A new Star Wars movie is out, and for better or worse, that always means there’s also a host of new tie-in material released which can explain or clarify some questions left lingering after the credits rolled. The Rise of Skywalker is no exception, and its own “Visual Dictionary” guidebook is jam-packed with little nuggets of intriguing lore.
If you’re an incredibly specific kind of Star Wars fan (welcome, you are among friends) you’ve likely already seen the Star Wars academic conundrum heard ‘round the world. The Rise of Skywalker: The Visual Dictionary charts out the events of the film and its predecessors within the context of an entirely new reframing of the Star Wars timeline.
For decades—in the old Expanded Universe and the Disney era—the chronology of the Skywalker Saga has revolved around the destruction of the first Death Star, in a manner akin to how our own ancient history is measured around the birth of Jesus Christ: there are BBY and ABY, Before (and After) the Battle of Yavin. A New Hope takes place in 0 ABY, The Force Awakens 34 ABY, The Phantom Menace in 32 BBY, and so on. That’s all changed now: we have BSI and ASI, “Before and After the Starkiller Incident.”
So yes, every date mentioned in The Visual Dictionary is shunted forward to arc around an event about 35 years later than most Star Wars timeline fans would typically be aware of. It’s an...odd move, to say the least, and it’ll be interesting to see if official Star Wars material outside of this book adopts BSI/ASI over BBY/ABY going forward. For now, just pour one out for all those Wookieepedia editors.
This has been a long-running theory from Star Wars fans, considering we knew the vital role kyber crystals play in not just the construction of lightsabers, but, err, also planet-killing super lasers. If you’re going to carve a new Death Star out of a planet, why not the one known for its overabundance of powerful and rare kyber crystals?
But yes, in sections based on both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, Rise’s visual dictionary confirms that years after the Empire itself had scoured the planet’s surface for kyber, the First Order returned to Ilum—the ancestral Jedi site that generations of Padawans visited in their trials to find and attune with the crystal that would power their own lightsaber—to look for more to power their own superweapon designs. In doing so, they discovered that Ilum not only had much larger kyber crystals hidden deeper beneath its surface, the core of the planet itself was crystalline too. Harnessing kyber crystal’s unique qualities, the planet itself was carved out and Starkiller was born. And with it destroyed, one of the Jedi’s most sacred worlds is gone too.
Makes us wonder where exactly Rey got that new orange-white crystal for her new saber...
Luke’s galaxy-crossing astral projection at the end of The Last Jedi incited much debate when the film first came out, with certain fans riled up that, as a crusty old smuggler once put it, that’s not how the Force works. But! Luke’s act not only had precedent in the Expanded Universe well before The Last Jedi, some of the EU material that inspired it in the first place is officially canon now.
In a section about Luke’s sacrifice on Crait, the Visual Dictionary notes that Luke’s technique is based on one mastered by a species called the Fallanassi, and depicted in one of the ancient Jedi texts he kept on Ahch-To, the Similfuturus. It also explains how it works: Luke essentially “poured” his own personal spirit within the Living Force (the aspect of the Force that binds living beings together) into the Cosmic Force (the more esoteric, all-encompassing entity that is essentially the divine will of the galaxy), allowing him to bridge vast distances at the cost of surrendering yourself over to Force itself, passing from the mortal world into its ethers.
The Fallanassi were first introduced in Before the Storm, a 1996 novel by Michael P. Kube-McDowell. An all-female sect of religious cultists, they referred to the Force as “The White Current,” and while they couldn’t do the acts of telekinesis we’ve come to typically expect of Force Users, they were masters of “Force Immersion.” Unlike Luke, they didn’t use it to traverse distances when immersed: it was a tool of stealth, concealing a person or object so deeply within the Force they could not be seen by most people.
Another detail that’s made the rounds recently that The Rise of Skywalker doesn’t devote any time to actually explaining: Kylo Ren’s pursuit of an ancient, echoing voice from the unknown leads him on a quest to locate a Wayfinder, ancient technology crafted by Jedi and Sith alike to navigate interstellar anomalies and locate worlds with deep connections to the Light and Dark sides of the Force. He finds his pretty swiftly in the film’s opening montage, but the film never reveals that he does so on Mustafar.
