It’s one of the most famous and consequential scenes in Return of the Jedi: before Luke Skywalker heads off to face Darth Vader and the Emperor, he must first reveal a long-buried truth to Princess Leia about who she really is. The audience only learned the news several scenes before on Dagobah, that Luke and Leia are brother and sister, but how will Leia take the news?
Back in the Ewok village on Endor, Luke asks Leia if she has any memory of her mother in hopes of learning something about his own.
“Just a little bit. She died when I was very young,” Leia says, but what exactly does she remember? “Just images really, feelings. She was very beautiful, kind, but sad.”
It’s then that Luke reveals the truth about their family. After an initial moment of shock, Leia replies that she’s somehow always known that Luke was her brother (we assume through their Force connection). Luke tells her that if he fails to stop the Emperor and turn their father Anakin back to the “good side,” Leia is the galaxy’s last hope.
The impact of this twist on the future of Star Wars cannot be overstated. The reveal that Luke and Leia are related would go on to influence many more stories set after the Original Trilogy, both in the classic Legends continuity and the current Disney canon. But this also set the stage for one of the key storylines of the Prequel Trilogy. Not only did Lucas’ second trilogy need to end with the birth of the Skywalker twins and Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader but it needed to explain what happened to Luke and Leia’s mother — and why only Leia remembered Padme…
It was ultimately 2005’s Revenge of the Sith that tackled all of these plot lines, and while the final Prequel film gave largely satisfactory answers regarding the origins of Luke, Leia, and Vader, it also created one particularly controversial plot hole that Star Wars fans have debated ever since.
If Padme Amidala died giving birth to Luke and Leia, how can the Princess of Alderaan remember anything about her at all by the time of Return of the Jedi (which takes place almost 25 years after Revenge of the Sith on the Star Wars timeline)? Did Revenge of the Sith accidentally contradict this pivotal scene in Return of the Jedi, ruining a classic Original Trilogy moment?
An upcoming Star Wars novel called The Princess and the Scoundrel, which is written by Beth Revis and takes place hours after Return of the Jedi, finally addresses this plot hole and even fixes it — from a certain point of view. In an excerpt from the book published on StarWars.com, we get to take a deep dive into Leia’s innermost thoughts about her real family, while trying to process the death of Darth Vader in the aftermath of the Battle of Endor. It’s here that we finally get an explanation for how Leia can recall memories of Padme from Revenge of the Sith.
“When she had spoken to Luke earlier this night, Leia had told him that she remembered the mother they shared, their birth mother. It had been vague images, feelings, really, nothing more,” Revis writes in the scene. “But she did have a memory — of love, of closeness, of things she could not describe. It was impossible to put her feelings into words, but there was no denying their truth. It felt like… a connection, a bond made of light.”
Simply put, Leia’s recollection of her mother was only possible through the Force. What Leia remembers about Padme is actually what she senses about her mother in Padme’s final minutes of life: the “love, closeness, and a bond made of light” she and Padme share for a few brief moments in Revenge of the Sith. This goes a long way to back up Leia’s response to Luke in Return of the Jedi that she only remembers “images” and “feelings” about their mother. And the sadness Leia senses may refer to Padme “losing the will” to live (an incredibly awful way to kill off the character in this writer’s opinion) after giving birth to the twins.
But why can’t Luke recall any of this in the same way Leia can? The Princess and the Scoundrel offers an explanation for this, too.
Revis writes from inside Leia’s head, “Yet Luke, who was a Jedi Knight, strong in the Force, had no memory of the woman who had birthed them both…Did he have memories of their father? Was that why he was so capable of forgiving the monster that was Darth Vader? They had been separated at birth, not just from each other but from their biological parents. Maybe Leia had a connection with their mother, and Luke had a connection with their father.”
It’s an interesting observation by Leia that hints at why Luke spent much of his young life wondering about his father, and why he and Vader formed such a strong Force connection during the Original Trilogy, while she could more clearly remember Padme.
We’ll be watching with great interest what else The Princess and the Scoundrel reveals about the Skywalkers when the novel hits stores on Aug. 16.