This year marks the 40th anniversary since the release of the original STAR WARS film on May 25th, 1977. This month, writers at ComicsVerse will be bringing you our insights on all things STAR WARS as we look at where the series has been and where it will take us next in the galaxy far, far away…


Welcome to the STAR WARS Character Spotlight. To the Star Wars fans who only know the movies: you’re missing out. There are hundreds of characters, planets, and stories just waiting for you in a galaxy far, far away that you have yet to discover. From books and comics to TV shows and video games, there’s a ton of canon material ripe for the picking.

Unfortunately, some of my favorite characters are no longer canon. There are even more characters that have influenced and shaped STAR WARS if you check out the Legends Universe, previously called the Expanded Universe. In the wealth of material produced and authorized by Lucasfilm, there are stories and characters galore to suit any taste.

So in this edition of Character Spotlight, I’m going to introduce you to the craziest characters you’ve never met — the Force-Witches of Dathomir, who are introduced in Dave Wolverton’s excellent novel The Courtship of Princess Leia. For the record, this post only discusses the Force-Witches as they appear in the Legends universe.

An excellent novel.

Things may seem pretty well wrapped up at the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI. While the new trilogy is obviously expanding on what happened, it takes place years in the future. So what happened after the Battle of Endor? The Death Star is destroyed, the Emperor is dead, but that doesn’t mean things are smooth sailing.

There are a lot of loose ends. Han and Leia kiss — but that’s not exactly a binding agreement. Luke claims to be a Jedi, like his father before him, but is he? And what does he do now that he’s the only Jedi? What will happen to the Imperial Remnant — or, rather, just the Empire, since they are far from giving up?

Han and Leia

Several books go into this. Aaron Allston, who writes the Wraith Squadron books, explores Han’s character as more than just the cocky space pilot. One of the problems that Han faces is how to develop a relationship with Leia further than just a celebratory kiss. He tells Wedge about his insecurities in dating a princess and how he hopes that the military success will earn his spot next to her. Of course, that means he needs to succeed — and Warlord Zsinj is in his way.

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A vain and calculating man, Zsinj has carved out a kingdom in former Imperial space. He loathes Han for his numerous victories. The two have an intense back-and-forth. Eventually, with the help of Wraith Squadron, Zsinj is dealt an overwhelming defeat at Kuat. It appears that Zsinj is defeated once and for all, and Han can return to Leia, a successful military strategist and hero once more.

Of course, this is STAR WARS, so things aren’t quite that simple. While Han was away on military exercises, Leia has been put through the diplomatic wringer. She is tasked with helping form an actual government out of a military rebellion, a task that is made more difficult by political feuds and power grabs. The New Republic struggles to convince more planets to join them.

Isolder

Leia travels to the mysterious Hapes Consortium to ask them to accede to the New Republic. The Hapes Cluster is a massive grouping of star systems, and the Consortium controls at least sixty-three inhabited planets. They are rich and very isolationist. They have not taken any part in the Galactic Civil War, keeping to themselves.

Leia feels that she has made no progress with the Hapans, but they send an emissary to Coruscant. The meeting becomes a huge spectacle, with Leia, adorned in all her regal glory and surrounded by thousands of spectators. The Hapans present Leia with incredible gifts, one from each planet. From the planet Hapes itself, the queen gives Leia an unexpected gift — her son. Hapes is a matriarchal society, and the female ruler is seeking an heir. If Leia marries the prince, Isolder, she will one day become leader of all the Hapes Cluster.

Not too shabby.

Han assumes that Leia will refuse, believing that they have an understanding. However, Leia faces intense political pressure to accept. The Hapan Cluster would be a jewel in the New Republic’s crown. Leia would once again be royalty and have a multitude of worlds to replace her lost Alderaan.

Han panics. He doesn’t know what he can do to “earn” Leia. When he meets Isolder, Han hopes that he will be a wretch, someone ugly, wicked, spoiled, and insipid. Unfortunately, Isolder is attractive, well-mannered, intelligent, interesting, and friendly despite Han’s overt hatred.

