He is who would Han Solo would be if not for Chewbacca, Luke, and Leia. Owner of a fleet of red Star Destroyers. Sometime ally of the New Republic. A smuggler-king who plays all sides.
He is who would Han Solo would be if not for Chewbacca, Luke, and Leia. He is the owner of a fleet of red Star Destroyers and founder and and head of the Smuggler’s Alliance. Sometime ally of the New Republic, he is a smuggler-king who plays all sides, even against Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Author Timothy Zahn was the first allowed to create new in-canon Star Wars stories with his 1992 novel, Heir to the Empire, and its two sequels. In the Thrawn Trilogy, Zahn gave generations of Star Wars fans three iconic new characters that were is complex, interesting, and beloved as much as Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Han Solo. Zahn’s characters were Mara Jade, whom we’ve covered before in “Who in the Galaxy is That?”, Grand Admiral Thrawn, a villain who has since made the jump back into Star Wars canon with a recurring role on Star Wars: Rebels, and Talon Karrde.
Talon Karrde is a smuggler-king who is where Han Solo “might have been… if [he] hadn’t linked up with Leia,” in the words of his creator, Timothy Zahn, in an interview given to Star Wars Adventure Journal, Number 1, February 1994. Think of Han Solo—the original Han Solo who shot first in the Mos Eisley Cantina. Now imagine that Han Solo without a steadfast friend like Chewbacca, without a moral compass like Luke, without the love of the Princess. Where would that Han Solo go in life? What could he do? Where would his smuggling career take him? Talon Karrde is the answer to all those questions because he is Han Solo without friends.
Karrde, like Solo, is an honorable, decent being who lives by a code, but it’s a code that is shaped by his own ideas of honor and justice. Both smugglers suffered setbacks and heartbreak, setting both into the frame of mind that the galaxy was composed of people looking out mostly for themselves. That’s the character of Han Solo when we first meet him in Episode IV: A New Hope. Then, thinking only of himself, he takes on a charter flight that alters his life forever. Karrde never had such a fateful encounter, and he never had a loyal and mechanically-adept canine companion to give keep his heart open. Instead, Karrde continued looking out for himself, using his considerable smuggling skill and keen intellect to advance beyond labor into management. Karrde built a smuggling empire that also dealt in information brokering, eventually making him an asset to both the Galactic Empire and the Rebel Alliance, and, later the New Republic that grew from the Rebellion’s victory over the Empire.
Karrde didn’t play both sides of the conflict. Rather, he was neutral to all conflicts, dealing openly with all parties. The quality and depth of the information his network obtained, how fairly he passed along that information to anyone willing to pay, and how honestly he dealt with all customers, made Karrde too useful to all sides for them to eliminate him. That didn’t stop several parties from trying, of course, which is when the dangerous Han-shot-first aspect of Talon Karrde came to the fore.
When the great Chiss leader, Grand Admiral Thrawn, united the fractured Empire and began his near successful campaign to eradicate the fledgling New Republic, Talon Karrde was conducting business as usual, dealing information and smuggled goods to the New Republic and to Thrawn’s forces. As the head of one of the galaxy’s top crime organizations, Karrde had many operations and activities running simultaneously. One of those resulted in the accidental capture of Luke Skywalker with the assistance of Karrde’s own top lieutenant, Mara Jade. Thrawn had a bounty on Skywalker, and Karrde wanted to know why before offering the hero of the New Republic to the commander-in-chief of the reconstituted Empire. Because of the length of time Karrde held Skywalker without alerting Thrawn, Karrde realized that delivering the Jedi Master to the ruthless Grand Admiral would make the latter target Karrde himself. To protect himself, Karrde was ready to kill Skywalker.
The arrival of Han Solo and Lando Calrissian forced Karrde’s hand by way of his sense of honor. Ultimately Karrde sided with Skywalker, actively helping he and Jade evade Thrawn and reunite with Solo and Calrissian.
