Finn & Rey: Renewed Shall be Blood that was Broken – Part I

written by Han Spinel (part 1 in a 3-part series)

Prelude
Part II
Part III

Throughout this 3-part series, I will place the central characters of the Star Wars Sequel Trilogy, along with the theme of healing broken family bonds (and symbolically through reforging the Ancestral Skywalker Saber), into the context of “The Riddle of Strider” by J.R.R. Tolkien. In particular, I will argue that “the power of the Force” is insignificant next to the relationship forged between two broken pasts – Finn and Rey. Following, I believe that their bond initiates and will ultimately reforge the broken Skywalker Family Legacy in its most desperate hour.

I’ve divided up “The Riddle of Strider” into three sections. In part 1 of this series, I focus on the first part of the 1st stanza, with part 2 combining the 2nd part of the 1st stanza and 1st part of the 2nd stanza. Finally, part 3 will focus on the 2nd part of the 2nd stanza. For each part, I’ll highlight what thematic, narrative, and symbolic parallels exist between The Lord of the Rings and the Sequel Trilogy’s protagonists and antagonists, and how these may foreshadow events to come in The Rise of Skywalker.

The Riddle of Strider is a poem by J.R.R. Tolkien (written by the character Bilbo Baggins in-universe) used in The Lord of the Rings as a foreshadowing tale about one of its central characters, Aragorn son of Arathorn.

All that is gold does not glitter
Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes, a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;

Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

Narratively, the first section of the first stanza (highlighted by navy-colored text above) serves as a metaphorical introduction to our hero, Aragorn. These first lines also present a poetic juxtaposition between subject and qualities. Gold, in fact, does glitter and shimmer in the light, but the first line of the poem suggests that somethings can be of great and high value (gold) without appearing so on the surface (does not glitter). In other words, the first quarter of the poem lets us know that despite Aragorn’s humble introduction ([he] does not glitter), something buried deep within him is truly special ([he] is gold). 

Someone who wanders is typically without aim or direction, but the second line contrasts this notion in suggesting that not all those who wanderer are “lost.” Either by  circumstance or choice, Aragorn wanders relative to the narrative truth buried deep down inside. Aragorn knows where his destiny lies. Altogether, this is the general making of a fine introduction to a hero’s journey.

The gold and not being “lost,” of course, refers to the fact that Aragorn is heir to the throne of Gondor, and his ultimate destiny in The Lord of the Rings is to lead the fight against the evil forces of Sauron, and reunite the broken kingdoms of his people.

He was Aragorn son of Arathorn, the nine and thirtieth heir in the right line from Isildur, and yet more like Elendil than any before him.
The SilmarillionOf the Rings of Power and the Third Age

elendil
Elendil, the first High King of Gondor and Arnor and first King of all the Dúnedain. Father of Isildur and Anárion.

Elendil, renown as the greatest warrior of all the Dúnedain, was the first High King to Gondor (the prominent kingdom of the human race in Middle-earth) and also Arnor (the southern realm of Gondor). Elendil was ultimately slain by Sauron, the literal Lord of the Rings, during the Last War of the Alliance (Last Alliance of Elves and Humans). Elendil’s sword, the Narsil, was shattered in two during the battle (and later shatters into several pieces for Peter Jackson’s film adaptation – stay tuned for part III 😉 ).

It was then that Elendil’s first born son, Isildur, defended his slain father by taking up the shattered Narsil and cutting the One Ring from Sauron’s hand – effectively winning the war. Unfortunately, Isildur chose not to destroy the One Ring – allowing for Sauron’s spirit to fester and grow in power for many generations. Isildur was killed by a band of Orcs shortly after assuming his father’s throne, and the One Ring was lost until Smeagol acquired it. 

ShatteredNarsil

Aragorn was only 2 years old when his father, Arathorn, was killed while pursuing Orcs. Aragorn’s mother feared that her son would be killed like his father and grandfather before him. Thus, his true lineage was kept secret from him at the request of his mother, and little Aragorn was taken to Rivendel under the fostercare of Elrond.

