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.