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Who is Princess Leia?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2016
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Princess Leia Organa, played by Carrie Fisher, is one of the main characters in the early Star Wars trilogy created by George Lucas, and later titled Episodes IV-VI. The second trilogy is a prequel to the first, and only briefly features Leia as a baby in one of the last scenes of the last film, Revenge of the Sith. There, we learn that Princess Leia is the daughter of Padme Amidala and Anakin Skywalker, and twin sister to Luke Skywalker. This information in the earlier series is not revealed until Episode VI, The Return of the Jedi. Through most of the first series, Princess Leia is known as the daughter of Senator Bail Organa and his wife Queen Breha of Alderaan.

In the first Star Wars film, the opening scenes of the movie concern the fact that Princess Leia has stolen the plans of the Empire’s Death Star, a moving space station that can destroy a planet in a single blast. She later sees the destructive power of the Death Star when Governor Tarkin destroys Alderaan. She’s captured in the first scenes of Star Wars and is scheduled for execution, but she does manage to conceal the Death Star plans in the droid R2D2, and sends these to Obi Wan Kenobi, prior to her capture.

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When the three main characters, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and Princess Leia, are finally united in a rescue attempt on the Death Star, it seems likely that Luke and Leia will become involved romantically. This would, of course, bring about Greek tragedy rather than the inspiration Lucas wanted, and he shifts Leia’s attention to Han Solo in the second film, The Empire Strikes Back. What is clear in the first Star Wars film is that Leia is similar to Han in some respects. She’s a tough-talking, brave, and somewhat cross person with incredible skills as a fighter. In documentaries on the making of Star Wars, Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker) asserts that Leia is the only character who always shoots accurately in the first Star Wars film.

Despite being tortured during her captivity by the Empire, Luke’s rescue attempt jumps Princess Leia into high gear. She’s not a “fainting princess” by any stretch of the imagination, and instead actively participates in her own escape. Her softer side isn’t revealed until after Luke, Han and Leia have escaped the Death Star, where she expresses compassion to Luke over the death of Obi Wan Kenobi.

In Episodes V and VI, Leia spearheads the rebellion, while also falling in love with Han Solo. An interesting turnaround occurs in the third film, where Leia and Luke must rescue Han from Jabba the Hut. Instead of making Princess Leia the girl who constantly needs rescue, Lucas choose to create a mythic warrior woman of sorts, a deeply feminist character who easily holds her own against the two male heroes in the Star Wars trilogy. No one questions her equal standing to Luke and Han, and she’s in fact, in many ways superior to them, because she’s higher up in the chain of command and has been acting as a rebel since before the Star Wars trilogy begins.

In later novels, not written by Lucas, based on the Star Wars world post Empire, Leia marries Han, and they have children who are extraordinarily gifted with the force. Lucas also implies that Princess Leia could become a Jedi, because she is the daughter of Anakin. Lucas’ character can be said to have deeply inspired some modern heroines. She’s certainly the progenitor of other popular characters like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Xena Warrior Princess, and Trinity from the film, The Matrix, all beautiful women with the ability to lead and be dangerous when necessary.

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