In the first part of this series, I examined Palpatine’s ultimate goals and discussed the potential wound in the Force in the Unknown Regions. In this post, I’ll look deep into the setting’s past and speculate on how the wound came to be and its nature.
- The Nature of the Force and Balance
- The Plans of Emperor Palpatine
- A Wound in the Force <
- The Dawn, Rise and Fall of the Jedi Order
- Palpatine: The Ultimate Sith Lord
There is very little we know about galactic history and what we do know is highly fragmentary and uncertain. Yet trying to understand how the past resulted in the present is an important component of any comprehensive theory. In the previous post, I postulated there was an unnatural ‘wound’ in the Force in the Unknown Regions. In this post I will examine what we know of the history of the galaxy and how the wound came to be.
The Grand Sweep of History
If there is one thing that can be said for certain about the history of the galaxy, it’s that it’s been a long and tumultuous. The earliest known references to the Force are from 25,000 years ago on Jedha. Empires have risen and fell. Batuu and Jedha were once busy ports of call on major hyperspace routes that became backwaters over time. The wars between the Jedi and Sith took place over thousands of years and even the location of the first Jedi Temple was lost to the mists of time.
With scant information for such a long history, it is difficult to nail down the key events and the main through lines. Yet, there are some tantalizing hints that suggest something cataclysmic happened in galactic history. In the Legends of Luke Skywalker short, ‘Bigger Inside’, Luke and his companion come across three beings (one human) that have frozen themselves via the Force after becoming trapped in an exogorth. These ‘Mist-Weavers’ have been in this state for many millennia and take their first glimpse of the outside world when they sense Luke’s presence:
“Yes, I sense it, too,” said Awglk. “I’ve never seen such a bright Mist Heart. It’s more brilliant than a thousand suns.”
We admired the Bright-Heart for a while, and then I noticed something else.
“I sense a rot in the Mist,” I said. It had been millennia since we last gazed outside the cocoon into the grand, Mist-filled universe. “There are…so many holes in the Mist. A darkness has come and corrupted it.”
The pain of watching our beloved Mist so debased was wrenching. “Bright-Heart means to restore the beauty of the Mist,” I said.Liu, Ken. Legends of Luke Skywalker, Kindle Locations 2716-2721. Disney Book Group. Kindle Edition.
From this, we can see the Force was once quite different in the Weavers’ era. Corroborating this, Alphabet Squadron contains a provocative scene where the pilots of the squadron experience a simulated history of the galaxy:
The temple was dark, but drifting about were motes of light: thousands, maybe millions of sparks in the night like stars. They covered the walls and the spire of the main chamber, and Chass felt her eyes drawn upward as if gravity pulled her body toward the chiming. Unselfconscious, she raised her arms like a dancer and turned as she marched into the chamber’s center. They stood at the center of a universe that existed only within the temple. The stars rotated around her. The others were present but, like her, they were looking up and were only shadows in her peripheral vision. Chass had never been interested in astronomy, but somehow she recognized what she saw: familiar stars and around them, flecks that were the worlds she had visited, worlds she’d loathed and run from along with worlds she’d secretly treasured. Uchinao and Lyran, Nar Shaddaa and Jedha. They whirled and blurred together one moment, then crystallized as if viewed through a corrective lens. The universe blazed and burned, furious and beautiful.
“The galaxy as it was,” Wyl said.
She knew that he was correct, but she couldn’t have said how. She was looking into the distant past. Then the whirling increased in speed, and the dark between the stars grew deeper. The emptiness became a hungry emptiness, and the stars became food for the ravenous void. Against the dark the light stood out clearer in contrast, almost too painful to watch. Chass’s body trembled. She wanted to dance. She wanted to fight. “The galaxy as it became,” Wyl said. This, too, was correct. In the stars, Chass saw war. Then dawn came. The dim light of the yellow sun encroached through the windows of the spire. The deepest blackness turned pale and imperfect and unthreatening. The brightest stars dimmed, and they were only stars like any Chass could see—like the stars she took in at a glance from her cockpit, mundane and unstoried. There was no longer a shadow over the galaxy.
Then the stars disappeared. Daylight filled the temple.
All that was left was the four of them.
“The galaxy as it is,” Wyl said.Freed, Alexander. Alphabet Squadron
Which bears a remarkable resemblance to this Journal of the Whills excerpt from The Force Awakens novelization:
” First comes the day
Then comes the night.
After the darkness
Shines through the light.
The difference, they say,
Is only made right
By the resolving of gray
Through refined Jedi sight. “
The Mist Weavers’ words correspond to the first part of the galactic history the pilots see, the “day”. The galaxy and Force are in a state of balance and harmony. In the second phase, the “night”, darkness threatens to consume the Force and galaxy. Against the dark, the light (rather, those who fight for it) shines through and keeps it from consuming everything. However, the light doesn’t defeat the dark, only keeps it at bay. In the present and final phase, the darkness and light have become difficult to distinguish from each other.
