Allow me to paint you a picture with my imagination brush:
I had just returned home around 8:30pm – I had been at a volleyball game coaching my team to another victory (boo yeah!) – and ended up on the couch flipping through the channels trying to find something to watch. Lo and behold, I came across Return of the Jedi during the speeder bike chase and said to myself “You know, I haven’t watched ‘Jedi’ in a while so I might as well keep watching.” So, there I am, on the couch, watching Return of the Jedi as the film continues. The Rebel heroes meet their soon-to-be Ewok allies, Luke tells Leia they are siblings, Han gets jealous and Leia wants a hug, Vader and Luke end up discussing Vader’s moral compass, the Rebel fleet enters hyperspace, and the Rebels discover, thanks to the Ewoks, that there is a “back-door” to the Imperial facility on Endor.
Okay, so, the Rebels are led to the back-door by the Ewoks. Unfortunately, as you already know, the entry is guarded by four scout troopers milling about and chatting without a care in the galaxy. As Han Solo and his Rebel pathfinders do not want to alert the Empire to their presence, he and the group discuss their options. As they do so, the highly strung C-3PO learns from an Ewok counterpart that “…our furry companion has gone and done something rather rash.” Telling this to the group, Leia expressing an audible “Oh, no” the group watches as one Ewok moves towards the scout troopers.
Or rather, Paploo, the Ewok in question, moves towards the scout bikes sitting at the end of the clearing. Getting onto one of the bikes, Paploo proceeds to turn it on and zips off into the forest pursued by three of the four scouts. “Not bad for a little furball. There is only one left,” Han professes, obviously impressed by Paploo’s ingenuity.
Like Han, I too have always been impressed by Paploo’s quick-thinking decision to steal a speeder bike. But what truly impressed me during this particular viewing of Return of the Jedi as I sat on my couch was the fact that Paploo seems to know PRECISELY how to operate the scout bike. This realization had never dawned on me prior to this moment, the fact that this primitive creature with absolutely zero technological understanding knew the exact sequence of buttons and switches that needed to be activated for the bike to work. Impressive, Paploo, most impressive.
Granted, it is entirely possible that Paploo just gets lucky, that he randomly flips the correct switches and the bike ends up working. I’m hardly opposed to this possibility. It is, after all, the most likely way the scene is meant to be viewed. Never-the-less, as I sat on my couch watching Paploo start the bike, for the first time it dawned on me that the Ewok furball knew what to do. And, as a result, a second thought, a question, popped into my mind: how can we explain the primitive Paploo’s expertise in Imperial technology?
Honestly, I think explaining Paploo’s actions as intentional is easy, and actually works in conjunction with the thoughts I laid out about the Ewoks in my piece “Cute, Funny, and Very Deadly” way back in 2015. In that post – which was part of Ewok Week – I made the point that the Ewoks were either preparing to fight the Empire, or they had already started the fight when the Rebels show up. You can go read that post to get a deeper look at these ideas, especially since I believe Paploo’s apptitude with a scout bike can easily be tacked onto them.
If the Ewoks were already fighting the Empire, or just preparing for their war, it would make logical sense that the primitive beings took the time to learn about their foreign invaders. We can assume, then, that Paploo, and perhaps a number of other Ewoks, had already stolen scout bikes in order to learn more about these curious and unfamiliar machine. When he sneaks up on the bikes to steal one in Return of the Jedi, Paploo would already have an understanding, even a basic one, about how the contraption works. Not to mention, he also seems to know how to drive the speeder once it zips off into the forest. The initial acceleration surprises Paploo, but he regains control with relative ease and pilots the bike deeper into the forest with the three Imperial scouts hot on his tail.
Again, it could just be that Paploo gets lucky. Maybe he did. Honestly though, I find it far more likely, and way more interesting, if he and other Ewoks had taken the time to learn about the bikes as part of an attempt to better understand their enemy. But you can decide for yourself.
Leave a comment and let me know what you think about Paploo and his speeder bike excursion!