– written by Han Spinel (the 3rd and final article in this 3-part series; and speaking for myself only regarding the speculation herein)
In parts 1 and 2 of this series, I’ve established that “The Riddle of Strider” serves as a poetic synopsis of the hero’s journey for Aragorn, Rey, and Finn. We’ve covered the narrative links between the introductions of the mysterious and anonymous Strider, and the unmistakably mysterious introductions of the intentionally anonymous Rey and Finn. Their deep roots have not been reached by the harsh frost of darkness and each character experiences their own “awakening” and call to the hero’s journey. Akin to Aragorn’s dark, but ultimately noble lineage, and his rise to face the evil forces of Sauron we See Rey is called by an ancestral weapon to a Skywalker lineage that appears to be destined to darkness. Here, I’ll argue that Rey and Finn represent an ultimate narrative peace and “balance” by providing a resolute conclusion to the family saga (Rey), and also a new hope for the future (Finn), just as the Riddle of Strider suggests for Aragorn’s return.
So what might this togetherness equate to or look like in The Rise of Skywalker? Read more to find out what I hope is being set up for the conclusion of the Skywalker Saga and why A New Hope exists for the future….
In this final segment, we’ll explore what potential narrative parallels exist between the last lines of the 2nd stanza of “The Riddle of Strider” (highlighted in navy text below) and the story arcs for Finn and Rey in The Rise of Skywalker. These lines poetically narrate the reforging of the shattered Narsil, and the Return of the King. The broken blade symbolically represents the shattered lineage, or bloodline, of Aragorn. And we see that the Return of the King reforges much more than a single bloodline – it ushers in a new era reforged from the kingdoms of old, and reunites alliances once thought lost forever….
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.
In retrospect, we see that the crownless was indeed Aragorn, and he returns to accept his rightful claim to the Kingdom of Gondor as Isildur’s heir. Literally, this entails accepting the renewed and reforged blade that was broken, but thematically and symbolically….
“It’s so much bigger.” – Luke Skywalker
Let’s review quickly: Aragorn is Isildur’s heir, first born son of Elendil, where Elendil himself is renown as the greatest warrior of all the Dúnedain, and the first High King to Gondor and also Arnor. Perhaps most importantly, Elendil was a part of forging the most powerful alliance known to Middle-earth, The Last Alliance of Elves and “Men,” which was comprised of all the free peoples of their world under a unifying banner. Though the alliance specifically refers to the join between Elves and “Men,” note also that all living races, birds and beasts, took part in the War of the Last Alliance.
During said war, Elendil was ultimately slain by the dark lord himself, Sauron, and in the process, Elindil’s blade (The Narsil) was broken in two. It was then that Elendil’s first born son, Isildur, defended his slain father by taking up the handle-shard of Narsil, using it to cut the One Ring from Sauron’s hand – effectively vanquishing Sauron’s spirit and winning the War of the Last Alliance.
Unfortunately, Isildur chooses not to destroy the One Ring – allowing for Sauron’s spirit to fester and grow in power for many generations. Isildur’s folly and greed gave rise to the perceived weakness and distrust of “men,” thereby shattering the once great Alliance between Elves and “Men.” And just as Elendil’s blade lie broken throughout most of the third age of Middle-earth, so too did Elendil’s legacy along with the great bonds once forged between all of the free peoples of the world.
Elrond : It should have ended that day, but evil was allowed to endure. Isildur kept the ring. The line of Kings is broken. There’s no strength left in the world of Men. They’re scattered, divided, leaderless.
Gandalf : There is one who could unite them. One who could reclaim the throne of Gondor.
In this way, the blade that was broken symbolically represents the broken bloodline and dignity of Elendil’s legacy. The theme is one of not letting the past generations define the future (sins of the father), and that future generations can redefine dark pasts. It also serves as a reminder of the broken alliance between Elves and Men and all of the free peoples that once stood in defiance against the ultimate evil of Middle-earth. Hence, the play on words used in the subtitle of this series:
Renewed Shall be Blood that was Broken.
