When Disney acquired Lucasfilm back in 2012 and planned the future of the Star Wars franchise, they made the controversial decision to essentially wipe the slate clean, giving all the previously published novels and comic books the “Legends” moniker. This meant some fan-favorite characters were not part of the series canon, including famed villain Grand Admiral Thrawn. However, a few years into this new era for the galaxy far, far away, Thrawn is now officially part of the property, serving as the primary antagonist in season 3 of Star Wars Rebels. His rise within the Empire will be covered in a new novel by Timothy Zahn, which will be released this spring.
The book, simply titled Thrawn, contains the intriguing revelation Thrawn worked with Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars, while also implying the Chiss knew Anakin became Darth Vader. But before he took a leadership role with the Imperials, Thrawn came from far more humble beginnings, and now his first interaction with the Empire has been revealed in a new excerpt unveiled online.
Coming courtesy of Express, the section is told from the perspective of Eli Vanto, an Imperial translator brought to interact with an alien prisoner from an unknown world. Eli recognizes this newcomer (Thrawn) is a member of the Chiss species, which he long believed to be a “Wild Space myth” based on stories he heard in his youth. Through a conversation, Eli discovers that Thrawn is proficient in the Sy Bisti language, but also understands some Basic. Vanto and Captain Parack of the Star Destroyer Strikefast learn Thrawn’s full name is “Mitth’raw’nuruodo,” but Thrawn himself offers the shortened version as an easier option for the humans to say.
The recent novel Aftermath: Empire’s End dealt heavily with the mysterious Unknown Regions of the universe and directly mentioned Thrawn by name. Apparently, Emperor Palpatine only kept the Chiss around due to his knowledge of these areas. In the earlier Thrawn excerpt (where Thrawn talks with Palpatine), he says he’s aware of threats from the Unknown Regions that could endanger the Empire. It would appear, then, that the Disney canon is following Legends closely in regards to the portrayal of Thrawn. The Grand Admiral did not originate in the galaxy viewers are overtly familiar with; he comes from another galaxy, and that should be interesting to explore. The First Order of the sequel trilogy spent some time in the Unknown Regions, so this is an aspect the story group is fully embracing.
With the current emphasis on Thrawn and his history, it’s worth wondering if this is something the films will look to tackle at some point. Even for a Star Wars movie, there’s still a surprisingly limited amount of information available on Benicio del Toro’s role in The Last Jedi, and a popular fan theory is that he’s playing a live-action Thrawn. Time will tell if that pans out, but Lucasfilm hasn’t been averse to bringing characters from the animated series to the big screen (see: Saw Gerrera), and many would be excited to see Thrawn become a part of the Skywalker saga. Hopefully the new novel has some more clues for readers to chew on, especially since the Episode VIII trailer should be arriving around the same time.