This Star Wars article contains spoilers.
Rey has big shoes to fill. As the hero of the Sequel Trilogy, she’s inevitably compared to Luke Skywalker’s coming-of-age allegory and Anakin Skywalker’s tragic fall. Not only is she the Jedi destined to save the galaxy, but she’s also a part of a lineage of heroes and villains that define the Star Wars saga.
Like Luke, Rey wants to know more about her parents but uncovers a dark secret about her family in the process. Like Anakin, Rey suffers the loss of that family. And in the true Star Wars hero mold, she’s the one with the fate of the New Republic resting on her shoulders, the Jedi’s best bet against the dark side. But Rey’s story isn’t exactly like Anakin and Luke’s. In fact, there are a few things that set her apart.
So, how did this new hero come about? We answer that question and more with these behind-the-scenes and Expanded Universe facts about Rey:
1. Her name was originally Kira.
In early drafts and concept art, Rey was named Kira. According to The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi making-of book, the name “Kira” went all the way back to George Lucas’ original outline for the Sequel Trilogy. And the name certainly fits Lucas’ penchant for quasi-Japanese-sounding names and may have been an homage to Akira Kurosawa, one of the directors that heavily influenced the look and feel of the Star Wars saga.
Like Luke Skywalker’s own name, which went through many iterations before the release of Star Wars, the name “Kira” stuck around well after Daisy Ridley had been cast and filming had begun. According to Ridley, director J.J. Abrams didn’t tell her he was considering changing her character’s name to “Rey” until they were already shooting The Force Awakens in Abu Dhabi.
2. Rey’s gold-bladed lightsaber has hidden meanings.
At the end of The Rise of Skywalker, Rey adopts the Skywalker name and equips a new lightsaber. Rey’s saber blade is a yellowish gold, a color that in Legends continuity sometimes indicated the user was a Jedi Sentinel. Knights who chose to take the Sentinel path preferred to use mechanical and technological aptitude alongside their Force powers and physical strength. The weapon also features a rotating mechanism that ignites the blade as opposed to the more traditional buttons used by the Jedi of old, further highlighting her interest in mechanical engineering. The Jedi classes aren’t part of the new trilogy, but the role of Jedi Sentinel would definitely suit Rey!
Rey’s saber has an ornate hilt design that appears to incorporate several different types of scavenged materials, including parts from her quarterstaff as well as pieces of cloth, likely meant to represent parts of her journey in the Sequel Trilogy. The lightsaber’s emitter briefly flashes blue and then green as it’s being ignited, possibly as an homage to Luke and his two lightsabers.
3. Some of George Lucas’ ideas influenced Rey’s story.
Although the writers and directors hired after Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm ultimately developed their own ideas for The Force Awakens, some of Lucas’ own plans for the Sequel Trilogy did make their way into the final product. In terms of Rey, Lucas came up with the idea of “Kira” training under a self-exiled Luke, which was meant to be the main story of Episode VII, but ended up as part of the larger narrative in The Last Jedi.
But original The Force Awakens screenwriter Michael Arndt did pen a version of the script where Luke was a main character. According to The Art of The Force Awakens, Rey would have found him on a “homestead.” But Abrams said in an interview with The Los Angeles Times that Luke’s presence in the script became too distracting and overwhelmed Rey’s story. Instead of a main character in the first film, he became a mystery she had to solve.
4. Rey is Emperor Palpatine’s granddaughter.
In The Rise of Skywalker, Palpatine reveals that he is Rey’s grandfather. This isn’t a typical family story, though. The movie novelization by Rae Carson explains that Palpatine’s son was actually a “strand-cast,” an imperfect clone of the Emperor who lived while other experimental clones died. But he couldn’t use the Force, and Palpatine found him to be a useless candidate for succession because of it. Likely due to Palpatine’s disapproval and disgust, his son rebelled against him.
Palpatine’s son married and ran away with his family, hiding Force-sensitive Rey on Jakku in the hope that the Emperor wouldn’t find her there. While she remained hidden from the Sith lord until The Force Awakens, her parents weren’t so lucky. They were killed by the Sith assassin Ochi prior to the events of the Sequel Trilogy.
This Palpatine legacy is why Rey tended to gravitate toward the dark side, as Luke mentioned in The Last Jedi. In The Rise of Skywalker, she unleashes Force lightning, and even encounters a dark side vision of herself inside the ruins of the Death Star II. Unsurprisingly, as Palpatine’s granddaughter, she’s next on his list of who he wants to fulfill the Sith Rule of Two, which would require her to kill and replace him as the new Dark Lord of the Sith. In this way, Palpatine could ensure the Sith lived on after his death.
