- "Hey! Steady, girl. Hey, what's the matter? You smell something?"
- ―Luke Skywalker calms his nervous tauntaun before a wampa attack
Biology and appearance
Standing at a height of 2.5 to 3 meters and with an average mass of 150 kilograms, the wampa was one of Hoth's top carnivorous predators. The mammals sported a pair of small cranial horns and lived in caves. Wampas also demonstrated some advanced intelligence and cared greatly about their clans.
Creatures such as the tauntaun were prey to the wampa. However, all of the fifteen tauntaun subspecies were agile and swift, being able to run at speeds up to 90 kilometers per hour, and thus could usually outrun the wampa ice creature. Moreover, a tauntaun's horns could be used defensively against their predators. In order to close in on the creatures, wampa used their white fur as camouflage to aid in ambushing their prey before stunning or slaying it with razor-sharp fangs and claws. The predators would then drag the helpless catch with their powerful arms to a cave, within which the prey would be hung upside-down, to await being consumed in due time. Wampas also hunted rayboo and were willing to hunt humans.
With the establishment of Echo Base on the remote ice world of Hoth, vicious wampas would occasionally sneak into the base in the dead of night, forcing the closure of various passageways. On one occasion the Rebel Leia Organa, the Wookiee Chewbacca and the astromech droid R2-D2 were involved in such a situation.
Shortly before the Battle of Hoth, Rebel Alliance member Luke Skywalker was attacked by a wampa while scouting the Hoth ice wastes with his tauntaun. It feasted on the tauntaun after hanging Luke from the ceiling of its cave. Luke used the Force to retrieve his lightsaber, which had fallen into the snow, and used it to free himself. The wampa noticed and tried to intervene, but Luke cut off its arm.
Wampas in the galaxy
Throughout galactic history, Trandoshan hunters like Garnac's hunting guild often kept trophies such as wampa hide at lodges such as on Wasskah. At one point during the High Republic Era, a still-living wampa was consumed by a Drengir.
Behind the scenes
- "We knew, for instance, of the scene where a wampa actually broke through into Echo Base and mauled a tauntaun…The wampa filmed in this shot looked absolutely hilarious with a big fluffy face and metallic round eyeballs. We saw the picture in a Kodak shoebox Photo CD Lucasfilm Ltd. provided us with some time ago."
- ―Jon Knoles, discussing Lucasfilm Ltd.'s contributions to creating Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire for Nintendo 64
From concept to creation
The wampa ice creature was created for George Lucas's Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back and first appeared in Donald F. Glut's novelization of the film, just prior to its theatrical debut.
The creature may have been based on the cryptozoological phenomenon of the "Yeti," or the "Abominable Snowman," a humanoid beast believed to live in the Himalayas. Notes from early concept meetings suggest that the wampa, like the Yeti, may have supernatural powers as well. In early story discussions, the wampa was described as a fishlike beast capable of swimming through the snow, and the creatures were intended to be inside of the base where the Rebels were hiding, creating chaos when Vader is approaching to begin his attack on the base.
In the winter of 1977, Mark Hamill was in a serious car accident that left him in need of reconstructive facial surgery. Many believe that the wampa attack on Skywalker was included in the film to explain Hamill's residual scarring and slightly altered facial features.
Some of the earliest production drawings of Echo Base's interior from May 1978 include call-outs indicating where a "Yuzzem" is to break through the ice walls of the base, as seen in The Art of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. The concept of the now non-canon Yuzzem creature was introduced into Star Wars in Alan Dean Foster's Legends novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye, published on March 1, 1978, before the production drawings were created. This suggests that the creature that came to be known as the wampa was first referred to as a "Yuzzem," until Foster adapted the name for his story.
To create the wampa's roar, sound-effects artist Randy Thom recorded the noises made by an elephant in the Oakland Zoo. Sound designer Ben Burtt and the film's sound team then recorded the cries of a sea lion at Marineland of the Pacific public oceanarium and mixed that with the elephant recording to produce the final effect.
