A common belief among many in the Star Wars fandom is that Kylo Ren knew Rey before The Force Awakens. Some argue that he was the one that left Rey on Jakku; some argue that he trained with Rey at Luke’s Jedi Academy; and others simply say that Kylo had never met Rey before The Force Awakens, but knew of her from a force vision or from word of mouth. Evidence for these claims include the fact that Kylo freaks out at the mention of “a girl” in the Force Awakens movie (“What girl?”), and that he says “it is you” after Rey force pulls Anakin’s lightsaber in The Force Awakens novelization. However, the common wisdom is wrong. Kylo Ren has never met or heard of Rey before The Force Awakens.
Had Kylo Ren Met Rey Before The Force Awakens?
One prominent argument is that after Kylo Ren destroyed Luke’s new Jedi Academy, he dropped Rey, one of his fellow students, off on Jakku with Unkar Plutt. This theory makes some sense, as Kylo struggled with the “pull to the light” in The Force Awakens, and therefore may not have had it in him to murder a young child after he destroyed Luke’s Jedi Academy. Additionally, who would leave a child in the care of a despicable man like Unkar Plutt besides a villainous character? Nevertheless, there is strong evidence that this theory is wrong.
From The Force Awakens visual dictionary, we know Rey was 19 at the time of The Force Awakens. Since the actress who portrayed young Rey in the “forceback” vision was 8 at the time of filming, we can surmise that she was at most 10 when she was left on Jakku. However, since we know from the Bloodline novel that Kylo’s betrayal didn’t occur until less than 6 years before The Force Awakens, Rey would’ve been about 13 when Kylo turned to the Dark Side. So, the timelines don’t match up.
Moreover, we have a direct statement from JJ Abrams, the director and writer of The Force Awakens and Episode 9, that Kylo and Rey have never met. In the audio commentary for the film, JJ says during the fight between Kylo and Rey at Maz Kanata’s Castle:
“They’ve never met, but he’s heard of this girl.”
Okay, so this seems pretty definitive. Perhaps JJ was lying (he did lie about Benedict Cumberbatch being Kahn), but this seems like strong evidence that Kylo has never met Rey. However, while he may have never met her, perhaps he had “heard” of her before The Force Awakens. Maybe he had heard a legend about her (the new “chosen one”), or had seen her in a force vision. This would certainly explain why he says “it is you” in The Force Awakens novelization.
Had Kylo Ren Heard of Rey Before The Force Awakens?
Although there is some circumstantial evidence that Kylo at least had heard of Rey before the events of The Force Awakens, I don’t believe he knew about her at all. But, if that’s the case, then what explains all of the quotes that suggest Kylo knew of Rey? I believe we can answer this question by thinking about what the title of the film, The Force Awakens, means.
It is quite clear that the awakening referenced in the title of Episode 7 is about Rey. Rey is the clear protagonist of the movie, and she is the one that learns how to wield the force as the film goes on. She starts out as a simple Jakku scavenger, but over the course of the film is able to successfully pilot the Millennium Falcon through a crashed Star Destroyer, have a force vision, defeat the mind probe of Kylo Ren, use a mind trick on a stormtrooper, force pull Anakin and Luke Skywalker’s old lightsaber, and defeat Kylo in lightsaber battle. Clearly, Rey is an incredibly powerful force user, and it is her force abilities that “awaken” throughout the movie. This is backed up by the fact that there’s a section on Rey’s page in The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary titled “an awakening,” which says:
“The adventures of Rey and Finn on Jakku coincide with a turbulence in the cosmic Force, a sudden ripple indicating the awakening of newfound ability.”
This quote pinpoints the exact timing of Rey’s awakening: on Jakku with Finn. Specifically, I believe that Rey’s force abilities awakened when she flies the Falcon on Jakku. Just like Anakin used his natural force talents to win the Podrace and Luke used his to hit that impossibly small target on the Death Star in A New Hope, Rey used her force abilities to expertly maneuver the Falcon through a crashed Star Destroyer.