What’s particularly notable here is the darkness is not shown to be part of the present, but the past. While it’s possible the ‘gray’ era began a few weeks before, this seems unlikely as we know there were no galactic scale wars before the Clone Wars. Furthermore, the Jedi completely missed the incredible darkness embodied by Palpatine which fits the gray allegory. If it’s not a depiction of the era shown in the Saga, then what does it refer to? More importantly, when and how did it start and when and how did it end?
The Jedi prophecies found in Master and Apprentice and the Prequel Trilogy are ancient and believed to have been made not long after the Order’s founding. Thus the wording is worth examining, specifically the tenses:
A Chosen One shall come, born of no father, and through him will ultimate balance in the Force be restored.
The danger of the past is not past, but sleeps in an egg. When the egg cracks, it will threaten the galaxy entire.Gray, Claudia. Master and Apprentice, p. 133.
These prophecies must be understood in the context of when they were made. Therefore, it would make little sense for the first prophecy to speak of restoring ultimate balance to the Force if it wasn’t out of balance at the time it was made! Nor would it make sense to speak of a past danger if that event was still in the prophet’s future. As the Sith originated in the ranks of the Jedi, it is therefore likely these prophecies and the Alphabet Squadron passage do not refer to the schism or one hundred years darkness either. Therefore, we must look even further back.
There is scant information on what came before the Jedi. However, one passage from the short story ‘Fishing the Deluge’ from Legends of Luke Skywalker stands out:
“Our stories say that before your Empire, before your Old Republic, before there were even Jedi, our people came to this world for refuge,” said the elder without prompting. Seeker took a sip from the bowl and said nothing.
The elder continued in a dreamy tone, as if speaking to herself more than to Seeker. “The Tide is a powerful force, and it can drown you as well as uplift you. Long before they came to Lew’el, our ancestors had learned how to ride the Tide. For a time they were the brightest stars in the galaxy, drawing the interest of those who loved power and sought my ancestors’ aid in their quest for more of it. Some of my ancestors succumbed to the temptation and believed that they could master a force that sustained the very fabric of existence; others believed that it was impossible as well as morally repugnant to try to turn the Tide, the ether that connects everything to everything else, into an instrument for domination. The war between them brought great suffering and devastated a thousand worlds before it finally burned out. The survivors came to Lew’el to hide, vowing never again to allow knowledge of the Tide to be used to pervert it.”Liu, Ken. The Legends of Luke Skywalker, Kindle Locations 1083-1090.
The person telling the story is from Lew’el herself and is likely intimately familiar with the legend spoken of here. The legend tells of how the Lew’el ancestors once mastered the Force, but some fell to ambition and a terrible war was fought. Much like the later Sith, some tried to achieve total control over the Force for their own ends. While this legend may tell of just another war in a galaxy rife with them, in light of everything covered, it’s worth taking a closer look.
First, there’s the scale. ‘A thousand worlds’ is unlikely meant to be literally accurate and just means the war encompassed a huge area and was incredibly devastating. Second, is what those who succumbed sought to do – achieve complete control of the Force. Third, the Lew’elian reaction was to forbid exhibiting any influence over the Force. That last suggests the experience of a rather severe trauma.
Scars of the Past
The very existence of the Unknown Regions is strange. Rather than having small, isolated regions scattered throughout the galaxy as one would expect, it’s contiguous and covers a substantial fraction of the galaxy. Further, civilization has had tens of thousands of years to explore this region, but apparently hasn’t. Not only has it had time to explore, but systems close to the region have been occupied for many millennia. Of all the reasons a substantial and contiguous region of the galaxy is uncharted, time certainly isn’t one of them.
As discussed in the previous section, the Unknown Regions are the location of various phenomena which make normal travel extremely dangerous. Electromagnetic phenomena, rogue celestial bodies, stellar phenomena and many other strange occurrences plague potential hyperspace lanes. Few who venture into the region return to tell about it. Those who live there must seek alternative means of navigation, such as the Chiss use of Force Sensitive children:
“We do not have nav computers able to plot safe paths through the chaos of the Unknown Regions hyperspace,” Thrawn said. “Nor do the Chiss produce appreciable numbers of Force-sensitives, though we call their gift Third Sight. But when such rare individuals are born, they come to us with but one ability, that of precognition.”Zahn, Timothy. Thrawn: Alliances, pg. 269. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
It is thus little surprise the area remains unexplored. Yet there is very good reason to believe this hasn’t always been the case. First is the nature of the border:
“One would need a careful study of the border,” Thrawn said. “Millennia ago a set of chained supernova explosions throughout this particular region threw planet- and moon-sized masses at high speeds across the stars. The movements of those masses continually alter the hyperlanes, changing the paths in ways that are difficult to calculate. Other phenomena in other parts of the border created similar barriers. The hyperlanes that remain largely intact are beset with other dangers.”Zahn, Timothy. Thrawn: Alliances, p. 51.
