– written by Han Spinel (part 2 in a 3-part series)
In part 1 of this series, I established that “The Riddle of Strider” serves as a general and poetic synopsis of the hero’s journey. I discussed the narrative links between Aragorn or the mysterious Strider, and the unmistakably mysterious introductions of the anonymous Rey and Finn – and why these mysterious origin stories are key characteristics of delayed, but narratively significant, reveals later on in the story. In part 2 below, I’ll discuss why these reveals are primed to be “Rey Skywalker, daughter of light,” and “Force Sensitive Finn” in The Rise of Skywalker, matching the narratively significant Aragorn, Isildur’s heir, accepting his fate as King of Gondor in Return of the King.
In part 2 of this series, we’ll focus on the 2nd part of the 1st stanza and 1st part of the 2nd stanza of “The Riddle of Strider” (highlighted in navy text below). These lines poetically describe the traumatic origins of Aragorn, which easily apply to both Finn and Rey. And just like Aragorn, something buried deep inside Finn and Rey could not be driven out by the darkness they each must face on their hero’s journey. For Finn and Rey, this means the Force has awoken in both…
All that is gold does not glitter
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes, a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
The 2nd part of the 1st stanza relates back to Aragorn’s old, strong, and deep roots, or lineage – he is Isildur’s heir. But it also highlights that in spite of all his time wandering as the mysterious Strider, these deep roots have not withered. We ultimately find that these deep roots were also not destroyed by the harsh frost of darkness and shadow that is now spreading over Middle Earth. In other words, the narrative here is that one day Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and heir to Isildur, will return to lead his people against the evil forces of Sauron and reunite the kingdoms of old.
These lines also add significant narrative value to heritage, family, and our origins. A takeaway moral is that where we come from does not necessarily define us, but can support us in the darkest of times. Likewise, each generation has the opportunity to redefine the darkness of the past or uphold its lasting legacy, while using the strength of previous generations in order to grow beyond…
“We are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.” – Yoda
The 1st part of the 2nd stanza signals that even among the ashes of destruction, a fire will be woken. And midst the shadows of darkness, a light will spring. Here, the ashes and fire evokes the imagery of Mount Doom once thought dormant being woken along with the return and rise of Sauron. But combatting this darkness and shadow is the return and rise of Aragorn, and the light returning to the kingdom of “men.” “[A] light” suggests a singular source, and in this context refers specifically to Aragorn. This does not discount the efforts and victories of all that contributed to the story but highlights the hero’s journey experience in choosing to do the right thing in the face of great consequences.
Inside and Out of The Force Awakens
This theme of deep roots easily applies to both Rey and Finn. Something inside each of them awakens in The Force Awakens, and in spite of their dark and shadowy pasts. The film clearly indicates that Rey has the Force, and Finn’s awakening strongly suggests Finn is Force-sensitive. The light inside Rey has “always been there, but now it’s awake.” Likewise, Finn’s deep roots could not be reached by the harsh frost of the First Order military conditioning.
In understanding the significance of this in the Sequel Trilogy, it is important to consider that the audience sees and experiences each awakening from complementary perspectives.
We see and experience Rey’s awakening at Maz’s as an insider, likely because we are familiar with her background and origin story – The Skywalkers. We don’t see her respond to the actual environment inside Maz’s castle, we see what she sees. In this way the reveal of Rey Skywalker in The Rise of Skywalker adds narrative context to the part of the Galaxy Far, Far Away we are already intimately familiar with. Her narrative arc can, therefore add resolution to our familiar family saga.
Now with Finn, we see his awakening on Jakku as outsiders, likely because we are unfamiliar with his background and origin story. We do not see what Finn sees, and only see him experience something as he moves around in the actual environment of Jakku.
In other words, seeing Finn’s world and his family wouldn’t immediately be recognizable to us. Thus, Finn’s reveal (origin story or Force-sensitivity, or both) in The Rise of Skywalker would be a world-building experience for the Galaxy Far, Far Away. Finn’s narrative arc can lead to unseen worlds, unseen people, and new adventures.
Powerful Light, Powerful Darkness
Just like the fiery eye of Sauron rises from the ashes of Mount Doom, the First Order rises from the ashes of the Empire. And as Maz Kanata points out to Rey and Finn, its shadow spreads across the entire galaxy:
“The only fight. Against the dark side. Through the ages, I’ve seen evil take many forms. The Sith. The Empire. Today, it is the First Order. Their shadow’s spreading across the galaxy. We must face them. Fight them! All of us.” – Maz Kanata
This simple theme of dark vs. light is unmistakably portrayed in the Sequel Trilogy through dialogue, themes, symbolism, narratives, and marketing.
“Darkness rises, and light to meet it.” – Snoke to Rey
“Powerful light, powerful darkness.” – Luke Skywalker to Rey
“I’ve seen this raw strength only once before in Ben Solo. It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now.” – Luke Skywalker to Rey
It has long been known that “Vader” is the Dutch word for “father,” and “Darth” was originally used by George Lucas as a variation on “Dark.” Ergo, it makes perfect sense that Snoke would refer to Kylo Ren as a “Son of Darkness” since he sees Ren as a direct descendant of Darth Vader (Dark Father). What then is the simplest solution to describing the opposite and equal in power to the Son of Darkness?
Answer: Daughter is equal and opposite to Son, and Light is equal and opposite to Darkness – ergo, Daughter of Light. Interesting then that Rey is referred to as “Descendant of Light” in current marketing….
Again, Kylo Ren is cloaked in the shadows of his family’s dark past, which contrasts with Rey’s light. However, the word “Descendant” is clearly defined as “a person descended from a particular ancestor.” So, who is Rey a descendant or daughter of; i.e., where are her deep roots extending to?
