What is a Padawan?

"Much to learn you still have, my old Padawan."

Youngling, Padawan, Knight, Master. A Jedi continually grows and studies to unlock their full connection to the Force. Since we first heard the mysterious word uttered by Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Padawan has come to mean young student, apprentice, or learner. But what does “Padawan” actually mean to the Jedi?

Let’s take a look at the past and future of Jedi apprentices. From the origins of the Jedi Order to the New Republic, Jedi pass on what they have learned to the next generation of Force wielders.

Luke training with Yoda

What is a Padawan?

When a youngling was ready to graduate into more mature and rigorous study, they reached the rank of Padawan. A Padawan was an apprentice paired with a Jedi Knight or Jedi Master for teaching and training. Most wore a Padawan braid to denote their status in the Jedi ranks.

During the prosperous era of the High Republic, the Jedi Temple bustled with Padawan learners. They shared a common area in the Temple where they enjoyed each other’s company during a well-earned break from their studies. (Even Padawans had a party now and then.) “Able to teach one another much, Padawans are,” Master Yoda was fond of saying, “and far more able are they when their masters watch not.”

A Padawan’s duties varied. Meditation and lightsaber training were universal instruction studied in groups in the temple. Additional instruction and assignments for Padawans were specific to each master. Reath Silas adored being tasked with studying the Jedi Archives; Bell Zettifar’s training focused on more adventurous undertakings.

Anakin and Ahsoka

Through most of the Jedi’s history, Padawans were personally selected by their masters. Masters on the Jedi Council infrequently took a Padawan due to their responsibilities, but several did over the generations. In the later years of the Republic, Padawans could also be designated by the Council. Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker was assigned an apprentice during the Clone Wars for the pair to learn from each other, for instance.

Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi

Master and Apprentice

For thousands of years, students in the Temple were handpicked for personal instruction by a Jedi. A master only took on one apprentice at a time. There were no established reasons or rules for a Padawan’s selection –other than the will of the Force. Some were seemingly kindred spirits, like Depa Billaba and Caleb Dume, while others were practically polar opposites in personality, like Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Padawans often accompanied their masters on missions for hands-on, practical experience. Notable masters and apprentices over the centuries include:

  • Loden Greatstorm and Bell Zettifar (The High Republic)
  • Sskeer and Keeve Trennis (The High Republic)
  • Jora Malli and Reath Silas (The High Republic)
  • Yaddle and Oppo Rancisis (Age of Republic)
  • Yoda and Dooku (Age of Republic)
  • Dooku and Qui-Gon Jinn (Age of Republic)
  • Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Age of Republic)
  • Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker (Age of Republic)
  • Luminara Unduli and Barriss Offee (Age of Republic)
  • Jaro Tapal and Cal Kestis (Age of Republic)
  • Kanan Jarrus and Ezra Bridger (Age of Rebellion)
  • Yoda and Luke Skywalker (Age of Rebellion)

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker standing in a Coruscant elevator

The Jedi Trials

When a Padawan was deemed ready to become a Jedi Knight, they embarked on a rite of passage known as the Jedi Trials. Trials were a test of power and intellect, designed to challenge an individual Jedi’s strengths and weaknesses. No two trials were the same.

A Padawan was typically a young adult at the time of their trial, although some prodigies like Vernestra Rwoh of the High Republic were as young as 15 years old. Some trials were completed through experience in the field; Obi-Wan Kenobi attained the rank of Jedi Knight in this manner.

Rey in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Pass on What You Have Learned

By the time of the New Republic, the Jedi Order and Temple on Coruscant were long gone. Luke Skywalker took on multiple students for training, including Leia Organa, and Rey. Apprentices Voe, Hennix, and Tai studied alongside Ben Solo at Luke’s Jedi Temple.

Rey was later mentored in the ways of the Force by Leia in a Padawan-like relationship. Leia challenged her with grueling obstacle courses, mediation, and studying ancient Jedi texts to complete her training.

The ways of the Force continue to be passed on as Rey takes her next steps as a Jedi.

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Kelly Knox writes features and DIYs for StarWars.com. Her writing can also be seen on Marvel, DC Comics, IGN, and more. Follow her on Twitter at @kelly_knox to talk Star Wars, games, and crafts.

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