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Opinion: Let’s Talk About That One Character’s Family In The Force Awakens (SPOILERS)

by Matt Miller on Dec 21, 2015 at 05:49 AM

The following speculative opinion is mostly conjecture, but it draws heavily on events in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As such, turn away now if you have yet to see the film. SPOILERS AHEAD!

Based on the opening weekend numbers, I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to walk out of The Force Awakens in recent days and find myself wondering about some of the mysteries left behind to ponder as we wait for Episode VIII. But no single question seems as important as the issue of Rey’s parentage. Some fans think her parentage simply isn’t relevant; we’ll talk about that first. Some others think she’s a child of Han and Leia. Many other fans jumped to a third, seemingly clear-cut answer to that question with a lot of evidence to support it, with a focus on Luke Skywalker, which I’ll lay out third. But I’ve found my mind wandering to another, fourth possibility, and I think there’s good evidence for believing it might be so, and I suspect I’m not the only Star Wars fan who thinks so. 

Theory 1: Rey is a nobody

Let’s start with what I personally consider the least likely scenario; Rey’s parents don’t matter. There are a few reasons to believe this might be the case. We already have one new character inextricably tied to the familiar bloodlines of the story. As the child of Han and Leia, Kylo Ren continues the Star Wars tradition of familial connection across the generations. Proponents ask: Wouldn’t it be too much for Rey to be yet another link in the chain? Is there only one family of significance in the Star Wars universe? If Rey is a nobody who just happens to have Force powers, it shows that anyone can become a powerful Jedi, which is a pretty cool idea. 

While that is a fun idea, I mostly reject this conceit for the character. Rey is the central new Force-wielding hero of these new movies, and the filmmakers went out of their way to establish a mystery surrounding who she is and where she came from. For later films to declare that none of that matters seems like dropping the ball. 

So, maybe Rey is connected to the one obvious parental pairing we already know about:

Theory 2: Rey is Han and Leia’s other child

We already know that Kylo Ren is the child of Han and Leia, and that his name was once Ben Solo. Couldn’t they have had a second child as well?

There’s some fun narrative potential here, setting up a rivalry between Kylo Ren and Rey as brother and sister. In the snowy woods duel, they certainly seem to instinctively share some elements of their fighting style. And going this direction would echo the dynamic of two separated siblings that we saw in the original trilogy. 

But I just can’t buy it. Wouldn’t Han or Leia have some sense of who she is when they see her again, and be eager to tell her the truth? Why would they leave her on the desolate planet of Jakku, rather than keep her with them in the Resistance?

And perhaps most importantly, isn’t it just a little too convenient that we’d get reveals that both children (Rey and Ben) were from the same parents? Narratively, the concept feels cheap to me, like the filmmakers are trying to pull the same trick a second time.

That’s why many people have come to believe the entirely reasonable third theory:

Theory 3: Rey is Luke’s daughter

There are abundant clues that seem to suggest that Rey is the child of Luke Skywalker, and excellent reasons to believe it to be the case. Let’s lay them out. 

Rey keeps mementos in her home on Jakku (how awesome is that AT-AT house?) She has a doll that looks like a rebel pilot – the same outfit Luke once wore. She carries a helmet of a Rebel pilot, similar to the one Luke once wore. She clearly values these objects with great sentiment, perhaps because they’re connected to her father. 

Rey is clearly very strong with the Force, and like both Luke and Anakin before her, she seems to use her powers even without training. 

She’s preternaturally drawn to Luke’s original lightsaber, which in turn was Anakin’s lightsaber before the fateful duel on Mustafar. A direct bloodline connection is the most obvious choice for why Rey feels bonded to the saber. 

A conflict between Kylo Ren and Rey seems to be at the crux of the new trilogy. Wouldn’t it be cool if they were cousins?

When Luke’s location is finally discovered, Leia sends Rey to him. Who else would she send, if not Luke’s own daughter?

Finally, when Rey finally tracks Luke down, and holds out the lightsaber to him, there seems to be a connection between the two. It’s almost as if Rey is about to intone: “Father?”

These are all great bread crumbs, and I won’t be remotely surprised if it turns out Luke is actually Rey’s father. But frankly, it all feels too clear-cut to me. The connection between Vader and Luke was never so clearly established in Episode IV – that’s why the surprise of that reveal carries weight in Episode V. And once again, is the Skywalker lineage the only important family in the galaxy? And would heroic Luke really abandon his own daughter on Jakku?

Instead, I’d put forward the following. Luke does indeed have a deep connection to Rey, and a good reason to care about her family. She is the descendant of the man who introduced him to the Force, who also happened to be the same man who trained Luke’s father.

Theory 4: Rey is the granddaughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi

Rey is indeed strong with the Force, because she’s of a bloodline with one of the truly great Jedi of the Old Republic – Obi-Wan Kenobi. There are less clear-cut hints that this is the case than with the theory that she is Luke’s daughter, but the more you add up the evidence, the more it seems plausible. This is a theory that has floated among fan circles for months, but with the movie now out, there’s additional fuel to suggest the connection.

In the new Star Wars canon (which wipes out most of the previous comics, books, and games) we know very little about Obi-Wan Kenobi’s time on Tattooine. We know that he took on the name Ben. And that he tried to watch over Luke from afar. But we know little else. With the Jedi Order shattered, is it so hard to believe that he might have fallen in love and had a child? Certainly, it’s no harder to believe than that Luke would have done the same – which is a necessary belief if you ascribe to Theory 3. 

