Rey’s Parents: An Exploration
So first off, hopefully it is relatively obvious, but there will be a massive amount of spoilers for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (TFA). You have been warned.
Now with that out of the way, let’s discuss Rey.
And before we get to her parents (which we will, don’t worry, this essay has about 6000 words on them) I want to talk about Rey as a character a little bit. Specifically to say that I don’t know if I’ve loved a character in media as wholeheartedly as I love Rey for a long time. Well, Chanel #3 from Scream Queens comes close. But Rey has her beat.
(Fun fact, Billie Lourd, who plays said Chanel, is both the daughter of Carrie Fisher, and has a cameo in TFA, as one of the Resistance folks hanging around Fisher/Greg Grunberg/C3PO.)
But Rey, like her compatriots in this film, is a wonderful breath of fresh air. She is skilled, energetic, equal parts enthusiastic and terrified, incredibly good-natured but made selfish by years of hardship, and did I mention enthusiastic? Above all else, Rey, along with Finn, Poe, and BB-8, is indicative of a return to the decidedly optimistic and enthusiastic world of the original Star Wars trilogy. A world yearning for excitement and adventure, where evil exists but it’s not a reason to despair. Rather it’s a reason to run faster, jump farther, fly higher. And do it with friends by your side to laugh with, smile at, and yes, take their hand.
(I’m not the only one who was flooded with emotion when Rey voluntarily takes Finn’s hand to lead him to safety, right?)
But along with all the things that make Rey wonderful and a joy to watch, she is also a character presented with mystery. We know little of her backstory, only that as a child she was left on the harsh desert world of Jakku, and told her parents would return for her. And many many years later, they have not.
This begs the very obvious question: who are those parents?
So, here are all the theories I have seen/can think of on who Rey’s parents may be. Many of these I either discovered or found evidence for on this google doc, which appears to be expanding to include Snoke and Kylo theories. So give it a looksee. And while one of my theories does have strong similarities to that presented in Ben Ostrower’s excellent piece, I actually didn’t read that until finishing writing this. But still, read it, it’s great.
And finally, some of the ideas on the philosophy and religious aspects of the Star Wars saga are inspired by the absolute must-read essay on the Star Wars Ring Theory by Mike Klimo. Block out an hour or two and read it, it’s fantastic.
1) Rey is a Skywalker
This obviously seems the most likely, as the entire first six movies make a complete story about the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker, and his relationship with his son. Family is critical for the Star Wars stories, and a very clear way to tie this new trilogy in with that legacy is to make its protagonist a part of said family. Additionally, there is a strong sense that the Force passes through families (whether scientifically, through Midichlorians and such, or in a more mystical “legacy” way) and there is no question that the Skywalkers are a force-sensitive family, as every single example we’ve seen (barring Shmi, though WHO KNOWS???) fits this profile (see Anakin, Luke, Leia, Kylo.)
Additionally, Kathleen Kennedy (President of Lucasfilm, integral part of the planning of these new trilogies) has said that this trilogy is going to continue to be the “Story of the Skywalkers,” and whats a nice and easy way to do that? Make your protagonist a Skywalker.
However, this itself needs to be broken into sub-theories, because we have a whole lot of ways Rey could branch off of the Skywalker family tree.
1.1) Rey is the daughter of Luke
This seems the most obvious, not just because we don’t have any real evidence to the contrary (besides the fact that in the final shot, Luke is looking at the lightsaber, not at Rey, which seems a very un-dad-like move) but because this is the clearest way to tie her to the Anakin/Luke lineage, and would make all three protagonists of the three trilogies (in so much as the prequel trilogy has a coherent protagonist…) Skywalkers, and Skywalkers of the same branch. Plus, Rey is drawn specifically to Anakin and Luke’s lightsaber, and in the very cool sword-in-the-stone moment in the forest on Starkiller, it seems that the lightsaber has determined her more worthy than Kylo. If this worthiness is genetic, then it makes sense the sword would go for the true child of its previous owners. rather than Kylo, who is off the branch.
