By Noor-Hal Cuellar
It is a truth universally acknowledged that the troubled relationship between father and child is a common theme in Star Wars. Indeed, the first example that comes into mind is Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker: a relationship learned after that magnificent twist in The Empire Strikes Back. We can also discuss how the unresolved father issues that Princess Leia holds against her Skywalker legacy might be one of the triggers of the galactic conflict in the sequel trilogy, something that led into that soul-crushing episode between Han Solo and his estranged son, Kylo Ren (formerly known as Ben Solo). Rogue One of course gave us another great example with Jyn Erso and her father, Galen Erso, who sent a message to reveal his revenge towards the Empire looking for an absolution for his apparent Imperial allegiance. Or we can even go to the animated series and mention the nature of the relationship between the Ryloth freedom leader Cham Syndulla and his daughter Hera. So we see Star Wars in that sense is fertile land for this topic.
However, since a lot of countries around the world celebrate Father’s Day this third Sunday of June, let us celebrate fatherhood, paternal bonds and the impact of fathers in the Star Wars saga by honoring three characters that took on a paternal role with three children about the same period, the early years of the Galactic Empire, and these children did actually grow up to become important heroes of the Rebellion. They were not their biological fathers; however, they cared for them, some longer than others, and tried to protect them to the best of their abilities.
1) Bail Organa.
The most obvious example is the Viceroy and former Senator of Alderaan, Bail Organa. At the end of Episode III, we learned that he and his wife adopted Leia right after Padme died on childbirth. Across several types of canon media, we are able to have glimpses of their relationship from the moment he took baby Leia to Alderaan to meet Queen Breha to when we see Princess Leia in the Tantive IV on her mission, nineteen years later. And for all of them, we can see that his concern and care for Leia was true and sincere. On E.K. Johnston’s “Ahsoka” novel, barely a year later Bail was so fond of his daughter and worried about her future, especially after suffering PSTD nightmares from having witnessed the clones killing Jedi padawans and younglings in the Jedi Temple, as well as rescuing Master Yoda after his fight with Darth Sidious. His concern was such that he wished Leia took more after Padme than Anakin in terms of Force-sensitivity. With this in mind, it is practically safe to say that she was not trained at all in the ways of the Force (even when her adoptive father was working with certain former padawan who was close to Anakin Skywalker) just to protect her from raising the attention of The Emperor, Vader or the Inquisitors. We see as well how he influenced little Leia when she was growing up to become a fair leader for her people, fully aware of her responsibilities and her duty – even at the moment of convincing her to eat her vegetables or take all kind of necessary lessons. We see his influence on his young daughter when she interacted with the Ghost crew in Lothal, inspiring them to succeed on their mission. We see how Bail regarded her in high esteem, that he even acknowledged to Mon Mothma that he trusted her with his life. And thanks to Alexandra Bracken’s junior novelization of A New Hope, we are able to learn about the immediate reaction of the young princess after witnessing the destruction of her home planet, and how she used the words she remembers from her beloved father help to alleviate her pain and motivate herself to continue fighting for the freedom of the galaxy.
However, the story does not end there. Thanks to Claudia Gray’s Bloodline, we are able to witness the impact of the legacy of Bail Organa when the book starts right when he is being honored with a statue in his memory in Hosnian Prime. We see the impact of his revelation to Leia, one that she already knew but never wanted to fully acknowledge in public about her true origins. We might judge harshly his decisions regarding the education of Leia and that reveal that changed a lot of things for her and her family; however, he was just trying to protect his daughter from harm.
2) Owen Lars
For a long time, our impression of Uncle Owen was mainly based on his short appearances in A New Hope. First we meet him buying the two droids and later we see him at dinner when he is reluctant about the perspective of Luke leaving Tatooine to join the Imperial Academy. We might consider him as the narrow-minded farmer who hid his nephew the truth of his origins and tried to keep him in the moisture farm even when the boy didn’t want to stay. And prior to this, we had a brief glimpse of his younger self when we see Anakin looking for his mother in Episode II and by the end of Episode III when Obi-Wan hands them baby Luke. However, we have learned more about him thanks to the Journal of Obi-Wan Kenobi, included in the Marvel comic issues Star Wars # 15 and # 20. Here we find a younger Owen raising the son of his stepbrother and trying to protect Luke even from Obi-Wan. From our perspective, we can judge Uncle Owen harshly for refusing to have his nephew trained as a Jedi. We can think ill of him due to that, and we wonder how he could refuse to have his Force-Sensitive nephew trained by the great Obi-Wan Kenobi. But we have to realize something really important: these were the times of the Empire, these were the times when everyone thought the Jedi were traitors who tried to kill Palpatine and take over the Old Republic government. Obviously for Uncle Owen, if he and Aunt Beru loved Luke as their own child, of course they would not like to get him in danger. They probably didn’t want him to be on a risk to be detected by the Empire and taken away to suffer the same fate as his father – who they thought dead.
3) Saw Gerrera
We met the Onderonian fighter back in The Clone Wars Season 5, being secretly helped by the Jedi and the Clones to resist the Separatist occupation of his planet. We see how the victory comes at a high price with the death of his sister Steela due to war collateral damage. Then we fast forward to the early times of the Galactic Civil War, when we met him as a paranoid and extremist rebel, who took care of Jyn Erso after her father was taken by the Empire and her mother passed away. We also learned he abandoned her at the age of 16, so at a first sight he would not be a highly good fit for the role of a foster father. However, when we learn that his intentions behind leaving Jyn aside was to protect her so nobody could use her as an asset against the Empire our perspective might soften about him.
It is until we read about how he entered into the Ersos’s lives at the end of Catalyst and then read about him in Rebel Rising, we find out that Saw was not even their close friend, he was just the guy who helped them escape from Coruscant and arrive to Lah’mu as requested per Has Obbitt, who was the close one to Lyra and young Jyn. For him to take on the responsibility of Jyn Erso when he goes to Lah’mu after that emergency call it is tough for him, who was looking forward to pick up a whole family and just got a little girl under his protection. He even acknowledges that, when he tells Jyn that he does not know what he is going to do with her. So especially to become a foster parent of a girl whose father was thought to be part of the Empire – since they didn’t know his intentions about betraying the Empire by apparently helping on the Death Star construction – was quite an important decision to make. We learned, from Beth Revis’ book, how Saw’s paranoia gradually became worse and how Jyn is faced with the terrible choices of being in one side or another, and how there are always people affected no matter what. She herself is abandoned, after being protected and trained to fight by Saw, after even receiving some evidence of him genuinely caring about her as his daughter – he even called her once Jyn Gerrera – so it is quite understandable the way she is by the time we met her at Wobani being released by Rebels, how she fights them and don’t seem to trust anyone. Nevertheless, even when Jyn made the ultimate choice to go on a suicide mission to honor his father’s sacrifice and fulfill Galen’s revenge, we cannot overcome the fact on how the time she spent under the tutelage of Saw helped her both as in her physical training as well as in her attitude towards battle – especially when she gives that motivational speech to the Rogue One team and starts with a quote from her former tutor.
In summary, the reason these three were important to discuss is because of the common ground we can find in their stories and how they did take on the responsibility of raising a child who had no blood ties to them. And the most interesting thing in common is that these three children become key heroes of the Rebellion and made a huge impact in the galaxy. We might want to acknowledge the impact their father figures had on them and their achievements, and the additional canon media is a great source to keep learning more details about great supporting characters like these three.
Happy Father’s Day!
Written by Noor-Hal Cuellar