A newly-released deleted scene from Star Wars: A Force Awakens confirms something Wookiee fans have known since Chewbacca’s public debut: The temperamental creatures like ripping arms out of sockets. By valiantly yanking out Unkar Plutt’s arm, Chewie not only protects Rey, but also manages to defy everything we know about human(oid) anatomy.
The act of ripping limbs out of their sockets has a gruesome history outside of the Star Wars universe. Drawing and quartering was a punishment meted out by the British government for treason, between 1283 and 1867, that involved ripping a body into four single-limbed pieces. The process was not as easy as Chewie makes it seem: Normally, each limb was tied to a horse, and it was only through sheer horsepower that the corpse was eventually ripped apart. Sometimes, the bodies proved to be so stubbornly unified that the horses couldn’t handle the strain, and a sword had to be used to get the quartering party started.
Even dismembering a hand from the forearm would require an extraordinary amount of strength. In a post speculating on the amount of force it would require to detach an arm from a hand chained to a wall, the disquietingly well-informed Reddit user paperairplanerace, a “health care geek” well-versed in musculoskeletal anatomy, outlined just what makes a body so hard to rip apart. It’s the tendons, which attach muscle to bone, and ligaments — which connect bones to other bones — that put up the very tough fight; the nerves and blood vessels are comparatively easy to tear. Another user, sergeantminor, adds that the force needed to sever a hand from the wrist would probably not be solely tension-based — that is, it wouldn’t involve pulling in a single direction. It’s more likely that shear forces — involving some twisting of the soon-to-be-disconnected parts — will ultimately do the trick.
While it’s almost impossible to calculate the actual amount of force required to tear those tendons and ligaments apart — you’d need biometric data, culled from living specimens, to do that — it’s safe to say that it’s unlikely even Chewbacca could pull them apart so easily. Chewie’s ability to pluck Plutt apart, as if he were a bloody hunk of monkey bread, suggests that his strength is equivalent to that of at least one medieval horse, and has impeccable tearing technique (or, of course, that Plutt’s anatomy is distinctly different from that of humans).
That said, after 39 years of Star Wars, there’s plenty we still don’t know about Chewie. Han Solo’s advice, then as now, remains salient: You should probably just let the Wookiee win.