You might have heard of the hundreds of Star Wars books out there. While most of these books serve as additional reading material for fans wanting to know more about their favorite galaxy, far, far away, some of the books tell the story of what’s shown in the films. Does this mean that Star Wars is based on these books?
Star Wars is not based on a book, although the Star Wars novel was released before the movie hit the big screens. In reality, both the Star Wars novel and the movie were based on George Lucas’ screenplay for the film. The movie was already in production when the Star Wars novel came out.
This article will give you a comprehensive overview of the origins of the Star Wars film series and where the book fits into all of it.
Why Do So Many People Believe Star Wars Is Based on a Book?
The first Star Wars novel was released on November 12th, 1976, with George Lucas as the book’s author.
However, it was actually ghostwritten by the prolific sci-fi author Alan Dean Foster, a name attached to other popular sci-fi materials, including Star Trek.
The Star Wars movie was published on May 25th, 1977, a whopping 6-months after the novel.
Combining these two pieces of information, people concluded that Star Wars is based on the book. However, that’s not actually true.
The idea and core concept for Star Wars were originally conceived by George Lucas, who then turned it into a screenplay. After that, Lucas hired Foster to novelize the script.
Of course, Foster did build upon Lucas’ original script, adding backstory and further expanding the world and lore. That said, the film was already under production before even the first draft of the book was ready.
As such, although the book came (publically available) first, the film was not based on the book. In reality, the book and movie were based on the original screenplay by George Lucas.
Are There Major Differences Between the Film and the Book?
Since both the film and the book are based on the same source material—George Lucas’ Star Wars screenplay—the core story is the same, as well as how the events take place.
However, the book adds to the film and takes its liberty to expand the story and bring more insight into the world and our favorite characters.
Here’s a list of key differences and additions made in the book that are not present in the film:
- The book has more than the occasional references to Earth and earthly phenomena.
- The novel tones down Palpatine and makes him less evil than what is signaled in the movie. In fact, Palpatine is not even a Sith Lord in the book. He is more of a Caesar-like character who is being misled and betrayed by his officials.
- Remember Biggs from the movies, the guy with the mustache having a minimal role? Well, the book makes Biggs an essential side character and a close friend to Luke.
- The book sees Obi-Wan living in a cave, not a hut, and smoking a pipe. He’s like an old eccentric Gandalf. That said, he is also a bigger badass, having greater kill counts than his movie counterpart.
- The final fight, or rather, flight sequence, is the same between the book and film, with a minor aesthetic difference. The Y-Wings are a part of the Red Squadron, and the X-Wings are a part of the Blue Squadron. In the films, Y-Wings were the Golden Squadron, and the X-Wings were the Red Squadron.
- Chewbacca gets a medal, which for some reason, is not awarded to him in the movie. That said, the book doesn’t cite it as a medal but as “something heavy and golden.”
- In the end, the book explicitly cites that Luke is infatuated with Leia, and his feelings are possibly reciprocated. Clearly, Mr. Foster didn’t have the slightest clue of what Mr. Lucas had planned for these two characters.
Apart from these, there are plenty of small and trivial variations between the two mediums, which should make the book an intriguing read for any Star Wars movie fan.
What Are the Other Star Wars Books About?
As of 2022, there are 177 Star Wars novels in the Star Wars universe.
First, you have the novelizations of the films. This means we have nine core novels.
Then you have the Expanded Universe, which comprises the side-stories which focus on unique adventures, exploring various planets and new technologies.
That said, as of 2014, the Expanded Universe is no longer canon to the Star Wars franchise.
You see, Disney bought rights to Star Wars back in 2012. After the acquisition, they wanted to take the Star Wars franchise in a different direction—one that might contradict the world-building that was going on in the Expanded Universe. So they separated it from the core franchise and rebranded it as Star Wars Legends.
Currently, under Disney, we have three new Star Wars books that are novelizations of the three new Star Wars films.
Apart from that, there have been close to 40 new novels released between 2014-2022, exploring this new world that is currently canon.
Does It Make Sense To Read the Star Wars Legends Books Now?
The books and short stories that are a part of Star Wars Legends—previously the Expanded Universe—are no longer canon.
What this means is that future Star Wars material, including the movies, games, comics, and action figures, will not reference most of the technologies, locations, events, etc., discussed in the Legends series.
That said, the fact that the books won’t have any future implications or contributions to the franchise is its only drawback. If you aren’t bothered by that, you should consider giving these books a read.
And in case you’re wondering where to start, here’s a list of the 10 Best Star Wars Legends Books & Series for your reference.
You may also be wondering: What’s the Appropriate Age To Read Star Wars? (You will find a detailed answer in a blog post previously published on this website.)
There is a book that tells the same story as the Star Wars movie. It’s also true that the book was released before the film was released in theaters.
However, the movie was not based on the book.
In reality, both the movie and the book were based on George Lucas’ screenplay for the Star Wars movie.
Lucas hired Alan De Foster as a ghostwriter to novelize the screenplay as he started production on the film. Since both projects were a “work in progress” in tandem, it’s impossible for the film to be based on the book.