Rey’s Origins: Themes and Effects

Most of the speculation I’ve seen about Rey’s parentage falls into either the evidence based theorizing camp or the “wouldn’t it be cool if” camp. I want to take a different approach and look at her potential origins from a narrative perspective. Specifically I want to look at what themes various popular theories could be used to express and how they could tie into the major themes of the series. I also want to look at how each theory could potentially affect character development and relationships among the major characters.

First let’s look at the major themes that have been presented in the previous movies:

You could say the main theme of the movies is good vs. evil, but it’s a bit more than that. Good and Evil in Star Wars are presented as interconnected, as two sides of the same coin. They balance each other. Fear, anger, and hatred are balanced by peace, patience, and compassion, selfishness by selflessness. Both the Dark Side and the Light are part of the Force itself and can never be fully eliminated. There is the potential for darkness in every good person but also the potential for light in every evil person.

Another major theme in the series is Destiny. What’s interesting is that in Star Wars destiny always seems to tie back to the nature of one’s birth. Anakin is destined to bring balance to the Force because he is the Chosen One born of the Force. Luke’s destiny is to become a Jedi like his father before him. Even other minor Jedi characters have that destiny decided at their birth, they are either born Force sensitive or they aren’t.

I would argue that after these two themes the third most important theme is broken relationships between parents and their children and the characters’ attempts to restore those relationships. We see the relationship between Anakin and his mother break in The Phantom Menace and his attempts to restore it in Attack of the Clones. Most of Anakin’s issues in Revenge of the Sith stem from the loss of his mother. In A New Hope Luke decides to become a Jedi mostly in an attempt to become closer to the father he never knew. In The Empire Strikes Back we see Vader’s attempt to restore his relationship with his son. In Return of the Jedi we see Luke’s attempt to restore his relationship with his father. In The Force Awakens we see Han’s attempt to rectify his relationship with his son. It looks like we will also being seeing this theme in Rogue One play out with Jyn and her father.

George Lucas has said that Star Wars is ultimately about Anakin. The Prequels are about his fall, the OT is about his redemption and now it appears that the sequels will be about his legacy. This theme is carried in The Force Awakens by Kylo Ren with his desire to emulate Vader and to finish what Vader started with the destruction of the Jedi.

A theme that was introduced in The Force Awakens and retroactively made a theme of the series is the theme of the acceptance and rejection of identities. Ben Solo rejects his family, puts on a mask, and takes up a new name, Kylo Ren. FN-2187 rejects the First Order, takes off his mask and becomes Finn. Both of these parallel Anakin who, when he fell, rejected the Jedi, put on a mask, and became Darth Vader. When he was redeemed he took off the mask and became Anakin again. For all three characters the new name matches with the new identity: Kylo becomes the Master of the Knights of Ren, Finn joins the Resistance which treat their members as individuals rather than as numbers, so he gets a true name, Anakin gets the title Darth when he becomes a Sith and retakes the name Anakin when he becomes a Jedi again. We see the beginning of this theme with Rey. When she is first introduced she is wearing a mask which symbolizes both the mystery that surrounds her and her anonymity as a scavenger. At the end of the movie we see her reject her identity as a scavenger and embrace her identity as a Jedi. All she’s missing is the new name.

So let’s look at some of the possibilities:

Luke’s daughter

Themes:

