As I’m sure many people reading this do, when I have trouble sleeping, I often let the details of Star Wars run through my head. As I wait for sleep, I do character and plot analysis, letting these thoughts lull me gently into the arms of the Force each night. It can be an enlightening exercise that gives me new thoughts and perspectives on favorite characters, new angles to peek from, and the chance to bask in my love of the Star Wars universe.
And sometimes I sit up straight in my bed, like some sort of heroine from a novel, tangled in my blankets and shocked right to my core. Then I find myself unable to sleep for the rest of the night, because a revelation has sparked up every midichlorian in my system (we all have those, right?).
You see, one particular night, I was running through an exercise of paralleling the stories and paths of the sequel trio to the original trio. And as I’m running through the threads that link together Luke’s and Rey’s stories, I come to the startling realization that, while the similarities are there and while they share some steps on the same path, Rey isn’t the heir to Luke’s story at all.
She’s the heir to Anakin’s.
And there I was, sitting bolt upright in bed. I was shook. It was all right there. I had uncovered a flaw in my thinking and, in doing so, I found a new way to look at these stories from an entirely different perspective. In an instant, in the middle of the night, the pieces began to fall into place.
Now, I want to state clearly that this does not mean Rey IS Anakin, whether it be some remade version of him in the Force or a reincarnation (or, I don’t know, a failed clone). She is very much her own person. However… Rey’s story, particularly the trials she goes through along her journey, parallel Anakin’s and make it clear why the Force chose her to find and bring about Balance in the Force. Their distinct differences, both personal and environmental, spell the difference between Anakin’s tragedy (then redemption) and Rey’s triumph in fulfilling the Force’s will for balance
As another note, when I speak of the Chosen One throughout this piece, I’m not talking about a mythic prophecy, but rather something more concrete. I’m not talking about the concrete, but the abstract… or maybe it’s the other way around (after all the force moves in mysterious ways). As it stands, only Anakin lives in a world where there is an actual prophecy that alludes to him and his role within the Force. This is, perhaps, because any further prophecies were lost with the destruction of the Jedi, including the loss of records and the loss of Jedi with their own gifts for prophecy. I am referring to the Chosen One as a specific Force user that has been chosen by the Force itself to function as an agent of change in order to restore the balance between Dark and Light. This is a role that both Anakin and Rey have been chosen for, and it remains the strongest thread through both of their stories.
To start, Anakin was born into a galaxy with the Force already existing in a wild imbalance. The Jedi had grown complicit and even corrupt in many ways, weighed down by dogma instead of a belief in the will of the Force. Palpatine was steadily achieving his great rise to power, and he used Anakin as a key instrument for sweeping the Jedi off the board. He used the Chosen One to ultimately institute a reign of corruption and Darkness. His story still guided by the will of the Force, Anakin finally fulfilled his role as the Chosen one thanks to the redemptive love of his son. After years of being lost to the Dark Side, Anakin finished knocking the Dark from the playing field by killing Palpatine. In doing so, Anakin gave his own life to allow the Galaxy to begin to rebuild.
In comparison, Rey was born into a galaxy that was attempting to rebuild but failing slowly as the galaxy fell back into the comfort of complicity and control, allowing for the rise of the First Order and, by extension, Palpatine’s return. Rey’s power awakens specifically when she is brought into contact with a conflict that is bigger than herself, summoned as a force of Light to rise up against the Dark. She has been chosen to not only bring down the Darkness, but to also stop the Dark Side’s attempt to claim its own enduring legacy. In doing so, Rey is positioned to bring balance once again.
One of the most striking similarities between Anakin and Rey is their approach to the idea of family. In many ways, family, and the love that is associated with it, is an obsession for them both. How they come to terms with this obsession is key to understanding what will come next for each character in their journey as the Chosen One.
Anakin was taken from his mother with little to no time to process the change, never allowed to properly mourn her death, and forged into a warrior by the Jedi to fulfill a destiny that no one fully understood. The loss of his mother is a traumatic splinter in Anakin’s emotional psyche, one that is replaced with rage, mistrust of the Jedi Code, and a misplaced possessiveness towards Padmé and Ahsoka. In his attempts to keep them safe, Anakin begins to invalidate their own choices and abilities, replicating his own experience of living a life without agency in order to keep them in his life. He continues to fill each new splinter with more anger and rage until it ultimately consumes him. But, in the end, it is the love of his son that finally reaches Anakin through his cloud of rage, giving him permission to move forward instead of staying trapped in the same Dark place he has been in for decades.
