Ahsoka made good on its promise to bring more than important Star Wars‘ characters back to the screen. The show also introduced one of the franchise’s most important locales to live-action. In Ahsoka, the mystical Star Wars realm known as the World Between Worlds returned to our screens. First introduced in Star Wars Rebels, it’s a plane that exists outside of space and time. But that’s the most basic way to understand a realm that is difficult to understand and even harder to define.
How does Star Wars‘ World Between Worlds work? What is its connection to the Force? And what makes it so important to both the galaxy far, far away, and Ahsoka Tano personally? Here’s everything you need to know about the World Between Worlds from Star Wars Rebels, everything we’ve learned about it from Ahsoka, and everything we don’t know just yet about the mysterious realm.
What Is Star Wars‘ World Between Worlds?
In the Star Wars universe, the World Between Worlds is an ethereal dimension intimately connected to the Force. It’s a collection of “ pathways and doors” that exists outside of time and space. Physically the World Between Worlds looks like it’s floating in outer space. And thanks to the countless stars that dot its exterior, it resembles a reverse, moon-sized glass snow globe.
Ezra Bridger also heard voices speaking to him from the past, present, and future inside the World Between Worlds. But others would hear different people speaking to them if they visited. They would also have very different experiences.
Also known as the Vergence Scatter (per the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: The Visual Dictionary), the World Between Worlds’ translucent pathways react like water when someone walks on them. At the end of those pathways are portals that can transport travelers across both short and vast physical distances. Star Wars‘ World Between Worlds can also move people through time.
What Are Loth-Wolves’ Connection to the World Between Worlds?
Like purrgil, Loth-wolves have an intimate connection to the Force. But where those magical space whales can travel at hyper speeds, Loth-wolves can travel through the World Between Worlds.
Loth-wolves saved rebels on Lothal by moving them halfway across the planet in a moment via the World Between Worlds. (Initially, no human rider remembered or understood exactly what had happened.)
Loth-wolves can easily enter the World Between Worlds because they themselves are keys to the realm’s doors. Ezra Bridger’s own journey into that dimension—which he had made in different ways prior without knowing it, like when he got his lightsaber’s kyber crystal and when he spoke to Yoda on Dagobah—showed how Loth-wolves make travel into the plane possible. They’re essentially living portals.
How Did Ezra Bridger Access the World Between Worlds on Star Wars Rebels?
Ezra Bridger used the Force and a painting at the Jedi Temple on Lothal to open a portal into the World Between Worlds. That massive work of art depicted the Force-connected Mortis gods— the Father (Balance), the Daughter (Light), and the Son (Dark). The painting also included a pack of Loth-wolves and a bird on the Daughter’s shoulder.
Ezra placed his hand atop the Daughter’s to open the gateway to the World Between Worlds. When he touched her open palm the painting began to move. The Loth-wolves then walked away from the mural. Ezra followed them and discovered they had formed a walking circle on a rock that created an unseen door for Ezra to walk through so he could enter the realm. The stormtroopers that tried to follow him could not use it. Even though the portal remained open, the troopers crashed into the stone.
Inside the World Between Worlds, Ezra saw other portals to times and places in the Star Wars world. That included one that showed him an event that had happened two years prior.
How Did Ezra Save Ahsoka Tano From Darth Vader Inside the World Between Worlds?
Inside the World Between Worlds Ezra saw Morai—a convor bird that frequently accompanied Ahsoka Tano—above a portal. A similar (the same?) convor bird was also in the painting of the Mortis gods on Lothal. It sat atop the Daughter’s shoulder.
That portal then went from black to showing Ezra an event that had happened two years earlier inside a Sith temple. He saw Ahsoka dueling Darth Vader on Malachor, a fight Ezra did not witness in person despite also being on the planet when it happened.
Moments before Vader struck a fatal blow to Ahsoka, Ezra instinctively reached through the portal and pulled Ahsoka inside with him, saving her life. Fans of Star Wars Rebels knew Ahsoka Tano had ultimately survived that encounter, but her friends thought she had died.
What Happened With Ezra and Ahsoka Inside the World Between Worlds?
Neither Ahsoka nor Ezra understood exactly where they were. (The sacred ancient Jedi texts contained information about the World Between Worlds, but many of those remained lost or hidden until Luke Skywalker found them following the collapse of the Empire.) Fortunately for both of them, Ahsoka quickly understood the ramifications of their situation.
After saving Ahsoka, Ezra was eager to use a different gateway to save another one his dead loves ones from their fate. Another portal then seemed to give Ezra that chance. It revealed one of the worst moments in his life, when his Jedi Master, Kanan Jarrus, sacrificed himself to save Ezra, Hera Syndulla, and Sabine Wren.