  • The duality of good and evil: In this case a definite duality exists between Rey and Kylo Ren. Their fight becomes the daughter of the son vs. the son of the daughter. Kylo rejects their family while Rey embraces them. Kylo is responsible for breaking the Skywalker family apart while Rey is responsible for bringing them back together (Rey finding BB-8 and escaping with Finn led directly to Han and Leia being reunited and to Han and Ben being reunited before Ben irreversibly tore the family apart once again. Now that Rey has gone from Leia to Luke it’s possible that she will be instrumental in their reunion as well).
  • Birthright Destiny: Rey’s destiny is to become a Jedi like her father and grandfather before her. More than that though the fate of the galaxy has rested in the hands of the Skywalker family since Anakin was first taken from Tattooine, where their individual choices have the power to sway the galaxy toward evil or good. Kylo and Rey would both now be the heirs of their family fate.
  • Restoring the relationships between parents and children: This theme would play out in a powerful way in the Rey/Luke storyline as they both try to rebuild their fractured family.
  • Anakin: Anakin’s internal struggle would become external in the form of his grandchildren. Rey personifies Anakin: She grew up on a desert world in slavery in all but name, she’s a talented pilot and mechanic. She has great potential in the Force, but she also has a bit of a temper. Kylo personifies Vader: He’s the promising apprentice who betrayed his master and murdered his fellow Jedi. He now serves the enigmatic leader of a totalitarian regime. Despite all of this he feels the call of the light in the form of his family. Rey and Kylo’s struggle will determine Anakin’s legacy: the return of the Jedi or the return of the Empire.
  • Identities: Rey would gain the last name Skywalker and possibly her real first name as well. Both would befit the new identity she has chosen for herself as a Jedi.
  • Other potential themes:

Forgiveness: Rey forgiving Luke and Luke forgiving himself for not preventing her from being abandoned on Jakku

  • Effects on character development and character relationships: Any remaining doubts that Rey has about leaving Jakku and coming to Luke to train as a Jedi would be erased. A deep bond would likely form between Rey and Luke as both of them try to learn what it means to be a family again and they help each other work through their emotional baggage. Luke helps Rey with her abandonment issues. Rey gives Luke renewed hope and helps to pull him out of the depression he seems to have fallen into since Ben fell. Rey’s bond with Leia would likely deepen as well and her grieving for Han would increase. Rey’s relationship with Kylo becomes more interesting as he would be both her cousin and the murderer of her uncle.
  • Potential resultant conflicts: Rey could develop an internal struggle regarding Ben Solo. On one hand he would now be a member of the family that she has so desperately longed to be a part of again, which would increase her desire to see him redeemed. On the other hand he also murdered a member of her family that she had already become very fond of, which would make her hate him more. Kylo could develop an internal struggle regarding Rey as she’s both his opponent and his cousin. A minor conflict could develop between Rey and Luke. Luke could become overprotective of Rey in an attempt to ensure that he didn’t lose her again, this could grate against Rey’s independent nature and cause them to butt heads.

Han and Leia’s daughter

Themes:

  • The duality of Good and Evil: The same as if she were Luke’s daughter except now it’s brother vs. sister rather than cousin vs. cousin
  • Birthright Destiny: The same as if she were Luke’s daughter except now her destiny is to become a Jedi like her grandfather before her rather than both her father and her grandfather.
  • Restoring the relationships between parents and children: This theme would play out in a powerful way between Leia and Rey but would have to wait until Rey finishes training with Luke and returns to Leia.
  • Anakin: the same as if she were Luke’s daughter
  • Identities: Rey would gain the last name Solo which suits someone who fights for the light side just fine.
  • Other potential themes:

Forgiveness: Rey forgives Han and Leia for her abandonment and Leia has to forgive herself for letting it happen.

  • Effects on character development and character relationships: Any remaining doubts that Rey has about leaving Jakku would be erased, but she might want to rush her training to get back to her mother. A deeper bond would likely form between Rey and Luke (the effects would likely be the same as if she were his daughter though those effect might not be as profound and it would likely be Leia that would help Rey through her abandonment issues). Rey would form a very strong bond with Leia and her grieving with Han would increase tremendously. Rey’s relationship with Kylo becomes more interesting as he would be both her brother and the murderer of her father.
  • Potential resultant conflicts: Rey could develop an internal struggle regarding Ben Solo. On one hand he would now be her brother, on the other hand he murdered her father. Kylo could develop an internal struggle regarding Rey as she’s both his opponent and his sister. Leia could become the overprotective parent which could annoy Rey.

