"There's always a bit of truth in Legends." -- Ahsoka Tano
The difference between Legends and Canon in the Star Wars universe is a common topic of debate among fans of the franchise. Is Revan Canon? What about Mara Jade? And what’s the deal with Thrawn -- isn’t he in a TV show now?
Thankfully, distinguishing between Canon and Legends isn’t as confusing as it seems. Here’s a quick breakdown of everything you need to know.
Star Wars Canon refers to everything in the Star Wars universe that takes place on-screen in the main films or is mentioned in materials such as comics and novels published after 2013.
For something to be considered “canon” in Star Wars, it has to be confirmed either through an official story (e.g., Queen’s Shadow) or by a Star Wars creator (e.g., if Dave Filoni confirms something about Ahsoka, it’s canon).
If something is referenced in a Legends story -- anything outside the movies written before 2014 -- it’s not considered part of the Canon. Mara Jade is not in the Canon. Neither are the Solo twins. Darth Plagueis's existence is canon because even though his main book is a Legends title, he was mentioned in the main film, Revenge of the Sith. Phasma is canon because she appears in the sequel trilogy films and her novel, Phasma, was released after 2014.
When Disney acquired Lucasfilm, they made plans to release the final three movies in the Skywalker Saga. However, they opted not to follow the timeline that had already been set by the Expanded Universe in the past several decades.
But instead of erasing these stories completely, they were given their own separate timeline. And thus the timelines were split in two: Canon and Legends. In the broadest sense, Legends is made up of the stories written before the Lucasfilm acquisition, and Canon stories were written after.
Now if you want to dive a littler deeper, here's a more detailed description of what can official be dubbed Star Wars Canon.
When reading, playing, or watching something in the Star Wars universe, what is officially considered “canon”?
Star Wars Canon includes:
While that covers an immense amount of content and story, there are still hundreds of books and comics that don't fall under that banner. They get a literal banner of their own.
Material released in the Star Wars Expanded Universe before April 25, 2014 is now considered Legends content.
However, if a book, comic, or video game is considered part of the Legends collection, this does not mean it isn’t worth picking up or that it doesn’t “count.” This has been a giant point of contention with experienced Star Wars fans, and that is something that we really try to emphasize here at Youtini. Legends stories still exist, they are still available to be consumed, and their status only means that they are not a part of the official Canon timeline.
For some of us, it helps to consider Legends as just that: legends. These stories might have happened, but if they haven't been contradicted yet by existing events, perhaps they simply haven’t been confirmed. Starkiller from The Force Unleashed series of books and video games isn’t technically a part of the Star Wars Canon, but Vader might have had a secret apprentice raised as a Sith from birth -- we can neither confirm nor deny it. It’s hypothetical.
If you're researching into both timelines, you'll discover that some Extended Universe characters do appear in both Canon and Legends. Over the years, Canon writers have paid homage to classic characters by including them back into their new stories, and sometimes, Legends authors have been given the opportunity to bring back their favorite characters, themselves!
But their stories are different, and their impact on the galaxy changes.
The biggest example of this phenomenon is undoubtedly Grand Admiral Thrawn. Thrawn originated in his own Legends trilogy back in the early 90s, but he now appears in both a separate Canon trilogy and in the Star Wars: Rebels tv show. Another fan favorite, Asajj Ventress, was originally part of the 2003 Clone Wars cartoon, but her character and story were updated 2008 Canon Clone Wars series, and she even stars in Dark Disciple, a heralded novel of the Canon.
The term "Expanded Universe" was originally used to describe everything in the Legends timeline. Because there was no Official Canon universe for the novels and comics, the term Expanded Universe was adopted, because that's exactly what the additional material did -- it expanded the known universe.
Here at Youtini, we use the term Expanded Universe as an umbrella that covers both Legends and Canon material, because all of these books and comics are expanding the stories of their universe. The Paradise Snare expands the Legends world just like Most Wanted expands the Canon. They are both valid stories, they are both serving a similar function, and therefore, they are both parts of the Expaned Universe.
While browsing around Youtini, you'll notice that we use the phrases EU, Canon EU, and Legends EU to differentiate between these concepts, and we hope that helps clarify a system that can occasionally delve into the overly complex.
Nowadays, you can actually tell the difference between Star Wars Legends and Canon books just by looking at them as you shop at your local bookstore or browse your local library.
All of the newly published Legends titles will be paperbacks with a gold "Legends" banner across the top of the cover. Hardcover versions of Legends books are technically still available, but you'll only find them used. If you find a book that is questionable, open up the first few pages to see if it features a Del Rey Canon Timeline. If it does, then you're holding a Canon book. It it doesn't (or if it has the full Legends timeline instead), then you found some Legends!
If you’re still a bit confused about the difference or aren’t sure where a certain book fits on either timeline, look it up on Youtini’s complete book timeline! You can look at both Canon and Legends timelines individually to find out where your book fits in each universe and even what books come right before and after.
Here at Youtini, we're doing our best to make all of the Canon and Legends material more accessible and exciting for every single reader. If you feel ready to dive deeper into Legends, check out Legends guide to help clear up that massive part of the EU. If you're more of a new reader, take this new information and check out our Official Getting Started Guide to begin your journey through the EU in the best, most accessible way!
Canon & Legends both have a special place in all our hearts, and as long as you keep reading, we'll be right here beside you guiding you through it all.