When the newest Disney+ Star Wars series, The Acolyte, was first announced in 2020, one of the big takeaways from the then-enigmatic project was that it would take place during “the waning days of the High Republic.” The promise of a live-action series brought a new spotlight to the ambitious new multi-media literary effort slated to debut in early 2021. It offered a swath of new Star Wars stories set in an era that was older than the New Republic but newer than the Old Republic. This era is The High Republic.

Over the last several years, the High Republic gained a loyal cult following of Star Wars fans to its pages. The Acolyte will be many fans’ first real experience with the storytelling of this galactic era and some of the unique characters created for it. As such, we’ve decided to offer you a history of the era, as far as we know currently. While each book and story within the High Republic has its share of twists and turns, consider this a broad overview of the main overarching throughline of the High Republic as a collective in anticipation of The Acolyte. For a more in-depth coverage, check out our video timeline.

The High Republic Origins 

The real-world origins of the High Republic began in 2018 under the name Avengers Initiative. Wait, sorry, the All-Star Initiative, and later, Project Luminous. The initial project included five authors: Justina Ireland, Cavan Scott, Claudia Gray, Daniel José Older, and Charles Soule. Each are fan-favorite authors, both within the Star Wars canon and their outside work. They would later add more authors to the mix, like George Mann, Alyssa Wong,  Zoraida Córdova, and Tessa Gratton. 

Official art for Lucasfilm's The High Republic publishing initiative.

Starting around 500 years before the first Star Wars movie, or “500 Before the Battle of Yavin,” the High Republic era is one of exploration and expansion. The Galactic Republic has largely recovered from the dark ages following the fall of the Old Republic. Now the Republic is trying to expand out again to the Outer Rim. This is especially true for the region known as the Galactic Frontier. This Frontier is popular among pirates including familiar faces like Maz Kanata. 

This is a golden age for the Jedi. Believing the Sith threat fully defeated generations earlier, the Jedi focus on their mission as the “guardians of peace and justice” as Obi-Wan Kenobi would say. These Jedi often rally around the cry “For Light and Life.” They frequently dress in resplendent gold-on-white temple robes, though Jedi in the field still wear the more familiar brown vibes. 

Story-wise, The High Republic consists of three main phases. We’re going to discuss them in chronological order instead of publishing order. We’ll start with Phase 2, which takes place in 382 BBY, 150 years before the rest of the series. Star Wars was like, “we heard you like prequels so here’s some prequel for your prequel.”

The High Republic Phase 2 – 382 BBY

Phase 2 introduces a few different religious groups with affiliation to the Force, including groups that have appeared in previous Star Wars media. These groups include the Guardians of the Whills and the Church of the Force. We also meet a more fanatical cult known as the Path of the Open Hand. They believe the Jedi and any other Force sensitives who use powers are actively harming the Force. Their belief is basically a hyper-extended version of Chaos Theory. The use of the Force, even innocuously, in one spot could cause catastrophe somewhere else in the universe. Their own catchphrase is “The Force shall be free,” because any good cult should have a motto. 

Path of the Open Hand

A good cult needs a false prophet too, and the Path has one in The Mother. Despite the cult’s beliefs, the Mother is secretly a Force-user herself, with a bitter personal grudge against the Jedi. She comes into possession of creatures that feed off of Force users, causing them to have intense, terrifying hallucinations before the creatures devour their essence, leaving a lifeless husk behind. The Mother calls these creatures the Leveler, but the Jedi and later books call them the Nameless. 

The Mother’s powers allow her to pass most charisma checks, causing followers to flock to her, often not knowing why they find her so alluring. The Mother manipulates current events and even tries to sabotage the peace talks of a major generational war between two worlds to destabilize the region and drive more followers to her flock.

Marda Ro of The High Republic.

One such follower is Marda Ro, a member of refugee alien race the Evereni whom the galaxy at large distrusts. A great storm destroyed the Evereni homeworld, and then a corrupt government left the survivors distrustful of everyone but themselves. Marda is a true believer in the Path of the Open Hand. However, her love for the Jedi Padawan Kevmo Zink tests that faith.

Kevmo and his master are killed by the Nameless. Marda, in her fanaticism, interprets their deaths as an example of the destruction that follows from using the Force. This only strengthens Marda’s devotion to the Path’s cause. She claims they are now the Path of the Closed Fist, a more militant version of the cult. Soon more Jedi arrive at the Path’s homeworld of Dalna after their sabotage of a peace treaty leads to a full-scale riot and battle on the pilgrim’s moon of Jedha. Jedha, of course, is where Jyn Erso later visits in Rogue One. 

The evil, monstrous Nameless in The High Republic.

