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Star Wars has some of the most well-known and beloved characters to grace pop culture in recent years. Luke, Leia, and Han make up the "golden trio" of the original trilogy and their interactions and character arcs are some of the strongest moments from Episodes 4, 5 and 6. Recently I learned that before there was Luke, creator George Lucas had designed for a female lead. But we all know how it really went; Lucas settled on the drama queen "bratty moisture farm version" (Collura, 2014) of Luke we all know and love. And this meant the introduction of the ever-iconic Princess Leia. But this got me thinking… why the change? Not that I think gender is important here and let's face it, it was the 70s and female action/Sci-Fi leads weren’t an established genre norm. This being challenged at the end of the decade with the creation of Alien (thank God for and Ripley!) So I did some digging into other things I didn’t know about the Skywalker Saga, which lead me to the main question of this article: what would Star Wars have been like if Luke and Leia were swapped at birth?
During my research, I learned of the alternate plans Lucas had for the original trilogy. The Return of the Jedi that was released in cinemas completed Luke’s character arc, having gone from farm boy to Jedi Master. However, this was not always the intended and arguably happier ending. One version ended Episode 6 on a rather more bittersweet note. Lucas and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan considered killing off Luke, and instead see Leia taking over his Jedi mission. This ending would have drawn nicely back to Yoda telling ghost Obi-Wan that there was another, strong in the force, capable of bringing an end to the Empire:
Kenobi: That boy is our last hope.
Yoda: No. There is another.
(Lucas Films, 1980)
The film then cuts nicely from Luke leaving Dagobah to Leia pacing in Cloud City. It would have been a compelling moment between twins, one that confirmed the Skywalker legacy and strong relationship with the force. But, I would argue, only if Leia had fully embraced her force sensitivity. Especially if we consider how Leia’s relationship with the Force is currently being represented in the sequels. The conclusion to the original saga was spectacular, I cannot deny that, however, I always felt a little robbed and perhaps this is why?
That current representation is one spoonful of sugar away from full-blown Mary Poppins. *Stares off into the distance, clearly disturbed*. One way Disney can make up for this is to provide audiences with a moment between mother and son:
Ben: I’m sorry.
Leia: I know.
If this was executed through a Force Skype™, I believe Disney would be able to establish that Leia is just as Force-sensitive as her son, something that is very clear in the novelisation of The Last Jedi.
I'm getting carried away. We have seen Jedi Knight Leia in the extended universe (Luke still being alive.) She did everything. I mean everything: was a General, Jedi Knight, Senate member you name it Leia did it. Oh and raised three children! But as we know Episodes 7, 8, and upcoming 9 have rendered the rich wealth of the extended universe, as non-canonical. (Who else wants to see big screen Darth Revan?) Therefore, I would like to propose an alternative universe storyline for the original trilogy, one where we could encounter both twins engaging fully with the Force.
Picture this; Luke has gone to Alderaan and Leia to her father’s homeworld Tatooine. This is not a new thought to hit Star Wars fans many of them tackling the role reversal through fan fiction and fan art, some of which is fantastic and I suggest you go have a look. However, some of it is… questionable in more ways than one. I believe that key moments from Star Wars would still occur if you swapped the twin's starting points, A New Hope. For example, both twins leaving their respective home planets, being captured by Darth Vader, the pressures of lineage and the dark side, fighting the Empire and redeeming Anakin. So, let's look at some key moments from the original three films and how the swap would have theoretically changed themes, plot, and character arcs. Welcome to this very special twin edition of Freaky Friday Presents: Star Wars.
First off, swapping the twins has nothing to do with gender; I do not think that Luke Organa or Leia Skywalker would be hugely different from their canon counterparts, but character traits may have been more dominant. For example, Leia’s dogged resilience would have been strengthened by years on Owen’s farm and the royal life as Prince of Alderaan would have seen a more held back but privileged (we all know I mean: has a complaint about everything) Luke.
