NOTE: The following post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Star Wars 7
Ever since Adam Driver was confirmed as the new Star Wars villain, Kylo Ren, for The Force Awakens, his character has been surrounded by rumor and speculation. Previous to Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, the next generation of Star Wars children were a major part of Expanded Universe mythology - as the Skywalker and Solo kids became powerful Force users in several post-Return of the Jedi stories. As a result, it didn't take long for fans to presume familial connections between original series heroes and the new cast of characters.
While debate continues to rage over the exact identity of Rey (a mysterious Force user who was abandoned on Jakku as a child) and Finn (a First Order stormtrooper-turned-Resistance fighter that was stolen from his family as a baby), The Force Awakens is much more explicit about the malevolent Kylo Ren. The film makes Ren's parentage apparent, as well as his original name, and spells-out the charater's backstory in broad strokes; however, for those who can't see The Force Awakens yet or missed key details along the way, or just want to chat about the film, we've put together this brief breakdown of Kylo Ren's origins.
Who is Kylo Ren?
As suspected by many fans, Kylo Ren is the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa - and was originally named Ben. While J.J. Abrams and Kathleen Kennedy have been clear that they would not be using specific details from the Star Wars Expanded Universe, longtime fans will definitely notice parallels between the story of Kylo Ren and Jacen Solo aka Darth Caedus. (Those fans likely also recall that in the old Star Wars EU, Ben was the name that Luke Skywalker and the character Mara Jade gave to their own son.)
Like Jacen, Ben Solo was a student of Luke Skywalker - following the destruction of the Empire and defeat of Darth Vader. As the Rebels worked to establish the New Republic, Luke endeavored to train a new generation of Jedi padawans - taking his nephew as a Jedi in training. Under Luke's guidance, Ben Solo learned to become a powerful Force user - until he became seduced by the Dark Side.
How Was Ben Solo Corrupted?
Details of Ben Solo's turn to the Dark Side are not spelled out very clearly in The Force Awakens. Though, Abrams does offer hints. In the aftermath of Episode 6, a new threat to freedom was born in the Empire's destruction: the First Order. Built on the same principles as its predecessor, the First Order was formed out of the Dark Side - with the goal of imposing order (and tyranny) around the galaxy. Lead by the malevolent Supreme Leader Snoke, whose backstory remains a mystery (for now), the First Order continued to expand its control.
To aid in his conquest, Snoke seduced Ben Solo to the Dark Side - turning the Jedi trainee against Luke Skywalker and his fellow padawan learners. Currently, the events between Solo's training under Skywalker and corruption by Snoke remain a Lucasfilm secret. While the exact circumstances are unclear, Luke, Leia, and Han all harbor deep self-blame for Ben's transformation into Ren and, as a result, Han Solo fled his wife in shame, Leia directed her grief into building the Resistance, and Luke sent himself into self-imposed exile.