The two-episode debut of Obi-Wan Kenobi on Disney+ was so full of surprises, we’re still talking about them a week later. But just as the presence of a certain baby turned around everything we thought we knew going into The Mandalorian, the introduction of another character has reshaped the entire future of this series: a young Princess Leia Organa.
Earlier, we got you prepared for the series with a primer on everything we knew about Obi-Wan’s 19-year hermitage on Tatooine. not even we knew at the time was that the young Princess Leia would be playing such a central role in this part of the exiled Obi-Wan’s life. In the Star Wars movies, we’ve seen plenty of Leia - from the point of her capture aboard the Tantive IV, all the way to her final outreach to her prodigal son. But growing up as the princess of the galaxy’s most idyllic planet and daughter to the founders of the Rebellion, the prospect of Leia’s childhood is just as fascinating. So, once again, here’s everything we know about the two decades between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope… from Leia’s point of view.
Daddy's little girl
Before we get into this timeline, we should make a distinction between the two main classifications of stories told within the Star Wars universe: the ‘Canon,’ which encompasses the films, the Clone Wars TV series, and nearly all material produced after Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm beginning in 2014; and ‘Legends,’ the wealth of material in novels, comics, video games and more produced before that point. Many elements of the decanonized stories of Legends serve to inform present and future Canon Star Wars stories, however, and as such a complete picture of any Star Wars character or concept cannot be presented without those Legends stories.
Canonically, all we know right now of Leia’s infancy is what we see of her hand-off to Bail and Breha Organa of Alderaan in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. James Luceno’s 2005 novel Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader provides us with a few more details: first, of Bail’s worry that Leia might prove strong in the Force and fall to the Dark Side as her father did. In their final conversation before his own exile on Dagobah, Master Yoda assures Bail that it was the circumstances of Anakin’s life which turned him to the Dark Side, and not his innate nature. As long as Bail and Breha raise Leia with their values, Yoda believed that Anakin’s daughter would turn out just fine. Perhaps more importantly, we see that Bail took great efforts to assure that Vader, despite his dealings in the Senate, would never meet baby Leia, lest he recognize their bond through The Force.
We don’t see very much of baby Leia in E.K. Johnston’s Canon novel Ahsoka, but what we do see is a girl who loves and is deeply love by her foster parents, already advanced for her age– and, according to Bail, more and more like Padme every day. Ahsoka Tano, Anakin’s former Padawan on the run after the events of Episode III, meets up with Bail just long enough to meet Leia in passing while they conspire to form the Rebel Alliance. In their conversation, Bail tests Ahsoka to see if she knows Leia’s true parentage. But even if she suspects it, Ahsoka fails to rise to the bait.
In 2008, the penultimate novel in Jude Watson’s ‘Legends’ Last of the Jedi series brings the saga of Ferus Olin, former Padawan and rival to young Anakin Skywalker, to Alderaan. An Imperial informant on Alderaan places a report to the Jedi-hunting Inquisitors that they had witnessed a young child using Force abilities to save the life of her nanny when she nearly falls off a balcony. Luckily, that report is intercepted by Olin, who at the time was undercover as an Inquisitor himself. Before the Empire could learn of Leia’s existence, Olin travels to Alderaan to bury the report and plug the leak in the Organas’ royal court, all while posing as a groundskeeper.
The Canon, all-ages Star Wars Adventures comic series contains an anthology of stories set throughout the history of the Star Wars saga. The 2019 edition of their special annual issue contains a story, 'So Much More,' which takes us to a courtyard by the Royal Palace of Alderaan, where a toddling young Leia escapes her nanny droid to find her adoptive mother, Queen Breha, reading by a statue of Padme Amidala. There, Breha tells Leia the story of Padme’s life, and that her gift for inspiring others through hope resides within her, as well. Breha insinuates that Leia is still too young to remember this conversation, but hopes she’ll somehow retain the message. And who knows? Maybe it’s Breha’s description of Padme which allows Leia to recall her birth mother in Return of the Jedi.