1.2) Rey is the daughter of Leia
However, said worthiness criteria could be because…you know, Rey is good. She is not a bad guy. As opposed to Kylo. Kylo clearly wants the sword for greed and legacy, unlike Rey who wants it to defend her friend. In fact, this is way more like the actual Arthurian myth, in that everyone assumes that having the correct lineage (Kylo being the grandchild of Vader), or the most skills (Kylo being well-trained), or the most money (Kylo being backed by the massive First Order), or the most drive for power (Kylo being…Kylo) are the things necessary to pull the sword from the stone. Kylo embodies this Arthurian entitlement perfectly, even going so far as to scream to Rey that the lightsaber “belongs” to him. In fact, all of these are unimportant, and depending on the version of the Arthurian story, it is always something else beyond strength, power, or family that allows the right true King to wield the sword. I think this film is highlighting Rey’s selflessness, desire to defend her friend, and willingness to finally leap into her destiny, all of which makes her far more worthy of the sword than the greedy Kylo.
Though, this argument works for any parentage, Skywalker or no (and in fact, if parentage is part of why Kylo assumes he is worthy, then perhaps this further suggests a non-Skywalker relation…) So let’s talk about why specifically she could be Leia’s second child.
Logistically, it’s possible. Perhaps she’s Han and Leia’s kid, and they either don’t recognize her, or they pretend not to for whatever reason she had to be hidden away on Jakku. She seems significantly younger than Kylo (at least a few years, maybe even as much as ten?) If she is approximately 19 (the age of Luke in A New Hope (ANH)), and Kylo is more in the 27–30 range, then Kylo would have been born in the immediate years soon after the Battle of Endor/Battle of Jakku (the Empire’s big last stand, approximately a year after the Battle of Endor, and the reason there are the Imperial wreckage available for Rey to scavenge/live in.) Rey could have been born ~7–10 years later, perhaps another child of Han and Leia, or perhaps of just Leia (yes they say they split when Kylo turned, but eh, who knows with those two.) This would put her at 5–7 at around the time Kylo is in his late teens, which seems a reasonable timeframe for his turn and slaughter of the Jedi pupils. This is important, because Rey seems around 5–7 when she is left on Jakku in the lightsaber vision, which suggests Kylo’s turn is a motivator for being hidden away. Perhaps not the best parenting move, but one that has a reasonable line of thought behind it: keep the other child safe from her violent older brother.
Kylo makes an important note about the fact that a “girl on Jakku” helps BB-8 and Finn escape. Kylo clearly has some reason for this to be important, and likely beyond fury that he was bested by a girl (because for all Kylo’s whiny-male-millennial entitlement, it actually doesn’t seem to particular manifest in misogyny. Motherfucker hates everyone with pretty equal intensity.) Perhaps he knows he has a sister? The age gap (and potential half-sibling relationship) could allow for the kind of asymmetrical distance that gives Kylo (limited) knowledge of her, and Rey no knowledge of Kylo. Which would mirror the way that Vader knows Luke is his son before Luke does.
But logistics are always less interesting than thematics, and boy oh boy would there be some interesting thematics in this case. Sibling pairs are very important to the original trilogy, which is clearly more of an inspiration on this new trilogy than the prequels. TFA in general operates on a premise of “repetition with deconstruction,” taking themes, plot points, shots, characters, and lines from ANH (primarily, and the other original trilogy films to a lesser extent) and replaying them with twists. For no character is this more obvious than Kylo Ren, who is one of the coolest deconstructions of a major villainous archetype in recent memory. For Rey and Kylo to be related as siblings would be a very interesting twist on the Luke/Leia relationship of the original trilogy.
The original trilogy follows the story of two allies who learn of their shared parentage, whereas this would have two enemies learn of their siblingness. Additionally it would flip the gender script: First a male protagonist learns of a secret sister; here it’s a female protagonist learning of a secret brother. It would also obviously be an adjustment on the big reveal of The Empire Strikes Back (TESB), with it still being a parentage revelation that links the main protagonist and antagonist, but via shared parentage.