Certainly, Aragorn does not renew all that was broken by himself, but repairing and reclaiming the light of his lineage narratively falls solely on his shoulders, and his choices. He is Isildur’s heir, and the darkness of his past is a burden only he can narratively choose to overcome.
Arwen & Aragorn: Renewing All that was Once Broken
In fact, we see that Arwen’s role in Aragorn’s hero’s journey extends far beyond their romantic relationship (which is one for the ages btw). Throughout the story, it is Arwen who encourages Aragorn not to fear his past; she instills everlasting hope to his noble heart….
Arwen: Why do you fear the past? You are Isildur’s heir, not Isildur himself. You are not bound to his fate.
Aragorn: The same blood flows in my veins. The same weakness.
Arwen: Your time will come. You will face the same evil, and you will defeat it. [In Elvish] The Shadow does not hold sway yet. Not over you… not over me.
J.R.R. Tolkien seems to be clear in that the only true moments of serenity Aragorn finds throughout life, and along his perilous journey with the Fellowship of the Ring, are with Arwen and when she visits him in his dreams. Aragorn and Arwen’s love for one another stops at nothing, and no amount of distance or time can break the vows and promises each makes to one another – “true love,” certainly, but symbolic of something even greater still.
For instance, if not for Arwen, the blade may not have ever been reforged and reclaimed by Isildur’s heir. When Aragorn could not yet accept his call to right his family’s legacy, and when the trust in “men” had all but faded in Middle-earth, it is Arwen that stands up for Aragorn’s lineage when no one else would. She convinces her father, Elrond, to renew the blade that was broken.
Perhaps most importantly however, it was on a midsummer’s eve that Aragorn and Arwen exchange gifts as symbolic gestures for their commitment to one another. Aragorn gives to Arwen the heirloom of his House, the Ring of Barahir. Originally the Ring of Felagund, it was an Elven artifact of Finrod Felagund, an Elven king of the Noldor, and brother to Galadriel. Finrod gave the ring to the man Barahir after he saved Finrod during an ancient war – in gratitude, Finrod swore an Oath promising to forever help Barahir and his kin. Reinforcing this Oath, Finrod gave Barahir his ring, which then became a symbol of the eternal friendship between men and elves.
Thus, Aragorn giving the Ring of Barahir back to Arwen Undómiel or “Evenstar,” fairest of the Children of Ilúvatar, is symbolic for the renewal of the once great alliance between Elves and Men. But it is Arwen that solidifies the symbolic union in ten fold – performing an ultimate Act of True Love for Aragorn by forsaking her immortal life, and pledging her hand to him forevermore – and thus, the union between Arwen and Aragorn symbolically represents a renewed alliance between elves and men.
And so, through Arwen’s determination and sacrifice, the Elves of Rivendell reforge the broken Narsil into its new and strengthened form of Andúril, the Flame of the West. By Aragorn accepting the renewed blade as his own, he symbolically and thematically defends the sacrifices of Arwen, lifts up the renewed alliance between Elves and men, and reclaims the light of Elindil’s legacy. After Sauron’s defeat, Elrond returns the Sceptre of Annúminas to the newly crowned king, symbolic of unifying the broken kingdoms of Gondor and Arnor.
In this way, by mending all that was once broken, the War of the Rings was won. Only together did Arwen and Aragorn bring a satisfying conclusion to Aragorn’s family legacy whilst giving a new hope of leadership for the future of all the free peoples of the world and the fourth age of Middle-earth.
And so, too, it may be for Finn and Rey….
Reclaiming the Light of the Skywalker Legacy
Perhaps the most obvious parallel to Aragorn’s hero’s journey is the theme of a dark Skywalker legacy and the symbolic renewal or reforging of a broken ancestral weapon – specifically emphasized in the Sequel Trilogy. But first, let’s step back for a moment and examine the similarities between the shadow of Isildur’s choices and that of Anakin’s:
Shmi, Anakin and Padmé, Han and Leia, and if Rey is the Descendant of Light and Luke Skywalker’s daughter, Luke and “SkyMom” have all experienced great and terrible loss of love and family. Just as Isildur’s choice at Mount Doom haunts Elendil’s legacy and casts shadow over Aragorn, Anakin’s sins have cast a shadow over the entire Skywalker family, and one in which appears to have completely engulfed Ben Solo in darkness (see also: Claudia Gray’s Bloodline).
