star wagon

Jedi Killer, Qu'est-ce que c'est ? (Or, did he or didn’t he?)


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UPDATED 

April 26, 2016: With Claudia Gray’s Leia novel, Bloodline, hitting us next week, I am working on a new meta to accompany this piece I wrote a couple of months ago. 

Early news from Bloodline tells us that whatever transpired to destroy Luke’s Jedi training project; it took place after the events in Bloodline.

Ben Solo’s fall to the dark occurred when he was an adult in his early twenties. 

This is marvelously good news for all of us hoping for a redeemed Ben Solo who gets to live at the end of IX, and I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts once we’ve had a chance to read Bloodline. In the meantime, enjoy reading this meta in the knowledge that half of the popular assumption I wrote about here: “Ben turned when he was about 15,” has now been proven false. 

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The first time I saw The Force Awakens, I came out of the theater assuming that Kylo Ren committed a massacre at Luke’s Jedi Academy sometime in the past (my impression was of about 15 years before the events of TFA), and that this terrible event is what sent Luke into exile and sealed Kylo Ren’s fall to the Dark. This reading of the text seems to be pretty common among both hardcore and casual SW fans.  

I need to consider this in more detail (and I hope others will, too), because I think the eventual answer to this question is quite important, and will shape how the story ends.

I’ll start by saying that I am an unapologetic Ben Solo partisan, so I’m sure my reading of the story is clouded by my strong desire to see him saved, reconciled, and alive at the end of IX. Hopefully others (with eyes less clouded by love for our lost boy) will see more clearly and have insight to add.

I’m going to be quoting text from the novelization (which is slightly different from the film), and referring to some information in “The Art of Star Wars The Force Awakens,” as it relates to the development of the character they called the “Jedi Killer.” 

Here’s Han’s description of what happened back then, as he tells it to Rey and Finn on the Falcon: 

“He was training a new generation of Jedi. There was no one else left to do it, so he took the burden on himself. Everything was going good, until one boy, an apprentice, turned against him and destroyed it all.  Everything Luke had worked toward: gone. Luke felt responsible. He walked away from everything.”

Finn’s tone was respectful. “Do you know what happened to him? Does anyone?”

Han turned to him. “There’ve been all kinds of rumors and stories. When people don’t have access to the facts, they invent what they’d like to hear, or what they think others would like to hear. The people who knew him best think he went on a personal quest, looking for the first Jedi Temple.”

I don’t see any murdered Padawans in this statement. It is vague, perhaps intentionally so.

When Han and Leia talk before Han’s departure for Starkiller Base, Leia asserts, “There’s still light in him. I know it.” Would she have said this if her son had committed mass murder as a teenager?

Then there’s Snoke’s conversation with Kylo Ren: 


“I am immune to the light,” Ren assured him confidently. “By the grace of your training, I will not be seduced.”

“Your self-belief is commendable, Kylo Ren, but do not let it blind you. No one knows the limits of his own power until it has been tested to the utmost, as yours has not been. That day may yet come. 

…(and the dialogue about the awakening, have you felt it, etc.)…

“Perhaps,” Snoke conceded. “It has come to our attention that the droid we seek is aboard the Millennium Falcon, once again in the hands of your father, Han Solo. Even you, master of the Knights of Ren, have never faced such a test.” 

Ren considered his reply carefully. “It does not matter. He means nothing to me. My allegiance is with you. No one will stand in our way.” 

Snoke nodded. “We shall see. We shall see.”


I quote this to point out Snoke’s characterization of the challenge Kylo Ren will meet in confronting Han Solo as the greatest test he has yet faced - if Kylo Ren had already murdered his classmates (many of whom were surely his friends), would patricide really present all that much of a challenge?

The fact that the character who eventually becomes Kylo Ren is called “Jedi Killer” in the pre-production artwork in “The Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens” seems pretty damming, but a close examination of the text shows us that the name was used before anyone knew this character’s backstory: “…designs for the newly-christened but still origin-less “Jedi Killer” villain…” (pg 40).  

The design of this character went through huge changes before settling into the form we recognize from the film.  On page 175, the familiar mask of Kylo Ren appears, and the name “Jedi Killer” disappears (”…Glyn Dillon’s design for the Jedi Killer - soon to be known as Kylo Ren - was locked and approved…” pg  170). 

What to make of this? I don’t know, but it does appear to be an intentional, not accidental, change in nomenclature, and It seems likely that the “Jedi Killer” name refers to a character who is hunting Jedi Luke Skywalker, not to a character killing a school full of young Padawans. 

And finally, what about Rey’s Force vision?  This one is the most ambiguous moments in the film, and we really don’t know what is happening in it. Is it a memory from the past?  If Rey’s vision is moving in chronological order, then it is something she saw as a child.  If her vision is not locked into a chronological order, then her vision of Kylo and his Knights of Ren (or “The Seven Light”  as they are called on page 143) could be something other than what we have assumed it to be - the imagined killing field of Luke’s training project. Here’s how the scene is described in the novelization:

“Day became night, sky ominous and filled with rain, cold and chilling to the bone. She was standing, she was sitting, she was looking up - to see someone, a warrior, take the full force of the lightsaber. He screamed and fell.

Battlefield then, all around her. Putting a hand to her mouth, she rose and turned. As she turned, she found herself confronted by seven tall, cloaked figures, dark and forboding, all armed.  Soaked and shivering, she stumbled backward, turning as she half fell. Firelight illuminated her, firelight from a distant, burning temple.” 

Actually, this almost reads as two different scenes - and they could be from different points in time.  Is one from the past, and one from the future?  There are definitely bodies on a battlefield in Rey’s vision, but we’ll have to wait to find out whose bodies and how they got there.  One thing for sure, I bet that we’ll meet Ren’s Knights in episode VIII.   

And who are these Knights of Ren, anyway?  Their “working title” of The Seven Light in “The Art of Star Wars the Force Awakens” offers a tantalizing clue to their identity.  I think they ARE Luke’s other students, and that Ben Solo did not murder his classmates, his friends. He turned then, and took them with him into the Dark. Everything Luke had worked for would indeed have been destroyed by such an action, and Luke may have indeed felt responsible.

Only time will tell, of course, but in what I can see in the text that has been presented to us as the audience, there’s no actual evidence that Ben Solo committed a massacre as a teenager.  

Don’t get me wrong - there’s plenty of evil we know Ben Solo to be guilty of, but I won’t lay the crime of child murder on his head until there’s proof in the story that it happened.  As Han said, “When people don’t have access to the facts, they invent what they’d like to hear, or what they think others would like to hear.”

  • Hazel Grace: Okay?
  • Augustus Waters: Okay.
  • Hazel Grace: as an artist who respects creative integrity and intellectual property i am disgusted at how much you have copied me! do you not have any respect for originality?? you're a laughing stock. it's cheesy, it's disgusting, i personally find it artistically atrocious.
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— I don’t own the gifs/pictures. —

“Why am I being held hostage?” You questioned, already aware of the situation. A small number of stormtroopers had attacked an allied system and you were part of the couple of squadrons sent by the Resistance to handle it. Intelligence had been wrong - there were far too many and you had been outmatched, outgunned.

And now? You were being held hostage by the First Order for unknown reasons.

“I think you already know.”