I’ve had an affinity with the character of Mara Jade ever since I first discovered the Star Wars Expanded Universe. This was back when female Jedi were few and far between, before Disney’s movie trilogy had been released, and before anything that had been published without their blessing was relegated to the realm of Legends.
I first discovered Mara Jade in the game Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith, and I was an instant fan. Since then, I’ve cosplayed her multiple times, dabbled in fan fiction, and sought out every mention of her in the games and books.
She’s a compelling, complicated character whose real-world evolution is just as fascinating as her backstory, which we’ll explore in this Mara Jade bio.
Key Details Up Front
While she’s no longer considered part of the official canon, Mara Jade was the wife of Luke Skywalker and the mother of their son, Ben. Complex, sarcastic, and flawed, Mara has never been reduced to her role as wife and mother, and her story spans multiple books and video games.
When we first meet her in the book Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, she is bent on killing Luke as revenge for Emperor Palpatine’s death. As Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy progresses, she gradually turns against the Dark Side and joins with Luke instead.
Not only does she fall in love with him, but she also becomes a powerful Jedi in her own right. She is famous in the fandom for her red hair and purple lightsaber.
Life as the Emperor’s Hand
Mara Jade was born in 17 BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin), during the time of Order 66, when Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader were meticulously hunting down and eliminating as many members of the Jedi Order as they could find. She was very young when she was kidnapped by Empire forces and taken forcibly from her parents against their will.
There’s little to no information about who Mara Jade’s parents were, which I’ve always found disappointing. I would have loved to see her search for her family later in her life and learn more about herself through discovering her heritage. Were her parents Jedi themselves, killed as part of Order 66?
She never found out, and she was too young to remember her parents when she was taken from them and brought to Coruscant, where the Emperor began to teach her the ways of the Force himself.
Mara trained intensively for many years, developing skills in espionage and assassination, honing her Force powers, and learning to wield the purple lightsaber that Palpatine had given her. She was still just a teenager when she was named the Emperor’s Hand, one of Palpatine’s highly-skilled personal assassins.
He was particularly proud of her, and they communicated closely through the telepathic link he’d established between the two of them. She traversed the galaxy in her starship, carrying out his commands with deadly accuracy.
During her time as the Emperor’s Hand, Mara undertook a variety of missions, including hunting down any Jedi who had escaped Order 66, eliminating traitors, and working with the vigilante stormtrooper squadron known as the Hand of Judgment.
When Emperor Palpatine grew suspicious of Darth Vader after his encounter with Luke Skywalker on Bespin, he ordered Mara Jade to spy on Vader, reporting back on his activities and watching his every move. She grew envious of Vader and began to dream of his downfall, which would allow her to would replace him as Palpatine’s apprentice.
The Emperor’s Last Command
The Emperor finally tasked Mara with hunting down Luke Skywalker himself shortly before the Battle of Endor. She went to Jabba the Hutt’s palace, disguised as a dancer named Arica, to await Luke’s arrival.
She witnessed C-3PO and R2-D2 enter the compound and even interrogated C-3PO during his time there. Before reaching Luke, though, she was discovered by Jabba’s security detail and forced to fight her way out. She saw him kill the rancor as she escaped.
After failing to capture Luke on Tattooine, Mara pursued and completed an assassination on Palpatine’s behalf. Once she had completed the task, he granted her a period of vacation, during which the Battle of Endor took place.
Mara, who was not present at the battle, connected with Palpatine via a telepathic link and was able to witness his death–or she thought she did. The Emperor had sent her a false vision just before he died, leading Mara to believe that Darth Vader had joined forces with Luke Skywalker, and they had killed him together.
Palpatine sent one last message to her through the Force at the moment of his death: YOU WILL KILL LUKE SKYWALKER. Believing that Luke was responsible for Palpatine’s death, Mara Jade swore her vengeance against him.
The link between Mara and Palpatine allowed her to experience the pain he felt as he died, which overwhelmed her. She fell unconscious for several days, during which Imperial operatives took her captive in a bid for power. Mara managed to escape, however, and lived for the next few years on the run, picking up work where she could.
