Presenting OTP Tuesday! Every Tuesday I will introduce you to a new One True Pairing! Tune in each week to find out which fictional couple you need to agonize/squee over next. In honor of The Last Jedi coming out this month, all December OTPs will be from my original fandom: Star Wars. This week we’re Keeping Up With the Skywalkers with Luke/Mara.
Who Are Luke/Mara?
Luke/Mara refers to Luke Skywalker and his wife, Mara Jade Skywalker. Unfortunately, being a rather old and more obscure ship, it doesn’t have a cool ship name. (Based on the fact that Mara calls Luke “farmboy” and that she was the former Emperor’s Hand, I’d like to propose “FarmHand.”) Luke/Mara comes from the Expanded Universe novels, primarily Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn books.
Let’s be real, you know who Luke Skywalker is. (I just wrote about Luke for last week’s Bae Watch, if you’re looking for a crash course!)
Luke Skywalker is the protagonist of (arguably) the most influential piece of science fiction in history, Star Wars. Or, I suppose, he’s the protagonist of the original trilogy, only appearing briefly in the prequels and so far only briefly in the new trilogy. Luke is a plucky farmboy from Tatooine, who yearns to explore the stars. He gets his wish, only it comes at the expense of everything he’s ever known.
In the course of the original trilogy, Luke rescues a princess, saves the galaxy, trains to become a Jedi, loses his hand, discovers his heritage, and saves his father. Quite an impressive resume. Luke in the original trilogy follows a traditional Hero’s Journey. His development from brash youth to the last of the Jedi is impressive and inspiring.
Following the original trilogy, in the EU novels, Luke goes on to found a New Jedi Order. He continues to save the galaxy but goes through some tough times along the way. Luke struggles with his heritage and the lure of the Dark Side. But Luke is not his father, and he does not make the same mistakes. And one saving grace is his interactions with Mara Jade, one of my all-time favorite fictional characters.
When we first meet Mara, it is five years after Return of the Jedi. Mara is working for the smuggler Talon Karrde (also a great character). But Mara has a mysterious past that intrigues Karrde almost as much as her skills impress him. Over the course of Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn trilogy, we learn more about that past… and just why it is that she desperately hates Luke Skywalker.
Mara had once been a pseudo-apprentice to the Emperor, known as his Hand. She is very powerful in the Force, but Palpatine purposefully neglected to train her fully to retain control of her. Palpatine assigned Mara to assassinate Luke at Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi, but she failed. Later, as Palpatine died, he sent her a message — and a strong Force suggestion — “YOU MUST KILL LUKE SKYWALKER!”
Ever since Mara has struggled. She mourns the loss of her former life and prestige, and she struggles with Palpatine’s final order. She reluctantly teams up with Luke several times in the Thrawn trilogy to save Karrde, and they form an understanding. Luke even begins to train Mara as they work to defeat mad Dark Jedi Joruus C’boath.
After defeating C’boath, Luke and Mara go their separate ways. Mara has been given more responsibility in Karrde’s organization, and Luke continues trying to reestablish the Jedi Order. Mara comes to train at his academy on Yavin IV, but is resentful of the other students and soon leaves. Their relationship at this point is pretty fraught.
Vision of the Future
Mara pops up again from time to time in later books, but she becomes a major player again in Zahn’s follow up to the Thrawn trilogy, the Hand of Thrawn duology. Luke is in a messed-up place, dealing with the ramifications of his Force power, and Mara keeps her distance. The two are thrown together (literally) when Mara rescues Luke from a pirate’s nest, though they soon separate again.
Still, Luke is happy to have seen Mara. While on his own mission later, he meditates to seek guidance. As he is leaving his meditation, he sees Mara in a vision, lying in a pool of water, seemingly dead. Shaken, when he runs into Karrde and learns that Mara has been captured, he doesn’t hesitate to go and rescue her. Mara resents this overprotectiveness, but the mission gives the two some quality time together.
And they definitely need the time. So much between them is unspoken. There’s resentment on both parts, and Mara struggles to help Luke overcome his lingering connections to the Dark Side. In the end, however, they grow closer than ever and reconcile their differences. During a battle, they perform a mind-meld to increase chances of survival and learn that they are both in love with each other.
They survive the battle and are married. Both teach at Luke’s academy. Further adventures ensue, especially when the Yuuzhan Vong invade the galaxy. They poison Mara, who only survives because of her Force powers. She is eventually healed when she gets pregnant and gives birth to Luke’s son, Ben. The three find happiness in a dark galaxy. Eventually, however, Mara is killed by a new Sith Lord, and Luke continues on alone.
