On the Knights of Ren

There’s a theory floating around the Star Wars fandom I find fascinating. It delves into the origins of the Knights of Ren, the secret paramilitary order Kylo Ren commands under Supreme Leader Snoke. The theory — and it’s a convincing one — focuses on the name Ren, Ben Solo’s assumed name and it’s ultimate reference to one of the franchise’s most beloved (yet widely unknown) characters. Ren is, as the theory goes, a corruption of Revan (R’en) and the Knights of Ren are a New Republic version of the Old Republic Revanites, or the Order of Revan.

Ok. Even if you grew up with Star Wars like I did and consider yourself a huge fan, it’s safe to say you’ve never heard of Revan if you haven’t played the Star Wars multi-player, choose-your-own-adventure online games Knights of the Old Republic or The Old Republic: The Shadow of Revan. For those who have, Revan is an old favorite and the fandom continues to petition the franchise to make a movie about him. Revan won the 2015 Black Series Fan Choice (for action figure development) at San Diego Comic Con, and his figure was released in late 2016 and widely available in early 2017. Revan’s story is about the tragedy of manipulation, the corruption of ambition, and the ultimate triumph of love (if you chose the Light side conclusion to the game, that is).

So, who was Revan and the cult who followed him? The Order of Revan, “a secret society known as the Revanites hides deep in the jungles of Dromund Kaas. Composed of members throughout Imperial Society — from esteemed Sith to enterprising slaves — the Revanite cult worships the teachings of the legendary Jedi Revan…. Revan wielded the dual philosophies of Sith passion and Jedi tranquility to conquer his enemies: he even nearly assassinated the Sith Emperor. Today, the Revanites secretly follow the path forged by Revan and await his return….”¹

Now, you might be asking yourself, why would a cult of Revan — a Jedi — develop among the Sith? We’re still talking ancient history here — over 3,500 years before Luke and his band of rebels destroyed the first Death Star and Vader went spinning off into space. At that point, there were definitely more than two Sith (a master and an apprentice), as suspected by the Jedi in The Phantom Menace. The Sith Empire controlled a good chunk of the galaxy and was a huge threat to the Old Republic. Revan was captured by the Sith, his mind overcome and controlled by the powerful Emperor until he was turned into the Dark Lord Revan and sent back to the Republic as a weapon. Revan nearly destroyed the Republic until the Jedi captured him again, erased his memories, and turned him back against the Sith.

He was ultimately imprisoned again by the Sith when he went looking for answers after nightmares of his former life started seeping through his broken memory and he followed his nose into Sith space. But this time he wasn’t captured by the Emperor but by a faction that opposed the mighty ruler. You can see where this is going.  Revan, knowing the threat the Emperor still posed to the Republic, led the charge against him and failed when his ally, the Sith Lord Scourge, turned on him (never trust a Sith. Seriously). The Emperor overwhelmed Revan, put the powerful Jedi in stasis, and fed off Revan’s essence for 300 years, probing his mind for the Republic’s weaknesses.

Wouldn’t it be awesome if this legendary Emperor — who had the ability to suck the living Force from a planet — were Snoke? Snoke is, after all, experiencing difficulty with his corporeal form. It seems logical that he would want to find a new body and with it immortality through the manipulation of the Force. But, that’s a theory for another post.

Now, why do I think the Knights are followers of Revan? Knights implies an order and a code of conduct. Based on their attire, they’re clearly a war band — heavy armor, helmets, and a plethora of hand-to-hand combat weapons. They’re also masked — a trademark of Revan. The traditional and rather medieval-looking weapons they yield also implies they aren’t Force-users. Only their leader, Kylo Ren, fights with a lightsaber (at least as far as we’ve seen).

