One of the best things about Star Wars is the plethora of great quotes from the characters. From “Do or do not. There is no try,” to “Never tell me the odds,” there’s a life lesson or a witty retort for almost every situation we can encounter. But when it comes to some of the best lines in the saga, there’s a scoundrel who has a way with words: Hondo Ohnaka. This pirate has lived the Star Wars dream: He led a pirate empire, tangled with Sith and Jedi, dated a bounty hunter, and more importantly, has survived all that with a carefree attitude. Voiced by Jim Cummings, Hondo is a Weequay of many words, so here’s a look at some of his most classic wit and wisdom from each of his appearances on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Rebels.
Hondo: “Even a Sith Lord is no match for my warriors. He put up quite a fight. Blasters, cannons, that glowy thing, voom-voom…”
Obi-wan Kenobi: “You mean a lightsaber?”
Hondo: “That’s it.”
In his first episode, “Dooku Captured” from Season One, Hondo shows his smarts by playing the dumb braggart. Earlier he shows he knows what a lightsaber is when he reveals to his captive Dooku that he’s stolen the Count’s weapon. Here, he exaggerates the story to Obi-Wan and Anakin, even mimicking swinging a lightsaber around seemingly without knowing what it is called. All part of the plan to get the Jedi to underestimate him as a rube. But as he says earlier in the episode, “You don’t survive in the Outer Rim by being stupid.”
“As my sweet mother always said, ‘Son, if one hostage is good, two are better. And three, well, that’s good business.’”
This simple but solid life lesson here demonstrates some of Hondo’s leadership acumen. A good leader cultivates respect in his team, by being both smarter but also relatable. In “The Gungan General,” Captain Ohnaka makes himself likable to his crew by quoting his mother, giving her credit where credit is due, and calling her “sweet.” After all, a man who loves his mother is probably a good person. And a man who recognizes the wisdom of others is probably also smart. Plus if it all falls apart, he can blame her for the idea.
“But you know what I always say: Speak softly and drive a big tank.”
When leading a shakedown on Felucian farmers in Season Two’s “Bounty Hunters,” Hondo runs into a problem, as his victims have decided to resist him with a team of hired guns and stranded Jedi. But when words fail, he’s prepared with a backup plan: extra firepower in the form of a tank. Like the American president, Teddy Roosevelt, Hondo knows when to switch gears from asking peacefully to being able to back up his threats. But after the magnificent seven repel his attack, even Hondo knows when he should move on, shouting “This effort is no longer profitable,” and never admitting defeat.
“Hey! Hey! Someone scrape that guy off the floor. He sprung a leak.”
When his ex, Aurra Sing, shows up in “Lethal Trackdown” and then guns down Castas, her former partner in crime, Hondo recognizes the need to defuse a potentially tense situation in his stronghold. So the jovial captain uses humor to show to everyone, Aurra and his men alike, that everything’s cool and he’s fine with Aurra’s action, even if her other partner, Boba, is not.
“Oh my, look at the time. Well, my work is done.”
One of the keys of being a successful if not legitimate businessman, is knowing when to help a customer, and when not to get involved in things that are none of his business. In season five’s ‘Tipping Points’, Hondo is delivering a shipment of rocket launchers to Onderon rebels and Ahsoka Tano when Separatist commando droids start an attack. With blaster bolts firing around them, Hondo calmly realizes that this war is not something he needs to be involved with, and simply departs. Since he’s not getting paid for he and his men to fight, there’s just no need to stick around and be shot at.
Ahsoka: “I don’t want to hurt you, Hondo.”
Hondo: “I know and I appreciate it.”
In his raid on the Jedi ship Crucible to steal lightsaber crystals from younglings in “A Test of Strength,” Hondo ends up in combat with a familiar face, Ahsoka, who has dealt with Hondo both as a foe and as an ally. When the Padawan attempts to talk Hondo down while fending off his electrostaff with her lightsaber, the pirate shows his charm. His quick reply means that he won’t back down his raid, or even acknowledge that he doesn’t want to harm her, but at least he’s willing to affirm her feelings and be gracious. He could have chosen to act tough, or back down, but instead, he just goes for clever and polite. Not a man to lose his cool, even in a fight!
