I still lament Disney’s decision to relegate the Extended Universe of Star Wars novels, comics, and video games to a non-cannon “legends” status, meaning that, at least according to the property’s new owners, it didn’t really happen. There has been so much amazing content from that era, starting with the memorable and compelling Heir to the Empire novels by Timothy Zahn, that it seems a waste to just say that all those wonderful stories never happened. Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, Corran Horn, Kyle Katarn and Dash Rendar… those great characters may never have actually existed, though it’s possible some of them may be salvaged in the Disney NWO for Star Wars.
I wasn’t terribly into the New Jedi Order series of novels. I’d been reading the books a long time at that point, and had developed a kind of weariness with continuing the journey. After reading the first book, Vector Prime, I decided not to continue reading after enduring the heroic, but untimely death of a major character, Chewbacca. I kept tabs on the developments of that series, but didn’t read any further than Wikipedia (as well as Wookieepedia) in order to see what had been going on.
Now, I’ll admit, I was tempted several times to start reading again. The synopses of the plots and action alone were compelling and inviting to me. From Corran Horn’s duel with a Yuuzhan Vong over the fate of a planet, to the Jedi strike team’s disaster at Myrkr (resulting in Anakin Solo’s death), there were a lot of stories that clearly had stark impacts on the cast of characters, and the universe of Star Wars itself. I held firm, but I researched extensively the stories that really held my interest.
Perhaps the most epic, heroic, and downright legendary one was the final fate of Ganner Rhysode.
Ganner Rhysode was a Jedi character, who had been among the first students in Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Academy on Yavin IV. He was a promising Jedi, but was also vain, obsessed with his looks, and a bit too “swashbuckling” and concerned with playing the hero to actually work on being a hero. All that changed on a mission with Corran Horn, where Ganner received a prominent facial scar, which he left as a reminder to be more humble and not overestimate his own abilities. It was a good development for the character.
Later, Ganner finds Jacen Solo undercover on Coruscant, and apparently helping the Yuuzhan Vong. Captured and tormented by the Vong and Jacen, he eventually comes to learn that Jacen has been working to get close to the World Brain controlling the mass terraforming of Coruscant. When Jacen goes to commune with the World Brain, Ganner comes to terms with his desire to be a hero, and elects to stay behind in the Well of the World Brain to hold off the Yuuzhan Vong warriors who are pursuing to stop them. He knows it is a sacrifice that will cost him his life.
What unfolds is one of the most jaw-dropping displays of heroism I’ve read about in Star Wars.
Led by Nom Anor, a prominent Yuuzhan Vong leader, thousands of warriors come to the Well, ready to cut Ganner down. Nom Anor attempts to reason with Ganner, who refuses to yield and allow them to pass. But Ganner will not yield.
“You are only one man!” Nom Anor tells him.
“I am only one Jedi,” Ganner replies. That line still gives me shivers.
Ganner goes on to claim the threshold for himself, and that any Yuuzhan Vong who wants to pass will only die if they try. “Bring on your thousands, one at a time or all in a rush. I don’t give a daman. None shall pass!” he claims, and the fight begins.
At first the Vong warriors attempt to take turns facing him in one-on-one combat, honorably. But Ganner takes them all down, one by one. They start moving in on him in groups, hoping to overpower and wear him down, but Ganner manages to take all of them out as well. He sustains minor scratches and wounds from some of the Vongs’ poisoned weapons, but due to his connection to the Force, Ganner has essentially become one with the Force and is able to shrug the damage off to continue fighting–and winning.
The groups got larger. Ganner Rhysode kept winning, piling the bodies of his fallen foes to make barriers for the newcomers. And eventually, Ganner defeated all of his opponents. At that point, the Vong unleashed a tank beast on him, and Ganner used the Force to bring the entire Senate dome down on them and himself, sacrificing himself to guarantee Jacen access to the World Brain, which allowed him to influence the organism’s worldshaping of Coruscant. It also allowed Jacen, who would be important to ending the war later, to escape.
The display of tenacity and martial prowess displayed by Ganner by thousands of Yuuzhan Vong eventually earned him a place among their gods. A legend developed around the fight, in which “the Ganner” is an invincible Jedi giant who guards the Gate to the Lands of the Dead with his ever-burning blade of light, making sure the dead do not return to trouble the living. There are words engraved on the stone of the Gate, reading: “NONE SHALL PASS”
When your enemies are so impressed by you that they place you in their mythology, then you’ve definitely done something right.
I can’t help but be floored by this story. Even just the summary and scant dialog I’ve read make me shake my head in wonder. Writer Matthew Stover must have an amazing imagination, as well as a strong liking of the character, to give him such a strong send-off. Even Chewbacca, whose heroic sacrifice was forever seared into my memory, wasn’t given so epic a death scene. No one else in Star Wars has received that kind of treatment, and it was something that really stood out to me.
There’s no word as to whether we’ll get to see Ganner Rhysode in the new Disney versions of Star Wars, but I hope we’ll see some iteration of his legend in the movies at some point, as it’s truly a tale worthy of film.