She lost both her Force sensitivity and her amethyst-colored lightsaber during this time. All the while, Palpatine’s final command scorched her heart.
Mara Jade’s relationship with Palpatine is one of the most interesting ones throughout her entire story, in my opinion. He was her kidnapper, and she must have gone through severe challenges at his behest.
Even so, she considers him a benevolent dictator, and he’s the closest thing she ever has to a father figure. Are her feelings towards him a result of him using the Force to sway her? Or did they have real moments of connection? We may never know.
Joining the Smugglers’ Alliance
Through a series of lucky circumstances, Mara happened to save the life of the smuggler Talon Karrde, who offered her a job with his organization on the spot. They began working together around the year 8 ABY (After Battle of Yavin), and she quickly rose through the ranks.
Shortly after that, Karrde and his crew came across Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing stranded in space and brought him aboard. They considered turning him into Thrawn for his significant bounty. Mara, meanwhile, saw the opportunity to accomplish the one goal she’d dreamed of for years: to kill Luke Skywalker.
Karrde would not allow it. He insisted on bringing Luke back to his base on the planet Myrkyr. Thrawn, still tracking Luke, pursued them there.
While on Myrkyr, Luke escaped, and Mara went after him, both ending up in a forest full of dangers that forced them to form a temporary alliance. Fortunately for Luke–but unfortunately for Mara’s mission–Han Solo and Lando Calrissian arrived to rescue them, taking Luke with them when they left the planet.
I find it curious that Mara didn’t take her opportunity to kill Luke when she had it, or even attempt to. To me, that seems like a sign that the influence of the Dark Side was wearing off even then, or perhaps that Mara was stronger against it than she realized.
Either way, Mara remained with Karrde, who had to abandon Myrkyr, thanks to the bounty Thrawn had placed on him and his organization. In a desperate bid to get Thrawn off Karrde’s back, Mara surrendered herself in exchange for information, but Thrawn double-crossed her and took Karrde prisoner despite their agreement.
Mara, who had developed a strong loyalty to Karrde, resolved to free him, but she knew she couldn’t do it alone. She tracked down Luke and persuaded him into their second reluctant alliance. They succeeded in rescuing Karrde and further cemented their growing friendship without realizing it.
Leaving the Dark Side
Mara Jade and Luke Skywalker continued to work together against Thrawn’s machinations. They both began to realize that the only reason Mara wanted to kill Luke was that Palpatine had manipulated her mind with the Dark Side.
Together, they defeated both Luke’s evil clone and the crazed Jedi Master C’baoth, which led to Mara renouncing the Dark Side entirely, along with her mission of vengeance. Luke gave Mara the lightsaber of Anakin Skywalker, sealing their friendship.
This is one of my favorite moments in Mara’s story. It acts as a turning point between her past and her future, the Dark Side and the Light. Yes, it symbolizes her connection with Luke, but it’s also a self-empowering moment for her personally when she takes control of her destiny and sets out on her own path, which I love.
After leaving the Dark Side, Mara Jade decided to seek out the Jedi Kyle Katarn to reacquaint herself with the Force and train in the ways of the Jedi. She studied under his tutelage and traversed the galaxy with him, completing missions and fighting in battles.
Katarn eventually left his life as a Jedi behind and returned to his military career. Mara continued to pursue her education and training as a Jedi while acting as a leader in Karrde’s Smugglers’ Alliance.
Mara pursued many different things in the years that followed, including running her own independent trading company, working with Leia Solo to avert a crisis on Corellia, and rescuing Luke Skywalker yet again.
But Mara still didn’t realize the full depth of her feelings for Luke until they carried out a mission together on the planet Niruan. During their battles there, they joined in almost perfect mental contact, and when it seemed like they were trapped and doomed to drown, Luke confessed his love and asked Mara to marry him. She said yes.
