“You’ve never heard of the Millennium Falcon? … It’s the ship that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs.”
When Han Solo made that claim in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, fan boys all over the world were up in arms asking how George Lucas could allow such a mistake to make it into one of the biggest films of all time. Han’s comment suggests that parsecs are to do with time. However, a parsec is a unit of distance, not time.
So, did Lucas and Harrison Ford drop a clanger with the 12 parsecs line? We would argue no. We believe Han uses this line to test for Rubes. You see, the Kessel run is 18 parsecs in distance. You can’t do it in 12 or less.
As the theory goes, whenever Han gets a job where someone asks for a fast ship, he makes this 12 parsecs claim. If the client responds favourably (“Really? Wow!”), he knows he’s got a rube and doubles his fee. Perhaps the sucker thought that a parsec is a unit of time, or maybe they have no idea what the Kessel run is, either one indicates that they don’t know much about space travel and allows Han to exploit them. Alternatively, if the client knows Han has made a mistake then he plays it straight (“Just kidding. Seriously, though, I can get from here to Endor in 9 days. 16 if you want me to avoid all the Imperial choke points.”) What adds weight to this theory is that, in the original movie, when Han makes the 12 parsecs claim Luke is all like “Gosh, wow!”, while Ben is clearly thinking “Yeah mate, pull the other one why don’t you.”