Who Are Rey’s Parent’s?

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The number of theories about who Rey’s parents are is endless: Luke, Han and Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Emperor Palpatine, Supreme Leader Snoke, Jyn Erso, Ezra Bridger, and Iden Versio are just a few names that have been suggested. Rey is incredibly powerful in The Force Awakens, and so it’s logical that she must be the daughter of someone equally as mighty, right? To the contrary, I believe that Rey’s parents are neither force-sensitive nor important characters from the past canon. The Force did awaken in Rey in Episode 7, but I think that was due to her natural God-given (or, Force-given in this case) abilities, rather than her ancestral genes. The evidence for my claim comes from comments made by Daisy Ridley and Rian Johnson, as well the fact that Rey and Kylo are mirrors for each other thematically in the sequel trilogy.

Daisy Ridley’s Comments 

In an interview in December 2016, Daisy Ridley has this to say about who Rey’s parents are:

“I thought a lot was answered in The Force Awakens. Then after the screening I went for a drink with my agent and everyone, and we were chatting away and I realized that oh, in their minds it’s not answered at all!”

Okay, so Daisy Ridley clearly thinks that a big part of the answer to Rey’s parentage is in The Force Awakens. The question then becomes: where? Some people have made arguments that Lor San Tekka must have been on Jakku to guard Rey. If this was the case, then it’d signal a connection between Rey and Luke since Lor San Tekka and Luke traveled the galaxy together. However, I argued here that Lor San Tekka was on Jakku only to find the map to Luke; not to guard Rey. Others argue that the key hint of Rey’s parentage comes when Kylo Ren freaks out at the mention of “a girl” after Rey, Finn, and BB-8 escape Jakku (“what girl?”).

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Perhaps Kylo Ren knows Rey, which again signals some connection with Luke and/or some past important character. However, I argued here that Kylo has never met Rey before, which was confirmed by JJ Abrams:

“They’ve never met, but he’s heard of this girl.”

The real piece of evidence that I believe Daisy Ridley is referencing comes from Maz Kanata in a scene immediately following Rey’s forceback:

Rey: “I have to get back to Jakku.”

Maz: “Han told me. Dear child. I see you eyes. You already know the truth. Whomever you’re waiting for on Jakku, they’re never coming back. But, there’s someone who still could.”

Rey: “Luke.”

Maz: “The belonging you seek is not behind you. It is ahead.”

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This is the only scene in The Force Awakens where any character makes a definitive statement about Rey’s parents. Here, Maz clearly states that Rey’s parents are “never coming back”, but Luke “still could”. If Luke was Rey’s father, then it wouldn’t make any sense for Maz to say that Luke could still come back even though Rey’s parents aren’t coming back. Therefore, I believe there is no way that Luke can be Rey’s father.

Perhaps even more importantly, Maz tells Rey that the belonging she seeks is not behind her, but ahead of her. Even though we know from Rian Johnson that Rey will be interested in her past in The Last Jedi, I believe this line from Maz tells us that, ultimately, Rey won’t get any clues about what path she should take by looking to her past. We know from The Last Jedi trailer that Rey would like clarification about what her destiny is:

“I need someone to show me my place in all of this.”

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However, I think Maz is telling Rey that she won’t find any easy answers by looking to her past. It would be really easy for Rey if she were Luke or Obi-Wan’s daughter because then she would know that she was born to follow in their footsteps by becoming a Jedi and fighting the Dark Side. Unfortunately, Rian Johnson has said he wants to challenge his characters in The Last Jedi as much as possible:

“I guess I saw it as the job of this middle chapter to challenge all of those characters— let’s see what happens if we knock the stool out from under them.”

I think Rey is going to struggle finding her place in the galaxy in The Last Jedi, and I don’t think learning about her past is going to give her any help in this regard. In fact, I think learning that she was born to normal parents will have a big emotional impact on Rey by making her even more confused about her place in the galaxy . This is exactly what Rian Johnson wants to do with the question of Rey’s parentage:

“Take the question of who Rey’s parents are: If you get the information — oh, it’s that! — who really cares? I know a lot of people care, but it’s interesting as opposed to impactful. Now, what is my place in the world? Where do I come from? Where do I belong? O.K., I understand what the weight of that is. We could play with those questions and their answers to have the biggest emotional impact on these characters.”

Furthermore, Daisy Ridley has hinted that the reveal of who Rey’s parents are won’t provide much clarification for Rey:

“You can always look for answers and that doesn’t mean that the rest of your life is so easy. It’s not like, oh, I know who my parents are so now everything falls into shape…”

Rian Johnson’s Comments 

In an interview with ABC, Rian Johnson had a very interesting exchange with a reporter regarding Rey’s parents:

Reporter: “Are we going to find out who Rey’s parents are?”

