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How Long Was Han Solo Frozen in Carbonite?

Han Solo

Han Solo was a human male smuggler born on the planet Corellia. Just like every other smuggler, Han Solo had to complete the Kessel Run. 

What made him different was how quickly he finished the run. Han Solo famously made this run in a mere 12 parsecs while piloting the Millenium Falcon, while most smugglers finished the run in 20 parsecs. 

Previously known simply as Han, he was given the name Solo (as well as the title Cadet 124-329), by an Imperial Recruitment Officer, while he was serving as an Imperial Cadet. 

Eventually, Han Solo became the leader of the Alliance to Restore the Republic, making him an integral part of the plan to defeat the Galactic Empire during the Galactic Civil War. 

Han Solo was neither a Jedi nor a Sith, which means he was free to fall in love. He did exactly this and married Princess Leia Organa and had twins, Jacen and Jaina. 

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The couple also had a younger son, Anakin, who was affectionately named after his grandfather, Anakin Skywalker.

Before getting married Han Solo had a run-in with his soon-to-be father-in-law, Darth Vader. This ended with him being frozen in carbonite, which sent the Star Wars fandom into a tizzy with questions about the act. 

Vader Tortures Han (Star Wars V The Empire Strikes Back)

So without further ado, let’s dive into why Han Solo was frozen. 

What Is Carbonite in Star Wars? 

Before we get into the meat of the matter, we must first understand what carbonite is

Carbonite Explained - What It Is and What It's Used For

Carbonite was a liquid made from carbon gas, which would be made solid through a rapid freezing process known as carbon-freezing. 

Usually, carbon-freezing was used to preserve goods. For example, gasses like Tibanna, which are high pressure, are put through carbon-freezing to make them more compact, and safer for travel. 

Even more impressively, carbonite could be used to preserve people as well. Before hyperdrive was invented, many spacefarers would encase themselves in carbonite blocks to make the long voyages more bearable. 

As effective as it was, this technique had a collection of cruel side effects, commonly known as Hibernation Sickness. These side effects include exhaustion, weakness, dehydration, dizziness, memory loss, temporary blindness, and even death (in the more severe cases). 

Although in some rare cases, people would come out of being frozen with no ill effects, it is possible that the length of time spent in the preservation solution has something to do with this. 

It is theoretically possible that if a being spends a short amount of time in carbonite, it can emerge unscathed.

Why Was Han Solo in Carbonite?

The reason for Han Solo’s freezing in carbonite was twofold. The first was the writer’s true reasoning behind this plan, whereas the other was put in place to explain the prolonged absence of Han Solo

For some galaxy-based reason, during The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo encountered the Sith Lord, Darth Vader. Lord Vader knew he wanted to freeze his son, Luke Skywalker, but before he could, he wanted to test it out. 

Therefore, Darth Vader chose to try carbon-freezing on his future son-in-law before going after his actual target. This was a shocking plot twist that left fans wondering whether or not this was the end for good ole Han Solo. 

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) - 'Carbon Freeze' scene [1080]

On the technical side of things, George Lucas intended for Han Solo to fly off with Chewbacca on the Millenium Falcon, only to come back at full strength in Return of the Jedi. 

Unfortunately, at that time, there was uncertainty surrounding whether or not Harrison Ford would be returning to his role as Han Solo. As a result, George Lucas opted to have Han Solo frozen to stall the character’s arc. 

How Long Was Han Solo Frozen in Carbonite?

In the Star Wars universe, most planets, such as Coruscant, follow a galactic standard twelve-month, 368-day year. Others, such as Tatooine, have longer days, so the year has 304 days. 

Han Solo was frozen on Cloud City and transferred to Jabba the Hutt’s palace on Tatooine. This means that he could have experienced two different timelines, making it a bit difficult to pinpoint exactly how long he was encased in the carbonite. 

It seems as though it could have been mere months (according to Comic Book Resources, it was approximately six months), but we cannot be sure. What we do know is the timeline of the two films when Han Solo was frozen and then thawed. 

The Empire Strikes Back took place in three ABY (After the Battle of Yavin), when Han was preserved, and Return of the Jedi occurred in four ABY when he was thawed. Hence, he was frozen for about one year. 

How Did Han Solo Survive in Carbonite? 

To reiterate, carbon-freezing was used to preserve goods and, in this case, living beings. Therefore, it wouldn’t be hard for him to survive, so long as no damage comes to the carbonite after he’s in it and he makes it past the freezing process. 

While preserved in carbonite, Han Solo would be in hibernation mode. It would be as though he was in a constant state of sleep, without the need for bodily functions such as eating or excreting waste. 

Han Solo was not dead, but he was not fully alive either; he simply existed. Even so, it was a painful process, as Solo described. After he was thawed by Leia on Tatooine, he stated that it was a timeless period for him. 

For an eternity, he would be trying to breathe, move, or even scream. Sadly, he could not satiate his urges at that moment, so he just had to remain in a state of constant, painful, strangulation. 

The freezing process itself wasn’t a picnic, which was something seemingly everyone was aware of. In the words of C-3PO, “Oh, they’ve encased him in carbonite. He should be quite well protected. If he survived the freezing process, that is.”

How Did Han Solo Survive Carbonite?

Did Han Solo Age in Carbonite?

Carbonite keeps goods in their current state until they are eventually thawed at their destination. Thus, it prevents the aging process. 

What this means is that physically, Han Solo did not age during the time he was frozen. Now, chronologically and genetically, he would age, but his physical state would be a year younger. 

Let me explain.

Once Han Solo was encased in carbonite, his physical aging stopped for the duration his body remained in this frozen state. 

For comparison’s sake, Han Solo was ten years older than Princess Leia before being frozen, but during the year he was in carbonite, she aged physically while he did not. Ergo, when he was unfrozen, he was physically only nine years older than her. 

Regardless, Solo was still alive during this time. Thus, only his body’s growth was stunted, whereas his mental faculties aged as they were supposed to. 

What Being ENCASED in CARBONITE Was Like...


Although Han Solo was frozen against his will, he survived the process and could be with Princess Leia again. 

Chronologically, he was frozen for approximately a year, but he did not emerge unscathed. Solo had a mild version of Hibernation Sickness, which was added to the mental trauma he experienced while in the carbonite block. 

From the recount of his experience while frozen, being inside the carbonite seemed to be excruciatingly painful. As bad as that is, there were some benefits to the technique. 

Namely, because he was being preserved, Han Solo technically did not age. Therefore, when he came out of the Carbonite, he would have been physically younger than he should have been.

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