Ezra wanted to pull Kanan into the World Between Worlds, same as he did Ahsoka, but she told Ezra that he would doom them all if he did. Without Kanan’s sacrifice the rest of them would have died.
Would interfering with that moment have created a paradox? If Ezra died in the past, would he have been around now to save Kanan in the first place?
We never got any answers to the obvious questions raised by messing with events of the past because Ezra let his Master go. But it’s also not clear if Ezra even had the option to save Kanan. First, because it’s not clear anyone can change the past. But also because the portal that beckoned Ezra to save Kanan might have only been a ruse by Palpatine.
How Did Palpatine Attack Ezra and Ahsoka in the World Between Worlds?
Palpatine had been trying to access the World Between Worlds via the Mortis painting on Lothal. His advisor, Minister Veris Hydan, was futilely trying to discover how to open a gateway when Ezra Bridger snuck onto the site with Sabine Wren and did it himself.
Without his own door, Palpatine tried to use Ezra to let him in. The Emperor seemed (though it’s never been definitely claridied) to create the image of Kanan’s death to make a connection with Ezra. The Emperor then used that partial pathway to attack Ezra and Ahsoka. Palpatine sent a massive energy force into the World Between Worlds and used the blue flame-like tendrils to start dragging Ezra Bridger to him. But Ahsoka severed the connection with her lightsaber, preventing Palpatine from using Ezra to enter the World Between Worlds.
The two Jedi then fled the World Between Worlds, with each returning to the same location and same place in the timeline they had come from. Ahsoka followed Morai through the gateway Ezra had pulled her in from back to return to the now desolate Malachor.
There she descended further into the Sith Temple, just as viewers had seen her do two years earlier. This was the last shot of Ahsoka in season two of Star Wars Rebels.
This is what viewers saw after she left the World Between Worlds in season four. It connects her journey in this episode to her disappearance two years prior.
Ahsoka did not travel forward through time after entering the World Between Worlds, she just went outside of time briefly. (At least, she didn’t move through time during this trip.)
Ezra then returned to his timeline—two years past where Ahsoka went—back to Lothal. That prevented Palpatine from accessing the mystical realm. Ezra then closed the gateway in the real world before either destroying or burying the entire Jedi Temple.
The amount of time (relative to themselves) both Ezra and Ahsoka experienced inside the World Between Worlds seemed to be how much time passed during the real world. Vader was long gone by the time Ahsoka got back to Malachor, and Ezra’s friends had made their way towards the painting by the time he returned.
What Happened to Ahsoka After She Left the World Between Worlds?
Ahsoka Tano is one of the greatest and most important characters in Star Wars history. And yet we know very little about her life during one of the galaxy far, far away’s most important eras. We don’t know what happened to her after she left the World Between Worlds and before her reappearance during Star Wars Rebels final sequence, which takes place much later after Palpatine’s (original) death. That’s a gap of roughly seven years, a time when the Rebels defeated the Empire.
The only clue we have about what she did after going deeper into that Sith Temple comes via canonical Dave Filoni-illustrated digital Topps trading cards. Yes, seriously.
The first four of Filoni’s 10 Ahsoka cards show her duel with Vader and her arrival at the triangle door on Malachor, all of which we know definitely happened. The others, many of which feature her following Morai, therefore seem to indicate what happened after she walked down them. She waded through water (an aspect that has taken on far greater importance after Ahsoka), then went up another flight of stairs. There she discovered yet another portal that took her back into the World Between Worlds.
Why did she go right back to that dimension? Why did Morai lead her there? What did she find when she went in? Where and when in the timeline did she exit from? She seemingly wasn’t around aided in the Rebel Alliance’s fight in the Galactic Civil War. She only officially reemerged when she joined Sabine Wren’s quest to find Ezra Bridger after the Empire’s collapse.
When we finally saw Ahsoka during Star Wars Rebels‘ final scene, she was clad in all white and holding a staff. If that outfit and her entire story of coming “back” from the dead sounds a lot like what happened with Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings, that’s because it is. Dave Filoni has explicitly described Ahsoka’s journey and role in the franchise as being similar to the legendary wizard of Middle-earth.
An unaired scene Filoni shared between Ahsoka and Bendu, a magical Force-sensitive creature, indicates the Ahsoka we knew metaphorically died on Malachor, much like Gandalf the Grey was different when he returned to the world as Gandalf the White. (Ahsoka abandoned this look at the start of her Disney+ show, but returned to it after her second on-screen journey there.)
Like Gandalf, Ahsoka also knows why true evil must never gain access to power no one should have.
Why Is the World Between Worlds So Dangerous in the Star Wars Universe?