Canon Luke is constantly talked about as having ‘too much of his father in him’ and the prequels showed us that Leia certainly took after her mother when it comes to senate smarts. But Leia is a lot more like her father than she is given credit for. She is a beautiful combination of her parent’s personalities and skill sets. Luke, however, is slightly subtler in his similarities to his parents. Of course in the canon version, the connection between him and Vader is made because of their Force abilities. But Luke does have a likeness to his mother, Padmé. I believe mother and son share the ability to see the good in Anakin, resulting in a gentleness shattered by Vader. Furthermore, the ending to Episode 3 originally saw Padmé stand up to her husband and try to kill him for the good of the galaxy and their children *GOD DAMN IT THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN SO COOL*. It would have been ‘something a little more fitting for the woman who had proved herself a fierce, capable leader to her people from a young age.’ (Loughrey, 2017) This version would have still seen her succumb to her love for Anakin and most likely die in childbirth but probably because of physical injury sustained in the skirmish with her husband. This sounds better, especially when you consider the real reason she was killed off: ‘I wasn’t in the original trilogy so I might as well die.’ Even if we didn’t get this in the prequels, the shared mother/son compassion for a conflicted Anakin is evident in a clash between love and duty.
The comparisons made between Luke and Vader are the result of people around Luke fearing another ‘chosen one’ turning to the dark side; only choosing to see Vader in him out of fear. This fear then manifests in the cave scene on Dagobah, becoming corporeal for Luke. Trying to avoid the same fate as his father, Luke repeatedly dismisses Palpatine’s offers to join the Dark Side. *They have cookies, come on, Luke*. With this in mind, I believe that their likenesses to both parents become more important if their roles are reversed.
Pressured by Bail to live up to his mother’s (both adopted and biological) tact, diplomacy and leadership, Luke struggles to step into the role thrust upon him. Something that canon Leia does with ease. As we establish Luke Organa struggling in leadership, we also establish Leia yearning for the chance to leave a backwater planet, in order to fight for the rebellion. When leaving Alderaan for the Rebellion Luke is reluctant, sent by his father and mother to make a difference and is just playing at war. By harkening back to themes established in classics such as Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables and Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, could emphasise the severity of the war whilst enhancing the operatic style of narrative.
Luke’s subsequent pleas for help to Obi-Wan becomes a wild and desperate act, instead of a well made tactical move. But when Leia leaves Tatooine, she is finally getting the chance to find out about her parents and lead the life she believes she was born for.
Now, this is not too dissimilar to canon Luke but there would be a level of ferocity from Leia that drives her, which Luke does not possess, and calls back to young Anakin Skywalker leaving with Qui-Gon Gin to learn the Jedi ways. With Obi-Wan as her new mentor she would find this new form of pressure placed upon her: at home, she was stopped from finding out about her family. But now that she is learning she realises the expectations that Obi-Wan has of her. Both twins are expected to be something other than them because of a massive tragic legacy left by their parents. We would see parallels made between her and Padmé and between Luke and Anakin just as in the original trilogy. However, now the comparisons show how out of place both twins feel. By leaving their homeworlds, they have the first real chance to try and be the person they want to be, but only find more pressure to live up to the legacies of their parents. When Luke acts out against authority ‘he has too much of his father in him.’ This would pack more of a punch because it's the opposite of what is expected of him; he doesn't understand why being like his biological father is such a big deal. Obi-Wan would see the same thing in Leia and push her to be more like the mother she knows nothing about.
This comparison would potentially stop Obi-Wan wanting to train Leia for fear she would turn to the Dark Side like Anakin. Imagine her finding the lightsaber instead of Obi-Wan giving it to her, Han (still the same) jokingly encouraging her (because the power of boners is stronger than your disbelief in space magic). She is still being held back and she has to fight to be the galaxy’s new hope.
