Since the earliest days of the franchise, Star Wars has been full of mystery and wonder. George Lucas began as he intended to go on, too, by introducing one of the most enduring mysteries in the very first film, A New Hope (simply titled Star Wars upon its release).
In 1977, when Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope was released, we had absolutely zero knowledge of the Jedi or Sith. But there would have been no bigger mystery at the time, fans have pointed out, than the Clone Wars, which is first mentioned in the original film.
“During the scene with Luke and Obi-Wan in A New Hope, old Ben says he fought in the Clone Wars with Anakin,” wrote a user on the r/starwarsspeculation Reddit page. “It wasn’t until 2002 that fans had any clue as to what the Clone Wars were. So what did OG Star Wars fans think they were?”
It’s a fair question —we’re well versed in the Lucas Lore by now (thanks to the many Star Wars series and our countless re-watches of the Star Wars movies in order), but back in ’77, fans would’ve heard the reference to the now legendary canon event and gone: “Huh?”
Well, the question sparked a wave of responses from fans who’d seen the original installment before the onslaught of new Star Wars movies, and it’s clear that the mention of the Clone Wars left fans stumped back in the day.
“Saw it back in the early ’80s and thought it was a eugenics thing where clones were like a whole culture that fought against normally made people,” wrote user PracticableSolution.
Elsewhere, some had completely different interpretations of the word “clone”, with BlackWidow1414 writing: “I was a child at that point, and that was the first time I’d heard the word “clone.” I had no clue what a clone was. I just assumed it was the name of the war(s), like Civil War or Revolutionary War.”
“I thought armies used fast-growing clones as soldiers because they were decimating the population, and it wasn’t sustainable to kill off that many people. So they padded the ranks with clones, and pretty soon the armies were all clones, killing each other en masse,” said ohdearitsrichardiii.
Of course, any Star Wars fan worth their salt knows the Clone Wars was a three-year conflict between the Jedi order and the Separatists…but it was actually also a secret plot hatched by the most ambitious Star Wars villain, Palpatine, to wipe out the Jedi. But we didn’t know that when we first saw A New Hope, so this begs the question: what did we think the Clone Wars were?
Well, I can’t speak for the rest of The Digital Fix, but I was teetering on a similar theory to PracticableSolution when I first stumbled onto the franchise decades later, taking the term “clone” much too literally. I assumed the Clone Wars was a conflict between clone people and their counterparts, not realizing it was named after the Clone Troopers used by the Army of the Republic.
While we don’t know if Lucas himself even had an idea of what the Clone Wars would be about when he first made reference to it in A New Hope, we do know that he would later use the Clone Wars to explore themes of political power and blurred lines between good and evil — ideas that continued throughout the saga.
“That’s the issue that I’ve been exploring: How did the Republic turn into the Empire?” he said [via Time Magazine]. “That’s paralleled with: How did Anakin turn into Darth Vader? How does a good person go bad, and how does a democracy become a dictatorship? It isn’t that the Empire conquered the Republic; it’s that the Empire is the Republic.”
Many of the best Star Wars characters have encountered the fallout of the Clone Wars over the years. Why not check out some of the best movies of all time to see what other fictional conflicts exist? You can also get to know the original Star Wars cast. We’ve also got guides on Andor season 2 and The Acolyte release date. For a long read, check out our feature on why The Last Jedi is (still) the best Star Wars movie.