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Inspired by this other question about what Captain America experienced after being frozen for 67 years at the bottom of the ocean, is there any in-universe explanation for what Han Solo experienced while frozen in Carbonite for the in-universe time period between the events of The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983)?

There are references to hibernation sickness and its side-effects — such as temporary blindness — when someone is unfrozen from Carbonite, but is there any insight as to what someone like Han Solo actually experienced in this process?

Yes, references are made to suspended animation and such. But what does being placed in “suspended animation” actually mean for the subject themselves and their own experience?

  • Does someone frozen in Carbonite fall into a deep sleep/hibernation immediately upon freezing?
  • Does someone frozen in Carbonite — who is then unfrozen — have any memory of their time frozen in Carbonite at all?

Han Solo frozen in Carbonite and hanging as a trophy in Jabba’s palace.


Looking for in-universe, canonical explanations; not armchair speculation and theories. If none (currently) exist, legends explanation would suffice. Regardless, please provide references and context.

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    Thanks! This quote from the official, but now non-canon, novelization would be good posted as an answer; feel free to do that when you can and if you choose! “…a period that was, to him, timeless. It had been a grim sensation—as if for an eternity he’d been trying to draw breath, to move, to scream, every moment in conscious, painful asphyxiation.” Oct 29, 2022 at 17:09
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    @Valorum Well, I personally consider a scene that was scripted, filmed and cut from the 1983 official trilogy film Return of the Jedi to be a solid canon reference. Oct 29, 2022 at 19:21
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    Technically speaking, a deleted scene isn't any form of canon, neither Canon (capital C), not Legends. It falls into the same category as bloopers, flubbed lines and other cut footage
    – Valorum
    Oct 29, 2022 at 20:10
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    @Valorum True. But not all deleted scenes are the same to me; many items are deleted in favor of timing and pacing and not because of narrative adjustments. In the case of the sandstorm scene in Return of the Jedi (1983) the scene was deleted and, I contend, was abandoned. It was difficult to film and added nothing new to the plot at all. The only real value wasn’t in narrative, but in exposition when Han states “That carbon freeze was the closest thing to dead there is.” So I consider it “canon” in that regard. Trivial but interesting, ommitted details from an original trilogy film. Oct 31, 2022 at 2:48

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Apparently, a scene was cut from Return of the Jedi (1983) where Han Solo says he had been conscious all the time. Here is the December 1, 1981 third draft version of the script that contains the scene for reference.

As reported by Inverse, James Benning of Filmumentaries posted a Twitter video of the cut scene. The audio is so bad that it's impossible to discern anything, but Benning reconstructed the dialogue in his 2012 fan documentary Returning to the Jedi:

https://player.vimeo.com/video/36474256

The dialogue in question appears at the 48 minute mark.

After all the characters run through the sandstorm to the Millennium Falcon, Han thanks Luke, who says “Think nothing of it. I had a lot of help.” To which Han replies:

No, I’m thinking a lot about it. That carbon freeze was the closest thing to dead there is. And it wasn't just sleepin’. It was a big wide awake nothing!

Han Solo describing the experience of being frozen in Carbonite to Luke.

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Canonically, carbonite freezing someone without preparation seems to leave them in a semi-conscious state and subject to extreme pain.

The peculiar stasis qualities of carbonite have been known in the galaxy for centuries, as ancient sleeper ships that expanded the pre-Republic borders relied upon extended hibernation to keep the crew alive as they traveled across unfathomable distances. The use of carbonite for organic hibernation faded away as hyperdrives did away with the need for such lengthy voyages, and bio-entropic field generators became the norm in medical applications. Carbon freezing thus became the standard for industrial applications, such as the freezing of coaxium, tibanna, and other volatile substances for transport. With some modifications, however, these carbon-freezing chambers could be equipped to entrap living cargo, subjecting them to a painful stasis that has been described as “a big wide- awake nothing." Imperials, bounty hunters, and some gangsters have been known to use carbonite in this crude but effective way. The earliest known trophies of this variety date back to the ancient Krath that conquered the carbonite mines of the Empress Teta system, thousands of years ago in the galaxy's dark past.

Star Wars: Scum and Villainy: Case Files on the Galaxy's Most Notorious

This ties up nicely with the description of Han's time in carbonite in the Return of the Jedi Official Novelisation

Han squinted up at the dim form above him. “I can’t see … What’s happening?” He was, understandably, disoriented, after having been in suspended animation for six of this desert planet’s months—a period that was, to him, timeless. It had been a grim sensation—as if for an eternity he’d been trying to draw breath, to move, to scream, every moment in conscious, painful asphyxiation—and now suddenly he was dumped into a loud, black, cold pit.

We also see a carbonite-frozen Leia communicating directly with Luke (via Force-telepathy) in Star Wars #4, clearly showing that she's awake and conscious.

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    Anyone going to talk about the massive PTSD you'd have from something like this?
    – siride
    Nov 3, 2022 at 13:50

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