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"Let that be a lesson for you, my dear. Never underestimate the power of poetry."
―Holshef, to Merei Spanjaf[src]

Holshef was a human male living on Lothal. He was an old man with wispy white hair who painted and wrote poetry. His artistic expressions against the Galactic Empire resulted in an arrest warrant under an Imperial directive known as Operation Guiding Light and forced him into hiding. He paid credits to Yahenna Laxo of the Gray Syndicate to stay safe, but Laxo sheltered individuals only so long as he felt it to be to his own advantage.

The death of Laxo left Holshef in great danger, as a bounty remained on him. Thus, Merei Spanjaf, a human female who came to know and like him through her activities with the Gray Syndicate, sought to spirit him off-world. As the Empire's crackdown on Lothal tightened, Holshef was imminent danger. Spanjaf eventually removed him from his place of hiding in a hasty and risky plan to escape, at which point the two were directly targeted by a dangerous bounty hunter. A wild chase left the bounty hunter dead, with Holshef escaping from the planet with the help of a cantina owner known as Old Jho, and being dropped off on the planet Garel.

BiographyEdit

Early lifeEdit

"Did you ever taste the greel-wood syrup from Far Hiradne?"
"My first job was as an apprentice sap collector there."
"I have a bottle of vintage Hiradne syrup in the back."
―Old Jho and Holshef[src]
Lothal FDNP

Holshef loved his home planet, Lothal.

Holshef was a human male who lived on the planet Lothal under the Galactic Republic and later its successor, the Galactic Empire. His grandmother had come to the planet as a young woman and built the family home in Capital City. In his youth, his first job was as an apprentice sap collector, gathering sap to make greel-wood syrup from the trees of the Far Hiradne region. He also spent time in his youth at the reliquary of a saint. When the Empire first annexed Lothal, in approximately 18 BBY,[3] he and his family threw a party because they felt the Empire could unify the galaxy in a better way than the Republic ever could.[1]

A fugitive artistEdit

"There's so much the Empire could do to bind the galaxy together, to create a more perfect union of worlds the way the Republic never could. But what has it done instead? Poisoned Lothal's air and water, when protecting them would have only cost a few percentage points of profit. I thought that was wrong, and I thought surely someone in the Empire would understand it was wrong. I thought if I pointed it out, someone would stop it."
―Holshef[src]

Holshef eventually learned that the Empire was strip-mining the planet and rapidly destroying its forests to build heavy industry.[2] The Lothalian was upset with the fact that the Empire was poisoning Lothal's air and water when it could have been prevented[1] by using less aggressive methods such as making use of the local workforce instead of relying on crude harvester droids.[4] As a result, Holshef wrote poems and painted pictures to express his objections, but only ended up with an arrest warrant issued against him for his trouble,[2] as the Empire was cracking down on all dissent and nostalgia on the planet under a directive code-named Operation Guiding Light.[1]

He thought about going to see Arihnda Pryce, Governor of Lothal, regarding his concerns, thinking she would understand, but was told by his daughter that it was a bad idea. As such, he was forced into hiding, paying credits to Yahenna Laxo of the Gray Syndicate, a small-time criminal syndicate and protectorate based on Lothal, to keep safe. His misdeeds against the Empire were different from most of those being sheltered by Laxo, which generally fell into the category of gambling debts or other self-inflicted trouble.[2]

Merei Spanjaf

Merei Spanjaf helped Holshef escape Imperial persecution.

As part of her duties for the Gray Syndicate,[2] in or shortly after 4 BBY,[5] Merei Spanjaf would sometimes visit Holshef. A teenage human girl with slicing skills, Spanjaf had been drawn into the Syndicate due to her investigations into the Empire's capture of her boyfriend Zare Leonis's older sister, Dhara. An attendee of Capital City's Vocational School for Institutional Security, Spanjaf was forced into the Gray Syndicate's activities against her will due to her need for a snooper program as part of her investigations. She collected Holshef's credits to give to Laxo. Holshef would offer her tarine tea and ask her to describe things like the color of the grass or the sunset outside, and she found him to be terribly lonely. She empathized with his complaints about the Empire, and he found her to be a friendly face, promising to paint her a picture, though nothing that would get her in trouble by upsetting the Empire.[2]

