The Star Wars franchise has no shortage of drama. One of the more gut-wrenching storylines is the discovery of Darth Vader as the father of Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. It was kept a secret for a long time in the original trilogy from the fans, but was it a secret to Leia also?
It was a secret to Leia that Vader is her father until Luke told her. Subsequently, that’s how she discovers more about her family genetics, including Luke as her biological brother.
For a multitude of reasons, the secret is kept from Leia for a long time. Interestingly, she discovers the truth secondhand, leaving Leia with a lot of questions about her real family, and how it affects her duties in the galaxy and in the Senate.
How Leia Discovers Vader is Her Father
In Return of the Jedi, Luke discovers Vader is his father in a duel for ultimate power in the galaxy. He then proceeds to tell Leia about Vader being his father, which confuses her. Luke then drops the bombshell about Leia being his sister (they shared a kiss early on in the series).
The way Leia discovers the truth about her father via Luke is by imposing that Luke will kill Vader and that Leia will ultimately be the leader of the Alliance. Leia responds by denying that she has any sort of power, and nearly rejects Luke’s confession. Not only is Leia unaware of Vader being her father, but she also has no idea how much of the Force of the Jedi she possesses.
In turn, Luke tells Leia that Vader is her father, she then realizes Luke is his brother, to which she replies “Somehow…I’ve always known.”
How Does Luke Know Leia is His Sister?
The question that arises after Luke reveals to Leia they are brother and sister is: how does he know this in the first place?
After Luke’s first battle with Vader, he returns for further Jedi training with Yoda. Worrying about dying himself, Luke becomes upset that Yoda is about to pass away before Luke defeats Darth Vader. Yoda assures that there is another one to take Luke’s place as the top Jedi if he ends up dying at the hands of Vader — Yoda reveals there is another Skywalker existing in the Force.
Obi-Wan Kenobi appears as a ghost after Yoda dies to further explain what Yoda meant. As Luke explains that Yoda revealed another Jedi in the force, Obi-Wan clarifies it’s Luke’s twin sister that is the other Skywalker. Naturally, Luke is confused because Obi-Wan was the same man who told Luke that Darth Vader killed his father.
Obi-Wan pressures Luke to face Darth Vader again and defeats him, before Luke explains that Yoda mentioned another Skywalker. In a straightforward manner, Obi-Wan informs Luke the other Skywalker is Luke’s sister (Luke never knew he had a sister up to this point). According to Obi-Wan:
“To protect you both from the Emperor, you were hidden from your father when you were born. The Emperor knew, as I did, that if Anakin were to have any offspring, they would be a threat to him. That is the reason why your sister remains safely anonymous.” (Source: MovieQuoteDB)
However, Luke figures out Leia is his sister by reasoning. The rest of Luke’s reactions to Leia being his sister are up to interpretation. The clearest one would be that Luke sensed Leia’s power in the Force, especially in The Empire Strikes Back when Luke calls out to Leia via the Force, and her sensitivity to the Force allows her to pick up his call.
Does Darth Vader Know Leia is His Daughter?
In A New Hope, Leia gets captured by Darth Vader while she carries out a mission to get in contact with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Little does Vader know the Princess he captured and tortured was his biological daughter.
When Luke and Leia were born, the children were separated from their father for very good reasons. Anakin Skywalker officially went to the Dark Side to become Darth Vader, and Obi-Wan, along with the rest of the Jedi’s, wanted his children as far away from their father as possible.
According to many Star Wars experts, Luke’s astute power of the Force guided Vader to track him down, driving the plot of The Empire Strikes Back. As for Leia, she’s meant to help her adopted father lead the Rebel Alliance to attack the Empire and her lessened exposure to the Force and the Jedi’s help her remain unrecognized by Vader as his daughter.
For the audience, the only way we know Leia is Vader’s daughter, and seemingly the only way Vader would have an idea, is because it’s revealed as a secret kept by Obi-Wan for years. Theorists suspect that Luke’s deep emotional ties to Leia as his sister allowed him to defeat Vader once and for all.
However, the overall plotline of Luke and Leia being siblings born from Darth Vader was not in the original draft of the story by director George Lucas. According to CBR.com, the urban legend is that Leia wasn’t supposed to be related to Luke until it became time to make The Return of the Jedi.
Naturally, the scenes where Luke and Leia’s kiss then become uncomfortable in hindsight, but in the context of A New Hope, Vader just saw Luke and Leia as part of the smaller Rebel Alliance that had to be defeated by the Empire.
The article explains in the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back, Luke meets the spirit of his father, Anakin Skywalker, who goes on to explain that he has a sister named Nellith that is on the other side of the galaxy and not associated with any of the Jedi’s. Lucas then explains that Nellith wouldn’t be explored until another future trilogy that centered more around Luke.
That never came to be, as the prequels focused on Anakin’s rise and fall into the Dark Side, where we see Luke and Leia being born at the end of Revenge of the Sith. In short, Vader as the father of Princess Leia wasn’t intended to be a part of the original story, so the movies give no indication that Vader would know that Leia was his daughter.
The Family Tree
The official Star Wars family tree begins with Anakin Skywalker’s parents being Cliegg Lars (technically Anakin’s step-father) and Shmi Skywalker. Anakin leaves his mother at a young age to become trained as a Jedi by Qui-Gon Jinn. Anakin grows up and marries Senator, then Queen of Naboo, Padme Amidala.
Padme’s parents are Ruwee and Jobal Naberrie. Anakin and Padme give birth to twins, as Anakin simultaneously falls into the Dark Side while Padme dies at childbirth. The twins Padme gives birth to are Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa.
Luke is adopted by Cliegg Lars’ brother Owen, and his wife Beru Lars. Luke refers to his new parents as Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. Like his father, Luke leaves with Obi-Wan Kenobi as a young adult, rather than a child, to be trained as a Jedi by him. Luke ends up having a child with Mara Jade, named Ben Skywalker.
Leia finds herself in an adopted family of royalty, Prince Consort Bail Organa and Breha Organa, Queen of Alderaan. Thus, she becomes Princess Leia Organa. Leia married Han Solo and gave birth to three children: twins Jaina and Jacen Solo, and Anakin Solo.
That particular family tree comes from the Star Wars books, but the Disney canon changes the children around for Luke and Leia separately. Leia and Han Solo give birth to their only child, Ben Solo, who becomes Kylo Ren, starting in The Force Awakens, the beginning of the Disney-led Star Wars trilogy.
The new movies address the change by making Kylo Ren the mirror of how Anakin Skywalker, his grandfather, turned to the Dark Side. Luke trains Kylo Ren before Kylo turns to the Dark Side, exactly like how Obi-Wan (the original Ben) failed to keep his trainee, Anakin, from the Dark Side.