If Obi-Wan did have a child that somehow survived the dark days of the Empire, that individual may have eventually found his or her way to Luke, the last of the Jedi. In turn, that individual’s child could be Rey. 

When Luke's new Jedi are wiped out, maybe Rey's parents were killed by Kylo Ren, but Luke was able to escape with the granddaughter, Rey. Doubting his own ability to train Jedi, Luke left her with someone on Jakku, and went into self-imposed exile. That guardian has since died, and Rey is free to find the master she was always destined to have.

That’s a lot of wild conjecture, with nothing to back it up. Let’s look at some actual supporting evidence. 

Accents tend to carry over between generations, as a parent teaches a child how to speak. Rey has a clear accent, while Han, Leia, and Luke do not. Obi-Wan did have an accent in his speech (the Star Wars equivalent of formal English, sometimes called Coruscanti), which he could have passed on to his child, and in turn that child could have passed that accent along to Obi-Wan’s granddaughter. 

While the Jedi mind trick has proliferated through the Star Wars fiction, we originally see its most famous use by Obi-Wan in Episode IV, as he fools the stormtroopers into believing “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” In Rey’s first overt use of the Force, she fools a Stormtrooper into releasing her from imprisonment – a hint about her connection to Obi-Wan.

If Luke was forced to flee his Jedi Training school after Kylo Ren’s betrayal, and he was able to save Obi-Wan’s granddaughter from death, he would have done so, but he might have been hesitant to take Rey with him into exile – afraid that he might fail to train her as well. Instead, he might have left her in relative obscurity on Jakku, where she could remain hidden from the First Order. Rey could have childhood memories of the man in the orange rebel pilot uniform, even if Luke wasn’t her father. 

When visiting Maz Kanata’s castle in the new movie, Rey is drawn to Luke’s old lightsaber – the one that fell into the depths of Cloud City in The Empire Strikes Back. Its whereabouts in the intervening years are unknown, but Rey’s discovery of it triggers an intense vision. Within the vision, we see hints of the past and the future, but we also hear a distant voice, which proclaims: “Rey…these are your first steps.” In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, J.J. Abrams explains that they had Ewan McGregor come in to perform that line for the movie. Subsequently, the filmmakers found a line of dialogue spoken by Alec Guinness in which he said : “Afraid,” and they edited it so that Guiness was saying “Rey,” which they combined with McGregor’s line. Thus, when you hear that line in Rey’s vision, both of the actors that played Obi-Wan Kenobi are directly speaking to Rey through the Force. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. While brief line snippets from Yoda and Luke are also dimly heard in this scene, the line from Obi-Wan is the only genuinely new piece of dialogue, and it stands out. If Obi-Wan’s Force ghost continues to be more powerful than Vader ever imagined, don’t you think Obi-Wan would be interested in guiding his granddaughter to find Luke and become trained in the ways of the Force?

Yes, Rey has a strong familial connection to Luke’s old lightsaber, but for a more complex reason that it might first appear. Kenobi trained both Anakin and Luke, who both used that lightsaber. In between, Obi-Wan Kenobi was the keeper of that lightsaber for nineteen years, after taking it from Anakin, but before gifting it to Luke. The giving of that lightsaber is one of the most important scenes of the Original Trilogy, in my mind. It is the moment in which Obi-Wan invites Luke into the world of the Force, and passes him the figurative torch for the Jedi Order. 

In the final scene of The Force Awakens, we see Rey hold out the lightsaber to Luke in a nearly identical fashion to the way her grandfather once did. It’s an invitation to Luke; enter the larger world and join the fight – we need you! It’s a poignant echo of the same scene from Episode IV. But this time, a young Kenobi is the student, and Luke is the master and teacher she was always meant to have. 

From a narrative perspective, there is still a lot to love about the dynamic between Rey and Kylo Ren, if you’re to believe this theory. The Star Wars fiction explores a powerful connection between Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Skywalker lineage (of which Kylo Ren is a member). Only Obi-Wan Kenobi had the strength to face his former apprentice and defeat him on Mustafar. The movies deal directly with timeless stories and the cyclical nature of things; is it so hard to believe that the individual destined to confront Kylo Ren is the granddaughter of the man who once defeated Kylo Ren’s grandfather?

I openly acknowledge the many challenges to this fourth theory. It potentially demands a great deal of backstory about Obi-Wan and his time on Tattooine, which may go beyond the scope of subsequent major film entries. It complicates an already intricate web of family connections in the Star Wars canon. And most of the evidence I’ve laid out is more circumstantial than anything else.

Ultimately, I gravitate towards this theory because it feels poetic and powerful. We already have a story about a father and child (Han Solo and Kylo Ren) that dominates Episode VII. I don’t feel a need to rehash that dynamic for subsequent entries, and I’d be a little let down to see the filmmakers do so. 

Instead, I’d love for Episode VIII and IX to explore the powerful relationship between a teacher and student, and how that give and take is also an endless cycle that continues on through the generations. There’s a beauty to the idea that Obi-Wan trained Luke, and that many years later, Luke trains Obi-Wan’s granddaughter, Rey.

Plus, Rey Kenobi has a cool ring to it.