..So I've been reading about this made-for-streaming series reportedly in the works that is a sequel to the George Lucas-Ron Howard film Willow, and I keep wondering if it will make references to the Lucas-Chris Claremont trilogy of follow-up novels. I personally liked those books a great deal, but I suspect they're now going to be shunted off into non-canon like the Star Wars Legends material.

In any event, an online conversation I started on the subject earlier today brought this response from my friend Atom Mudman Bezecny: “Fun fact: Lucasfilm was once very close to declaring Willow and the associated material to be part of Star Wars.”

As it happens, some years back I wrote a short piece about that very thing. Atom’s mentioning of it prompted me to go back through my old files and dig up that piece, which with your kind indulgence I will now share again here:

(Originally written in 2010)

On April 1, 2006, the website StarWars.com updated its Databank with elements from the 1988 George Lucas/Ron Howard fantasy film Willow and its spin-off trilogy of novels, The Shadow War Chronicles, indicating that these stories were being added to the overall Star Wars continuity. Elaborate databank entries were written which attempted to plausibly fit the film into the history of the Star Wars universe. Two days later, however, it was revealed that the Star Wars/Willow story connection was nothing more than an elaborate April Fools’ joke.

In spite of this, the fact remains that the Willow saga does contain multiple elements which would allow it to be set in the Star Wars universe:

• The planet in Willow is obviously not Earth, due to its inhabitants and their use of magic. This would leave the film’s planet unknown, allowing it to be a planet in the Star Wars universe. (To the best of my recollection the planet is never specifically named in either the film, the novelization of the film or the spin-off trilogy that followed.)

• The made-for-TV Ewok films clearly establish that “magic” exists in the Star Wars universe. For example, in The Battle for Endor, Charal is able to transform herself into a bird form. In Willow, Fin Raziel is transformed into many creatures by Willow Ufgood before he is able to transform her into her human form. Also, Fin Raziel and Queen Bavmorda both appear to use their magical powers in much the same manner as various charcaters in the Star Wars saga are depicted as using the Force. Willow’s magic works in basically the same way as the Force.

• In Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker mentions magic to C-3PO, which C-3PO doesn’t deny the existence of.

• The nature and description of Bavmorda’s character is essentially identical to the Nightsisters of Dathomir, an order of Dark Jedi witches who appear in several Star Wars novels. During the climactic ritual depicted in Willow, her physical attributes and abilities match the description of Nightsisters’ manipulating weather and displaying ruptured blood vessels around their eyes (due to use of the Dark side of the Force). There are also several similarities between Bavmorda and Charal, a renegade Nightsister portrayed by Siân Phillips in the telefilm Ewoks: The Battle for Endor, which would seem to indicate some sort of relationship between the two. (It bears noting that the actresses who portray Bavmorda and Charal – Jean Marsh and Siân Phillips, respectively – are both acclaimed British actresses in the theatre tradition, born in the same year of 1934. As contemporaries, they share many intimidating physical and performing qualities suiting them to such similar roles.)

And as if the preceding examples were not already enough to establish a link between Star Wars and Willow, consider the following: the name “Skywalker” is said to be an English translation of the ancient Sanskrit word “Daikini”, which is the name of Elora Danan’s species in the film Willow. Both Anakin Skywalker and Elora Danan are individuals who are the subject of a prophecy to overthrow an evil enemy. (Whether or not this similarity in naming was intentional on the part of George Lucas is a matter of much discussion and debate which, to my knowledge, has not to this point ever been addressed by Lucas himself; knowing Lucas’ interest in history, however, it does seem unlikely that this was a matter of accident or coincidence.)

According to Leland Chee of Lucasfilm Ltd., the Lucas Licensing division DID actually at one point consider the idea of canonizing Willow and the Shadow War novels as part of the Star Wars saga, no doubt because of the previously noted similarities. It should also be pointed out that there are reportedly a large number of fans who already consider Willow to be a part of the Star Wars universe, regardless of official “canonization” - much as many devotees of Edgar Rice Burroughs tend to includes historical novel The Outlaw Of Torn in the “Tarzan” series due to the appearance of a character named Lord Greystoke, apparently an ancestor of Tarzan’s (even though Torn was written before Tarzan Of The Apes, in which the jungle hero first appeared).