Rey also lost her family, but her memory isn’t clouded by rage. When we meet Rey, she is fixated on the idea of returning to and remaining on Jakku, certain that Jakku is the center point and that whatever is there is all that she needs in order to understand what everything means. Even fatherly treatment from Han, likely similar to how she had imagined her own father would treat her, was not enough to shake the belief that Jakku is where she needs to be. Rey doesn’t see herself as the focal point. Someone else can save the galaxy, someone else can learn about the Force, someone else can go on this journey. All she wants is to return to the hazy memories of her mother and father and wait for them to make sense of her life and her experience. This desire is taunted by Kylo in The Last Jedi, as he sees only a memory of junkers, which is nothing of importance to him at that moment. He is so lost in darkness that the love of a parent could never be enough. Faced with his perspective on parental love, Rey begins to accept her own abandonment. Accepting this and processing this new perspective, Rey is finally able to open up to the love she’s already being given by the people around her. When she sees Finn again, she runs into his arms and accepts that the loss of one family does not mean she is alone, nor does she need to be alone. When Rey does learn the ultimate truth of her parents, she is able to accept the love they had for her, the sacrifice they made, and use this acceptance to understand that she is still deserving of love.
There are key moments in their journeys where both Anakin and Rey find themselves able to achieve this sought-after balance. In short, this balance can only be achieved when the inevitability of death is accepted with peace and with understanding, without fear. Acceptance of death and acceptance of the will of the Force, despite internal and personal wants and beliefs, brings balance through not just self sacrifice, but the understanding of that sacrifice.
“There is no death; there is the Force.”
– The Jedi Code
What is particularly noteworthy when considering the legacy of the Chosen One is that Anakin and Rey both achieve their goal in this role by relying on the faith placed in them by others. Luke holds fast to his belief that there is good still within Anakin, and in doing so, he mirrors the steadfast belief that Padmé had in Anakin from the beginning of his fall. Luke proves to Anakin himself that the Dark can’t destroy what Padmé had loved about him, showing Anakin that the path to the Light is still available to him. In contrast, Ben recognizes the selfless giving offered by Rey, dragged into the light by her decision to save his life despite all of the harm that he has done to the galaxy, to her friends, even to her. Ben recognizes the good in Rey and the good in himself; as a result, he chooses to fight for her. Both Anakin and Rey recognize the faith placed in them, accept it, and allow it to drive them forward in accepting their role and following the will of the Force.
In Anakin’s story, he overthrows an Emperor and chooses to embrace the light rather than taking Palpatine’s place. This leaves behind a power vacuum for his children to take advantage of and once more establish balance in the galaxy. He places his faith in the future and the Force, knowing that his role in establishing balance again was to remove the Darkness.
In Rey’s story, she embraces the power of the past and becomes all of the Jedi, allowing their light and power to flow through her like a conduit to bring light to the galaxy again, willing to sacrifice herself because of her belief in others and their belief in her. She finally places trust in the Force and accepts that balance will happen.
Building up to these moments of sacrifice are similar paths and reflected stories that we have the opportunity to follow. Everything that Anakin and Rey go through during their respective journeys leads them to their unique moment of sacrifice and acceptance. Their struggles are often the rejection of a preconceived destiny and an overcoming of efforts by others attempting to prevent them from achieving that state of Oneness with the Force.
It is clear that both Anakin and Rey hold a rare power within the Force, one that sets them apart from others and positions them at the breaking point of balance. Anakin is told of his unique abilities and strengths early in his life, designated as the Chosen One by others, emphasized by him being born of Shmi and the Force. He knows from early on in his life as a Jedi that he is destined for great things. In contrast, Rey awakens to her power, rising into her role as part of a dyad within the Force and as a descendent of Palpatine without any context for what either of these things mean. She stumbles through understanding her larger role and fights to find her footing with little guidance from those who understand better than her. Both have a legacy that informs their journey and their role in the galaxy, but, in the end, both Rey and Anakin show that they are the only true owners of the power given to them by the Force.
Throughout their stories, both Anakin and Rey struggle with powerful, external forces that attempt to claim and control their power for other goals.
From the moment he was born, being raised as a slave, Anakin has known that his life has always belonged to someone else. Even when he is taken in by the Jedi, his path is established as he is to be molded and trained as the Chosen One, heavy expectations placed upon him as the one who is going to bring balance. He is denied the necessary emotional support that Anakin needed to guide him in knowing how to actually deal with his supposed grand destiny. Being familiar and reliant on these connections and denied that support from the Jedi, Anakin finds himself being groomed by Palpatine under the guise of emotional support, manipulated by Palpatine who sees Anakin’s power and wants to make both Anakin and his power a tool in the essential arsenal that will allow Palpatine to grab and hold the power he seeks. Anakin’s story never loses this thread of being controlled and owned by others as he finds himself being forced and groomed into subservience throughout his life. It is unsurprising that the only choices he makes are done to reclaim his personhood and to protect the ones he loves, but the driving force behind these choices is something like obsession, because he does not want to lose the few things that are his. This love is a driving force, again, in Anakin’s choice to finally find his freedom, allowing him to reject the Dark Side, save his son, and kill the man who had been manipulating him since childhood. In that moment, Anakin is finally choosing for himself, reclaiming his agency and rejecting the pervasive idea that his life has never belonged to him.
