- "Let that be a lesson for you, my dear. Never underestimate the power of poetry."
- ―Holshef, to Merei Spanjaf
Holshef was a human male native of the Outer Rim Territories planet Lothal. Although he had a great love for his homeworld, Holshef was disturbed by its slow ruination by the Galactic Empire. By 4 BBY, he was an old man with wispy white hair who painted and wrote poetry. His artistic expressions against the Empire's actions on Lothal resulted in an arrest warrant and forced him into hiding. He paid credits to Yahenna Laxo of the Gray Syndicate to stay safe from Imperial attention.
As rebellious activities increased on Lothal, the Empire also increased its efforts in corralling the planet's criminal underworld, and few elements escaped attention. The Empire targeted the Gray Syndicate's gambling operations and warehouses, before finally accomplishing the Syndicate's near total destruction by raiding its headquarters and killing Laxo. Her death left Holshef in danger, as there remained an Imperial bounty issued for the old man's capture. Thus, Merei Spanjaf, a human female who had come to know and like Holshef through her activities with the Syndicate, sought to spirit him off Lothal.
With the Empire further tightening its grip, Spanjaf eventually removed the artist from his place of hiding in a hasty and risky plan to escape. Holshef loathed giving up the only planet he had ever known, but Spanjaf convinced him that nothing good could result from his remaining. By then, the two were directly targeted by a dangerous bounty hunter, though a wild chase left the hunter dead, and Holshef escaped the planet with the help of a cantina owner known as Old Jho and was dropped off on the planet Garel.
- "Did you ever taste the greel-wood syrup from Far Hiradne?"
"My first job was as an apprentice sap collector there."
"I have a bottle of vintage Hiradne syrup in the back."
- ―Old Jho and Holshef
Holshef was a human male who lived on the Outer Rim Territories planet Lothal under the Galactic Republic and later its successor, the Galactic Empire. His grandmother had come to the planet as a young woman and built the family home in Capital City.
In his youth, Holshef's first job was as an apprentice sap collector, gathering sap to make greel-wood syrup from the trees of the Far Hiradne region of Lothal. He also spent time in his youth at the reliquary of a saint. When the Empire first annexed Lothal in approximately 19 BBY, Holshef and his family threw a party because they felt the Empire could unify the galaxy in a better way than the Republic ever could.
A fugitive artist
- "There's so much the Empire could do to bind the galaxy together, to create a more perfect union of worlds the way the Republic never could. But what has it done instead? Poisoned Lothal's air and water, when protecting them would have only cost a few percentage points of profit. I thought that was wrong, and I thought surely someone in the Empire would understand it was wrong. I thought if I pointed it out, someone would stop it."
Holshef eventually learned that the Empire was strip-mining the planet and rapidly destroying its forests to build heavy industry. He was upset that the Empire was poisoning Lothal's air and water when it could have been prevented by using less aggressive methods, such as making use of the local workforce instead of relying on crude harvester droids. As a result, Holshef wrote poems and painted pictures to express his objections but only ended up with an arrest warrant and a bounty for his capture issued against him for his trouble, as the Empire was cracking down on all dissent and nostalgia on the planet under a directive code-named Operation Guiding Light.
The artist thought about going to see Arihnda Pryce, Governor of Lothal, regarding his concerns, thinking she would understand, but was told by his daughter that it was a bad idea. As such, Holshef was forced into hiding, paying credits to Yahenna Laxo of the Gray Syndicate, a small-time criminal outfit and protectorate based on Lothal, in return for keeping him safe. His misdeeds against the Empire were different from most of the other individuals being sheltered by Laxo, such as Apapaba, Durchine, Kinlo, Marhas, and Pinson, who generally fell into the category of gambling debts or other self-inflicted trouble.
A new friend
- "But it's nice to see a friendly face. I'll paint you a picture—don't worry, it won't be anything that might get you in trouble, too. Please tell me you'll come back."
- ―Holshef, to Merei Spanjaf
Around 4 BBY, Holshef would sometimes be visited in his hiding place by Merei Spanjaf. A teenage human girl with slicing skills, Spanjaf had been investigating the Empire's capture of her boyfriend's older sister, Dhara Leonis, and had been drawn into the Gray Syndicate's activities due to needing a snooper program for her investigations. As part of Spanjaf's duties for the Gray Syndicate, she would collect Holshef's credits and give them to Laxo. During their meetings, Holshef would offer the girl tarine tea and ask her to describe the color of the grass or the sunset outside, and she found him to be terribly lonely. Spanjaf empathized with the old man's complaints about the Empire, and he found her to be a friendly face, promising to paint the girl a picture, though nothing that would get her in trouble by upsetting the Empire.
