Written by robotical712, HypersonicHarpist, Josey, Pale, ravenclawmind and Needs_More_Sprinkles
One of the most intriguing concepts introduced in ‘Legends of Luke Skywalker’ is that of the Tide. On its face, it seems like yet another philosophy of the Force, yet a survey of the canon reveals it’s actually far more important than that and appears to be an emerging core concept. Indeed, the philosophy seems to have not only made a significant impact on Luke himself, but also on the broader Star Wars canon.
The Force is in a unique and interesting position in regards to where it stands as a religious power and a spiritual power. It’s a power that has been institutionalized, sanitized, and canonized over the course of 25,000 years in the GFFA. Logically, a family tree would exist of the differing Force religions and how they came to be. We may never see the canon outline the historical aspects of the Force to a fuller extent, but we can easily work with what we are given.
A consistent and obvious trait among all Force interpretations is the idea of yin and yang. A light room, and a dark room. Breathing in, and breathing out. Happiness, and sadness. This is easily supported by the ‘Prayers and Meditations’ section of the novel Guardians of the Whills.
“The moment between breaths
Is the balance of the Force.
Between life and death.
Rest and action.
Serenity and passion.
Hope and despair.
—Nartun Trecim, Ascendant of Mau
This quote showcases an adaptation of the concept of yin and yang to fit the Force. Most importantly though, it sees this yin and yang concept as the balance of the Force. Now, it’s entirely possible this interpretation by the “Ascendant of Mau” is entirely wrong; We can only take their word for it, after all. However, another quote explores the idea of opposites to a much more minimal extent.
That which surrounds us, binds us.
In our connection to one, all is connected.
This is the truth of the Force, no more, no less:
Life binds the living.
That which rises must fall, and that which falls
From the first breath of the infant
To the last breath of the aged,
We are one, together.
—Kiru Hali, Sage of Uhnuhakka
The analogy of ‘water’ has been extensively used in the canon to describe the Force. The Acolytes of the Beyond saw themselves as ‘river breakers’; they felt they could change the current of the Force, and not surrender to its fate. There are also the Mist-Weavers, who were ancient force users that felt they could ‘spin’ the force like thread. And of course, the Tide from Legends of Luke Skywalker. Using the ocean as a metaphor for the galaxy and the Force can provide interesting insight into contextualizing the Force for the story. Of course, all things are connected, and experience currents and waves and disturbances.
The Jedi’s view of the Force is, we now know, only one of many interpretations of that great galactic power that surrounds and binds the galaxy together. Arguably, one of the most significant, intriguing, and Saga-relevant views of the Force is that of the tribal peoples of the planet Lew’el, a planet ‘largely forgotten’ by the rest of the galaxy and described, physically, as a water world dotted with islands, just like Ahch-To. The human Lew’elans, who settled the planet as refugees of an ancient galactic conflict long before the era of the Jedi and the Republic, and describe themselves as the descendants of ancient Force-users, and most appear to be Force-sensitive to some degree. They’ve developed their own philosophy and it’s helped them survive over thousands of years.
For every ebb there’s a flow; for every flow there’s an ebb. The full moon must wane just as the new moon must wax. Happiness turns to sorrow; sorrow is reborn as hope. There is nothing constant but change in the Tide, and I am Change.
Liu, Ken. Journey to Star Wars The Last Jedi: The Legends of Luke Skywalker (pp. 141-142). Disney Book Group.
The Lew’elans’ name for the Force is “the Tide,” and their perception of the Tide is The Tide is not seen as a moral binary, or a power to be drawn upon or allied with, as the Jedi have viewed the Force. Rather, the Lew’elans view the Tide as “the ether that connects everything to everything else, an energy that all living things are apart of, that is the cycle of life and of existence, and that must be allowed to guide a person’s actions.” The Lew’elans are non-interventionists (and, in all likelihood, non-violent, though this is not actually specified), believing that exerting one’s will upon the Tide – and, it is implied, upon others – is repugnant. Instead, Lew’elans believe in trusting the Tide (“Trust the Tide” being their version of “May the Force be with you”). It is a philosophy that clearly draws heavily upon the tenets of Taoism and upon the concept of yin-yang.
In fact, the story frames the principles of the Tide as being not only (as previously mentioned) the “other side” of the Jedi’s perception of the Force, but a complement to it. The Jedi philosophy, as characterized in the story, represents moral impetus, direction and a distinction between the individual and the external. The Tide, in contrast, emphasizes the natural harmony, the eternal cycle, the internal, and inter-connectedness of all things.