The Nameless’ effects on the Jedi, as well as internal tensions within the cult, cause events to escalate into a massacre known as the Night of Sorrow. Marda swears revenge against the Jedi. The Path of the Closed Fist now becomes a gang of marauders called the Nihil. 

Afraid public knowledge of the Nameless could harm the Jedi, Grand Master Yoda and other Jedi keep information about them out of the archives. Over the next few decades the Nameless become something of a Jedi folklore, a nursery rhyme to scare younglings in an era before Anakin Skywalker existed. And we come to the end of Phase 2. 

The High Republic Phase 1 – 232 BBY

A cargo ship known as the Legacy Run travels through hyperspace when a strange shadowy object appears in front of it causing a collision. The impact of the crash sends huge chunks of starship careening through hyperspace. These chunks cause more crashes and destruction along many high-traffic routes. These force ships in the region to drop out of hyperspace lanes and become stranded. This event is known as The Great Hyperspace Disaster.

A depiction of the Great Hyperspace Disaster.

The pieces of the ship emerging from lightspeed threaten to obliterate a system known as Hetzal, home to over 40 billion people. Every Jedi within reach of the system converges in an attempt to avert the disaster. Their leader in this Avar Kriss, a powerful Jedi who uses her impressive Force abilities to guide this task force to work as a collective unit. 

The Republic’s current Chancellor, Lina Soh, engaged in a series of Great Works projects to present the Republic as a shining symbol of hope. One such project is the Starlight Beacon. This Jedi space station positioned near the Galactic Frontier would serve as the Jedi’s base of operations on the Galactic Frontier. It would allow them to respond to calls for aid sooner than the Temple on Coruscant could provide. As the Hero of Hetzal, Avar Kriss becomes marshal of the station.

A Trandoshan Jedi lifts a lightsaber

In the last 150 years the Nihil have evolved, or devolved, into a marauding group of Viking-like raiders with a prominent storm theme. They are led from the shadows by Marchion Ro, a descendant of Marda, who carries her mission of vengeance with him. At first, the Nihil seem like opportunists, extorting worlds threatened by the emerging starship remnants from the Great Disaster. We later learn that the Nihil caused the explosion to begin with. Marchion sacrifices a third of the Nihil during a space battle against the Jedi and Republic, appearing that they lost.

231 BBY

A year after the Great Hyperspace Disaster, the Republic grows complacent thinking that the threat of the Nihil has gone. Chancellor Soh moves forward with her plans for another of her Great Works, The Republic Fair. This is like a World’s Fair but in Star Wars

Shocking probably nobody except the characters in the book, the Nihil attack! A massive coordinated assault by the Nihil informs the Republic that they are indeed still around. The Jedi and Republic begin Operation: Counterstrike, an effort to seek out and destroy the Nihil. In an attack on a Nihil base, the Jedi learn that the marauders have some of the Nameless. One of the creatures kills a Jedi named Loden Greatstorm, reducing him to a Force-drained husk. 

The Jedi and Republic fight against the Nihil.

The Jedi mistakenly believe that one of Marchion Ro’s top lieutenants, a Twi’lek woman named Lourna Dee, is the leader of the whole organization. Avar Kriss and her Starlight Beacon Jedi defy the council and send Jedi undercover into Nihil territory to capture Lourna. 

230 BBY

Once again the Jedi and Republic mistakenly believe that they’ve defeated the Nihil. Marchion Ro springs the next phase of his plan. He launches a series of assaults on a number of worlds, creating a refugee crisis at Starlight Beacon. A Nihil sabotage team takes advantage of how overwhelmed the Beacon is and slips through, moving quickly throughout the station causing systemic and structural failures. They also unleash a Nameless into the station to cause havoc among the Jedi onboard. Despite their best efforts, the Jedi are unable to save the station. Starlight crashes onto a nearby world, killing many of the Jedi serving on it. The Republic watches in horror as the crash rips the symbol of the Jedi’s light from the sky. It’s at this time that Marchion Ro finally reveals himself to the galaxy.

The High Republic Phase 3 – 229 BBY

The Nihil have installed a massive barrier in space called the Stormwall. This series of disruptive buoys pull ships out of hyperspace preventing lightspeed travel beyond them. The Nihil have declared a region of the Galactic Frontier to be the Nihil Occlusion Zone. Thus far they have prevented the Jedi and Republic from traveling beyond this border. Avar Kriss finds herself trapped behind it in Nihil-controlled space. After months of isolation, Avar manages to get past the Stormwall and return to the Jedi Temple to report on her time behind enemy lines. 

A trio of heroes from The High Republic phase 3.

Phase 3 is still in the middle of publishing, so we don’t fully know how the events will play out beyond this point. We also don’t know how they’ll feed into the story of The Acolyte close to a century later. How much the events of these stories still press on the Jedi will become clear when the series debuts on June 4.

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