I was watching a YouTube video of the Battle of Endor, and the very first comment went thusly: “It still cracks me up how a bunch of furry teddy bears are able to slaughter 500 storm troopers with rocks and sticks.” Point taken. The idea that a military’s finest forces would be repelled by teddy bears meant to sell toys is quite laughable.
Yet, the Ewoks prevailed. So what really happened during the Battle of Endor?
Palpatine referred to the Stormtroopers at Endor as his “best troops,” but we should probably take the Sith Lord’s words with a grain of salt. This wasn’t the 501st, mind you. The Empire came to Endor merely to create a base of operation in support of the Death Star II. These were garrison troops. It was a legion, yes, but with only a supplement of Scout Troopers and a few AT-STs in support.
The Empire’s intent was in guarding the shield generator and shuttle pad rather than asserting their power by controlling native populations like the Ewoks. They weren’t at Endor to colonize, so why did the Ewoks even join the fight to begin with? Why not live and let live? Certainly there was plenty enough forest for the Ewoks to concede some acreage to the Imperials.
So when Skywalker shrewdly manipulated the Ewoks into attacking a military facility, one might think him to be callously opportunistic, hardly the path of a Jedi. After all, plenty of Ewoks would surely die.
The Battle of Endor: The Ewoks’ Fierce Fight
But if not an immediate physical threat, the Ewoks certainly saw the Empire as a spiritual threat. Remember, nature was the basis of spiritual, communal, and physical life for the Ewoks. The Imperial’s reshaping the landscape (even if it was just a few shuttle pads) would’ve violated the very core of their indigenous belief systems. In other words, the Imperials had been poking the little teddy bears with a stick and the Ewoks were ready to return the favor.
Not only was there a new moon in the sky (That’s not a moon!), but the Imperials were most certainly diverting water for their own usage, creating refuse and waste, plus clearing tress, the most egregious slight of them all. Remember, the Ewoks believed the Great Tree to be the source of all life, so trees played a special role in Ewok cosmology. Even though they were a fraction of the size of a Stormtrooper and in no way could match the Empire’s military technology, you get the feeling that the Ewoks knew these shiny white provocateurs had to go.
With the Rebel Strike Team captured and the Ewok’s ambush consisting of simple bows and arrows, the ever-arrogant Imperials undoubtedly thought it was to be a short skirmish that would end in a rout. But let’s pause here to talk about Stormtrooper armor for a moment.
The bright white armor of The Empire provides excellent protection from laser carbine-based weaponry, plus its striking visual presence gives it an advantage in psychological warfare. But there are some weaknesses in Stormtrooper armor:
- It can’t protect you fully from heavy blunt force trauma.
- It has unarmored joints that allow for movement.
- It doesn’t provide any camouflage in the forest.
The Battle of Endor: The Ewoks Guerrilla Tactics
Now back to the battle. As the Ewoks sounded a call to attack – revealing only a large number of archers – the Stormtroopers (because of their armor) didn’t hesitate in pursuing them into the forest. But what the Imperials saw as Ewoks running away in fear was actually a strategic retreat. The opening volley of arrows was simply a stunt by the Ewoks to force the Imperial troops to lose unit cohesion, coaxing them into fighting on the Ewok’s home turf.
Those little teddy bears were actually quite clever, come to think about it.
And in the forest was where things got interesting, as the Ewoks used guerrilla tactics to perfection. First, a hail storm of large stones pummeled many of the Stormtroopers into the ground where they were swarmed by spear and knife-wielding Ewoks. Sure, you might be wearing armor that protects you from a laser blast, but if you are repeatedly getting stabbed in the elbows, knees, hip socket, arm pit and throat, then you are having a bad day.
No Stormtroopers weren’t fighting cohesively at that point, being separated into 2s and 3s. Meanwhile, the Ewok’s very livelihood required that they develop communal tactics for bringing down prey much larger than themselves. Ewoks were used to hunting and fighting in groups. Stormtroopers that challenge a single Ewok face-to-face finds little trouble, yet it’s the 4 spears that are approaching him from the back that will prove his downfall.
Those little teddy bears were actually quite vicious, come to think about it.
The Stormtroopers are scattered at this point and fighting against camouflaged enemies who are pack hunters. The bunker would’ve provided some cover, but there were no trenches, landmines, or heavy repeating blasters anywhere to be seen. The overconfident Imperial officers never considered the primitive Ewoks to be a viable threat, so they never bothered to build proper defenses. The Ewoks however were on their own turf and fighting for their very way of life.
But there is one thing that all guerrilla forces fear: armored vehicles. The advantage in asymmetrical warfare still resides to the force with the biggest guns.
But the Ewoks had a few tricks up their sleeve here as well. The Ewoks already had native traps designed to defend against the enormous troll-like Gorax, which would sometimes attack Ewok villages. That’s canon, y’all. The Ewoks easily used those Gorax traps – trip lines, rolling logs, etc. – to take out several AT-STs.
The Battle of Endor: The Ewoks Get Special Forces Support
Yet, the tide still was beginning to turn back to the Imperials. But as fortune would have it, the Ewoks were being supported by foreign special forces, namely General Solo’s team. When Chewbacca hijacked one AT-ST and used it to blast another AT-ST, the victory was pretty much sealed.
With a few remaining Stormtroopers running scattershot through the forest, General Solo’s team took the opportunity to take the bunker. Sure, the Imperial officer is pretty gullible when he opened the blast door, but let’s cut the guy some slack. No one can withstand the Solo charm.
How Furry Ewoks Defeated Stormtroopers and Saved the Galaxy
Asymmetrical warfare has taught us that just because another military is “primitive”, it doesn’t mean they aren’t a threat. The guerrilla tactics of the Ewoks first scattered, then continued to thin the Imperial forces. And the typical Imperial arrogance ensured they took the bait.
Further, the tactics the Ewoks first developed in fighting the Gorax proved to be real, effective tactics for disabling the heavy armor of AT-STs as well. These are the tactics that even had General Solo remark, “Not bad for a furball.”
So imagine you are a Stormtrooper. Rolling logs beneath your feet are making it difficult to find your footing. Meanwhile, you’ve just been pummeled with large stones, knocking you face down in the forest floor. As you roll over, a camouflaged hunting group appears suddenly to swarm and overwhelm you, thrusting spears and knives into vulnerable joints in your armor, finding flesh in the neck, hip, and shoulder area especially. As you bleed out, you can see in their eyes the determination that comes with fighting for your home, your tribe, and the very things your hold sacred and dear.
Are you afraid of teddy bears now?