Dathomir

Han becomes desperate to prove himself to Leia. He thinks that he can win her heart and her hand if he can present her with a planet to replace Alderaan. To do this, he gets into an incredibly tense and high-stakes sabaac game. A strange cross between poker and Tarot (with something uniquely STAR WARS), sabaac is Han’s specialty — he even won the Falcon in a sabaac tournament. Whether through sheer luck or the will of the Force, in this game Han wins a planet — Dathomir. He is told that it is pleasant and temperate, with beautiful oceans and impressive vistas.

He presents Leia with the deed to Dathomir, seeking to win her over. Unfortunately, Leia informs him that he has been swindled — Dathomir is deep in Imperial space. They could not even reach the planet, let alone settle it. She calls him sweet, but he feels that he has once again failed.

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After some seriously terrible thinking, Han essentially kidnaps Leia and brings her to Dathomir aboard the Millennium Falcon. The trip is long and tense. Leia agrees to spend just a week on Dathomir with Han, and if she falls in love with him, they will marry. If she still hates him for kidnapping her, he will submit to a court-martial.

When they arrive, the area is swarming with fighters, and the Falcon is forced to make a crash landing. They are days from any habitation. With no other choice, they abandon the Falcon and start walking. This is a big moment — Han leaves the Falcon assuming he will never find it again. He is showing that he values Leia’s life more than the Falcon.

The Force-Witches

This is where the witches finally come into play. Han and Leia, joined by Chewbacca and C-3PO, set off across Dathomir. The planet is wild, and they anticipate facing animal attacks — especially after Han finds a massive footprint in the mud. They also hoped to avoid Imperial entanglements, but are eventually spotted by a scouting party. What no one anticipated, however, is that a platoon of Amazon-esque warrior women, riding rancors, would appear and attack the Imperials. The rancors, who left the footprint Han found, are even larger than the one Luke faced in RETURN OF THE JEDI.

These things are massive.

The women assume that Leia is in charge and that Han and Chewbacca are her slaves. They take our party of heroes up to their civilization, the Singing Mountain Clan. Leia is brought into a secret enclave while Han is forced to do manual labor alongside other male slaves and children. Han is approached by women he instinctively knows are enemies — the Nightsisters.

Warring Factions

It turns out that Dathomir is home to two warring factions. The Singing Mountain Clan of Force-Witches are light side users. The Nightsisters are those who have used the dark side of the Force and are exiled from their clan. The Nightsisters are trying to get offworld to spread their influence across the galaxy. The Emperor himself had destroyed any ships on the planet to prevent this. There is still a prison on the planet, mostly political prisoners. The Nightsisters have taken hold of the Imperial guards of the prison.

Using Force-lightning is a particular skill of the Nightsisters.

The Nightsisters are desperate enough to bargain with Zsinj. They try to get ahold of the Falcon, but the Singing Mountain Clan uses the Force to move it into their stronghold where they can make repairs. The witches urge Han to hurry and get off the world as soon as possible. Seeing no other option, Gethzerion, the leader of the Nightsisters, tells Zsinj that she has Han and will bargain for a ship. She offers Zsinj the service of the Nightsisters, either directly or indirectly as agents of chaos. Zsinj’s enmity for Han leads him to accept the bargain (though of course, both sides plan a double cross). The Nightsisters must take Han from the fortress. The witches prepare for war.

Luke

In the meantime, Isolder has teamed up with Luke to rescue Leia. Luke has been searching for more learning material on the Jedi and has so far been disappointed. Palpatine had been thorough in his extermination of the Jedi, even ruining their teaching tools and histories. He finds a fragment of a holo wherein Yoda mentions the words “Chu’unthor” and “witches of Dathomir.” He takes it as the will of the Force that Han runs off to Dathomir and hopes to learn more.

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He and Isolder are forced to fake crash landings to get on the planet. While they search for Han and Leia, Luke finds the Chu’untho. He had assumed it was a person, but it was a ship sunk into a swamp. The ship had been destroyed, but Luke can tell it was a massive complex for Jedi — including Jedi training material. The ship is unusable, but Luke tries to get into it to see more. This is his downfall.