Marrying Luke Skywalker
Mara Jade and Luke Skywalker were married in a small, private ceremony at the Jedi training arena on Coruscant. They had a larger, more formal wedding scheduled, though it nearly didn’t happen, thanks to an Imperial plot to disturb it. However, their allies overthrew the plot, and the two were successfully married before the entire galaxy.
One thing I love about Mara’s character is how well-rounded she is. Yes, she’s what we might call a “strong female character,” in that she takes action, is skilled in combat, and has a snarky streak, but she has her softer side, too. She makes room for personal relationships, romance, compassion, and loyalty.
This is why I believe Mara is an excellent early example of a female character written in a way that really embraces the many different aspects of what a woman can be.
In 22 ABY, Mara finally left Karrde’s smuggling organization to focus on her marriage and her pursuit of Jedi knowledge. She became a key player during the Yuuzhan Vong War, which lasted till 29 ABY. She spent a great deal of time with Han and Leia Solo and their twins, Jacen and Jaina, and helped them on many occasions.
It was in the midst of the Yuuzhan Vong War that Mara became pregnant and gave birth to her and Luke’s son, whom they named Ben. The three of them escaped from the newly captured Coruscant to the planet of Borleias, where she ran intelligence before becoming second-in-command of Blackmoon Squadron, under Luke’s command.
They fought and won the war against the Yuuzhan Vong, recapturing Coruscant and establishing a Jedi Academy on Ossus.
After that, Mara split her time between the academy on Ossus and the new Jedi Temple on Coruscant. Other conflicts arose over the years, including the Second Galactic Civil War in 40 ABY, but Mara’s main focus was her family.
Protecting Her Family
Mara and Luke’s son, Ben, had always shown resistance to exploring his own Force sensitivity, something which Mara found deeply painful. She encouraged his growing closeness with Jacen Solo, Han and Leia’s son, in the hopes that their friendship might lead him to explore his powers more openly.
Mara continued to trust Jacen as the caregiver for her son even as others began to express misgivings about his intentions. This makes a lot of sense to me, considering her backstory. She knows that people can have darkness in them, but that they deserve a chance to prove themselves and to come back to the light.
Over time, however, Mara came to accept that Jacen was moving towards the Dark Side with too much momentum, and decided that he and Ben needed to be separated for her son’s safety.
When they arrived at the designated rendezvous point to retrieve Ben, Mara and Luke were attacked by Mara’s old rival and former fellow Emperor’s Hand, Lumiya. They escaped safely with Ben, but also with the knowledge that Jacen was completely embroiled in Dark Side schemes at this point.
Concerned for Ben’s safety, Mara decided to hunt down Lumiya and kill her in case she continued to pursue her son. While she was away, Ben discovered that Lumiya and Jacen were working together, and informed his mother. Mara confronted Jacen, hoping to sway him away from the Dark Side, but he rebuffed her attempts to persuade him.
Death and Afterlife
Mara was faced with a difficult choice. She came to the understanding that Jacen was too dangerous to live.
I can imagine this was an almost impossible decision for her. After all, she was once in a similar position, when Luke gave her a chance he didn’t need to give. She’s living proof that redemption is possible, so the signs must have been grave indeed for her to condemn Jacen as beyond redemption.
She tracked him down and faced him in one-on-one combat. It was a hard fight, but Jacen played dirty, projecting a Force image of Ben’s face on his own for a moment, which caused Mara to hesitate. In that moment of hesitation, he was able to strike her down and kill her.
Her murder was Jacen’s sacrifice to become the Sith lord Dark Caedus. In killing him, he also destroyed his friendship with her son.
In her last moments, Mara reached out to her family through the Force to say goodbye, and her passing was felt by many Jedi across the galaxy. She left her body behind as evidence of how she was killed.
Her death was a noble one, in my opinion. She died protecting what she loved most: her family. Her arc felt complete at the end of her story, as she was torn from her own parents as a baby, trained in the ways of the Dark Side, and brought back to the Light, before finally establishing her own family unit, which she wouldn’t let anyone rip apart.