Our introduction to the Skywalker family in the Sequel Trilogy is similar to our introduction to Aragorn and the broken kingdom of men. Here, The Force Awakens emphasizes that the Skywalker family is all but lost, broken into several pieces – Luke Skywalker has vanished, Han and Leia have split, and the two “Houses” of the Skywalker lineage remain disconnected (Luke and Leia). The catalyst to it all appears to have been the fall of Ben Solo and rise of Kylo Ren; falling down the same dark path Anakin once had. Indeed, just like the the lineage of Elendil, no one appears to be poised to take hold of the light left in Anakin’s lineage seeing as the last in line, Kylo Ren, seeks to destroy “all of it.” So will The Rise of Skywalker be left in the hands of the one person who aims to “….destroy her [Rey]. And you [Luke]. And all of it [literally, anyone or anything that stands in his way; narratively the legacy of the Skywalkers].”?
“No. There is another.” – Yoda
Just as the mysterious and anonymous Strider is called to the blade that was broken and his family legacy, so too is the mysterious and anonymous Rey called to the ancestral weapon of the Skywalker legacy (see also: orphaned and anonymous Arthur and the sword in the stone). And just how Aragorn’s destiny is tied to redefining his lineage, redefining her family’s dark past rests solely on Rey’s shoulders, and her choices. And so we begin to see the healing take place throughout the journey of Finn and Rey: first Han and Leia reconnect, and rekindle their bond and love. Then Rey leads Luke to reconnect with the Force, and then his sister, Leia, joining the two lines of Skywalker. This also leads Luke to reestablishing Leia’s hope for her son.
Rey, like Aragorn, is initially reluctant to accept the family legacy that calls out to her; she rejects the Skywalker saber and her call to the hero’s journey at Maz’s castle. And just when it seems that all hope is lost in the Skywalker family, we see Finn narratively pick up and defend the Skywalker legacy at Maz’s castle when no one else would, standing up for the light of the Skywalker legacy just as Arwen stands up for Aragorn’s lineage when he could not.
But Finn doesn’t stop there; he literally and symbolically carries the Skywalker legacy all the way back to Starkiller Base in order to rescue Rey.
This fulfills Rey’s deepest desire in life for “anyone” to return for her. Finn may not have the gift of immortality as Arwen had to sacrifice for Aragorn, but the First Order was the one place Finn swore never to return to. Thus, Finn makes his own personal and ultimate sacrifice for Rey, performing an ultimate Act of True Love by embarking on a journey into the heart of the beast to save Rey.
We see also that the defenders of Aragorn and Rey share thematic beats as well, such as when they both appear to be outmatched, but stand up to evil face to face and fearlessly challenge it.
Through Finn’s sacrifice, just as Arwen’s, Rey’s Family Legacy and the Ancestral Skywalker blade is returned to her. Rey finally accepts the Skywalker Legacy’s call after witnessing first hand Finn defend it and her with his own life – another ultimate Act of True Love. Rey realizes that it is now or never, and narratively accepts the calling of the Skywalker Legacy through the sword in the stone motif (or, lost orphan royalty trope). Rey responds to Finn’s bravery in kind – defending Finn’s life with her own, just as Finn had done for her only moments before.
In so doing, I argue that Finn and Rey have created a bond that transcends the power of the Force itself, for it is rooted in the purity of love, devotion, kindness, friendship, sacrifice, heart, and spirit. Certainly, the same cannot be said about Rey or Finn’s relationship with literally any other character.
And just as no amount of time or distance was capable of breaking the bond between Arwen and Aragorn, so too is it with Finn and Rey as seen in The Last Jedi. Though separated by great time and distance throughout the film, Finn and Rey continue to care and wonder about the other – desiring the entire time to reunite. And just as Aragorn finds pure serenity with Arwen, the same appears to be true for Rey at the sight of finally being reunited with Finn:
Finally, we see also the broken blade parallel in The Last Jedi during the battle between Rey and Kylo Ren, which literally shatters the Skywalker saber into two, just as the Narsil was. Again, the broken ancestral weapons represent a family lineage in need of mending, caused by the “sins of the father (Isildur and Anakin).”