But, returning to logistics, this does pose some major challenges that would need to be very deftly explained by Rian Johnson in the scripts to Eps VIII and IX. Though not as many as some of the other Skywalker theories, like…
1.3) Rey is a descendent of Anakin, but not of Luke or Leia
Perhaps Rey split off the family tree earlier. I find this unlikely as there are no strong thematics to pull from this (beyond the basics of her being a Skywalker) and in fact damages the one interesting aspect of Anakin from the prequels: his burning, possessive, and all-encompassing love for Padme. Given the lengths to which that love forced him to go, as well as the self-loathing Vader has for his imperfect and mangled body, I find it far more likely that he remained celibate and got his kicks through power and violence than that he had a child post-Vaderizing (and obviously he didn’t have one pre-Vaderizing, because come on, watch a prequel.)
Plus like…does his dick even work? Does it even exist? Maybe he’s got a sweet robo-dick on that suit, but that ain’t about to go father anyone.
1.4) Rey is a descendent of Shmi Skywalker, but not of Anakin
Similarly, no real thematic reasons to jump through these hoops, rather than make her a child of Luke or Leia, and it would involve some potential retconning of the fact in Attack Of The Clones (AOTC) it is specifically said that, though she married Cliegg Lars, they had no children. If they didn’t retcon, it would have to wade into the tricky (and unpleasant for a family-friendly movie series like Star Wars) topic of slaves having kids out of wedlock and please JJ/Rian Johnson don’t try to tackle this in a two-hour space opera. Plus any leap that far back would have to deal with the various intermediary steps to get us to Rey, nearly sixty years later. Though, like most of these theories, despite problems it can’t be completely discounted.
1.5) Rey is Anakin Skywalker reincarnated
Motherfuckers on the internet are crazy.
Okay, so we’ve got the Skywalkers, with five sub-theories that all hold various amounts of plausibility and thematic potential. But now let’s venture outside of the Skywalker camp.
Here is where I very much throw my hat in the ring: I do NOT want Rey to be a Skywalker. Yes Kathleen Kennedy has said that this is still the story of the Skywalkers…but I want this to be a different sort of Skywalker story. Remember the bit earlier about “repetition with deconstruction”? I want this trilogy to deconstruct the idea of the one, all-powerful family. In the original trilogy, the Skywalker lineage is valuable and important, because it links Luke (our protagonist) to the wider world of the galaxy, and we get to follow him as he takes his chosen place. This family connection actually expands the world in neat, and important ways, and of course provides for a memorable gut-punch of a twist. And the connection to Darth Vader is there primarily to giveus the important moral through line of the whole series: that there is good and evil in all of us, and that the goal is not elimination of evil to allow for good, but to find balance. The original trilogy shows us the good in those that are evil (see Luke’s repetitions to Obi-Wan of “there’s still good in him” and Vader’s eventual fulfillment of that promise.) The prequel trilogy then is all about the ways good can both possess evil (see Chancellor Palpatine), be driven to evil even via good intentions (see Anakin’s drive to protect Padme and his children) and allow evil to fester when the good are too dogmatic (see the massive and complete failing of the Jedi Council to prevent the massive loss of life in the Clone Wars, the rise of the Empire, and their own destruction.) Three movies leading to the good in the bad, three highlighting the bad in the good. Taken as a series of six, when we see Anakin’s force ghost at the end of Return Of The Jedi (ROTJ), we are seeing the transcendence that comes from balance and acceptance of both good and bad
That is why it is important for Luke to be a Skywalker. How many kids, upon watching TESB for the first time, are shaken to their core by the idea that the good guy could be related to the bad guy? And that because kids are supposed to be like their dads, couldn’t that make Luke a bad guy too? It is necessary for the moral argument of the original trilogy, and the greater moral argument of the whole six-part series. However, it does come at a cost. The more the movies center on one powerful family, the more our massive galaxy, far, far away, shrinks. The more it becomes a small story about a handful of important characters and jettisons the ordinary folk that made the original trilogy so special. This is a trade worth making in the case of the first six, but what is to be gained by making that trade in the new three? Very little, I think. And what is lost is an entire wide world.