Her funeral was held in Coruscant. During the ceremony, Jacen arrived unexpectedly–and at the moment of his entrance, Mara’s body dissipated into the force, which her son took as a sign that Jacen was not to be trusted.
Mara Jade’s legacy rippled throughout the galaxy. Her death was avenged by her family, who brought down Jacen Solo, now known as Darth Caedus. Mara herself would appear to them many times after her passing as a Force ghost, and her memory was cherished by her husband and son for the rest of their lives.
- Mara Jade is kidnapped by the Empire as a child, trained in the ways of the Force by Palpatine, and becomes the Emperor’s Hand.
- She hunts down Jedi who have escaped Order 66.
- Mara Jade spies on Darth Vader’s activity on behalf of Emperor Palpatine, and becomes jealous of his position at the Emperor’s side.
- Mara is sent to capture Luke Skywalker on Tattooine, and enters Jabba the Hutt’s palace disguised as a dancer, but fails in her mission.
- Separated from Palpatine at the time of his death, she receives a falsified vision through the Force of Vader and Luke murdering him together, as well as a message: YOU WILL KILL LUKE SKYWALKER.
- Mara Jade joins a smuggling organization run by Talon Karrde, to whom she becomes loyal.
- She’s given multiple chances to enact her revenge on Luke, but never takes them. Instead, they become reluctant allies and then friends.
- Mara Jade renounces the Dark Side and her quest to kill Luke, who gifts her his father’s lightsaber as a token of friendship.
- She studies under the tutelage of Kyle Katarn and becomes a Jedi Master.
- Mara Jade and Luke Skywalker become engaged while trapped and thinking they are about to drown.
- Mara and Luke are married on Coruscant.
- Mara Jade gives birth to a son, Ben Skywalker.
- She discovers that Jacen Solo has turned to the Dark Side and separates her son from his care.
- Mara Jade confronts Jacen Solo, who ultimately kills her.
Mara Jade Themes
Relationship with Luke Skywalker
Mara Jade is most famous in the fandom for marrying Luke Skywalker. Their relationship holds great significance within the Force and represents the balance of the Dark and Light Side coming together.
Not only that, but it symbolizes the healing journey that Mara goes through. Luke saw her for who she was even when she still swore vengeance against him and was deprogramming from her experience with the Dark Side.
He held space for her and let their relationship evolve as she learned from him and from her life outside of the Empire’s influence.
Their relationship started antagonistically, at least from Mara’s perspective. But many times in the early stages of their relationship, they were forced to work together to survive, and Mara became Luke’s grudging ally even when she still vowed to someday kill him.
Eventually, though, she got to know Luke and was able to untangle herself from the web of lies that Palpatine had woven around her. She renounced the Dark Side and formed a genuine friendship with Luke.
From there, their relationship blossomed further over years of working together, deepening into romance and love. Their marriage was one of true partnership and equal strength.
Mara and Luke’s relationship was fun for me to watch as it evolved because it’s a classic example of the enemies-to-lovers trope. Who doesn’t love seeing their favorite characters snark at each other as they fall in love against their will?
Healing from Trauma
Mara Jade suffered through a traumatic experience at a very young age: being torn from her family and indoctrinated into a harsh and unforgiving organization, the Empire. She was essentially brainwashed by her upbringing to believe that Palpatine had given her a gift by kidnapping her and training her to hunt and kill.
She spent her whole life deprogramming from that brainwashing. First, she had to learn how to survive without existing within the structure of the Empire. She had to confront her greatest enemy and was forced to reckon with the truth that he is not what she thought he is.
She had to challenge everything she learned, which took great resilience and adaptability. She also learned to forgive–forgive others for what they did to her, and forgive herself for what she was made to do and to believe.
Mara Jade’s story is one of healing and forgiveness. I’ve always found her narrative arc inspiring because she emerged from a dark past and created a powerful, positive life for herself and her family. Mara tells us that no matter who you are or where you come from, you can always change your life.