Rian: “It is something that is absolutely going to be addressed.”

Reporter: “It will be addressed, but there won’t be clarification?”

Rian: “It depends on…I can’t say. I was about to say something. You almost got me!”

Now, this exchange certainly doesn’t prove anything, but I find it quite intriguing. Rian says that who Rey’s parents are will be “addressed” in The Last Jedi, but he won’t go as far to say that it will be answered definitively. Moreover, he seems to suggest that whether the question will be answered or not depends on what you mean by “clarification,” but he stops himself before giving too much away.

The reason I think Rian isn’t able to say that the audience will get a definitive answer about who Rey’s parents are is that we won’t get a specific answer that makes sense to us. Even if we find out the names of Rey’s parents, they won’t mean anything to us because they’re just average people that we’ve never met before. In that sense, Rey’s parentage will be addressed in The Last Jedi, but there won’t be much clarification for the audience about who exactly her parents are. So, if you think clarification means that you know the full backstory of Rey’s parents, then there won’t be clarification in Episode 8. But, if you think clarification means that you generally know where Rey came from (no where in particular), then there will be clarification.

Rey and Kylo as Ying and Yang

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A third reason why I believe Rey does not come from a family of force-sensitive or powerful beings is a thematic one: Rey is meant to serve as a mirror for Kylo Ren. There has been many statements by Rian Johnson that suggest Rey and Kylo are two halves of the same whole:

Kylo and Rey are “two halves of the dark and light.”

“Rey and Kylo are almost two halves of our protagonist.”

Additionally, there are many aspects of their characters in The Force Awakens that suggest this duality. Kylo is a boy and Rey is a girl. Kylo was left by his parents in the care of a responsible guardian (Luke Skywalker), while Rey was left by her parents in the care of loathsome one (Unkar Plutt).

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Kylo is mostly on the Dark Side but feels a “pull to the light”, while Rey is mostly on the Light Side but has some Dark Side impulses (like how she loses her temper and almost kills Kylo at the end of Episode 7).

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So, while Kylo comes from force royalty being the son of Leia, nephew of Luke, and grandson of Anakin/Darth Vader, Rey comes from nothing and is “no one”. Kylo believes that Anakin/Luke’s lightsaber is his by birthright:

“That lightsaber. It belongs to me!”

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However, he is not worthy of carrying on its legacy. Instead, the lightsaber, or, more accurately, the Force, has chosen Rey to be its champion:

“That lightsaber was Luke’s. And his father’s before him and now, it calls to you!”

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The Force has “awakened” in Rey not because of factors she can’t control like who her parents are, but because of factors she can control like whether she is a good person or not. Therefore, having Rey’s parents not be famous force-users would make a nice thematic point about how who you are matters more than where you come from.

Additionally, having Rey’s parents be no one in particular would push the character of Kylo Ren even farther and have a big emotional impact on him. Remember these quotes from Rian Johnson:

“I guess I saw it as the job of this middle chapter to challenge all of those characters— let’s see what happens if we knock the stool out from under them.”

“Take the question of who Rey’s parents are: If you get the information — oh, it’s that! — who really cares? I know a lot of people care, but it’s interesting as opposed to impactful. Now, what is my place in the world? Where do I come from? Where do I belong? O.K., I understand what the weight of that is. We could play with those questions and their answers to have the biggest emotional impact on these characters.”

At his core, Kylo is an insecure 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.” That’s why he wears his mask, even though there’s no medical need for it. This was confirmed by JJ Abrams in the audio commentary of The Force Awakens:

“And because of Vader, I think you expect him to need the mask. That, like Vader, it’s some kind of breathing apparatus, some sort of necessity. But when his mask comes off, you see Adam Driver, and he just looks like a sort of prince. And it makes no sense. Why would he wear a mask?…But the question of why he wears the mask was answered in his insecurity…But the idea was that he was using that mask for intimidation, that he, like many terrorists, is a coward, and he’s someone who’s hiding, who’s trying to scare you.”

Therefore, the fact that Kylo was beaten by a mere “scavenger” in The Force Awakens is quite humiliating for him, especially when he has to admit this to his master, Supreme Leader Snoke. So, not making Rey the daughter of a famous force user will further challenge Kylo’s confidence in himself. If Rey was the daughter of Luke, Obi-Wan, or some other powerful character, then at least Kylo could justify to himself why he lost. However, Rian Johnson will give no such relief to Kylo. He was beaten by a nobody.

