entered the Star Wars
universe when Timothy Zahn
came onto the scene with the first comissioned Star Wars novel
s that covered material or characters after the original trilogy
era, beginning with Heir to the Empire
in 1992. Although he created
the character, many writers since have written her into their novel
s and she is a current major player in the New Jedi Order
cycle. "Mara's past" and "Mara's present" involve the information written by Zahn himself, ending with The Hand of Thrawn
duology. "Mara's future" talks about what has happened to her since then, written by other authors. The first two sections contain minor spoilers about the books; the last, Mara's future, contains MAJOR spoilers for overlying plot arcs and should not be read if one hasn't read up-to-date in the NJO
N-Wing pointed out to me that "in the game Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith, you play her for about 3/4 of the game."
No one knows exactly when Mara was born, although she's Luke and Leia's contemporary, roughly. Mara was taken away from her parents at a very young age when Palpatine became aware of her "very rare" Force abilities. She was young enough to not be fully aware of the situation and it's unclear, even with Jedi memory reconstruction techniques, if she agreed to go, if her parents agreed, or if she was forcibly taken.
She was raised as the Emperor's "left hand woman", so to speak--Vader was his visible "right hand" whom everyone knew and feared. Where Vader could not go, however, Mara could. She grew into a striking young woman with a mane of red hair and startling green eyes, allowing her to seem perfectly in place at parties and balls. Most people she encountered, Imperial and non alike, assumed she was just one more of the women Palpatine liked to keep around for decoration or personal satisfaction. This miffed Mara, a highly intelligent woman, but it gave her safe passage for what she was best at—gathering information, carrying out highly volatile missions, and assassination. For whoever would suspect that the pins in her hair, coiled on her head at a ball, contained recording devices and lethal poisons? On top of being highly competent in all these fields, Palpatine had trained and honed her Force sensitivity to the point she was capable as a Force-user as well, and could hear his orders telepathically anywhere in the galaxy as the Emperor’s Hand.
She went about her duties for many years, never really crossing paths with the Rebel Alliance, until she was sent to Jabba the Hutt’s palace on Tattoine. Vader had failed to kill—or turn—Luke Skywalker on Cloud City, and Palpatine suspected personal emotion clouded his sense of duty. So he sent Mara in, in the guise of a dancing girl, in the likelihood Luke went to attempt to rescue Han Solo. However, she too failed this mission when Jabba, not susceptible to her force use, refused to let her go on the skiff that took Luke, Han, Lando, and Chewie to be fed to the Sarlaac.
It was not long after this, of course, that the Alliance destroyed the Second Death Star and Vader, with Luke’s determination and love fueling him, turned on and destroyed Palpatine. Mara blamed this fully on herself, for if she’d killed Luke when she had a chance, she believed Palpatine would still live. She, being an empath and a Force-user, felt his death as it happened, and saw it through his eyes. His last command to her was to “KILL LUKE SKYWALKER”, and she dedicated all her resources to doing just that.
Homeless and friendless, she wandered from smuggling gang to pirate clan, finally landing with Talon Karrde, who recognized her merits and quickly took her in. Over time, he groomed her to be his second in command—Karrde obviously lacked the anti-woman bias many smugglers subconsciously carried. During one of their hops through space, Mara, whose Force talents (and nightmares of the emperor’s final wish) came and went during these years, found Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing stranded in the middle of space curing one of her Force flare-ups. They captured him, finding out soon afterwards that Grand Admiral Thrawn was offering a substantial reward for his capture. Mara wanted nothing to do with this, wanting desperately to kill Luke and put the dreams to rest, as she hated him for destroying her life and happiness. Karrde tried to play all ends against the middle and stay neutral, ending up in an awkward place when Han and Lando ended up visiting their base at the same time as Thrawn.
Luke broke loose and fled the base in a stolen ship, and Mara went right after him, nipping his heels until both ships went down in the dangerous forest of Myrkr. They found that Thrawn had a patrol waiting for them, and so had to work together to survive the trip. During the trek, Luke finally asks why Mara hates him so, and she tells him of her vision of the Emperor’s death. The way she saw was that Luke had turned Vader back, and led his father in a dual lightsaber attack on Palpatine, who tried to defend himself but failed. Of course the truth was that Luke was lying wounded from Palpatine’s Force lightning and Vader through him down the Death Star shaft. Palpatine’s final command had been one of revenge and hate, not of justice. He’d lied, even as he died, to one of the people most loyal to him in the universe. Mara tries to parse this, but after having lived with her orders for years has a hard time letting go of the past. After Luke took down the troops, saving Karrde’s men in the process, the smuggler let him go, angering Mara to no end. She swore if she ever ran into Luke again she’d kill him.
However, events unfolded and Karrde was captured by Thrawn. Mara, being the loyal woman she is, tried to rescue him on her own and failed. She was taken back in by Thrawn and reinstated herself (out of necessity, not desire) as Palpatine’s Hand and demanded the powers and authority that offered. Thrawn, after testing her, welcomed her back, then betrayed her. Mara, once again orphaned since Karrde’s gang was convinced she’d been a double agent all along, went to the only other person in the galaxy that could help her rescue her boss—Luke.
