Star Wars’ Skywalker Family History Uncovers Ben Solo and Rey’s Childhoods

Star Wars’ Skywalker Family History Uncovers Ben Solo and Rey’s Childhoods
Crop of the cover to Skywalker: A Family at War by Kristin Baver. Artwork by Matt Ferguson. (Image: DK Publishing)

Original trilogy, prequel trilogy, sequel trilogy, it’s all just one story: the Skywalker Saga. From the very beginning of Star Wars, George Lucas’ tale from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away has been almost singularly about one family whose fate would change the universe. Now, with that story complete, Lucasfilm has decided it should be retold in a different and intriguing way. It’s called Star Wars Skywalker — A Family at War by Kristin Baver, it’s out this Tuesday, and Kotaku has an exclusive excerpt for you to read.

In the simplest terms possible, it’s a retelling of the entire Skywalker saga as a novel. So there’s no need to ask what order to watch things in. Baver has taken it all, including crucial elements from all canon Star Wars media, not just the movies, and put it into a 300-page story. Better than that though, it’s Star Wars as you know it as seen from a unique point of view; familiar story elements are viewed from alternate perspectives, with additional context and consideration from an outsider.

To give you a taste of what to expect, Kotaku is excited to feature an excerpt from the book. It’s from near the end (so, you know, spoiler alert) and it details the next generation of Skywalkers — mainly Ben Solo and a young girl named Rey.

The full book cover. (Image: DK Publishing)

From Chapter 27: “Son of Solo, Daughter of Darkness”

The war ended. Ben Solo arrived. Life, as the Skywalkers knew it, shifted.

Considering the high-profile military and political careers of both of Ben Solo’s parents, surprisingly little is known about their child’s earliest years, sheltered as he was from the glare of public scrutiny. Ben had his father’s pronounced nose and lopsided smile, and his mother’s piercing brown eyes. At least that feature, Leia was sure, was inherited from her own birth mother, Padmé Amidala. He had chubby, dimpled hands and a shock of brown hair so dark that it almost seemed black in dim light. He was a cute kid, by most estimations, even if he cried incessantly for much of his infancy. True to his heritage as a Skywalker, he was strong in the Force, an untapped ability that manifested, as it had for two generations, in incredibly quick reflexes, abnormal awareness, and Force-sensitivity. Fortunately, Ben’s demonstration of this as a toddler was confined to lifting his favourite stuffed sock Wookiee through the air and into his waiting embrace.

Neither Han nor Leia found the transition from soldiers to husband and wife, parents, and civil servants of the New Republic easy, but they did their best. After five years of terror and triumph, risking her life in battles and secret missions — every minute looking over her shoulder for the next ambush or attack — Leia found domestic life somewhat dull and democratic procedures in the Senate tedious. She believed in what they had fought for and was relieved that the war was over and the Empire dismantled. But for years afterward, Leia had to admit she missed the exhilaration, comraderies, and shared purpose of fighting an enemy.

Balancing the demands of building a democracy from the ground up and caring for her son was taxing even for a person of Leia’s resilience and fortitude. Diplomacy sometimes eluded her on mornings when her sleep had been interrupted by Ben’s plaintive cries or his sharp toes jabbing her in the ribs. Still, Han marveled at the ease with which Leia seemed able to calm the baby. The infant seemed to instinctively know that his mother would never let any harm befall him, while Han struggled to adapt to his new identity as father. He once quipped: “I smuggle, not snuggle.”

While also employing the help of friends and droids, Han and Leia tended to manage the push­and-pull of other demands by taking turns at their apartment to watch over the child. They were present as much as their work and other obligations allowed. Leia recognised that the time she spent away from the boy — exhausting as it was — was still time spent ensuring he had a galaxy to safely grow up in, a benefit she hoped he would recognise in time. Being a parent herself, she came to understand how gruelling it must have been for the Organas to raise her, run a planet, aid the Rebellion, and make meaningful contributions to Senate politics.

When he could, Chewbacca was more than happy to spend time with young Ben. The Wookiee could barely believe that his roguish friend Han had settled down and become a father like himself. Leia’s motherhood made more sense to Chewie. She had always been a commanding yet compassionate figure in the Rebel Alliance, as quick to give a stern admonishment after an unfortunate incident as she was to celebrate a hard­won victory with a hug and an encouraging smile. After the ordeal on Bespin, Chewie’s affections for Han extended in nearly equal measure to the princess. And, of course, the dashing Lando Calrissian, whom Ben called “Unca Wanwo” as he tried to navigate the complexities of adult speech, was more than happy to regale the child with stories of his own daring adventures in the galaxy, his father’s smuggling days, and the finer points of living a fabulous life filled with an array of interesting new acquaintances.

When Ben was two years old, the family enlisted the help of a droid, BX-778, adept at both brewing caf and watching over the small boy when his parents were otherwise engaged. The droid’s programming was briefly corrupted by a nefarious virus — when Ben was still given to late-night temper tantrums, it nearly slit the toddler’s throat. Fortunately, if Ben remembered the incident at all, it remained deep in his subconscious, the stuff of nightmares. Yet it seems possible that it left an emotional scar that influenced his later years.

As he grew, Ben was more often left alone with a droid caretaker. He knew, or at least he was told, that what his parents were doing was important, but in the way that children believe the world revolves around them, he didn’t quite believe it.