As for Kylo, we can make an educated guess as to why he might be a follower of the ancient Jedi-turned-Sith-turned-Jedi. Kylo’s “ability to use the Force grants him many impressive combat skills, but Kylo Ren is no Jedi, nor is he a Sith. He is the archetype of a new generation of dark side users that have emerged to fill the void left by the Sith’s demise….The Supreme Leader believes Ren to be the ideal embodiment of the Force, a focal point, of both light and dark side ability.”²

Snoke reprimands his apprentice every time Kylo is seduced by the Light. In order for the for the leader of the Knights to remain ruthless in battle and interrogation tactics, Snoke needs to keep Kylo mean through “reminders” (i.e., torture). But in the novelization when Kylo confirms that it is his master’s teachings that keep him strong, Snoke demures. “It is far more than that. It is where you are from. What you are made of. The dark side — and the light.”³ The Supreme Leader needs Kylo’s Light side skills as well as the Dark. Without the two, Snoke’s power is incomplete.

Revan realized the same thing. “Revan devoured knowledge with an insatiable appetite under many Jedi Masters….Revan’s determination and pride sparked concern among the Jedi Council.”4 After he defeated the Mandalorians and chased them from Republic space, he discovered ancient Sith knowledge when he strayed into the Sith Empire. Desire to gain this knowledge was the start of his downfall. I believe it was Kylo’s as well. In my fanfic, young Ben Solo is on a scavenger hunt for Jedi and Sith holocrons and data files. He voraciously reads and practices what he finds.

But this passion for knowledge of both sides of the Force was not fueled by the influence of the Dark side. Both Revan and Ben could be classified as Gray Jedi. They left the Jedi Order to follow their own path and what they believed in — that balance had to be maintained between the two, that neither the Jedi nor Sith understood the Force in its totality. Unfortunately, both were preyed upon powerful Dark side users while they undertook their quests to study the Force.

“While Gray Jedi believed that the Force did indeed have inherently Light and Dark sides, they recognized that these aspects could not be separated without negative consequences. If the Dark Side and the Sith were to gain dominance, life would become self-destructive and be extinguished. However, if the Light Side and the Jedi Order’s quest for peace were allowed to come to pass, the galaxy would fall to lethargy, apathy, and eventually fade and die. Both Light and Dark were part of the Force, and all aspects of the Force had to be studied and respected.”5

So, if the Knights of Ren are followers of Revan, who believed in the balance of the Force, what happened to tip them over the Dark side? Snoke, of course, who needs them as a special ops strike team. And it would make sense that the Knights Kylo commands is only one faction of a much larger order, spread throughout the galaxy. But before Snoke dragged Ben Solo away by the scruff of the neck, it makes sense that Padawan Solo believed in his own code, which set him at odds with his uncle and Master:

Flowing through all, there is balance.

There is no peace without a passion to create.

There is no passion without peace to guide.

Knowledge stagnates without the strength to act.

Power blinds without the serenity to see.

There is freedom in life.

There is purpose in death.

The Force is all things and I am the Force.

(One version of the Gray Jedi Code)6

 

Compare this to the Jedi and Sith Codes:

 

It’s time for the Jedi to end. Time to bring balance to the Force.

@MyKyloRen     14 July 2017

__________________________

1Ryan, I. et al. (2012). Star Wars: The Old Republic Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Epic Conflict. New York: DK Publishing, p. 304.

2Hidalgo, P. (2015). Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary. New York: DK Publishing, p. 24.

3Foster, A. D. (2015). Star Wars: The Force Awakens. New York: Del Rey, p. 139.

4Ryan, I. et al. (2012). Star Wars: The Old Republic Encyclopedia: The Definitive Guide to the Epic Conflict. New York: DK Publishing, p. 73.

5http://swfanon.wikia.com/wiki/Gray_Jedi_Code

6ibid.

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The Balance

“What are you doing, Ben?”

Luke Skywalker’s tone was one of exhaustion. He was too tired to feel the intense frustration he had a right to feel. He stared at his lanky sixteen-year-old nephew and padawan, who merely mirrored his tired expression, but a fire smoldered behind the coal of the boy’s dark eyes.

“And don’t think I don’t know you’ve been hacking into classified files,” Luke continued in a low but firm tone.

Ben lifted his chin. “Knowledge shouldn’t be locked away in a vault. It should be available to everyone.”

