In an interview with Entertainment Weekly this week, Daisy Ridley was asked to give a “cryptic one-word clue” about the plot of The Rise of Skywalker. Her response? “Cyclops.” Now, in a world of fantastical alien creatures, it’s not unimaginable that a one-eyed character might appear in the film. But somehow it seems unlikely that Ridley would be so literal, or that this previously unseen figure would play such a major role in the conclusion of the Skywalker Saga. Instead, let’s take a broader approach.
First, let’s consider what the most recognizable depiction of a Cyclops might be. With all due respect to Mike Wazowski, most would probably agree it’s Homer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, where the sailor Odysseus is held captive by a monstrous one-eyed shepherd named Polyphemus and must find a way to escape his lair. And Daisy Ridley, for those who don’t know, studied classical civilization before pursuing acting, meaning she would probably have more than a passing familiarity with the text. Now, we could draw a couple of conclusions here: maybe the heroes use wit and cunning, like Odysseus, to defeat Palpatine. Maybe at some point someone needs to escape captivity from a large and violent monster. Maybe sheep are involved, somehow. Who’s to say. But there’s one other notable plot point in this chapter of the Odyssey that I think is most deserving of a closer look.
In the text of the poem, Polyphemus demands Odysseus to tell him his name, which Odysseus refuses to do until the Cyclops is drunk and no longer has his wits about him. Only then does Odysseus say:
‘Cyclops, you asked about my famous name.
I’ll tell you. Then you can offer me a gift,
as your guest here. My name is Nobody.
My father and mother, all my friends—
they call me Nobody.’
After the Cyclops has fallen asleep, Odysseus then blinds him with a piece of smoldering olive wood and leads his men out of the cave. In agony, Polyphemus cries out to other Cyclopes nearby:
‘Nobody is killing me, my friends,
by treachery, not using any force.’
The Cyclopes, assuming he’s reassuring them that he’s unharmed, ignore his cries, and Odysseus and his men are able to escape.
The use of the name Nobody, or Outis, in the original Greek, became a literary tradition after the writing of The Odyssey, often being used as a default pen name for anonymous ancient Greek writers. It’s often cited as one of the best examples of Odysseus’s wit and wiliness, which he uses rather than strength to vanquish his enemies on his way home to Ithaca.
Wait a minute. Where have we seen this before?
“They were nobody.”
“Who are you?” “I’m no one.”
Writer Chris Terrio has said in interviews that “Who is Rey?” is one of the fundamental questions of The Rise of Skywalker. So if Rey, like Odysseus, insists she’s nobody (a strategy to make Odysseus’s enemies underestimate him), and the plot of the film is apparently evocative of the story of the Cyclops…might Rey have a hidden “famous name” too?
Only a little while til we find out…