Palpatine himself could have stopped Leia from becoming a Jedi until Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. The time between the original trilogy and the sequels is still a mystery, and Princess Leia’s journey in particular is relatively unexplored. It’s only Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker that Lucasfilm has answered even the most fundamental question of all – why Leia didn’t become a Jedi.
The film included a flashback that revealed that Luke Skywalker briefly coached his sister after Return of the Jedi. Leia had grown enough as a Jedi to create her own lightsaber, historically considered a key moment in a Jedi’s progression in mastering the light side of the Force. Apparently, Leia later quit her training, however, after she felt it wouldn’t end well. She seems to have received visions suggesting that her son Ben Solo would die if she continued to train and become a Jedi, and so she chose to give up that path. Instead, she became a high-profile politician.
It’s important to remember that Leia’s decision not to become a Jedi didn’t mean she was settling for second best – but rather another good. She was a force to be reckoned with in the New Republic, even campaigning unsuccessfully for the post of head of state. As told in Claudia Gray’s novel Line, Leia foresaw the rise of the First Order, and – after her political career came to an abrupt end – she created a Resistance movement against threats she sensed from the shadows. If Leia hadn’t chosen this political path, it’s possible the First Order would have gone unopposed. But has her life been affected by Palpatine, the real mastermind behind the First Order, even more profoundly than she realized?
The Emperor was afraid of the return of the Jedi
Palpatine had always known that the Jedi were the greatest threat to Dark Side rule. He orchestrated the destruction of the Jedi Order by Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, and it is notable that he only allowed them to discover his true nature when there were only a handful of survivors left. When the dust settled from Order 66, Palpatine declared himself Emperor and turned the Old Republic into an Empire. The Jedi Holocrons were destroyed, the temples ransacked, and Darth Vader and his Inquisitors hunted down all surviving Jedi. A massive propaganda campaign erased the historical record, and within just a few decades the Jedi were reduced to myth and legend. Even that was insufficient, of course, as Luke Skywalker was both able to learn from two surviving Jedi Masters and obtain recordings that had survived Palpatine’s best efforts to destroy them.
The Emperor seemed to fear the return of the Jedi. It’s worth noting that the First Order only came out of the shadows after Palpatine destroyed Luke’s Jedi Temple, and they went to great lengths to prevent the Resistance from discovering Luke Skywalker’s location. As far as Palpatine was concerned, the real battle was not over the Resistance and the First Order, but between the light and dark sides of the Force. He would do his best to make sure the light couldn’t come back.
Palpatine knew the potential of another Skywalker
The Emperor understood the absolute power of the Skywalker bloodline. He had cultivated a relationship with Anakin Skywalker from the time the child first entered the Jedi Order in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, though it’s important to note that Palpatine reinterpreted the Chosen One prophecy around him. Like all Sith, the Emperor believed that balance of the Force should be equated with dominance over the dark side, and in fact he viewed the Chosen One as his chosen pawn to establish that dominance. “But who chooses the Chosen,” he taunted Darth Vader once, in Greg Pak and Raffaele Ienco star wars #6, insisting he was superior to the Chosen One. Yet, for all that, Palpatine knew Anakin Skywalker possessed a power unlike anything he had seen before.
The Emperor had learned the hard way that Anakin Skywalker’s children had inherited the power of the Chosen One. Luke Skywalker was the greatest of the Jedi, ruining Palpatine’s plans when he ransomed his father. This new Jedi master was something unknown, as his belief in redemption marked him as a very different type of Jedi, potentially without the flaws of his former masters. This meant that Luke’s Jedi Order could be a truly dangerous prospect, as all the levers Palpatine used to manipulate the Jedi in the prequel era could well have failed. So it was in Palpatine’s interest to slow down Luke’s Jedi reform as much as possible – and certainly to prevent another Skywalker from training as a Jedi.
Palpatine could have manipulated Leia like he did with Anakin
The Emperor has always had the power to manipulate minds. Indeed, there is significant evidence that Palpatine was personally responsible for using the dark side to give Anakin visions of Padmé’s death, aware that Anakin’s attachment to Padmé made him vulnerable to the dark side. It’s entirely possible he did the same with Leia, using the dark side to affect her mind and fill it with fears of the future. Line makes it clear that even the decision to have a child was difficult for Leia in the first place, as she remembered what her father Darth Vader had been and feared her son would turn to the dark side. The dreams and visions she had of Ben’s death would stem from these pre-existing fears, and it’s hard not to see the dark side of these fears.
Ironically, Palpatine had already fixed his eager gaze on Ben Solo. Chuck Wendig’s “Aftermath” trilogy includes a chilling scene set shortly before Ben was born, in which Leia sensed a dark side presence already watching him; Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker confirmed that it was Palpatine and that his presence shaped Ben throughout his childhood and teenage years. Leia couldn’t know it, but her decision not to become a Jedi wouldn’t prevent Ben’s fall to the dark side at all.
The Emperor failed to stop Leia from becoming a Jedi
If Palpatine was indeed the source of Leia’s visions, then there’s a striking degree of irony to them; for, in the long run, the Emperor failed to prevent Leia from becoming a Jedi. She chose to return to this path in the last year of her life, even training Rey as an apprentice. Also, just as Leia had believed, her decision to become a Jedi actually led to Ben Solo’s death; not due to his fall to the dark side, but rather in an act of redemption. Palpatine has always been obsessed with the future, but the visions he may have personally thrown into Leia’s mind ultimately meant his own downfall. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
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