Luke closed his eyes and slowly shook his head. Not this argument again. “There’s a reason why these files are classified. This knowledge is dangerous to those who aren’t ready to understand it.”

“These files are all marked for deletion!” This last work was punctuated by a finger aimed at the Jedi Master’s face. “Every last one!”

“Ben,” Luke admonished quietly, trying to exert a calming presence over his excitable padawan through the Force, but Ben immediately threw up a defensive wall in his mind. Luke hoped their words wouldn’t carry beyond the confines of the softly lit study. He tried again, but his nephew cut him off.

“You’re purging any datafile or holovid you don’t agree with! Anything classified as Dark side knowledge. Anything written by Gray Jedi! You have no right to destroy what you don’t understand!”

The boy was more than precocious, Luke thought. He was arrogant, argumentative, and self-righteous, but he was still a boy, the Master reminded himself. But so was Darth Vader…at some point. “What I do understand is this,” he said calmly but grimly. “The Dark side won’t be eradicated until it has been discarded as an option for acquiring power.”¹

“So, you’re just going to attempt,” the youth spat back, throwing up his hands in a gesture of futility, “to eradicate all knowledge of it?” Ben began to pace. ”What about the Jedi power of affect mind — the ability to bend the will of the weak-minded?” He stopped in front of his uncle and stared him down, hands on hips. “What would you classify that as?” The padawan didn’t wait for an answer. “Isn’t domination a Dark side power — something the Jedi have no business wielding?”

Luke let out a long breath. “The Jedi use their abilities for good.”

Ben folded his arms. “How convenient. Who gets to say what’s good?”

“Society, Ben.” It was Luke’s turn to pace. He found himself walking around the big greel wood desk, running a finger along the carved edge, putting distance between them. “And that’s why I’ve come to the conclusion I have.” The Jedi Master stopped on the other side, resting his knuckles on  the desktop, waiting for his padawan to meet his gaze.

Ben tossed his hair out of his eyes and gave his master a petulant stare.

Luke came right to the point. “You can’t stay here, Ben.”

Silence slowly grew to a planet-sized bubble…and then popped.

“I can’t have you leaking this information to the other students.”

“It’s too late,” Ben bit off with a sneer.

Luke dropped his gaze, deeply saddened. “It’s never too late, Ben. I hope someday you see that.”

“You can’t dismiss the Dark side and you can’t destroy it. It’s not possible because you can’t separate it from the Light. If you do, the universe will be destroyed!”

“If you believe that, Ben,” Luke returned simply, “then I have failed you.”

Ben stared, dumbfounded. “The two need each other! They’re born out of chaos.” His voice took on an urgent, pleading tone. “All life is created from chaos by the interaction of the Dark and the Light. One cannot overcome the other and they can never be in balance! If that happens, the engine that creates life and keeps the cosmos going comes to stop!” He swallowed hard, desperation in his eyes. It was an ancient belief of the Gray Jedi, who’d been purged long ago from the Jedi Order. Their doctrine was not welcome.

Luke came around the desk to grip his nephew by the shoulders. “Ben, you have many talents and an intelligence beyond your years. Someday the Jedi path may be for you, but not now. You have a strong passion for justice. I suggest you go to university and explore a career in Galactic law.” He managed an encouraging smile. “You’ve got the head for it.”

Ben said nothing.

“And I have you to thank for setting me on a new path.” Luke gave the teenager’s arm a final pat before moving off, his heart lightening now with hope. “I’m taking a sabbatical to look for the first Jedi temple. You’ve convinced me I’ve got to bring the Order back to its original teachings.”

Ben looked at his boots a long moment in a stance of shame…or so the Jedi Master thought, until the young man raised his head, anger blazing so intently in the dark eyes that Luke thought for a split second they were red.

“You’d better hope you find it before I do, Uncle,” Ben Solo told him in a voice low and dangerous, “because when I find it, I will destroy it.”

 

@MyKyloRen     12 July 2017

¹Luke Skywalker in Windham, Ryder. (2007). Star Wars: Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force. New York: Ballantine Books, p. 64.