‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Character Origin Speculation

SPOILER WARNING: This article contains spoilers from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Its primary aim is to speculate about character origins that could be hinted at in the film, but left open to interpretation.  Proceed at your own risk.  This article is not a review of the film.  The review of the film by Tara is located here.

[Additional spoiler warning text as a courtesy to our Facebook crowd, who have been burned by crossposting mishaps too many times… you’re welcome.]


Like the original Star Wars trilogy, there were a lot of shocking revelations regarding character family ties and origins.  The biggest bombshell of this film was Kylo Ren’s parentage, which closely paralleled a character from the Expanded Universe who follows a similar path.  In EU, Han and Leia have a set of boy-girl twins, one of whom goes dark side.  The other twin, a girl, is more of a hot shot pilot like her father and, while she’s not super strong with the Force, becomes sort of the counter to her twin brother.  

After the film, many of my friends who have read EU books automatically assumed that Rey was taking on that role, as it does parallel quite nicely with Kylo Ren’s part in the film (minus the whole ‘not good with the Force’ thing, because Rey was pretty damn good with it).  Despite the fact that we’ve been told that the films have nothing to do with EU, I can see where they are coming from.  However, I came away from the film with a very different theory.  Perhaps it’s because I don’t know the EU plot as thoroughly as my friends do, but my mind went a different direction. It seemed that the most likely scenario to me that Rey was Luke’s daughter. Let me explain to you why…

Luke’s Musical Leitmotif

To understand this part of the theory, it’s best if you understand what a leitmotif is.

Leitmotif (noun) – a recurrent theme throughout a musical or literary composition, associated with a particular person, idea, or situation.
In regards to music, John Williams is very well known for creating leitmotifs for characters.  Think outside of Star Wars for a moment, back to the sharks theme in Jaws.  That ‘ba bum ba bum ba bum’ theme?  That’s the shark’s leitmotif.
In Star Wars, various characters have musical cues that follow them throughout the films.  Luke has a very clearly defined one, known as the ‘Binary Sunset’ theme, which was compiled in an excellent video on YouTube (the video is in Spanish, but come on, we can all quote the films forward and backwards anyway so the context isn’t lost):

 I’ve ‘only’ seen the film twice (so far), but the second time I was intentionally listening to musical cues.  By my count, the motif played seven times, five of which were directly related to Rey, one of which was related to Luke in another way, and one of which I can’t explain.
The five times it played for Rey:
  1. Immediately after her visions with the lightsaber when Maz is telling her about its origins (more on that later).  This is the first instance of the motif playing on its own without being mixed with other music.
  2. Clearly as Ray is holding the lightsaber after using the Force to pull it to her, right past Kylo Ren.
  3. Briefly during the battle with Kylo Ren.
  4. Once more very clearly as Rey is concentrating on the Force in order to overpower Kylo Ren (yes, that’s three times in this battle sequence alone).
  5. During the closing scene when she’s holding the lightsaber out to Luke.

The one time that’s related to Luke, but not directly to Rey is when Han and Chewie first board the Falcon.  This instance is brief and mixed with other music, but it’s the first time that a character from Luke’s films is seen on the screen.

The one time I can’t explain is near the beginning of the film when Finn is rescuing Poe from the First Order.  It was heavily mixed with other music, but it’s the first instance of the song being played in the whole film and appears to be the only outlier to this theory.

A counter to this theory is that it may just be used to represent the Force, not Luke.  Brief instances of it are heard in other pieces of Star Wars media in which Luke doesn’t appear.  The alternate name for the tune is ‘The Force Theme.’  I still feel that the song is most closely tied to Luke, though, and only used as a general cue to the Force as a secondary usage.  Even in the prequels, it almost always accompanied either Anakin or Obi-wan, who are also strongly tied to Luke, and rarely used with Jedi who aren’t connected to him in a very direct way.

As I’ve said, I’ve ‘only’ seen this film twice, so if I missed instances of this leitmotif, please comment below so I can add them to the list!  It’s very possible I missed some.

The Skywalker Family and The Force

StarWars2As far as we know, the Skywalker clan is really the only group of people to pass down the Force genetically.  Part of this may be the fact Jedi traditionally don’t have families.  Another part of it may be that the Force just generally doesn’t work that way (as far as we know) and the Skywalkers are special.  Anakin passed it to Luke and Leia. Luke was particularly strong with the Force, learning how to master it much later in life than other Jedi.  Leia didn’t really use it too much, but was still obviously in touch with it enough to feel Han’s death through it.  Leia passed it to their son, who is strong… but not quite as strong as Rey.