Relationship with Obi-Wan
I believe Obi-Wan would not jump at the chance to train Leia the way he did Luke. This might change the impact of his death and subsequent mentoring from Jedi Heaven. But to keep the impact: have Obi-Wan and Leia squabble throughout the film build a father/daughter relationship because despite being bold, Leia still can have doubts and insecurities. For example, she wants to learn but also have a father figure (now why does that sound familiar…? Looking at you Rey). We would see Obi-Wan come to accept her as his Padawan, agreeing that she has a right to learn because she truly is her father's daughter. This emotionally for both characters is monumental, as is its impact on Obi-Wan’s sacrifice: when Obi-Wan defends Leia against her father (she wouldn’t know at this point) and dies doing so, she aligns Darth Vader as not only the murderer of one father but of another.
On Dagobah, a grieving Leia would confront ghost Obi-Wan with questions such as: ‘why did you leave me?’ and ‘why didn’t you tell me he was my father.’ Oh, Obi-Wan you cad you. When Leia learns of Han and Luke’s impending danger (can we please take a moment to imagine Lando, Luke and Han running around on Cloud City? You’re welcome) she is pushed not only because they are friends but also because of her budding relationship with Han. Both Obi-Wan and Yoda would warn that love drove Anakin to the Dark Side, to which she would reply, ‘I am not my father.’ Cue:
Obi-Wan: That girl is our only hope.
Yoda: No there is another.
And in this sense, I believe that both Yoda and Obi-Wan would have preferred to train Luke now that he is becoming less like Vader and more like Padmé. Because as we progress from A New Hope to The Empire Strikes Back, the audience would also see Luke take a more active role in the rebellion. This would create a trilogy long struggle for both twins, to get out of their parent’s shadows and make their own legacies.
Relationship with Dear Ol' Dad
Now imagine Luke being captured by Vader in A New Hope, something stirs in Vader as he looks unknowingly on his son. The Force also works on Luke, who has no idea what this feeling is. He decides to try and use this strange new power to stop Vader from blowing up Alderaan but is unsuccessful. However, this new power and destruction of Alderaan would compel Luke to stop playing at war and avenge his people.
When Leia finally faces Vader, there would be raw anger driving her closer to the Dark Side even before Palpatine tries to convert her. Vader would choose not to see his traits in his daughter because he (deep down) does not want the same fate for her as his own. He would tell her as he told Luke in canon ‘No. I am your father.’ But when compelling his daughter to join him, it would be not as a Sith but as a companion. I suggest that Vader would compare her to his lost love and her mother Padmé, this comparison whilst acknowledging Leia’s fortitude and intelligence, still stifles the young Jedi. She retorts ‘I’d rather die’ and falls off into the abyss as a means of accomplishing this. So when she doesn’t die, she has to live with not only the revelation that Vader is her father but with her supposed failure as a Jedi. This would, of course, have been a far more depressing end to The Empire Strikes Back, but the awakening of Force-sensitive Luke would have sparked new hope in Leia and the rebellion. (See what I did there?)
The narrative stakes are raised in a similar but ever so slightly different way to the canon trilogy. Luke Organa, now on a mission to save his best friend (poor frozen Han) avenge his people and save the galaxy, makes an important step towards leadership. Leia Skywalker bruised physically and emotionally, knows what she must do to save the Galaxy and become the Jedi she knows she can be even if that means killing her own father. Ending the film with the twins consoling each other, Luke telling his best friend/sister that there is always hope.
Relationship with Han
Speaking of poor frozen Han, let's talk about the twins and their relationship with that scruffy looking nerf herder (Leia will always say this, because, Iconic™.) So, if you don’t remember or just, like me have tried to forget that in the first two films of the OT, Lucas tried to create a love triangle...yes, remember when Han basically asks Luke if he thinks he has a chance with the princess? To which a sullen looking Luke, replies with something like ‘nope because now we can build romantic tension.’ Which then comes to a head in The Empire Strikes Back where to get back at Han Leia makes out with her BROTHER. Game of Thrones, eat your heart out, am I right? Anyway, this was all because Lucas hadn’t decided Luke and Leia were twins yet, and there are deleted scenes featuring more twin kisses. *Gross.*
If you swap Luke and Leia their relationship with Han also changes, not dramatically, BUT I think it would get rid of an unwanted incest love triangle. For example, Leia sees rugged smuggler Han Solo and develops a little crush. Han pretty much unchanged acts cocksure and smug around this young beautiful woman, which garners disdain on her part.