For Leia, work was senatorial hearings and political banquets. Han, Leia knew, still had a wanderer’s heart and she tried her best to understand his need to be in constant motion, especially when his delusions of grandeur and desire to save the galaxy took him away from his family for weeks at a time. When Lando came knocking, demanding Han’s help locating a device capable of disseminating a virus that could turn harmless droids — like young Ben’s — into killing machines, Leia packed Han’s bags for him, recognising the importance of duty over her own desires.

She made peace with the fact that their union would have to withstand the ambitions of two strong, independent, not entirely compatible people; but their young son undoubtedly felt the rift and found it beyond his comprehension. Leia and Han learned the importance of staying in contact via holo-call. As the years went by, their competing interests forced them to remain apart, sometimes for months at a time, yet they remained devoted to each other.

In time, Han renounced his military rank and turned his attention to the racing circuit, allowing his mechanical skills and prowess as a pilot to inform his career path. He became a respected mentor to hot-headed and daring young pilots, but struggled to find the same ease with his own boy. Han had never really envisioned himself as a parent or guardian. He had no role models to draw on; to him, beating a path through parenthood was like flying blindfolded through an asteroid field and perhaps even more deadly. He looked forward to a time when he could show his son how to fix the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon, or help him procure a ship of his very own. But the quieter moments of nurturing a helpless young child seemed to elude the roguish Solo.

Even before Ben was born, Han allowed himself to daydream about passing along his skills at the helm as well as his mechanical know-how. When his baby son grabbed his aurodium-plated chance cubes, a lucky charm found adorning nearly every ship or vehicle Han had the chance to fly, his pride swelled. But when Ben showed an aptitude as a pilot, Han could not be sure whether that was down to his own genes or the kid’s Skywalker blood. Despite being proud of his son’s Force-sensitivity, Han could not help but feel pangs of jealousy when the boy decided to follow his uncle, Luke Skywalker, and join his drive to establish a new Jedi Order rather than taking to the simpler, adventurous course of traversing the galaxy with his old man.

***

Rey, born just as Ben Solo was beginning his Jedi training, was ten years his junior; yet the two were indelibly linked by the Force in the form of a dyad. The precise cause and nature of such a thing is shrouded in mystery. Both halves of the Force-centered bond had prodigious strength in the Force, dynastic family lineage, and together, a raw power unseen for generations that had the ability to bring forth life itself. But while Ben’s origins were the source of some early consternation, always feeling as if he were being compared to his influential mother or heroic uncle, Rey grew up in isolation and anonymity.

What is known of Rey’s early life followed a similar course to Luke Skywalker’s own upbringing. She was secreted away on the desert planet of Jakku, to avoid becoming a weapon of the dark side.

Rey was not a Skywalker by blood, yet the young scavenger exemplified many of the Skywalker family’s best characteristics. Rey was selfless and independent, surviving on meager rations obtained through barter and trade at the Niima Outpost — named for a Hutt who had once controlled the Goazon Badlands in the barren wasteland. Most of the junk Rey recovered and resold came from abandoned Imperial and Rebel Alliance ships whose jagged hulls were a reminder both of the decline of the Empire and the futility of war. Rey was a skilled pilot, able to navigate the Millennium Falcon through a tight spot almost as well as Han Solo himself, as she proved when she stole the ship from a junkyard to escape First Order operatives. She had the same wide-eyed wonder for the galaxy that Leia would have recognised from her own youth. Rey also had a powerful — but very different — connection to the Force.

The influential Skywalkers traced their roots back to the Chosen One of prophecy, but Rey hailed from an altogether different bloodline that meandered through galactic events, exploiting cracks and crevices to favour the Empire with a dark dynasty all its own: Rey was a descendant of the ultimate architect of the Empire, Sheev Palpatine.

Palpatine died, in the normal sense of the word, when his body hit the bottom of the second Death Star’s reactor core shaft, moments before the superweapon exploded. But just as the Jedi learned that the living Force could be transformed into the cosmic Force, consciousness that could be reconstituted beyond the grave, the unnatural abilities and macabre obsessions of the Sith allowed Palpatine to be reborn in a clone body of his own creation.

Rey’s biological father was the offshoot of Palpatine’s genetic research, not precisely a clone but made of cloned tissue and donated cells. His name has been lost to time, as has the reason the young man survived — whether by purpose or neglect. There is no record that the son of Palpatine demonstrated any of the Force abilities that his cruel and powerful father relished. Considering Sheev Palpatine’s history, that would have undoubtedly made the boy a disappointment to the man who sired him.

Like Ben, for much of her life Rey had no knowledge of her bloodline. When she was still quite young, her parents sold her to become an indentured servant the same as Shmi and Anakin Skywalker. Rey only remembered her father and mother as shadows. The sensation of feeling loved and cared for remained, but she had no memory of their faces, their names, or the sacrifices they had made to keep her safe. For many years, Rey consoled herself with the thought that, one day, they would return to find her.


Copyright © 2021 Dorling Kindersley Limited DK, a Division of Penguin Random House LLC © & TM 2021 LUCASFILM LTD. All rights reserved.

Star Wars Skywalker — A Family at War will be out April 6; for more information or to order a copy, visit its official home page.