Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker looks to finally reveal the mystery behind the fearsome Knights of Ren. And one of these masked warriors may put a new spin on the Jedi's most iconic weapon. Since the Knights of Ren were namedropped in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it was assumed they would be just as important to the story as Kylo Ren (for whom they were seemingly named, and whom they also serve).
Unfortunately, The Last Jedi ignored the Knights of Ren completely, leaving the group's origins and purpose a dangling plot thread. With J.J. Abrams back for Star Wars 9, the villains are coming with him. And while their connections to Luke Skywalker's Jedi Academy have yet to be confirmed, we have a theory that makes that link clear. Based on some intriguing evidence, a Knight of Ren may wield a new kind of lightsaber in Star Wars 9... built without the wisdom of a Jedi Master.
The Knight of Ren Without a Weapon
The Star Wars fans chronicling every new detail offered about the Knights of Ren hit the mother-load in the newest Star Wars 9 behind the scenes photos, which included several of the Knights of Ren being directed by J.J. Abrams in their final costumes. With the photo taken in daylight as opposed to the rainy, dark image of the Knights offered previously, their designs can be examined much more closely. There's the bulkier knight with arm-mounted blasters, the hooded knight with a Mandalorian axe, the masked knight with a flanged war club, and the knight outfitted with apparent blinders, granting them focus with their longer range rifle.
But there is one knight in the photo whose weapon can't be glimpsed: the knight in a lighter Kylo Ren-esque tunic suggesting anything but melee combat, with a grid helmet and mask (similar to a kendo face shield). What weapon befits such a memorable, armor-less Knight of Ren? We have no idea, since they're all but obscured in the photo. But considering that they, and whatever weapon they may wield are just as obscured in Rey's first Knights of Ren vision, the question becomes more curious. But diving into the character concept art released alongside Star Wars: The Force Awakens, an incredible answer seems to be offered...
The Knight of Ren Wields a Lightsaber?
The Force Awakens doesn't just offer a detailed look and silhouette of every Knight of Ren and their weapon, but outfitted each weapon so that it would reflect red lights, connecting their own weapons to that of Kylo Ren, a symbolic connection back to Darth Vader and the Sith. While the masked knight above is never shown holding one such weapon, and actually has their belt/mid-section area blocked from view, that becomes the top priority for those hunting for some explanation. And the official Art of Star Wars: The Force Awakens book may offer the answer.
In the gallery of concept art containing several designs for "Jedi Killers" like Kylo Ren--which includes all of the other Knights of Ren, with minor adjustments, if any--stands the same knight, grid mask, and thin tunic... with a lightsaber hanging from their belt. It's a shocking sight, but one that shouldn't actually be all that surprising. In fact, it makes perfect sense for a follower of Kylo Ren to wield the weapon of a Jedi, now that The Last Jedi provided more details on just what led to his fall to the Dark Side. When Luke describes the scene to Rey, he paints a grim picture of the night his Jedi Temple was burned to the ground.
While it isn't explicitly stated (and Rey knows well enough to not ask Luke for more details), the implication is that the students of Luke Skywalker that Ben Solo escaped with became the Knights of Ren. And if not all of them, then at least some of them. It isn't clear if Abrams intends to somehow further explain their origins in The Rise of Skywalker, but he could make that implication explicit quite easily. How? By giving one Knight of Ren a lightsaber that is built in the image of Darth Vader... with one key difference.
The Lightsaber Designs Died with Luke
Every fan of Star Wars lore knows that the selection of a kyber crystal, and the construction of a lightsaber is a sacred rite of passage for a Jedi in training. Only when a Jedi student has been instructed and guided by a master can they successfully create one--which explains Kylo Ren's imperfect lightsaber, and may also explain the one hanging on this Knight of Ren's belt. The now iconic red lightsaber held by Kylo was presumed to be designed with cross guards, later explained to be channels for releasing excess energy, required to maintain the balance of the kyber crystal. Even with them, however, the flickering, wild nature of Kylo Ren's blade proves the official guide's description of the weapon as forged by "inexperienced hands."
Taking a closer look at the Knight of Ren's blade--visible in this concept art, but missing and un-replaced in footage and photos so far--it seems to be made in the likeness of Darth Vader's, only significantly smaller at almost palm-sized (for a normal sized hand, as well). That design inspiration is no accident, either. And since the Emperor and the Death Star's return has been confirmed, that also means it's possible for Darth Vader's lightsaber to have been recovered by Kylo Ren. Did Kylo recover his grandfather's crystal for himself, and pass the casing to a follower? If not, where did his actually come from? Whether recovered and reused, or simply modeled after, no student who abandoned Luke's teachings would be able to construct a functioning lightsaber safely. Kylo Ren is testament to that fact, which may explain the smaller size--a lightsaber Dagger, or "lightdagger," perhaps?
It's still just a theory on our part, but it would help to both explain and connect the remaining, unaddressed plot threads. The Knight of Ren, dressed as a fighter who deflects and avoids attacks. The lack of a reveal or confirmation of their weapon of choice. The unclear link between the Knights of Ren and Luke's traitorous students. A physical sign that the wisdom and knowledge of the Jedi has only been passed to Rey via the ancient Jedi texts. Not to mention a new Star Wars toy that every fan, ourselves included, might need immediately.
Now, has J.J. Abrams decided to make good on this Force Awakens character design, and it's unrevealed saber? Or will the gaps left by The Last Jedi go unaddressed in favor of ending the Skywalker saga for good? Only time will tell. Until then, our fingers are crossed.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019