The loth-wolves of Lothal have continued to play an important role in Star Wars Rebels since their first appearance in "Flight of the Defender." They led Ezra and his fellow rebels safely away from the Empire, and their story isn't through. In the trailer for the back half of the final season, the beings are prominent. We see them appearing to have Ezra's back in a fight, and we see a huge dire-sized wolf, too. The Princess Mononoke influence is strong, and Rebels executive producer Dave Filoni told Nerdist it's probably his favorite animated film of all time, but also said Never Cry Wolf was a strong influence when he was adding wolves into Rebels. "One of my purposes was having wolves as the avatar for this Force type character was to give kids another positive image of a wolf. There are so many negatives around the wolf," he explained. "So this is just another positive, I hope, representation of the animal while still respecting that there is a duality there, as all things in nature have."
In the midseason finale, the loth-wolf communing with Kanan had a sinister look in its eyes, and Filoni said there's definitely a duality. "More will be revealed about that as we go. I think the key for me with the wolves is that they are something that is to be respected, and they can be dangerous or they can be beneficial, and our heroes have to figure out what that means. But I think given the power of them, as an animal and an archetype, there needs to be a feeling of respect and a feeling of thought behind them," he explained.
Ezra has demonstrated he has a strong connection with the wolves, as he has with multiple creatures throughout the series. It's a skill of his. The wolves are reacting to him and to Kanan with some sort of purpose, and it's all tied to the Force. "Their own connection to the natural world is definitely driving them, but it seems like there is something more. And what you're seeing in the trailer, I like to think of as that something more, and I definitely think people will start to draw some correlations between other things we've seen in Rebels and what they're seeing with this experience that Ezra has with the wolves," Filoni said.
He continued, "I would say the reaction of the wolves, everything they're doing is very specific and not necessarily meant to be completely benevolent either. There is a purpose behind them and what they're trying to represent. I always think that the purest form of the Force is nature itself giving life and destroying it, birth and death and I think that these wolves are just kind of a vessel that I'm using in a new way to communicate through this story but hopefully stay true to what the Force actually is."
When Ezra started to learn how to use the Force, one of his early lessons involved loth-cats. It was just the beginning of his Force abilities allowing him to interact with and influence animals. That's been almost like a specialty for him. In Monday's episode of Star Wars Rebels, he met a creature on Lothal he'd never seen before: a loth-wolf. The most definitely mystical being saved Ezra and Sabine from being captured by the Empire, but what (or who) is it?
The idea of the loth-wolf isn't new for season four—they were originally mentioned in the season one episode "Path of the Jedi." Ezra remembered a rhyme from his childhood when he was trying to decide which way to go in the Jedi Temple on Lothal: "Loth-cat, loth-cat, loth-wolf run. Pick a path and all is done."
We saw images of wolves on the walls of the Temple when we went back with Kanan, Ezra, and Ahsoka in season two in "Shroud of Darkness." This concept art done by Andre Kirk shows the wolf carrying a rider. Below, you can see it on the wall in the episodes.
I'm speculating that the painting has been there from early days and was already on the rocks the Jedi used to build the Temple. The imagery appears ancient; clearly, the loth-wolves have been around for a very long time. Perhaps the Jedi at the Temple consulted with them and learned about balance from them, the way Kanan went to the Bendu for guidance on Atollon.
In Monday night's episode, more paintings of wolves and humans were on the rocks of Lothal. The above concept art by Luke Harrington gives you a close look.
Though they're believed to be extinct now (which is obviously not true), the loth-wolves have history on Lothal. The white wolf Ezra encountered emanated wisdom. Like the white loth-cat, this loth-wolf is something beyond others of its kind. Only Ezra can see them; they clearly have more going on than meets the eye. And since Star Wars Rebels has been diving into Force mythology and the middle area between Jedi and Sith with characters like Ahsoka and the Bendu—and even Kanan—it seems only natural for the loth-wolf to fit into that puzzle.
While speaking at FanExpo Canada in September, Rebels executive producer Dave Filoni talked about the white loth-wolf and compared it to the Bendu, in that the Bendu represents the middle and speaks to Kanan and Ezra through the Force. The loth-wolf isn't inherently good or bad, and besides the fact that Filoni loves wolves, he chose a wolf for this being because of how people perceive the animals as evil or as helpful guides. It's your perspective that makes you view them as positive or negative and good or evil, and that ties into the Force--the Force is what you make it to be. On Monday's Rebel Recon, he said, "They [loth-wolves] are almost a nature of the Force to me, of a good and an evil and a balance within them."
Filoni also mentioned on the FanExpo panel that the loth-wolf is a natural element of the Force of Lothal, which ties into the Princess Mononoke influences in "Flight of the Defender." Even the music in the loth-wolf sequences had an essence of Mononoke's score. The loth-wolf, who looked like Moro and had a similarly processed and stylized voice, represents the embodiment of nature on a planet that's been harmed by the technology of the Empire. Lothal is not the place we knew in season one. The Empire has ravaged the landscape and natural resources with TIE Defender factories (the ships can be viewed as demons), and the flora and fauna that call Lothal home are suffering. And it's time for them to fight back.
The white loth-cat reminded me of the Kodama in Mononoke. Only Ezra (or Ashitaka for these purposes) could see that particular cat and it led him to the loth-wolf—like the Kodama led Ashitaka into the forest. The loth-wolf recognized Ezra as an ally and someone to be trusted. But he didn't feel the same about Sabine, because he made her go to sleep by merely saying the word. He carried Ezra and Sabine to safety and uttered a word to Ezra before he left. Closed captioning reveals the loth-wolf said, "Dume,” which is Kanan Jarrus' real last name. Before Order 66, Kanan was known as Caleb Dume.
What does that mean about what the loth-wolf knows? Some have theorized the wolf is actually Kanan/Caleb's former Jedi Master Depa Billaba. When the wolf was first revealed, fans thought it was Ahsoka Tano's next form, but Filoni debunked that—even though San influenced Ahsoka. But I don't know if the wolf is a person. Look at how much the Bendu knew about those he spoke with; he didn't have any kind of personal history with them. And based on what we saw of the loth-wolf, I feel like the being knows about everything that's happening on the planet. He knows Kanan's around, and that in him, he has another ally against the Empire. He can probably sense Kanan through the Force. I took the mention of "Dume" to be like a summons.
While I don't believe the loth-wolf will be a regular dispenser of advice like the Bendu, I do think he has a valuable role in the season, especially since we're not done on Lothal. I can definitely see the wildlife of Lothal working together with the Rebels, specifically Kanan and Ezra, to attack the Empire and end their occupation. Putting natural and mystical forces against the creations of man also opens the door wide open for the return of Ahsoka in whatever form she's in.
If we keep running with the Mononoke comparisons, Ahsoka's like the Forest Spirit. She didn't die when she battled Darth Vader, and because of what happened on Mortis with the Daughter, Ahsoka likely didn't become the Force-ghost we're used to seeing. She's something different. The Forest Spirit is the God of Life and Death, which fits with the notion of balance in the Force, particularly once you consider the Forest Spirit's appearances for night and day.
What do you think the white loth-cat and the loth-wolf symbolize? Share your theories in the comments and tell me about them on Twitter.
Images: Disney XD/Lucasfilm, Studio Ghibli
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