“I may not be as young as I once was, but I’m older.”
Hondo Ohnaka shows off how smooth he is with the ladies. Or at least how smooth he thinks he can be while carousing and enjoying a traveling circus act in “Bound for Rescue.” He dials his charm way up, while simultaneously transforming an apparent weakness, not being full of the vigor of youth, into a strength: the experience of age. With quips like this one, Hondo might even rival Yoda as a font of wisdom!
Hondo: “And I may be a pirate, but I do not like taking children into battle.”
Ahsoka: “That didn’t seem to bother you when you attacked us.”
Hondo: “Well, today is a new day, and lucky for you, today, I like children.”
Hondo seems to have some morals, even if they fluctuate when profit is his motive. But rather than betray his integrity, Hondo plays it off as his own capriciousness in “A Necessary Bond.” Rather than simply use the Jedi younglings as he would his own soldiers, or even worse, betray them, Hondo shows a more sentimental side, bonding a bit with Katooni after witnessing her assemble her lightsaber with the Force, and even deciding to rescue the rest of the Jedi instead of making his getaway. And what does he get for risking his neck by doing the right thing? The Jedi refuse to compensate him and suggest that he was trying to hijack a Jedi starship. “Oh! The thanklessness! What an accusation! I am gone! I will send you my bill!” Mock outrage is sometimes the best way to save face.
Maul: “Filth, you will pay for your insolence.”
Hondo: “Insolence! We are pirates! We don’t even know what that means.”
“Revival” is a treasure trove of Hondo quotes. By this time, Hondo has gone from being a top pirate to someone who has just had his base trashed by Grievous and the Separatist army, then has had half his crew betray him to join Maul, only to have the survivors defect back to his side when he outguns them. With so many losses, one might lose their keen sense of wit, but instead Hondo drops one-liners throughout the whole affair. Here he taunts the injured Maul and Savage Opress as they flee their encounter with Kenobi. If I had to pick one Hondo episode as my favorite, this would be it — it leaves me semi-speechless.
“Oh, the stories I could tell. So many of them true.”
Many years later, Hondo is on his own, using his guile and treachery to rebuild his former status — or at least survive. In “Brothers of the Broken Horn” from Season Two of Star Wars Rebels, Hondo immediately latches onto Ezra, who has come to his aid, and sees something more than a mark in the youth: a potential partner in crime. Here he waxes a bit nostalgic, but recognizes his own propensity for lies, and wears it as a badge of honor as a proper pirate should. Because at this point in his life, he’s not about the money alone; he misses his old life of having people around him that looked up to him.
Hondo: “Does this mean I am not getting my finder’s fee?”
Ezra: “You never were.”
Hondo: “Perfect answer. I am so proud of you right now. I’ve never had a student learn this quickly.”
By “Legends of the Lasat,” Hondo sees himself as a mentor to Ezra even if they aren’t running in the same crew. Sure, Hondo betrays the rebels to the Empire once or twice, but at least he gives them fair warning if they might end up in too deep. Just like with Katooni, Hondo has a soft spot for the quick-witted kid, and is quite the proud papa when Ezra states his own betrayal: there was no intent to pay Hondo for connecting them with some Lasat refugees.
Hondo is the perfect scoundrel — he’s unpredictable, motivated by profit most of the time, a pirate’s honor other times, and always his own survival. After all, it’s just business. Hondo is also a good role model for his ability to not take things too personally, keep a cool head under stress and be flexible in changing situations. Through good times and hard times, Hondo Ohnaka is one to use his words to turn situations towards his favor, and often that beats having a blaster at your side. So learn from Hondo’s words and be a keen talker. And drive a big tank.
James Floyd is a writer, photographer, and organizer of puzzle adventures. He’s a bit tall for a Jawa. His current project is Wear Star Wars Every Day, a fundraising effort for a refugee aid organization. You can follow him on Twitter at @jamesjawa or check out his articles on Club Jade and Big Shiny Robot.