While Luke is investigating the Chu’unthor, Isolder stands on shore. He is approached by a beautiful young woman, who sings and hands him a rope. He takes the rope, not realizing that this means he has agreed to be her slave. The woman then attacks Luke and claims him as her slave as well. Her name is Teneniel Djo. She is a beautiful young woman with auburn hair and loads of sexual appeal.

Teneniel Djo

Teneniel belongs to the Singing Mountain Clan but has been on her own seeking something. She finds Luke and assumes that she had been seeking her mate. On Dathomir, only the women use the Force. They do so by singing or chanting spells. Their knowledge of the Force is rudimentary, but their power is not. A male spellcaster is an incredible thing, and Teneniel chooses him as her mate so that they can bear powerful children.

Untrained Force-Witch who easily defeats the only Jedi in the galaxy.

Teneniel is an incredibly powerful Force user. When they run afoul of some Nightsisters, Teneniel can conjure a massive storm to repel them. She is known in her clan for her power. Augwynne, the leader of the Singing Mountain Clan, is Teneniel’s grandmother. She has a strong lineage of Force power.

Teneniel brings Luke and Isolder to her clan, who are preparing for battle. Luke is pleased to see Han and Leia are alright; Isolder is considerably less pleased to see that Leia is not in need of rescue. However, he is conflicted. He has come to rescue Leia, both because they are somewhat engaged and because he likes to play the hero. However, Leia seems to be at least somewhat inclined to choose Han. At the same time, Isolder finds himself very attracted to Teneniel. It’s not even a love-triangle, it’s a big love-mess.

Showdown

Han cannot repair the Falcon without some additional parts, which he can only get at the prison. This is a dangerous endeavor since the prison is crawling with both Imperials and Nightsisters. On the way to the prison, Luke tells Teneniel more about the Force, but she is confused by his ways. She doesn’t understand using the Force without a particular spell.

At the prison, there is an inevitable showdown, but our group manages to escape. They rush back to the mountain, but Gethzerion is right on their heels, with an army of Imperials and Nightsisters. There is a fierce battle on the mountain. Luke attempts to fight the witches but is eventually stricken down. Gethzerion overwhelms him and uses the Force to burst a blood vessel in his brain. Luke collapses, dying, at the base of the mountain where no one can see him.

A Singing Mountain Clan witch in battle regalia.

The witches can rebuff the Nightsisters, but it is not easy. They are unable to take the Falcon only because Teneniel is incredibly powerful and holds them off. The Falcon escapes, and Han uses his weapons to defeat the Nightsisters.

They think they have won. They are wrong. Zsinj has double-crossed the whole planet. He has set up a network of satellites that block out the sun. The world begins to freeze to death slowly. Meanwhile, Gethzerion has returned to the prison without her prize. Desperate to get off-planet, she sends Han a Force-vision where she kills a group of prisoners. She tells him she will keep killing them until he turns himself over. Han cannot resist her ploy and gives in.

The Force

In a surprise twist, Luke is not dead. As he lays dying, he has an incredible vision where he learns about the true nature of the Force. All the living things around him give him small amounts of Force, and he is able to heal himself. He realizes that the Force is infinite, innate in all the living creatures in the galaxy.

At the prison, Han is experiencing a distinctly less pleasant side of the Force. He had strapped a bomb to his chest, intending to set it off when enemies surround him. Zsinj, of course, tries to double-cross Gethzerion, and she unleashes her full power against his envoy. Within seconds, she has killed them all. She turns to Han and intends to kill him far more slowly. She begins to torture him, using the Force to break all his bones individually.

Gethzerion in battle.

Han hears the Falcon and assumes that they are coming to rescue him. He tries to stall Gethzerion, and it ends badly — he wildly thinks of something to slow her down and convinces her to start on his teeth. The Falcon arrives, guns blazing and displaying a remarkable technical prowess. Han assumes that Isolder is flying, but thinks that no biological creature could demonstrate that level of accuracy. He is shocked to learn that not only is Luke alive, but he is controlling the entire Falcon — flying and shooting, doing both brilliantly. Luke has tapped into his full power now that he understands.

