I know what you're thinking, "George R.R. Martin didn't create Chewbacca, this is just another of one of those stupid internet rumors". Nine times out of ten you'll probably be correct, but there is actually some pretty compelling evidence that the Game of Thrones scribe did have a hand in creating one of Star Wars' most iconic characters.
It all started long ago in a galaxy not that far away. In 1975, Star Wars concept artist Ralph McQuarrie was tasked with creating a badass alien smuggler by the name of Chewbacca. He delivered some initial designs which, although somewhat similar to the final Chewbacca, also took the character in a slightly different direction. Check them out below:
Before his death, McQuarrie confirmed that although George Lucas liked this design, he also felt it could be taken further. As a result, the early Chewie lost his flak jacket, while generally, more options were explored. He explained:
George said he wanted Chewbacca to look like a lemur, so he had great big limpid eyes in some of my early sketches. George also gave me a drawing he liked from a 1930s illustrator of science fiction that showed a big, apelike, furry beast with a row of female breasts down its chest. So I took the breasts off and added a bandolier and ammunition and weapons, and changed its face so it looked somewhat more like the final character, and I left it at that.
OK, that makes sense. But where does George R.R. Martin come into this? Well, McQuarrie and Lucas made a slight mistake. The image they used as inspiration wasn't actually from the 1930s, but was instead created in 1974 by illustrator John Shoenherr. And why did he draw a Chewbacca-like creature with loads of boobs? Well, it as an illustration for a short story by George R.R. Martin called And Seven Times Never Kill Man! which appeared in Analog in July 1975. Check out the original Shoenherr illustration on the left, and the McQuarrie version on the right:
As you can see, the similarities are quite uncanny, while generally these designs do look a lot more like the Chewie we know and love. What is quite interesting is that although McQuarrie's illustration omits it, Shoenherr's contains a crossbow weapon which looks rather similar to Chewie's trademark tool, the bowcaster.
If this turns out to be accurate and true - and I see no glaringly obviously reason why it wouldn't be - this is certainly an interesting turn up for the books. The guy who has now made his name delivering some of the most compelling fantasy also had a hand in creating one of the most iconic characters in recent cinematic history! I wonder if he's even aware of it?
Do you think George R.R. Martin helped design Chewbacca?