Few names in the Star Wars Universe elicit as much ire as Jar-Jar Binks. A hapless Gungan who literally runs into our heroes in The Phantom Menace and then slowly disappears across the length of the Prequel Trilogy, Jar-Jar is often loathed just as much as he’s loved. However, Jar-Jar is not without precedent in the Star Wars cinematic universe, there is another.
At a glance, Jar-Jar’s role in The Phantom Menace was intended to fill something of the same slot as C-3PO and R2-D2, providing both comic relief and assistance to the heroes on their mission. There is another character, though, that Jar-Jar shares quite a bit of similarities with in the Original Trilogy, namely, Wicket the Ewok. Let’s look at these two and how awfully close they are to each other.
Introduction. We meet Jar-Jar almost immediately after Qui-Gon Jin and Obi-Wan Kenobi land on Naboo in the midst of a Trade Federation invasion of the planet. After a few moments, Jar-Jar offers to take the two Jedi to his home to help evade the enemy. We meet Wicket not long after the rebels have landed on the forest moon of Endor, a planet-like body currently invaded by the Empire. Leia, being our stand in for the Jedi (incidentally, also someone with a potential in the Force), is then taken by Wicket back to his home to help evade the enemy.
Their homes. Both the Gungans and the Ewoks have developed homes which exist as part of their environment. The Gungans have bubble-like dwellings on the ocean floor, while the Ewoks have attached their homes to the giant trees. Likewise, both the Gungans and the Ewoks as a whole are suspicious of the outsiders in their midst. Though, as far as we know, no Gungan attempted to cook the Jedi.
Affinity for food. Jar-Jar has a definite love for food, be it snapping up fruit at Shmi Skywalker’s table, or outright stealing it from an outdoor vendor on the streets of Mos Espa. Food is also important to Wicket, who instantly shifts his suspicions of Leia from potential enemy to friend, entirely after Leia gives him something to eat. Obviously, food is critical in maintaining loyalties for Wicket, if not Ewok society as a whole.
Clumsiness in battle. The communities of both Jar-Jar and Wicket are drawn into a wider conflict, and end up sending their armies to fight the invaders in their respective movies. In both cases, it seems that their opponents are their technological superiors, granted, that technology gap is quite a bit wider for the Ewoks. Wicket and Jar-Jar go into battle with their people and do so rather poorly. While Jar-Jar is clumsily juggling grenades and tripping over blasters, Wicket is socking himself in the head with his own sling. They are undoubtedly brave, but almost as much a threat to themselves than their enemies.
The ends of The Phantom Menace and The Return of the Jedi each possess a victory celebration between humans and their non-human allies. The larger numerical foe is defeated, in part due to success in a space battle in the stars above, and on the ground by a small critical force who capture an important target. The final thing that Jar-Jar and Wicket share is the closing shot of their respective films, each managing to find a spot in the group shot just prior to the swipe to darkness and the rolling of the credits. The connection between the two is ironic, given the loathing the Ewoks inspired in many for their inclusion in The Return of the Jedi, and the equal enmity caused by Jar-Jar’s presence in the Prequel Trilogy. The final question, then, is Wicket the Ewok Jar-Jar’s spiritual father? For all that they share, the answer might very well be, perhaps.