When the Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker title was finally revealed, fans didn’t hesitate to assume what it meant. For some, it was a confirmation that Luke would return as a Force Ghost. For others, it proved the longstanding theory that Rey is secretly a Skywalker descendant. But believe it or not, Rey may have already proven herself to be the first true Skywalker in the Star Wars story… the name just doesn’t mean what fans think it does.
Genetically, the mystery of the true meaning or origin behind the ‘Skywalker’ name can only go as far back as Anakin’s mother on the planet Tatooine. Sticking with that exclusive bloodline theory, The Rise of Skywalker title can only refer to the salvation of Luke, Anakin, or maybe Kylo Ren. But the Star Wars universe has offered a new, deeper explanation that suggests Rey may be the sky-walker that neither Anakin nor Luke ever managed to become. And Star Wars 9 can finally make it canon.
- This Page: The Skywalker Name Isn’t Just One Family
- Page 2: Rey May Be The First TRUE Skywalker
The family tree belonging to Anakin and Luke is, sadly, a short one to trace back to the roots. The birth and selection of Anakin as ‘The Chosen one’ makes up the plot of Star Wars: Episode 1. And while Mark Hamill may not consider Luke a virgin, his grandmother Shmi Skywalker maintained that Anakin had no father when she spontaneously conceived the baby. The Star Wars comics have offered some explicit explanation on that front, showing Emperor Palpatine creating baby Anakin inside of his mother’s womb through the Dark Side of the Force. But believe us, the mystery of where her surname comes from is only scratching the surface of the new ‘sky-walker’ lore.
To appreciate what makes Rey the first Skywalker to actually live up to the name–without any caveats, shortcomings, or outright failings–fans will be surprised to learn that the name has been given a potential origin from beyond the known galaxy of the main Star Wars story. Either that, or it’s another case of a galaxy-wide, shared heritage never touched on (and it just being accepted that ‘The Force’ is the name everyone arrived at on their own). The explanation may not literally describe how Shmi Skywalker was given her name, but thematically, directly links her with Rey as women tossed aside into servitude, who did the unthinkable when the Force willed it.
The Star Wars novels have offered plenty of changes to the existing fiction, but have also worked some beloved elements back into canon–the fearsome Admiral Thrawn chief among those demanded by fans. Surprisingly, it’s Thrawn who helps to explain the origins of the name Skywalker. Or if not the origins then at least another meaning of the term found elsewhere in the galaxy far, far away.
The ‘Skywalker’ explanation comes in the novel Thrawn: Alliances by author Timothy Zahn, in a story that covers the first time the blue-skinned military genius encountered Anakin Skywalker, instantly recognizing the name as one of great significance. But among his own people, not those of the Republic… and used as a title to signify much, much more than just a family. SPOILER warning!
Page 2: Rey May Be The First TRUE Skywalker
Now for those who don’t know everything about Admiral Thrawn, we’ll skip the details (and recommend watching Star Wars: Rebels to know why he’s a fantastic villain). What’s important for the understanding of the ‘Skywalker’ name is that in Alliances, Thrawn explains why his people–known as The Chiss Ascendancy–aren’t known by the rest of the Republic. They reside within the expanse of space known as the Unknown Regions, so named because according to Thrawn “a chain of supernovas” has turned the area beyond the Outer Rim into an ever-changing minefield of debris and cosmic phenomena. Which is where The Force comes in handy.
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Thrawn explains that the strategy developed by his people to navigate this natural death trap is “the most closely guarded secret of the Chiss Ascendancy.” When he is paired with Darth Vader by Emperor Palpatine directly, he is forced to reveal why a batch of kidnapped Chiss children represent a massive threat to their entire civilization:
We do not have nav computers able to plot safe paths through the chaos of the Unknown Regions hyperspace… Nor do the Chiss produce appreciable numbers of Force-sensitives, though we call their gift Third Sight. But when such rare individuals are born, they come to us with but one ability, that of precognition… Only children have enough precognitive power to safely guide our ships at the speeds the Aristocras demand. As to their gender… Those with the gift are nearly always female. There are exceptions, but that is the general rule. No one knows why.
In the novel, Darth Vader is stunned to learn that the Chiss employ children to pilot their most important ships through hyperspace, relying only on Force sensitivity that will eventually fade as the children grow. Vader is also stunned because the idea of navigating long distance hyperspace jumps manually never occurred to him. He attempts the feat personally during their mission, and performs perfectly–drifting this way and that when sensing the Force guiding him, or warning of approaching threats. It is then that Thrawn reveals (with a smirk) the full truth about these Force-guided child pilots:
There was a flicker in Thrawn’s sense. Vader looked up, to see a small smile on his face. “I was simply recalling a memory. I told you the Chiss call this talent Third Sight. What I hadn’t yet spoken of is the title these navigators are given once they take their posts… The Cheunh word is ozyly-esehembo. In Basic, it translates to ‘sky-walker.’ You can imagine my momentary confusion when I first encountered General Anakin Skywalker.
The novel plays with the impression that Thrawn recognizes Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader are the same man, separated by years. Hence his observation of the ‘sky-walker’ name given to Anakin finally being fulfilled under his own guidance. And it is a powerful image he conjures, of the noble and vital role played by The Sky-Walkers: to accept an immense burden as a child, subject oneself to training in the Force, so that you may lead an entire people safely behind you. For only the sky-walkers can see both present and future, and react to shape the reality of dozens, hundreds, thousands of others as they wish.
It is a sacrifice made willingly in almost all cases, and the parallels between Anakin, Luke, and Rey are so clear… they could only bear the name Skywalker. But where Anakin and Luke failed in their mission to lead an entire galaxy towards a safer tomorrow, the early looks at Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker appears to make Rey the one who will get the job done for good. In the new understanding of the term, that alone makes her the truest hero to ever bear the title of Sky-walker… whether she carries the name or not.
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