They still end up on the Death Star, Leia sees rescuing the Prince as a chance to show Obi-Wan she was meant to be a Jedi. Han, on the other hand, has the same problem as canon Han - why risk his life? Han, having not really paid attention misses the part where Leia said prince, and assumes it's a princess and a big reward, that needs his attention. With this in mind they go to find Luke who surprise, surprise turns out to be a prince. Incensed by this Han and Leia have an argument mid-shootout; Leia saying sassily ‘someone has to save our skins’ before igniting the legacy lightsaber, fully prepared to face down the horde of Storm Troopers. Luke not exactly thrilled with his rescue team takes Han’s blaster and into the garbage shoot they go Han proclaiming ‘I like this kid!’
Now the blowing up of the Death Star itself, if we follow the rules of this AU would be accomplished by Leia, having pre-established knowledge of her flying skills from Tatooine combine with her doubt in her own ability creates higher personal stakes as well as for the overarching narrative. She hears Obi-Wan for the first time after his death and for the first time he tells her to use the Force, to trust her senses, and that she will become a Jedi, like her father before her. The appearance of Han at the last minute builds upon their mutual flirtation and solidifies the ‘golden trio's' combine arcs.
In The Empire Strikes Back some time has passed and the romantic tension between young Jedi and smuggler is growing. When they argue about Han leaving, Leia would go out into the Hoth snows in a huff and Han would go to leave before Luke talks him down. It’s been hours since anyone has seen Leia Skywalker; Han worried goes to find her. *Romance.* Compare this with when Han is frozen in carbonite; we still have the declaration of ‘I love you,’ and ‘I know’ (funnily enough this has never worked for me) followed by a promise to pay Han back for saving her life; a bittersweet joke between lovers. Can you then imagine the anger at Vader Leia feels? The first fight between them so heavily charged with complex emotions.
Now to end our trilogy with The Return of The Jedi, in which little narrative alterations occur. For example, both Luke and Leia would try to save Han and I think Leia, sweetie, you’d still end up in that golden bikini because Jabba is a right pervert. Luke, you’re still going into that Rancor pit. Now see how their situations change but they are in the same circumstances? We know Leia is a Jedi but up until now, we haven’t seen her use her full Force capabilities. Luke, we know is Force sensitive but we haven’t seen him use his abilities successfully either. The stakes are higher. Where, in canon RTJ we know what Luke and Leia are capable of, but there is still fear for Luke, as we did not see him with a lightsaber. This would be the same as Leia in the switchover, no lightsaber and no way to help Luke. Who in a life and death situation, without thinking, relies on instincts alone and uses the Force to close the gate on the Rancor’s head. He is shocked by his own actions.
Now onto the Sarlacc pit, Luke, as a Prince and Rebel Alliance General, would serve as an excellent tool for Jabba to gain favour with the Empire. Sending him to his death would surely be a huge victory. Cue R2-D2 and Leia’s hidden lightsaber. Just before Jabba gives the order, R2 shoots the lightsaber, which, (please don’t hate on me for this one) I believe would be purple, because of Leia’s embrace of emotions classically considered to have Dark Side connotations like hate and love, whilst fighting for good. *Mace Windu, proud of you, girl.* Bear in mind that expanded universe Leia wielded a red blade for a time and Luke constructed it.
Leia freeing herself kills Jabba and makes her way to the top deck to help her brother and Han, stopping the 1,000-year chow down. Now watch as brother and sister work together to escape, each using the lightsaber, fighting back to back…*Beautiful.*
Coming into Their Own
Luke, still all in black like the quasi-bad boy that he is, stands fearlessly in front of Jabba:
Luke: Now listen here, you perverted slug, you let my friends go, as a Prince and General, I command you.
