I was 37 years old the first time someone told me that Star Wars (my favorite movie) is the story of Luke Skywalker. I was blown away. What movie had they watched? Star Wars is the story of Princess Leia, the hope of the rebellion. She is, after all, the only named character in the opening crawl. This is her story.
She was adopted as an infant, this much she has been told.
Her adoptive parents were her real parents, this much she knows.
Her mother — her real mother, Queen Breha of Alderaan — died when she was small. She remembers her in flashes of memory, uncertain which parts are real memories and which are stories she’s been told so many times that her mind created memories. She remembers a kind, beautiful woman overwhelmed by sadness — but she has been told so many times that her mother was joyful and strong; is she remembering her birth mother, Amidala? How could that be?
Her father is Bail Organa, former Galactic Senator and friend to her birth parents. He teaches her to read, teaches her to fend for herself — but he also tells her great stories of adventure and of the Jedi, brave knights who protected the old republic. Her father knows that she is more than the sum of her parentage, but he knows, too, that she comes from noble lines by birth as well as by adoption. She is a royal princess on Alderaan but a Jedi princess too. She is the daughter of a Senator and Queen and a Jedi Knight, and sooner or later that will matter to her destiny.
The force is strong in Leia, but she is guided by her mind.
Only a teenager when she begins working with the rebellion, Leia takes her father’s seat in the senate to get close to the enemy. When her father secures documents that will eventually enable to rebellion to take down the Empire’s greatest weapon, she is the one he trusts with them. She is on her way deliver them to the rebellion when the Emperor’s puppet, Darth Vader, captures her ship. But Leia is ready. She remains calm while formulating a Plan B, hiding the only hard copy of the plans in her colleague’s astromech droid and dispatching them off-ship, hoping that their escape would go unnoticed.
“I’m a member of the Imperial Senate on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan.”
She stands up to him without flinching, hoping all the time that the droid she sent off in an escape pod to the nearest planet will make it to Obi Wan Kenobi, an ally she has only ever heard of in her father’s stories; hoping that he is a friend; hoping that he is still there. She puts thoughts of her plan failing out of her mind and worries only about distracting Vader long enough for it to succeed.
But then she is taken to the great weapon itself and Grand Moff Tarkin changes the rules and threatens to shut down the rebellion and kill her father and millions of innocents. It almost kills her but she doesn’t break; she names Dantooine, a former stronghold of the rebellion, hoping to buy time.
Tarkin destroys her home planet and makes her watch.
She doesn’t let herself cry; there is time for that later, maybe, if she survives. Instead she formulates plans and calculates contingencies until, finally, sleep wins out.
She wakes up to a rescue attempt by a little boy disguised as a stormtrooper. Surely she is still asleep. But no, he says he is with Kenobi; these men always think they know what they’re doing and now here he is, the last place that droid should be when it contains such valuable information. She knows it is a waking nightmare when the rescue is joined by a smuggler and a Wookiee.
They have no plan.
She takes charge and manages to get them off the detention level. Of course they complain that the only way out was down a trash chute.
Impossibly, they escape the Death Star. The smuggler’s ship is worse than she could have imagined, but he is brave and impulsive and the Wookiee is loyal to him.
The kid acts on emotion, which might be dangerous. Not only that, but he thinks he is going to become a Jedi knight now that he has lost his family and his mentor. Leia knows a thing or two about losing people, and she knows that he knows nothing, but she is too kind to tell him so, and instead comforts him. Something about him is so familiar.
When they are chased by fighters, the smuggler and the boy take the gunner positions, even though she is the best shot. And when they succeed, they take credit for an escape that Tarkin clearly allowed. She knows the empire is tracking them. Keep your enemies closer. She lets them follow her, hoping that the plans will reveal a weakness her people can exploit.
Hope is what gets Leia through.
The smuggler smells good; she must resist distraction. His greed makes that easier than it might otherwise be.
They make it to Yavin, with the Death Star swiftly approaching on their tails. Hyper speed travel bought more time, but time is a commodity with an expiration date. Her engineers analyze the stolen plans. Her mission is complete, if the pilots can execute the plan in time. She readies no escape ship; if the rebel base is destroyed, she will be destroyed with it.
She doesn’t allow herself to be disappointed when the smuggler takes off to save his own skin.
She does allow herself to rejoice when he comes back in time to save Luke, who fulfills her mission and blows up the Death Star.
Leia takes no credit but gives it where it is due: to Luke, Han, and Chewbacca.
Leia Organa won the battle by relying on the right people. Leia Organa never stops fighting, even once the war is won. She knows that she can never let her guard down, so she doesn’t. She allows herself love, she allows herself family, but she also becomes a General and keeps resisting.
Leia Organa is the hero we need, but we don’t deserve her.