Oh no! The Rancor!

I’m reading through the Star Wars novelizations. I had read most of them before, but I had not read any of the Episode II or Episode VI books. The prequel trilogy books were engaging and really added to the films. The classic trilogy books have been more disappointing–they haven’t had quite the right tone, and they have been more straightforward, vanilla adaptations of the movies, barring discrepancies between the novelizations and the final film products. Return of the Jedi by James Kahn has been the exception to the classic trilogy rule so far. It nails the tone, it feels comfortably Star Wars, and Kahn actually does a good job of getting into the heads of the characters in a way that adds to the film.

Leia, Luke, Lando, and Han all have a little more depth, and Leia is just oozing with power, confidence, and control. Some of my favorite Leia gems so far:

She thought about killing [Jabba] outright, then and there. But she held her ire in check, since the rest of these vermin might have killed her before she could escape with Han. Better odds were sure to come later. So she swallowed hard and, for the time being, put up with this slimepot as best she could.

[Luke] could feel [Leia’s] pain immediately, from across the room–but he said nothing, didn’t even look at her, shut her anguish completely out of his mind. For he needed to focus his attention entirely on Jabba.

Leia, for her part, sensed this at once. She closed her mind to Luke, to keep herself from distracting him; yet at the same time she kept it open, ready to receive any sliver of information she might need to act. She felt charged with possibilities.

[Leia’s] eyes had been fixed on [Han] from the moment he’d entered the room, though–guarding his spirit with her own. When he spoke of her now, she responded instantly, calling from her place on Jabba’s throne. “I’m all right, but I don’t know how much longer I can hold off your slobbering friend, here.” She was intentionally cavalier, to put Solo at ease. Besides, the sight of all of her friends there at once made her feel nearly invincible . . . . Leia almost laughed out loud, almost punched Jabba in the nose. She could barely restrain herself. She wanted to hug them all.

Leia looked after them with great concern; but when she caught a glimpse of Luke’s face she was stirred to see it still fixed in a broad, genuine smile. She sighed deeply, to expel her doubts.

Anyway, I think it’s good stuff. Some of the things Kahn focuses on are a little silly to me, though–and the title to this post should clue you into one of those areas. A lot of attention is paid to the Rancor. It gets to be its own character with its own dramatic arc:

Out of the side passage emerged the giant Rancor . . . . It was clearly a mutant, and wild as all unreason.

It was not an evil beast, that much was clear . . . . But this monster wasn’t bad–merely dumb and mistreated. Hungry and in pain, it lashed out at whatever came near.

No, he was going to have to keep his mind clear–that was all–and just outwit the savage brute, to put it out of its misery.

The Rancor keeper wept openly and threw himself down on the body of his dead pet. Life would be a lonely proposition for him from that day.

Jabba chortled evilly. “Take them away.” At last, a bit of pure pleasure on an otherwise dreary day–feeding the Sarlacc was the only thing he enjoyed as much as feeding the Rancor. Poor Rancor.

The film has a little of that tragic story, what with the weeping, mourning Rancor keeper, but I think this version plays the drama (or melodrama) up a little more than that even. The line “Poor Rancor” really tickled me.

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