Let’s start where all fan articles should, with a reference to the hardy perennials of our bookshelves, in this case The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary. Buried within the detail of that work is a reference on the Kylo Ren’s lightsaber on page 27.
Here in what has all the hallmarks of an obvious reference point it states,
“…Kylo Ren’s unusual lightsaber is an ancient design, dating back thousands of years to the Great Scourge of Malachor…”
Ah yes, of course the Great Scourge of Malachor. Oh, wait. Back up a second. The Great Scourge of Malachor…hmmm? At the end of 2015 when I read that I thought, “Oooh. Interesting, wasn’t Malachor mentioned in the Old Republic era?” At the time that was about as far as it went given that I was not and am not engaged in the gaming end of Star Wars.
The fascinating thing about Star Wars Rebels, and The Clone Wars series before that, is that both shows, especially given Filoni’s input, delve into Star Wars lore and detail in depth (and often “under the radar”) which means that those of us who watch the shows sometimes hit pay dirt when it comes to fascinating and thought-provoking ideas, aided and abetted by the genius of Dave Filoni and the rest of the team.
At the end of series 2 of Rebels we saw the breathtaking conclusion Twilight of the Apprentice. Now there is a recap coming up so if you’ve watched the episode as much as me (which I have watched about 50 times now) skip the next two paragraphs.
At the start of Twilight of the Apprentice we saw Kanan Jaruus giving us detail on the the planet Malachor. We are told that Malachor was considered off-limits to the Jedi in the olden days. Desperate times call for desperate measures however and the crew of the Ghost are interested in how the planet can unlock mysteries that may assist them in their struggles against the Inquisitors.
On arrival on Malachor Kanan, Ezra and Ahsoka encounter large monolith constructs which have inscriptions upon them which Ahsoka translates. Ezra reaches out and touches the text, which triggers a mechanism that sends our three adventurers tumbling into a great cavern within which lies a Sith temple. Ahsoka recounts to Ezra that thousands of years ago, there was a battle on Malachor where the Jedi attacked the Sith temple.
The Malachor that we see in Twilight of the Apprentice is an ancient Sith planet, as was Malachor V from the Old Republic era in the old canon. To me this is what makes the Ahsoka Tano quote from Rebels that “there’s always a little bit of truth in legends” a lovely touch; in the “new canon” Malachor we still have a large Sith temple, housing an ancient Sith artifact. Likewise both Malachor and Malachor V served as the location of war on an epic scale as referenced in the Old Republic books / timeline.
There are however significant differences. The battle referenced in Twilight of the Apprentice was one between Sith and Jedi, in old canon the battle at Malachor V was between Revan’s army and the Mandalorian forces. The superweapon of the old canon caused massive casualties to both sides of the battle and forever left Malachor V a barren wasteland. It did not however leave combatants preserved for thousands of years as has seemingly occurred in the new canon’s “Scourge of Malachor”.
So why does Ahsoka’s comment do so much for us avid readers of both the old and new canon Star Wars works? Well I suppose that regardless of whether it was the Malachor V battle that we were familiar with in the Old Republic era, or a battle cast as the “Great Scourge of Malachor” in the new canon, Malachor is rendered legend to the in-continuity Star Wars characters discussing it. The fact that the events occurred so long before Twilight of the Apprentice (which takes place about three years before the Battle of Yavin) also triggered some thoughts for me.
Think of our own legends. Take for example the legend of King Arthur and how we appreciate that within the History of Britain. Arthur supposedly existed about 1600 years ago. That timeline is about as accurate as it gets. There is not however one wholly reliable account of Arthur, who he was, where his kingdom was located, where he was buried. We don’t even know the territorial remit of the Arthurian kingdom. Anyway, that’s not the point per se, you can all research King Arthur to your heart’s content (I recommend Peter Ackroyd’s reworking of Mallory’s Le Morte d’Arthur to begin with).
My photograph of Glastonbury Abbey from a recent trip — one of the many supposed sites of Arthur’s Kingdom of Avalon
The point is that 1600 years on from when some people think there was a historical figure called Arthur we are basically guessing at our own history in large part thus rendering it legend. In the Star Wars saga the events now having repercussions within Rebels are dated thousands of years in the past. In the meantime in The Force Awakens the characters are already pondering whether the key events of a few years previous are true. We have also seen in Claudia Gray’s Bloodline book and other works how quickly historical revisionism can erode “fact” from historical perception.
