With the release of The Last Jedi fast approaching, I thought I’d recap what we know about Kylo Ren so far — from The Force Awakens and leaks from The Last Jedi, interviews with cast and crew, fan theories, and fan art. As theories are confirmed or dropped, I’ll be revising my own thinking, along with this series of posts, which reveal some of the inspiration and theories behind the fan fiction on this site. Kylo has a lot of enemies he’s facing and he’ll need to defeat every one if he’s to survive, so let’s get started.
The mysterious First Order warrior is introduced in The Force Awakens as a commander of a strike force, striding down the ramp of his bat-like command shuttle. He’s intent on seizing the map that will show the whereabouts of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. We don’t know what the dark warrior’s motives are, but we assume it’s to kill Skywalker. We assume he’s hunting down any surviving Jedi, and Luke poses a special threat to the First Order. In the preliminary concept art, Kylo Ren was originally dubbed the Jedi Killer and looked more machine than human — a black plastoid grim reaper. But as time when on and the character was given a name, he was more refined and clearly human. From what’s been leaked about The Last Jedi, I believe Kylo’s hunting Luke not to kill him but to stop him — from doing what, I have a couple of theories — but I think Ren’s main objective is to acquire ancient artifacts and through them power, not to control the galaxy but the universe. Could it be that Luke’s intent on destroying these artifacts? More about that later.
Kylo Ren’s heavy black garments cover him from head to toe, concealing every inch of him, concealing his identity, along with the helmet that distorts his voice. For a closer look at Ren’s garments, click here for that story. He’s a faceless menace whose humanity has been smothered. He’s a monster, and his monk-like robes suggest he belongs to an order outside of the military. That order, we learn, is the Knights of Ren. For my take on who the Knights are, click here. Many people are tempted to call him a Sith due to his powerful Force abilities and allegiance to the dark side, but according to Pablo Hidalgo in The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary, “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 Siths’ demise.” (p. 24)
But, despite his dark disguise, Lor San Tekka knows who Kylo Ren is, even though the enforcer’s true name is forbidden to be spoken within the First Order. We only see Ren without his helmet in the presence of Supreme Leader Snoke and General Hux — and later when all hell breaks loose on Starkiller Base. So, it’s likely that no other officers and no troopers know Ren’s true identity, but Lor San Tekka in the Jakku village of Tuanal knows. He’s a member of the Church of the Force who’s traveled far. He knows the man beneath the black shroud. And Ren remembers his captive from long ago, perhaps more than he’s consciously aware. There’s a dark and unfortunate history between them. For that story, click here. “Look at how old you’ve become,” he tells San Tekka in disgust. The old man counters with hope. He remembers under the disguise the youth he knew and perhaps loved and tries reach out to him. “I know where you come from,” he tells the enforcer. “The First Order arose from the dark side. You did not.”
In The Force Awakens novelization by Alan Dean Foster, the encounter is described as this: “ Ren spoke first, without hesitation, as if he had anticipated this meeting for some time. ‘The great soldier of fortune — captured at last.” (p. 20). When San Tekka continues to evade Ren’s search for the map, Ren says in the novel, “Don’t turn a simple transaction into a tragedy for these people….Hasn’t your presence here done enough for them already?” San Tekka replies, “I made my peace with these folk and this place long ago.” (p. 20-21).
So, San Tekka is not an innocent. He was a mercenary once, selling his services as a warrior. The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary paints the old man as a desert sage, retired from a life of exploration and adventure. He’s a font of obscure information and wears a Chain of Wisdom around his neck. “As the Empire toppled, retreating Imperial officials destroyed records that would have been vital to the New Republic’s attempts at galactic reconstruction. New Republic bureaucrats turned instead to firsthand accounts from well-travelled locals to fill in the gaps.” (p. 14) Hence, this was the most recent role San Tekka played…until Kylo Ren executed him in cold blood.
As a follower of the Church of the Force, the old man was a worshiper of Jedi ideals and believed one day the Jedi would return. “In his travels, Lor San Tekka uncovered much of the history of the Jedi Knights that the Galactic Empire had tried so hard to erase. Others now seek him out for his knowledge of Jedi secrets.” And this, I believe, is why Kylo Ren has sought him out — not only for the map to Skywalker (who is another font of esoteric knowledge) — but to harvest the ancient wisdom locked up in San Tekka’s mind. Ren also hopes to recover any Jedi artifacts the old man may have stumbled upon.
What are these artifacts? We don’t know yet, but we know some of them will feature in The Last Jedi. Director Rian Johnson is all about focusing on the past, digging up relics and showcasing an aspect of the Force we’ve never seen before. One of these relics is Luke’s red kyber crystal shard which he keeps locked in a box and later wears around his neck. It’s said to have belonged to an ancient Jedi. Luke is rumored to keep other relics in his backpack, including an ancient compass, along with a lightning rod — a weapon used by the Jedi of old, possibly like a cattle prod. There are also books of precious Jedi lore kept on the island of Ahch-To, home of the original Jedi Temple and Luke Skywalker’s refuge for many years.
I also suspect Kylo Ren’s been on the hunt for Darth Vader’s effects, specifically his lightsaber. He may believe that the shard of crystal Luke now has belonged to Vader. We know Ren acquired Vader’s melted helmet and enshrined it, feeling its residual dark side power imbued with it. It would make sense for Ben Solo to attach himself to the movement known as the Acolytes of the Beyond, a group of non-Force-sensitives who operated as dark side fanatics worshiping fallen Sith, featured in the Aftermath novels by Chuck Wendig. They purchased Sith artifacts and destroyed them. In doing so, they believed they were returning the objects of power to the dark lords in death. By Kylo Ren’s time, the Acolytes were keeping the artifacts they recovered and using them in uprisings against the New Republic. Ren may have made use of Acolyte cells scattered throughout the galaxy to recover some of Vader’s personal things. Foremost on his list would be Vader’s lightsaber. We assume it was destroyed when the second Death Star exploded, but who knows? Click here for a story involving featuring the Acolytes.
Next time, we’ll continue looking at Kylo’s past and more specifically, his family ties.
@MyKyloRen 29 September 2017
Foster, A. D. (2015). The Force Awakens. New York: Del Rey.
Hidalgo, P. (2015). Star Wars: The Force Awakens: the visual dictionary. New York : DK/Penguin Random House.
Szostak, P. (2015). The art of Star Wars, The Force Awakens. New York: Harry N. Abrams.