The lava world is, of course, the former home of Darth Vader and his very fancy castle, as well as the site of Anakin Skywalker’s fateful duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi. It’s unsurprising that Vader would’ve had a Wayfinder among the relics collected in his castle, to be fair—the Dark Lord built it in attempts to tap into ancient Force powers that could resurrect his fallen wife. Why wouldn’t he, like his Master, be hoarding some ancient relics?
Speaking of weird Force abilities like we have been, another recently-introduced and incredibly cool aspect of Force mysticism that the Star Wars franchise has been playing with as of late is the World Between Worlds.
Introduced in the final season of Star Wars Rebels, the World is a nexus point of the Light side of the Force between the very layers of reality itself—wanderers of its cosmic paths could bridge themselves not just across space, but time, with all moments and all things connected in the Force accessible through its gateways. In Rebels, Ezra used it to save Ahsoka from certain death after her duel with her former Master, and battled Palpatine to stop the Sith Lord from attempting to gaining access to it. In the Darth Vader comics, Vader’s construction of his castle on Mustafar let him channel Dark side energy to access something akin to the World Between Worlds too, if not quite the same thing.
But while all that’s recent, The Rise of Skywalker’s Visual Dictionary reveals that the concept of the World Between Worlds has been known to Force users for millennia: a section about the Jedi scripture Rey took with her from Ahch-To reveals a page in one tome filled with notes about the “Chain Worlds Theorem,” which it then goes on to give other names for, including “Vergence Scatter” and...the World Between Worlds. Suffice to say, it seems like its powers are something the world of Star Wars might want to start exploring even further.
One of the more peculiar (and sadly unexplored) elements The Rise of Skywalker throws into its vast Smörgåsbord of ideas is that General Hux, now so purely driven by his petty hatred of Kylo Ren, is willing to become a double agent and feed First Order secrets to the Resistance. That idea is fascinating in and of itself, but Rise has little time for it in its wild escapades. The Visual Dictionary, meanwhile, gets into it a little further with what turns out is kind of a hilarious twist.
Apparently Hux and Ren’s relationship soured unequivocally after a mission in Ren’s flagship, the Star Destroyer Finalizer. Over Batuu in 0.5 ASI (so, err...34.5 ABY, for those still temporally displaced), Resistance forces managed to liberate a group of travelers imprisoned on the Destroyer, who went on to cripple the cruiser in their escape back to the world below. The incident was such an embarrassment for the General and the Supreme Leader that Ren dragged Hux with him to his new command ship, the Steadfast, placing Hux under Allegiant General Pryde’s close supervision, pushing Hux to use his lowered place in the shadows to aid his hated foes.
If all that sounds familiar it’s because, uh...it’s the premise of Rise of Resistance, the new ride at the Disney World (and, starting in a few weeks, Disneyland) version of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. There has to be fic out there of Kylo and Hux’s theme park ride gone wrong already, surely?
Rey and Kylo’s connection in The Last Jedi is brought to the forefront of Rise’s narrative, revealed by Palpatine as an incredibly rare pairing within the Force of two living beings: a Dyad. That terminology is new to the movie, but in a somewhat throwaway passage in its section on Exegol, The Visual Dictionary offers that we’ve actually seen an interpretation of this power in action in a different name. Describing Sith Eternal runes depicted on the world in the ancient Sith language, the book intriguingly comments that an explanation of the Dyad is “nearly identical to text describing the Rule of Two.”
The Rule of Two is well known to Star Wars fans: established by the ancient Sith Darth Bane, it’s the doctrine that only two true Sith could live at one time, a master and their apprentice. For years, we’ve assumed that this was meant to be a rule that simply attempted to control the devious, duplicitous nature of the Sith, after their old Empire fell into ruins. But apparently, it could seem to be an attempt to coax the prophecy of the Dyad into existence as a power wielded by the Sith—explaining why, when finding it to have awakened in not just his granddaughter but the descendant of the Skywalker lineage, Palpatine would be very interested in corrupting them and bringing them together.