Thus, reforging the Skywalker saber in The Rise of Skywalker symbolically represents the final healing of the Skywalker family. Rey holds in her right hand, the weapon wielded by Luke Skywalker, and his father’s before him. The last time Anakin wielded the blade it was used and lost in darkness. The last time Luke wielded the blade, it was used in light, but lost in darkness….
And now Rey, the intentionally anonymous co-protagonist, carries a renewed ancestral blade that was broken and uses the blade in light, but will it be lost to darkness a third time? Not likely. Note also, that Kylo Ren’s side of the family is also with Rey, symbolically sitting at her side in support – the blaster that Han Solo gifted to her. In this one shot, we see that Rey has symbolically reclaimed the light of her lineage, and reunited the broken lines of the Skywalker House just as Aragorn restores the broken kingdoms of his kin.
But beyond Elendil’s legacy, Arwen and Aragorn represented the renewal of something far greater in restoring alliances once thought lost. If Finn and Rey sum to the equivalent synopsis of “The Riddle of Strider,” is there any evidence to suggest the same can apply for Finn and Rey in The Rise of Skywalker? As it turns out, it would appear so….
Restoring Alliances Lost a Long Time Ago in a Galaxy Far, Far Away
A personal note – the most challenging aspect in this series was finding a narrative parallel to Arwen and Aragorn symbolically restoring the last alliance of Elves and men. I’ll admit, by the time I started writing this series I hadn’t found one, and didn’t necessarily think I would. But as sometimes can happen in life, art, and writing – one found me. Below, I’ll add some alternative perspective to the following prophecies, for it was once said by someone I trust dearly: “A Prophecy that misread could have been:”
A Chosen One shall come, born of no father, and through him will ultimate balance in the Force be restored.
When the Force itself sickens, past and future must split and combine.
-Master and Apprentice
The Chosen One obviously refers to Anakin, born of no father. However, “through him” may mean that through Anakin comes Luke, and through Luke and Anakin now Rey is called to the prophecy. Including the second prophecy, and adding value to the Chosen One prophecy – I’ll explain my thoughts below as to why I believe Finn and Rey represent the most important relationship the galaxy may ever know, akin to Arwen and Aragorn of Middle-earth.
Just as the fires of Mount Doom and Sauron’s forces begin to take over all of Middle-earth, the First Order rises from the ashes of the Empire and “their shadow’s spreading across the galaxy.” We can also easily draw parallels between the broken kingdoms of “men” becoming overwhelmed by the rise and return of Sauron’s armies, just as the Resistance appears to stand alone without galactic support and pales in comparison to the might of the First Order and rise of Kylo Ren – or perhaps worse still, the return of Palpatine.
At the very least, it would seem that a unifying presence among the star systems is needed to defeat the First Order. But even if one is brought together, this in itself would not narratively exceed the Rebellion of the Original Trilogy, and may leave an unsatisfying feeling of concluding the Saga simply where it began. So, if The Rise of Skywalker truly is “the war that just ends everything,” akin to the finality of the War of the Ring, is there any way for the final act of the Skywalker Saga to see some grander restoration of ancient alliances akin to that of Elves and men?
In searching the Galaxy Far, Far Away for a narrative comparison or parallel to the Last Alliance, note that the Galaxy itself appears to be literally divided, and we are without a narrative reason as to why…. for now. The so-called Unknown Regions (UR) span and divide a substantial fraction of the Galaxy entire from the Galaxy we are currently familiar with – the Galaxy Far, Far Away (GFFA).
Though we do not know a lot about the UR, we do know many little details, such as hints to what’s inside, who’s inside, and what’s come from within. We do know that the UR are treacherous to navigate due to electromagnetic and stellar phenomena. And we know that those who live there must seek alternative means of navigation, like how the Chiss utilize Force Sensitive children to navigate the UR in the Thrawn Trilogy. In fact, it is well known that the few who decide to venture into the UR, typically do not return to tell about it.
