A tweet from @pvc_ (who turn got it from Monkey Island creator Ron Gilbert) brought me to a fascinating article at Binary Bonsai regarding the origins of the design for Chewbacca the Wookiee in the first Star Wars Film. Featuring some of Ralph McQuarrie‘s justly-famous conceptual artwork, the article—cheekily titled “George Lucas Stole Chewbacca, But It’s Okay”—draws a little known connection: the design was almost certainly directly inspired by John Schoenherr‘s cover and interior illustrations for George R.R. Martin’s award-nominated story, “And Seven Times Never Kill Man.”
The similarities between the drawings and McQuarrie’s recollections are extremely clear, even if McQuarrie claims the original source was a 1930’s magazine cover. The article goes on to vaguely speculate that the actual content of the story may also have influenced Lucas in his later day depictions of the Wookiees (namely their status as a primitive tribe fighting off a more technologically advanced force) and, presumably, the Ewoks. In fact, “And Seven Times Never Kill Man” is rather less direct, and more complex, than that. As a bonus, the article covers much of the rest of the history of the creation fo Wookiees, from the first time someone got their name into Lucas’s head
A terrific article, in any case, well-researched and thought-provoking in its commentary on the creative process and the way the vast sea of creative works surrounding us can have an impact on our own creative efforts. For those who’d like to read the story in question, you can get a hold of it in Dreamsongs, which is a terrific collection of GRRM’s many stories, from the start of his career all the way through the first Duncan and Egg story, “The Hedge Knight”.