Obi-Wan’s granddaughter

Themes:

  • The duality of Good and Evil: A duality exists between Obi-Wan and Anakin in that Obi-Wan is cool heading and by the book, while Anakin is hot headed and impulsive. This doesn’t really transfer well to Rey and Kylo though. Kylo is every bit as hot headed and impulsive as his grandfather but Rey hasn’t yet been portrayed to share Obi-Wan’s by the book attitude.
  • Birthright Destiny: Rey’s destiny is to become a Jedi like her grandfather before her
  • Restoring the relationships between parents and children: This theme only comes into play if Obi-Wan’s child is introduced or if Rey spends a considerable amount of time with Obi-Wan’s ghost.
  • Anakin: Obi-Wan and Anakin’s lives intertwined and now their grandchildren’s lives would intertwine as well, but the theme of Anakin’s legacy would be Kylo’s alone to carry.
  • Identities: Rey would gain the last name Kenobi, a fitting name for a Jedi.
  • Other potential themes: The legacy of Obi-Wan
  • Effects on character development and character relationships: Learning her last name and family history would reinforce Rey’s decision to leave Jakku and come train with Luke. Luke and Leia would probably be delighted to learn that she was related to Obi-Wan but I doubt it would change their relationship with her in any drastic way. Kylo could hate her more or be completely indifferent depending on how much he knows and what his opinion is of the fight on Mustafar.
  • Potential resultant conflicts: Could have some effect on the fight between Rey and Kylo but the effect would likely be minor

Palpatine’s granddaughter/clone

Themes:

  • The duality of Good and Evil: Kylo is dark born on the light side Rey is light born on the dark side. If she’s a clone than it becomes natural vs. unnatural, which would be an odd bit of symbolism for Star Wars because the light side is supposed to be natural and the dark side unnatural.
  • Birthright Destiny: This theme only comes into play if she falls to the dark side or attempts to claim the throne of the Empire for herself.
  • Restoring the relationships between parents and children: This theme only comes into play if Palpatine’s child is introduced. If she’s a clone it can’t come into play at all as she would have no parents.
  • Anakin: Palpatine and Anakin’s lives intertwined and now their grandchildren’s lives would intertwine as well, but the theme of Anakin’s legacy would be Kylo’s alone to carry.
  • Identities: Rey would gain the last name Palpatine, which goes against this theme in that the name doesn’t particularly suit her new identity as a Jedi. She either accepts the identity of Jedi and rejects the name or embraces the name and falls to the dark side, rejecting the identity of being a Jedi
  • Other potential themes: We are who we chose to be not who we are born to be
  • Effects on character development and character relationships: Rey would have to come to terms with the fact that she descended directly from/created from one of the most evil men the galaxy has ever seen. Luke could help her with this as he’s well acquainted with that struggle. (She would have it way easier than Luke did in that she has never met, nor ever will meet, Palpatine. If she wanted to completely disregard her relation to him, she easily could. Luke didn’t have that luxury with Vader.) Likely minimal effect on her relationships with Luke, Leia, and Finn as they are the last people to judge others by their origins. Unknown effect with Kylo. He could not care as he’s obsessed with Vader not Palpatine, he could feel threatened by the descendant/clone of his idol’s master, or he could see this as a sign that Rey is meant to join him on the Dark Side and try harder to convert her.
  • Potential resultant conflicts: Possibly some internal conflict in Rey as she comes to terms with her origins. Possibly Rey could create a schism in the First Order with some being loyal to Palpatine’s heir. She would have to prove who she was beyond all shadow of doubt for this to work, though.

