Thanks to a wildly obsessive fanbase that craves cataloguing and detailing every inch of the movies, everyone in the Star Wars galaxy has their own story. Today, we’d like to take some time to honor Bidlo Kwerve, a man who helped defeat the Empire by using his head. Well, by Luke using his head, more specifically.
You’ve probably never thought about it that much—it’s literally on screen for roughly four seconds of the 136-minute-long Return of the Jedi—but the skull that Luke Skywalker tosses at a control panel to kill Jabba’s Rancor is one of the most important items in the entire Star Wars saga. The skull literally saves Luke’s life, ensuring the downfall of the Galactic Empire and the survival of the Jedi Order. It also had an owner named Bidlo Kwerve, a man with a storied past, and, because he was an Expanded Universe character, he knew Han Solo, too.
Bidlo Kwerve actually existed as a character for quite a while before the connection between him and the iconic skull was first made. Created for background purposes in the old West End Games Star Wars roleplaying game sourcebooks, Bidlo was a Corellian smuggler in the employ of Jabba. A loyal retainer, Kwerve constantly jostled with other pirates and rogues in the Hutt’s retinue, seeking greater power—and when he wasn’t arguing with Han Solo, he was the rival of Bib Fortuna in the quest to become Jabba’s Majordomo.
Kwerve—who’s appeared in everything from Dark Horse comics, to trading card games, and even beloved novels like the anthology collection Tales from Jabba’s Palace—bore witness to some major moments of Star Wars backstory in the Expanded Universe. He was the one who accepted Han Solo’s call when the smuggler first contacted Jabba to let him know he had to dump his shipment of spice to flee Imperials. Kwerve even introduced Jabba to the Rancor, a gift to Jabba he had acquired with the grudging help of Bib Fortuna, and an offering to assure Kwerve would become the Hutt’s right-hand man.
But in a cruel twist of fate, Kwerve ended up being the Rancor’s first victim. Jabba offered Kwerve and Fortuna the choice between being Majordomo and a “greater honor,” and when Kwerve accepted the latter, Jabba revealed that the honor was being fed to his new pet. Two years after Kwerve’s fate was revealed in Tales from Jabba’s Palace, in 1998 Decipher’s Star Wars customizable card game made the first connection between Kwerve and the skull seen in Return of the Jedi, and thus one of the most hilariously specific pieces of Star Wars trivia was born.
You might think Kwerve is just another forgotten excess of the old Expanded Universe, like Hoar or Willrow Hood or countless other obscure, silly characters. But he’s actually canonized in Disney’s new Star Wars universe too, thanks to a mention in the pages of Star Wars: Complete Locations in 2016; it identified the fabled skull sitting in the Rancor Pit as belonging to Bidlo, ensuring that Mr. Kwerve would be one of the few—and by far one of the most absurd—pieces of the original canonical wild west that was the EU would live on in Star Wars today.
Not bad for a skull that’s shown for all of four seconds.