History of STAR WARS: The Past and Future of the Jedi Order

“History of Star Wars” is our series where we take a close look at the galaxy far, far away and examine important organizations, locations, and theories that may play into what’s ahead in the sequel trilogy and standalone movies.

“I only know one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

Luke Skywalker‘s words in the first trailer for The Last Jedi are quite the turnaround from his proud statement in Return of the Jedi: “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” In the decades that pass between the original trilogy and the sequel trilogy, Luke tried to teach students again. His attempt to revive the Jedi Order ended catastrophically, with an apprentice (Ben Solo) destroying Luke’s efforts. He walked away from everything then, and the tragedy is presumably part of the reason he feels the chapter on the Jedi should close. But is shutting down the Order the right decision? Let’s look back at what we know about the Jedi Order and what that history could mean for The Last Jedi.

What is the Jedi Order?

Think of the Jedi Order like a religion of sorts. The Order and its teachings outline certain ways to interact with and understand the Force, aiming to facilitate a particular approach to the light side thereof. When you join the Order, usually as a child, you are trained in the ways of the Jedi. As Qui-Gon Jinn once told a young Anakin Skywalker, being a Jedi means leading a hard life. Going through ranks is required to earn the Jedi title; students progress from younglings to Padawans to Jedi Knights to Jedi Masters.

The origins of the Jedi have yet to be explored canonically. The Expanded Universe went back in time to the Old Republic era, the ancient days of the Jedi and Sith. As it stands in the current storytelling universe, we know from Obi-Wan that the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace “for over a thousand generations.”

The Jedi’s purpose in relation to the rest of the galaxy is to uphold peace and justice. They went on diplomatic missions, stood against the Sith, and then there was that time they became generals and led armies in the Clone Wars.

The Jedi Code

Like any religion or organization, the Jedi had rules. The Jedi Code guides how the members of the Order use and interact with the Force.

There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force.

The discussion about what a terrible idea it is to teach restriction and suppression of emotions is for another day, but the Code is meant to lead Jedi towards the light side and using the Force selflessly rather than selfishly. But maybe it boxes them in too much.

Jedi in the prequel trilogy

The prequel era wasn’t a good time for the Jedi. Their hubris meant the dark side and Palpatine‘s exceptional power clouded the Force. His influence, in part, was why the Jedi decided to contribute to the violence of the Clone Wars. You could argue they were acting defensively and protecting citizens from the Separatists, but were they? Was their role in the conflict necessary? Though the numbers of the Jedi Order were massive, with Jedi at temples and outposts around the galaxy, the prequel trilogy saw their downfall at the hands of Palpatine, a.k.a. Darth Sidious.

Jedi in the original trilogy

In the almost 20 years after Order 66, the beginning of the Jedi Purge ordered by Darth Sidious, the number of the Jedi dwindled. Some survived the mass execution (for example, Star Wars Rebels‘ Kanan Jarrus). Some we haven’t met yet probably went into exile, never to wield a lightsaber again. By the time A New Hope came around, the only Jedi we encounter is Obi-Wan Kenobi. One movie later, we learn about Yoda. Their attitude towards the Force-sensitive and soon-to-be Jedi Luke Skywalker implies the two Jedi Masters were all that remained of the Order.

Yoda trained Luke following the Jedi tenets that guided the green master for hundreds of years. Though he believed Luke was too impatient, he continued to teach him so that Luke could balance the Force and the Jedi Order could continue.

The Jedi now

Years later, the Jedi Order still hasn’t been revived. We’ve actually never seen them in their glory years, acting as peacekeepers. Maybe that’s never happened. In the sequel trilogy timeline, Luke is the sole representative of what Admiral Motti once called an ancient religion. He tried to rebuild after the Battle of Jakku, the conflict that led to the formal end of the Empire, establishing a new temple where he began to train the future of the Jedi Order using the organization’s longstanding practices and teachings.

One of his students was the son of Han and Leia, Ben Solo, who inevitably turned on Luke and the other trainees and left Luke’s legacy in literal ruins. Luke went into exile after this, presumably searching for the location of the first Jedi temple.

He’s not overly excited about Rey’s appearance on Ahch-To or her incredible Force abilities. Given his history with the Jedi—long before Kylo Ren ever betrayed him, the Jedi that Luke knew in the original trilogy lied to him from the start—it’s no wonder Luke no longer has warm feelings about them. The constraints of the Order haven’t been working for him, so perhaps it’s time to come up with other guidelines for using the Force. Luke is already the last Jedi when The Last Jedi begins, and I think he’ll remain the last, because he’s divorcing himself from their beliefs and not passing them on.

Do you think the Jedi should persist? Do you believe the sequel trilogy will reestablish the Jedi Order? Use the Force to leave your comments below.

Images: Disney, Lucasfilm

Amy Ratcliffe is an Associate Editor for Nerdist. She likes Star Wars a little. Follow her on Twitter.

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