Veris Hydan was unable to open a portal to the World Between Worlds for his Emperor, but not from a lack of trying. Under threat of torture he forced Sabine Wren, an artist of great renown, to try and help him decipher the Mortis painting’s meaning.
During their time together, Hydan explained to Sabine why Palpatine wanted access to the dimension that serves as a nexus of all time and space. His words were one of the many ominous insights we have about the dimension’s terrifying possibilities.
“He who controls it controls the universe,” Hydan said of Star Wars‘ World Between Worlds. Palpatine, who resurrected himself decades later, also described the World Between Worlds as “a conduit between the living and the dead.” And Ezra heard the image of the Son, who represents the dark side of the Force, ominously say, “The future, by its nature, can be changed.”
The World Between Worlds, in ways we don’t yet (and might never) fully know, is just like the Force itself. It can be used for either knowledge or destruction. It’s neither inherently good or bad; the people who use its power determine that. No wonder Filoni has said “One of the things [Palpatine] knows about it” is that it provides an opportunity for him to control “through time and space, different events through the Force.”
All of which raises an obvious question without a clear answer.
Is the World Between Worlds Star Wars Time Travel?
That obvious question has two obvious answers: yes and no. If Ahsoka had followed Ezra back through his own portal on Lothal, she would have traveled two years into her own future. That sounds like the type of thing Palpatine believes he could have done if he found his own key into the realm. He wanted to stop old enemies and future ones from ever fighting him. He wanted both ancient lost knowledge and insights that lay well beyond his own years. The Emperor’s plans almost certainly included nightmares we can’t fully imagine.
Taylor Gray, the voice of Ezra on Rebels, also said Filoni explained the World Between Worlds as “essentially a place where you can go and access anything.” Filoni also told him, “Time is not a concrete thing. Time is flexible, you can go forwards, backwards, any which way.”
Just because it seems like someone can/should be able to use that realm to hop around time and change events in the past, present, and future doesn’t mean they actually can. That includes Force users as powerful as Palpatine or Yoda. But even if they can, the World Between Worlds is not necessarily “time travel” the way we think of it. The Force is never that simple.
Inside the World Between Worlds, Ahsoka told Ezra, “In my experience, when you think you understand the Force, you realize just how little you know.” And the more you try to understand the World Between Worlds, the more you realize how little you know and how much you might never learn. After Ahsoka we very likely will still have many unanswered questions about the World Between Worlds, how it works, and how it can be used because some answers will never exist.
But Ahsoka has revealed even more about that nexus of space and time. Palpatine was right; it is a conduit between the living and the dead. That’s how Anakin Skywalker was able to give his Padawan one final lesson.
What Has the Ahsoka Series Revealed About the World Between Worlds?
The Disney+ Star Wars series Ahsoka introduced a new doorway to the World Between Worlds. When Lady Tano fell into the waves below the Henge on Seatos, she fell into the World Between Worlds. Just like it had long ago when Ezra pulled her in, the World Between Worlds saved Ahsoka’s life. Seatos’ Henge, “ built by an ancient people from a distant galaxy,” has clear connections with the Force we don’t yet fully understand.
The importance of how Ahsoka returned to the World Between Worlds quickly gave way to the importance of who she found there. Her former Master, Anakin Skywalker, greeted Ahsoka inside that realm that truly is a conduit between the living and the dead like Palpatine said.
Once Anakin realized Ahsoka was not dead like him and could return to the world of the living, he gave her a “final lesson” that gave us more insight into the World Between Worlds.
That lesson forced Ahsoka to travel back through her own memories as a young Padawan. (An experience that was not literal time travel.) During her mystical journey into her Star Wars past, Ahsoka both inhabited her younger self and maintained her older memories. She was both young and old at the same time. How? Because the seemingly impossible is anything but in the World Between Worlds.
Anakin used that nexus of space and time to make Ahsoka face the ghosts of her past and deal with the trauma that had caused Ahsoka to shutter her heart to any emotion. Once she finally she was ready to face the future. After Anakin left her, Ahsoka saw the World Between Worlds fade away as she returned to the waters of Seatos.
The portal she used didn’t close entirely behind her when she entered, though. Force-sensitive Jacen Syndulla heard the lightsaber battle Ahsoka had with Anakin inside the World Between Worlds. That was not something anyone knew was possible before. The World Between Worlds might be outside of space in Star Wars world, but sound and feeling can flow between both.
What other possibilities we haven’t even considered remain a secret? Will that be the last time Ahsoka travels there? How might her meeting with Anakin have connected to her mysterious Topps trading card trip there long ago? Can other dead figures be found in that surreal dimension? And what role might it play in Palpatine’s eventual return? Those are just some of the many questions we still have about Star Wars‘ World Between Worlds, a place that raises more of them every time it gives us answers.
Originally published on June 6, 2023.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.