Who is Rey?: An Avatar as a (Possible) Answer

As we inch ever closer to The Last Jedi, my excitement continues to mount.  No matter how much I tell myself not to get my expectations too high, I can’t help but speculate!  As I’ve said before, this random and excited speculating is part of the fun of Star Wars.  I remember the months leading up to The Force Awakens were filled with hours and hours of pondering and hypothesizing.  What will happen??  Who are these new characters??  How will the fit into the world of Star Wars?!?  Geeking out with other Star Wars fans is one of life’s great joys :).  And like many fans of the Saga, I’ve been spending a lot of time puzzling over who Rey really is and how she fits into the Force.  Somewhat unexpectedly, the answer I keep coming back to that makes the most sense comes care of Hinduism.

Rey Force Avatar 3

Photo Credit – The Last Jedi

Obviously, the question of Rey’s identity, not just her familial identity but her spiritual identity, is an important one.  For me, it’s her spiritual/mythic identity that’s most pressing.  With six Star Wars films before The Force Awakens, we know the Skywalkers touch the Force in a special way.  Anakin Skywalker was the Chosen One, the one who was born to bring balance to the Force.  He was conceived by the midi-chlorians and born of a virgin – calling to mind both the Christian understanding of Jesus Christ and the Taoist understanding of Lao Tzu.  But Star Wars takes the traditional Christian understanding of Jesus Christ – as Savior and Redeemer – and splits the role between Anakin and his son Luke Skywalker.  Anakin is the Savior, the one who balances the Force.  Luke is the Redeemer, the one whose love brings his father back to the Light Side so the Force can be balanced.

Both men are the heroes of their respective stories.  Both men are characters with layer upon layer of mythical and theological significance.  This isn’t even scratching the surface of the symbolism George Lucas built into the characters of Luke and Anakin Skywalker!  But that’s not the point of this essay.  Suffice it to say Anakin Skywalker’s spiritual/theological/mythic identity in the Star Wars Saga is that of the Savior.  Luke Skywalker’s spiritual/theological/mythic identity in the Star Wars Saga is that of Redeemer.  As characters of such importance, they have special roles to play in bringing about the will of the Force and the Force moves through them with unique power.

So why is this relevant for Rey?  The Force Awakens makes it very clear that Rey can use the Force with exceptional skill without any sort of formal training.  She has powerful visions.  She can successfully execute a Jedi mind trick with (to the best of our knowledge) no practice or knowledge of the ability’s existence.  She can instinctively call Luke’s lightsaber to her with ease and when she battles Kylo Ren it’s obvious she is fighting with the Force flowing through her, giving her strength, and guiding her actions.  We’ve never seen anyone in Star Wars demonstrate this much natural ability/untrained power.  How can Rey be more powerful than Luke – the one who redeemed the Chosen One?  Or how can she be more powerful than the Chosen One??

Rey Force Avatar 2

Photo Credit – The Last Jedi

My worst fear is that Disney’s going to try and use Revenge of the Sith to say Anakin wasn’t the one to bring balance to the Force.  Rather, it’s Rey who’s come to do that; she’s the prophesized Chosen One.  The key line of dialogue comes as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu, and Yoda discuss Anakin’s assignment to spy on Palpatine:

Mace Windu – “It’s very dangerous putting them together.  I don’t think the boy can handle it.  I don’t trust him.”

Obi-Wan – “With all due respect Master, is he not the Chosen One?  Is he not to destroy the Sith and bring balance to the Force?”

Mace Windu – “So the prophecy says.”

Yoda – “A prophecy that misread, could have been.”

So I worry (a lot actually) that Disney will just try and drop their story over George Lucas’s story with a sort of, “Oh, you thought that was the big fight??  HA HA, no way!  This is the big fight!  Here is the real Chosen One!”  Ugh.  The idea of that coming to pass makes me sad and angry.  BUT, while it’s my worst fear, I’m giving Disney the benefit of the doubt and presuming they aren’t going to do that.  I’m choosing to believe they won’t bastardize everything Lucas created in the name of lazy storytelling.  You’re better than that Disney!

