The novel for Return of the Jedi is very short and follows the movie very closely. Of course, as with any novel, we do get the added benefit of sneaking a glimpse into our favorite characters thoughts during these timeworn scenes. Compared with Empire Strikes Back, Jedi has much fewer instances for romance, but it does offer up a few of these tantalizing tidbits. As always, I’ll be light on the plotline here as I would think everyone knows what happens and heavy on pointing out said tidbits and differences from book to movie and movie to book.
The story begins (after a short prologue involving Vader arriving on the Death Star) with Luke constructing his own lightsaber to replace his father’s that he lost on Cloud City (battling his father). We all know that this is a scene that was cutout of the movie. It is a mere five paragraphs in the book although it was delved into further for the radio dramatization if you are interested to know that. Luke was very worried about blowing himself up during the radio drama. But I digress.
Everything goes as in the movie. The droids arrive at Jabba’s Palace. Lando is there and eventually the bounty hunter Boushh shows up and collects a bounty for the mighty Chewbacca.
Night falls and Boushh makes (his) way to the ‘frozen slab of man’ that is Han Solo, hanging like a decoration on Jabba’s wall. He flips the switches to release Han from the frozen prison. In the book, Boushh extracted the lifeless body from its casing and lowered it gently to the floor. As opposed to standing by and letting Han flop face first into the sandy dirt, as it happened in the movie.
Han begins to ask questions as in the movie of where he is and who is helping him. Boushh takes his mask off and the beautiful face of Princess Leia is revealed underneath. “One who loves you,” she whispered, taking his face tenderly in her still-gloved hands and kissing him long on the lips.
Nothing much different there, but whenever Han and Leia kiss, I feel like I’ve got to point it out.
After Han recognizes her and she tells him where they are, Leia thinks this:
She looked at him a long moment, her blinded love – she’d traveled light-years to find him, risked her life, lost hard-won time needed sorely by the Rebellion, time she couldn’t really afford to throw away on personal quests and private desires…but she loved him.
And not only did they get a second kiss, Han in turn, experienced his own turmoil of feelings:
Impulsively, she embraced him and kissed him again. He, too, was flooded with emotion all at once – back from the dead, the beautiful princess filling his arms, snatching him from the teeth of the void. He felt overwhelmed. Unable to move, even to speak, he held her tightly, his blind eyes closed fast against all the sordid realities that would come rushing in soon enough.
Well, we all know what happens next. Jabba catches them in the act of trying to escape. Sends Solo away to the dungeons and adopts Leia as his newest ‘pet’. It almost seemed worse in the book, though because in the movie he licked her cheek, but in the book: Foul beast that he was, Jabba poked his fat, dripping tongue out to the princess, and slopped a beastly kiss squarely on her mouth.
Man, that almost like negates the two kisses Han just got, huh? Yuck!
After Luke arrives, kills the rancor and the gang is all brought before Jabba. We know that Han asks about Leia’s whereabouts. What we didn’t know is what Leia was doing this whole time that she waited for him to find her:
Her eyes had been fixed on him from the moment he’d entered the room, though – guarding his spirit with her own.
All else proceeds as normal and we head for Jabba’s sail barge and the Sarlacc pit. I don’t want to seem overly obsessed with Leia’s torture on the Death Star, but the book does make another reference to it. While she is chained to Jabba on the sail barge he threatens her to stay close and forces her to drink some sort of liquid from his glass. As she forces herself to comply, she thinks this:
The worse things she knew well. Her standard of comparison was the night she’d been tortured by Darth Vader. She had almost broken. The Dark Lord never knew how closed he’d come to extracting the information he wanted from her, the location of the Rebel base. He had captured her just after she’d managed to send Artoo and Threepio for help – captured her, taken her to the Death Star, injected her with mind-weakening chemicals…and tortured her.
Tortured her body first, with his efficient pain-droids. Needles, pressure points, fire knives, electrojabbers. She’d endured these pains, as she now endured Jabba’s loathsome touch – with a natural, inner strength.