The counter to this argument is that this could still mean she’s Leia and Han’s kid, not Luke’s.  We don’t really know how the Force works genetically, and it could be quite random who is the stronger Force user in the family.  Or it could mean the Force is just randomly strong with her and it has absolutely nothing to do with her lineage.  This is possible, but I feel that they wouldn’t have shown that she was so incredibly naturally inclined towards using the Force if she wasn’t in some way related to the Skywalker clan.  To me, the theory that she’s Leia and Han’s kid doesn’t make sense (more on that in the following sections), so that leaves only Luke.

Rey’s Flashback/Backstory

We did get one small bit of Rey’s backstory.  She was left on Jakku at a very young age and we see her crying as she’s left behind.  Friends who believe the theory that she’s Han and Leia’s kid feel that they left her after their son went dark side in order to protect her from her brother.  To me, this doesn’t make much sense.  Leia states clearly that sending their son away may have been what caused him to go dark in the first place, so why would they do the same thing with her? I don’t think they would.  Luke might, however.  Young Rey could have been at her father’s Jedi school and he could have made the rash decision either before consulting with Leia and Han, or he just went against them because, hey, it’s his kid, not theirs.  But this is merely opinion.  That facts of what’s included in her flashback speak much more loudly than mere thinky thoughts on my part.

The voice of Obi-wan and Yoda are both featured prominently in her flashback.  They even sampled Alec Guinness’s voice to say her name.  As both Obi-wan and Yoda were important Jedi before their deaths, it’s possible that they could be guiding her for reasons completely unrelated to Luke.  But the familiarity of Obi-wan saying her name makes me feel like they are much more closely connected to her than that.  As they were both connected to Luke, I feel that this small bit of voice sampling goes a long way in confirming this theory.

kylo ren tfaKylo Ren’s Reaction to Rey

The very first reaction that Kylo Ren has to hearing that BB-8 escaped with ‘a girl’ is to violently assault the officer who delivered him the news.  At first glance, this could just be him having a poor reaction to bad news, but later he admits that he felt an ‘awakening’ in the Force.  With that bit of info, this scene has a very different context.

I feel that Kylo Ren is a bit older than Rey, knew that she existed but wasn’t sure where, and then made the connection that BB-8’s escape with a girl and the awakening in the force were related somehow.  Knowing that your cousin, who is the child of the Jedi who is way more powerful than your mom (sorry Leia), is suddenly in touch with her powers would be pretty alarming.  He was probably hoping she was dead or so well hidden that she’d never be a threat to him.  But then bam, there she is all awakened and rescuing the droid that has the map to his uncle and totally ruining his day.  I’d be pretty angry too.

Furthermore, his reactions with her are heavily laced with jealousy in practically every scene.  When he’s interrogating her he scoffs at the fact that BB-8 trusted her enough to show her the map to Luke.  Later, she takes the lightsaber practically right out of his hands, which prompts him to respond possessively, asserting his ownership of the item.  When he appears to be about to take her down, he makes a last ditch effort to bargain with her and take her as his student.  Every single one of these interactions implies that he feels inferior to her and quite a bit threatened.  He can sense that she’s stronger and, if my theory holds true, knows that she’s a direct descendant of Luke who is the more powerful of Anakin’s two children.

Leia and Han’s Reactions to Rey

Parts of this bit of speculation come from fellow Geekiary writer Dot and friend of the Geekiary Psynatural.

Han was eager to dump Rey and Finn off at the nearest outpost until he asked her for her name.  Surely he would remember his niece’s name and, if he couldn’t recognize her on sight alone (it’d been a long time, after all), he would at least want to investigate further until his suspicion was confirmed.  As soon as she says her name, he offers her a job on his ship and then becomes extremely protective over her throughout the film.  He makes a high risk move to rescue her from the Starkiller, along with the attempt to shut down the base’s shields.  He also assures Finn that they won’t leave the Starkiller without her, even if it means certain doom for all of them.  It’s quite a turnaround for him in a very short amount of time.

