A Funny Thing Happened on the Way Out of Cloud City…

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Luke Skywalker loses his hand (The Empire Strikes Back)
Luke Skywalker loses his hand (The Empire Strikes Back)

I remember the first time I saw Luke lose his hand to Darth Vader in Cloud City. I was around six years old and had no clue what movie was on the television. I was staying over at a friend’s home and his dad had The Empire Strikes Back playing on the television. I remember the moment being a visceral memory, as I’d never seen a hero maimed before. I remember the confusion at watching the battered Luke scurry away from Vader out onto the narrow walkway, then the shock as he falls away and hangs onto that antenna in what looks like an impossible predicament. I don’t really remember much about watching his eventual rescue, but that stuck in my mind as an important message: heroes don’t always win.

Star Wars has had an interesting track record of lost limbs that come close to being a staple of the series, since this is a universe where a lost limb isn’t a permanent hindrance on a character. So, in honor of Luke wondering what happened to his hand down in the depths of Cloud City, let’s look at my top 5 instances of lost limbs in Star Wars. We’re going to stick to the new canon in this list, so Qorl and his awesome droid arm only get an honorable pre-list mention. Sorry, Qorl.

Count Dooku, Revenge of the Sith (both hands, and then head):

Count Dooku loses hands and head (Revenge of the Sith)
Count Dooku loses hands and head (Revenge of the Sith)

In his final duel with Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Count Dooku was overconfident. He’d already beaten them both two years ago and cut off Anakin’s right hand. This time, he was convinced he’d finally kill them and his master, Sidious, would complete his plan to take full control of the Republic and exterminate the Jedi. The only problem was that Sidious left out some parts, like Dooku’s true role in the events. Nearly killing Obi-Wan, Dooku sent Anakin into a rage that he couldn’t keep up with, ending with Skywalker taking both of his hands in one swift motion. Dooku, down on his knees, looked to Palpatine and realized the final cruel truth: he was always a tool. Urged by Palpatine, Anakin then finishes him off with the help of Dooku’s own curved lightsaber, bringing the young Jedi ever closer to the Dark Side.

 

Darth Maul, The Phantom Menace (cut in half at the waist):

Darth Maul Cut in Half (The Phantom Menace)
Darth Maul Cut in Half (The Phantom Menace)

“At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge.” Darth Maul’s only dialogue in The Phantom Menace spoke to his entire character in a way that we wouldn’t really see until after his defeat at the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi. The deadly Sith apprentice, excelling at dual-bladed lightsabers, took on the Padawan Kenobi and his Jedi Master, Qui-Gon Jinn in the Theed Generator Facility. After a lengthy battle, Kenobi was separated from the melee and was helpless to stop Maul putting his blade though Qui-Gon’s chest. Kenobi attacked Maul in a flurry which ended with him nearly falling into a pit. While Maul taunted him with showers of sparks, Kenobi called on the Force to leap out of the pit while pulling his master’s lightsaber to him. Maul was too late to react and was cut in half by the Padawan. Falling into the pit, Maul would manage to survive and gain a new set of legs, always keeping in his mind his hatred and burning fury toward the one who broke him.

 

Anakin Skywalker, Revenge of the Sith (left arm and both legs):

Anakin loses arm and legs (Revenge of the Sith)
Anakin loses arm and legs (Revenge of the Sith)

By the events of Revenge of the Sith, Anakin and Obi-Wan had earned a reputation as an almost unbeatable team. They were the greatest heroes of an era that didn’t realize it was ending. They saved the day in the Battle of Coruscant. They killed the evil Count Dooku. They saved Chancellor Palpatine. Of course, their bond was an obstacle for Palpatine, as he needed Skywalker isolated to guide him to the Dark Side. Anakin was finally successfully turned by Palpatine, becoming Vader. This culminated in Kenobi confronting Anakin (now Vader) on Mustafar and their fateful and heartbreaking battle. At the end, over a river of lava, Obi-Wan lept to safety above the shoreline, claiming the high ground. Anakin, arrogant to a fault, tried to call his bluff. Unfortunately for him, Obi-Wan knew what would happen next, as he did the same thing years ago in his battle against Darth Maul. Anakin’s attempt was swiftly countered by a clean swipe that took away all of his remaining limbs, leaving him on the burning shore with only his synthetic arm. This injury, along with the lava burning him, left him needing the infamous life-support suit and three new synthetic limbs.

 

Darth Vader, Return of the Jedi (right hand):

Darth Vader loses hand (Return of the Jedi)
Darth Vader loses hand (Return of the Jedi)

Nothing says catharsis like cutting off your evil father’s hand in a heated battle after he threatens to turn your sister to the Dark Side. In the Emperor’s Throne Room of the second Death Star, Luke Skywalker was on a mission to save his father from the Dark Side. Emperor Palpatine, meanwhile, had his own mission: to turn the son of Skywalker to the Dark Side, or to eliminate him. The Emperor taunted Luke into attacking him, prompting Vader to defend his master. Luke remained passive in the battle, refusing to go on the offensive against his father to the point that he hid from the fight. When Vader discovered his daughter’s existence from Luke’s feelings, he threatened to turn her instead if Luke wouldn’t. This sent Luke into a fury, teetering on the Dark Side as he attacked Vader head on, forcing him down and taking his right synthetic hand with a vicious strike. The sight of the wires in his father’s artificial arm brought a moment of clarity to Luke. He saw that continuing down the path of anger and hatred would just cause history to repeat itself. I know it seems strange to have an artificial limb on the list, but the impact the event had on the story made it worthy of the list to me.

 

Luke Skywalker (right hand):

Luke Skywalker loses his hand (The Empire Strikes Back)
Luke Skywalker loses his hand (The Empire Strikes Back)

For our final and number one lost limb, we go back to where I began this story. Luke is on Cloud City, now an amateur Jedi with a head full of arrogance. His plan to save his friends falls apart as he discovers that they are only the carrot, with Vader being the stick. After narrowly escaping a carbonite trap, being pummeled with Force-thrown projectiles, and being sucked out of a depressurized observation port and thrown on a catwalk, Skywalker had taken a beating and was becoming desperate. As Vader attacked once more, Luke managed to hit Vader’s arm, angering the Dark Lord. Vader quickly knocked aside Luke’s next attacks, opening his defenses and allowing for the red blade to take off his hand at the wrist. The battle was finished at that point, leaving Luke only the option to keep his distance by crawling out to the perilous ledge. Vader revealed his true identity, leaving a traumatized Luke to fall into the depths of Cloud City rather than be captured by his evil paterfamilias. After the rescue, Luke had a wake-up call, realizing that while Yoda and Kenobi may have hidden truth of his father from him, he also realized that he wasn’t ready to confront Vader after all. He had acted as a swashbuckling hero that wanted to save the day. “Adventure. Excitement. A Jedi craves not these things.” Luke did learn from his mistake, and by the time we see him again in Return of the Jedi, he is a calm and cool-headed Jedi Master. Too bad it took losing a hand and finding out his dad was an evil dictator’s right-hand man.

Both the prequel trilogy and original trilogy have had characters lose an arm or leg (I think there’s a joke somewhere in there about what it takes to save the day), but we’ve had little indication as to whether this morbid trend will continue into the sequel trilogy. Will Rey lose a hand? Will Finn lose a foot? Will Poe lose his snark? I guess we’ll have to wait until Star Wars: The Last Jedi to find out, but at least December is right around the corner.