Jabba: You command? You have no authority here, Prince of what? Oh yes, an asteroid field. How is Bail?
Replies Jabba The Slimy Fu…I mean, The Hut. *Awkward.* Luke unfazed, does not let the jibe get to him. He finally knows this is what he is supposed to do, whether standing on his own or surrounded by rebels and friends, he is supposed to stand up to tyranny, injustice and lead the New Republic and the Galaxy into a better, brighter future. The floor opens up and he falls, ungracefully into the Rancor pit. Having said that this cannot stop Luke realising he can make a difference. By realising his strength in the Force and in leadership, Luke Organa can move out of the shadows cast by his parents (both biological and adopted) and stand at the head of the rebellion, his own legacy, and his own legend.
Leia, moved by the strength of her brother (she’s somehow always known, but now that’s not weird because THEY NEVER KISSED) has the bravery to free herself from the humiliation of being chained up and used as a trophy.
Leia: I am a Jedi, like my father before me. This is for Han. (Lightsaber slices through Jabba).
She proceeds to unleash her full Force potential, bringing down sweet vengeance upon Jabba’s horde of low lives and saves her brother and lover. Freed by finally knowing that she is not Obi-Wan, she is not Anakin, she is not Vader, she is a new generation of Jedi, and she will not fail.
With this new sense of strength and self-discovery, facing Vader and Palpatine is less a selfless act but a strategic move to end the tyranny of The Empire. The end battle, whilst already full of emotional stakes, is in this version more emotionally strenuous. Leia faces her father again, this time with his Master’s influences. We know from their last meeting that Vader cares for his daughter, but is silent in front of Palpatine. To whom she challenges, ‘I am strong with the Force, my brother has it, my father has it. Now I will start a new Jedi order, and my father will return to the light, you underestimate Anakin Skywalker, Emperor.’
Now different to canon Luke in this situation, Leia, no longer afraid of her power or her emotions uses the revelation of another Skywalker to evoke something in her father. She uses her cunning to challenge the Emperor and makes sure neither her brother nor her emotions can be used against her. Instead, she uses them to her aid. Sensing that this young Jedi will not be easy to turn, the Emperor strikes with Force Lightning, Leia deflects it with her Lightsaber. Palpatine remembering the last time this happened with a purple lightsaber stops his attack and orders Vader to fight for him. Not expecting this Leia, reluctantly battles her father, but take advantage of this to give her brother and Han time to get the shields down.
Vader: A son, why did you not tell me sooner? (Lightsabers clash).
Leia: You can meet him if you stop this, and maybe we can learn to call you father.
This, after an intense battle, sparks something in Vader. He remembers what it was like to be Anakin, eager to meet his children. He pauses, lowers his lightsaber as does his daughter. Using this opportunity to stop Leia from turning his loyal follower, Palpatine strikes: engulfing Leia in Force Lightning. The rest of the scene plays out very similar to the canon events, with Vader choosing family over the Dark Side. The Rebels are successful, Han and Leia are reunited, Luke joins them and they say goodbye to Anakin, greeting his Force Ghost together before the credits roll. Leia hands Luke a present, a lightsaber.
Conclusion and what would this mean for the sequels?
Kylo Ren. Our poor Porg faced baby Ben Solo struggles with conflict inside him that he simply doesn’t understand because no one will let him. In the novelisation of The Last Jedi Leia tells of how she felt in Ben, even when he was in the womb, the power of the Force and a pull to the dark. The same power she felt around her father (Fry, 2017). In my alternate Freaky Friday continuity, Leia would not want Ben to train to be a Jedi because Leia fears he will be like his grandfather and is therefore sent off to learn with Luke politics and diplomacy. His father, Han, wanted Ben to be a smuggler with him, knowing politics was not the place for the boy but also not understanding the raw bubbling power and conflict within his own son.