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I GASP with fear like this when I start to think the thoughts in the paragraph above and the one below. / Photo Credit – The Last Jedi

My second fear is that no one’s really thought about the significance of all this at all.  A bunch of people are writing a bunch of disconnected scripts for a connected story and that can spell trouble.  I worry they started out to make this new Sequel Trilogy and, obviously, needed a hero so they said, “Oh, here’s this new girl who’s really good with the Force too!”  But there has to be more to Rey than that!  You can’t just have someone with Force abilities that (at least seem to) rival or surpass the Chosen One and not have a reason she’s so talented.  We can’t have Rey flirting with the level of ability she has without some serious theological/mythological explanation as to how and/or why she can do what she does without undercutting Anakin’s importance in the whole Star Wars Saga.  And I’m choosing to believe Disney is trying to put more into their era of Star Wars stories than that too.

As I run all of this over in my mind again and again (and I do it more and more the closer we get to The Last Jedi!!) my best explanation comes from the Hindu idea of an avatar.  In Hinduism an avatar is an incarnation of God.  Whenever a deity comes down to earth, for any purpose, in any life form, it’s called an avatar.[1]  While the Christian understanding of the incarnation of God is unique in the person of Jesus Christ, in Hinduism the gods incarnate on earth whenever they’re needed.  The Bhagavad-Gita, the most influential Hindu scripture, tells the story of the god Krishna coming to council the warrior-prince Arjuna in the form of his charioteer as he wrestles with a moral dilemma as he prepares for a great battle.[2]  In the Gita, Krishna explains his true nature to Arjuna by saying, “Whenever sacred duty decays and chaos prevails, then, I create myself, Arjuna.  To protect men of virtue and to destroy men who do evil, to set the standard of sacred duty, I appear in age after age” (4:7-8).  If the Force can incarnate as the Hindu deities do and not only once as the Christian understanding of God does in the person of Jesus Christ, I find a workable answer for Rey’s power!  She doesn’t even need to be a Skywalker for this to fit either!

Rey Force Avatar 7

Photo Credit – The Force Awakens

This accounts for Rey’s abilities in and connection to the Force as well as opening the door for her reason for existing to be something other than balancing the Force.  Rey can be an avatar of the Force in a similar fashion to how Anakin and Luke were.  She can also be here to achieve a different end than balancing the Force, which I believe is important.  If we start to say that Anakin didn’t really bring balance to the Force we undercut the entire story of Star Wars.  I’m not okay with that.  But Krishna tells Arjuna he appears “age after age” whenever “chaos prevails.”  So Anakin Skywalker was the Chosen One and he did what he was supposed to do.  He brought balance to the Force.  But that doesn’t preclude the will of the Force from having other designs it needs to bring about or other problems it needs to address.  So we have Rey, a new incarnation of the Force to address the chaos of a new age.

The Hindu influence is evident in Star Wars going back to the beginning too.  Whenever Lucas describes the Force in the Original Trilogy it is anchored in the Buddhist idea of Buddha Nature, the Taoist idea of the Tao, and the Hindu idea of Brahman.  Brahman was the name the Aryans (the people who settled the Indus Valley in India in the tenth century B.C.E.) came to call the large and intangible reality behind everything.  Brahman is “the unseen principle that enabled all things to grow and flourish.  It was a power that was higher, deeper, and more fundamental than the gods…Brahman was the sacred energy that held all the disparate elements of the world together and prevented it from falling apart.  Brahman had an infinitely greater degree of reality than mortal creatures, whose lives were limited by ignorance, sickness, pain, and death…it was everything that existed, as well as the inner meaning of all existence.”[3]  That sounds an awful lot like the Force to me!  If Rey is an avatar, Star Wars would be adding an intriguing theological dimension to their use of the idea of incarnation, moving it from an expressly Christian one in Anakin and Luke to a Hindu one with Rey’s appearance on the scene.