As part of her continued duties, Spanjaf visited Holshef to inform him that Rosey, also of the Gray Syndicate, would be moving him to a new hiding place in order to ensure his continued protection from the Empire. At some point after this, Laxo sold the details of Holshef's location to a bounty hunter and assigned Spanjaf to take the hunter to Holshef's newest hideout, 1044 Chapel, a warehouse building in the industrial quarter of Lothal's Capital City. Spanjaf was to wait as the bounty hunter collected the Empire's bounty on Holshef, a portion of which would go to Laxo. This was intended by Laxo to be punishment for an earlier attempt by Spanjaf to cross him, but was never to be. Shortly following Laxo's ultimatum, Ake's Tavern, the Syndicate's headquarters, was caught in a raid orchestrated by Spanjaf herself and carried out by Imperial stormtroopers.[2]

The raid left Laxo dead and Spanjaf seemingly free of his and the Syndicate's influence, as the Empire believed her to be an innocent civilian who had been taken hostage in order to stop an investigation being conducted by her mother. Holshef, however, was still a wanted man, and his former protectors that he had been paying were now dead.[2]

A need to escapeEdit

"Living the rest of my life without the sound of the wind in the grasslands? Or the sight of thunderheads rolling in over the mountains?"
"Holshef, you have to listen to me. If you stay here you'll never see or hear those things again. They'll put you in a cell and all you'll see is metal. And all you'll hear is machines."
―Holshef and Merei Spanjaf[src]

Following the assault, Spanjaf wondered what had become of Holshef. As soon as she was in a position to do so, she visited the warehouse where she was told he was being kept. Upon arrival, she spoke with a whiskered Lutrillian, who warned her that Holshef would not be able to stay because he had not received Holshef's credits. She told him that alternative arrangements were being made and gave him enough credits to cover the week, plus a little extra, telling him to only deal with her regarding Holshef's situation.[1]

Upon seeing her, Holshef greeted her cheerily, saying that he had forgotten her name, but she reminded him that she had never revealed it to him, as that would have been too dangerous. He was amused by the intrigue and pleased at the idea that he would be moved within the week, as he would have a chance to see the sun and enjoy early spring, though Spanjaf lamented that it was still cold. Both commiserated about the fact that they could no longer enjoy the smell of the jogan blossoms, and as Spanjaf's eyes watered at thoughts of time past, he offered to read her poetry about Lothal's fragrances in the time of his youth. Overwhelmed, she fled for the stairs, reminding him again that he would be moved soon.[1]

Spanjaf continuously fretted over the problem of Holshef before finally reaching the conclusion that there was no safety for him unless she moved him off-world. At dinner with her parents, she floated as a topic of conversation that the Empire was cracking down on off-world travel from Lothal, saying it was something her classmates at the Vocational School for Institutional Security had been discussing. Her mother told her that while it was true unauthorized launches were reacted to quickly, travel was still possible if one submitted to an ID check and questioning by security personnel, who had been trained to spot people who were nervous or hiding something.[1]

Hatching a planEdit

Jho Crop

The Ithorian Old Jho took a liking to Holshef.

"I have a friend who needs a ticket off Lothal. One that won't require proper ID."
"Not easy to do these days—what with the blockade and all the trouble."
"Even if it's life or death?"
―Merei Spanjaf goes to Old Jho to try to get Holshef off Lothal[src]

Spanjaf realized that she would not be able to get Holshef off Lothal via the spaceport. She returned to the warehouse to find the Lutrillian in a state of near-panic about the recent Imperial crackdowns. She was able to give him enough credits to cover ten more days, but he warned her that Holshef could not stay any longer than that. Soon after, she began having nightmares about Holshef's fate.[1]

Spanjaf decided to visit Old Jho, a contact she had met during her time working with the Gray Syndicate. She told him about Holshef and he asked her what it was Holshef did to anger the Empire. She showed him some of Holshef's poetry, which caused him to reminisce about the spine trees of Pelamir Gorge in the forests, forests which had been cut down by the Empire. He told her that he had people who owed him a favor and to be there with her friend and credits in six days.[1]

