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THE STORY BEHIND THE BOOK
Much of the information included here was taken from the collection of the much-lauded Senior Anthropologist Mammon Hoole, a member of the Shi'ido species. The Shi'ido are able to change form at will, and utilizing this natural ability, Hoole has been able to study a great many alien species from the inside. And in a less covert fashion, he has solicited commentary from many prominent members of the galactic community, including explorers, adventurers, members of the military, representatives of the New Republic, and even of the Empire. The wealth of material he has amassed is truly mind-boggling.
During most of his years of study, Hoole has worked alone, taking on an occasional assistant or two. But when the planet Alderaan was destroyed, he was thrust into the role of surrogate parent when he adopted his orphaned niece and nephew, Tash and Zak Arranda. Hoole tried to continue his work as he had before, but the trio inadvertently angered key representatives of the Empire by foiling an important and destructive scientific experiment, and found themselves on the run. After a number of harrowing escapes, Hoole settled with his niece and nephew in a private home on a world whose location he has kept strictly secret.
At this home-based laboratory, Hoole shifted from field exploration to the assembling of the wealth of data he'd already gathered. Tash and Zak reached the age at which they began their own advanced education, and as the pressure of Imperial discovery eased, both were able to attend university. Left to his own devices, Hoole quickly compiled enough material to produce a general overview of the key species he had encountered in his travels. In-depth, technical data would be reserved for the advanced journals and texts.
More researcher than raconter, Hoole enlisted the aid of a professional writer whose job it became to present the information in a form accessible to the general public. The Essential Guide to Alien Species was written and sent to a reputable galactic publisher on Coruscant. Recognizing the value of such a volume, the publisher snapped up the opportunity, leading to the edition you hold in your hands.
Senior Anthropologist Hoole wishes to acknowledge all those who have been kind enough to work with him over the years, and especially those who have shared material from their private journals, diaries, and letters. Everything that was provided has helped add new depth to this book and, as such, will provide insight into the nature of life in our galaxy.
ABOUT THE ENTRIES
Sentience Designation Each species is designated as sentient, semisentient, or nonsentient. Usually this designation is based on a species' ability to reason, use tools, and communicate. A panel of multicultural scientists from the University of Coruscant approves the formal designation for each species only after a government-approved research team has conducted an extensive field study or has made some significant finding regarding the sentience of the species in question. The formal designations are defined as follows:
* Sentient: A species given the sentient designation is considered able to reason and understand abstract metaphysical or philosophical concepts and ideas, make and use tools, and communicate with written or spoken language. As most primitive tribal species receive this designation, it does not imply a species must be civilized to the point of space travel.
* Semisentient: The semisentient designation implies that a species has some reasoning ability but cannot grasp elevated or abstract concepts. In many cases, a semisentient group has not yet formed a written or spoken language. These species are considered to be moving up the evolutionary ladder—on their way to achieving sentience. Under the Empire, these species were not entitled to land ownership, but this prohibition is now being reconsidered in the senate of the New Republic.
* Nonsentient: A nonsentient species is one that does not reason at all and survives only via its natural instincts.
Relative Size of Adult The average size of a member of a given species is provided here in meters.
Planet of Origin Most alien species hearken back to a homeworld or system. Some, like the bantha, are found in many systems, and still others, like the Hutts, have transplanted themselves to a new home. The earliest location for a given species—often the planet of origin—will be listed here, and their present home will be likewise indicated.
Journal Entry For each species, the body of the entry will offer the basics of appearance, historical background, general living habits, and notable elements of the species' culture. In each major entry, Senior Anthropologist Hoole has also selected a quote from his collection of anecdotal material, which will corroborate the data or offer some new insight into the species, as exemplified by an event involving a specific number or group of individuals from that species.
Herds of woolly banthas inhabit the desert wastes of Tatooine, as well as the grasslands and plains of other worlds throughout the galaxy. Since they can be found in most agricultural systems, it is believed that early space settlers transported them to these new worlds.
Generally used as beasts of burden, the tall, gentle creatures are intelligent and trustworthy. They are extremely strong, able to carry up to 500 kilograms of cargo or five passengers, including a driver. Because of the creatures' rocking gait, many first-time bantha riders complain of motion sickness.
Banthas are extremely adaptable, surviving comfortably in all sorts of climates, and able to go for weeks without food or water. The bantha's long, flexible tongue compensates for its short neck in feeding. From world to world, bantha subspecies vary in size, coloration, social grouping, behavior, and metabolic specifics. Depending on the location, their fur color may be off-white, tan, light brown, brown, or black.
In the wild, most bantha species fight only in defense of their herd and the young. When attacked, they usually flee. When trapped, or when young banthas must be defended, cows form a circle around their calves. They attack by lowering their heads and ramming their large spiral horns into the attacker.
Despite the creatures' usual passivity, some cultures use domesticated banthas as animals of war—spurring them to charge at foes and trample them underfoot. On Tatooine the woolly banthas have been left to roam free in the harsh desert climate, and the species has flourished. They are the transportation of choice of the native Tusken Raiders, who maintain a special relationship with their mounts, as Senior Anthropologist Hoole notes.
Domesticated banthas make satisfactory beasts of burden. Wild banthas exhibit a kind of feral violence toward their captors. However, I was amazed to see that among Sand People banthas act neither wild nor completely docile.
Tusken children tend young banthas, but upon reaching adulthood, one Tusken and one bantha team up in a kind of deep emotional bonding, as if bantha and rider become extensions of the same being. When a Tusken is killed, the suddenly "widowed" bantha will fly into a vicious, suicidal frenzy; the same is true if a bantha mount is killed, leaving the rider alive.
If a bantha is left without its Tusken companion, the Sand People wait until the beast tires of its rampage, then turn it out into the desert to survive alone. Likewise, when a bantha is killed, the bereaved Tusken wanders off into the desert on a vision quest. There, the Tusken must come to terms with the spirit of his bantha partner. If the bantha partner wishes to draft his companion into the afterlife, then the Tusken will die out on the sands. If, however, the bantha spirit guide is generous, he will lead the Tusken to another wild bantha, a riderless one, which the Tusken will take back to the tribe as a new companion. When such a Tusken returns, "reborn," he is much esteemed by the other Sand People.
Luke Skywalker, a native of Tatooine, recalled a singular encounter in which he and his friend Biggs Darklighter—both in their teens—observed how a Tusken bantha mourns its lost rider.
It was just before Biggs left for the Academy. We were in the south range fixing a vaporator, when we both saw something ambling toward us. Once we could tell it was a bantha, we quickly started to pack up. We saw only one huge figure, but we knew that Sand People never traveled alone.
As the creature neared, however, we realized that it had no rider. It was stumbling awkwardly, and as it got to about fifty meters away, it went down to its knees, then fell on its side.
We'd never seen a bantha in that condition before, especially one that had the markings of a Tusken mount. As I got nearer, it didn't respond, though I could still see its chest rising and falling. When I knelt next to it, it moaned lightly and moved to get my scent, as if it were looking for something—or someone.
It was then I remembered that when a Tusken Raider dies, his mount is sent out into the desert to die or to find another bonding partner. This one had failed to find a new master.
Biggs leaned over my shoulder and said, " I wonder if we can find a vet droid in Anchorhead."
I shook my head, knowing somehow that no doctor was going to save this creature. It was dying of grief. I reached out and touched its furry head above the eyes. Then, just like that-it stopped breathing, as if it simply didn't want to go on.