Of course, Willow is not the only one of George Lucas’ non-SW creations which has been linked to the Star Wars universe. 

A comic book story entitled “Into The Great Unknown,” written by Haden Blackman and Sean Murphy and published in Star Wars Tales issue number 19 (Dark Horse Comics, March 2004) features none other than that noted archeologist and adventurer, Indiana Jones.

The first part of the story depicts Han Solo and Chewbacca making a blind hyperspace jump to escape a battle with Imperial fighters. They end up crashing the Millennium Falcon in a forest somewhere in the western portion of North America in the early years of the 2th century. Han and Chewie are attacked by Native Americans living in the area, ultimately resulting in Han’s being mortally wounded. As Han dies in Chewbacca’s arms, his last words are that he is the first of the two of them to enter the “Great Unknown.” Outside the natives hear Chewbaca’s anguished roar, and they say one word: “Sasquatch.”

The second half of the story takes place 126 year later, in 1940. Indiana Jones and his young companion, Short Round, are investigating local sightings of “Sasquatch” when they discover the wreckage of the Falcon and Han Solo’s skeletal remains. Indy feels that everything is “somehow familiar” and decides to call off the search, remarking that the monster should be left part of the “Great Unknown.” As they depart they are observed by Chewbacca, who sits perched in a tree not far away.

This story, though considered a favorite by many fans (Yours Truly among them), has created some debate with regards to continuity problems. The story clearly takes place well before the events of the first novel in the “New Jedi Order” series, Vector Prime, which among other things depicts the death of Chewbacca during the opening days of the Yuuzhan Vong War. Most fans apparently have therefore decided to consider the comic book story a tale from an “alternate universe,” although my friend (and noted expert on fiction crossovers) Win Eckert developed the following explanation:

“Perhaps, in their blind hyperspace jump, Han and Chewie went through a wormhole to reach the Milky Way galaxy and a time relatively close to our present. While they went through the wormhole, they were somehow duplicated. Han-1 and Chewie-1 made it back out of the wormhole and continued their adventures in the “Star Wars” galaxy, while Han-2 and Chewie-2 ended up on Earth.”

After reading this, I in turn devised my own elaboration on Win’s theory, which I presented to Win and several fellow writer-researchers in an e-mail as follows:

“My guess is that there may have been some sort of cosmic storm in or around the vicinity of the wormhole Han and Chewbacca went through, and that is what caused the duplication effect to occur. Or it may have been some kind of natural phenomemon similar to that which caused the transporter malfunction in the Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes involving duplicate Kirks and Rikers. Perhaps it was this natural phenomenon coupled with the physics [or ‘pseudo-physics,’ if you prefer] involved in hyperspeed travel that resulted in the duplicates of Han and Chewie being created in the first place.”

Indy’s comment about the surroundings being “somehow familiar” has led other fans to speculate that Jones may have been the reincarnation of Han Solo. During this part of the tale Indy also comments that the starship’s wreckage is like nothing that he saw in Atlantis, a reference to his May 1939 adventures which were detailed in the four-issue comic book mini-series Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, also published by Dark Horse Comics. 

The term Han Solo utters while dying in Chewie’s arms  (the “Great Unknown”) was uttered by another Han - Wu Han - in 1935 just before he died in the arms of Indiana Jones at the beginning of the film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

With regards to when the comic book story takes place with regards to Earth time: Most timelines I have seen regarding the career of Indiana Jones show an empty slot in the year 1940; since Short Round (first seen as a small boy in Temple Of Doom) is depicted as a teenager, Win Eckert has stated that the year 1940 would seem a logical place in which to fit “Into The Great Unknown.” This in turn means that Han and Chewie’s crash would have occurred in 1814. 