Four days later, Spanjaf visited Holshef, only to run into an unexpected problem. Holshef simply did not want to leave, as Lothal had been his home for all his life. Though Spanjaf sympathized with the old man's plight, she helped him realize that he would be of no help to anyone if he was locked up on Lothal, but he still had a chance to help the rest of the galaxy. This seemed to strike something within him, and he noted that she still had not told him her name. She told him, and in barely a whisper, he agreed to go, then sobbed for what he had lost and was about to lose.[1]

Sudden flightEdit

"Listen to me. We're in danger. We're going to go as fast as we can without getting stopped by a patrol. And if a patrol does try to stop us, we're going to have to go a lot faster than that. So I need you to do two things. First, shut up. Second, hold on tighter than you've ever held on before."
―Merei Spanjaf, to Holshef[src]
Garel

Holshef managed to escape to the planet Garel.

Spanjaf soon realized that there was much more at stake than Holshef. Her deceptions were finally catching up with her. The Empire had arrested Hestia Tarleton, a girl whose photo had been used a stand-in for her. Spanjaf knew that she had hours at most before the Imperials realized that Tarleton was not the person they were looking for. She contacted her family, told them to meet her, and then went immediately to Holshef, telling him that they were leaving right away. Holshef tried to gather stacks of poetry, a year's worth of poems, only for her to cut him off at one week.[1]

What followed for Holshef was a wild ride on a jumpspeeder of the type the old man had never experienced in his life. The two nearly made it to Old Jho's when they were almost blasted off the bike. A wild chase ensued as Spanjaf realized that the individual chasing them was the bounty hunter who had previously been after Holshef. As the chase continued, Holshef's bag of poetry papers slipped and one of them flew away in the wind, covering the face of the bounty hunter and causing him to crash into a droid truck. As the truck exploded, the two made their escape while Holshef mused, "Never underestimate the power of poetry."[1]

The two arrived at Old Jho's, where Holshef discussed his and Spanjaf's thrilling exploits, and later Lothal's history, with Jho. The two established quite a rapport while Spanjaf confessed the truth of her activities to her parents. That night, the group slept together in a storeroom and the next morning, Spanjaf awoke to find Holshef absent, though her father told her that Holshef was out "mooning over wildflowers" with Jho.[1]

She later found Holshef scribbling with a stylus as she received an important comm message from a group of old friends she knew as the Spectres, who were to meet up with the group at the edge of the Garel system after Jho brought them there. Shortly after this, however, Spanjaf learned that her boyfriend Zare Leonis was scheduled for execution by the Empire. The entire group was forced to flee Lothal in a hurry. Spanjaf left Holshef with Old Jho, joined up with her parents, Gandr and Jessa and then gathered up Leonis's parents, Tepha and Leo. Evading pursuit by the Empire, the entire group then left Lothal on Jho's freight hauler. Spanjaf was delivered to a rendezvous with the Spectres to rescue her boyfriend Zare Leonis on Arkanis, while Holshef was dropped off on Garel,[1] a planet in the Lothal sector[6] which, like Lothal, was ostensibly under the Empire's control but had not been oppressed like the former was, making it a place of refuge.[7]

Personality and traitsEdit

"When I smell jogan I'm sixteen again. Tall and strong, with a rakish black mustache. It's the closest thing we poor creatures have to magic, my dear—the ability to be transported through time by a waft of scent that unlocks memory."
―Holshef[src]
JoganFruit-EP

The smell of jogan unlocked memories for Holshef.

