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FALL OF THE REPUBLIC

Jedi statue on Jedha

In the heyday of the Jedi, the Order’s scholars endlessly debated where and when civilizations first became aware of the Force and its power. No answer was ever considered definitive, but many traditions speak of lost worlds beyond the galactic frontier, suggesting the Force’s greatest secrets are yet to be discovered. Different species have their own names for the Force, their own metaphors for how it’s perceived, and techniques for learning the powers it can grant.

Qui-Gon measuring midi-chlorians

But all traditions agree that life creates the Force and makes it grow. Individuals’ Force potential depends on their levels of midi-chlorians, microscopic life-forms found within living cells. The Jedi believed midi-chlorians communicated the will of the Force, which could be understood through meditation.


The Jedi saw the Force as possessing two aspects: the light side and the dark side. The light side was to be used for knowledge and defense, and channeling it required a Jedi to be calm and at peace. Negative emotions such as anger, fear and jealousy were fuel for the dark side, which offered a quicker, seemingly easier path to great power. To avoid the dark side’s lure, the Jedi developed a code emphasizing detachment and forbidding emotional attachments. Jedi seekers found Force-sensitive infants and brought them to the Order’s temples, where they learned the ways of the Force alongside other younglings.

Yoda and Darth Bane

But some ancient Jedi rejected the Order’s teachings. They fell away from the light, using emotions repressed by the Jedi to unlock great powers and dominate others. From this schism a dark-side cult arose known as the Sith.

This wasn’t just a philosophical dispute: waves of wars between the Jedi and Sith convulsed galactic civilization and left entire star systems lifeless. A millennium before the rise of the Empire, the Jedi defeated the Sith and became protectors of the Galactic Republic, serving as peacekeepers and negotiators in lieu of a standing military. The Order was overseen from the Jedi Temple on the galactic capital world of Coruscant.

Darth Sidious and Darth Maul

The Sith were believed extinct, but they had survived. To prevent infighting and preserve the order, the Sith Lord Darth Bane introduced the Rule of Two, limiting the Sith ranks to a master and an apprentice. For nearly a millennium the Sith remained in hiding as corruption and complacence ate away at the Republic and the Jedi. Seeing the balance of the Force tipping toward the dark side, Darth Sidious plotted to resurrect the Sith. In his guise as Senator Palpatine, he rose to become chancellor of the Republic, engineered the Separatist movement and the Clone Wars, and convinced the Jedi to abandon their traditional roles and become generals of a vast clone army – which had been secretly created to bring about their downfall.

Master and Apprentice

Sidious used the dark side of the Force to cloud the Jedi’s perceptions as he consolidated galactic power and wove a trap for his enemies. When his identity was finally discovered, he issued Order 66 to his clones, who obediently turned their guns on the Jedi. Sidious had also seduced Anakin Skywalker, thought to be the Chosen One destined to bring balance to the Force. Anakin fell to the dark side and became Darth Vader, helping his new master vanquish the Jedi. A triumphant Palpatine then declared himself emperor of a new galactic order – an Empire ruled in secret by the Sith.

THE DARK TIMES

Inquisitor

Very few knew Emperor Palpatine was a Force wielder, let alone a Sith Lord – that aspect of the Empire was a closely guarded secret. The Emperor’s agents systematically destroyed Jedi temples, artifacts, and even historical accounts of the Order, spreading disinformation that the Jedi had been charlatans and the Force just a primitive superstition. Meanwhile, Sidious’s Inquisitors – Jedi survivors lured and corrupted by the dark side – ruthlessly hunted down Jedi exiles and snatched up Force-sensitive children.

Master and Apprentice

Vader had been maimed and horribly burned in a lightsaber duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi. He survived by being encased in black armor that helped him breathe, but was left more machine than man. In secret he served Sidious as a Sith apprentice, but publicly he was Palpatine’s enforcer. A new generation of Imperial technocrats feared Vader, but also dismissed him as a pitiful vestige of a bygone era and an obsolete religion. Most assumed the fires of the Force tradition had burned out and would never be reignited.

Obi-Wan Kenobi in exile on Tatooine

The few Jedi who’d escaped the purge did whatever they could to survive. Some concealed their powers to escape the Inquisitors, while others fled to commune with the Force as hermits. Yoda, once the Grandmaster of the Jedi Order, pondered the Force’s mysteries in exile on Dagobah. Obi-Wan Kenobi sought refuge on Tatooine, where he watched over Luke Skywalker, Anakin’s secret son. With the dark side ascendant, these scattered refugees waited for a day when the balance of the Force would tip towards the light once again.

GALACTIC CIVIL WAR

Obi-Wan gives lightsaber to Luke

A new hope arose from the Rebel Alliance’s struggle to destroy the Death Star, an Imperial superweapon powered by kyber crystals. Summoned from exile on Tatooine, Obi-Wan gave Anakin’s lightsaber to Luke and began to teach the boy the ways of the Force. Though barely trained, Luke showed immense potential. With the Force guiding him, he destroyed the Death Star, shaking the Empire’s rule to its foundations and proving the dark side’s triumph was not complete.

Luke and Vader duel

Betrayal was second nature to the Sith, with master and apprentice always struggling for dominance. When Sidious and Vader discovered Luke was Anakin’s son, both sought to use him for their own ends. After training on Dagobah with Yoda, Luke unwisely chose to confront Vader. In their lightsaber duel, Vader struck off Luke’s hand and revealed the terrible truth of his parentage. And he made Luke a fateful offer: join him, and together they would overthrow the Emperor and rule the galaxy as father and son.

The Emperor is killed

Luke refused, just as he refused to believe Yoda and Obi-Wan when they said Vader could never return to the light. He stubbornly believed that the man Vader once was, Anakin, could still be redeemed, and it was this simple faith in family – not Jedi doctrine – that would save the galaxy. Sidious lured Luke to the second Death Star, hoping to manipulate the boy into taking Vader’s place as his Sith apprentice. But Luke refused to kill his father and awakened the good slumbering in him. When Sidious turned on Luke, Vader hurled his master to his death before dying himself. The Chosen One had indeed brought balance to the Force – by destroying the Sith.

THE FIRST ORDER

The map to Skywalker

With the Sith vanquished and the Empire shattered, Luke wondered what to do next. Should he create a new Jedi Order, or was that philosophy best left in the past? Finding no guidance from the Force, he spent years searching the galaxy, seeking answers as a Jedi and for himself. It was the most personal of reasons that caused him to reluctantly begin training students again: his nephew, Ben Solo, was extraordinarily strong with the Force, but also a volatile boy in desperate need of a teacher.

Luke in exile

Luke’s new order ended abruptly, as Ben fell prey to the dark-side adept Snoke and his own demons. He destroyed Luke’s academy and became Kylo Ren, Snoke’s apprentice and champion of the First Order. Battered by grief and his own perceived failure, Luke retreated to Ahch-To – the legendary site of the first Jedi temple – and cut himself off from the Force. He intended to die and ensure the Jedi tradition died with him. But the dormant will of the Force would soon awaken. Kylo hungered to prove himself a master of the dark side, but still felt the pull of the light. And on Jakku, a Force-sensitive scavenger of humble origins began a journey that would end Luke’s exile and send new shock waves through the Force.