In this week devoted to Ewoks, it is only right that we set the mood with some of the music associated with the little furballs. I have to admit that the title of this post is a bit misleading, though. While I do have some musical training (high school chorus!), I can’t really provide a well-informed commentary on the music the Ewoks play (or rather, that composer John Williams created FOR them). Instead, what I have done is provided just a few thoughts/reflections on two pieces from the Return of the Jedi soundtrack: ‘Parade of the Ewoks’ and ‘Ewok Celebration.’
And never fear for I have also provided links to each piece so you needn’t head off to YouTube or Spotify. Just click the title of each section below, each of which is aptly named for the song being discussed.
‘Parade of the Ewoks’ is not just one of the more unique pieces of music in the entire Star Wars soundtrack, but I would also rank it as one of the most iconic pieces. Yeah, you heard me, I would put it up there with ‘The Imperial March,’ ‘Duel of the Fates,’ ‘Across the Stars,’ ‘The Hologram/Binary Sunset,’ and ‘The Throne Room.’ And no, this is NOT my entire list of iconic Star Wars music, I am just giving examples.
While I love the way ‘Parade of the Ewoks’ sounds, what I truly appreciate about this short piece is that it captures the essence of the Ewoks and translates this into a sort of musical story about them. In the Return of the Jedi, the very first Ewok we meet is Wicket. Probably the most popular of all the Ewoks, Wicket initially gives off the impression that these primitive creatures are curious, simple and even somewhat ridiculous. However, as the movie progresses, the Ewoks turn out to be much more capable and interesting than perhaps we originally anticipated. Think about it – this first Ewok we meet is holding a rudimentary spear and is frightened when Leia takes off her helmet. But later in the film, we see one Ewok pilot a speeder bike, two will drive an AT-ST along with Chewbacca, and another is seen raising a captured Stormtrooper blaster.
Primitive they might be, but don’t confuse this with being simple-minded or incompetent. The Ewoks are far more intelligent and dynamic than meets the eye.
So, as you listen to ‘Parade of the Ewoks,’ pay attention to the melody that repeats over and over again. This melody, which all would agree is the theme music for the Ewoks, will not repeat in exactly the same way, though. Rather, while it begins in a modest and unassuming manner, when it does repeat it will do so in a new way each time. The essence of the melody, the essence of the Ewoks, will remain the same, but the melody will also evolve, becoming more robust, more dynamic, just as the Ewoks do in the film. And what we are left with, then, is a melodious biography that beautifully describes these fascinating creatures, one that consistently stays true to their humble and curious nature while also illuminating them as exciting and vibrant creatures.
The score that originally played during the final scene in Return of the Jedi, ‘Ewok Celebration,’ was, and for many older Star Wars fans still is, the music that highlighted the victory of the Rebellion over the Empire.
Of course, I use the words “originally” and “was” for obvious reasons.
When the original films were remastered and re-released as Special Editions in the late 90s, ‘Ewok Celebration’ was replaced by a different piece titled ‘Victory Celebration.’ Being in a theater watching the Special Edition of Return of the Jedi was an overwhelming and powerful experience, but I also remember feeling surprised by the change.
However, this isn’t to say that I dislike ‘Victory Celebration.’ Oh no, I do like it and think it works well with the added scenes George Lucas installed in the final frames. But while I genuinely enjoy ‘Victory Celebration,’ I have always felt a little sad that ‘Ewok Celebration’ was pulled from the film.
You see, the thing about ‘Ewok Celebration’ is that it is not just music, it is a song. And, it is not just any type of song, but one sung in Ewokese, the language of the Ewoks. In fact, it is commonly called ‘Yub Nub’ (Freedom), called this because it is the first Ewok word in the song.
Really, my feeling of sadness is because ‘Ewok Celebration’ was always PART of the story. While the vast majority of music in Star Wars is non-diegetic, playing in the background, ‘Yub Nub’ always gave off the vibe of being diegetic, actually being sung by the Ewoks. I am aware that the people singing actually sound more like a choir and less a tribe of primitive beings, but who cares! ‘Ewok Celebration’ was an internal piece of Star Wars and, when it got pulled, I have just always had the feeling that Return of the Jedi lost a little piece of itself.
Of course, my feelings about ‘Ewok Celebration’ are also due to the surreal recognition that many of the little kids out there who are growing up loving Star Wars have probably never even heard ‘Ewok Celebration.’ I am sure some have, but chances are most haven’t. Well, someday when I have kids, I will be happy to watch any version of Star Wars with them, but I will also be sure to show them the ORIGINAL versions of the original films, and will have them experience ‘Ewok Celebration’ in all of its Yub Nubby glory!
My kids deserve it, and so do the Ewoks.
**Check out the lyrics for ‘Ewok Celebration’ on Wookiepedia.**
Be sure to check out other Ewok Week posts:
The Imperial Talker Presents: Ewok Week
I confess I’m partial to the Victory Celebration, but both have their merits.
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Nothing wrong with that! To each their own! Besides, like I said, I enjoy it too. I am just a sucker for nostalgia and am all sentimental about it.
I know people spend a lot of time debating the merits of the Special Editions (as Star Wars fans enjoy debating the merits of EVERYTHING Star Wars). For the most part, I’ve always like them. Heck, they were the reason I got to see Star Wars on the big screen when I was a kid!!! For me though, changing the music at the end of ‘Return Of The Jedi’ always felt wrong. To me, it’s as jarring and fundamental a change as having Greedo shoot first. Without “Ewok Celebration,” it just isn’t Star Wars. No matter how many times I’ve seen the Special Editions, my body is still ready for “Ewok Celebration” at the end of ‘Return Of a The Jedi’…and is always sad it isn’t there. I can’t explain why I think it has to be there with anything more detail than – it just FEELS wrong to me without it. There’s magic in that music and it’s the magic of our heroes’ victory over the Empire.
I’m so glad Ewok week started this way!!!
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I completely agree. Most of the changes in the Special Editions weren’t that jarring, but a few really stood out in a negative way. I love that you brought up Greedo “shooting first.” That was one of the biggest and most apparent changes and it really undermined Han Solo as this rash, shoot first, ask questions later type of guy. Hell, Greedo shooting first takes away from Han flipping the coin at the bar man and apologizing “for the mess.”
In regards to the song, though, again I agree with you. It isn’t that ‘Victory Celebration’ is bad, it is just that it wasn’t originally there! And like you, something just doesn’t FEEL right when I see the version with that music. I am a sucker for nostalgia and just love the original music too much I suppose.
Also, thank you for telling me that “Yun Nub” means freedom. Now, all morning, I’ve been walking around picturing a little Ewok William Wallace addressing the Ewok army right before the battle of Endor and passionately saying, “Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you’ll live…at least for a little while. And dying in your beds, many years from now would you be willing to trade ALL the days, from this day to that for one chance, just ONE chance, to come back here and tell the Empire that they may take our lives but they’ll never take OUR YUB NUB!!!!!!”
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