The Skywalkers have served their purpose in this Galaxy, and I want these stories to move on. They may still be the story of the Skywalkers, but I want it to be the final chapter. I want the Force to live in all, not just the chosen few. Or if they are chosen, to be chosen for their strengths and qualities, not their lineage. And I think that’s a story TFA set up well. The whole movie is framed around the passing of the torch and living in the shadows of the greatness that came before you, and the ways characters choose to react to that (Kylo by attempting to copy the iconography of the past with Vader, Finn by rejecting the iconography of the Stormtroopers, and Rey stuck in between rejecting and accepting.) As part of this, lets break free from at least one of the shadows: that of the Skywalkers.
We have a scenario where they Skywalkers are to blame for the continued, massive imbalance and destabilization across the Galaxy. Anakin, Luke, Leia, Kylo, all have failed to secure any sort of peace. Okay cool, then the difference in this trilogy is that Rey is the good Skywalker who will save the day, right? But wait, didn’t we see that in the original trilogy? Luke saves the day and then…doesn’t. It fails. We see in TFA where Luke’s brand of heroism has led: to the rise of a new Empire clone, another civil war, countless lives lost, and the death of his fledgling Jedi order.
We’ve seen the Skywalkers fail, and though it is a bold narrative move, I hope Disney and Lucasfilm have the conviction to let that stick. The Skywalkers have failed already, and if they are to be redeemed in this trilogy, let their redemption come from passing the torch to those on the outside.
Which brings us to my personal favorite theory, the one I think is the second most likely (after 1.1: Rey is the daughter of Luke) but which I hope beyond hope is the real one:
2) Rey is a Kenobi
Yep. I want it very desperately to be true.
Let’s get some timelines and logistics out of the way. Obi-Wan canonically had a romantic interest (Satine) in the television show The Clone Wars, one who he claimed to be willing to leave the Jedi Order for. So to assume he had a liaison or two whilst outposted on Tatooine for years, after the Jedi Order had been completely disbanded and (for all he knew) him and Yoda were the two left, is not unreasonable. This child of Obi-Wans could have been the parent of Rey, and the timelines would work out perfectly fine.
The major things that led me down this path are similar to what others have listed, namely tangible details. For instance, the only good guys in the whole series with British accents? Obi Wan Kenobi…and Rey. And we know John Boyega naturally has a British accent, yet he was directed to switch to a (flawless) American accent instead. But Daisy Ridley kept hers.
Similarly, the first instance of Force usage that Rey displays are mind-related: she resists Kylo’s mind-reading, and then uses the Jedi mind trick on the stormtrooper (played, allegedly, by Daniel Craig!) The Star Wars movies, with their love of callbacks and homages to themselves, treat interesting force moves as something of a calling card: Vader is the one who in both trilogies employs the Force Choke, Palpatine is the one who uses Lightning….and Obi-Wan is the one who uses the Jedi Mind Trick.
Now that’s obviously imperfect: Dooku also uses Lightning, and Qui-Gon uses the Mind Trick (unsuccessfully, on Watto.) But in both these cases, we have a very clear Master-Apprentice relationship: One can easily assume the Dooku learned the lightning from Palpatine, and Obi-Wan learned the Mind Trick from Qui-Gon.
Additionally, when she is hopping around Starkiller, she finds herself in sneaking and climbing shots that very very very strongly mirror and reference the shots of Obi-Wan skulking around the Death Star in ANH.
From a logistical point of view, there is no particular reason why being Obi-Wan’s descendent would allow her particular skill with the Mind Trick, barring her being taught it by him or whoever the intermediate step is. But given how much this movie calls back to ANH, there may be intention in the fact that Rey gets to use the signature move of Obi-Wan, itself first displayed (and to its most memorable effect) in ANH.