Following, it stands to reason then that any peoples or civilizations that live within the UR may not have the means to venture out or navigate into the GFFA. In other words, they would be literally, and narratively, trapped or cut-off from interacting with any civilizations residing in the GFFA proper, just as GFFA peoples are largely cut-off from the UR. In fact, the planets Jedha and Batuu sit at the border between the GFFA and UR, and are described as relict hubs once along busy trade routes. It would seem suspicious that the trade routes are now abandoned, unless these ports serviced travel into what is now known as the UR. And stick a pin in Batuu for a moment 😉
There are now several instances in canon detailing that many Force related sites are located within and around the Unknown Regions. For example, we meet Force sensitive children from Tehar, a planet located within the Unknown Regions, in the show Resistance. The children from Tehar had to flee their planet from Kylo Ren and the First Order as they annihilated the children’s home and village. There’s Ilum, located within the Unknown Regions, and long home to an ancient kyber “Crystal Cave” where the Jedi ritual of The Gathering was performed. And also within the Unknown Regions is the very first Jedi Temple, located, of course, on the planet Ahch-To visited in The Last Jedi. And Jedha houses the earliest known references to the Force, which are from 25,000 years ago.
Note also that Luke Skywalker comes across the planet Lew’el (location unknown), home of an ancient Force-sensitive peoples who refer to the Force as “The Tide,” during his adventures in Legends of Luke Skywalker. Here, Luke learns about the ancient past from one of the elders of Lew’el who speaks of an ancient war between Force-sensitive peoples that took place before the Empire, before the Old Republic, and even before there were Jedi….
“Our stories say that before your Empire, before your Old Republic, before there were even Jedi, our people came to this world for refuge,” said the elder without prompting. Seeker took a sip from the bowl and said nothing.
The elder continued in a dreamy tone, as if speaking to herself more than to Seeker. “The Tide is a powerful force, and it can drown you as well as uplift you. Long before they came to Lew’el, our ancestors had learned how to ride the Tide. For a time they were the brightest stars in the galaxy, drawing the interest of those who loved power and sought my ancestors’ aid in their quest for more of it. Some of my ancestors succumbed to the temptation and believed that they could master a force that sustained the very fabric of existence; others believed that it was impossible as well as morally repugnant to try to turn the Tide, the ether that connects everything to everything else, into an instrument for domination. The war between them brought great suffering and devastated a thousand worlds before it finally burned out. The survivors came to Lew’el to hide, vowing never again to allow knowledge of the Tide to be used to pervert it.”
Liu, Ken. The Legends of Luke Skywalker, Kindle Locations 1083-1090.
It would not insult the truth to posit that the locations referenced above and others within the Unknown Regions were once also the home of ancient civilizations and Force-sensitive peoples. Based on the children from Tehar alone, we can conclude that there are civilizations with Force-sensitives currently residing within the UR.
We know also that the First Order largely originated from within the UR. Recent Vanity Fair coverage informed fans that we’d be learning more about the origins of the First Order in The Rise of Skywalker. Ergo, it’s not a stretch to assume that learning more about the origins of the First Order would entail learning more about the UR. Conveniently, we are not privy to Finn’s last name, nor where his family is from, thanks to J.J. Abrams intentionally concealing this information from audiences for now. But we do know that the First Order is directly responsible for taking Finn from his family.
Putting this all together:
- The Unknown Regions are cut off from the GFFA proper, and contain Force-sensitive civilizations (Children from Tehar), which could be tied to very ancient Force-sensitive civilizations (e.g., First Jedi Temple, Lew’elean history).
- The First Order originated from the UR, and is directly responsible for taking Finn from his family.
- It stands to reason then that Finn and his kin are also from the Unknown Regions.
But could it be that Finn and his kin are also one of the ancient Force-sensitive civilizations?
I venture to guess that John Boyega wouldn’t call me THAT crazy. And in case you missed it, there were TWO Awakenings in The Force Awakens.