In contrast to Dark Father, the Greek meaning of the name Luke is: “Light giving.” This phrase is particularly interesting when contrasting to the “Dark Father” connotation used to emphasize “Son of Darkness,” and also considering the name Rey’s phonetic similarity to “ray,” as in “ray of light.” Ray (Rey) of Light (Luke), Descendant (Rey) of Light (Luke), Daughter (Rey) of Light (Luke).
Here, the theme of Rey the Descendant of Light (Luke) contrasts with Ben the Son of Darkness cloaked in shadows, and Rey’s hero’s journey is set to spring light into the shadows of darkness Ben has brought to the family saga.
And Finn? As Luke Skywalker narrates over Finn in The Last Jedi,
“The war is just beginning….” – Luke Skywalker
Finn’s arc deviates from Rey’s following The Force Awakens. He finds himself returning to the very shadows that were responsible for taking him from a family he may never know. And springing up from within these very same shadows is the one shining light among all other troopers, Finn. He faces and takes down the First Order’s mighty and veteran Commander, Captain Phasma. Some may argue that this was not a formidable challenge due to Phasma serving as a less-than integral character in the Sequel Trilogy thus far. This stance, however, does not consider the narrative implications of who Capt. Phasma is and what she represents in the story.
Phasma is the iron fist of the First Order. She does not wish to lead from afar but prefers to charge head-on into battle. Thus, Finn defeating Capt. Phasma face-to-face narratively conquers the First Order’s military might. Finn may not be able to take on the entire military himself in hand-to-hand combat, but defeating the literal and symbolic leader of the military is narratively as good.
The Last Jedi deleted scene seems to hint at Finn doing much more than defeating the FO’s iron fist – Finn may inspire other First Order Troopers to experience their own awakening. Indeed, this would certainly parallel a light springing up from the shadows.
Where Rey and Kylo Ren explore the familiar conflict between the light and dark of the Skywalkers, Finn leads the light against a conflict against the shadows of the First Order. In this way, from the shadows that imprisoned Finn in his cell of FN-2187, and like Leia’s cell in A New Hope, 2187, can the light of long lost family spring up for Finn in The Rise of Skywalker?
Finn’s Deep Roots Extending into the Unknown Regions?
Remember, due to the directorial cue of witnessing Finn’s awakening from the outside, his family is likely unfamiliar to the Skywalker Saga. But in the context of the central theme of Star Wars – family – a major plot element of the Skywalker Saga and now the Sequel Trilogy is how the Skywalker family are all connected through the Force. We see also that familial connections are not the sole province of the Skywalkers in Canon. Dooku and his sister sense a shared connection before they know they’re related in Dooku: Jedi Lost. Dooku’s relationship with his sister drives that story.
Seeing as though Finn canonically had “an awakening” in the film entitled The Force Awakens, it stands to reason that if he has any family left or alive, they may also sense one another through the Force.
Thematically, the reveal that Jannah is Finn’s long lost sister through a familial Force bond reinforces the central theme of the entire Skywalker Saga. Where Kylo seeks to literally and narratively sever the bonds with his family, Finn’s connection to his sister would be just another in a long list of narrative foils Finn presents to Kylo Ren. This of course also supports the symbolic trooper number Finn is assigned, FN-2187, a call back to Leia’s cell number from A New Hope.
In case you missed it, J.J. Abrams has fully admitted that he intentionally concealed Finn’s last name, which strongly suggests that his family and origins are relevant to the Sequel Trilogy story, albeit in unfamiliar or new ways. Vanity Fair also recently revealed that we’d be learning more about the origins of the First Order in The Rise of Skywalker. Seeing as though the First Order is directly responsible for Finn’s kidnapping, and J.J. Abrams has intentionally concealed Finn’s identity, it is plausible that the two are intimately related.
Interestingly, the desire to kidnap Force-sensitive children, and potentially form an army of them, is repeatedly shown in Canon, including The Clone Wars, Rebels, Ahsoka, and Vader 2017. We know also that the First Order formed in the Unknown Regions. We are also introduced to Force sensitive children from Tahar, located in the Unknown Regions, in the show Resistance.
Thus, it is entirely possible that the Unknown Regions contain several civilizations or systems that have been closed off from the advances of the Galaxy Far, Far Away. This is also the suspected location of the planet Lew’el, which is home to a group of passive Force users, who refer to the Force as “The Tide”, and we also know that Ahch-To is located in the Unknown Regions, home of the first Jedi temple.
Do Finn’s deep roots extend into the Unknown Regions and into a Force-sensitive civilization of old?
It is clear that the intentionally concealed origin stories and deep roots of both Finn and Rey are integral to not only the Sequel Trilogy, but also the Skywalker Saga. Each has their own awakening, and they both represent the light springing from shadow. I argue that the Sequel Trilogy is positioned to close the Skywalker Saga with satisfaction through one protagonist (Rey), while opening the doors to a new series of adventures through the other protagonist (Finn). But I also argue this can only occur with Finn and Rey together. For each arc is significant on its own, but together they represent something stronger than the Force itself. This is why it’s important that Rey and Finn are co-protagonists and each on their respective hero’s journey. Together, Finn and Rey represent an ultimate narrative peace and balance by providing a resolute conclusion to the family saga, and also a new hope for the future, just as the Riddle of Strider suggests for Aragorn’s return.
So what might this togetherness represent or look like in The Rise of Skywalker? Follow along for the final part in this series where we’ll explore the narrative parallels between the last lines in “The Riddle of Strider” and the Sequel Trilogy….
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.