In the same vein, there’s no reason she would maintain the accent, unless she was raised by someone with it (though this fact also puts a dint in anything that suggests she spent formative years with Luke or Leia, as neither of them have the accent to pass on.) But if it is thought of as more of an homage to link us to this earlier character, rather than an actual plot point that needs to be worked out, it fulfills the same role as a subtle link to the past as the Mind Trick and the Starkiller sneaking do.
And then there’s the lightsaber. Throughout the film this sword is always discussed as “Luke Skywalker’s.” Which is certainly true…to a degree. In fact, Luke uses this lightsaber for one year: he gets it in ANH, uses it to fight the training droid, uses it in TESB on Hoth, Dagobah, and Bespin….and then loses it. Not only that, it is Anakin Skywalker’s before him! Anakin is the one who built the saber. Anakin is the one who used it in the Clone Wars. Anakin is the one who killed Dooku and the Younglings with it. So it is far more linked with Anakin Skywalker than it is with Luke. The true lightsaber of Luke Skywalker is the green one he built in himself, with which he actually defeated Vader.
But there are two important details that tie the lightsaber in with the Kenobi theory: 1) While the saber was built by Anakin and used by Luke, it was possessed for the longest period of time by Maz Kanata…and Obi-Wan Kenobi. And when Rey touches the lightsaber, the voice she hears is that of…Obi-Wan Kenobi (both Ewan McGregor, who came in to record the lines “You’re taking your first steps”, and Alec Guinness, who says “Rey” as a result of cutting the syllable out of him saying “Afraid” in the Original Trilogy!) The lightsaber, which is a key component of her status as a genuine and powerful force-user (strongly cementing said status via the sword-in-the-stone moment in the snow) has a very strong Kenobi connection.
Now, there are alternative explanations for this. Kenobi in the original trilogy acts as the mentor, and the guardian/giver of the lightsaber. It it likely that he’s reprising this role as guardian when calling out to Rey, determining that she should be its wielder the way he did for Luke in ANH. And this reprisal would work regardless of Rey’s lineage.
Really, this is the danger going on tangible details like this: all of them have alternate explanations. At the very least, these all provide a connection between Rey and Obi-Wan, but they could be nothing more than that. Which is why it should come as no surprise that I am far more interested in, you guessed it, the thematic reasons for this option. And they all come down to, say it with me now, repetition with deconstruction!
ANH features our first ever lightsaber battle in the Star Wars saga, when Kenobi and Vader square off. While it is not nearly as visually impressive or crazily choreographed as later battles, it is incredibly tense, and ends in one of the most memorable endings of the saga: Kenobi is gripped with fear while fighting his powerful apprentice, then upon seeing Luke and company, calms himself, allows himself to be one with the force, lets himself be struck by Vader, and disappears. Vader is clearly concerned, stomping around to see if this is not some trick, left unsatisfied by the ending to the duel he had been so long awaiting. Kenobi’s own life, the thing Vader was able to snatch from him, is clearly less important to Kenobi than the safety of his companions. By “losing,” he is able to win. Kenobi denies Vader the satisfaction of a clean victory.
The battle in the snow on Starkiller in TFA has a similar ending: Rey is gripped by fear, calms herself, allows herself to be one with the Force, and begins to dominate Kylo. The planets breaks apart before she is able to finish him off…but she is fine with this, immediately taking advantage of the moment to flee and find Finn. Kylo is left unsatisfied, both by losing, and by being dishonored at Rey’s clear lack of concern for him. She doesn’t care at all about killing him. He is fundamentally not as important to her as Finn and her friends are. And to the incredibly insecure Kylo, this is likely more traumatic than being bested, injured, or scarred. Rey denies him the satisfaction of a clean defeat.
Now imagine in Ep VIII or XI we learn that Rey is a Kenobi. How fantastic will this fight become on rewatch, seeing it as the twisted repetition of the iconic Vader/Obi-Wan fight, being played out by the grandchildren?
And then how cool will it be to see, in Ep VIII, for the first time a Skywalker train a Kenobi in the ways of the force?