At least she got to kill Jabba, though.
The rescue and escape went just like the movie.
There is the sandstorm scene while the friends are all walking towards the Falcon, the X-Wing and a Y-Wing. I can only assume that Leia arrived in the Y-Wing since Chewie and Lando were in the Falcon and Luke would’ve been in the X-Wing. But that’s all they say about it and we are left with the impression that it is just left on Tatooine. A small detail, I guess. But when you are trying to put together ‘missing moments’, I guess this tells you that Leia left the Alliance in a Y-Wing, for whatever that is worth.
As Luke is saying goodbye, some tender moments occur. Like this as Han recalls his ‘blank sleep of nothingness’ while in carbonite:
A nothing from which Luke and the others had saved him – put their own lives in great peril at his expense, for no other reason than that…he was their friend. This was a new idea for the cocky Solo – at once terrible and wonderful. There was jeopardy in this turn of events. It made him feel somehow blinder than before, but visionary as well. It was confusing. Once, he was alone; now he was a part.
That realization made him feel indebted, a feeling he’d always abhorred; only now the debt was somehow a new kind of bond, a bond of brotherhood. It was even freeing in a strange way.
I think that Han was already having these revelations even before his friends rescued him, but I can see how these actions would’ve solidified already growing feelings.
On Dagobah, after Luke realizes Leia is his secret sister, Ben tells him this:
When your father left, he didn’t know your mother was pregnant. Your mother and I knew he would find out eventually, but we wanted to keep you both as safe as possible, for as long as possible. So I took you to my brother Own, on Tatooine…and your mother took Leia to live as the daughter of Senator Organa , on Alderaan.
As you can see, this one paragraph contradicts much of the prequels. Anakin didn’t know Padme was pregnant. Owen was Ben’s brother. Apparently Padme gave birth (lived) and took Leia to Bail Organa to live as Princess of Alderaan. So now I wonder how/when Padme died. There is something later in the book that reopens this question. But I’ll get to that.
We arrive at the debriefing with Mon Mothma about the impending Rebel attack on the Death Star. This is one of the most interesting ‘missing moments’ to me. What happened between Han/Leia from Tatooine to Sullust? Anyway, just a thought because the book doesn’t shed any light here.
After Han and Lando have their little conversation about the Battle of Tanaab and Lando being crazy to lead the attack, Leia says/does this:
Leia moved closer to Solo and took his arm protectively. “Han is going to stay on the command ship with me…we’re both very grateful for what you’re doing, Lando. And proud.”
Okay, so this was very interesting to me. For one, it makes the little surprise of Han’s that we know is coming more surprising. Obviously they (Han/Leia) had come to an agreement that he would stay with her. Probably, if I had to guess, because of his questionable health/recovery from his stint in carbonite. It also shows that Leia is basically speaking for her and Han is if they are a couple. For me, this was very enlightening and made me rethink some of my conclusions on her reaction when Han springs his surprise on her.
So then, we listen to Mon Mothma, then Admiral Ackbar and then Madine speak, where Madine then reveals that Han is a general and is leading the ground assault on the shield bunker. Leia reacts much like as in the movie:
Leia looked up at Han, shock quietly melting to joyous admiration. She knew there was a reason she loved him – in spite of his usual crass insensitivity and oafish bravado. Beneath it all, he had heart.
I like to think they Leia already knew he had a heart and even if Han hadn’t have done this, would’ve still admired him…but that’s me.
We have Han’s silent goodbye to the Falcon as he offers her to his reinstated friend, Lando. And then Han, Luke, Leia and Chewie’s flight to the Endor moon in the stolen shuttle. In the book, everyone’s doubts seemed much worse than in the movie and I really felt for Han as he tried to keep everyone’s spirits up.
Han tried to buoy things up. “Hey, why don’t we try to be optimistic about this?” He felt beleaguered by negativity.
Poor guy gets his first stint as a leader as his command crew is a bunch of Debbie downers!
