Corellia Mining Corporation digger crawlers were powered by ancient Ka/La steam powered nuclear fusion engines. Giant treads allowed them to cross difficult terrain. The crawlers had to be extremely stable to remain upright in powerful sandstorms, and were therefore the best way for the Jawas to cross the harsh deserts of Tatooine while avoiding attacks from Tusken Raiders who tended to stay away from these massive vehicles.
About half of a digger crawler's volume was devoted to cargo space—originally for ore, these areas were quickly retrofitted as storage areas to hold Jawa salvage. The rest of the vehicle contained workshops for tinkering with and repairing technology found among the dunes.
Captured droids and equipment were pulled into the storage areas via an extendable magnetic suction tube formerly used for drawing ore. A retractable front-loading hatch also allowed the Jawas to claim larger materials. Any reclaimed scrap was added amid the maze of junk spread throughout the cluttered hold, or melted in the giant central smelting area.
The vehicle's bridge, located on top of the sandcrawler, was surrounded by a series of tiny windows. The clan's chief could often be found in this command center, which provided an excellent view of the desert. Scouts also kept watch for glints of metal that might indicate hidden treasure, aided by scanners and metal detectors. Only a small amount of the crawler was used for the crew, and Jawas often slept six in a cabin the size of an average humanoid's closet.
Digger crawlers required a lot of repairs, and over time many took on altered appearances as parts were added or replaced. Thus some looked completely different or had varying capabilities. One popular modification was the addition of crane arms, mounted on top or extended out through side panels.
The digger crawlers were brought to the planet by Corellian miners who hoped to find ore resources on the planet. When this plan backfired, they were abandoned along with the rest of the mining equipment.
These sandcrawlers came to be used by the native Jawas for the following millennia as scavenging and peddling vehicles. As a result, the crawlers became an important component of Jawa society, providing a home and a transport for scouring the desert in search of the droids, wrecked starships, and scrap metal that their economy thrived on.
Traditionally, half of a given Jawa clan would remain in its village or desert fortress, while the other half would reside within a sandcrawler to support the rest. While the tank-like vehicle's thick armor plating provided significant protection, a sandcrawler could be disabled by several well-aimed blaster shots.
Because of their age, the sandcrawlers required constant repair, although many moisture farmers noted that their Jawa owners seemed to be capable of maintaining them forever. Sandcrawlers were rarely seen together, though they convened annually at mysterious Jawa swap meets in the Dune Sea. At these clandestine gatherings, numerous clans would commune to exchange scraps, sell droids, buy technology, or even arrange inter-clan marriages.
Jawas captured the Rebel Alliance-affiliated droids R2-D2 and C-3PO and placed them aboard a sandcrawler after the Battle of Tatooine in 0 BBY. The Jawas sold them to Owen Lars, Luke Skywalker's guardian. Skywalker escaped an Imperial search team and joined the Rebellion.
In 14 ABY, during a mission to Tatooine, Jaden Korr had to negotiate with a few Jawas, and got into a digger crawler. Jaden retrieved an R5 astromech droid, amongst a pile of other disabled droids.
Behind the scenes
During filming of A New Hope, only the bottom part of the sandcrawler was built for close-up scenes in the Tatooine desert. The moving shots of the sandcrawler were realized through a miniature remote-controlled model.
A blue sandcrawler appears in an episode of the Cartoon Network TV show The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy. However, the sandcrawler in the episode belongs to a similarly blue Tusken Raider (who is uncharacteristically friendly to the show's protagonist) rather than Jawas.
The end credits of the documentary The Beginning: Making Episode I shows a series of short clips from The Phantom Menace with visual jokes added by ILM. In one clip, a sandcrawler is seen racing a Podracer in the Tatooine desert.
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- "Fred Jawa"—Star Wars Tales 20
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