Here, I suggest that the narrative parallel between the restoration of the last alliance of Elves and Men will be the restoration of a galaxy divided, and the reunion of ancient Force-sensitive civilizations between the GFFA and UR. We have speculated that Jannah is Finn’s sister, and that their connection could be brought on by each other’s Force-sensitivity just like Luke and Leia, and Count Dooku and his sister. This would also satisfy the sibling dynamic presented in the third act of both the Prequel and Original Trilogies.
If Force sensitive Finn is reunited with his family (Jannah), which could be located within or have origins tied to the UR, Finn would therefore represent a bridge for a galaxy divided. What’s more, his serendipitous meeting with Rey Skywalker would reunite the Force-sensitive civilizations from the ancient past with the Chosen One’s lineage born from the Force itself. As the Lew’elean legend goes; it’s possible that a “balance” between the active and passive use of the Force is a combination feared by the dark side. If ever there were a union to face and take down the First Order, or the return of Darth Sidious himself – I, personally, can think of nothing greater. And if the legends from Lew’el are accurate, this reunion would mend what was once broken during the great war over the Force or Tide itself.
Further, Robotical712 is careful to note that “there appears to be something malevolent lurking in the Unknown Regions,” and that Palpatine himself was searching for the source of the dark side itself within them. Potentially supporting this theory is a passage from Legends of Luke Skywalker, where three Force-sensitive beings (one human) reach out into the Force, or “Mist” as they call it, for the first time in several millennia and sense a “rot in the Mist:”
“I sense a rot in the Mist,” I said. It had been millennia since we last gazed outside the cocoon into the grand, Mist-filled universe. “There are…so many holes in the Mist. A darkness has come and corrupted it.” The pain of watching our beloved Mist so debased was wrenching.
Liu, Ken. Legends of Luke Skywalker
Recent canon (e.g., Legends of Luke Skywalker, Alphabet Squadron) appears to hint that in the current state of the galaxy the light, or “good,” has become mundane and unstoried, and the blackness, or “bad,” has become pale and nonthreatening. Robotical712 also points out that this adds important context to the opening passage in The Force Awakens:
“First comes the day
Then comes the night.
After the darkness
Shines through the light.
The difference, they say,
Is only made right
By the resolving of gray
Through refined Jedi sight.”
Here, the gray represents an inability to distinguish “good” from “bad.” Thus, resolving of gray through refined Jedi sight would be to distinguish light from dark, good from bad.
Luke : But how am I to know the good side from the bad?
Yoda : You will know… when you are calm, at peace, passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack.
The presence of “gray” may have provided a narrative passageway for grave danger to rise in the shadows and go undetected, say by an entire Jedi Council, for example…. (see: Darth Sidious in the Prequel Trilogy). In fact, robotical712’s background theory includes that Palpatine himself was searching for the “source” of the dark side, which could also be located within the UR – providing a narrative explanation to its treacherous phenomena.
Thus, if Finn and Rey were to find some way to heal this “rot in the mist,” their union and accomplishments might satisfy and renew all that was once broken in the GFFA as we know it. And through this restoration of the galaxy entire, future stories in the current canon would now have an open door to explore and discover uncharted worlds and new peoples for generations to come.
Here, I’ve highlighted why it will be through the reveal of Rey Skywalker (with the help of Finn) that we see the light of the Skywalker family reclaimed. And it is through the reveal of Force-sensitive Finn (with the help of Rey) that we may see the renewal and restoration of ancient civilizations that were divided a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. In this way, Rey Skywalker reclaiming the light of her lineage brings the audience a satisfying conclusion to the Skywalker Saga, while Force sensitive Finn provides us with “A New Hope” for grand adventures and journeys into the great unknown!
Oh, remember that pin I told you to stick in Batuu?
If Batuu truly did service ancient trade routes into the Unknown Regions long ago, and Finn and Rey do find a way to reunite the ancient alliances of old by narratively unlocking one from the other, what better location for Galaxy’s Edge to choose for future generations and children of all ages to embark on brand new epic adventures? Here’s to hoping we see Finn and Rey, our once crownless wanderers, crowned as the newest Disney Prince and Princess this December 🙂
May the Force be with you, peanuts…. always