We see the continuation of toxic legacy; despite Anakin’s redemption at Leia’s hands (and Luke’s in the original) his power and dark tragedy linger still over the Skywalker family. The relationship between Rey and Kylo and the Force yearning for balance becomes a stronger theme from the beginning; one is from nowhere and is nothing (I told someone I liked they were nothing and now I have several cracked ribs) but is striving for meaning. The other plagued by expectations and legacy strives for peace, consumed by inner turmoil: both left by their parents. Together, fighting Snoke, fighting the need for approval, they could together bring balance to the Force. Now I’m not saying that this isn’t being explored already but we have no idea where mystery box loving JJ Abrams is going with Episode 9. Even in canon, this could have worked with Luke refusing to train Kylo out of fear and then the same with Rey. It creates stronger conflict and enforces the ‘fear of failure’ theme and family toxicity. The clear message being the Galaxy will only be at peace when the Force is in balance…and if the Skywalkers could stop messing everything up, that would be great. Side note there also doesn’t have to be Reylo for balance but I know there are some questionable Tumblr blogs out there dedicated to it so, let's see if this ship sails…or sinks!
To conclude: I am in no way saying that this idea of mine would make the original Star Wars better, because let's face it, those films where ground-breaking and are still some of my all-time favourites. Not to mention the beginning of my love affair with lightsabers and Carrie Fisher (Rest in Peace. Rise for the General!) But there is something about this role reversal that could have made the prequel trilogy that little bit better.
Now I’m one of those people that enjoyed The Last Jedi but had my issues with it as a film buff and Star Wars fan. I’m starting to see how with a bit more thought and less focus on social agenda (looking at you Kathleen Kennedy) the writing could have taken more care over the new characters and the old, whilst promoting strong female characters and a diverse cast. Instead of diving into a new trilogy with a generic evil organisation, that rose out of the ashes and plot devices of the Empire, we could have seen more of a fluid and believable continuation of the Skywalker Saga in the form of toxic legacy, fear of the Dark Side and being like Vader. I do, however, firmly believe that my ideas for Episodes 7 and 8 would have worked with canon Luke and Leia. Hold back Ben, send him off instead with his father let the resentment build a solid foundation instead of it appearing to be murder by pure angst (GOD DAD it is not a PHASE!). It would then make sense that Kylo strives to kill Han but not Leia, whilst he still resents her (or in canon Luke) for not training him, as he is being torn apart (Hello Being Torn Apart, I’m Dad) internally, he deep down understands why she did not trust herself to train him. This gives Snoke the perfect opportunity…and we could have avoided the ‘I’m going to kill my sister’s only son in his sleep because he’s having weird hormone fuelled murder dreams…even though my dad committed mass homicide…no but this kid needs snuffing out’ debacle.
The main lasting message with the Skywalkers, combine with the undertones of the Force striving for balance, is that love will always drive them. Even if it means making bad decisions, and that this circle of trying to get out of your family’s shadow and falling to the dark can only be broken with trust in the Force. And by moving away from ‘Jedi’ and ‘Sith’ balance can be obtained, as can sustainable peace. I just want to see live action Grey Jedi. *LAUREN OUT.* No, but seriously, the message that they tried and I think failed to send with Rey is that legacy is not always important or good, that it can be toxic and corrupt and that to fail, and to come from nowhere, to have no expectations thrust upon you, is OK. It can help you and others you care about to grow.
So I went a bit off topic but, thank you for bearing with me and I hope you have enjoyed this very special Freaky Friday Presents, Luke and Leia a Swaparoo Star Wars Story. I will be considering other film characters to swap in the future; I would love to hear your suggestions. May the Force be with you, always.
(Collura, 2014) “9 things you (probably) didn’t know about Luke Skywalker,” ING. September 12, 2014.
Disney. (2014) Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Disney. (2017) Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Loughrey, C. (2017) “Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith original ending actually did justice to Natalie Portman's Padmé,” The Independent.
Lucas Films. (1977) Star Wars: A New Hope
Lucas Films. (1980) Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Lucas Films. (1983) Star Wars: The Return of The Jedi