In the old canon, which was more developed “timeline-wise”, we know that the Battle of Malachor V took place in 3960 BBY and that the effects of the use of the mass shadow generator on Malachor preceded a Jedi Civil War.
Given the span of Star Wars “modern history” is between Episodes I and (until this December) Episode VII, and the fact that we are currently pretty limited in terms of what we know of anything prequel-based or before, I would argue that any Star Wars fan can at the moment grant the Legends material based in the Old Republic era just as much credence as in-continuity “canon” material. This is because, just like in reality, there will be different stories of myth, legends and lore and this means that the stories can be valued on a distinct basis. At the end of the day most people probably know their Plantagenet history from Shakespeare, and Shakespeare knew his Roman History from Plutarch. Likewise there was probably a Trojan War, but its just as unlikely that Homer nailed it in terms of historical accuracy any more than David Benioff.
Bearing that in mind I’m fairly satisfied that fans old and new can probably pick and choose from “Legends” and “New Canon” in establishing their own narrative of these very early formative years in the Star Wars galaxy. I know that John Jackson Miller’s Kenobi has always sat on my “canon shelf”; a decision that has perhaps been part-vindicated through Jackson Miller’s recent entry in the Certain Point of View collection of short stories.
Take also Drew Karpyshyn’s Star Wars: The Old Republic — Revan. What thrills me so about it is how much I can still get out of that book now, simply because it is fascinating to see how themes contained within in it have been reworked and re-deployed within the new canon. I have it on audiobook and find it a breathtaking tale.
Now have a look at these images. They show (1) the cover to Karpyshyn’s Revan book from the EU, (2) Kylo Ren as we have come to know and appreciate him from The Force Awakens, and finally (3) Alzman’s Jedi Killer from The Force Awakens concept art (page 54 The Art of The Force Awakens). Its almost become a bit of a Star Wars cliche to say “ooh, look how much alike they are”, and I’m not going to drag you back to the 2015 conversations along those lines. I will however say that the visual resemblance is a link back to Legends for fans, again recognizing that that body of work on the Old Republic has a “little bit of truth”.
I’m not being convinced by the Art of The Force Awakens’ quotes on “let’s ‘Boba’ up Jedi-Killer” or “this guy would be an imposter of Darth Vader”. No one has yet convinced me that the Revan cover design work didn’t act as an influence in some way even at a subconscious level. For me the similarity of design is a credible example of reaching back into important and beloved Star Wars lore and using it to good effect in the new timeline. Again, bringing a little bit of truth to Legends.
Stepping into the shoes of the characters themselves it is likely that Ren and/or Luke will appreciate historical /contextual Force references within the Ren helmet design. This may or may not be a Sith reference — we know from JJ Abram that “Kylo Ren is not a Sith. He works under Supreme Leader Snoke, who is a powerful figure on the Dark Side of the Force” and that the character “came to the name Kylo Ren when he joined a group called the Knights of Ren.”
We know for an ‘in-continuity fact” that there was a keen interest in Force artifacts in the immediate post-Endor period, and this has been well represented in the new canon. There is a fascinatingly short interlude of 3 pages in the first Aftermath book, where three dark ‘Acolytes of the Beyond’ make purchase of what is purported to be Vader’s lightsaber (page 227 for those of you who don’t want to read the book), and we have now seen similar themes explored in the second book in the Trilogy. Likewise on the light side of the force we have interesting developments into the retention of that detail via Lor San Tekka and The Church of the Force (see our earlier article on that topic).
Now I know that there have been pieces that have argued that Star Wars Rebels is secretly making the Old Republic canon. I don’t advocate that that is happening, it isn’t because there are key differences. My argument is that Star Wars Rebels and the rest of the “new canon” is enhancing the value of older stories we know and love set in that era by continuing to embroider the new canon with emblems and themes from the previous continuity in a thoughtful and appreciative manner. At the same time it is linking forward with The Force Awakens era, establishing a conversation forwards and backwards throughout Star Wars history.
In Rebels (as in The Clone Wars) we get so much rich in-continuity detail on Mandalorian culture, references to Malachor, Sith Temples, etc. In Rebels we see a clear link with The Force Awakens, in the design of Ren’s lightsaber (see images of the lightsaber Ezra picks up on Malachor vs Rens lightsaber). We now also see links back to the old continuity both in the points discussed here and in Season 3 with the arrival of Thrawn. Let’s hope Season 4, coming soon, can continue that trend.
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