Why is Luke/Mara OTP?
Luke/Mara is one of the first ships I remember shipping. I loved the characters individually, but together they achieved so much. Their relationship was enjoyable to read, at turns amusing and emotional. Timothy Zahn did an amazing job introducing Mara as a character and creating a fully wonderful pairing.
“YOU WILL KILL LUKE SKYWALKER!”
What a way to introduce a ship, right? Enemies to friends to lovers may be an overdone trope, but Zahn approaches it masterfully. Also, the relationship develops slowly over many hundreds of pages, ensuring that it doesn’t feel rushed.
Mara’s strength is one of the best things about her. This is a strong, capable, powerful woman. At the same time, there is so much vulnerability about her, especially when it comes to her past. Because Palpatine used and manipulated her, she doesn’t come into her own until after she passes his last command. It’s through Luke’s help that Mara can get past this roadblock.
Obviously, Mara doesn’t kill Luke. Instead, she kills a clone of Luke that was trying to kill him. So she fulfilled Palpatine’s last command but in a wonderfully subversive way. She not only doesn’t kill Luke, but she saves his life (and does so many many times). Luke gives her the strength and courage to overcome her past and move on to a brighter future.
When Mara later helps Luke overcome his Dark Side tendencies, it shows a great balance between the two. Luke needs Mara’s help just as much as she needs his. Their relationship is built on equality and partnership, not one-sided admiration. Mara is not a lesser character than Luke, in any way, and that’s wonderful.
In addition to being equals, Luke/Mara balance each other out perfectly. One of the things that draws Luke to Mara is that she doesn’t view him as superhuman. Mara hates Luke at first, so of course, she isn’t doe-eyed with infatuation. However, as she grows to like him, Mara keeps her chill.
Luke is one of the most famous beings in the galaxy. He’s also incredibly powerful. But what most people forget is that Luke was once just a poor farmboy from Tatooine. Mara never forgets this. In fact, she even calls Luke “farmboy,” at first condescendingly, but later endearingly. Mara knows that, for all his power and his accomplishments, Luke is only human.
This keeps Luke grounded. There’s so much potential for him to get a big head and go down a dark path, but Mara is there to deflate his ego. But, just as she reminds him he’s only human, she reminds him that that makes him likable. Mara likes Luke for who he is, inside, not what he’s done. She likes him as a person, not as an icon. Luke needs this in life, and it’s great to see him get it.
Luke/Mara is great because these are two incredibly powerful, important, cool people. But when you get them together, they are just like any other people in love. They fight, sure, but they also have each other’s backs. And their interactions are great, full of sarcasm and wit. Even better, Mara makes Luke blush. It’s so cute to see the savior of the galaxy have a crush like anyone else.
What’s Next for Luke/Mara?
Unfortunately, I don’t have a right answer to that question. With Lucasfilm disregarding the EU canon, Mara may not even exist anymore. We know almost nothing about Luke’s life post-Return of the Jedi. There’s a lot of speculation that Rey is Luke’s daughter, which would mean at some point in time he had a relationship with a woman. It’s possible that that woman will turn out to be Mara.
However, I don’t hold out a lot of hope for this; even if that turns out to be the case — which is unlikely — I’ll be disappointed with the results. What happened to Mara after the Jedi Temple massacre? Why did Luke go into exile alone? Even if we do get Mara in The Last Jedi, it’s likely to be only in flashbacks, as a dead character. That might be even worse than discarding her altogether.
Is Luke/Mara Canon?
Sort of? Again, there’s not a good answer to this question. Originally, yes, Luke/Mara was canon. In the EU novels, their relationship was well-established. In fact, Luke/Mara is one of my favorite aspects of the EU. Unfortunately, Lucasfilm chose to disregard the EU when they began the new trilogy.
So technically, I suppose that no, Luke/Mara isn’t canon. The EU has been explained as being “Legends,” rather than fact (fictional fact?), so can no longer be considered strictly canon. That being said, Lucasfilm may still choose to keep some aspects of this relationship alive in the new trilogy. Because we don’t have all the answers yet, we can’t say for certain. Hopefully The Last Jedi gives us something on that front.
Regardless of canonicity, however, I will always love Luke/Mara. They were such an inspiration for me growing up, and I can confidently state: #baegoals. Individually, these are characters I love. I have always loved Luke, and Mara was such a great female character in a universe I loved. To see them come together was magical, and it will forever hold a special place in my fangirl heart.