Return of the Jedi’s Most Tragic Scene Just Became More Devastating

The following contains spoilers for Saladin Ahmed’s “The Plan” in From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi, on sale now.

While most Star Wars fans remember Anakin Skywalker’s redemption and death as the tragic but hopeful ending to his saga, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi features an even more quietly heartbreaking scene: the death of Pateesa, Jabba the Hutt’s pet rancor. While Pateesa first appears as a monstrous foe for Luke Skywalker, the rancor keeper Malakili’s devastation when Pateesa dies reframes Pateesa as a beloved pet despite Jabba’s cruelty.

The recently released From a Certain Point of View: Return of the Jedi features short stories from the points of view of forty different characters throughout Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. Saladin Ahmed’s “The Plan” examines the life of Malakili, his rough childhood and his strong bond with Pateesa, including Malakili’s desire to free them both from Jabba’s tyranny. An old legend gives Malakili false hope that if a beast eats a Jedi, they will become a wishing beast and grant wishes. The story ends before Pateesa’s death, but Ahmed’s exploration of Malakili and Pateesa’s bond makes Pateesa’s death even more heartbreaking.

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Malakili’s Kindness to Pateesa Proves Star Wars Monsters Can Be Loved

Pateesa the Rancor roars in Star Wars Return of the Jedi

“The Plan” focuses mainly on Malakili throughout his life. When Malakili is a child, he is treated cruelly by everyone, and his mother abandons him. However, Nibbles, a green-snouted beast, and Nibbles’ owner, Scraps, a beast healer, save Malakili during a snowstorm. Malakili has worked for Scraps for many years, expanding Malakili’s natural affinity for animals with more hands-on experience in their care. Thus, Ahmed establishes Malakili’s kind soul and true ability to care for animals long before Malakili ever meets Pateesa.

While Malakili’s time with Scraps ends in tragedy, Malakili’s training as a beast healer perfectly prepares him to care for Pateesa later on. “The Plan” shows how Malakili and Pateesa’s bond develops due to Malakili’s patience and kindness. When Malakili is first introduced to Pateesa, he learns that Pateesa has already eaten the last three beastmasters. However, Malakili immediately sees past Pateesa’s frightening appearance and recognizes the signs of the abuse that Pateesa has endured. Even though Malakili is ordered to “break” Pateesa, Malakili refuses to treat Pateesa cruelly. His kindness gains Pateesa’s trust and shows that Malakili is intent on being kind no matter what Jabba tries to force him to do.

Throughout “The Plan,” Ahmed shows the importance of compassion toward all creatures, no matter their appearance. Both Malakili and Pateesa are the victims of slavery and cruelty, but through their bond, they are able to find some light in the darkness of Jabba’s Palace. While Malakili was complacent with his place in Jabba’s Palace before, his concern for Pateesa inspires him to seek escape for both Pateesa and himself, even though that plan for freedom is doomed to failure.

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Star Wars’ Legend of the Wishing Beast, Explained

Malakili looks heartbroken at an offscreen Pateesa in Star Wars Return of the Jedi

Ahmed includes the legend of the wishing beast as a false source of hope for Malakili in “The Plan.” Scraps tells Malakili, “And yea it is True: The beast that eats the flesh of the Jedi shall be transformed! And yea, it is True: Such a creature shall become a wishing beast.” While the reader knows that this legend is not true, the legend of the wishing beast shows another level to the mystique Jedi and the Force have gained throughout the galaxy, though some of these tales stray far from the truth of the Force. The legend also shows how ordinary people hope to possibly gain the Jedi’s power for themselves, even though people more familiar with Jedi know that they cannot actually grant wishes, either alive or after becoming a creature’s snack.

Malakili’s vague desires for freedom do not really include the possibility of Pateesa becoming a wishing beast at first. Still, this legend sticks with Malakili, and Luke’s arrival at Jabba’s Palace seems to be the culmination of this possibility. At the end of “The Plan,” Malakili “smiled a true smile for the first time in many years” as Luke falls into the rancor pit. The dramatic irony of the story is that the reader knows that Luke kills Pateesa instead, and the only freedom Pateesa will experience is the freedom of death.

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Pateesa’s death in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi is already heartbreaking. Paul Brooke’s performance as Malakili perfectly captures his quiet devastation at the loss of Pateesa as he openly weeps over his friend’s death. This quiet moment during the chaos of Jabba’s Palace is one of the film’s strongest scenes and helps reinforce the franchise’s themes of the importance of compassion in the face of tyranny. In The Making of Return of the Jedi by Jonathan W. Rinzler, Star Wars creator George Lucas states, “I like the idea that everyone loves someone. And even the worst, most horrible monster you can imagine was loved by his keeper. And the rancor probably loved his keeper.” Therefore, from the beginning, Pateesa’s death is meant to be heartbreaking despite the horror Jabba forces Pateesa to commit earlier in the film. “The Plan” gives even more context to Malakili and Pateesa’s bond, and Malakili’s final moment of true hope makes Pateesa’s death even more tragic and compelling in the original film.

Many Star Wars fans might point to Muchi from Star Wars: The Bad Batch and Boba Fett’s pet rancor from Star Wars: The Book of Boba Fett as the rancors’ redemption in the Star Wars universe. However, Malakili’s bond with Pateesa in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi shows another, softer side to the rancor despite their terrifying appearance. Even though the audience roots for Luke, Pateesa’s death shows that the galaxy is not just good and evil, and even acts of self-defense can have tragic consequences. Saladin Ahmed’s “The Plan” is a poignant expansion of these themes as he shows Malakili’s kindness in the face of cruelty and the depth of Malakili and Pateesa’s bond, proving that even seemingly monstrous creatures can be loved in a galaxy far, far away.

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