Kennedy has mentioned how Star Wars is, and will continue through this trilogy to be, the story of the Skywalkers. But there are only four characters that appear in all six Star Wars movie. Two of them are droids (R2 & 3PO), one of them is Anakin Skywalker…and one of them is Obi-Wan Kenobi. The whole Star Wars saga has always been, in various ways, about the Skywalkers and the Kenobis. And if we’re going to keep following one of them, the story deserves to follow them both. And perhaps, through some reconciliation between Rey and Kylo, the rift that begins in Revenge Of The Site (ROTS) can finally heal. Let the children, at first forced to subscribe to and perpetuate the conflicts of the past, bury the hatchet and unite these two families.
(Not necessarily in a sexy times way. Though, I wouldn’t be opposed.)
Okay, we’ve gone through my favorite theory (Kenobi) and what I think are the most likely theories (Rey is Luke’s kid, Rey is Leia’s kid, and the aforementioned Kenobi theory.) Now it’s time to get to some crazy stuff.
3) Rey is a Palpatine
There are two pieces of evidence that point to this. One is the aforementioned accent bit. Which, exactly like with Obi-Wan, could be explained away, and doesn’t actually prove anything beyond perhaps the filmmakers inviting comparison. The second is her fighting style once she gets the lightsaber: she is one of two Jedi in the entire trilogy who fight with the style that favors stabbing. And the other one is Palpatine, in the two sword fights in ROTS.
And like with all of these apparent clues, this can be very easily explained away: its the same style she uses with her stick, and is likely a style that involves stabbing because A) she pokes stuff with the stick a lot while scavenging, and B) it is a good threatening position to take up on a brutal, harsh planet of scavengers. It gives her visual intimidation power in her stance, something she would otherwise be lacking as a young, slight, human, girl.
Logistically, if true, this would likely have to involve either a similar intermediary generational step, like in the Obi-Wan case…or some sort of cloning (which would be an interesting callback to the former Expanded Universe, where clones of Palpatine evidently pop up all the goddamn time.)
Obviously, the overall power of this theory would allow for another repetition with deconstruction on the reveal in TESB. Again, our protagonist is the relation of the major antagonist, though the antagonist of the previous trilogy, rather than the current one. It would also have interesting reverberations with our current antagonists, showing that Rey has more familial claim to the kinds of power Kylo and Hux (and potentially Snoke, depending on who he ends up being) are seeking then they do.
Personally, I would lean towards cloning because that A) provides a wrinkle in the “Good guy is the kid of the bad guy” formula from TESB, and B) would allow us an interesting philosophical examination on the idea of cloning and how it has been presenting in the Star Wars universe thus far, and C) would allow for an FANTASTIC comparison and potential connection between Rey and Finn and the ideas of nature vs. nurture: Finn is naturally good, but nurtured for evil, while Rey is “naturally” evil and nurtured for good (or at least for neutrality and survival.)
This would also explain the necessity of hiding her out on Jakku: a clone or progeny of the Emperor would need to be protected, both from the Republic and the First Order (whether they would try to co-opt her or kill her, who knows!)
The obvious downside: this is a pretty strong retread of TESB, especially if she is a child, not a clone. But if the clone route was handled interestingly, the benefits of that storyline may end up outweighing the fact everyone would cry “Rip-off!”
4) Rey is a Tarkin
Again, accent is the main thing, and I haven’t seen this theory out and about on the internet much. I also haven’t read the Tarkin standalone novel that came out last year and is in canon, so it may be that this is completely not feasible. But mostly it’s just that I really like the character of Grand Moff Tarkin, and I wouldn’t be all that opposed to exploring him and giving him more depth in the main canon.
That being said, if she’s going to be related to anyone, it should be someone important, especially for the people that this may be their first trilogy with Star Wars. And not much is gained by her relation to him that wouldn’t be present in a relation to the Emperor. Plus, like with Obi-Wan, there would be the necessary explanation of an intermediate generation that is previously unknown, which would take effort that is probably not worth it considering its, you know, Tarkin. But a guy can dream.