My theory that Rey’s awakening occurred during her escape with Finn from Jakku is bolstered by the fact that Kylo and Supreme Leader Snoke sense this awakening in the Force just a few scenes after this:
Supreme Leader Snoke: “There has been an awakening in the Force. Have you felt it?”
Kylo Ren: “Yes.”
Now, remember who Kylo is as a character. He is essentially a Darth Vader wannabe whose biggest fear (revealed by Rey) is that he “will never be as strong as Darth Vader.” He desperately wants to appease his master, Supreme Leader Snoke, and is likely threatened by this awakening in the Force. If this awakening is in a person, then Kylo might worry that they will be more powerful than him. JJ Abrams mentions more than once in the audio commentary that Kylo Ren is “insecure”, and thus this awakening in the Force might not be good news for him.
So, why does Kylo Ren freak out at the mention of “a girl”? The reason Kylo angrily says “what girl?” is that he suspects that this girl might be the awakening Snoke and he felt, and he is threatened by her. Moreover, the fact that she is actively helping the Resistance by trying to get BB-8 back to them only fuels his anger.
When Kylo meets Rey on Takodana, he says:
“The girl I’ve heard so much about.”
Here, Kylo sounds like a jealous classmate that is meeting the famously brilliant student that the teacher keeps bragging about.
In the novelization, Kylo says something even more interesting:
“Is it true, then? You’re nothing special after all? You’re just a – Jakku scavenger?
Some have taken this sentence to mean that Kylo is surprised that the powerful child Rey he knew all of those years ago turned out to only be a scavenger. However, when put in the context of Rey possibly being the awakening in the Force Kylo felt, these questions by Kylo only suggest that he is surprised that a simple Jakku scavenger could be so powerful in the Force.
During the interrogation scene, Kylo also signals his surprise that a simple scavenger could be so powerful:
“Somehow you convinced the droid to show it to you. You. A scavenger.”
Again, here Kylo is putting the pieces together and figuring out that Rey is indeed the awakening in the Force he felt.
This continues when Kylo talks to Snoke about Rey:
Snoke: “This scavenger, resisted you?”
Kylo: “She’s strong with the Force. Untrained, but stronger than she knows.”
Kylo becomes even more desperate as he realizes that Rey is beginning to discover the extent of her powers:
“She is just beginning to test her powers. The longer it takes to find her, the more dangerous she becomes.”
Okay, so maybe all of the above can be explained by my argument, but what about Kylo Ren’s oft-cited line “it is you” from the novelization? Although this line makes it seem like Kylo must have known Rey before The Force Awakens, when put into proper context it doesn’t mean that at all. The context for this line is that it occurs after Anakin and Luke’s old lightsaber comes to Rey as opposed to Kylo. The fact that Rey’s force pull is stronger than Kylo’s makes it clear to Kylo that Rey is 100% the awakening Snoke and he felt. “It is you” equals you are the awakening. Although Kylo had suspected this truth earlier in the film, it is during this scene that he becomes fully convinced. Maybe Rey could defeat Kylo’s mind probe once due to luck and some natural force ability, but two instances of Rey’s force powers being stronger than Kylo’s can be no anomaly.
Conclusion: Implications for Rey’s Parentage
If Kylo Ren had never met or heard of Rey before The Force Awakens, then that also makes it unlikely that Luke knows Rey either. Luke traveled with Kylo for many years, and he seemingly trusted Kylo greatly before his betrayal. Therefore, if Luke had a daughter or knew of an incredibly powerful little girl, he probably would’ve told Kylo. While some might say that Luke’s old friend Lor Sank Tekka was sent by Luke to watch over Rey, I have argued previously that I do not believe that to be the case. If neither Kylo Ren nor Luke knew of Rey before The Force Awakens, then that increases the probability that she is not the daughter of a known character, but just someone who was born with incredible Force abilities and who the Force chose to be its champion in a time of crisis for the Galaxy.