The Forgotten Mothers of Star Wars

Screenshot from Revenge of the Sith.

As origin stories go, the Skywalker twins have it fairly rough: they were orphaned not once, but twice. I don’t know much about the Organa and Lars families, but when I watch Luke and Leia, it’s clear they’ve been taught good values, and I wonder how much their mothers had to do with it.

My wife and I will take the girl. We’ve always talked of adopting a baby girl. She will be loved with us.” —Bail Organa, Revenge of the Sith

Breha Organa, the queen of Alderaan and Senator Bail Organa’s wife, appears for a few seconds in the closing montage of Revenge of the Sith. The music swells, reminding me of Leia’s journey to come, and I imagine how Breha might have mothered the iconic princess.

Breha wants a daughter, not just to train as an heir, but to love. Bail would have been busy on Coruscant for weeks or months at a time, resisting the Emperor as he siphoned away the Senate’s power—hardly a safe place for a young girl. Even though Breha was queen of a whole planet, I doubt Leia was reared by droids in a lonely nursery.

“As a girl growing up and seeing Star Wars, of course you want to be Princess Leia. And to know that I’m actually playing her mother . . . I just kept thinking about those buns! . . . Maybe I taught her how to do those buns!” —Rebecca Jackson Mendoza, the actress who portrayed Breha Organa in Revenge of the Sith

Leia’s title isn’t “junior senator” or “representative,” or some other role connected to the Senate. It’s “princess.” Early drafts of A New Hope name Leia as the daughter of Queen Breha, almost 30 years before her on-screen debut.

Screenshot from Revenge of the Sith.

Leia was brought up with all the riches and power of royalty, but she never leaned on position or influence to benefit herself. Someone taught her how to use her privilege wisely and shrewdly to help those in need.

 “No! Alderaan is peaceful. We have no weapons.” —Leia Organa, A New Hope

During the Emperor’s reign, Breha Organa would have walked a fine line between secretly supporting her husband’s efforts with the Rebel Alliance and maintaining the values of a peaceful planet. Leia has also learned this balance. She keeps the location of the rebel base secret while being tortured, and she wields her words more skillfully than a blaster. She has made her mother’s Alderaanian values her own.

The droids belonged to her. She’s the one in the message. We’ve got to help her.” —Luke Skywalker, A New Hope

When Beru Whitesun married into the Lars clan, she joined a family that believed in kindness, justice, and bravery. Her father-in-law, Cliegg, fell in love with Shmi Skywalker and bought her freedom so he could marry her. When Shmi was kidnapped by Tusken Raiders, Cliegg attempted to rescue her and lost his leg in the venture.

Beru taught Luke that no danger is too great when standing up to evil.

Beru’s not afraid of the dangers a Tatooine life brings. She embraces them for more than twenty years, and when Stormtroopers come seeking Rebel-sympathizing droids, she dies protecting her adoptive son.

There is good in him. I’ve felt it. He won’t turn me over to the Emperor. I can save him. I can turn him back to the good side. I have to try.” —Luke Skywalker, Return of the Jedi

Beru taught Luke that no danger is too great when standing up to evil. She also taught him that family is worth sacrificing for—even dying for—something Luke wouldn’t have heard elsewhere.

Luke’s Jedi mentors never told him to fight for Darth Vader’s redemption. Obi-Wan implicitly commands Luke to kill his father, suggesting Vader isn’t even human anymore. Yoda’s vague instruction is simply to “confront” Vader in order to become a Jedi. But these masters have never known the influence of a mother’s teaching or the strength of family bonds.

Owen, he can’t stay here forever . . . He has too much of his father in him.” —Beru Lars, A New Hope

Perhaps every time Owen Lars looks at Luke, he sees Anakin—the hurting, angry young man who left the woman he was supposed to protect so he could hunt for revenge. Owen would change Luke, if he could, make him more steady and reliable like himself. At the very least, he would isolate Luke and protect him.

Screenshot from A New Hope.

But Beru knows that Luke has greatness in him, and it’s pointless to lock that away. Maybe her memories of Anakin from his visit twenty-three years ago are filtered through Padme’s love for the tortured Jedi. Or maybe she simply acknowledges that Luke can make different choices than his father did. Beru doesn’t try to change Luke’s destiny, but she shapes his character. She helps him become a better version of Anakin: a wise man not driven by fear but by love.

I’m not adopted, but as with Luke and Leia, you can see my mom’s influence through my life.

Sometimes, the knowledge she passed on was hard-earned. My love for words (and my perfectionism in general) started with essays covered in her careful pen scribbles saying, “Unclear,” “This isn’t parallel,” and “Too wordy.” Memories of reading those corrections come with blurry tears of frustration, but soon after, I fell in love with editing.

Other wisdom came from her life experiences. I feel comfortable in my identity as a young, single woman advancing my career because of the years my mom spent in the same situation. She gives me advice on apartment hunting, job interviews, and cooking and makes me confident I can succeed at “adulting.”

I’m not naturally confident or skilled. Someone else taught me and encouraged my determination to succeed. I dream of being like Luke and Leia, but when I evaluate my life, I find I just want to be more like my mom.

Alex Mellen

Alex Mellen

Staff Writer at Area of Effect
Alex Mellen likes a little bit of everything, including movies, books, sports, music, crafts, and especially Star Wars. She works as a copyeditor for a small-town newspaper while freelance writing and editing on the side.
Alex Mellen