The relationship between Han Solo and Princess Leia spans the Star Wars saga. At times turbulent, other times loving, they are the central couple of the franchise.
We remember them racing through the Death Star to make their escape, exchanging insults along the way. And, we remember them coming together as a couple after the defeat of the Empire.
What can we conclude about the relationship between Solo and Leia? Most sources emphasize how they are perfect together, or at least truly love each other. Yet, others emphasize the strain of their relationship.
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The Origins of Han and Leia’s Love
Han Solo and Princess Leia’s relationship has a Shakespearean aspect to it. Like Romeo and Juliet, they appear to be star-crossed lovers. Han is initially a lowly smuggler from Corellia, while Leia is a high-born princess from Alderaan.
They seem like an unlikely match. Plus, Han was already involved with another woman.
In the movie Solo: A Star Wars Story, we learn that Han had a relationship with Qi’ra when he was younger on his home planet of Corellia. They try to run off and start a life together but are stopped by the Empire.
Once Han meets Qi’ra again three years later, their relationship has run its course. Obstacle averted. Yet, others await.
In A New Hope, when Han first interacts with Leia, the two are antagonists. Han sees Leia as a spoiled princess. Leia thinks Han is a greedy, selfish smuggler who only cares about money.
Leia’s distrust and anger continue while they escape from the Death Star. She thinks Han has been reckless, which could have resulted in their capture.
Yet, once Han joins the Rebel Alliance, the two bond together, and their relationship flourishes. They gradually fall in love.
By the time of The Empire Strikes Back, Leia tells Han she loves him. Han replies with one of his famous lines, “I know.”
This quote is frequently referenced as both an indication of how their love developed and the tensions of their relationship.
In Return of the Jedi, one of those tension points is that Han believes Luke may be romantically connected. Yet, when Leia informs Han that Luke is her brother, Han and Leia are clear to proceed with their genuine love for each.
A Relationship of Love
At the beginning of Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and Lando Calrissian carry out a mission to free Han from being carbon frozen at Jabba the Hutt’s palace on Tatooine.
Leia takes the lead in liberating Han from his frozen state. They embrace to confirm their love for each other.
In this third original movie, Han and Leia reflect several qualities that help us see their relationship as true love.
For one, by this point in the saga, they seem to be equal partners. Initially, they seemed to bicker more than agree, but now they support one another, including Leia saving Han.
Two, despite their differences, they accept each other for who they are and do not try to force the other one to change. Han matures as the story unfolds, but Leia does not press him to do so. They respect one another.
Their love also seems to have progressed to the point of sacrifice for one another. For example, when Han is about to be carbon frozen, he wants to make sure Chewie will protect Leia. He is willing to give up his life as long as hers is secure.
These dimensions provide valid reasons for seeing Han and Leia’s relationship as based on love.
However, by the time of The Force Awakens, their relationship had changed considerably.
A Contentious Relationship
In Episode VII: The Force Awakens, we learn that Han and Leia have separated. As Leia progressed from senator to general, that may have strained their relationship, but the turning point was with their son Ben.
Ben went to Luke Skywalker for Jedi training but instead turned to the Dark Side of the Force. When this occurred it drove a wedge between his parents.
Thus emerges a clear tension point between Han and Leia, but we could detect other moments that reflect that the relationship was less than harmonious.
For example, Han’s repeated references to Leia as “Your Worship” and “Sweetheart” could be seen as more than chauvinistic flirtation. Han’s remarks could reveal an underlying disdain for Leia.
Han also grabbed Leia to usher her to where he thought was safer and ignored her protests against his initial romantic advances.
Likewise, when Leia calls Han a “stuck-up, half-witted, scruffy-looking nerf herder” in The Empire Strikes Back, it may have more than momentary frustration behind it.
Leia may have seen Han as a coarse smuggler.
That famous line of Han’s – “I know” — may also reflect tension in the movie and in real life.
Harrison Ford had changed the line, which had previously been “I love you, too.” Carrie Fisher was not too pleased, and Ford’s decision resulted in a rift between the actors – they were not even speaking to one another.
Perhaps this anecdote is a side note, but we could see this as an element that drove Han and Leia apart. If the actors were not on good terms, the characters may have been affected too.
Coming Back Together
However, Han and Leia do patch things up once again. In The Force Awakens, we see them reunite and sincerely embrace.
Their scene together expresses the idea that their love had survived the time apart and the trauma of their son turning to the Dark Side.
Further, Han agrees to do whatever he can to bring their son Ben back. He even gives his life for their son and, by extension, their relationship.
Perhaps Han and Leia’s relationship was more realistic in the end. It was filled with love and tension, ups and downs, hope, dreams, conflict, and tragedy.
Todd Wahlstrom is a creative and analytical freelance writer and life-long Star Wars fan. He has covered such topics as Darth Vader, the Jedi, Boba Fett, and AT-AT Walkers. Todd has published a non-fiction book, holds a Ph.D. in history, and enjoys hiking, running, and reading about science.