The young rebel
9 BBY (Age 10): Obi-Wan Kenobi (TV)
This is where we are right now, halfway between the end of the prequel films and the start of the original trilogy. The rebellious, rambunctious, inquisitive, and uncannily insightful young Leia is captured by bounty hunters under the employ of the Third Sister of The Inquisitorius, a special unit of Force users under the command of Darth Vader to seek and destroy any remaining Jedi in the galaxy. Through a connection she discovered between Bail Organa and the lost Obi-Wan Kenobi, Reva, the Third Sister of the Inquisitorius, attempts to draw her quarry into the open by kidnapping Bail’s adoptive daughter.
9-1 BBY: Star Wars Tales #11, The Princess Leia Diaries (comic)
So far, we’ve addressed two levels of Star Wars continuity: Canon, and Legends. But prior to Disney’s involvement in Lucasfilm before Legends we called ‘Legends,’ there was the concept of an ‘Expanded Universe’ which encompassed all forms of Star Wars media outside of the movies themselves. Within that Expanded Universe were different levels of continuity. The general policy is that anything on a lower level of continuity was considered to be a 'true' Star Wars fact or event, as long as it didn’t contradict anything on the upper levels. In that case, the higher level of Star Wars Canon would supersede it. Even by Expanded Universe standards, the Star Wars Tales comic book anthology was considered to be on one of the lowest rungs of Star Wars Canon. But in the series’ 11th issue, we’re presented with the clearest picture so far of a young Leia’s rambunctious life among Alderaan’s royal elite, spreading mayhem throughout the court in a way all too familiar to those of us who have seen her in the Obi-Wan Kenobi TV series – from employing risque dance moves from Twi’lek tradition at a talent show, to deploying a strategically dropped water balloon on the stuffy, visiting Grand Moff Tarkin’s balding head.
Most importantly, The Princess Leia Diaries also gives us our first look at a very important person in Leia’s life growing up, and one of the most prominent characters from the Legends era yet to return in modern Canon: a woman named Winter, who would be aide, companion, foster sister, and best friend to Leia in the years to come. Winter would also be a fellow future survivor of Alderaan’s destruction. Blessed and cursed with a perfect memory, Winter would remain Leia’s closest family and link to Alderaan for the rest of their lives.
Princess of Alderaan
3 BBY (Age 16): Star Wars Tales #15 (comic), Leia, Princess of Alderaan (novel), Star Wars: Rebels season 3 episode 12 'A Princess on Lothal' (TV), Star Wars: Forces of Destiny, Bounty of Trouble (webisode), Agent of the Empire: Hard Targets #1 (comic)
This Legends comic tells the story of Leia’s first visit to Coruscant with her adoptive father. While exploring, she discovers some Stormtroopers detaining a Caamasi only looking to buy food for his family at the market. Leia insists on talking to the Emperor himself about the injustices she’s seen on his own throne world, coming face to face with the Emperor and Darth Vader for the first time. She’s overwhelmed into silence by the evil which emanates from Palpatine. Leia resolves to attempt to enact good in the galaxy as her father’s successor in the Senate, while Bail uses his connections to free the Caamasi.
For those seeking insight into Leia’s transformation from Princess to Rebel Leader, there’s no better resource than the Canon novel Leia, Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray. Coming of age at 16, Leia claims her right to the throne of Alderaan through an ancient tradition which requires her to accomplish three feats of mind, body, and heart to prove herself worthy of the crown. Through these trials, Leia discovers for the first time how impossible it is to enact positive change in a galaxy controlled by a cruel, self-serving empire. In her work with the Apprentice Legislature, Leia makes an important ally in a young Amilyn Holdo, who will eventually play a crucial part in Star Wars Episode VII: The Last Jedi. Moreover, Leia learns inadvertently that her own parents are secretly organizing a Rebellion to overthrow that very Empire, even as they work within the Senate. By completing her trials, Leia gets herself involved in the Rebel Alliance for the first time, earning her Alderaanian parents’ trust to collaborate with them on their perilous enterprise.
The television series Star Wars: Rebels introduces the ragtag members of Phoenix Squadron to a young Leia for the first time in the Season 2 episode 'A Princess on Lothal,' which establishes her early role in the Rebellion of gathering aid to Rebel forces. Under the guise of mercy missions to underprivileged planets, Leia would surreptitiously liaison with Rebellion assets throughout the galaxy right under the nose of her Imperial escorts. On Lothal, Leia orchestrates a fake kidnapping which allows the Rebels to abscond with crucial ships and supplies.