Now, a supernova disrupting hyperspace lanes in a particular region probably isn’t that unusual historically. In our own galaxy, a supernova occurs every fifty years or so. There have probably been plenty of events that have forced galactic civilization to find new routes. What isn’t possible is for supernova and other phenomena to naturally occur along a continuous line on a galactic scale in a relatively short period of time.
Second, is the existence of once significant trading systems along the border. Jedha and Battu are both described as once thriving ports on busy trade routes until new hyperlanes were found. Yet, if we look at their locations on a galactic map, the question arises of what worlds and trade routes were they serving? Both are in the galactic west and well away from major galactic economic population centers. Batuu, in particular, is completely isolated from anything of modern significance. Either ancient travel meant traversing the entire galaxy to cover relatively short linear distances or the places these ports once served no longer exist or were cut off.
Third, is the existence of several Force related sites in and around the Unknown Regions. Jedha, where the earliest known references to the Force were made, is on its doorstep. Indeed, the ruins and artifacts around the Holy City attest to ancient splendor. Even the Jedi once it called it home as the number of ruined statues attest. There’s Ilum, long the location of the Jedi ritual of The Gathering, and finally, Ahch-To, the site of the first Jedi Temple. It’s apparent this region of space and its surroundings were quite important to the development of ancient Force based spirituality.
As laid out in part 1, there appears to be something malevolent lurking in the Unknown Regions. We can also surmise the strange properties which make it so unknown are likely tied to this malevolent substance or entity. Further, based on the three points above, this region hasn’t always been this way, but was once an important part of galactic civilization. What could have caused such an event and just what was it?
As laid out in An Examination of the Dark Side of the Force, the dark side has both been presented as a natural side of the Force and a corruption. Death is as important as life. Anger and fear are but natural emotions much the same as love and hope. Yet, we see the dark side effects of the dark side go well beyond the natural. People who use it even once risk losing themselves completely to it. Being in physical proximity to concentrations of it can lead to both physical and mental corruption. In Empire’s End, dark side energy tied to Sith artifacts managed to corrupt a planetary essence. None of this is what one would expect from a natural part of the Force.
How do we reconcile these two contradictory views of the dark side? I propose two concepts are being conflated. There is a natural ‘dark side’ to the Force and life, but there is something else, that natural side has been tainted or corrupted. It is this taint which the Sith draw upon for their power and its corruption resulted in the Unknown Regions long ago… and nearly consumed the rest of the galaxy.
Tying it Together
I theorize the malevolent substance Palpatine is after, or “source of the dark side” as Yupe Tashu calls it, is a wound in the Force and possibly something more actively dangerous. The war referred to in the Lew’elian story didn’t simply burn itself out, but those seeking to control the Force went too far and caused a tear in the Force itself (the darkness in the Alphabet Squadron passage). The dark side as used by the Sith is in fact the trauma radiating from this tear (much smaller ones also exist and have been created over the millennia). Fear and anger are used to manipulate the dark side because they’re analogous to the pain, anger and fear the Force itself is in.
The trauma is greatest closest to the wound and is strong enough to corrupt the physical world. It warps space and can even tear stars apart. The ambition of those who created the wound led to their corrupted by it and the result was an all out war between those trying to close the wound and those who desired the power that came with expanding it. As more and more of the galaxy fell to this wound, those aligned with the light came forward to help and finally found a way to stop the wound from getting worse. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to heal it and only managed to contained it (basically putting the equivalent of a bandage on it – the ‘egg’ in the prophecy).
Some of the survivors concluded it was influencing the Force itself which led to its corruption and exiled themselves to Lew’el. Yet others remained to deal with the fallout of the tear and remained to help rebuild. Perhaps one consequence was the foundation of the Jedi Order to maintain the now fragile balance.
- It’s notable the Lew’elians have inherited Force sensitivity for thousands of years, but have no real concept of the dark side as evil:
“You are afraid of the dark side of the Force,” Seeker said. Elder Kailla shook her head. “We don’t think of the Tide in that way. The ebb and flow are phases of one Tide, not two opposed sides. To use the Tide is to pervert it.”Liu, Ken.The Legends of Luke Skywalker, p. 162.
As only those who touch the dark side are corrupted by it, it would seem their pacifism has kept them out of its reach.