How Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker References a Sith Lord from Legends

Does Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker tease the return of ancient Sith Lord Naga Sadow? We break down who the Legends villain is and why he's important to the franchise's history.

Star Wars Naga Sadow
Photo: Lucasfilm

In the junior novel adaptation of The Rise of Skywalker, Kylo Ren encounters statues of ancient Sith Lords chiseled into the stone walls of Emperor Palpatine’s citadel on Exegol. Among the Sith lords memorialized in the citadel are Locphet, Felkor, Mindran, and Sissiri, who are all new additions to the lore of Star Wars. But there’s one name that will undoubtedly be familiar to fans of the Legends continuity: Sadow, a possible new canon version of Naga Sadow, a comic book character from the ’90s who led a Sith Empire against the Jedi and the Republic thousands of years before the Skywalker Saga.

Don’t be surprised if you’re not familiar with this name. Dark Horse’s Tales of the Jedi series in which Nada Sadow was a major villain was excised from the official canon after Disney took over Star Wars. In fact, most of the stories you might have heard of ancient Jedi and Sith before 2012 no longer exist in the current continuity. So what does the subtle reference to Sadow mean for the future of Star Wars?

First, there’s a lot it doesn’t mean. This isn’t necessarily Naga Sadow himself, now canon in the annals of the Sith. It’s more likely a fun reference to a character or a tease to something that may or may not happen in the future. There have been other teases like this in other books: look at the way connections to the High Republic were seeded in the comics before the new era was announced earlier this year. But it’s also just as likely that Sadow is just a fun wink. 

Sadow is also just a good, pulpy Sith name, basically “Shadow” with an added element of “Sallow.” No reason to fix what ain’t broken when it comes to naming your villains.

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The inclusion of the name isn’t necessarily directly from the mind of novelization author Michael Kogge, either. Instead, the first canon reference to Sadow comes in The Rise of Skywalker Visual Dictionary, which briefly mentions a location on Exegol called the Sadow Escarpment. No additional information has been given yet about why this place was named as such. 

No matter how important he might end up being to the canon going forward, it’s worth exploring why Sadow is important to the history of Star Wars.

What was Tales of the Jedi? 

First, you need to know a little about the Tales of the Jedi series and the era in which it takes place. The Tales of the Jedi comic book series, which was written by Tom Veitch and Kevin J. Anderson, and drawn by an ensemble of talented artists, doesn’t get a lot of play in Star Wars conversations now, but it was a big deal when it debuted in 1993. After all, it took what we already knew about Star Wars — the Jedi, the Sith, the Force, heroes vs. evil empires — and adapted it to stories that had nothing to do with the movies. In fact, Tales of the Jedi took place in the Old Republic era of the old continuity, with the earliest chronological chapter set 5,000 years before A New Hope.

The series lasted for 35 issues across eight story arcs between 1993 and 1998. Like the upcoming High Republic books and comics will do for the Disney canon, Tales of the Jedi gave us new heroes and villains, a very different version of a galaxy we already loved, new conflicts, and new lore that fleshed out the stories we already knew. The very popular video game Knights of the Old Republic takes place in the same era, about thirty years after Tales of the Jedi.

This era doesn’t exist in the new Disney canon, but that doesn’t mean some equivalent to it won’t. The High Republic era, which is set over 200 years before the Prequel Trilogy, isn’t quite as far back in the timeline but has a similar hook in that it tells the stories of Jedi before Darth Sidious began putting his evil plans in motion.

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Is it possible Sadow could show up in the High Republic era? He’d have jumped several thousand years, but it would be a fun easter egg — or maybe a hint at upcoming stories set even further back. 

Naga Sadow, Dark Lord of the Sith

In the old continuity, Nada Sadow is a Sith by both creed and blood, a lineage that doesn’t really exist in canon anymore. In the Old Republic era, the Sith were still a species, and individual members of that species had all sorts of different opinions about the dark side Force users who ruled their empire.

A Sith Lord among Sith Lords, Sadow was one of two potential heirs to the Sith Empire. His story was as much about defeating his rival Ludo Kressh as it was about fighting the Republic. We see him wage war against both in The Golden Age of the Sith and The Fall of the Sith Empire arcs of Tales of the Jedi.

Sadow was a quintessential Sith Lord, power-hungry, amoral, and with the desire to corrupt an apprentice to the dark side as well as securing his own personal legacy as far into the future as possible. Sadow clashed with both the Jedi and the forces of Empress Teta. (The ruler of her own star system of the same name, Teta is not to be confused with the Empire. Despite its name and political organization, the Empress Teta system was allied to the Republic.) 

Sadow’s Legacy on Yavin 4 

In Legends, the hidden Rebel base on Yavin 4 had a storied history among Force users. By the time Luke Skywalker made it his Jedi Academy, it had already been saturated with centuries of Force energy and Jedi and Sith ghosts. The temples that housed the Rebel Alliance and later the New Jedi Order had originally been built by the Massassi, aliens enslaved and bred by Sadow to serve as his army. 

After he was defeated by the Republic and Empress Teta’s forces and could find no welcome among his rivals in the Sith Empire, Naga Sadow fled to Yavin 4 and went into a sort of exile. He put himself in suspended animation, hoping to wake up in a century more amenable to Sith teachings and his own rule.

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Centuries later, Sadow’s legacy was still felt among the Sith and the Jedi. In fact, Sadow’s symbolic tomb on the Sith planet Korriban was an important location in Knights of the Old Republic, and he appeared in Legends several times after his death as a ghost.

Connection to Palpatine 

Sadow’s ghost, in particular, makes him an interesting easter egg for Exegol. Like Sadow, Palpatine lived on as a “consciousness” that could possess clone bodies.

Legends didn’t have any equivalent of the Sequel Trilogy’s Force heritage idea, where all Sith Lords and all Jedi Masters can communicate with their successors. But grabbing for immortality has always been portrayed as a Sith trait that usually fails, while the Jedi strive for selflessness that also enables them to have a life after death. If you want to stretch a bit and slam canon and Legends together, you can imagine Palpatine researching Sadow’s work in order to make his own contingency plan in case of his untimely death. 

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Whatever this reference means, Sadow is a great nod to the history of Star Wars and a nice reminder that there are plenty of other great stories to be read in the galaxy far, far away. Maybe it’s time to dust off those old Legends books and comics?