Okay, so well, they get through with their stolen codes and head to the Endor moon. A bunch of stuff happens, they have the speeder chase and Luke/Leia get separated. Luke returns without Leia. Han and company search for Leia and get captured by the Ewoks and brought to their camp. When Leia emerges and they are trying to figure out how to get free there was an interesting part where Leia questions Luke on what to do.
Han was about to offer a suggestion when he paused, briefly taken aback by Leia’s sudden intense faith in Luke. It was something he hadn’t really noted before; he merely noted it now.
I think this offers a glimpse into Han’s confusion later regarding Luke and Leia’s feelings toward him. I think this is quite believable, especially if Leia spent time with Luke while Han was in carbonite and witnessed the effects of his training with Yoda. I think Luke and Leia would’ve grown closer during this time period and it’s also an intriguing ‘missing moment’ for me. I think they sealed their friendship during this time, secure as Leia was with her feelings for Han, it probably made it easier for her to befriend Luke. That’s what I think anyway.
Luke levitates Threepio and they all get free. The part of the movie where Threepio recites the story of the Rebellion is much the same, however, contrary to the movie the Ewoks are not convinced to join the Rebels at the end of the tale. The Ewoks do not think that it is their battle to fight and has nothing to do with them. Han is the first to speak up and tries rather ineloquently to convince them to join, relating his own transformation of only thinking of himself and now thinking of the whole.
This was one of the most inarticulate pleas Leia had ever heard, but it made her eyes fill with tears.
Even though Leia was moved, the Ewoks were not and then Luke took a turn at talking to them. I was worried here that Luke would be the one to sway them and I thought that would be horrible for Han. But not even Luke’s speech swayed the little fellas. So then Leia gave it a shot, but still to no avail. In the end, Wicket – the little Ewok that had found Leia – was the one to sway the tribal elders. I admit, the little furball’s speech kinda made my eyes misty. I was okay with this turn of events. Wicket’s success in finally convincing the tribe was not a slap in Han’s face, IMO.
Celebration ensues and Luke disappears. Leia follows him and they have their conversation, much as in the movie. Luke tells her that Vader is his father and she, his sister. During Leia’s acceptance of the information that Luke had just shared with her, this happens:
She moved away from him, to deny his words; at least to give them distance, to let her breathe. Flashes of her mother came again, in this breathing space. Parting embraces, flesh torn from flesh…
Again, this makes me wonder about what really happened to Padme. This leaves the impression that she was torn away from Leia at some point. Was she able to live with Leia for a while and then taken away to protect her? Was Padme removed against her will? This was all very interesting to me.
There was another hint that Leia may remember more of what happened. After Luke walks away:
Leia watched him go, quietly weeping. She gave free vent to her feelings, did not try to stop the tears – tried instead to feel them, to feel the source they came from, the path they took, the murky corners they cleansed.
Memories poured through her, now, clues, suspicions, half-heard mutterings when they’d thought she was asleep.
This is where Han finds her. In the book he shakes her when he is trying to get her to talk to him. It almost felt uncomfortable to me, this paragraph:
He’d never been out of control like this, he didn’t like it, he couldn’t stop it. He realized he was still shaking her and stopped.
He confronts her about confiding to Luke and not him and she cries and throws herself into his embrace:
His anger turned slowly to confusion and dismay, as he found himself wrapping his arms around her, caressing her shoulders, comforting her. “I’m sorry,” he whispered into her hair. “I’m sorry.” He didn’t understand, not an iota – didn’t understand her, or himself, or his topsy-turvy feelings, or women, or the universe. All he knew was that he’d just been furious, and now he was affectionate, protective, tender. Made no sense.
All I can say is poor Han and poor Leia at this point and what happened this night, how they parted or whatever to finally sleep, is another whopper of a missing moment.
In the morning, Luke meets with Vader. Lando and the Falcon and the rest of the Rebel fleet prepare to go into battle, and the strike team, led by Han, approaches the bunker. The Ewoks show the Rebels a back door. Vader brings Luke to the Emperor.