Anakin’s clone

Themes:

  • The duality of Good and Evil: Both Kylo and Rey are descended from Anakin, one through natural means and one through unnatural means.
  • Birthright Destiny: She’s destined to become a Jedi like Anakin
  • Restoring the relationships between parents and children: Can’t do this theme as clones don’t have parents.
  • Anakin: Anakin’s clone vs. Anakin’s grandchild to decide his legacy
  • Identities: She could chose to take the name Skywalker as she’s technically part of the family
  • Other potential themes: Family is who we choose them to be
  • Effects on character development and character relationships: Rey has to come to terms with what she is. Likely minimal effect on her relationships with other characters. Kylo cares about Vader not Anakin.
  • Potential resultant conflicts: minimal effect

Luke’s clone

Themes:

  • The duality of Good and Evil: Both Kylo and Rey are descended from Anakin’s children, one through natural means and one through unnatural means.
  • Birthright Destiny: She’s destined to become a Jedi like Luke
  • Restoring the relationships between parents and children: Can’t do this theme as clones don’t have parents.
  • Anakin: Luke’s clone vs. Leia’s child to decide Anakin’s legacy
  • Identities: She could chose to take the name Skywalker as she’s technically part of the family
  • Other potential themes: Family is who we choose
  • Effects on character development and character relationships: Rey has to come to terms with what she is. Likely minimal effect on her relationships with other characters, though Luke could choose to treat her as a long lost daughter.
  • Potential resultant conflicts: minimal effect

Anakin’s reborn (this one is tricky as it depends on how much she remembers from her previous life)

Themes:

  • The duality of Good and Evil: Anakin reborn literally vs Vader reborn symbolically.
  • Birthright Destiny: Rey is destined to right the wrongs that she committed in her previous life
  • Restoring the relationships between parents and children: We could see reconciliation between Anakin and Leia. This only works if Rey remembers a significant amount from her previous life and if Leia choses to see Rey and Anakin as the same person.
  • Anakin: Anakin uses his second life to set right the mistakes of his first
  • Identities: Rey identifies with Anakin and possibly takes the name Skywalker
  • Other potential themes: The Chosen One, Second chances
  • Effects on character development and character relationships: Rey’s character development would have to strike a careful balance. If she remembers nothing of her previous life than there is no development to be had. If she remembers too much then she risks losing her individuality as a character and just becoming Anakin in Rey’s skin. She would form a stronger bond with Luke and possibly restore her relationship with Leia.
  • Potential resultant conflicts: There could be some conflict with Leia, but only if she chooses to see Rey and Anakin as the same person. The conflict between Rey and Kylo is likely to decrease as Anakin would be desperate to see his grandson redeemed.

A Force Baby/New Chosen One

Themes:

  • The duality of Good and Evil: Rey and Kylo are unbalanced here as she is the Chosen One and Kylo is the previous Chosen One’s screw up grandson.
  • Birthright Destiny: The Chosen One destined to bring balance to the Force
  • Restoring the relationships between parents and children: Only if we meet her mother
  • Anakin: Kylo would carry this theme alone as Rey has no connection to Anakin
  • Identities: She gets a new identity as the Chosen One but would only get a new name if another character knows her name or if we meet her mother
  • Other potential themes: The Chosen One
  • Effects on character development and character relationships: Rey has to come to terms with the fact that she’s the new Chosen One and the responsibility that has been thrust upon her. Likely minimal effect on her relationships with other characters.
  • Potential resultant conflicts: minimal effect

A Nobody

Themes:

  • The duality of Good and Evil: Kylo comes from a prominent family Rey comes from an obscure family.
  • Birthright Destiny: Not applicable as her birth is insignificant
  • Restoring the relationships between parents and children: Only applicable if her parents are introduced
  • Anakin: Kylo carries this theme alone as Rey has no relation to Anakin
  • Identities: Her new identity is as a Jedi but her new name is meaningless
  • Other potential themes: A great hero can come from the humblest origins
  • Effects on character development and character relationships: Rey has to learn to get over her abandonment issues. Likely minimal effect on her relationships with other characters.
  • Potential resultant conflicts: minimal effect

Sorry if I left out anyone’s favorite theory, this was getting long enough as it was.

TLDR: The more closely linked Rey is to the Skywalker family the more potential there is to use her to express some of the major themes of the series and the greater the effect on her relationships and conflicts with other major characters.

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