What Luke Skywalker’s STAR WARS Failures Can Teach Rey About Rebuilding the Jedi Order

“The greatest teacher failure is.”Yoda in The Last Jedi

Luke Skywalker’s final Padawan should keep those words of wisdom in mind. Daisy Ridley’s recently announced standalone film—set 15 years after the end of the Star Wars sequel trilogy—will see Rey trying to do what her Master could not. She’ll attempt to reestablish the Jedi Order. It won’t be easy, but there’s much Rey can learn from Luke’s own failed attempt.

The key to success, fittingly, will be finding balance. Not necessarily between the light and dark side of the Force, though. Rey will need to find balance between the past and the future. And the best way to do that will be by finding the kind of help Luke never sought.

How Did Luke Skywalker Try to Rebuild the Jedi Order?

Luke Skywalker with Grogu on his back on The Book of Boba Fett

We know a lot about Luke Skywalker’s life between Return of the Jedi and when Ben Solo burned down Luke’s academy on Ossus. The Jedi Master’s Disney-era story has been explored in depth away from the screen. For many years after the Empire’s collapse he travelled the galaxy trying to learn everything he could about the Jedi and even the Sith. He dedicated his time to discovering ancient temples, artifacts, Force trees, holocrons, old lightsabers, and, most famously, long-lost ancient Jedi books. He continued his hunt even after taking on students.

The “sacred texts” he was ready to burn on Ahch-To were the main reason why he opened his academy. They not only taught him the ancient ways of the Jedi, they gave him the confidence he needed to finally train a new generation as he had promised a dying Yoda he would. Luke believed a new Jedi Order could maintain peace and prosperity in the galaxy just as the old one had for thousands of years. He also thought his new Order could also keep the Sith at bay.

Luke Skywalker stands in front of Ahsoka Tano on The Book of Boba Fett

To make that dream a reality, Luke kept an eye out for Force-sensitive beings during his Jedi lore hunt. While Leia was the first Padawan he ever trained, and he spent a year teaching Grogu, his academy’s initial class had 12 students. Of course, Luke didn’t have to go far to find his most infamous Padawan, the one who destroyed everything Luke tried to build.

How Did Luke Skywalker Fail Ben Solo?

Luke did not initially want to train another student after Grogu. But he finally agreed to teach his nephew in the ways of the Force when it awoke in the young child. He did so in no small part to help fight the darkness in Ben Solo.

A panel from a Kylo Ren Star Wars comic where Luke Skywalker brings young Ben Solo to an old Jedi Temple with two giant statues outside
Marvel Comics

Luke took Ben on missions, providing Han and Leia’s son one-on-one attention and instruction in the process. However, when other students joined the fledgling academy, Luke was unable to give his powerful nephew the singular focus Ben so desperately needed. Their inherent familial connection didn’t help Ben, either. It was a bond Luke tried to downplay in line with traditional Jedi teachings. He stressed to Ben the importance of adhering to the old Order’s ideal of detachment from personal relationships. (Just as he had with Grogu.) And, like Obi-Wan had once done with Anakin, Luke also tried to impart the importance of restraint to his nephew. The youngster’s drift towards the dark side made Ben especially dangerous because of his immense powers. Luke knew that, but was confident he could keep Ben in check.

Luke might have been able to so had he not made another mistake that further fed Ben’s feelings of isolation. The Jedi Master hid the truth about their family’s history with the dark side. Had Ben known about Anakin’s fall and redemption he might not have been as susceptible to Snoke’s growing influence.

Ben Solo lying down bathed in thegreen light of Luke's lightsaber in The Last Jedi

While Snoke was leading Ben to the dark side, though, in the end it was the Jedi himself who pushed Ben Solo away. Luke Skywalker created Kylo Ren because the Jedi Master forget what he himself had learned long ago. He gave in to fear.

What Lessons Can Rey Learn From Luke Skywalker’s Failed Attempt to Rebuild the Jedi Order?

In honor of the three lessons Luke Skywalker tried to teach Rey on Ahch-To, these are three things she should take from Luke’s efforts to revive the Jedi Order. (Unlike in The Last Jedi, we hope she sticks around to hear all of them.)

Lesson #1: Don’t kill the past, but don’t be entirely beholden to it either.
From behind we see Luke Skywalker and Yoda watching a tree burn in The Last Jedi

Luke Skywalker had once thought the future of the Jedi lay in the past. By the time he shut himself off from the Force in seclusion on Ahch-To he believed the opposite. He told Rey the Order’s legacy was one of failure, hypocrisy, and hubris, and that the time had come for “the Jedi to end.”

But the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The past, both good and bad, has much to teach us. And knowing the past can not only give us knowledge and wisdom, it can guide us. Literally carrying the past with her helped Rey defeat the Sith for good. She had thousands of generations of Jedi with her when she stopped Palpatine forever. So while those sacred Jedi texts might not be fun reads, there’s a reason Yoda didn’t actually destroy them. Like the Jedi who wrote them and the many who studied them, they have something to offer future generations.

A sad and weary Luke Skywlaker in the forefront with Rey sitting behind him out of focus in The Last Jedi

That doesn’t mean what worked long ago always will. A Jedi must “look past a pile of old books.” Like how a strict adherence to cutting off family relationships helped lead Anakin Skywalker to the dark side, just as it did Ben Solo. Two of the most powerful Force users ever needed their loved ones to help guide them. And in a galaxy that has suffered under continuous civil strife, multiple regime changes, and war that all resulted from the Jedi Order’s failures, what people need now from the Jedi is not what they needed before. The galaxy doesn’t need space priests.

