May the 4th Be With You: Are Wookiees Bigfoot Inspired?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on May 4th, 2011

Today, May 4th, in an international day of celebration of the Star Wars cinema phenomenon.

It is a good day to think of Wookiees and Bigfoot, and I repost on this topic, which I visited first in 2007.


A group photograph of some Wookiee fighters is shown above; they first appeared en masse thanks to Revenge of the Sith. Reportedly, they are men in suits. They do look a lot like Sasquatch, and for years, people wanting to dress as Bigfoot have worn Wookiee costumes for Halloween. Today, such costumes are usually too expensive.

“Wookiee” is the official and correct spelling of these fictional inhabitants of Kashyyyk. “Wookie” is incorrect. Chewbacca (or Chewie) is the most famous and well-known Wookiee, who was there from the beginning.

Friday, May 25, 2011 will be the 34th anniversary of the release of the original Star Wars movie.

On opening day in 1977, I was there, standing in line in Boston, and soon was amazed by what I saw on the big screen.

Congratulations to George Lucas for bringing to birth his vision of this universe of science fiction that would become the Star Wars epic.

As far as popular culture, within cryptozoology, the quick assumption is that Wookiees have been based on Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and other unknown hairy hominoids. What do you think?

Spoiler: The Bigfoot origin does not seem to be the case.

When I visited Honey Island Swamp, in the 1980s, the Star Wars movies had obviously made an impact on the local naming of the Honey Island Swamp Monster. Locals in the area some miles outside of New Orleans, Louisiana, were calling their Honey Island cryptid, casually, for example, by naming their small swamp boats (wrongly spelled) “Wookie.” The Star Wars movies came first, and there is no evidence that the Honey Island Swamp Monster was called a “Wookie” or a “Wookiee” before 1977.

Some people, however, seem to think otherwise. Florida cryptozoologist Scott Marlowe has argued on the forum that “the term ‘Wookie’ chosen by Lucas is a North American Indian term for a Bigfoot…It is culturally and linguistically related to the term Shaawanoki which is the Seminole word for the Skunk or Swamp Ape.”

This is a highly doubtful theory. The significance of the 850 miles between the very culturally different Native groups – the group who use to live near the Honey Island Swamp of Louisiana, and those of the Everglades and Big Cypress swamps of Florida – must be acknowledged. Frankly, this Skunk Ape info just does not seem to be factual.

Most damaging of all, however, is George Lucas’ own testimony on the origins of the name.

The director himself said the name originated in his first motion picture THX 1138. In a line ad-libbed by an actor, a character says, “I think I just ran over a wookiee on the expressway.”

Furthermore, as noted in the bonus material on the Indiana Jones trilogy, the Wookiee is said to be based on George Lucas’ dog named “Indiana.”

Oh no, Chewie based on a dog? Not very Bigfoot-like at all.

Nevertheless, the Wookiee’s apparent link to Bigfoot has become part of popular thought:

Wookiees bear a notable resemblance to the cryptozoological phenomena of the Sasquatch, with one issue of Star Wars Tales linking Chewbacca and Han Solo to the adventurous wanderings of Indiana Jones.

“Wookiee” entry, Wookiipedia, the Star Wars wiki.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

5 Responses to “May the 4th Be With You: Are Wookiees Bigfoot Inspired?”

  1. JungleHusky responds:

    Just as one can argue that the release of the movie “Species” triggered more “Chupacabra” sightings by planting an initial seed, it is also possible to argue the same for Star Wars and creatures like Bigfoot. With that said, such arguments cannot be done accurately as reports of Bigfoot, Yeti, Yowie (whatever the variant in name) has existed long before the Star Wars film release.

    There are obvious connections between a “Wookiee”, not to be confused with the hit Jersey Shore cast member, and mysterious hairy hominids but such connections are not the basis for creation. Correlation in this case, does not equal causation but coincidence or artistic creativity inspired by legends stretching beyond the twentieth century. As long as there have been campfire stories there have been accounts of creatures like Bigfoot, and as such Mr. Lucas merely utilized existing traits to paint an alternate universe where these creatures are not hidden, but at times can be called upon to participate actively in combat.

  2. shownuff responds:

    Wookie was inspired by the Directors dog. But, I can not help how closely the resemblance is between the Wookie and the Australian version of Bigfoot. Anyone else ever make that connection?

  3. JungleHusky responds:

    When I first saw the Star Wars film trilogy that was the initial connection. I had heard of Bigfoot, Yeti, and similar variants in name prior to seeing Star Wars.

    Note: Children’s hit Cartoon series about Paddington Bear also had an episode featuring the Yeti which helped familiarize the concept even more.

  4. HulkSmashNow responds:

    In the decidedly non-canonical, but fun, story “Into the Great Unknown,” published in the Dark Horse comic book anthology “Star Wars Tales” Issue #19 (published 14 May 2004), according to Wookieepedia:

    “(Han) Solo and his co-pilot Chewbacca flee blindly into hyperspace from an Imperial fleet and end up crashing onto an unfamiliar planet. Solo is attacked and killed by a primitive group of Humans, and 126 years later, his skeleton is discovered by Indiana Jones. (Writer Haden) Blackman intentionally inserted references to both film franchises into the story, hoping to appeal to a wide range of fans. ”

    “When Blackman was crafting Into the Great Unknown’s plot, he recalled stories about Peter Mayhew in his Chewbacca costume potentially being mistaken for Bigfoot while filming Return of the Jedi, and used them as his starting point.”

    “Chewbacca is flying with Solo as the Falcon lands on the unfamiliar planet, and kills all of the attacking Humans with his bowcaster and with brute strength, although he is too late to save Solo from dying. After Solo passes away, Chewbacca begins roaming the nearby forest and is referred to as “Sasquatch” by the natives. He is still present 126 years later, watching over the Falcon.”

    Now, that’s not only a nice little connection between Chewie and Bigfoot, but also very awesomely ties both of Lucasfilm’s huge cinematic franchises neatly together…albeit in a way that doesn’t reflect ether movie series’ continuity.

  5. Lyle Blackburn responds:

    An interesting note on this subject: I interviewed artist Ralph McQuarrie just before he passed away during research for my “Beast of Boggy Creek” book. McQuarrie not only painted the iconic movie poster for The Legend of Boggy Creek, he was the artist who conceptualized all the iconic Star Wars characters – including Chewbacca – for Lucas so that he could pitch the idea to the movie producers. I asked McQuarrie if Chewie was in any way based on Bigfoot, or more specifically, the Boggy Creek creature. He said Chewie was not based on Bigfoot or the Fouke Monster. He communicated directly with Lucas while drawing up the character concepts, and he said Lucas directed him as to what to draw and that it wasn’t related to Bigfoot.

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