Tuesday, March 29, 2011

From Hell's Heart I Stab At Thee - Escaping the Sarlacc

Fett opened his eyes and stared ahead into the emptiness, listening to the silence. The screams he had heard at first, those of the men who had fallen into the Great Pit with him, had ceased. He had not heard even one in some time. The fury built in Fett, self-contained, black and bone-deep. Another crack nearby, sounding very like a whip; Fett took a shuddering breath and when he spoke his voice shook slightly. 

"I don't understand this. I don't understand this at all. Why is this being prolonged? Is there a purpose? The Sarlacc can eat me when I'm dead, can't it? I've killed, I've killed virtually everything that moves, one time or another, a hundred different species, sentient and dumb; if it breathes I've probably killed it or something like it. But I've killed clean. I've killed without stretching it out. Where's the grace in a death like this?"
Fett had the impression that his question was being considered.

Daniel Keys Moran, A Barve Like That: The Tale of Boba Fett (1996)
Since his fateful fall from grace in Return of the Jedi there have been numerous accounts of Boba Fett's later escape from the belly of the beast - call it Captain Ahab pulling a Noah. While never shown on film (Lucas considered adding a shot of Fett crawling out of the pit for the Special Edition, but decided it would distract from the focus of the picture) it is generally accepted that, one way or another, the Pit of Carkoon was not the end of the bounty hunter's story.

The first depiction of Boba Fett's escape from the Sarlacc appeared in 1984, a year after the release of Return of the Jedi, in the Marvel-produced comic Star Wars #81: Jawas of Doom. No, not 'Jaws of Doom' - 'Jawas of Doom'.

It plays out how you might expect.

Pretty sweet art, though.
In Jawas of Doom, Boba Fett is ejected from the Sarlacc and is left crippled and helpless in the Dune Sea of Tatooine. This is an element of nearly all Boba Fett escape stories, although later versions tend to have all his clothes, save his helmet, melted away by the Sarlacc's stomach acid - this image has provided me with years of hilarious fetish fuel.

Jawas salvaging the wreck of Jabba's sail barge come across the emaciated Fett and mistake him for a droid, being idiots. Fett can do nothing but play along, as his time in the Sarlacc has left him with chronic amnesia (another element that shows up in later stories).

Coincidentally, Han, Leia and Artoo-Detoo are on Tatooine at the same time. Artoo is captured by the Jawas and ends up on a sandcrawler with Boba Fett, who thinks he's a robot. What a day.

Boba Fett puzzles over where this story is going.
Han and Leia go looking for Artoo and discover the Jawa sandcrawler under attack from a tribe of Sand People. In the midst of a high-speed chase sequence, Han climbs aboard the sandcrawler to rescue Artoo, and discovers his old nemesis. But Boba has no memory of his antagonism towards Han; for a brief, happy time, they're on the same side. At the last moment Han tries to rescue his new BFF, but then Leia screws everything up by calling Han's name. Flashbacks ensue.

'Hey, remember that time I hit you in the back and erased all your street cred? Yeah...'
Boba wastes precious time trying to shoot Han in the face. In a freakish case of cruel irony, the sandcrawler dives straight back into the Sarlacc pit, taking Boba down with it. Hey-ooo.
'Just when I think I'm out...they pull me back in!'
In short: Boba escapes the pit, mistakes himself for a robot, and then ends up back where he started. It's a silly story and not often recognized; he's no good to us dead all over again.

The next version of Fett's escape was recorded in 1993's Dark Empire Sourcebook, a roleplaying supplement produced by West End Games. The story was aptly named The Ordeal of Boba Fett, and it added several elements to the order of events that would be included in later variations: namely Dengar's involvement in nursing Fett back to health, and the exact method via which the bounty hunter took his leave.

A month later, Fett came out of his coma. Dengar didn't want to think about it when he could hear him discussing escape plans with guys ten years dead. Or ten years-should-be-dead. When Fett was on solid food again, they talked.
     "I thought nobody had ever gotten out of that thing..."
     "They all tried the obvious way out. I didn't. They all went for the opening; I *made* an exit."
Michael Allen Horne, Dark Empire Sourcebook (1933)

The short story also began to detail the biology of the Sarlacc creature itself, and how it digested its victims:

Oddly, Fett's seizures were because of exposure of thirst. Fett was apparently well fed, since there were all sorts of food proteins in his blood. The trouble was an allergic reaction to the foreign blood types in his system combined with an industrial-grade neurotoxin. He asked the droid about the blood shifting. The only theory it had was the Sarlacc couldn't digest its own food without help, so it fed its blood into the victims, and the blood fed the victims enough nutrients to keep them alive, so the Sarlacc had a constant food source. Meanwhile, the poor victims rolled around and got slowly dissolved.
Dengar shivered as the droid droned on, thinking about the genetic samples in Boba's blood. Some of it matched guys Jabba had iced years ago. All that "digested in the belly of the Sarlacc for a thousand years" yakkity yak was true, and Boba had been in the middle of it. It gave him the chills.
Michael Allen Horne, Dark Empire Sourcebook (1933)

While The Ordeal of Boba Fett was a step up from the explanation offered by Marvel Comics, other storytellers would approach the topic on their own terms. Daniel Keys Moran wrote a short story for Lucasfilm in 1996 entitled A Barve Like That: The Tale of Boba Fett, which was included in the Tales from Jabba's Palace anthology.