Besides, if a Jedi can have friends they can have family. The Jedi are larger-than-life legends viewed with awe, but they’re still beings with feelings. To pretend they are not is both hubris and foolishness. And to hide their failings, both as Jedi and people, is to set them up for more failure.

Luke Skywalker rubs his gloved hand over a Jedi Order symbol in The Last Jedy

Luke bent heavily towards the old ways, forgetting the lessons his own family’s recent history should have taught him. Rey should not kill the past, but she must find a way to take the best of the Jedi and adapt it to the world she finds herself living in now.

But, ironically, there is one traditional concept Luke should have taken from the Old Jedi that he didn’t. It’s a mistake, likely born of the very same arrogance he says brought down the Jedi in the first place, that might be more responsible for his failure than anything else.

Lesson #2: No one Jedi can teach every Padawan.
Adam Driver as Ben Solo in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Padawans did not learn from a single Jedi. All Jedi Knights were responsible for educating new generations. That was true both formally and informally. Younglings learned together in courses taught by teachers, and also gained insight from Knights and Masters they came across at the Jedi Temple. Then, when they outgrew those classes, they become an apprentice to a single Jedi. They would study, travel, and train with a single Jedi Knight or Master wholly responsible for teaching them out in the actual world.

That one-on-one Master/Padawan mentorship was the foundation of the old Jedi Order. It allowed young Force-users, still learning how to harness their powers and their emotions, to get the kind of direct tutorship they needed. That’s exactly what Ben Solo needed from Luke. Had Luke been able to provide Ben that, the galaxy might never have known Kylo Ren. Nor would some of Luke’s other students have joined Ben when they burned down the academy.

Luke should have been teaching one Padawan at a time. He had done exactly that with his sister who successfully completed her training. Instead, in an effort to rebuild the Order quickly, he disregarded the system that had worked so well for so many.

Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi in robes from The Phantom Menace

Rey shouldn’t be in a similar rush as Luke Skywalker to create an entire Order all at once, not without help. She’ll need to train a Force-sensitive being like Finn first. She can also reach out to other Jedi who might still be scattered in the galaxy. (An older Cal Kestis or Ezra Bridger perhaps?). Unless she finds other would-be Masters she should limit herself to the old apprentice model. Becoming a Jedi is too hard when you don’t have a teacher dedicated entirely to your education.

It’s not like you need decades to become a Jedi Knight, anyway. It took that long when the galaxy had hundreds of them and could afford to teach Padawans slowly. But both Luke Skywalker and Rey completed their training in a short time. Shortly after they began their studies Yoda said both of them already had everything they needed to be a Jedi.

That slower, methodical, safer approach won’t guarantee Rey finds the kind of success she seeks, but that’s no reason not to try. And that brings us to the final, most appropriate lesson she should learn from Luke’s own mistakes.

Lesson #3: Don’t fear failure.
Luke Skywalker uses his hand to Force read Ben Solo's mind in The Last Jedi

Luke ultimately failed Ben Solo because he feared what Ben might become, even though no one knew better than Luke that the darkness does not have to win out. We make our own destinies in the Force. Luke had once told Obi-Wan there was still good inside Darth Vader. That belief not only saved Anakin Skywalker, it saved the galaxy from Palpatine. Despite that, though, Luke gave up on his own nephew. Giving in to his fear, even for just a brief moment, led to so much pain in the galaxy.

That failure also drove Luke away from the Force, the Jedi, and his responsibilities. He was afraid of what he had done, what he had created, and of ever failing another Padawan. But as Luke told Rey in The Rise of Skywalker, “Confronting fear is the destiny of a Jedi.” To be a Jedi Knight is to confront fear head on, not run from it or succumb to it. That’s the difference between the Jedi and the Sith. Not that one feels afraid and the other doesn’t. It’s how you respond to fear.

Obi-Wan stands behind an evil Anakin in Revenge of the Sith

As Yoda once said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” Luke’s fears about what Ben Solo might became led Ben to the dark side and the galaxy to untold suffering. As Did Luke’s fear over himself and the Jedi itself. He was not there when the galaxy needed him to lead them against the First Order.

Rey can’t let fear guide her actions like Luke Skywalker did as she rebuilds the Jedi Order. She can’t let fear cause her to give up, either. Nor can she be afraid to share the past of the Jedi, all of it, with her students as Luke did with Ben. She also needs to know not everyone of her students will complete their training. Neither will she be able to keep all of her Padawans from falling to the dark side of the Force. To think she could would be the kind of hubris that helped destroy both the old Order and Luke’s efforts to build a new one.

Daisy Ridley as Rey in Star Wars

Rey must also not fear the inevitable enemies she will have to face or might even create. Luke wanted to reestablish the Jedi in part to stop the Sith. But whether Sith, Ren, or another name, that was never going to happen. There can be no light without dark. The old Jedi Order got complacent in thinking they had vanquished the dark side of the Force. It left them blind and arrogant to the phantom menace growing. The forgot the Force will always find a balance.

As must Rey. Only she must find a balance between the past and the future, between her goals and what’s possible, and in understanding that success cannot exist without failure.

Luke Skywalker might be gone, but he still has much to teach his student Rey. If she takes her Master’s most hard-earned lessons to heart, she’ll do exactly what Yoda told Luke all good students will. “We are what they grow beyond,” he said. That might be “the true burden of all masters,” but it’s what every good teacher—and every good Jedi—wants.

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.

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