Canon vs Legends
When Disney announced that many published Star Wars works would be removed from the canon, I was devastated. That meant I would never get a chance to see Mara Jade’s story play out on the big screen, and she was no longer considered a part of the current Star Wars universe.
In Disney’s latest movie trilogy, Luke is unmarried. The writers gave a nod to Mara by naming Han and Leia’s son Ben–Ben Solo, not Ben Skywalker. But Mara Jade has been completely eliminated from the storyline and is unlikely to appear in any future Star Wars material.
Luckily for Mara Jade fans like me, there’s no shortage of Legends media that feature her character. You can find her in video games, comics, books, and even in the Return of the Jedi radio drama, where she appears as her dancer alter ego, Arica.
Mara Jade’s Force sensitivity gave her access to an array of powers that served her well throughout her life. She was particularly renowned for her intuition as a Jedi, or her ability to sense danger through the Force, which her husband, Luke Skywalker, came to rely on during their missions together.
She was an accomplished lightsaber duelist and was able to defeat powerful enemies, including Luke’s clone, her long-time rival Lumiya, and many opponents during the Yuuzhan Vong War.
She was also an adept starship pilot and wielded a number of other weapons, including blasters and melee weapons. She could hold her own in hand-to-hand combat, too, and was a sharp tactician.
Mara also had some less savory gifts that she acquired over the years. She was a talented slicer, a skill that came in handy in her work as a smuggler, which required her to hack into ships and computers. She was well-versed in the arts of espionage and disguise, thanks to her stint as the Emperor’s Hand.
Mara Jade’s life experience was diverse and robust, giving her a well-rounded toolkit of skills and abilities that made her an impressive Jedi Master, fighter, and smuggler.
- “I am so glad I found you and didn’t kill you.” – to Luke Skywalker
- “It is, as some admiral once said, a trap.” – quoting Admiral Ackbar
- “It’s always nice to meet new people and make new enemies.”
- “Darling. I love you, you are my life and my light. If you ever do this to me again I will vape you where you stand.” – to Luke Skywalker, regarding her pregnancy
- Luke: “Mara…will you marry me?”
Mara: “You mean if we get out of here alive?”
Luke: “I mean regardless.”
– Luke’s proposal to Mara Jade on Niruan
- “It’s not about the legacy you leave, it’s about the life you live.”
Question: Was Mara Jade a Sith or a Jedi?
Answer: Mara Jade was raised and trained in the ways of the Sith by Emperor Palpatine. However, as an adult, she renounced the Dark Side and studied under both Luke Skywalker and Kyle Katarn to become a Jedi Master.
Question: Who Killed Mara Jade?
Answer: Jacen Solo, later known as Darth Caedus, killed Mara Jade when she confronted him about his alliances with people associated with the Dark Side.
Question: What Color Lightsaber does Mara Jade have?
Answer: While working as the Emperor’s hand, Mara Jade used a purple lightsaber, given to her by Palpatine himself. She lost it during a mission after the Empire’s defeat. Later, she was given the blue-bladed lightsaber of Anakin Skywalker by Luke.
Question: Was Mara Jade Related to Palpatine?
Answer: No, Mara Jade was not related to Palpatine by blood. He kidnapped her from her real parents when she was a baby and raised her in the ways of the Dark Side.
Though she may have lost her place in the official Star Wars canon, Mara Jade has not lost her place in the hearts of fans the world over. She still remains one of my favorite characters in the Expanded Universe.
Her story is a triumphant one, as she breaks the shackles of the Dark Side, learns to love and trust, and lives a fulfilling life with both a family and a legacy of strength, wisdom, and prowess as a Jedi Master.
If you’re interested in learning more about Mara Jade and getting involved in her story, you have plenty of options. I’d recommend starting with Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, as it makes an excellent entry point into the character. I hope that Star Wars fans continue to encounter Mara Jade and find her story as meaningful as I have.
And if you’re looking for more great female characters in Star Wars, check out the following bios: