It’s official – Star Wars Episode VIII has a title; after pretty much years of speculation, it was revealed by the official Star Wars website that Rian Johnson’s sequel will be bursting into cinemas in December under the name Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
It’s a pretty great title – it’s the least corny name in the franchise and has the right mix of reveal and tease – but to some Star Wars fans it may sound more than a little familiar. No, it’s not because some reddit users guessed it a year ago or because it namechecks the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic who were already the subject of Return of the Jedi. It’s because, quite simply, this isn’t the first time “The Last Jedi” has been used as a Star Wars title. It’s not even the second (or, arguably, third).
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with an old name coming back into use, and there are certain terms that creators naturally gravitate towards. All the core cases of The Last Jedi being used are part of the Expanded Universe, which is now the non-canon Legends. However, it is still curious that Star Wars has returned to the idea again and again. In response to the title, we’re going take a look through the other times Star Wars has used “The Last Jedi“; it may not tell us much about what to expect from Episode VIII, but it does reveal a lot about the series’ ongoing fascination with the Jedi purge.
Star Wars 49: The Last Jedi
In the early days of Star Wars, the easiest way to get more of the story was through the tie-in Marvel comics. Starting off with a 6-part adaptation of the film, it became a major hit for the then-struggling comic company. That’s not to say these stories have held up like Marvel’s other classic runs – full of wacky aliens and extremely Buck Rogers-esque adventures, they bear very little similarity to the Star Wars universe we all know today.
Star Wars 49, first published in 1981 and set shortly after the events of The Empire Strikes Back, was titled The Last Jedi, and is the earliest use of the term. The story followed Luke and Leia in an adventure involving plenty of space politics; they had to help a Prince stranded on a strange planet return to his homeworld before his Imperial sympathizer brother takes control. The Prince is shipwrecked with a purple fly-like alien name Jedidiah, a Force-sensitive who many years ago rejected the offer to train as a Jedi. The story concludes with Jedidiah sacrificing his life to save Luke during a duel and honored in a Jedi funeral.
Like much of the Expanded Universe content from the original trilogy era, it’s pretty weird; we have Luke and Leia taking casual adventures while Han’s shipped to Jabba’s Palace and, in a strange oversight in the writing, Jedidiah goes by the actual name Jedi. It’s still noteworthy for being one of the earliest introductions of a Jedi outside of Obi-Wan and Yoda; in the early days, Vader’s purge was taken as resolute, with next to no Knights surviving.
What’s most interesting from a modern standpoint is how the allure of the “Last Jedi” term was already established so early on; Luke is particularly moved by the idea of there being another of the Order out there.
The Last Jedi
Another, better-known use of The Last Jedi came in 2013. Here it was the title of a novel by Star Wars veteran authors Michael Reaves and Maya Kaathryn Bohnhoff, following up the former’s Coruscant Nights series. That trilogy had charted the early days of the Empire from the point of view of Jax Pavan, a Jedi (and former friend of Anakin Skywalker) who had managed to survive Order 66 and was now on the run from Darth Vader in the Imperial capital’s underworld. The Last Jedi picked up shortly after the third book with Jax one of the very few survivors of the Order, and Vader rumored dead. The story followed Pavan, who was now working as part of a Rebel guerrilla cell, in a kidnapping plot that once again saw him face off against the not-so-dead Sith Lord (who he then knew to be his former friend).
Despite its rather recent publication, The Last Jedi didn’t have much of an influence on Star Wars culture, possibly due to it being one of the last new stories in what is now Legends, and thus garnered little attention from fans. As such – and unlike the massive multimedia event Shadows of the Empire from 1996, which blocked J.J. Abrams from using his desired Episode VII title, Shadow of the Empire – the name was clearly deemed OK to reuse. This is rather ironic given that the novel only became called The Last Jedi in the first place when Reaves discovered that the working title, Jedi Dawn, had already been used in Star Wars lore by a roleplaying book in 1993.
The Last of the Jedi
In addition to the two The Last Jedi stories, between 2005 and 2008 Scholastic published a series of young adult novels called The Last of the Jedi set between the prequels and original trilogy that detailed the trials of the Jedi fortunate enough to escape Order 66.
They start off following Obi-Wan, the series’ original Last Jedi, but after the first couple of books the protagonist role was taken up by apprentice Ferus Olin. There are a lot of parallels between Olin and Jax – both knew Anakin as Padawans and wound up working with the Rebellion – but The Last of the Jedi takes the story further, telling a sprawling between-trilogy epic that sees the hero flirt with the Dark Side before aiding the Rebellion’s cause.
In some ways, a series like this makes Episode VIII’s title stronger; even though the purge wiped out most of the Jedi, in Legends they did survive in small numbers – now, thirty years on, there really is just one left.
The Last Padawan
All of the other examples have come from Legends and so don’t have any place in the new canon, but that’s not to say there are no instances of “The Last Jedi” in the current continuity. In Rebels, Kanan Jarrus, the Ghost’s resident Jedi Knight, is known colloquially as “The Last Padawan,” a reference to his tough life immediately following the prequels. It was used as the title for the first arc of the Star Wars: Kanan comic and while the name has become less essential to Kanan’s character as he’s evolved across the series, it remains intrinsically linked to him.
Kanan comes from the same basic idea as the previous “last Jedi”, surviving Order 66 before joining anti-Empire movement, in this case a group that would wind up heavily influencing the Alliance. That he wasn’t actually called “The Last Jedi” is a rather pointed decision – obviously there are too many canonical Order 66 survivors, but it’s also possible the idea of Episode VIII’s name was already in mind when Rebels premiered. The finality in his assumed title does once again show how striking the idea of “one last warrior” is.
Luke Being Called “The Last Jedi”
Outside of the Expanded Universe, the term “The Last Jedi” has been prominent in Star Wars films themselves, especially in relation to Luke. On his deathbed in Return of the Jedi, Yoda says “Luke, when gone am I, the last of the Jedi will you be.” (despite knowing there is another). Then, The Force Awakens‘ crawl states “The First Order […] will not rest until Skywalker, the last Jedi, has been destroyed” and in the film itself Snoke states “The droid will soon be delivered to the Resistance, leading them to the last Jedi.”
The possibility of Luke being the last Jedi has been a long-established concept, making Episode VIII‘s title the realization of an arc that began decades ago (regardless of what it really means).
The Last Jedi has been a popular term in Star Wars since the 1980s. It’s got a simple allure and plays into the insurmountable odds that the series’ best stories play off.
However, in pretty much all of its uses, “The Last Jedi” has been a misnomer. The term has been used to give added weight to specific characters when they are not, in fact, the final member of the Order. This is probably part of why Rian Johnson has no qualms taking such a well-worn idea for Episode VIII – with his film, we really are seeing the final Jedi Knight (…or Knights).