But the novelization also reveals that Palpatine doesn’t actually plan to give up his rule so easily. Using the same Sith ritual that allowed him to survive his death in Return of the Jedi, had Rey cut him down, Palpatine would have transferred his consciousness to his granddaughter, using her body as a vessel to rule the galaxy as Emperor once again.
5. Rey has a special connection with Kylo Ren, but it’s complicated.
Rey and Kylo Ren’s relationship is complicated. It’s antagonistic, but there is also always something drawing them together. Literally. The Rise of Skywalker reveals that they’re each one half of a “Force Dyad,” a powerful link between Force users created by Palpatine to bind them. As Palpatine’s granddaughter and Vader’s grandson, they’re two prongs of the fate of the galaxy and the heirs to a long struggle between the Skywalkers and the Palpatines.
This connection between Rey and Ren was part of Palpatine’s grand plan to truly rise again. He created the Force bond between Rey and Kylo to draw them both to him and as another possible source of power. In the final act, we see him use their combined power to revive his own broken clone body and restore his Force abilities.
But Rey and Ren also have a more intimate connection. They have similar histories: both are trying to reach for something beyond themselves (Rey’s family in her case and the power of the Empire in Kylo’s case), and both are set apart from others around them by their troubled relationship with the Force. In The Rise of Skywalker, it’s suggested that their relationship has an element of attraction too, as Rey and Kylo kiss after the climactic battle. But the novelization of the movie downplays the romance and emphasizes different emotions: relief, “gratitude, acknowledgment of their connection, celebration that they’d found each other at last.”
Abrams also explained after a screening of The Rise Skywalker that Rey and Ren’s connection wasn’t meant to be specifically romantic but something more complicated:
“There is as much of a brother-sister thing between Rey and Kylo Ren as there is a romantic thing,” Abrams said. “So it’s not like literally a sexual, romantic thing, but it’s more like they’re bound together in this movie in a crazy, spiritual way that, again, felt romantic to me.”
6. Rey can heal with the Force.
Force healing has been part of Star Wars for a long time. Jedi healers have appeared as playable characters in classic Star Wars tabletop games, video games, and old Legends novels. But this ability has never been shown so clearly in the live-action Star Wars saga as it is in The Rise of Skywalker. In the movie, both Rey and Kylo Ren use the Force to knit wounds together.
The first live-action appearance of this power actually took place in The Mandalorian episode 7, which aired just a day before The Rise of Skywalker‘s debut. Baby Yoda uses the Force to heal the bounty hunter Greef after an animal attacks him.
7. She became an ace pilot by training on a simulator on Jakku.
Apart from scavenging parts from the ruins of Imperial Star Destroyers, Rey spent much of her childhood on Jakku practicing on a flight simulator and using a training computer (which helped her learn alien languages) as her only form of entertainment. In the book Before the Awakening by Greg Rucka, we see her practicing on the simulator, which lays the groundwork for how she learned to pilot ships while stuck on the desert planet.
8. She almost escaped Jakku before Finn arrived.
Later in Before the Awakening, Rey finds a starship that’s salvageable enough for her to escape her life as a scavenger. She doesn’t want to leave Jakku — she’s still waiting for her parents — but the ship is worth a lot of portions if it works.
She meets two other scavengers who offer to help. Scavengers don’t trust one another easily, but they ingratiate themselves to Rey, and she discovers that she wants something else, too: friendship. They get the ship working, but end up stealing it instead of allowing Rey to sell it. The friendship is broken and Rey remains on Jakku until The Force Awakens.
9. She originally had her own ship and speeder.
Rey’s speeder is featured briefly in The Force Awakens and in the first trailer of the movie. She’s a mechanic of sorts, so of course she would have a vehicle suited to her needs that can haul scrap metal across the desert.
In concept art for the movie, she also has a ship to go along with it. This craft, made of parts from many different types of starships and with their original paint jobs intact, was designed by Ryan Church and was intended to be a visual representation of her scavenger life. In the movie, Rey instead steals the Millennium Falcon, the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy.
10. Keywords for her character emphasized toughness.
During development, Arndt and Abrams used these keywords to define Rey’s character: “loner, hothead, gear-head, badass.” Both directors and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy wanted to make a female character young girls could look up to.
All of these keywords are on display at the beginning of The Force Awakens, when the isolated scavenger eagerly fights First Order troopers. Later, in The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren tries to tempt her to the dark side by using those “loner” and “hothead” traits, supposing that if he reveals her family members were nobodies, she’d join the dark side to relieve her loneliness and give in to anger. Even after learning how Palpatine has ruined her life in The Rise of Skywalker, Rey remains a hero through and through.