Following, Aragorn was renamed to “Estel,” which means “hope” in Sindarin (common Elvish language of Middle Earth). Elrond doesn’t reveal “Estel’s” true name and ancestry to him until he was twenty years old. At this time, “Estel” is given the Shards of Narsil.

However, this incredibly rich family history and relevant lineage is initially and intentionally concealed via his mysterious introduction as a lone-wandering Ranger. Going only by a name not associated with his true heritage, “Strider” passes as a nobody who does not glitter as one would expect with his golden and kingly lineage. And though Strider wanders as a Ranger of the North, he is not “lost.” Strider is aware, deep down inside, that he is tied to something inevitable, something bigger – his destiny and family legacy.

Strider

This in itself is perhaps already a tell as to the eventual reveal that his origins are both relevant and significant to the story. After all, other central characters in The Lord of the Rings are introduced by their first name, followed by their immediate lineage, or father’s name such as Boromir son of Denethor II, or Gimli son of Gloin. In other words, this type of introduction is done so to intentionally encourage the reader to question why they are different, where they come from, and foreshadow the inevitable and eventual reveal to something more – or more importantly, to something incredibly relevant to the in-universe history.

So, how does this compare to the introduction of the central protagonists of the Sequel Trilogy?

“I sense something. Something I’ve not felt since….” – Darth Vader

ALL THAT IS GOLD DOES NOT GLITTER
NOT ALL THOSE WHO WANDER ARE LOST

Meet Finn & Rey, two unlikely heroes, introduced with currently secret backstories. One introduction is eerily familiar within the context of other hero’s of the Skywalker Saga – Rey is a wandering scavenger on a desert planet, a consequence of her mysteriously being abandoned on Jakku. This is thematically similar to Luke Skywalker the farm boy from a desert planet, and his predicament being a consequence of being hidden from his dark past (just like Aragorn). And these are thematically similar to Anakin Skywalker the slave working for a “filthy junk trader” from a desert planet (Wait.. didn’t Kylo- Yes, yes he likely revealed Rey’s lineage FACPOV). Anakin was a literal consequence of the “choice” of the Force.

GoldDoesNotGlitter

Finn on the other hand, presents an unfamiliar and unique story to the Skywalker saga – he’s a run away stormtrooper. He becomes a hero solely by choice, and trail-blazes a path into the canonical universe with every step he takes. Finn chooses his own fate, which leads to him falling from the sky and literally wandering through the desert of Jakku to meet a woman waiting for a destiny that ultimately finds her.

Either through consequence (Rey, Luke, and Anakin) or choice (Finn), these Star Wars heroes are presented with anything but a glittery introduction. But is there gold below their surface appearances? Let’s start with the heroes introduced by consequence.

Anakin Skywalker ended up being the Chosen One™, and Luke Skywalker the first born of said Chosen One™. Alas, the Ancestral Skywalker Saber wielded by the Skywalkers before her, has literally spoken to Rey, and to her alone. The ancestral Saber calling out to Rey echoes of a chosen hero like Anakin Skywalker before her. The Skywalker familiarity continues with Rey initially rejecting her call to the journey, just as Luke Skywalker initially rejects going with Obi-Wan to Alderaan.