Relevance to Canon and the Saga
The idea that the Force is cyclical is not a new one in the canon and a number of stories have introduced variants of the philosophy, as the above section shows. The idea one should follow the will of the Force and not fight it is also found in Jedi philosophy. As Yoda tells Anakin, “Death is a natural part of life”. What sets the Tide apart from the Jedi philosophy is its embrasure of all aspects of the self, including emotion. As Aya practices after the death of her Wind-Truster:
She cried until she had no more tears. That was how she knew the Tide wanted her to move on. Even grief had to ebb. She got up and walked back to the village.
Emotions are not something to be suppressed or ignored. It is only through feeling and expressing them through to their end that a person can truly maintain control. Attachments are natural, as are the emotions over their loss. This is the antithesis of orthodox Jedi teachings which teaches influence from emotion, particularly negative ones, is something to be avoided.
What makes the Tide truly unique is its non-interventionism when it comes to the Force. The philosophy is held and practiced by people who are fully capable of affecting the Force, but refrain from it. They see any attempt to influence its course as abhorrent and as meddling in the natural order. This is quite the shock to the Jedi trained Luke who attempts to argue with the village elder over the ethics of directly influencing the Force.
One key sign that the concept of the Tide is relevant to the Saga is the presence of the Dark Side cave beneath Ahch-To. The cave, as shown in the TLJ Visual Dictionary, is a “sea cave” and was “created by the tide.” The cave “calls” to Rey as she meditates on the rock during Luke’s first lesson and, as Luke remarks, “offers something [Rey] needs.” The “call” ends with a gush of water from the mouth of the cave, indicating that the cave is at high tide. However, when Rey visits the cave that evening, the cave appears to be at low tide. Inside, Rey is confronted by a mirror, and endless reflections of herself. As she snaps her fingers, the reflections snap as well, but in a “ripple,” or “wave,” like spectators at a sporting event. The tide and its rhythms are being closely associated with reflections; cleverly, note that the name “Lew’el” Is a palindrome – a mirror of itself, spelling the same thing written backwards or forwards.With this in mind, we can expect the Force (as interpreted by the Jedi) to be expanded on past its roots, and that there may be more to the Force than the Jedi’s dark/light moralistic dichotomy.
The Last Jedi itself is structured around the concept with the mirror cave occurring in the exact halfway point of the movie. As Rey’s relationship with Luke progresses, she is increasingly alienated from him. At the same time, she is increasingly drawn towards Kylo. Her and Luke’s low point is reached just before and after the cave when Rey physically attacks Luke. After she leaves Ahch-To, they both have experiences that subtly draw them back towards each other until Luke finally connects with her before his death.
Luke and the Tide
The philosophy’s real importance is its apparent influence on Luke. One of Luke’s core weaknesses is his difficulty in ‘letting go’ and trusting the Force. In Luke’s early explorations of the Force, such as in Heir to the Jedi and Weapon of the Jedi, he had substantial difficulty actually using the Force, in large part because he kept trying to impose his will on it instead of acting as a conduit. His difficulty trusting it was further shown in his training with Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back. He entered the cave with his weapons despite Yoda telling him he wouldn’t need them because of his lack of trust. His failure to lift the X-Wing was because he did not think the Force was capable of lifting something that heavy. Finally, his nearly disastrous confrontation with Vader came about because of his belief Han and Leia would die without his intervention.
Luke still struggles with it after Return of the Jedi. As Aya observes:
“I’ve never seen anyone so sensitive to the Tide,” said Aya. “I don’t think even Grandmother is your match. But you stand apart from the Tide. You don’t let yourself be immersed in it.”
“The Force is my ally.”
Aya shook her head, frustrated. “That’s not what I mean. You can’t let go. You want to be in control. But you must trust the Tide; you must let it uplift you and push you where it already knows you must go.”
It is only when Luke finally stops trying to manipulate the Force and just let it guide him that he succeeds in catching a fish. However, his experience on Lew’el seems to have had a significant effect on him. Although he struggles with doing so, he does come to terms with the impending sacrifice of the three Mist Weavers in the later story “Bigger Inside”, in part by drawing on the lessons from Lew’el:
“There are patterns in the Force, like the rise and fall of the tide,” [Luke] said. Maybe he was talking to himself; maybe he was talking to me. “Deeds from the past echo in the present.”
Interestingly, this lesson appears to have been lost at some point following the story, as we see Luke has closed himself off to the Force by The Last Jedi and cut himself off from those he loves. It is only by finally opening himself up to the Force, trusting it and letting go that he finally finds ‘peace and purpose’.
The Tide philosophy is a fascinating concept in its own right, but its significance extends well beyond a book of stories. TLJ subtly references the concept throughout and is even appears structured around it. Luke’s lessons to Rey appear to be based on those he learned on Lew’el and seems to have been heavily influenced by his time there far beyond what the story’s presence in a Junior novel would suggest. As we shall explore, Fishing the Deluge is but a taste of the true significance of Lew’el and Luke’s time there.