Han Solo is one of the most beloved characters of the Star Wars franchise, portrayed by the legendary Harrison Ford. His character arc is phenomenally crafted, but there was a period that left fans with a lot of questions – the time when Han Solo was left frozen in carbonite. So, why was Han Solo frozen in carbonite, and how long was he there?
Han Solo was frozen in carbonite for roughly one year, although the novelization of Return of the Jedi stated it was around six months. That novel is no longer canon, and due to the one-year gap between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Solo’s time in carbonite was closer to a year.
However, Tatooine has longer days due to having two suns, so their year is only 304 days. Solo was frozen on Cloud City on the planet Bespin which follows the Galactic Standard Year of 12 months, and then moved to Tatooine, which has a different year length, so it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how long Han Solo was in carbonite since. Here are all the facts we have.
When And Why Was Han Solo Frozen In Carbonite?
Before I get into Han Solo’s specific case, I think it’s important to point out that he wasn’t the only “cargo” ever transported in such a way. Bounty hunters like Boba Fett or Din Djarin commonly used carbonite freezing to protect their cargo, be it an object or a living organism.
The process puts you into somewhat of suspended animation, and you’re unable to move or use any of your senses whatsoever. Now, why was Han Solo frozen in such a way, and when did it happen?
Darth Vader had assembled a team of bounty hunters to find the Rebel Han Solo and bring him to Vader because he was, to put it in layman’s terms, a huge pain in his behind. Boba Fett was among those bounty hunters, and he was the one that captured Solo and froze him in carbonite, planning on bringing him to Darth Vader.
The capture happened in The Empire Strikes Back, which happened around 3 ABY. After Vader was done with Solo, Fett took the bounty, and Solo to collect another bounty on him, as Jabba the Hutt offered a hefty amount of dough for anyone who brought Han Solo to him alive.
That’s how Han Solo, still frozen in carbonite, ended up on Tatooine, where he thawed out of the carbonite in Return of the Jedi, happening around 4 ABY.
How Long Was Han Solo Frozen In Carbonite?
That brings us to our main question – how long was Han Solo frozen in carbonite? Well, it was never explicitly stated, but there are some pointers we can use to determine an approximate length of Solo’s “freeze time.”
The first pointer we have is the novelization of the Return of the Jedi. In the novel – that was considered canon when it got out – the moments when Leia thawed Han Solo out of the carbonite were described:
“He was, understandably, disoriented, after having been in suspended animation for six of this desert planets months – a period that was, to him, timeless.”
That would suggest Han Solo was frozen in carbonite for about half a year. However, the novel is not considered canon anymore, and there are some more concrete pointers that suggest otherwise.
If we look at the timeline of the movies – The Empire Strikes Back (3 ABY) and Return of the Jedi (4 ABY) – it would suggest that Solo’s time frozen in carbonite was closer to a year, not only six months.
Furthermore, the new Star Wars comics published by Marvel started to flesh out the time between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, giving us a better insight into what happened while Han Solo was frozen and how Leia “unfroze” him.
It’s unclear how long it was exactly, but considering the timeframe of the movies, and the different time-measuring system on Tatooine, Han Solo was frozen in carbonite for approximately a year, or a bit less than that.
Was Han Solo In A Coma While He Was Frozen In Carbonite?
For a long time, it was considered that if a person was frozen in carbonite, they were in a complete coma – utterly unaware of anything, let alone the time they spent in there. However, after a particular deleted scene emerged from Star Wars – Return of the Jedi (back then, named Revenge of the Jedi), it seems that Han Solo was conscious throughout his frozen time.
Now, the scene doesn’t have a lot of dialogue, but there is one particular line from Han Solo directed to Luke Skywalker that is very important to our topic:
“That carbon freeze was the closest thing to dead there is. And it wasn’t just sleepin’. It was a big wide awake nothing!”
That suggests that Han Solo was actually conscious while frozen in carbonite. Despite his body being stuck in place with no possibility of movement nor the use of any of his senses, Solo’s brain wasn’t comatose – it was awake and active.
Imagine the horror he endured while he was in there. No wonder they said in Return of the Jedi that the time Han was frozen in carbonite was “timeless” to him.