Rey Force Avatar 4

“Breathe, just…breathe.  Now…reach out.” / Photo Credit – The Last Jedi

Rey as an avatar of the Force would add another important theological dimension to the film, outside of expanding a Christian symbol to encompass a Hindu one.  We’ve seen both Anakin and Luke be central to the Force and its will in the galaxy.  Adding a female to this centrality brings the dimension of the Divine Feminine to the film and underscores the Force moves equally through women as it does through men.  For centuries, Christianity has struggled with voices within it that try to keep women down because Jesus was a man (ignoring the reality that women were every bit as central to his movement as the men were).  While religious prophets (across Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) always bring inclusive messages of equality, the fact that they were men can be used by certain segments of believers to undermine the importance and equality of women.  Skywalker or not, making Rey an avatar of the Force in a vein similar to Anakin and Luke sends an important theological message.

Rey Force Avatar 11

Photo Credit – The Force Awaksn

On the Skywalker note, of course the argument can be made that Rey’s Force abilities are simply the result of her family.  Her spiritual identity would flow from her familial identity then.  The two most popular theories along this line of thinking are that Rey is a) a Skywalker or b) a Kenobi.  As much as I would love Rey to be a Skywalker (pointing to the idea that a Skywalker comes along to help when the Force is in need (something a name with such angelic connotations as “Skywalker” is made for)), I don’t think that’s going to be the case.  J.J. Abrams was pretty clear at the Tribecca Film Festival last year when he said, “Rey’s parents are not in Episode VII. So I can’t possibly say in this moment who they are. But I will say it is something that Rey thinks about, too.”  Given the fact that both Leia and Luke are in The Force Awakens, J.J. is either throwing some major misdirection at us or she’s not a Skywalker.  As to her being a Kenobi?  Yeah, as far as I’m concerned there’s no way that can work and The Imperial Talker makes the definitive case on this one.  If you’re curious as to why, click that link.  He lays it out far better than I can.  So I don’t think Rey can be a Skywalker nor can she be a Kenobi.  And, honestly, I’m fine with that now.  I think, if handled correctly, it could be exciting for Rey to be an entirely new character!

Now, there’s a very good chance none of this will end up being true.  I’m probably wrong!  But you know what?  It doesn’t matter.  I’m being completely serious about that too.  This is part of the fun of Star Wars!  Sitting around, thinking about this story and trying to unravel it in my mind is one of my favorite parts of obsessing about a galaxy far, far away.  So, right now, this is my best guess about the nature of Rey and her abilities – a new incarnation of the Force.  If you’ve got any fun and exciting theories yourself, be sure to let me know!  And I promise, if a new idea pops up in my head between now and when The Last Jedi arrives in December, you’ll be the first to know.[4]

Rey Force Avatar 8

What does the future hold?  Only time will tell! / Photo Credit – Vanity Fair

 

________________________________________

[1] Ed Viswanathan, Am I a Hindu?: The Hinduism Primer. (San Francisco: Halo Books, 1992), 109.

[2] Karen Armstrong, The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions.  (New York: Anchor Books, 2006), 436-7.

[3] Karen Armstrong, The Case for God. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009 ), 12.

[4] Well, first relatively speaking.  I’m sure I would have already talked about it with Jeff…and Kalie…and Hannah…and probably David…and I may talk about in class at some random time too.  BUT when it gets fleshed out to the point where I’ve got something to write about, well then you’ll know right away.

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16 thoughts on “Who is Rey?: An Avatar as a (Possible) Answer

  1. Fabulous post! Hmm, so far Disney hasn’t pooped all over the canon yet. Not too badly anyway. Let’s hope they are still respectful knowing they have a monumental legacy, not to mention zillions of fans to think of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The cynic in me thinks, “Disney doesn’t care…they have new Star Wars fans aging into the series every year!” But then I calm myself down, do meditation to mellow my grumpy anxiety, and enjoy the rest of my day :). I’m glad you enjoyed the post too!

