This article contains major The Rise of Skywalker spoilers. You can read a spoiler free review here instead.
In The Rise of Skywalker, the stage is set for major change. Emperor Palpatine is back, having survived his fall into the Death Star’s shaft and the destruction afterward in Return of the Jedi. Meanwhile, Rey has gained more acrobatic mastery of the Force, but still struggles to connect with other people.
But Rey has a secret weapon: a Sith knife inscribed with the directions to planet Exegol, where the Emperor is waiting with a new Imperial fleet. After Rey finds the dagger, she realizes it’s the key to the Emperor’s plans and her own history. Before the movie came out, there was a lot of speculation that this might be the Dagger of Mortis, a knife used in The Clone Wars to kill the beings that represent the physical manifestations of the Force.
It isn’t. Instead, it’s a dagger without any magical properties except having been made by the Sith and used as a kind of map to get to Exegol. Rey and Kylo Ren compete to find the dagger and determine the fate of the galaxy. It’s a MacGuffin, an object the heroes need to find to progress on their quest.
But it does look very similar to the Dagger of Mortis. It’s not the only time in The Rise of Skywalkeran idea is introduced that is similar to but not exactly like another idea from canon or Legends elsewhere in Star Wars history. The other major example is the Sith Wayfinder, which looks very similar to the holocrons sold at Disney’s Galaxy’s Edge theme park, but functions totally differently.
So why exactly did fans think the two daggers were the same? And does the connection mean anything about what The Rise of Skywalker establishes about the Force?
What is the Dagger of Mortis?
In The Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi discovered the Dagger in an altar on the hidden world of Mortis. This bizarre world is also where they met the Father, Daughter, and Son, physical and sentient manifestations of the different aspects of the Force. The Dagger is capable of killing these fundamental embodiments, essentially representations of the light, the darkness, and balance.
Of course, this becomes a Chekhov’s gun that goes off in a way that relates to Anakin’s role as the Chosen One. The Daughter fell to this blade first. In an act of self-sacrifice, the Father stabbed himself. This meant the Son was no longer immortal, allowing Anakin Skywalker to kill him. The sacrifice restored the balance of this mystical plane.
This all seems to be a literal expression of what is happening in the wider galaxy, with self-sacrifice leading to the Emperor’s defeat in both Return of the Jediand (less directly) in The Rise of Skywalker.
How is Rey connected?
What exactly “bringing balance to the Force” means has long been a topic of discussion among Star Wars fans. It was introduced in the Prequel Trilogy as part of the Jedi prophecy Anakin Skywalker was supposed to fulfill. Since Anakin became Darth Vader, the definitions of “balance” are potentially skewed. Does it mean only one dark side Force user and one light side Force user can exist at one time without throwing the galaxy into war? Or is it a metaphor for how individual people should view the Force, not as good vs. evil but as a balance of both? There’s enough in the movies to argue for a whole host of interpretations.
The Dagger of Mortis arc in The Clone Wars opened up more questions. So there are literal manifestations of morality at the center of the Force—but where are they now? How much there is literal and how much is metaphor?
While it’s never explicitly said to be representative of balance, the Force bond between Rey and Kylo Ren fits nicely into this idea. Rey takes on Emperor Palpatine on her own, but expends so much power and so much of her own Force energy that it takes Ben Solo’s last act to save her from dying of the exhaustion and backlash. In a way, they are the light and dark in balance, bonded together by the Force (and by Palpatine, since he created and encouraged the Force bond in the first place).
On the other hand, J.J. Abrams doesn’t seem to be interested in connecting the film to The Clone Wars. We don’t yet know whether he viewed the Mortis episodes, came up with the Sith dagger on his own or with co-screenwriter Chris Terrio, or something else. While still part of the same canon, the movies continue to exist seperately from the animated stories. (A wise move from the studio’s perspective, since they can’t expect a wide audience to have seen the animated shows).
What does it mean for the Force?
The Jedi prophecies haven’t been forgotten in the Sequel Trilogy era. Rey has ancient books filled with as-yet-unexplored Jedi knowledge. The novel Master & Apprentice included several more Jedi prophecies, one of which seems to call forward to General Leia and Kylo Ren.
The Star Wars books world has been full of curiosity about something else, too: an upcoming endeavor called Project Luminous. What exactly this is is unclear. Five authors are on board, so it could be a collaboration or a long series. The key here is the word “luminous.”
“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter,” Yoda says in The Empire Strikes Back. It’s likely this project has something to do with the Force or the Jedi specifically, and won’t be revealed until after the Sequel Trilogy concludes. This was one early rumor that led fans to conclude that the Force itself might change in a fundamental way in The Rise of Skywalker. While that hasn’t entirely happened, we have learned some new things.
The Sith Rule of Two means every Sith Master channels all others, the Force bond was manufactured by Emperor Palpatine, and Rey can channel the generations of Jedi Masters who have passed on. Plus, Finn is Force sensitive, able to sense where to go when he most needs to. This change isn’t connected to a magical dagger: it’s connected to the legacy of the Jedi and the Sith, and to characters who choose to do good when it’s a hard thing to do.
Do you think the Dagger of Mortis lore is connected to The Rise of Skywalker in any other ways? Feel free to comment below.