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In the Expanded Universe, a character named Mara Jade plays an important role. She was first seen in the Thrawn trilogy, trying to fulfill her last command.

I had always been under the impression that she was created for the Expanded Universe, and had not been in the movies at all (similar to such characters as Corran Horn and Winter).

Recently, however, I heard a rumor that she actually did appear in Return of the Jedi, in a scene in Jabba's palace.

Is this the case? If so, was this always the case, or was she added in during one of the edits?

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I just watched those scenes and I couldn't see anyone that resembled the picture on the link you provided. But there were several people in masks. So she very well could have. – OghmaOsiris Oct 6 '11 at 18:53
up vote 23 down vote accepted

No. Not in the Return of the Jedi film (even the various special editions on DVD/Blu-Ray). She has appeared in various media which take place at Jabba's palace posing as a dancer named Arica.

According to Star Wars Insider #66:

No matter how thoroughly you comb through the background extras of Jabba's palace, you won't find [Mara Jade]. Logically, you can't find a character introduced in 1991 in a 1983 movie. Moreover, you won't find anyone that has been retroactively name Mara Jade.

When Dark Horse Comics published Mara Jade: By the Emporer's Hand, they established what exactly Mara was wearing in her guise as Arica, the dancing girl. There is no one in the film wearing such an outfit, so we're left to assume that Arica is just off-camera. Decipher crafted a real-life version of the skimpy blue outfit that model Shannon Baksa wore for the Star Wars CCG, giving us an idea of what Mara would have looked like in those scenes.

Mara fans that have painstakingly freeze-framed all the palace footage have found a number of hopeful contenders: the redheaded dancing girl that flirts with Boba Fett, for instance. That's Rystàll. There's also a woman with short dark hair, red jumpsuit, and white belt. That's Laudica. There's a scantily clad girl with platinum blonde hair, bare didriff, and flirtacious eyes on Bib Fortuna. Her name is Jess.

Further propagating the notion that Mara just might be visible in the movie is her inclusion in the National Public Radio dramatization of Return of the Jedi. She's chatting with C-3PO in a scene. Many fans mistakenly believe that the Jedi radio drama is the same vintage as the previous adaptations of the classic films. It's not -- it came out in 1996, several years after Mara's introduction.

Secondary Source for above quote.

Confusing matters, you may have seen the below picture floating around on the internet:

Image of Mara Jade posing as dancing girl Arica in Jabba's palace.

Mara Jade became such a popular character that they incorporated her into the Star Wars Customizable Card Game. Shannon McRandle, formerly Shannon Baksa, portrayed her in these photos. The picture posted in here is taken from the Arica card in the Reflections II: Expanding the Galaxy set (2001).

Mara Jade was first introduced in 1991 in the Thrawn trilogy books, which reference Mara Jade's involvement at Jabba's palace. For the full story of Mara Jade's involvement at Jabba's palace, see the story Sleight of Hand: The Tale of Mara Jade in the book Tales from Jabba's Palace (published in 1996). These events are also referenced in the comic series, Mara Jade: By the Emperor's Hand (1998-1999) and in the Return of the Jedi radio dramatization (1996).

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Your first paragraph is a HUGE SPOILER – DVK-in-exile Oct 6 '11 at 23:31
I didn't see what you meant at first. I have removed the unnecessary spoiler from the first paragraph of the Star Wars Insider quote. – BennyMcBenBen Oct 7 '11 at 12:40
That picture's a Photoshop, I can tell by the pixels. It's fairly obvious how they edited the model in over the background, when it's a large image like that. – Jeff Oct 7 '11 at 14:16
Wasn't Mara Jade supposed to be red-headed? – DVK-in-exile Oct 7 '11 at 15:23
Yes, Mara Jade is wearing a disguise in that pic. – BennyMcBenBen Oct 7 '11 at 15:58

Mara Jade never appeared in G-canon by name. She is in the Expanded Universe only, as a recurring character in the novels and video games. The only females in Jabba's Palace were invariably the dancers and waitresses. Jabba, as portrayed in RotJ, was a classic sexist; the trait made him that much more repulsive and a character the audience would cheer the death of, and so any woman powerful enough to not have to deal with him would generally steer clear.

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Early in the first book of the Thrawn trilogy, Luke has a vision of the event at the Sarlacc on Tatooine; his vision differs from the reality in that when R2 ejected the lightsaber, and Luke summoned it, the lightsaber instead went to a "slender woman standing alone at the top of the barge."

Also, in the third book of the Thrawn trilogy, Lando recalls seeing Mara at Jabba's palace - she was a new dancer there. Lando also mentions that Mara was apparently pleading with Jabba to accompany him to the Sarlacc, which he declined.

The implication is that, despite her not appearing in Return of the Jedi, Mara was in fact at Jabba's palace, at the very least. Of course this is from a separate author, so wouldn't be canon.

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