving parade orders could be given by an officer or NCO. The fact that Chewie is a pilot, I am inclined to think that he is an officer.

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