Leia first meets her when she returns after Han’s death.  Leia wastes no time embracing her both literally and figuratively.  They have a special moment where they seek comfort with one another, which seems to be a tad more familiar than it would be with someone you were meeting for the very first time.  I have no doubt that Leia knows exactly who Rey is, either through her connection with the Force or simply by putting the puzzle pieces together herself. I’m really eager to see how their relationship develops in future films, regardless of whether or not this theory holds true.  They have a special bond.

lightsaberThe Lightsaber Origins

Parts of this bit of speculation come from fellow Geekiary writer Dot.

Maz’s dialogue and the aforementioned leitmotif connect the ligthsaber strongly to the Skywalker clan.  It was owned by Anakin, then Luke, and ‘now it calls to you.’  It’s very obviously a family heirloom and, as mentioned before, Kylo Ren seems to feel that he should be the next in line to get it.  The mythology surrounding lightsaber creation is expanded on greatly in the Expanded Universe and, while most of that can be disregarded as not canon for the purpose of the films, I still feel that a Jedi’s lightsaber is a highly personal item that probably wouldn’t be handed off to someone random.  The lightsaber calling out to her all but confirms that she is somehow connected to the Skywalkers and, as I mentioned, Luke is the most obvious choice.

What are your theories regarding Rey’s origins?  Luke’s daughter?  Han and Leia’s daughter?  Completely unrelated to the Skywalker clan? I’m dying to hear your thoughts.

Author: Angel Wilson

Angel is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. They earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. They have contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. They identify as queer.

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5 thoughts on “‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ Character Origin Speculation

  1. I was completely torn between these two theories after seeing the movie….and I have not read EU. Both very plausible and glad to know I am not the only one to wonder if she is cousin or twin to Kylo Ren!

  2. For what it’s worth I saw a tweet suggesting that Kylo Ren is about 10 years older than Rey, at 29-30 to her 19 (which makes her almost but not quite too young to be Leia and Han’s daughter). If she was… 4? 5? when she was dropped off on Jakku that would have made him about 14-16 at the time.

    I think if she is Luke’s daughter, Leia knows it for sure – and Han would have known that Leia would know upon meeting her.

    …also fascinating that whoever actually raised Rey told her Luke Skywalker was a myth when he should be a well-known historical figure. It’s almost like they didn’t want her to believe he was real for some reason. But then why continue to use her birth name? Although I guess that worked out just fine for Luke… 🙂

  3. Argh. While I totally get that this theory exists, I really don’t want Rey to be Luke’s daughter. Personally I just think that’s lazy storytelling, but also Luke is such a non-sexual being to me that him having children has always kind of been a weird thing that I can’t quite wrap my head around.

  4. Really well summarized! I’m definitely leaning far more towards her being Luke’s daughter than Han and Leia’s. I definitely think she has a profound connection to Luke, particularly because I think her “happy place” that Kylo Ren saw in her mind where she goes when she’s lonely is the island in the ocean where she finds Luke. Perhaps she’d been there before? Or more likely, would have emotionally-triggered vague visions of it when she was very small and upset? I’m really curious too as to whether she knows her family was important, if not the Skywalkers, because she does talk about her own origins being classified when she’s talking to BB-8. I also wonder if she recognized Luke as her father at the end and put everything together (even if she’d sort of known it for a long time) then.

    But my biggest question now really is who her mother is. I’m really intrigued by the idea of it being Phasma, because I really doubt they hyped Gwendoline Christie’s involvement and her character (compared to General Hux and Domnhal Gleeson, who I didn’t see anything about, really) so much for her to disappear off-screen in the first one. I feel like the thirty year gap between the original trilogy and the new films is being purposefully left mysterious, particularly regarding character histories so I feel like that’s a vaguely safe bet, and I wonder what her journey’s been.

    I’m more on the fence about if Kylo Ren knew Rey was his cousin or simply recognized her as another person strong with the Force (maybe someone Snoke/someone had warned him about?), because of the predatory/sexual assault vibes I got from his attempt to get her to talk in the chair (particularly his “you know I can take whatever I want” line as he looked her up and down). It might have just been male power dominance thing, not specifically sexualized, but either way, it’s creepier (still creepy anyway) if he knows she’s his cousin.

  5. Excellent speculation. I too am on the fence. Luke having a romance post Revenge of the Sith seems improbable. It seemed like he embraced the Jedi role which was traditionally celibate. OTOH, I can’t imagine Han/Leia having a child and not acknowledging it at all. Leia said to bring back their son. If it was her daughter, I’d think she would have mentioned it.

    So…. Confused but curious is where I’m left.

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