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Most people reading this will probably be familiar with the scene in The Book of Boba Fett in which the reformed bounty hunter, Boba Fett breezes confidently into the palace recently vacated by the crime lord, Jabba the Hutt, and kills Bib Fortuna, Jabba’s once-loyal majordomo (i.e. head honcho) who has been ruling – and putting on weight – in Jabba’s stead. Accompanied by Fennec Shand, who has helpfully killed every other one of Jabba’s surviving minions still present, Boba then boldly takes his place on Jabba’s still warm throne.
It is a nifty little coup: BF has taken on another BF and emerged triumphantly. Had Jabba the Hutt any footwear (or, indeed any feet), he would surely have left some pretty gargantuan shoes to fill. After this confident display of self-assured ultraviolence, we are left in no doubt that Boba Fett is the man to fill them.
But let’s rewind a little: how did someone like Jabba the Hutt acquire such a vast palace in the first place? For the answer to this, we need to take a look into the background of the palace’s former residents: the B’omarr Monks. Who knows? A few of them may even still be around… after all, a familiar many-legged shape with a thoughtful fishbowl was seen clattering over the rocks outside.
This article is here to support Databank Dive Episode 7, in which ForceCenter’s Joseph Scrimshaw and Ken Napzok have a ton of fun discussing the the B’omarr Monks.
Give it a listen here 🎙️
Along Came a Spider
A casual viewer of Return of the Jedi might be forgiven for not having noticed any B’omarr Monks at all. There are, after all, already so many other assorted monsters and weirdos hanging around Jabba’s Palace that it takes a while to single anyone out. It doesn’t help that they don’t actually look anything like what most of us would expect monks to look like. We also only ever see one, very briefly, in the entire film and he’s basically in disguise.
If you want to play along at home, the key moment occurs about six minutes and 39 seconds into the film as R2-D2 and C–3PO enter Jabba’s Pleasure Dome. C-3P0, rushing to catch up with R2-D2, narrowly misses a spider-like figure who scuttles past the open door. That’s it! That’s all it is. It’s in the film for all of five seconds. Unless you’re very afraid of spiders (as C-3PO apparently is), it’s unlikely you would register this moment at all. But trust me: this is a BT-16 Spider Droid who is being directed telepathically by the spirit of a B’omarr Monk.
Speaking to StarWarsInterviews.com, Bill Hargreaves – supervising propmaker on Return of the Jedi – went into detail on how this blink-and-you’ll-miss-it bit of nightmare fuel came to be:
The B’omarr monk was built from scratch, a gear box housing was the first piece, and to me it looked like a spiders body. What’s wrong with spiders? They are clever and menacing at the same time. They tend to make everyone jump when you first see them so a good start. I made it with six legs as that looked right, it was made with all the legs independent so you could move them easily. The B’omarr was basically a puppet. I had a rig made by Bill Welch and his construction team, there was a hanging boat (box) on the irons (metal girders at the top of the stage) and an endless line to pull it backward and forward. Three men in the boat would operate the legs and it was pulled across the stage, a very big rig for a big droid.Bill Hargreaves, Return of the Jedi supervising propmaker
Few sagas have had the backstories of all their minor characters written up as comprehensively as Star Wars has. Were other franchises to be as thorough we would now know all about the breeding history of the horse Charlton Heston is riding when he discovers the Statue of Liberty at the end of Planet of the Apes (1968). We would also have pages of data on the marital problems endured by Skeletor’s orthodontist.
As it is, we now know everything we need to know about Star Wars including the strange history of the B’omarr Monks.
The Monk’s Tale
It’s probably a little bit “off” to criticize someone else’s belief system, but it must be said: the creed of the B’omarr Monks really is pretty weird. In short, it is based on extreme self-denial. The monks feel that all worldly possessions and indeed, even sensations are a potential barrier blocking their path to greater enlightenment. They aspire to deny themselves the power of speech, often achieving this by communicating entirely telepathically. They dedicate themselves wholly to the spiritual life and spend their days reading and meditating in an effort to achieve greater spiritual development.
That said, they are also a surprisingly tolerant order. They not only admit potential recruits from all cultural backgrounds but also take a surprisingly tolerant approach to outsiders, no matter how ethically dubious or unscrupulous they may seem to be, even allowing them to make free use of their monasteries. This is, of course, exactly how Jabba the Hutt and his assorted minions came to set up shop in what thereafter became known as his ‘palace’ on Tatooine. The monks and Jabba and his cohorts came to live together in the old monastery in a state of largely peaceful coexistence. Indeed, the monks would often carry out the occasional little odd job for Jabba and his morally bankrupt entourage. Despite this, their ultimate loyalty extends to the order and not Jabba, so really they cannot be trusted.
The ultimate goal of all B’omarr Monks is to abandon their physical forms completely. Having abandoned all physical sensations, their physical bodies are shredded and their brains are free to devote themselves fully to achieving a higher plane of existence from their new home in a jar of nutritious rich liquid. Occasionally, the dark side of the monks is revealed as they have been known to put hapless potential converts through the shredding process against their will or before they were fully aware of what was going on.
As it is, even at this stage, some of the monks still have chores to do. In these circumstances, the monks’ brains have often not been above telepathically manipulating nearby palace-dwellers such as Spider Droids to do their bidding.
The incongruous ultra-creepiness of the B’omarr Monks has been milked for unease in various corners of the late, great Expanded Universe, including our old friend Tales from Jabba’s Palace (1995) but special mention has to go to The Brain Spiders (1997) by John Whitman, a YA novel in the Goosebumps-style Galaxy of Fear series, and the fully canon IDW anthology comic, Star Wars Adventures: Return to Vader’s Castle #4: Vault of the Living Brains (2019).
Keeping the Faith
A total of 176,632 Britons claimed to be Jedi Knights in the 2011 census. In 2001, the figure had been a considerably larger 390,127, many of them encouraged by an early internet rumor that provided a certain threshold of followers was passed, Jedis would HAVE to be recognized as an official religion. Most people now recognize that this last claim wasn’t actually true: other criteria would need to be fulfilled before the conditions for the creation of a new official religion are met. Despite this, it seems likely some people will be writing ‘Jedi’ on their census forms for decades to come.
Is Star Wars itself a religion? No. But as the B’omarr Monks demonstrate religion forms just yet another component of the rich and fully realized Star Wars universe. Since that first arachnid scuttled across C-3PO’s path back in 1983, the universe has been gradually filled with faith groups of all stripe, some Force-wielding and some not, from The Clone Wars‘ Nightsisters of Dathomir to Rogue One‘s Guardians of the Whills, to the puritanical Way of The Mandalorian.
This rich spiritual ecosystem outside of noisy binaries of Jedi and Sith was born one sunny morning on Tattooine when a brain in a fishtank decided to go for a walk.
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Chris Hallam is a published author and freelance writer based in Exeter. In the past, he has written for magazines such as DVD Monthly and Geeky Monkey. He provided all the written content for the Star Wars Clone Wars and Smurfs annuals for 2014, and the Transformers annual 2015. He continues to write for Yours Retro, Best of British, and The History of Comics, 1930-2030.