What Turned Luke and Ben Against the Jedi?

By: Casey Johnston (@DarthHockey)

WARNING: There is speculation ahead for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. There are also spoilers for The Force Awakens and the novel Star Wars: Bloodlines.

It’s been a week since the teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi dropped at Star Wars Celebration. The most talked about part of the trailer, by far, has been the line delivered by Luke Skywalker, “I only know one truth: it’s time for the Jedi to end.” Even before the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there were rumors, that Luke Skywalker may have turned to the dark side of the Force. Now we have near-definitive proof that he has at least turn away from the teachings of the Jedi. I’d like to take a moment to speculate what may be going on with Luke and how it may be connected to Ben Solo’s transformation into Kylo Ren.

What We Know So Far

After the Battle of Endor, Luke set about rebuilding the Jedi Order. He disappeared for months, maybe even years, searching for abandoned Jedi temples and artifacts. He eventually founded his new academy and began training the next generation of Jedi with his nephew, Ben Solo, as his apprentice. At some point, things went awry and Ben destroyed everything Luke was trying to achieve. Ben then rebranded himself as Kylo Ren and joined Supreme Leader Snoke and the First Order. Luke, dismayed by this drastic turn of events, went searching for the first Jedi temple and eventually went into self-imposed exile on the aquatic planet of Ahch-to. It was there that Rey found him at the end of The Force Awakens.

Ben’s Turn to the Dark Side

We don’t yet know why Ben turned to the dark side. As with Luke, Ben is notably absent from the Star Wars new canon novels save for his birth in Aftermath: Empire’s End and mentions in Bloodlines. It’s from Bloodlines that we can derive the best speculation for his transformation into Kylo Ren. The novel centered around Leia and the latter part of her career in the New Republic Senate. In the story, a rival First Order-supporting senator found out that Leia and Luke were the children of Darth Vader. This erupted into a massive political scandal for Leia, effectively ending her career. She would leave the Senate and secretly organize the Resistance against the newly forming First Order.

Ben’s part in the story happens only in mentions. Only a handful of people knew that Vader was the father of Luke and Leia, and Ben was not one of those people. Like the rest of the galaxy, Ben found out when Leia’s former ally, Ransolm Casterfo, made a stunning speech revealing the truth. We never learned what Ben’s reaction to this is, but it’s easy to imagine he’s didn’t take the news well. All this took place roughly six years before the events of The Force Awakens, so Ben is already a grown man on the verge of Jedi Knighthood. My guess is that he eventually left Luke’s academy and went on a journey to learn more about his lineage. As he attempted to learn more about Vader, he probably encountered Supreme Leader Snoke who would have used this opportunity to seduce to the dark side the young man he’d been closely following for years. Much like Palpatine did with Anakin Skywalker, Snoke likely promised to unlock the dark secrets of the Force for Ben while teaching him all about his grandfather.

Luke’s Turn Against the Jedi

For as little as we know about Ben’s turn to the dark side, we know even less about why Luke turned against the Jedi. From here on out, this is mostly unsourced speculation. After Ben destroyed the academy, we know Luke went searching for the first Jedi temple. My best guess is that he found something in the ancient Jedi writings that made him question everything he’d learned up to that point. What could that possibly be? This teaser trailer put great emphasis on the balance between the light and dark sides of the Force. Perhaps Luke discovered that the last generation of Jedi had interpreted the Force all wrong. Or maybe he decided that the Jedi Order became too militant in its later years. The concept of the Jedi mistakenly delving into the Clone Wars and taking military titles is not a new one in the post-Disney Star Wars canon. The Jedi are supposed to be guardians of peace in the galaxy; maybe Luke discovered ancient teachings that made him believe that the Jedi had lost their way to an irredeemable extent. Until we get new trailers and the “Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi” writing project is released, we have nothing to go on except pseudo-educated guesses.

An Alternate Theory

Many of us are assuming that Luke turned against the Jedi after the fall of Ben. What if Luke and Ben together discovered something about the ancient Jedi Order that shattered both their beliefs. What if this discovery caused Ben, who was already reeling from the revelation that his grandfather was Darth Vader, to turn to the dark side while Luke fell fully into the light? Ben then fell under the influence of Snoke and destroyed the academy, causing Luke to go to Ahch-to until he was discovered by Rey. I love the idea that Luke and Ben have turned against the Jedi for the same reasons but are dealing with it in dramatically different ways.

By the time the end credits roll on The Last Jedi, our understanding of the Jedi and what their purpose is may be completely obliterated. I love that Rian Johnson and Lucasfilm seem to be setting us up for the same journey that Luke and Kylo Ren are currently on. Whatever the reasons for their current states, it’s a good assumption that everything we know about the Jedi is about to drastically change.

Thanks for reading!