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Were Luke and Leia Planned to Be Siblings Before "Return of the Jedi"?

Jeremy hopes the Force is with him as he pursues a forensics career in the swamps of Louisiana.

Leia and Luke in Episode 4

Leia and Luke in Episode 4

Luke and Leia's Relationship

As any Star Wars fan remembers, the main twist of Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back reveals Darth Vader as Luke's father. For this, we had several hints throughout the films, from Vader's obsession with tracking Luke to Uncle Owen's comment about being afraid of Luke having too much Anakin in him.

As the credits play, we're all stunned and slapping ourselves for not seeing it sooner. But then, in Episode 6: Return of the Jedi, we also learn that Leia happens to be Luke's long-lost sister, separated shortly after birth. Unlike Vader's reveal, many fans took issue with this development, believing it a cheap way to wrap up Luke and Han's love triangle with Leia. So, was this a last-minute addition or a subtly hinted-at reveal? You be the judge as examine both sides of the debate!

Luke and Leia's uncomfortable kiss.

Luke and Leia's uncomfortable kiss.

Luke and Leia's Familial Kiss

First and foremost, the kiss. In Empire, after Han rescues Luke from Hoth's frigid climate, Leia plants an uncomfortably long smooch on Luke. At the time, no one thought anything of it, but looking back with the knowledge of their relation, it's an awkward incestual moment we'd rather forget. If Luke and Leia were planned as siblings, odds are good this scene wouldn't have made the cut in such a family-friendly franchise.

An early Empire draft revealing Nellith as Luke's sister

An early Empire draft revealing Nellith as Luke's sister

Nellith, Luke's Other Sister

Early scripts of Episode 5 bear a few changes, notably a scene where Anakin's spirit reveals a woman tentatively named Nellith (and not Leia) as Luke's long-lost sister. Even when this was scrapped, drafts for a sequel trilogy involved Nellith eventually finding Luke during his time of Jedi training, with Leia presumably combating the Empire elsewhere.

Here's where most fans leave it; case closed, right? Well, despite the weird kiss and alternative sister, creator George Lucas may have considered uniting his male and female leads even before Episode 6. Let's examine the evidence pointing towards their connection.

Yoda tells Obi-Wan "there is another."

Yoda tells Obi-Wan "there is another."

Yoda's Line About There Being "Another" Hope

While training, Luke receives a vision of his friends in danger and departs Dagobah against Obi-Wan and Yoda's advice. As Luke's ship leaves, Obi-Wan remarks how Luke is their last hope, while Yoda mysteriously responds "no, there is another".

He's referring to Leia, who also carries Vader's fierce Force potential within her blood and could presumably undergo Jedi training if needed (which she eventually does in the legends timeline's expanded universe). Admittedly, it's possible Lucas's team didn't yet know who Yoda was hinting at, but it's likely Leia was already a candidate considering...

Luke tells Leia about their relationship in RotJ.

Luke tells Leia about their relationship in RotJ.

Leia's Force Sensitivity

After Luke's climatic battle against Vader in Empire's finale, he's missing a hand and clutching a thin metal perch that barely prevents a lethal plunge into Cloud City's depths. Desperate, Luke tries calling to Obi-Wan using the Force. Failing that, he instead reaches to out to Leia, who hears him and guides the Millennium Falcon to his location.

Despite their distance and Luke's failing strength, he manages to get a clear message across to Leia, foreshadowing her Force affinity. Remember, this is happening during Empire, not Return, indicating Leia's heritage may have been more scripted than believed.

Luke and Leia in "The Last Jedi"

Luke and Leia in "The Last Jedi"

So, Were Luke and Leia Intended as Twins?

You're of course welcome to draw your own conclusions, but here are my thoughts. I believe that Leia's connection to Luke was at least being tossed around by the time of Empire's release. It probably wasn't set it stone, or the team likely would have cut/changed their kiss, but Yoda's hint and Leia's Force potential indicate that her relation may not have been the deus ex machina love triangle resolution we initially believed it to be. Also, bear in mind that Lucas was understandably hesitant about sharing spoilers with his team, as he'd already had several twists leaked.

Thankfully, viewers can adopt whichever viewpoint satisfies them. If you want to believe that Lucas had foresight about Luke's sister, there's evidence to support that perspective, but if you feel he was just improvising on the fly, you're definitely not alone. Either way, as we eagerly await our next adventure in the galaxy far far away, cast your thoughts on the matter and I'll see you at our next Star Wars review!

© 2018 Jeremy Gill


Liz Westwood from UK on October 14, 2018:

This is an interesting article topic. I guess as a series like Star Wars develops it is inevitable that questions will arise about plot and character development.

Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on October 11, 2018:

I always enjoy your articles, Jeremy. This one is thought provoking indeed. I believe it’s risky to release parts of a series without completely planning out the entire story because of the risk of plot holes; I agree with you that maybe George Lucas kept the twist to himself until the last moment because he may have been worried about leaks.

Rinita Sen on October 11, 2018:

Yes, even I thought that kiss was unnecessary considering their relationship, but the point is, whatever Lucas might have planned, at that time, the characters themselves were unaware they are siblings, so the kiss could have come without much thought on their part. Like you said, case closed. Now we want to find out whether Kylo Ren and Rey are siblings. I think they might be. Interesting article.