In the Forces of Destiny animated anthology webseries focused on the female heroes of the Star Wars Saga, we see Leia escorted by Stormtroopers while transporting an important data disk. Once again, Leia is the subject of a staged capture by a member of Phoenix Squadron: the Mandalorian street artist Sabine Wren. As both evade bounty hunter IG-88, who’s been sent to capture Leia and the data disk for real, Leia and Sabine eventually part ways with the information in Rebel hands as Leia’s stormtrooper guards remain none the wiser.
In the comic Agent of the Empire: Hard Targets #1, Leia is at a celebration of the 25th anniversary of Bail Organa’s tenure as Viceroy. In attendance at this event on Alderaan is Imperial Intelligence agent Jahan Cross, with whom she engages in some light flirting.
In a 2019 comic adventure written by Delilah S. Dawson and Margaux Saltel, we see a young Leia on Coruscant with her old friend Amilyn Holdo. After Leia teaches Holdo how to drive a Speeder, her free-spirited friend takes Leia on a wild ride to the city-planets rarely explored lowest levels. Together, they take in a traveling circus, find a lost museum, and escape with their lives from a speeder bike gang, closer as friends than ever before.
The thoroughly decanonized video game Star Wars: The Force Unleashed follows the escapades of Darth Vader’s secret apprentice Galen Marak, codename 'Starkiller.' To cut a long story short, at one point Galen is sent by a third party to retrieve an important asset to a Senatorial ally on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk – an asset who turns out to be Leia herself. Galen finds that Leia is on Kashyyyk as part of a guerilla operation to disrupt the Empire’s Wookiee slave labor projects, and subsequently finds himself temporarily enlisted in Leia’s campaign in order to get her home safely.
1 BBY (Age 18): Shadows of the Empire: Spero’s Flight (short story)
The last mission we know about before Leia’s involvement in the Death Star plans is a rarely found story in the Shadows of the Empire roleplaying sourcebook, where Leia uses her connections to free a fellow named Spero, a master mycologist, from Imperial custody. Later, in the Shadows of the Empire Legends story set between Episodes V and VI, Spero would prove an essential ally to Leia in her battle against the criminal Black Sun organization.
A New Hope
0 BBY (Age 19): Star Wars Radio Adaptation, Star Wars Empire: Princess… Warrior (comic), Star Wars: Dark Forces (video game), Star Wars: Lethal Alliance (video game), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (movie), Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (movie)
This nearly takes us to where we first find Leia in the first Star Wars film, transferring the Death Star plans to R2-D2 before her capture by Darth Vader. But how did Leia get those plans in the first place? Well, that’s a question with multiple answers. The current canonical answer is shown to us in great detail in the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
But as early as the NPR radio adaptation of Star Wars in 1981, writers were embellishing their own versions of that story right before the events of the first film. The first chapters of the Star Wars audio drama take place a bit earlier than the movie itself, showing us a glimpse of Luke and Leia’s lives before the Empire robbed them of the only family they had ever known. In the radio play, later adapted as the two-issue comic Empire: Princess… Warrior, Leia keeps an Imperial rank-riser named Lord Tion busy while she coordinates with a team of Rebels to retrieve the Death Star plans. When Tion gets too bold with Leia, the princess inadvertently reveals her knowledge of the Death Star, forcing Bail Organa’s hand into helping her gather the plans on their ship, the Tantive IV.
As for the identity of that Rebel or Rebels who brought the plans to Leia in the first place, that’s an even more contentious matter. The video game Star Wars: Dark Forces suggests it was engineer-turned-Jedi Kyle Katarn. The later game Star Wars: Lethal Alliance identifies the Rebel as Rianna Saren, a Twi’lek mercenary. But for now, the film Rogue One contains the conclusive story of the Rebels who gave their lives to put those plans into Leia’s hands.
And that’s the end of Leia’s life on Alderaan. Mostly because, well… if you’ve seen the movie, you know what happens to it. But as you can see, there are still plenty of gaps in young Leia’s life to explore, and the nonlinear nature of storytelling in Star Wars can allow the world to live on for years to come. In the immortal words of Luke Skywalker in his guest appearance on Season 4 of The Muppet Show: “REMEMBER ALDERAAN!”
What are the best Star Wars movies ever? We figured it out with our ranked guide to all the Star Wars movies.