That event swayed Karrde onto the side of the New Republic for the duration of its conflict with Thrawn, and on many occasions thereafter. Karrde never became the hero Solo did, but that first crucial choice to aid Skywalker set Karrde on a path of being able to indulge the better man behind the “looking out for Number One” credo. While Karrde never worked against his own personal interests, he often chose lower-profit angles, and even occasionally gambled his interests entirely, to serve the side of right in a given a situation.
His organization, at first unnamed but later titled the Smuggler’s Alliance, was conceived as the opposite of Jabba the Hutt’s. Karrde valued loyalty and responsibility over treachery and dishonesty, while Karrde himself preferred to be honorable and likeable as a leader in contrast to Jabba’s preference for leading through fear and intimidation. His smuggling and information-brokering empire was decentralized for efficiency and security, maintaining permanent and temporary offices and storehouses on dozens of planets. He headed the organization from The Wild Karrde, the smuggler-king’s personal ship and flagship of an armada that included a pilfered fleet of Imperial Star Destroyers painted red.
As a what-might-have-been variant of Han Solo, and having his own compelling adventures, Talon Karrde is a popular character who has grown far beyond Zahn’s original trilogy to become a favorite secondary character in the Legends ne Expanded Universe of Star Wars. He has appeared in numerous novels, including additional books by Timothy Zahn, short stories, comic books, and several Star Wars table-top games. In the now defunct but much-loved massively multi-player online roleplaying game (MMORG) Star Wars Galaxies, Talon Karrde was a non-player character who sent players of Smuggler-class characters on missions on various planets and in space in a quest to ultimately join Talon Karrde’s Smuggler Alliance faction. In the Star Wars Customizable Card Game, Timothy Zahn himself modeled for Talon Karrde. Zahn’s Wild West gambler look became the template for Karrde that has been honored ever since in every visual depiction of the character.
What in the Galaxy are those Symbols?
Throughout Who in the Galaxy is That? profiles you may encounter one or more of the following symbols.
Here’s what they mean:
- Sources and media cited as canon contain information that is officially part of the Star Wars film universe, which also includes non-film media such as books, comic books, games, and more. This means the information is officially part of the history of Star Wars that appears in the films. It came from, or may appear within or influence, the events of a Star Wars film.
- Following Return of the Jedi, George Lucas stated that he would not make other Star Wars movies. He then opened Star Wars to other creators and media. Carefully overseen by Lucas’s company, Lucas Arts, hundreds of new Star Wars novels, comic books and graphic novels, video games, and television shows were created to expand the Star Wars universe and tell stories in all directions—from thousands of years before Luke Skywalker was born to thousands of years after, from filling in the histories of the greatest Star Wars legends to bringing life to every background alien in the Cantina scene. This was the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and it was all canon until new Star Wars films were once again possible. Disney and Lucas Arts then found themselves penned in by the massive amount of material from other creators and projects. They simply couldn’t make Episode VII and beyond because every moment in the lives of the major characters of Han, Luke, Leia, and others had already been chronicled in the Expanded Universe, and very little of that could easily be translated to feature films easily followed by, and appealing to, the many different types of Star Wars fans who loved the Original Trilogy. As a result, a large portion of the formerly-canon Expanded Universe stories were declared non-canon, unofficial in terms of the film continuity. The stories still exist and continue to expand, but now in an alternate reality called Star Wars Legends while other new stories are created alongside them within the universe of the films.
- Though rare, you’ll see this symbol appear from time-to-time in Who in the Galaxy is That? Star Wars fans are many and varied, and they like to create their own movies, stories, comics, artwork, and more based in the Star Wars universe. Occasionally, a fan-created work is so good and becomes so popular that it gains super star status all on its own. When such rarities relate to the characters profiled in Who in the Galaxy is That?, they are identified by the Fandom-Created symbol.
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Have you ever wondered, “who in the galaxy is that?” Tell us in the comments who you’ve wondered about in the Star Wars universe of films, books, comics, games, and even toys. If you know the character’s name, tell us, but if you don’t know a name, tell us where we can find the character that has piqued your curiosity. Something like “the third bounty hunter from the left in the Star Destroyer scene in Empire Strikes Back” works quite well in directing us to who you’re thinking about. Whomever you wonder about, we might just profile in Who in the Galaxy is That?