The story of Luke Skywalker’s severed hand could almost be a Star Wars trilogy in and of itself — it’s been fought over, transported across the galaxy, and possibly even used to clone evil doppelgängers of Skywalker himself.
In The Force Awakens, Maz Kanata tells Han Solo the reason she possess the iconic blue-bladed Skywalker lightsaber is a story for “another time.” But now, thanks to beautiful and insightful artwork from the Industrial Light & Magic Challenge, an art contest sponsored by Lucasfilm, we’ve got a new version of that story. It even matches up with some of the beloved Timothy Zahn books! Here’s how Fred Palacio’s awesome art connects to both The Force Awakens and the the 1993 Star Wars novel The Last Command.
Art directors “challenged artists to imagine key moments, new vehicle designs, character and droid designs, and epic battles within the Star Wars universe.” The resulting winners and honorable mentions (announced this week) produced enough eye-popping Star Wars art to fill a space cruiser. Seriously, there’s a ton of cool stuff, including but not limited to a tiny Jabba the Hutt being devoured by a Rancor, Biggs Darklighter in a maybe-romance with an Imperial Guard, and Han and Lando fighting over the same glass of space booze.
Still, throughout it all, the third-place winner Fred Palacio presented the most tantalizing stuff: the journey of Luke’s severed hand after Vader sliced it off.
Obviously, all of this is up to interpretation, but several of Palacio’s images seem to show the journey of the hand as it’s given to the Emperor. In the top image, some kind of Boba Fett-esque scout seems to be presenting the hand to Emperor Palpatine while a scarlet-robbed Imperial Guard looks on. At this point, we could infer that same scout also had Luke’s lightsaber, too.
The next related image shows that same Imperial Guard busting out a red lightsaber with the intent to steal the hand from some Stormtroopers. Why would they be stealing the hand? Maybe it’s because this person is a dark Jedi working for Joruus C’baoth, the lunatic madman who cloned Luke Skywalker in the Timothy Zahn novels.
In those books — specifically The Last Command — C’baoth used the genetic material in Luke’s severed hand to grow an evil Luke named “Luuke.” (Clones all got an extra vowel at that point in Star Wars) Luuke wielded Luke’s old blue lightsaber in a duel against regular Luke, and when the latter won, he got his old blue lightsaber back.
Now, even though the old Star Wars books are considered “Legends” these days, there’s no reason we can’t believe some version of this all happened prior to The Force Awakens. The events of The Last Command take place about five years after Return of the Jedi, while The Force Awakens happens 30 years later. So, maybe all the stuff with Luke’s hand getting found, stolen, and then Luke being cloned happened before the lightsaber came into the possession of Maz Kanata.
One of Palacio’s other images shows what looks to be Luke Skywalker gazing at a clone being grown in tank of some kind. Weirdly, “Luuke” Skywalker wasn’t the only clone of Luke Skywalker. Author Timothy Zahn had some fun back in 2012, authoring a short story titled “An Apology” which posited the existence of all sorts of secret Luke Skywalker clones. While Zahn is in self-parody mode with “An Apology” (the story is written from the perspective of the clone, “Luuke”) the notion of Luke being cloned was still an awesome idea when Zahn introduced it back in 1993.
Now, with this Palacio art depicting the recovery, theft, and fate of Luke’s hand after The Empire Strikes Back, the possibilities for more clones or stories of lost lightsabers seems exciting, even likely.