Like the introduction of Strider, if this in itself wasn’t enough to encourage the audience to begin asking who this young woman was – the films and marketing have come right out and spoon fed the question to us:

“Who are you?” – Maz Kanata The Force Awakens Official Theatrical Trailer

“Who’s the girl?” – Maz Kanata The Force Awakens

“What girl?” – Kylo Ren The Force Awakens

Luke Skywalker: Who are you?
Rey: I know this place.
Luke: Built a thousand generations ago to keep these. The original Jedi texts. Just like me, they’re the last of the Jedi religion. You’ve seen this place. You’ve seen this island.
Rey: [whispering] Only in my dreams.
Luke: Who are you?
Rey: The Resistance sent me.
Luke: They sent you? What’s special about you? Where are you from?
Rey: Nowhere.
Luke: No one’s from nowhere.
Rey: Jakku.
Luke: All right; that is pretty much nowhere. Why are you here, Rey from nowhere?
Rey: The Resistance sent me. The First Order has become unstoppable–
Luke: Why are you here?
Rey: Something inside me has always been there… but now it’s awake, and I’m afraid. I don’t know what it is, or what to do with it, but I need help.

– Luke & Rey in The Last Jedi

You will be hard pressed to name even one other truly anonymous character in all of Star Wars storytelling that receives the same inquisitive treatment through two episodic films worth of the “Skywalker Saga.” Though we know not canonically what Rey’s true lineage is, the inevitability of an in-universe relevant lineage is irrefutable in this context. Further, there is no doubt the most relevant family in the Skywalker Saga, the Skywalker family, calls out to her specifically through the Legacy Saber.

What’s more, both Rey and Finn were introduced to the Skywalker Saga with last names that are currently and intentionally being kept from public record by J.J. Abrams himself. Familiar to Strider, no? Specifically regarding Rey’s inevitable lineage reveal, is it not also extremely  convenient that J.J. Abrams has also said point-blank that there’s more to the story regarding Rey’s parentage during interviews specific to The Rise of Skywalker? 

FinnReyParallelForest_swsc

Regarding the unique and unchosen hero: Finn was kidnapped by evil forces from a family he may never know. Building from the fact that Finn has a last name being intentionally withheld, a conclusion can be drawn that Finn’s lineage is relevant to the in-universe history of Star Wars in some way or unknown context. For instance, we have previously speculated that a new character in The Rise of Skywalker, Jannah, may provide a direct familial link to Finn’s origins. 

In this way, Finn’s backstory would provide new world-building context to the GFFA, and thus the in-universe characters aren’t as centered on specifically asking him who he is or where he’s from. “We” and the other characters aren’t familiar with his origins even if he told them. Whereas with Rey being from the Skywalker lineage would add reason as to why in-universe characters are intentionally written to ask her who she is and where she’s from, because “we” and the other characters are familiar with where she’s from.

And although Finn’s hero’s journey is unique to the journeys of the Skywalkers, he simultaneously upholds and represents all that the Jedi embody – a noble defender, and a guardian of Justice. This is perhaps no more apparent than when Finn literally picks up, defends, and carries the Skywalker Legacy at a time when no other Skywalker, including Rey, was poised to carry the family forward. And he does so again during the climax of The Force Awakens, where Finn defends the fallen Rey with the Skywalker Legacy blade not even Kylo Ren was able to wield.

SUMMARY

Both Finn and Rey were introduced just as “The Riddle of Strider” introduces Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings. Finn and Rey are presented without the gold and glitter typical of well-established heroes. Their characters initially wander, but it is clear something more remains to be revealed about their origins heading into The Rise of Skywalker. In other words, and just like Strider, they are “not lost. And regardless of your stance on whether or not Rey is a Skywalker by birth, both Finn and Rey have irrefutably accepted their respective calls to the hero’s journey. This is narratively significant as it implicates each is a co-protagonist with the other, sharing elements of their journeys with one another.

Please follow along for parts 2 and 3 in the following weeks….

The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes, a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;

 

One comment

  1. […] Yes, Finn returning for Rey on Starkiller Base has satisfied her deepest desire for “anyone” to return for her. Finn has also returned the family legacy that calls out to Rey, and Rey alone. Seeing her dearest friend put his life on the line for the very thing she runs from causes Rey to accept her call to the hero’s journey. And she, like Finn before her, defends him with her own life. In doing so, an unbreakable bond of friendship and love is formed between Finn and Rey. […]

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