Adding fuel to the fire with regards to linking Star Wars and the “Indiana Jones” series is the fact that pictures of the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO were included among the heirogyphics shown in both the first and fourth “Indy” films, Raiders Of The Lost Ark and Indiana Jones And The Kingdom of The Crystal Skull.

• One more word about possible links between Star Wars and other Lucas creations:

According to one website article I have read, the trilogy of science fiction/fantasy novels known as Lucasfilm’s Alien Chronicles – published by Ace Books under license from Lucasfilm in 1998-99  – was originally conceived to be part of the Star Wars series before a breakdown in negotiations with the author who was originally hired by the publisher forced a change. The story, as I understand it, goes like this:

In 1994, Lucasfilm was considering creating a series of novels that would tell the backstories of the aliens found in Monsters and Aliens from George Lucas, a book of creature designs and concept art for the original SW trilogy and the two Ewoks TV-movies. Unlike the Bantam-Spectra novels that were being published at the time, these novels were to have been published by Ace Books. 

When Ace approached Robert J. Sawyer to be the author of this proposed series (the first volume of which was to have been entitled Alien Exodus), he wrote a 10,000-word story outline and two sample chapters, using the books A Guide to the Star Wars Universe and Galaxy Guide 4: Alien Races as additional sources. Sawyer’s proposed storyline was reportedly divided into two parts, both of which focus on the history of humans in the Star Wars galaxy. 

In the main storyline, the ancient history of the Star Wars galaxy is explored. The protagonist is Cosmo Hender, leader of a faction of human slaves on the planet Forhilnor, which is part of the Varlian Empire. The story of his struggle to free his people, as well as the non-human slaves on Forhilnor, also touches on the origins of the Force, the Hutt civilization, and the name “Skywalker.” The secondary storyline, told through excerpts from a document called “The Human Exodus,” traces the origins of the Human species to a lost expedition from 25th century Earth. It also makes references to two of George Lucas’ previous films, American Graffiti and THX 1138!

However, as negotiations went on, it was eventually decided that the project would use entirely new alien designs, and be set in an entirely new universe separate from the Star Wars saga. According to Sawyer, this led him to bow out of the project. After Sawyer dropped out, Deborah Chester became the project’s new author and her books – The Golden One, The Crimson Claw, and The Crystal Eye – were released in paperback in 1998 and 1999.

Sawyer’s storyline did not see publication in any form until 2003, when he posted the outline and two sample chapters for the first novel on his website.

Had Sawyer’s original concepts not been discarded, the series would no doubt have dramatically altered the way in which most fans view the Star Wars series. Some have argued that that establishing the humans of the SW universe as the decendents of 25th century Earthers would have negated the popular line “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...” that appears at the beginning of all six films. (Although Lucas himself many times himself that this was intended to serve as a modern variation of “Once upon a time” and should not be taken literally.)

Even more interesting to consider is Sawyer’s notion of tying Star Wars to THX-1138 and (even more amazingly) American Grafitti, particularly in light of the previous discussions concerning Willow and the “Indiana Jones” series. Given that two main protagonists of the Lucas-produced comedy Radioland Murders have been identified by Lucas himself to be the parents of the Henderson siblings in American Grafitti, this would mean that the majority of Lucas’ works are all linked together into a single universe - as was the case with most of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ major works (the “Tarzan,” “Mars,” “Venus” and “Pellucidar” series, as well as The Mad King, The Eternal Savage and the “Moon Maid” duology), or Issac Asimov’s three series of novels, the Robot, Galactic Empire and Foundation series. 

(One wonders if there couldn’t then be some way to also include two other Lucas-produced films – Tucker: The Man And His Dream and Labyrinth – into the mix as well. I doubt, on the other hand, that anyone would ever seriously suggest linking Lucas’ Howard The Duck, but you never know...)

And let us not forget the brief appearance in Attack Of The Clones of three members of the same alien species seen in Steven Spielberg’s film E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

The mind positively boggles...