So she flies to Wayland to recruit his help, and with surprisingly little resistance he agrees. After various troubles, they succeed in rescuing Karrde. After he agrees to loosely join forces with the New Republic and lead them to the Dark Force fleet—another prize on Thrawn’s list—Mara is lost in space during a dogfight over the fleet. Much to her chagrin she is found by the only one who could, Luke with his trained Jedi senses. She’s on Coruscant recovering from damage sustained when the universe once again throws her a curve-ball. She helps save Leia’s newborn twins Jaina and Jacen from an imperial commando team, even though she’s made it clear to Leia she wants to kill Leia’s brother. She’s put under house arrest, even after her heroic actions, however, because she “knows too much” about the Palace. Leia, Han, and Luke break her out, though, when she thinks she can lead them to the hidden cloning cylinders that need so desperately to be destroyed.
Luke helps Mara brush up on her Force skills during the trip through the forests, and finally they arrive at the mountain itself. Once in the mountain, Han and Lando and Chewie deal with blowing up the cloning devices while Luke and Mara go ahead to try to deal with the insane clone Joruus C’aboth. C’aboth turns loose a clone of Luke—Luuke Skywalker—and the original must fight this unnatural twin. After a long and tiring battle with C’aboth flinging lightning everywhere, Mara finally kills the cloned Luuke, and having fulfilled her last command, is at peace with her past.
Luke and Mara go their separate ways for the most part for eight or ten years until events conspire to bring them together again, and no one really knows what she was up to during that time. Mara rescues Luke from a pirate base. She then goes off to investigate a lead on an alien ship she’s seen buzzing freighters and starships, then vanishes. Luke goes to Karrde for information on the return of Thrawn, and finds Mara’s gone. Luke is having a hard time in his personal life right now, and goes through much introspection. During one meditation he has a vision where he sees Mara. She looks dead.
He follows Karrde’s directions and finds Mara under the “care” of a winged tribe of creatures called the qom quae. They keep running into trouble with the “threateners”, who turn out to be the same aliens who Mara was after in the first place. She and Luke have little company but each other during their trek to infiltrate the fortress, and so talk, a lot. They were closer when C’aboth was killed than they have been in years—Luke got too wrapped up in the Academy (which she trained at only briefly, then left to go about her own life.) She’s disapproved of a lot of moral and ethical choices Luke’s made, and finally tells him so. He admits he has been under dark-side influence, shadowed by his brief turn some years ago, and it’s been influencing him without his notice. Mara finally starts to warm to Luke again after he took her tongue-lashing with grace, and admitted she was right. She tries to revive the friendship and partnership to what it once was, if only by taking her own very solid walls down. Mara gets herself shot during one particularly dangerous moment, and must let all her defenses down for Luke to put her in a healing trance to heal the burn. She for once accepts his help without it being grudgingly.
Finally they reach their goal, and Mara’s captured by the aliens, who are the Chiss—Thrawn’s species, for this is his stronghold. Luke rescues her, and they find themselves in a climactic battle with two droids and a floor full of tangled cables. During the battle, the only way they survive is to rely on the other completely and totally. They are both stretched out to their fullest in the Force when they realize they’ve stretched into each other and are sharing thoughts, feelings and memories together. As soon as they’ve defeated their attackers and gotten to relative safety, they share a tenderly awkward moment. They both know they’d just had something really special, and Luke asks Mara to marry him. She agrees, knowing equally as well as he does that it’s the right thing for them, and they begin to plan for their future.
MARA’S FUTURE (contains major spoilers) :
Mara married Luke away from the public eye, and they went about their lives quietly for a while. Luke was busy with his Jedi academy, and Mara spent much of her time away working with Karrde and other smugglers and the New Republic. She frequently took business trips and outings with Mirax Horn, Corran’s wife. The Solo kids didn’t know “Aunt Mara” much while growing up, but Mara took on Jaina as an apprentice when the girl got older.
Their most difficult trial to date came when the Yuuzhan Vong infected her with a viral spore that was slowly killing her over many months. Mara was the lucky one—everyone else infected died in very short order. Her own stubbornness, strength of will, and Force ability let her fight the infection enough to stay alive, although sometimes it seemed to affect her ability to channel the Force. After many months of fighting the virus, Mara went into remission after Han Solo returned from a mission with an elixir of tears that Mara’s intuition told her would help. Although labwork on the liquid was inconclusive, Mara took the chance and took it anyways, and found the first remission since the virus had struck.
She spent the next months healing and cleansing herself and spending time with Luke, newly aware of how close she’d come to losing him and he her. It is during this time of recovery she discovers she’s pregnant, although they hadn’t planned for children until the disease was gone for sure. Suspicions are that the elixir made her more susceptible to Life as a whole and allowed this. But this realization she was carrying a child led to her fight the disease even more stubbornly, and as the rest of the galaxy was falling apart under the Vong’s invasions, Mara gave birth to Ben Skywalker and in the process was herself healed.