Originally the wampa was to be portrayed by actor Des Webb wearing a giant suit made of sheepskins on location in Norway, where the Hoth scenes were shot. The costume, which required the actor to stand on stilts, proved too unwieldy, and it was too heavy and hot, causing Webb to suffer heat exhaustion. All of the shots of the life-size wampa were eventually cut from the film. Creature designer Phil Tippett later built a small wampa hand puppet, visible in a quick close-up as the creature attacks Luke Skywalker.
For the Special Edition release of The Empire Strikes Back in 1997, George Lucas decided to expand the wampa scenes. In order to do so, Industrial Light & Magic artist Howie Weed constructed a more mobile version of the costume, without the stilts, which he wore in the film. The new shots were filmed within a scaled-down replica of a cave to create the illusion that the wampa was much larger than a normal Human.
Wampas originally played a much more prominent role in early versions of The Empire Strikes Back. In the treatment and the first draft, wampas storm Echo Base shortly before the arrival of the Empire. In the original shooting script, a tauntaun was killed when a wampa stormed into Echo Base. Shots of a wampa breaking through one of the walls of the complex and attacking Rebel soldiers were filmed but ultimately dropped from the final version of the movie. In addition, the wall did not crumble properly and the shot was never successfully achieved. Final versions of the script depicted a mass-coordinated wampa attack on Echo Base. Several scenes were shot for the film that showed this incident, as well as a sequence involving C-3PO tearing a warning sign off the door of a wampa pen, followed by a group of snowtroopers entering the pen only to be attacked by the wampas inside. However, these scenes were later deleted and did not make the final version of the film.
The 2015 reference book Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know somewhat brought back the deleted scenes involving the wampa attack on Echo Base, stating that various wampas would attack Echo Base at night, and that several Imperial Cold weather assault stormtroopers foolishly entered a room with wampas only to be slain, despite a clearly marked warning sign.
The animated short Beasts of Echo Base from the animated micro-series Forces of Destiny later expounded on the reason for why the wampas were found within the room in Echo Base, showing Leia, R2D2 and Chewbacca working together to lock the wampa in the room, thus setting the stage for the scene. The short's events was later referenced in the reference book Star Wars: On the Front Lines and the in-universe book Star Wars: The Rebel Files the latter of which saw Leia reference the events explicitly.
The story Tales of Villainy: Invasion of Echo Base from the comic Star Wars Adventures (2020) 1 brought into canon other elements of the deleted scenes. These included the sign being torn off from the door shortly before the Troopers reach it as they're tailing C-3PO as well as Vader's prompt arrival immediately after one of the Troopers is snatched by the Wampa inside the door.
- Disney Infinity 3.0
- LEGO Star Wars Movie Short: Wampa Woes (Non-canonical source)
- LEGO STAR WARS: Celebrate the Season – "New Year's Hothin' Eve"
- LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – "Peril on Kashyyyk" (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – "Showdown on Hoth"
- LEGO Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures – "Return to the Wheel" (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales – "Exit from Endor"
- LEGO Star Wars: Droid Tales – "Flight of the Falcon" (In flashback(s))
- LEGO Star Wars: All-Stars – "Scouting for Leia/A Mission with Maz"
- LEGO Star Wars: The Resistance Rises – "Poe to the Rescue"
- LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens
- LEGO Star Wars Terrifying Tales (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
Notes and references
- "Hunger"—From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back
- Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia
- Ultimate Star Wars
- Star Wars: Absolutely Everything You Need to Know
- Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back
- Star Wars: Forces of Destiny – "Beasts of Echo Base"
- Star Wars: Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide
- Star Wars: X-Wing Second Edition – Galactic Empire Conversion Kit (Card: )
- Star Wars (2015) 10
- Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge – Dok-Ondar's Den of Antiquities
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back novelization
- Star Wars: Behind the Magic
- Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays
- The Art of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
- Splinter of the Mind's Eye
- The Sounds of Star Wars
- "Master & Apprentice" – Star Wars Insider 102