With director Rian Johnson revealing that BB-8 is the character who was assigned the iconic “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” line, fans are starting to wonder what all the lines were that we not spoken in earth based languages. For instance, what did Rey ask Chewbacca to tell Finn?
Let’s set the scene. Rey, having left Luke on his Jedi planet of Ahch-To, flies the Falcon, along with Chewbacca (and an infestation of Porgs), to meet with Kylo Ren. As she’s leaving the Falcon by pod to go face Kylo down and maybe bring back Ben Solo, she looks at Chewie, trying to find the right words in case she doesn’t come back. Moreover, she wants him to pass on a message to Finn (The last time she saw Finn, he was still in a coma.)
She’s unable to form a sentence, because she’s so emotional. Then Chewie says something to her, but not in her language (our language). Chewie speaks the language of his people, Shyriiwook (also known as Wookieespeak.)
Rey considers what Chewbacca suggests for a moment and then nods. What Chewie suggests is good.
“Tell him that,” she says, before laying down in her pod and being fired off to meet her destiny.
So what the hell did Chewbacca say?
And just as importantly, how does Rey know what he said?
On that second point, it’s not as weird or magical as Rey’s sudden ability to use a lightsaber in . Though there are three main languages spoken on Chewbacca’s home planet Kashyyyk, the secondary languages of Thykarann and Xaczik are either dialects of the main language or secondary tongues that grew up on islands separated from the main land for generations.
But Shyriiwook, which was the first Wookiee language spoken on screen in the saga, is actually a main trader language, along with the version of English that we understand, which is called Basic. Think of Shyriiwook as being a little like Spanish, in that so many traders from Kashyyyk and who deal with Kashyyyk speak it, that it’s become the default secondary tongue of the galaxy.
Rey would have most likely have taught herself Shyriiwook when she was on Jakku, having heard it spoken on a regular basis by Wookiee traders as they came through. Like Han, no one ever taught her to speak it properly, but she’s able to understand when spoken.
So what did Chewie say exactly? Well, to be honest, we don’t know, not without someone from the production translating for us. But we know that, like BB-8, Chewie’s dialogue is originally written in the script in English, so there is an actual line he is grunting and roaring.
In fact, Chewie’s lines have been real dialogue ever since the very first movies. George Lucas would have either Mayhew someone speak the translations in rehearsals, or someone else speak them off camera, so that the other actors would know what was just said to them during the final take by actor Peter Mayhew inside the furry suit.
Check out this video Mayhew posted last year of just that:
Wonderful bit of stuff from @jamieswb!! https://t.co/oObW8Cll2f
— (@thewookieeroars) #
It feels a little strange, especially those who are familiar with the movies, to hear the words that Chewie is supposed to be speaking in those early films. Moreover, it’s a little sad, since was the first movie that Peter Mayhew didn’t play Chewbacca, due to his knees. Instead the role was played by his replacement, Joonas Suotamo. But from this clip, we know that, whatever it was that Chewie suggested he say to Finn on Rey’s behalf, Suoamo did have a real suggestion behind the roar.
Perhaps it was “I’ll tell Finn you went to try and save the galaxy.” Or maybe “I’ll tell Finn you were doing what you had to do.”
I could see Rey agreeing with both of those. Yes, tell him that.