Guest Talker: Michael Miller
In the lead up to Hutt Week, Jeff (The Imperial Talker) and I were having a discussion about a Hutt-related issue that has always confused me. It’s not directly a Hutt thing but it’s certainly Hutt adjacent. It’s the type of thing I try not to think about, lest it keep me up at night, struggling in vain to find a workable answer. Try as I might, I can’t. The question is simple – Why doesn’t Han just pay Jabba what he owes him?
Jeff’s already discussed the Hutt crime organization this week so there’s no need for me to go back over the whole structure when it’s a handy hyperlink away. But here’s the basic rundown of the plot that ties Han Solo to Jabba the Hutt, culminating in the first act of Return Of The Jedi. Han smuggles for Jabba. Han dumps his shipment at the sign of Imperial cruisers. Jabba’s (understandably) a little upset about this. Jabba wants his money…or he wants Han dead. Han (also understandably) would rather not die. So he needs some money.
In the original version of A New Hope, Han fries poor Greedo and then gets the hell out of Dodge, with plans to pay Jabba back after his easy charter to Alderaan. In the Special Edition, we see Han and Jabba talk it out first – Han promises Jabba a little more money and Jabba’s fine with it…as long as Han delivers. And then he skips town for his easy charter. As fate (of the Force) would have it, there’s nothing easy about the run. Han Solo and Chewbacca end up in the heart of the rebellion against the Empire, rescuing Princess Leia, and helping Luke Skywalker in the assault against the Death Star. Victory ensues and medals are awarded…and then we jump to the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back. The classic exchange on the Hoth Base goes like this:
Han Solo – General, I’ve got to leave. I can’t stay anymore.
General Rieekan – I’m sorry to hear that.
Han Solo – Well, if I don’t pay off Jabba the Hutt, I’m a dead man.
General Rieekan – A death mark’s not an easy thing to live with. You’re a good fighter Solo, I hate to lose you.
Han Solo – Thank you, General.
You don’t mess around with the Hutts, especially Jabba. I get that. But here’s what troubles me…didn’t Han get a reward for saving Leia? Didn’t we see Han and Chewie loading several crates of credits on board the Falcon at the end of A New Hope? Even if Han had given his heart and his soul to the Rebellion (or a certain Princess…), why didn’t he take a short detour to Tatooine to pay off Jabba with the money he had? The Expanded Universe gave us an answer that involved a gambling problem and some Ocean’s Eleven-style high jinks (thank you Timothy Zahn!) but we all know that’s not canon anymore. And even if it was, even if Han lost all the money doing something stupid, if he’s such an asset to the Rebellion why wouldn’t they help him with the debt??
The Rebellion, by the very nature of an organization like this, has to have decent cash reserves. They need to maintain their fleet, bases, equipment, and spy network at the very least. Why wouldn’t they divert a little money to help Han out, especially if it meant they got to keep Han Solo, Chewbacca, and the fastest ship in the fleet?
It should be a very simple equation. Like I said, you don’t mess with Jabba the Hutt or you die. Han has messed with Jabba the Hutt and is going to die. Han does not want to die so he needs money. Han gets money/the Rebellion has monetary reserves. Han uses his/the Rebellion’s money to pay off Jabba, thus appeasing the Hutt and preserving his life. Except it all gets a little wonky… The equation ends up going, Han doesn’t want to die so he needs money. Han (and the Rebellion) just wait around until a bounty hunter grabs him. Then Luke, Leia, Chewie, Lando, and the droids (some of the Rebellion’s most important assets) have to devote a lot of side time trying to rescue Han.
This has always vexed me. And unfortunately, this short little post isn’t going to offer any brilliant insights or observations to get us out of this little funk. Because, quite frankly, I have none. If you do, there’s a lovely little comment section below. You’d be doing me a HUGE favor if you can put my mind at ease and explain this. Lacking any sort of logical answer to this question, I’ve found it best to just not think about it! Is that avoiding the problem? Yes, but I’ve plenty of other things to occupy my mind as I try to fall asleep – like what did Han do with all that money? Does he have a gambling problem? Oh poor Chewbacca…
Check out these other Hutt Week posts:
The Imperial Talker Presents: Hutt Week
Hutt Week: “Cute” Jabba the Hutt Merchandise (by Jenmarie from Anakin and His Angel)
Why Ziro’s My Hero (by Andrew – @AndrewinBelfast)
From the way the movies portray it, once you leave the group of the Rebellion to go off on your own, you don’t come back. It is implied that if he leaves, he has to leave for good. It would be best to take the money to Jabba immediately afterwards, but he could never return to Rebellion. Han would be tracked and followed by the Empire, putting his friends in danger. That is how I’ve always seen it.