By 4 BBY,[5] Holshef was a tiny, pale man with a halo of wispy white hair,[2] though in his past, when he was just sixteen years old, he was tall and strong with a rakish black mustache.[1] He was a kindly individual with a single daughter, but carried a great sadness about him. He had a sense of justice and used artistic means to express his dissatisfaction with how the Galactic Empire had poisoned the planet Lothal. Spending his time in isolation due to being wanted by the Empire, he took comfort in the presence of a kindly face.[2]

He was fiercely loyal to Lothal, to the point that he had trouble accepting the idea of leaving it, even if staying placed his life in danger. He enjoyed the planet's bountiful nature prior to its ruination by the Empire, including the lush forests and subtle changing of the seasons. He could be transported to memories of youth simply by smelling certain scents of Lothal. He wished to share his poetry with as many people as possible and was very protective of it. Even knowing his own life was in danger, he clung to his sheaves of paper, abandoning a year's worth of work only very reluctantly. Often lost in his own memories, he sometimes seemed oblivious to the very real danger that a bounty on him from the Empire meant.[1]

Behind the scenesEdit

Holshef appears in Servants of the Empire: Imperial Justice,[2] a 2015 novel by Jason Fry that is part of the series Star Wars Rebels: Servants of the Empire.[8] Holshef is one of the several individuals in the book being hidden from the attentions of the Galactic Empire by Yahenna Laxo of the Gray Syndicate, others being Apapaba, Durchine, Kinlo, Marhas and Pinson, though Holshef is the only one who actually appears within the story.[2] Holshef's story was continued in Servants of the Empire: The Secret Academy, in which Merei Spanjaf sought to move him safely off-world.[1]

Via an officially registered account on a Star Wars fan-forum, the Jedi Council Forums of TheForce.net, Fry responded to a comment from a fan wondering when readers might see "Holshef's Poems." Fry described the idea as being "awesomely unlikely to happen," but suggested that he might include such a poem as an Easter egg in a future title.[9]

Fry also stated on his official blog, Jason Fry's Dorkery, that the rescue of Holshef initially "had more moving parts." In his original version of the tale, Spanjaf had additionally enlisted his daughter in the rescue, as well as playing a game of cat and mouse with the bounty hunter which Laxo had sold him to. This plotline was ultimately cut in the interest of economizing the story, as there was no room for another plot thread.[10]

AppearancesEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 1.16 Servants of the Empire: The Secret Academy
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 Servants of the Empire: Imperial Justice
  3. In Adventures in Wild Space: The Steal, the character of Ezra Bridger is an infant. According to Star Wars Rebels: The Visual Guide, Bridger was born on the first Empire Day, which was in 19 BBY according to Star Wars: Galactic Atlas, thus placing this title at or around 18 BBY. Within The Steal, the character CR-8R states that Lothal invited in the Galactic Empire "three months ago."
  4. Servants of the Empire: Edge of the Galaxy
  5. 5.0 5.1 The events of this article take place in or between "Empire Day," which marks the beginning of 4 BBY; and "A Princess on Lothal," which is the first known episode to take place in 3 BBY. As such, we can deduce that this event takes place in or near 4 BBY. For more information, see Wookieepedia's Timeline of Star Wars Rebels Events.
  6. Ultimate Star Wars
  7. Rebels-mini-logo Star Wars Rebels – "Droids in Distress"
  8. Amazon favicon Servants of the Empire: Imperial Justice on Amazon.com (backup link)
  9. The Official Jason Fry Discussion Thread on the Jedi Council Forums (Literature board; posted by jasonfry on Oct 29, 2015 at 3:30 PM; accessed September 7, 2017) (backup link) (screenshot) "Rey's Survival Guide is cool and everything, but when are we getting Holshef's Poems?" "Ha. That would be awesome. (And awesomely unlikely to happen.) But you have inspired me to find a place for a Holshef poem as an Easter egg somewhere.""
  10. Tumblr Jason Fry's Dorkery — Author's Notes: The Secret Academy, Pt. 2 on Tumblr (backup link) "Originally Holshef's rescue had more moving parts: Merei enlisted his daughter to help and played a game of cat and mouse with the bounty hunter trying to apprehend him. But I realized I didn't have room to weave another strand into the plot. In fact, I was worried I didn't have enough room to do everything necessary to wrap up book and series properly. So Holshef's daughter got pared down to a quick reference and the bounty hunter was reduced to a briefly glimpsed antagonist." (screenshot)

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