Star Wars Has Made Last Jedi's Force Ghost Retcon Even Bigger (& Better)

The concept of Force Ghosts was transformed by Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and tie-ins have built upon this to make them even better. Force Ghosts have been part of Star Wars since the beginning, when Obi-Wan Kenobi allowed himself to be cut down by Darth Vader in the first Star Wars movie. Only a few Jedi have ever learned to retain their consciousness after death, allowing them to provide counsel and guidance to those still living.

It's still not entirely clear how a Jedi becomes a Force Ghost. According to Matt Stover's novelization of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, written after several meetings with George Lucas, this power "comes only by the release of self, not the exaltation of self. It comes through compassion, not greed. Love is the answer to the darkness." This is why Sith cannot become Force Ghosts, for their very nature - their desperate desire to grasp at power, and their quest for immortality for its own sake - means it is impossible for them.

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The Force Ghosts were curiously absent in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, leading to much discussion about why Anakin Skywalker's Force Ghost didn't choose to correct Kylo Ren, guiding him back towards the light. Although the sequel trilogy never directly addressed this question, Star Wars: The Last Jedi featured a delightful appearance from Yoda's Force Ghost, and Rae Carson's novelization of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker confirmed Yoda and Obi-Wan had offered their wisdom to Leia over the years. The Yoda appearance was important for another reason, as it redefined the power of the Force Ghosts.

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Star Wars Master Yoda Force Ghost

Yoda's Force Ghost appeared to Luke Skywalker on the remote planet of Ahch-To, and initially it felt like a standard scene in which a Force Ghost corrected a wayward student. Things took an unexpected turn, however, when Yoda revealed he still possesses the ability to manipulate the physical world. The Jedi Grandmaster summoned lightning from the sky to destroy the Jedi library (and, apparently, the ancient books contained within), an unorthodox teaching strategy that nonetheless proved effective. Until Star Wars: The Last Jedi, it had generally been believed Force Ghosts were more observers and ethereal counselors, but now they were reframed as active participants in the galaxy's affairs.

Star Wars Canon Has Made Last Jedi's Force Ghost Retcon Bigger & Better

Cover art from the novel Star Wars: Shadow Of The Sith.

Subsequent tie-ins have built on this retcon. Timothy Zahn's novel Thrawn Ascendancy: Greater Good, for example, hints that the true purpose of Force Ghosts lies in their mysterious ability to affect the physical world. The book introduced a mysterious race of Force-sensitives from the Unknown Region who all clearly possessed knowledge of Force Ghosts. Their leader, a woman named the Magys, believed her people would best help their war-torn world if they killed themselves to become one with "the Beyond." As she explained, "We will therefore die and rest in the Beyond, and through the Beyond bring healing to our world." The implication is that Force Ghosts somehow work to correct imbalances in the Force, helping heal the galaxy from the taint of the dark side.

George Mann's anthology Dark Legends suggests Sith can actually trap Force Ghosts. It contains an in-universe myth, "The Gilded Cage," in which an ancient Sith performs a binding ritual that traps a Jedi Force Ghost inside a vial. Lucasfilm stressed that all the stories contained within Dark Legends have a grain of truth to them, and in this case it fits perfectly; if Force Ghosts worked to counter the dark side, the Sith would naturally consider them enemies and seek to restrict them. Another Star Wars anthology, Tales of Jedi & Sith, contains a tale by Tessa Gratton ("Masters") in which Yoda's Force Ghost manifests to Palpatine to taunt him. The Emperor likely believed this power had been lost in the mists of time, meaning he had no countermeasures ready; Yoda was confident of Palpatine's imminent downfall, and so evidently decided this brief verbal rematch was worth the risk.

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Adam Christopher's Shadow of the Sith builds on all this, with Luke Skywalker teaming up with Anakin's Force Ghost to battle Sith spirits. It is particularly interesting given the conflict takes place in a strange Force vision that has transported Luke's consciousness to the ancient Sith redoubt of Exegol, a place where the veil between life and death is unnaturally thin. Exegol is precisely the kind of vergence where, according to the Magy's teaching, Force Ghosts would be expected to be on hand battling against the darkness. The clash seemed to drain Anakin, however, leaving him vulnerable, and he implied something was wrong. It's reasonable to assume the reborn Emperor, now well aware of the threat of Force Ghosts, managed to trap him in a prison that only began to weaken when Palpatine lost focus upon it in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. A very consistent picture is developing, one that fits perfectly with Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

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2022-09-11T19:45:33.000Z

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