Warning! MAJOR SPOILERS for Star Wars 8 Below!
At last, Luke Skywalker tells his story in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. From the moment The Force Awakens ended with Rey (Daisy Ridley) offering the reclusive Jedi Master his family’s blue lightsaber, fans have been desperate to have all of their questions answered about Luke, where he’s been, and what he’s been doing in the decades since Return of the Jedi.
Luke is a reluctant teacher in the ways of the Force to Rey and he doesn’t offer his backstory readily. However, Luke does provide a good deal of answers to many of the most pressing questions as to what he has been doing, at least for the last few years, and why the Last Jedi hid on an island on the ocean world of Ahch-To.
While much of Luke’s backstory remains a mystery, The Last Jedi‘s main concern is what happened between Luke and his nephew Ben Solo (Adam Driver), the events that led Ben to turn to the Dark Side and become Kylo Ren, and Luke’s response to what he felt was his greatest failure.
With that in mind, here’s the REAL story we learned in The Last Jedi about Luke Skywalker:
WHAT HAS LUKE BEEN DOING SINCE RETURN OF THE JEDI?
Rian Johnson’s film offers few details about most of Luke’s activities for the last 30 years. What we mainly learn is that after redeeming his father Darth Vader when the second Death Star was destroyed on Endor, Luke’s story became the stuff of legend. He is a mythical figure to the Galaxy, so much that even Rey growing up in the “nowhere” of Jakku heard about the legendary heroic deeds of Luke Skywalker. The truth isn’t quite so romantic, as Luke himself insists.
As the last of the Jedi Knights, Luke spent his years traveling around the Galaxy, visiting ancient Jedi holy sites and temples, and acquiring as much knowledge of the Force as he could to become more powerful. He also became the repository of the ancient Jedi wisdom as he acquired and studied the oldest books existing about the Jedi religion.
He remained, however, the Luke Skywalker who flew around the Galaxy in an X-Wing and he helped his sister Leia found the New Republic, and later, the Resistance. It was when he finally decided to start a new Jedi Order that he made his biggest mistake.
WHAT REALLY HAPPENED BETWEEN LUKE AND KYLO REN?
At what age Luke took Ben on as his apprentice isn’t clear, but eventually Luke created a new Jedi Academy to train not only Ben but a group of other young Force-sensitive students.
As a member of the Skywalker family, Ben was the most powerful of Luke’s padawan learners, so much so that Luke eventually grew frightened of the great power his nephew possessed. Luke also could sense Snoke influencing Ben to the Dark Side from afar. What happened next differs from the certain points of view of both Luke and Kylo Ren. Luke first claims that Ben was turned evil by Snoke and attacked him. Kylo then told Rey Luke actually tried to kill him in his sleep. Finally, though, the truth came out.
One night, Luke grew so frightened of Ben’s potential to turn to the Dark Side that in a moment of fear and weakness, he ignited his green lightsaber and nearly killed his nephew as he slept. Ben awoke and saw Luke realize what he was about to do and stop himself, yet reacted in self-defense and drew his own lightsaber to attack Luke. Ben then collapsed the building around Luke. Thinking Luke was dead, he massacred the other students and made his escape.
When Luke awakened, he found the Jedi Academy in flames. Ben had taken a handful of his fellow Jedi apprentices with him (these Jedi students became the Knights of Ren, presumably) and he killed the rest. This marked the end of the new Jedi Order.
This was Luke’s greatest shame and failure: that he contemplated killing his nephew for a tragic moment, and in doing so sealed Kylo Ren’s fate and undid all his hard work.
WHY DID LUKE EXILE HIMSELF ON AHCH-TO?
In his grief, Luke chose to exile himself. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) told Rey in The Force Awakens that Luke left to find the first Jedi Temple. This is true, from a certain point of view, but is missing the ‘why’ of it. Luke chose to go to Ahch-To, the location of the first Jedi Temple, because it was the most isolated place in the galaxy, covering his tracks with a fractured map. He didn’t go into exile to seek new ancient knowledge about the Force to help him fight Kylo Ren and the First Order. In fact, he disappeared for the opposite reason: Luke had given up on everything.
Luke arrived on Ahch-To with no intention to ever leave. He even sank his X-Wing in the ocean waters (and used one of the wings as the door to his hut). He didn’t wish to be ever be found, and to make sure this happened, he cut himself off from the Force. Luke, now a scholar in Jedi history, especially in the events surrounding how his father Anakin turned into Darth Vader, blamed the Jedi for how they failed the galaxy, just as he blamed himself for how he failed his nephew Ben.
As Luke flat out told Rey, he came to Ahch-To to die, and take the Jedi with him. As he was not communing with the Force, Luke didn’t know what was happening in the Galaxy in regards to Leia and the Resistance’s war with the First Order. He didn’t know the Republic was destroyed by Starkiller Base. He didn’t know Han Solo was killed by Kylo Ren. And he didn’t know who Rey was when she appeared on his island with his family’s lightsaber.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi reverses much of this backstory, showing Luke drawn back into the fight by Rey to face his greatest mistake, and in the process finding purpose and peace. Tragic though his journey may be, it ultimately has a happy ending.
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