Star Wars: The Journal of the Whills Explained

For Star Wars fans, this past weekend’s Celebration in Orlando, FL was a treasure trove of insider information, a glimpse of the future, and a heavy dose of nostalgia. While it might still take some time to unpack all of the great moments, the highlight was easily the debut of the first teaser for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. With a little more than half a year before the film hits theaters, anticipation was high for a proper look at the movie. So far, the project has been veiled in more secrecy than even The Force Awakens was two years prior. Now, the marketing push will kick off in earnest, giving us new insight into the upcoming film.

While we wait, fans have been eagerly dissecting the short teaser for any clues as to the future of the franchise. One particular moment that has the Internet buzzing is a shot of the Jedi Order’s logo on an old book. Appearing to be in Luke’s possession, fans are already declaring it to be the fabled Journal of the Whills. While its identity is still unknown, there’s plenty of evidence that the Whills, once relegated to the Expanded Universe, will make a proper debut in the new Star Wars canon after being teased for years. But just what is the Journal of the Whills, and what does it mean for the future of Star Wars?

The Journal of the Whills

George Lucas' Journal of the Whills from Star Wars

Despite being one of the oldest bits of Star Wars lore, there’s not much definitive information on the Whills. Back when George Lucas was crafting the script for the first film in his trilogy, he imagined them as stories recorded by an ancient race of immortals. Known as the Whills, they would pass the knowledge they gained on to chroniclers who would put them into journals. In the story, Lucas imagined R2-D2 would be one of these Keepers. He also at one time imagined that he’d be one himself, and in this way could connect the story of Star Wars to our own reality.  

"Originally, I was trying to have the story be told by somebody else; there was somebody watching this whole story and recording it, somebody probably wiser than the mortal players in the actual events. I eventually dropped this idea, and the concept behind the Whills turned into the Force. But the Whills became part of this massive amount of notes, quotes, background information that I used for the scripts; the stories were actually taken from the 'Journal of the Whills'."

In the end, Lucas phased out mention of the Whills and turned the idea into the Force. One vestige remained, however, in the form of the opening crawl. These recaps of events were meant as versions of entries into the Journal, and were being told to the audience by the Whills. This is further hinted at in the usage of the phrase “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” setting up the possibility of the events of Star Wars happening somewhere in our own universe.

The Whills in the New Canon

Jedha Staff Stormtroopers Donnie Yen Chirrut Imwe Star Wars Rogue One

Over the years, ideas of the Whills were peppered throughout the Expanded Universe, and hints were given in behind-the-scenes materials for the prequels. The concept almost appeared in the Clone Wars animated series, but was later abandoned. Then, with the novelization of The Force Awakens, the Journal of the Whills was finally mentioned in the new canon during an opening quote.

"First comes the day

Then comes the night.

After the darkness

Shines through the light.

The difference, they say,

Is only made right

By the resolving of gray

Through refined Jedi sight."

― Journal of the Whills, 7:477

By including the passage, the Whills were finally made canon and their religious themes were brought to the forefront. Last year, Rogue One made the Whills an even more explicit part of Star Wars by introducing Chirrut Îmwe as a Guardian of the Whills. When we meet the blind warrior, he and his companion Baze are said to be former acolytes from the Temple of the Whills in Jedha City. Thanks to tidbits of knowledge from the movie, its novelization, and a new book centering around Chirrut and Baze, we have a better idea of the who the Whills are.

While the Guardians weren’t Jedi, they worshipped the order and their power. Many, in fact, were Force-sensitive themselves, and had an affinity for the Kyber crystals that came to the planet long ago. Eventually, those crystals would power both lightsabers and the Death Star. As a Guardians of the Whills, Chirrut’s role is still somewhat unknown. It’s likely, however, that his purpose is to preserve knowledge about the universe and the role of the Force in all things. In doing so, the early ideas that Lucas had for the Whills are kept alive and integrated into the Force-focused world that became Star Wars.

Star Wars The Last Jedi teaser trailer - Books

Considering how much the Whills have been referenced in Star Wars lore in the past few years, it makes sense that they’d eventually get a larger role in the movies. While there’s no way to confirm the book seen in the teaser is the Journal, it makes sense. And even if it isn’t the exact book, it could be something similar. Another shot in the trailer also highlights the old books Luke has, with the one Rey touches being specifically highlighted. Even if it isn’t the Journal, it’s clear it’s an ancient book having to do with the Jedi. It’s also important enough to factor into at least one scene in the movie and two shots in the first teaser for the film.

Considering Luke’s journey over the past few decades, and ominous declaration at the end of the teaser, he’s clearly been doing lots of research on the Force and the Jedi. As such, the book could be the Journal of the Whills, or simply his collection of knowledge on the Force. Either way, it adds up to much the same thing and will likely be packed full of knowledge that’s long been relegated to Expanded Universe material.

Next: Why The First Order Will Win in Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Key Release Dates
  • Star Wars 8/Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) release date: Dec 15, 2017
  • Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) release date: May 25, 2018
  • Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019
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