5) Rey is a descendent of Snoke
This hinges a lot on who Snoke ends up being (for instance, Snoke being Tarkin is a technically possible, but very wild theory that the same Tarkin fanboy in me likes to ponder, and that would make the Tarkin parentage connection way way way more likely. Similarly if Snoke is the Emperor.) The problem with this is how it is such a retread of the TESB reveal, with the additional implied mystery about Snoke’s identity. Trying to solve two mysteries at once would admittedly be an not un-JJ move, but I hope more restraint is shown, because I don’t want to go through that.
Plus my personal favorite Snoke theory is that he is a recovered Sith holocron (either discovered by the First Order, OR discovered by Luke under the assumption it was a Jedi holocron (and that Luke has been searching out the true matching Jedi holocron while in exile)) and is in fact non-corporeal, which would make him fathering Rey obviously completely impossible.
But ya can’t rule it out, especially if Ep VIII leans into the repetition with deconstruction idea re: TESB.
6) Rey has no relation to any characters we know
Okay, I said these were the crazy theories, but actually theories six and seven are pretty reasonable, and certainly above some of the crazier Skywalker theories or the Tarkin/Snoke ones. The man logistical rationale for Rey not being related to anyone we know is A) that goddamn it, the universe is big, and not everyone is related to everyone, and B) none of the other theories fully satisfies. Both of which I can totally agree with. Especially in light of earlier comments about this being the end of the Skywalker era, and about the fear of a shrinking galaxy, this would be a very easy way to handle that: keep the universe big. Introduce a new character who is genuinely new.
(Incidentally, this is why I hope that the series doesn’t also start harping on Finn’s parents, or if they do that his are just some family that exists who lost their son when the First Order took them. We already know Kylo is related to important people. I can handle it if it ends up being the case for Rey too. I can’t take it if Kylo, Rey, and Finn all have it. Especially since so much of the charm of Finn is the idea of the ordinary Stormtrooper standing up for what’s right. In the original trilogy, we had the chosen one, but we also had just a regular schmuck who rises to the occasion in Han Solo. That’s what I want Finn to be: just one man, who decides to do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because his parents are someone special.)
And regarding unsatisfiability of other theories, maybe that’s intentional. JJ is a filmmaker who is very good at controlling information and his audience. From Lost to Star Trek, he knows how to craft a mystery directed at fan speculation. And maybe that’s exactly the point: we all think, because we are primed by a prequel trilogy full of crazy connections, to expect an important relation. Therefore the ultimate deconstruction of this is to deny that to us. Perhaps Rey is what we were promised in the first act of ANH with Luke: just a kid living a rough life on a rough planet, dreaming of adventure, and taking that leap.
But perhaps, not only is she not related to anyone we know, she may not be related to anyone. By that I mean:
7) Rey is fatherless, like Anakin Skywalker
The Messiah mythology surrounding Anakin Skywalker in the prequels is incredibly potent (another interesting example of the ways in which the Star Wars saga is one of the most mainstream pieces of media to explore and present religious ideas and iconography from disparate faiths around the globe, particular classical Western and Eastern religions.) And this starts from the beginning with him being an immaculate conception. Now, throughout the trilogy, we see the ways that Messianic promise is interpreted, judged, utilized, and corrupted, resulting in the “death” of Anakin, and his rebirth as Darth Vader (an interesting bastardization of both the Jesus and Paul stories.) It is only by the end of ROTJ that we see what is truly meant by the prophecy of bringing “balance” to the force: the acceptance of good and evil within oneself, and the transcendence above that conflict to true peace and immortality.
But just like in our world, the Messiah does not succeed in creating a truly peaceful world. The Republic, Resistance, and fledgling Jedi order have attempted to repeat the past and recreate the Republic. A Republic we spent an entire prequel trilogy watching the failings of, so it is no surprise that these attempts have also failed, and that the fascistic First Order has risen through these failings. The democracy/dictatorship cycle is repeating.
