While some initially criticized Return of the Jedi for being too childish, I had just turned four when the movie debuted. All of the things that were being nitpicked were things I loved!
I saw the film in theaters, barely surviving the horrors of Jabba and his pet rancor. For me, the then-polarizing Ewoks were a welcomed respite. I wouldn’t call Return of the Jedi the “best” Star Wars movie, but unless The Force Awakens has a scene where Bib Fortuna’s grandson runs a cantina with a reprogrammed Death Star droid, it’ll always be my favorite.
I had a front row seat for the deluge of Return of the Jedi bric-a-brac, which — if you didn’t know — went a whole lot further than Kenner’s old action figures. All three films in the original trilogy were merchandised to death, but in terms of sheer volume, Return of the Jedi had to be #1.
Dig deep, and you’ll find plenty of Return of the Jedi collectibles of the “weirder” sort, like this incredible Things To Do and Make book, published by Happy House in 1983. It was partially a coloring book, partially a puzzle book, and partially an activity book — the perfect blend for Star Wars fans who weren’t sure just how lazy they were going to be on any particular day. (“Let’s see…will I color in Darth Vader, or will I follow this 50-step process to build my own paper Ewok Glider? Decisions!”)
There are too many goodies within the book to feature in this small space, but down below are scans of several highlights. If any of the pages pique your interest, click them for much larger printable versions! (Trust me, I knew better than to mention a Yoda-themed crossword puzzle and not give you the chance to play along.)
The bulk of the pages were spent on ordinary puzzles. (Or at least, puzzles that would’ve been ordinary if they didn’t feature our favorite Star Wars aliens!)
The “A-Mazing Tusken Raider” page lets you navigate the layered bandages which cover a Tusken Raider’s face. I think it’s safe to say that there aren’t many other books that give readers such an opportunity.
The “Hidden Ewoks” page challenges us to locate four Ewoks in the forest. Perhaps in deference to the Ewoks’ status as “something for the kids,” it’s by far the easiest puzzle in the book. (I do however commend the artist for showing me how it would look if Logray climbed trees while maintaining a perfectly horizontal balance.)
More remarkable than these two puzzles is the fact that both of their descriptions mention EV-9D9. Wow, EV-9D9?! This is a book full of Yodas and Lukes and Vaders. EV-9D9 was a pretty obscure character to go pulling out of the hat!
(And no, I’m not complaining. I’ve only once complained about anything relating to EV-9D9, and that was just because I couldn’t find her action figure.)
Actually, the book’s version of EV-9D9 is somehow even more sinister than the one from the film. Evidence suggests that she both beheaded C-3PO and all but eviscerated R2-D2. (Well, “eviscerate” may be the wrong word. Not sure how one goes about disemboweling a droid.)
The book also offered several crafts projects, where you were to cut the pages, grab some glue and turn a rainy afternoon into pure Star Wars excitement.
In this case, we’re given instructions on how to transform a cardboard salt container into a Darth Vader bank. The end result looks less like Darth Vader and more like the kind of jet Darth Vader might’ve piloted had he appeared in an ’80s cartoon. I dig it.
You’d imagine that a Yoda-themed crossword puzzle would feature clues exclusive to the Star Wars universe, but here, that’s not the case. I mean, one of the clues has us filling in the blanks from My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.
Maybe I’m reaching, but isn’t that odd? I expected stuff like “Chewbacca is a member of the ________ species,” and instead I’m being asked to identify “stewed, sweetened apples” and the referees of baseball games. It’s just so strange to write words like “umpire” over Yoda’s forehead.
Strange, but somehow satisfying.
“Luke’s Magic Pictures” may be my favorite page in the whole book. Here, we’re supposed to stare at pictures for a minute, then bask in our own mastery of the Force by seeing the same images appear when we look at a blank wall!
Yeah, the game basically amounts to “strain your eyes badly enough, and stuff will happen.” I don’t care. It lets me become a Jedi just by staring at Ben Kenobi’s nose for 60 seconds. I’d have taken it as a kid, and I’ll take it now, too.
All in all, a wonderful book that let kids take their Star Wars obsessions one step — or 48 pages — further. For collectors, the good news is that books like this have remained enormously cheap. Even in unused condition, they’ll only rarely run you more than a few bucks.
They’re not the showiest pieces of Star Wars merchandise out there, but if you just wanna curl up on the couch and feel like a five-year-old, these books are strong in the Force!