This Week in Star Wars: The Solo Family Tree
(Note: Star Wars Episode VII spoilers below)
Working in edtech, we at Whiteboard Advisors field our fair share of questions related to Star Wars. Just the other day, in fact, a client asked us about the vexing conundrum of Han Solo and Luke Skywalker's children. Fans of the old Star Wars novels might remember Han's children Jacen and Jaina Solo, and maybe even Luke's son Ben Skywalker from the later books. But then, who exactly is Ben Solo, better known as Kylo Ren, who appears in the most recent Star Wars movie? How are these characters related - if they're related at all?
We thought that others might have the same question, so we put together a brief summary that untangles the conundrum. We hope you find it helpful and informative, and may the Force be with you.
Prior to the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens in 2015, the “Expanded Universe” (all books, video games, etc. outside of the main Star Wars movies) was removed from official Star Wars canon. As a result, certain characters from that universe, including Jacen Solo and Ben Skywalker, are no longer considered part of the “official” Star Wars universe. Wiping the data banks in this way paved the way for the new movies to introduce new characters such as Ben Solo (“Kylo Ren”).
From the 1980s until 2014, the Star Wars universe consisted of the main movies, a few TV series, and countless books, comics, and video games. The non-major-motion-picture properties (everything outside of Episodes I - VI) were considered part of the “Expanded Universe.”
Many of the Expanded Universe stories take place after or in between the events of the movies, and follow the main characters as they grow and start families. Han Solo marries Princess Leia and they have three children: twins named Jacen and Jaina, and a younger son named Anakin. Luke reestablishes the Jedi Order, marries a non-movie (but fan favorite) redheaded Force-wielder named Mara Jade, and they have a son, Ben Skywalker (named in honor of Obi-Wan "Ben" Kenobi). While many of these stories - both epic arcs and short-lived spin-offs - were praised for their imaginative world-building and detail, they created a complex web of Star Wars lore, often considered impenetrable to those who were fans only of the popular films.
But that all changed when the release of the new movies was announced, now with unstoppable creative juggernaut Disney (which acquired Lucasfilm in 2012 for more than $4 billion) at the helm. In order to give themselves storytelling freedom, Lucasfilm officially revised the canon, reclassifying everything except the movies, 2 cartoon TV series, and select new novel and comic book properties from “Expanded Universe” into “Legends” – effectively making everything else no longer “true” as far as the Star Wars universe is concerned. This gave Lucasfilm the ability to start fresh, giving its official characters both new backstories and new futures.
In Episode VII, then, Jacen and Jaina Solo are nowhere to be found. Instead, the only canon-confirmed offspring of the Han/Leia union is Ben Solo (aka Kylo Ren), a new character invented for the movies who is now “officially” part of the universe. Jacen, Jaina, Anakin (the Younger), and the original Ben Skywalker are not.
When it comes to the children of the original heroes, one thing remains consistent: Star Wars canon does display a clear preference for the first name "Ben." This preference, though it can lead to genealogical confusion, is heartily supported by the author of this overview.
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