So perhaps the Force must awaken, and create another Messiah to lead and restore the missing balance. Anakin created balance, but Luke failed to maintain it. Perhaps Rey, the fatherless, and Kylo, the one with too many fathers, are the ones to create lasting peace, and truly take up the complex and multifaceted mantle of Anakin Skywalker. Bring peace through balance, security through transcendence.
Of course the question is, how the fuck do you, in any narratively satisfying way, explain that Rey was a virgin birth in Episodes VIII or IX?
(Also yeah, this could also be used as an argument for 1.5, that Rey is Anakin reincarnated, but that would be infinitely less satisfying than them being two separate people that both must fulfill a similar role. I much prefer the idea of the force as calling out to and creating those that the galaxy needs, rather than it having to be the same soul over and over again. Plus Rey is way cooler than Anakin ever was.)
Okay, now that we’ve explored the 7+ theories of Rey’s parentage, allow me to create two lists: one in order of likelihood, and one in order of preference. And worth noting, likelihood does include both evidence, logistical plausibility, and thematic potential, but weights the thematic side way way way more than the others.
Most Likely Parentage Theories:
- 1.1: Rey is the daughter of Luke
- 2: Rey is a Kenobi
- 1.2: Rey is the daughter of Leia
- 6: Rey has no relation to any characters we know
- 7: Rey is fatherless, like Anakin Skywalker
- 3: Rey is a Palpatine
- 5: Rey is a descendent of Snoke
- 1.3: Rey is a descendent of Anakin, but not of Luke or Leia
- 1.4: Rey is a descendent of Shmi Skywalker, but not of Anakin
- 4: Rey is a Tarkin
- 1.5: Rey is Anakin reincarnated
My Preferred Parentage Theories:
- 2: Rey is a Kenobi
- 7: Rey is fatherless, like Anakin Skywalker
- 3: Rey is a Palpatine (*note, specifically the clone theory. If she is a descendent, then I’m significantly less interested)
- 6: Rey has no relation to any characters we know
- 1.2: Rey is the daughter of Leia
- 4: Rey is a Tarkin
- 1.1: Rey is the daughter of Luke
- 1.4: Rey is a descendent of Shmi Skywalker, but not of Anakin
- 1.3: Rey is a descendent of Anakin, but not of Luke or Leia
- 1.5: Rey is Anakin reincarnated
I suppose in conclusion, since we’re roughly 6,000 words in, and if you’ve read this far you deserve a nice parting wrap-up, we should talk a little about theorizing in general and what it can mean. Because why should I write, and you read, ~6k words on the potential parentage of the protagonist of a movie that came out a few weeks ago? And why are we so primed to do this for this specific movie in this specific series?
I think it comes down to the fact that Star Wars is perhaps the most unique film series ever made, in almost every way. From a narrative perspective, it is uniquely ambitious, telling a coherent and fairly odd story of the rise and fall of an odd character through six intricately connected and non-chronological stories. From a thematic perspective, it pulled the masterful trick of exploring and blending some of the most complicated moral, religious, and philosophical ideas from millennia of human history into an adventure movie. From a quality perspective, we have three of the most beloved films of all time, followed up by some of the most reviled, which were simultaneously reviled for being too similar and too different from their originals. And from a filmmaking perspective, what other movie series has the odd legacy of Star Wars, equally embodying the Hollywood blockbuster at its most bombastic, and the independent auteur at his most eccentric? This is a series with no obvious compatriot. Like the James Bond franchise, it is unique in the history of cinema. And now we’ve begun a new chapter in that story. What was already complicated and fascinating and become even more so. And that demands discussion. That demands speculation. That demands that we write, and that we read.
So thanks for reading.
If you liked this, please hit that heart button! And if you felt so inclined, you could always share this post with your Star Wars fan friends and argue about the ways I’m obviously so totally wrong, or write a response!
And if you want to keep up with any ramblings, you could follow me on Medium, OR check me out on Twitter (where I tweet in all-caps about Taylor Swift a lot,) This. (where I share links I find interesting, and dedicate every Friday to links about Carly Rae Jepsen,) or my own website.