It’s not a particularly solid interpretation though—the passage goes on to say that the runic incantation has “inflection marks and line breaks” that “change specific meaning in certain words.” So, essentially, it could be that the Dyad and the Rule of Two were one and the same...from a certain point of view.
The Corellian CR90 that essentially serves as the Resistance’s base on Ajan Kloss is a design familiar to Star Wars fans. After all, it’s literally the first starship we ever see in the series. Fans might have assumed (like we did!) that this corvette is the same one liberated from Corellia by Wedge Antilles and several other Resistance agents in a mission depicted in Rebecca Roanhorse’s excellent Rise-prequel novel, Resistance Reborn, which would make sense. But...apparently not! Because this isn’t just any Blockade Runner. It’s the Tantive IV. Leia and Bail Organa’s personal diplomatic ship, that one and the same ship we saw opening A New Hope.
Apparently the Empire didn’t destroy the vessel after Darth Vader captured it and its ambassador over Tatooine, but instead mothballed it, hidden away in a hanger in the Yarma system, according to the Visual Dictionary. Decades later, a former Imperial senator sympathetic to the Resistance’s cause returned it to Leia as a gift, letting the Tantive once more become a symbol of rebellion in the galaxy. Although at this point, should we really be surprised that this film brought back another thing we remember from the old films?
Another out-there bit of backstory left under-explained in Rise is Poe Dameron’s suddenly shady past as a member of the Spice Runners of Kijimi. That Poe has some smugglers blood in him isn’t too surprising, perhaps—after all, he is the closest thing to a Han Solo stand-in the sequel trilogy has—but the confusing aspect of it all was simply time. We knew Poe was a New Republic pilot before immediately joining the Resistance, inspired into service by the fact both his mother and father flew for the Rebel Alliance. Given the chronology of all that—and the fact that Poe is only 33 by the time of the sequel trilogy—it was hard to try and figure out just when Poe would’ve dabbled in the shadier side of space-bound shenanigans.
Turns out, he did so while pretty young. Poe’s mother, Shara, passed away when he was 8, and the young man would run away from his home on Yavin IV as a 16-year-old. Poe spent five years on Kijimi with Zorii and the rest of the Spice Runners, before entering New Republic academy training in 7 BSI (once again, around 27 ABY or thereabouts in the old chronology). Busy man, that Poe Dameron.
If there’s one thing Star Wars fans (and even Star Wars stars) love doing, it’s theorizing some really weird scenarios out of these movies into something spectacularly morbid. Like how, for example, the Forest Moon and its furry inhabitants survived somehow not being pelted with the smoldering wreckage of the Death Star II. The Visual Dictionary has a suitably hand-wavy answer: space physics!
The Modell sector, which the Endor system is part of, is apparently “rife with hyperspace anomalies” that are responsible for dumping everything from interstellar detritus to even starships in and around the gas giant and its nine primary moons. Those anomalies seemingly also deposited the falling Death Star debris elsewhere in the sector, saving Endor from a fiery, apocalyptic fate so the Rebels could have their nice Yub Nub dance party in peace. While Kef Bir, the oceanic moon seen in Rise, was also saved by these anomalies, it still suffered catastrophically in comparison to Endor with what Death Star II debris did hit it. Not only did it displace the world’s wildlife, the battlestation’s reactor cores polluted the oceans they sunk into, too, displacing even more of Kef Bir’s natural life and outright killing off some species in the process.
A fun bonus fact to cheer you up after that: The Visual Dictionary also gets into the whole Endor System/Forest Moon of Endor naming confusion, too. While in galactic basic, both Endor the gas giant and Endor the Forest Moon have the same name, in Ewokese the gas giant is known as Tana. In light of the Ewok’s service to the Rebel Alliance in the battle over the second Death Star, the New Republic was planning to officially change the giant’s name to Tana, but the legislation wasn’t passed before, well, the whole damn thing went klabammo. Superlaser’s will do that to senatorial administration.
For more, make sure you’re following us on our Instagram @io9dotcom.