      Now we just have to wait until December to see if we get more hints or an outright answer…

      Like

      1. Lol! Yes I hear mindful meditation is all the rage now. Perhaps give that a go. You’re right Disney probably doesn’t care and I think we’ll see more “Clone War” storylines and characters. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It does bring in new, young fans. Let’s see 🙄

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I know, someday, it’ll hit the point where I become the cantankerous old Star Wars fan who’s totally out of touch with and hates everything new. Then the younglings will look at me and laugh while I rant about, “Back in MY day we always had…” But I’m not quite ready to hit that point yet :).

        The Clone Wars connection is spot on too. It really surprised me how much ‘Rebels’ began to feel like ‘The Clone Wars’ over the last two seasons! As you said, it isn’t necessarily bad but it did surprise me.

        If nothing else, I am excited to see how the story unfolds in the Disney Canon…even if I may be destined to become a grumpy old fan someday :).

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Lmao! Well as long as you don’t sit on your porch, shaking your fists at them, you’ll be alright 😉

        That said, I agree. It would be a shame if Disney completely changed the franchise or revamped it. Seriously, it would be criminal. Let’s hope they don’t decide to rewrite “history”. I like Rey’s character so far, and I would hate to find myself disliking her because of her past or lineage.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. C’mon, if I’m on my porch shaking anything while I yell at kids it would be one of my lightsabers. And I haven’t ruled it out yet…

        But I really like how you put that. I think Disney owes it both to the Star Wars Saga’s history AND the potential Rey has a character to make certain they do this right.

        Also, if/when you see my posts starting to lean towards the cranky-old-guy-ranting neighborhood, let me know okay? I’ll appreciate your watching out for that for me :).

        Like

  2. Boy do I love Star Wars speculation. Who knows whose Rey’s parents are but I just really hope that doesn’t get spoiled for me. I want it to be a grand surprise. I for one don’t think she is a Skywalker, unless she is the spawn of Mara Jade and Luke. But this wouldn’t pay off to anything given that a large audience of Star Wars fans don’t really lurk in the EU or novelizations. I honestly thought that she’d be a Kenobi but I’m off to read the Imperial Talker’s post to why she might not be. She may, in fact, be the force incarnate and her and Luke could bring balance to the force. I honestly believed Anakin did that in Episode III and Luke really disrupted the balance. A balance, I believe, is when both the dark side and light co-exist not when one overpowers the other. And Anakin did that technically. Him and Palpatine (dark) and Leia and Luke (light). At the end of my post that breaks down the Last Jedi Trailer, I explained what Luke meant by the Jedi ending (link here: https://4therace.wordpress.com/2017/04/15/star-wars-the-last-jedi-trailer-reaction-breakdown-its-time-for-the-jedi-to-end/). By becoming Gray, I think here and Rey can bring a truly balance to the force but only time will tell.

    I really rambled off but this was a great read Michael!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Um, it never counts as “rambling” when you’re talking about Star Wars awesomeness!!!

      I am SO happy you mentioned Mara Jade! She’s always been one of my favorite EU characters. I’m with you too. The only way I could see Rey being Luke’s daughter is if, when he left her on Jakku to do his Jedi business, he left her with Mara (or whoever his wife would be in the Disney Canon). Then, maybe she left to find Luke and never returned? But that still seems tough to buy into. Given Luke’s youth growing up without his mother or his father, it’s difficult to imagine him leaving his daughter behind and then never returning for over a decade – even if he thought his wife was with her.

      On the balance note, I wonder often if the Jedi and the Sith were the ones pulling everything out of balance. In the Prequel Trilogy we see a Jedi Order that’s fairly corrupted. Anakin wipes them out. Then we see the Dark Side raging unchecked. After Luke redeems Anakin, he kills Palpatine and then dies himself, leaving Luke and Leia alone. At that moment, Leia is barely developing her powers and Luke is a very different type of Jedi, having tossed aside his lightsaber and given his all to love, compassion, faith, and forgiveness. And the Light and Dark Sides exist as potential but with neither more actualized than the other. I’d never thought about your two and two idea before though… I’ll have to give it some more thought now! And yay for more Star Wars speculation :).

