The Book of Boba Fett is telling its story through both flashbacks and present day stories, and it’s very easy to keep them distinct. Both the plot device of the bacta tank dreams, as well as the visual look of Boba pre-bacta tank (and without his armor, too!), help viewers keep track of when these scenes are happening.
But that really only works for telling which scenes are in the ‘present day’ of the timeline and which scenes are flashbacks. How about when these scenes are set in an overall timeline? That’s a lot harder to do, because the show really doesn’t tell us. It leaves us to fill in the gaps with some other information and some imagination.
So what is the timeline for The book of Boba Fett? Let’s start with a few things we know for sure, and then fill in the surrounding details with some informed speculation.
First, it has been repeatedly said that The Mandalorian takes place around 9 ABY, which means nine years after the Battle of Yavin – and thus five years after the Battle of Endor and Return of the Jedi. So what this means is that the events of Chapter 5 in The Mandalorian season one take place approximately five years after Endor, and so when Boba Fett finds Fennec Shand in the desert, as seen in both that episode and The Book of Boba Fett Chapter 4, we can safely assume that it’s happening around five years after Return of the Jedi.
But second, we also have some framework at the front end of the timeline, as we do know what happened in the immediate aftermath of Endor as well. In The Mandalorian Chapter 9, Cobb Vanth explains how he got his armor, and it gives us some important reference of time. On the night that Mos Pelgo got word of the second Death Star being destroyed, the Mining Collective moved in and took control. So that night, Vanth fled the city and wandered the desert for days, until he was rescued by Jawas – who had Boba Fett’s armor, which they traded for the cilicax crystals Vanth had stolen. So this means Boba Fett couldn’t have been in the sarlacc pit for long, since the Jawas had his armor within days of the Battle of Endor. I find it plausible that news of the Death Star’s explosion might not have reached Mos Pelgo for some hours, or even days, and then Vanth was in the desert for days, but we’re not talking a super long period of time here. Probably at most a week or two. So when we see Boba Fett awaken inside the sarlacc pit, and then escape, in The Book of Boba Fett, that is happening in the immediate aftermath of Return of the Jedi. Meaning he wasn’t in the sarlacc pit for too long.
So, in other words, from the time he escaped the sarlacc pit and the time he finds Fennec Shand and begins his quest to retrieve his armor, around five years has passed. If you didn’t know that and watched this show, you’d probably be quite surprised to learn that, because there’s nothing here to indicate that a span of years has passed!
We are left, then, with Boba’s time with the Tusken Raiders, and then his time wandering the desert with his Bantha after the Tuskens are killed. This leads us to our third time reference, and it’s a relatively minor and straightforward one: the events seen in Chapter 4 of Boba staking out Jabba’s Palace isn’t the first time that’s happened. He says to his Bantha, “Not today, old girl. Still too many guards.” He’s clearly implying, then, that they’ve staked out the Palace before, and it seems he keeps coming back to it waiting for an opportunity to infiltrate it. Just how long he was doing this, however, we don’t know.
I think it’s reasonable to think that Boba wandered the desert alone for a period of months, or maybe a year, but that the majority of this five year span was spent with the Tusken Raiders. Before the show premiered we wondered why it took him five years to go after his armor, and I think we now have a better idea, as we don’t see any motivation or impulse within Boba to do so while he feels at home with the Tuskens. It’s only after this happens that he wants to do so, and so I think it makes sense to assume that he was with the Tuskens for several years. Once they were killed, Boba spent another significant period – likely several months – roaming the desert and looking for an opportunity to retrieve his ship.
But I don’t expect The Book of Boba Fett to fill in the exact timeline anytime soon, nor should they. This era is being explored and developed through multiple shows, and from a storytelling perspective it makes sense to avoid nailing down the particulars of the timeline until you have to, since that gives more freedom and flexibility for future stories. The few things we have learned so far have been in service of the story, and I expect that to continue. I do think it’s important and helpful for audiences to have a general idea of when in the Star Wars timeline these stories are taking place, but not necessarily the exact timeline throughout it – meaning I’d be much more insistent they tell us approximately when the current story is happening rather than the dates or time spans of the events that led up to it.
Sooner or later, though, I’m sure a Visual Dictionary or Reference book or something will come along and clarify these things, but until then I think we’re safe assuming that he spent a lot longer than the Tuskens than the show might otherwise imply. And that would help us further understand why his time with them changed him like it did, because we’re not talking about him spending days or months with them, but years. That’ll change a man.