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There is one more reason why the ying yang relationship between Rey and Kylo foreshadows that Rey’s parents are no one of note. This has been pointed out by many other theorists (see here and here for examples), but there were some clear allusions to Beauty and the Beast in The Force Awakens. Perhaps the most direct reference was a shot in the beginning of the film in Rey’s house:

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That red flower looks suspiciously like a dying rose like the Beast has, and the metal object behind it look like a bell, which is perhaps a reference to Belle (the Beauty). Like Belle, Rey is very beautiful on the inside and out, as well as very talented and smart.

On the other hand, Kylo has many similarities with the Beast. Like the Beast, he is in some ways under the spell of a sorcerer/sorceress. While the Beast was cursed by an Enchantress after he refused to let her come in to his castle from the cold, Kylo was in some ways cursed and manipulated by Snoke, at least according to Leia:

“It was Snoke. He seduced out son to the Dark Side. But we can still save him.”

Moreover, just like the Beast, Kylo looks hideous and scary on the outside with his mask and dark outfit. Rey is clearly revolted by his appearance initially:

“That happens when you’re being hunted by a creature in a mask.”

However, when Kylo Ren’s mask comes off, he doesn’t look like a beast at all. In the screenplay for The Force Awakens, it says that “Rey reacts, stunned” after Kylo takes off his mask. In the audio commentary, JJ Abrams says:

“When his mask comes off, you see Adam Driver, and he just looks like a sort of prince.”

Just like the Beast is a literal prince that comes from a royal bloodline, Kylo’s ancestors suggest he is a kind of Force royalty. If Rey is then the equivalent of the Beauty, then she would not come from a royal bloodline. Belle was no princess in Beauty and the Beast.

How is Rey So Powerful Then? 

Okay, so if Rey doesn’t have famous parents, then how the heck is she so powerful? The answer is that some people are just born with more natural force abilities than others. Just like some people in the real world are born with extraordinary intelligence or athletic ability, some people in the Star Wars world are born with heightened force-sensitivity. For example, we know that the Jedi used to find force-sensitive children and train them.

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Additionally, in Star Wars Rebels we learned from Darth Vader that Emperor Palpatine saw these naturally force-sensitive children as a threat:

“The Emperor has foreseen a new threat rising against him. The children of the Force. They must not become Jedi.”

These children didn’t have Jedi for parents, as the Jedi weren’t allowed to have kids. Instead, they were naturally strong in the Force, as is Rey.

Isn’t this Trilogy Supposed to be about the Skywalkers?

According to Kathleen Kennedy, the head of LucasFilm, this trilogy is supposed to focus on the Skywalkers:

“The Saga films focus on the Skywalker family saga. The stories follow a linear narrative that connects to the previous six films. The Force Awakens follows Return of the Jedi and continues that generational story.”

So, does this mean that Rey must be a Skywalker or closely related to the Skywalker family? I don’t think so. Although Rey is, seemingly, the main character in this new trilogy, there are still three other central characters that are Skywalkers: Leia, Luke, and Kylo. I think that fulfills the quota!

Why Did Rey’s Parents Abandon Her?

This is a difficult question to answer. On the one hand, it seems that Rey’s parents must have been real deadbeats if they left her with someone as revolting as Unkar Plutt. On the other hand, there’s some evidence from The Force Awakens novelization that Rey’s parents cared about her:

“Then behind her, another voice. That voice. Stay here. I’ll come back for you…I’ll come back, sweetheart. I promise.”

How can we square these inconsistencies? Perhaps Rey’s force powers were present even at a young age, and they were too much for her parents to handle. Maybe they decided to leave Jakku to try and find someone that could help them deal with Rey, and they didn’t feel like it was safe to take Rey off of the planet. Even though Unkar Plutt is vile, he was a big-shot on Jakku and was strong enough to protect Rey.  That could be why Rey’s parents left her with Unkar.

If Rey’s parents did love her and intended to come back, then they must have died at some point on their journey. Perhaps they made contact with Luke or someone else affiliated with his new Jedi Order to try and get help for Rey, but died shortly after. If this is the case, then maybe Luke will know who Rey’s parents are, and so will be able to give her some closure on the issue.

Conclusion

Although we have spent the last two years developing intricate theories about who Rey’s parents could be, the simplest answer may be the right one: Rey’s parents were just average people that had no special connection to the Force or galactic history. While this might disappoint some fans, I believe it would serve the story well by challenging Rey and Kylo emotionally.

 

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