Han and crew break into the bunker and begin to plant the explosives. Lando comes out of hyperspace. Admiral Piett waits and watches from around the Endor moon.
This is my favorite part of the books when they do this. The quick back and forth between several converging storylines. :-)
Han and Leia are ambushed and captured. Lando and the Rebel fleet find that “It’s a trap” and Luke, upon watching the ‘fully operational’ Death Star destroy one of the Rebel ships, plunges into the dark side and strikes at the Emperor.
So, this is the low point for all of our heroes. But even at its lowest point, there can be tantalizing tidbits. As Han and Leia are led out of the bunker, they have one such little tidbit:
Han and Leia turned to each other full of feeling. All they’d struggled for, all they’d dreamed of – gone, now. Even so, they’d had each other for a short while at least. They’d come together from the opposite ends of a wasteland of emotional isolation; Han had never known love, so enamored of himself was he; Leia had never known love, so wrapped up in social upheaval was she, so intent on embracing all of humanity. And somewhere between his glassy infatuation for the one, and her glowing fervor for the all, they’d found a shady place where two could huddle, grow, even feel nourished.
I like this. Well most of it. I like that it says that neither of them had ever known love, for I think that is true, no matter what other books have said. I don’t like that it says that Han had never known love because he was ‘enamored with himself’. I just don’t think it was that simple. But for the purposes of this paragraph, I’ll let it slide.
Then the tides turned and the little Ewoks came to their rescue. Leia does get a blaster burn to the arm. As Han kneels down to tend to her, a stormtrooper comes up behind him.
Han and Leia looked at each other, fixed their gazes deep in each other’s eyes, swam there in the wells of their souls for a suspended, eternal moment, during which all was felt, understood, touched, shared.
Han confesses his “I love you” and Leia responds with “I know”. Awwwww. Insert warm and fuzzies here.
Han destroys the bunker while Leia waits nearby still in extreme pain from her wound.
The Rebel fleet start their attack run. Luke having watched Vader kill the Emperor, drags Vader to an Imperial shuttle trying to get them out before the Death Star blows. Luke and Vader have their conversation before Vader dies. But this part is different from the movie:
“You already have, Luke,” he whispered. He wished briefly, he’d met Yoda, to thank the old Jedi for the training he’d given Luke…but perhaps he’d be with Yoda soon, now in the ethereal oneness of the Force. And with Obi-Wan.
So, Vader had never met Yoda? Another contradiction to the prequels.
Lando and Wedge blow up the main reactor and the Death Star explodes. Lando, Wedge and Luke all escape in time.
On Endor, Han is wrapping Leia’s arm when they see the explosion. After he tells her that he was sure that Luke was okay and she says she can feel that he is. There’s this:
Han looked at her with deep love, special love. For she was a special woman. A princess not be title, but by heart. Her fortitude astounded him, yet she held herself so lightly. Once, he’d wanted whatever he wanted, for himself, because he wanted it. Now he wanted everything for her. Her everythings. And one thing he could see she wanted dearly, was Luke.
Han makes his offer to step aside and Leia clears things up for him. Then they lay down together in that fern dell and I’m not sure what happens… Another missing moment, to be sure.
So this is pretty much the end, except for celebration. I marked a cute little Threepio part as he mulls over everything that happened.
He thanked the Maker that Captain Solo had been able to fix Artoo, not to mention Mistress Leia – for a man without protocol, Solo did have his moments.
Luke burns Vader’s remains in the pyre and joins in the celebration. He sees Yoda, Ben and his father in the dancing flames of the fire. He doesn’t make it clear as to whether he sees the only face of his father that he ever knew or the face of the young actor that will play him in the future movies…
Han and Leia factor for this book? I’ll go with 4 stars. It does have some meaningful moments between Han and Leia and it is such a quick read that it should probably be considered a must for Han and Leia fans, especially since we know what is coming here at the end of the movies...