      Oh, and I really like your idea about the Jedi evolving into something else entirely. It could be Grey Jedi or even some brand new sort of Order we’ve never heard of.
      To say “It’s time for the Jedi to end” can absolutely reference the Jedi as we’ve known them. I think that makes a lot of sense.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I guess it really doesn’t count as rambling if it is Star Wars ! But yes bringing Mara Jade into the Disney canon doesn’t really work at all. Even though it would be awesome, it just wouldn’t function cinematically given there is no reference of her or any other jedi during the OG trilogy. I just want Last Jedi to come out now because half of my life effort has been devoted to it (and I need more for “more important things”). Lol not really. I am planning to do a Star Wars week all the way in December though so do look forward to that! I’ve already started it and can’t wait

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That sounds FANTASTIC! It’s a brilliant idea too. My excitement for your Star Wars week has officially begun!

        I’ve always liked to watch the previous movies in a series before I go see the new one. It’s part of my “process” if you will :). So I’ve been wondering…do I just watch ‘The Force Awakens’ before going to see ‘The Last Jedi’? Or do I make an epic run and watch ‘The Phantom Menace,’ ‘Attack Of The Clones,’ ‘Revenge Of The Sith,’ ‘Rogue One,’ ‘A New Hope,’ ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ ‘Return Of The Jedi,’ and then ‘The Force Awakens’ before seeing the new one?!? These are the sorts of major life questions I’m wrestling with…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Another excellent post! I really do like the idea of Rey as an Avatar of the Force. I guess my secret hope was that she would be a Kenobi grandchild (via Satine) but that alone wouldn’t necessarily account for her amazing force powers since , according to the non canon Jedi Apprentice Series by Jude Watson, Kenobi was nearly sent to the agricultural core rather than becoming a Jedi. But if she was also an avatar of the force that would account for it. I would love that because Kenobi is my number one favourite Jedi of all time and your avatar idea is fabulous!

    With the whole chosen one thing there has long been debate on the Jedi Council Forums about this. I can see your point of view and it certainly makes sense. My thinking is that he could have been the chosen one but he turned away from that path when he gave in to his own selfish fears and desires and to Palpatine’s lies. It almost parallels Judas being chosen as a disciple and then losing all that when he decided to colluded with the Pharisees.
    I think balance in the force is inherently good and imbalance in the force is bad. So the Jedi try to maintain the balance, albeit imperfectly because they’re stuck in their ways, and the Sith try to disrupt it. Therefore, when the prophecy says the chosen one will bring balance to the force I think it means he will stop the Sith’s disruptive influence and bring things back into balance, not just even the numbers i.e.Vader and Palps vs Kenobi and Yoda.
    Just my thoughts, I’m no expert, just a die hard fan! Thanks again for a super post and the chance to talk about our beloved Star Wars!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aaah! And this is a great comment too! Like I said above, there’s nothing quite like shared geek outs and speculation about Star Wars with other fans :).

      If they were going to go the Kenobi route, I think you’re right – Satine is the only way they could approach it and honor his character in any way. She could have hidden the child from him and that could explain how he had no knowledge of her. While I’m not wholly sold on the Kenobi thing, if that’s how they do it, I want your prediction to be right. I want his child to come from his time with Satine.

      Your thoughts on the balance of the Force are intriguing too. The Judas analogy is an interesting one because Anakin certainly falls to temptation. But he also seems to be the Christ figure in the narrative too. However, that doesn’t necessarily prevent him from reflecting Judas’s story either. I guess it will come down to what Disney wants to do. With George Lucas’s films, we see Anakin as the Chosen One and then Lucas shows his redemption at the end of ‘Return Of The Jedi.’ What the Disney Canon does with that, only time will tell. Thankfully that time gives us lots of room for speculation. Yay! Thank you for the thoughtful comment too. This is fun!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I’m hoping Disney will do a good job with the main storyline. So far I’ve been pleased with what they’ve done both in the film’s and in the comics. So there’s hope. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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