Skip to main content
If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

In defense of Ewoks: Revisiting Star Wars' Return of the Jedi on its 40th anniversary

Re-considering Return of the Jedi and those Ewoks after 40 years of Star Wars history

Return of the Jedi still
Image credit: Lucasfilm

In the vast and diverse galaxy far, far away, few creatures are more divisive than the humble Ewok. The short, furry creatures on Endor’s forest moon began as a formidable force of Wookies before George Lucas saw the potential in marketing shorter, friendlier versions of the beloved Chewbacca. Most Star Wars fans will argue that Ewoks are a blatant cash grab to help sell toys and, on the surface, they’re right.

However, with Return of the Jedi’s 40th anniversary right around the corner, it’s time to re-examine how Ewoks fit into the Star Wars mythos. The truth is that they perfectly encapsulate the Rebellion’s fight against the Empire. They’re small and outmatched in both terms of strength and technology and should be easy to overcome for the highly-trained, elite Stormtroopers waiting to ambush the Rebels.

This weekend at Star Wars Celebration 2023, Lucasfilm and ReedPop are celebrating the40th anniversary of Return of the Jedi with a variety of exclusive merchandise including shirts, patches, hats, jackets, and more -- even a 'Camp Endor' t-shirt.
Return of the Jedi still
Image credit: Lucasfilm

The fact that Ewoks turn the tide on Endor and lend a vital hand in overthrowing the Galactic Empire isn’t a fluke, though. It’s actually perfectly in keeping with the world of Star Wars. The Rebels are always outmatched against the Empire, only to survive by attacking their oppressors in unexpected, creative ways. That is how rebellions are fought, after all.

Camp Endor t-shirt
Image credit: Lucasfilm/ReedPop

The original Death Star is destroyed by exploiting a completely unforeseeable design flaw in the Empire’s ultimate weapon. Han and Leia escape capture from the Imperial Fleet by flying directly into an asteroid field. Throughout the original trilogy, characters regularly overcome impossible odds, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the same thing happens during Return of the Jedi’s climatic Battle of Endor.

Like the human heroes, Ewoks attack the AT-ST Walkers in ways the Empire couldn’t predict. The armor on the two-legged transports is strong enough to overcome any blaster that the Rebels have at their disposal, but they’re certainly not immune to the blunt force of logs swinging through the air. The Ewoks know that these powerful machines are no use if their legs are disabled, so they used the natural terrain to knock them to the ground and keep them out of the fight, just like Luke did against the AT-ATs on Hoth.

Return of the Jedi still
Image credit: Lucasfilm

Changing the initial Wookie army into shorter, more marketable Ewoks might have started as a ploy by Lucas to get more of that sweet merchandising money, but it actually hammers home the point of Star Wars better than the original concept ever could have. The Battle of Endor, with all the improbable victories that come with it, is a perfect example of what Star Wars tells us about resistance movements in our world because we, as viewers, don’t believe the Ewoks can make a difference in the fight between good and evil.

Just like the Empire, we were wrong and it is time we give Ewoks the respect they are due.

Want to dive into the Star Wars universe (again)? Read our comprehensive Star Wars watch order.

Follow Popverse for upcoming event coverage and news

Let Popverse be your tour guide through the wilderness of pop culture

Sign in and let us help you find your new favorite thing.

In this article
Awaiting cover image

Return of the Jedi


Related topics
About the Author
Trent Cannon avatar

Trent Cannon


Trent is a freelance writer who has been covering anime, video games, and pop culture for a decade. (He/Him)