Victory

The Singing Mountain Clan, with the help of our heroes, has defeated the Nightsisters. Zsinj is defeated by a Hapan fleet that has followed Isolder. This time, Zsinj really is defeated, and one more threat to the galaxy is vanquished.

Han has defeated Isolder in the quest for Leia’s heart and her hand. She agrees to marry him when they return to Coruscant. For his part, Han gives Augwynne the deed to Dathomir. The witches — now that they have defeated the Nightsisters — have complete control of their planet.

READ MORE: Want to learn more about the Dark Side of the Force? Read ComicsVerse’s take!

Despite losing Leia, Isolder is not left hanging. Apparently, Isolder’s mother has been viciously manipulating him, killing his brother and his former fiancé to control Hapes after her death. He takes back control and announces his shocking choice of bride — Teneniel.

Apparently, Teneniel has fallen sway to Isolder’s charms. She relinquishes her claim on Luke and chooses to marry Isolder as equals, rather than keeping him as a slave. Furthermore, Teneniel is having none of the queen’s attitude — she is not a pacifist, and she will fight to the death for the ones she loves. The queen has no choice but to accept it.

Meanwhile, Luke has gathered more information on the Chu’unthor. The Jedi had fought a fierce battle with the Force-Witches but had eventually abandoned the Chu’unthor. They sealed off the ship so that the Nightsisters could not gain the information aboard. Now that they are defeated, Luke is presented with a trove of datadiscs, all full of information on the Jedi. He may have lost Teneniel — not that he fully had her to begin with — but he has the knowledge he has been desperately seeking.

Tenel Ka

Teneniel and Isolder marry, and Luke foretells that they will have a daughter with Teneniel’s red hair and power. This daughter is Tenel Ka, a Hapan princess, and Jedi of the New Jedi Order. Tenel Ka is the same age as the Solo twins, Jaina and Jacen. She trains with them, and they are close friends, though she does not tell them that she is a princess.

She may have a beautiful face, but she’s hardcore.

However, in a training incident, her lightsaber malfunctions and Jacen cuts off her arm. She is brought back to Hapes for recovery, and her friends discover her secret when they follow her. She is embarrassed by her status and continues to train as a Jedi. Tenel Ka struggles to balance both sides of her heritage, as both a Hapan princess and a Dathomiri Force-Witch. She embraces her maternal line and becomes a powerful Jedi.

During the Yuuzhan Vong War, Tenel Ka goes on several dangerous missions. When Jacen is captured and presumed dead, Tenel Ka realizes that she had been in love with him. Teneniel dies around this time (or is more likely murdered by the queen). Tenel Ka takes her place and becomes ruler of Hapes. She is still a major player in galactic events, however. When Jacen, who was alive after all, approaches her to ask for Hapes’ help in another crisis, she assents on one condition — he will procreate with her. She is in need of an heir, and she wishes it to be his child.

Legacy

This child, Allana, is the heir to a lot of important legacies – she is a Hapan princess, but she also hails from Dathomiri and Skywalker Force legacies (and no small amount of Solo). Allana plays a major part in how things develop. (But I won’t spoil that for you — pick up the Legacy of the Force novels to find out what happens!)

The Force-Witches present an interesting side of things we don’t see in the movies. Many of the Force-users in the movies are male (though Jared Cox makes an excellent case for Ahsoka). In the original trilogy, there are no female Force-users, just a hint that Leia has some power. In direct contrast, the Force-Witches are a society based on matriarchal power where the only Force-users are female.

The Force-Witches also explore what happens when powerful Force-users are untrained. The Dathomiri witches are just that — witches. The Force is like magic to them. They sing spells to accomplish what a trained Jedi would do solely with the mind. The fact that these untrained women still adhere to a code of Light vs. Dark shows that perhaps the Force does have innate light or dark paths (something that will become controversial in later STAR WARS novels).

The Courtship of Princess Leia may no longer be canon. However, the Force-Witches of Dathomir are still an excellent example of the power that women can have in the STAR WARS universe.

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