It is here that the differences in Rey’s story are strongest and truly change her trajectory from Anakin’s. While Rey was left behind as a small child on Jakku, left to fend for herself as a scavenger, indebted and barely scraping together enough to live, her life on Jakku has undeniably been her own. Her life was, in many ways, highly solitary, one where she had to learn from an early age to rely solely on herself and her own judgement to survive. Her existence has been, from the beginning, defined purely by her own perspective. She made her life what it was and she made herself into who she is. This is a stark difference compared to Anakin, who spent most of his life being told what to do and being subjected to the societal structures he was born into. Rey was forced into an independence that Anakin couldn’t truly understand until he found his redemption.
It is clear to see why, then, when Rey is faced with forces that try to control her and lead her on a path with the promise of answers, she is tempted but ultimately rejects this guidance. As Kylo Ren continually makes overtures throughout the trilogy to teach Rey and bind her to him, she matches each attempt with rejection and confidence in her agency. Palpatine’s attempts, whether made by himself or through Snoke, face similar rejection. While Rey desires guidance and desperately wants to know and understand her place in the galaxy, Rey is undeniably comfortable with going about things her own way and trusting in her own decisions.
In The Rise of Skywalker, the villains that Rey faces off against try to undercut Rey’s ties to her own power and strip her agency from her as an agent of the Force. Both Palpatine and Kylo Ren try to lay claim to her as a person through the power of her bloodline. With consideration for Kylo, who’s fall into darkness in many ways ties to his desperation to be exalted to greatness based on his own bloodline, these efforts make sense, as he sees Rey only as an extension of her legacy based on where she supposedly came from. This harkens back to Kylo’s continued efforts to be Rey’s teacher, particularly after he realizes the strength of her connection to the Force.His attempts to convince her to overthrow the galaxy at his side, forsaking her friends and those who have also placed faith in her power, emphasizes this mistaken idea of lineage and legacy. He firmly believes that they are meant to complete the failings of the past. Kylo does not stop chasing Rey in this way until after she saves his life, allowing him to finally see the true light and goodness in her and realizing that he could never have truly controlled that part of her. This realization of the power of the Light Side guides Kylo in his own redemption arc, driving him to redeem himself by standing by her side, accepting Rey as she is and aligning himself to her path, forsaking his own aspirations to serve a greater good.
This brings me to contemplating the idea of the dyad, which is a concept that ties intrinsically to my ideas around Rey as the heir to Anakin’s legacy and his unfinished story, a role that Anakin himself endorses when he speaks to her through the Force during her final showdown with Palpatine. The dyad is a microcosm representation of the Force’s attempts to find and maintain its balance. Kylo had never been destined to fall, but the future and the Force are constantly in flux. Recognizing a growing imbalance, Rey was born more than ten years after Ben Solo, as he was beginning to hear the whispers and seduction of the Dark Side. Rey’s connection to the Force did not fully awaken until she finally crossed paths with Kylo, unknowingly confronting and accepting her fate as the counter to his darkness. This dyad of Kylo, who fell and found the light, and Rey, who found the Dark and turned her back on it, exists as a symbolic partnership that represents the Force’s own call to achieve balance.
Undeniably, Rey’s power is hers and hers alone, because she is an agent for the Light, existing to counter the Dark that exists in both Kylo and Palpatine. Her power does not come from being born a Palpatine, refuting the belief that power comes from bloodlines. Nor is she powerful because of the dyad that she exists in, because her power does not come from Kylo, but in response to Kylo. Rey is powerful because of who she is. She is powerful because of the circumstances that molded her and because of the path she chose to walk once she awoke to the will of the Force and came to understand the struggles of the galaxy at large.
And, just like Anakin, Rey’s final battle in her story is driven by love. Love for Leia, love for Luke, love for Finn and Poe, and, yes, love for Ben, the boy who came back to the Light and overcame his own Darkness to stand beside her. And, like Anakin, Rey is empowered by the fact that she is loved back so fiercely by all of them that she not only prevails– she lives. Through love, Ben gives back the life force she gave him, turning his resurrection into hers. In saving Ben, Rey also saved herself; in saving herself, Rey has saved the Light. Through love, Finn feels this through the Force, a connection to Rey that is as strong as Leia’s connection was to Luke, the two of them bound together even as they walk their own paths.
By and far, the biggest difference between Rey’s story and Anakin’s story, which changes the fate of the chosen one, is that Anakin had to learn to accept the love that was offered to him as a gift and a strength, rather than something to covet and hide. Perhaps learning from the dangerous path of the previous Chosen One, Rey always accepted the love given to her, and thus always gave her own love and her own Light freely.
“Bring Balance to the Force, as I did.”
In learning from the legacy of the Chosen One who came before her, Rey found balance, fulfilling the promise of the Skywalker lineage, embracing the strength that comes with love and belief. Despite the difference in circumstances, Rey was Chosen, just as Anakin was, and she achieved the destiny asked of her by the Force itself.