As part of her continued duties, Spanjaf once visited Holshef to inform him that Rosey, also of the Gray Syndicate, would be moving him to a new hiding place in order to ensure his continued protection from the Empire. At some point after that, Laxo sold the details of Holshef's location to a bounty hunter and assigned Spanjaf to take the hunter to Holshef's newest hideout in 1044 Chapel, a warehouse building in the industrial quarter of Capital City. Spanjaf's orders were to wait as the hunter collected the Empire's bounty on Holshef, a portion of which would go to Laxo.
However, Ake's Tavern, the Syndicate's headquarters, was soon caught in a raid orchestrated by Spanjaf herself and carried out by Imperial stormtroopers. The raid left Laxo dead and Spanjaf seemingly free of his and the Syndicate's influence, as the Empire believed the girl to be an innocent civilian who had been taken hostage in order to stop an investigation being conducted by her mother. Nevertheless, Holshef remained a wanted man, and his former protectors whom he had been paying were now dead.
A need to escape
- "Living the rest of my life without the sound of the wind in the grasslands? Or the sight of thunderheads rolling in over the mountains?"
"Holshef, you have to listen to me. If you stay here you'll never see or hear those things again. They'll put you in a cell and all you'll see is metal. And all you'll hear is machines."
- ―Holshef and Merei Spanjaf
Following the assault, Spanjaf wondered what had become of Holshef. As soon as she was in a position to do so, she visited the warehouse where she was told the old man was being kept. Upon arrival, Spanjaf spoke with a whiskered Lutrillian, who warned her that he had not received Holshef's credits and that, as a result, the fugitive would not be able to stay. She told the Lutrillian that alternative arrangements were being made and gave him enough credits to cover the week, plus a little extra, telling him to only deal with her regarding Holshef's situation.
Upon seeing Spanjaf, Holshef greeted her cheerily, saying that he had forgotten her name, but she reminded him that she had never revealed it to him, as that would have been too dangerous. The old Lothalian was amused by the intrigue and pleased at the idea that he would be moved within the week, as he would have a chance to see the sun and enjoy early spring, though Spanjaf lamented that it was still cold. Both commiserated over no longer being able to enjoy the smell of the jogan blossoms, and, as Spanjaf's eyes watered at thoughts of time past, he offered to read her poetry about Lothal's fragrances in the time of his youth. Overwhelmed, the girl fled for the stairs, reminding Holshef again that he would be moved soon.
Spanjaf continuously fretted over the problem of Holshef. She finally reached the conclusion that there was no safety for him unless she moved him off Lothal and began making inquiries as to how this might be effected.
Hatching a plan
- "I have a friend who needs a ticket off Lothal. One that won't require proper ID."
"Not easy to do these days—what with the blockade and all the trouble."
"Even if it's life or death?"
- ―Merei Spanjaf and Old Jho
Spanjaf realized that she would not be able to get Holshef off Lothal via the spaceport. She returned to the warehouse to find the Lutrillian manager in a state of near panic about the recent Imperial crackdowns. The girl was able to give him enough credits to cover ten more days, but he warned her that Holshef could not stay any longer than that.
Spanjaf decided to visit Old Jho, a contact she had met during her time working with the Gray Syndicate. She told him about Holshef, and he asked her what it was that Holshef did to anger the Empire. The girl showed Jho some of Holshef's poetry, causing him to reminisce about the spine trees in the forests of Pelamir Gorge, which had been cut down by the Empire. He told Spanjaf that he had people who owed him a favor and to be there with her friend and credits in six days.
Holshef was visited by Spanjaf four days later, and he presented her with an unexpected problem. The artist simply did not want to leave, as Lothal had been his home for all his life. Though Spanjaf sympathized with the old man's plight, she helped him to understand that he would be of no help to anyone if he was locked up on Lothal and that he still had a chance to help the rest of the galaxy. Spanjaf's words seemed to strike something within Holshef, and he noted that she still had not told him her name. When she finally did, in barely a whisper, he agreed to go, then sobbed for what he had lost and was about to lose.
- "Listen to me. We're in danger. We're going to go as fast as we can without getting stopped by a patrol. And if a patrol does try to stop us, we're going to have to go a lot faster than that. So I need you to do two things. First, shut up. Second, hold on tighter than you've ever held on before."