I believe it was close to being the first official “Fett survived” story. There was a previous piece of official fiction, I forget by whom, that had a barely-living man being found just outside the Sarlacc [The Ordeal of Boba Fett]. The guy who finds him assumes it’s Fett. I didn’t want to use that — I wanted to leave Fett down in the Sarlacc for some years, as the Sarlacc, which was intelligent, slowly digested him. We’d explain away the other guy as someone misidentifying Fett — who that other guy would be we’d have had to work out. Lucasfilm didn’t want to go for it, so I was stuck with Fett down in the Sarlacc for only a day or two. Beyond that, Lucasfilm decreed that the sarlacc couldn’t be intelligent — that was pretty much the breaking point for me. I stuck an alien down in the sarlacc, named him Susejo (O Jesus, backwards) … had Fett fight with him for a bit and then climb up out of the Sarlacc. I don’t think it was a really bad story — but I don’t think it was good, either.
Daniel Keys Moran, http://www.bobafettfanclub.com/news/spotlight/daniel-keys-moran_jaster-mereel/ (2007)
Boba Fret, by Otis Frampton.
What attracted me to the story as I envisioned it? The nightmare of a strong man dying a slow death across years, losing his sense of who he was piece by piece — Alzheimer’s, anyone? — and then a final shot at life long after he’d accepted the inevitability of death — you can’t do complex things in short stories, but that was a story worth telling even at a short length. Long after I wrote that story I ran across a really great scene in a Stephen King novel, “From a Buick 8″ — the novel crosses a generation, and in the first half a strong man is busy being the chief of police; in the second half that same guy is going down with Alzheimer’s, and his men come to see him and he has a moment of clarity and says to them, “Boys, I’m in Hell.”
I wanted to send Boba Fett to Hell. Instead he had a bad couple days in San Bernardino.
Daniel Keys Moran, http://www.bobafettfanclub.com/news/spotlight/daniel-keys-moran_jaster-mereel/ (2007)

A Barve Like That remains the most detailed explanation of life in the Sarlacc, where the consciousnesses of the creature's victims are pooled together into a communal telepathic brain. Fett experiences the memories of several absorbed individuals and is tormented by the strongest and oldest inhabitant of Carkoon. Eventually he manages to light the creature's guts on fire with his jetpack and blasts a tunnel back to the surface. The story ends with Fett returning to the Sarlacc many years later, exchanging a few last words with Susejo, and turning the Sarlacc into calamari cinders with Slave II's thrusters - very slowly. Love a good revenge story.

K.W. Jeter's 1998 series The Bounty Hunter Wars explored the events shortly after The Ordeal of Boba Fett - the first chapter is actually a rewrite of said short story - but unfortunately he spends little time on the consequences of Fett's time in the Sarlacc. Karen Traviss' Legacy of the Force novels mention a cancerous breakdown of Fett's body later in life as a result of the pit's decimating neurotoxins.

When all is said and done, Boba Fett's most satisfying escape from the Pit of Carkoon was probably illustrated in 2011's Robot Chicken Star Wars Episode III, in which Boba Fett flies straight out of the Sarlacc and cites the old Arabian proverb 'BACK FROM THE DEAD, ASSHOLES!', before proceeding to gleefully slaughter all the Star Wars protagonists.


This whole sequence turns out to be a wonderful dream, but Boba gets out anyway, as the Sarlacc finds the antics of Fett and his friend Weequay too mindnumbing to handle and forcibly ejects them both.

Until George Lucas delves into the subject, the story of Boba Fett's flight from the Sarlacc remains officially untold. Some fans argue that Boba Fett never escaped the Sarlacc, as it was Lucas' intention to kill off the character in that scene, but personally I go by the rule of 'if you didn't see them die, they're not dead'. Whatever the circumstances, Boba Fett remains too spicy for Yog-Sothoth.

'Episode Siete - Boba On The Hunt! Semicolon; Watch Your Ass, Solo.'
Boba Fett, Robot Chicken Star Wars Episode III (2011)


  1. Nicely written summary of the convoluted tale of Boba Fett's death. I kind of fall on the side of Fett being dead, but these are some interesting revisions

  2. Hey, even I was disappointed when Lucas gave Boba such an un-glorious death before even letting him DO anything significant - this after building up his character like he was some invincible enemy. But you can't re-write a story just because it is aesthetically displeasing to fans. The fact is that such is life - crap happens, as they say. It's even more distasteful in my opinion to try to write narrative aimed not at being original, but at fixing a perceived literary problem. That's a slippery slope I hope even Lucas does not attempt to go down. Instead, create new characters and leave the old ones to be who they were written to be, for better or for worse.

  3. Fantastic analysis! Glad our interview with Daniel helped as well. How can we get in touch with you? If you're interested, we'd love to bring you on board at the Boba Fett Fan Club, over at http://bobafett.com.