Star Wars - Hondo Ohnaka

(Welcome to A Different Point of View, a column where we explore the supporting characters of the Star Wars universe and discuss why they deserve more time in the spotlight.)

Earlier this week it was “International Talk Like A Pirate Day,” so, I figured, in honor of the Internet holiday we’d look at the most infamous pirate in Star Wars: Hondo Ohnaka. If you have no idea who that is, don’t worry. He’s a slightly deeper cut than previous entries of this column. Hondo isn’t even on the first page of Google results for “Hondo,” so ignorance of his existence is understandable. But now? Now that ignorance ends.

Who Is Hondo Ohnaka?

Absolutely the first thing you need to know about Hondo Ohnaka is that he is voice by Jim Cummings. That name is familiar because he’s the voice of Winnie the Pooh. So you just need to have that knowledge in your head for what comes next.

Hondo is a male Weequay, a humanoid species native to the enslaved Hutt planet of Sriluur. A desert wasteland, Weequay’s skin is tough enough to make them resistant to blasters. Coupled with the realities of how society would function on such a hostile planet, Weequay are oftentimes found as bodyguards, mercenaries…or pirates.

Little is known about Hondo’s early life. By the time audiences are introduced to him, Hondo is a full-fledged pirate king. He even has his own planet, Florrum. From this base of operation, Hondo’s “Ohnaka Gang” empire stretched throughout Hutt space. Charming and ruthless, Hondo mostly comes across as a fun uncle stereotype; a sort of ‘Aw shucks, me?’ attitude that belies a calculating mind. This is a man who once captured not one, but two Jedi and a Sith and effectively held them hostage, despite not being Force-sensitive himself. Honorable by his own code, Hondo is as good as his word, and leans more towards Chaotic Good than he’d like to admit.

When Was He Introduced?

Hondo first appeared in the Star Wars lexicon on January 2, 2009. Star Wars: The Clone Wars aired the episode “Dooku Captured,” the first of a two-part arc that gave Hondo much to do straight out of the gate. In his inaugural run, Hondo manages to disarm and capture Count Dooku, ransom him for one million credits’ worth of drugs, convinced the Republic to send the Jedi to negotiate, double crosses the Jedi, drugs and captures them, fends off three escape attempts by his prisoners, and is only thwarted by a double-crossing underling who wanted all the drugs for himself.

Yes, this was a children’s show, why do you ask?

Hondo OStar Wars - Hondo Ohnakahnaka

Why He’s Fascinating

Hondo is the Star Wars version of the Most Interesting Man In The World™. His entire existence sounds exhausting and amazing at the same time. Hondo has been in a relationship with Auura Sing, with one of the most dangerous bounty hunters in the galaxy, was friends with Jango Fett, was crucial to Boba Fett’s formative years, and owned the Slave I for a while. He has escaped Imperial prison, created and maintained the respect of a planet-wide pirate gang, survived the downfall of said planet-wide pirate gang, and stolen the personal smuggling ship of a Crime Lord.

On the flip side, Hondo has a soft spot for children. Anytime Hondo deals with kids, it’s like watching Gordon Ramsey talk to to children: unsettling but sweet. Somewhere in his past, Hondo learned to speak fluent Ugnaught and has an affection for the small humanoid boar-like species. After the collapse of “Ohnaka’s Gang,” Hondo took on Ugnaughts as his crew and considers them his family. Despite being a self-serving, avaricious pirate, Hondo never sides with the Imperials in any era. For a character that has only been in seventeen episodes across two series — The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels — Hondo has live a very full, complex narrative. Basically, he’s is the perfect blend of amoral and ethical that audiences love in an anti-hero.

When a side character like Hondo is given a richly developed story arc over a long period of time, it let’s the audience evolve with him. Jim Cummings has voiced the character for nearly a decade. Within the framing of the narrative, Hondo has lived through two decades of upheaval in the galaxy. Even longer, if you count the new Star Wars section of Disney World which showcases Chewbacca making a deal with Hondo to borrow the Millennium Falcon outside the attraction where guests will get to ride the famous ship. All that means is that, every time Hondo pops up, he is slightly less cynical than the time before. But never losing that affable selfishness inherent to his core personality.

Watching Hondo struggle with his conscience makes him an incredibly easy character to root for. Even in his early episodes, when he was constantly kidnapping Jedi, Hondo was so personable that his captives often ended up fighting beside him when a true villain appeared. Like most people, Hondo’s better nature doesn’t always win the day. Sometimes he hurts the people he cares about, or makes a mistake so costly it leaves irreparable scars. Even the official Star Wars databank entry for Hondo acknowledges he’s a bundle of contradictions:

“[H]e maintained a peculiar relationship with the Republic — respecting the Jedi Knights, but not being above robbing them blind or betraying them.”

Star Wars - Hondo Ohnaka

What Stories Could Lucasfilm Tell?

As many as they can imagine. Seventeen appearances (plus a handful of canon comic book and Star Wars Destiny cameos) over an entire lifetime is nothing. For now, let’s just stick with the hooks Lucasfilm has already left behind for future writers to grab onto.

First, there’s Jango Fett. Earlier on in The Clone Wars, Hondo is thrown together with a teenaged Boba Fett. Long story short, Hondo convinces Boba to tell the Jedi where some hostages are because it’s what Jango would’ve wanted his son to do. Hondo tells the young clone that his father was an honorable man. It is never mentioned again. We have no idea how Hondo knew Jango Fett nor in what capacity. Were they mere acquaintances? Friends? Co-workers? If they were close, did Hondo know about Kamino or at least understand that every Clonetrooper looks eerily like his honorable compatriot?

Then there’s Aurra Sing. An infamous and deadly bounty hunter, Aurra is the one who brings Boba Fett into Hondo’s life. Former lovers, Aurra seeks out Hondo’s assistance, which he obviously doesn’t give, per the previous paragraph about honor and hostages. However, audiences are given an inkling of their relationship dynamic when Hondo refuses to even get involved, as that always ends poorly for him, though he is more than happy to extend his hospitality to Aurra and her crew. A polite, but firm, rejection.

Of course, Hondo’s past is a veritable gold mine of potential. What was his childhood like? When did he become a pirate? How does one move up the ranks to become the leader of a pirate planet? Did Hondo scrape his way up or was he born into some kind of pirate royalty? Why does he speak Ugnaught and have a soft spot for the species? What made him the way he is today?

And finally, there’s all the gaps in Hondo’s adulthood. He pops in and out of the cartoons as the narrative needs, but decades of not only surviving but thriving in a galaxy tearing itself apart must have some interesting stories. While Hondo was in the possession of Slave I, where did he go? What was the final nail in the coffin for Hondo’s pirate planet. Did the gang simply disperse or mutiny? What adventures did Hondo have in the interim years where he traveled mostly alone? And just what is his next act now that Star Wars Rebels is complete? If Galaxy’s Edge at Disney World is canon — and it is — Hondo will live long enough for Han Solo to become an adult. So just what was the old pirate up to in the years immediately after the Battle of Yavin? He helped the Rebellion cast off Imperial control of Lothal, an event that took place just one year before the first Death Star was destroyed. Between that and his former escape from Imperial prison, did Hondo go to ground? Continue to assist the Rebellion? Slide back into old bad habits without the moral scaffolding of his friends to hold him up?

Whatever the case, the world definitely needs flowery wit from a Weequay pirate who sounds like Winnie the Pooh with a three pack a day habit.

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