Many of us, even those who have been tracking Amy Winehouse’s adventures at the crack pipe, might be unaware of a certain famous Creature of the Pit.
However, if you are a 37-year-old white male, I wager you’re well aware of the beast called the rancor, he who spiced up RETURN OF THE JEDI, one of a little-known series of films linked under the overarching title of STAR BARS. Whoops, I mean STAR CARS. Er, WARS.
For those of us who were otherwise diverted in 1983 with viewing FLASHDANCE or THE BIG CHILL, the idea of “the rancor” is a foreign one, as far from our experience as the revolutionary idea, floated in 1983 by a maverick company named Apple, of a thing called a “touch screen.” As if such a thing would ever replace good, old-fashioned face-to-faceishness. No wonder nothing became of that upstart company and its 24th-century inventions.
In fact, for me–a bit older than 37, lacking a penis (‘tho I briefly cradled John Bobbitt’s before it was reattached to his body…and, all together now, EWWWW), but undeniably white in that particular fashion of pasty-yet-freckled–the notion of “the rancor” has remained outside my ken until quite recently. Last week, in fact. My acquaintance with this George Lucas-inspired character came from der Wee Niblet (named thusly for purposes of this blog, but who, earlier this year, then decided his real-life name should be Dinko, which lasted a few months, until he had exactly a day of wanting to be called Fruit Leather before deciding the ring of Paco suits him best–that is, until he about-faced on his feelings for tacos a few weeks ago and realized his most-bestest name is actually Taco, but we are still allowed to call him Paco, too, since it strikes him vaguely as being the sound made by beef in a crunchy tortilla shell). My Niblet is 5 right now, but he’s already achieved the status of male and white, and he shows all signs of one day reaching 37. In short, he’s raw STAR WARS material, ready for the shaping.
At this juncture, Niblet’s understanding of STAR WARS is limited but passionate. A few years ago, he watched the Ewok scenes in RETURN OF THE JEDI. Plus, he lives in a neighborhood with three eight-year-old boys, whose job it has been to equip him with an arsenal of movie jargon, such as “Millenium Falcon” and “Death Star.” He doesn’t quite know what these terms mean, per se, but he knows they are really cool, to the point that, before a road trip last week, when he was given the chance to choose a book for the ride (an amuse bouche for the car seat), he selected a STAR WARS sticker book.
That book was a steal at $3.99.
Even by Mile 64 of the trip, we’d gotten at least $4.36 worth of entertainment out of it; and, mind you, I fully intend to send the publishing company that extra 37 cents. The lad poured through the book’s pages, neither peeling nor applying a single sticker, but rather monologuing about each character, about which he knew a smidgeon. His fascination, of course, was most snagged by the rancor.
When he first, announced that he weally, weally liked this creature, I didn’t quite understand that it was a movie beast. Rather, I felt a moment of communion, of knowing, of kindred spiriting, of shouting out, “YES, you, too, now understand the rancor! I have felt it daily in adulthood, whether I’m watching weathermen trying to be cute or my country’s president trying to govern!! YES, Sweet Child of Mine, we can come together on this rancor issue!!! Let’s light up a smoke and tipple from the bottle of gin as we bash about in unrelenting bitterness…”
Oh, wait. Seems I’d jumped ahead.
As my sails deflated, I noticed he was pointing at the page, where some toothy cinema monster glared out at him. Oh. the rancor.
Niblet’s attention was caught. He wanted some explanation, some fleshing out, of this new crush. I had nothing–nussing…until I later had a chance to delve into the InterWebs, which coughed up this bio off starwars.com:
“The rancor was a terrible creature hidden in a shadowy chamber beneath Jabba the Hutt’s throne room. A five-meter tall towering hulk of muscle and reptilian flesh, the rancor walked on two stubby legs and had disproportionately long arms to capture prey. Dominating its flat face was a salivating tooth-filled maw. Its armored skin was so tough that the beast could slough off blaster bolts as little more than annoyances.
The rancor served the dual purpose of not only amusing Jabba, but also disposing of unwanted servants, musicians, or anyone else the Hutt would want to get rid of. With a shout of “Boska!” Jabba would activate a secret trap door in front of his throne. The victim would tumble into the underground chamber as a viewing grate opened to allow Jabba and his depraved audience a glimpse of the gruesome proceedings. A creaky retaining gate would unleash the beast. The rancor would make short work of any unfortunate soul dropped into the pit.
Luke Skywalker reversed the typical fate of a rancor victim when Jabba sent the young Jedi tumbling into the monster’s lair. Skywalker was able to escape the beast’s clutches, and lure it back into its pen. When the rancor stood beneath the retaining gate, Luke hurled the skull of a previous victim into the control mechanism. The gate came crashing down on the rancor, killing Jabba’s pet.”
And there we had it. The rancor. For me, Niblet’s crush fell into a Bionicle/Transformer/Pokemon class infatuation: all little boy, all robotic and furry and gadgety.
But then, hosannah on high, the crush became intensely more fun, when, at the end of our road trip, we stayed at the home of friends who own their own model of Young Boy, one who had just seen STAR WARS the week before. This boy–let’s call him Trooper–was a bit more versant in all things Lucasian, but still unformed enough in the jargon…and in his verbal expression of the sound “r”…that he proved the perfect match for my own “r”-lacking lad.
They were weally, weally well matched. Consequently, they enjoyed several lengthy car trips across town, strapped next to each other in their carseats, leafing through the sticker book, monologuing about their mutual crush on
Indeedy, many a mile passed with them hollering out, “No, I’M the wanker! You call ME the wanker!!” or “Wait, YOU want to be the wanker? Okay, you’re the wanker.”
In its many permutations, this conversation tickled the parents on board.
You see, we had long suspected, particularly when our lads were really tired and whiney and mopey and cranky and full of the suckwad, that they,
in a galaxy all too near,
a couple of wankers.