- ―Merei Spanjaf, to Holshef
Spanjaf soon discovered that there was much more at stake than Holshef. Her deceptions were finally catching up with her, as the Empire had arrested Hestia Tarleton, a girl whose photo had been used a stand-in for Spanjaf. The girl knew that she had hours at most before the Imperials learned that Tarleton was not the person they were looking for. Spanjaf contacted her family, told them to meet her, and then went immediately to Holshef, informing him that they were leaving right away. Holshef tried to gather stacks of poetry, a year's worth of poems, only for her to cut him off at one week.
What followed for Holshef was a wild ride on a jumpspeeder like the old man had never experienced in his life. The two nearly made it to Old Jho's when they were almost blasted off the bike. A chase ensued as Spanjaf saw that the individual pursuing them was the bounty hunter who had previously been after Holshef. As the chase continued, Holshef's bag of poetry papers slipped, and one of them flew away in the wind, covering the face of the bounty hunter and causing him to crash into a droid truck. As the truck exploded, the two made their escape while Holshef mused that one should "never underestimate the power of poetry."
- "Where's Holshef?"
"Mooning over wildflowers with your friend Jho."
- ―Merei Spanjaf and her father
The two arrived at Old Jho's, where Holshef discussed his and Spanjaf's thrilling exploits, and later Lothal's history, with Jho. The two established quite a rapport while Spanjaf confessed the truth of her activities to her parents. That night, the group slept together in a storeroom, and the next morning Spanjaf awoke to find Holshef absent, though her father told her that the old man was out mooning over wildflowers with Jho.
Spanjaf later found Holshef scribbling with a stylus as she received an important comm message from a group of old friends she knew as the Spectres. Spanjaf's group was to meet up with the Spectres at the edge of the Garel system after Jho brought them there. However, shortly after receiving the transmission, Spanjaf learned that her boyfriend, Zare Leonis, was scheduled for execution by the Empire, and the group was forced to depart from Lothal in a hurry as a result.
Spanjaf left Holshef with Jho, joined up with her parents, and then picked up Leonis's parents. Evading pursuit by the Empire, the entire group then left Lothal on Jho's freight hauler. Spanjaf was delivered to a rendezvous with the Spectres, while Holshef was dropped off on Garel, a planet in the Lothal sector that, like Lothal, was ostensibly under the Empire's control but had not been so oppressed, making it a suitable place of refuge.
Personality and traits
- "When I smell jogan I'm sixteen again. Tall and strong, with a rakish black mustache. It's the closest thing we poor creatures have to magic, my dear—the ability to be transported through time by a waft of scent that unlocks memory."
By 4 BBY, Holshef was a tiny, pale man with a halo of wispy white hair. In his past, when he was just sixteen years old, he was tall and strong with a rakish black mustache. Holshef was a kindly man with a single daughter but carried a great sadness about him. He had a sense of justice and used artistic means to express his dissatisfaction with how the Galactic Empire had poisoned the planet Lothal, his homeworld. Spending his time in isolation due to being wanted by the Empire, he took comfort in the presence of a kindly face.
Holshef was fiercely loyal to Lothal, to the point that he had trouble accepting the idea of leaving it, even if staying placed his life in danger. He enjoyed the planet's bountiful nature prior to its ruination by the Empire, including the lush forests and subtle changing of the seasons. The old man could be transported to memories of youth by the smell of the planet's jogan blossoms. Fond of the fragrances of Lothal in his youth, he devoted an entire small book of poems to the topic.
The Lothalian wished to share his poetry with as many people as possible and was very protective of it. Even knowing his own life was in danger, Holshef clung to his sheaves of paper, abandoning a year's worth of work only very reluctantly. Often lost in his own memories, the old man sometimes seemed oblivious to the very real danger of what it meant to have an Imperial bounty on his head.
Behind the scenes
Holshef first appeared in 2015's Servants of the Empire: Imperial Justice, the third novel in the four-part Star Wars Rebels: Servants of the Empire series by Jason Fry. Fry considered Holshef's character to fill the role of the conscience of the planet Lothal, following the capture of the character Beck Ollet.
Through the Jedi Council Forums on TheForce.net, Fry responded to a comment from a fan wondering when readers might see "Holshef's Poems." Fry described the idea as being "awesomely unlikely to happen" but suggested that he might include such a poem as an Easter egg in a future title.
Fry also stated on his official Tumblr blog that the rescue of Holshef initially "had more moving parts." In his original version of the tale, Spanjaf had additionally enlisted Holshef's daughter in the rescue, as well as playing a game of "cat and mouse" with the bounty hunter to whom Laxo had sold him. This plot line was ultimately cut in the interest of economizing the story, as there was no room for another plot thread.
- Servants of the Empire: Imperial Justice (First appearance)
- Servants of the Empire: The Secret Academy
Notes and references