Star Wars fans may disagree about many elements of the sequel trilogy, but one thing that most can agree on is that Kylo Ren is one of the best characters in the newer movies. Masterfully played by Adam Driver, there is a wonderful sense of complexity and inner turmoil within the character, elevating him far above standard villains.
Making him Ben Solo -- the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa and nephew of Luke Skywalker -- was a brilliant move. These original trilogy characters have already faced and overcome so much, but fighting the child they once tried to raise and put on the right path is a new challenge altogether. It's different than what Vader faced, as he had turned to the dark side long ago, whereas with Ben Solo, the original trilogy characters have to grapple with the fact that they are partly responsible for his fall to the darkness.
With three decades passing between Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and Episode VII: The Force Awakens and Ben Solo alive for most of that time period, many fans are curious about how a boy raised by the galaxy's greatest heroes could become the frightening Kylo Ren. While some of his journey to the dark side remains a secret as the franchise leads into Episode IX, a number of details have been revealed through novels, video games, interviews, and the movies themselves. These details don't provide all of the answers, but they do provide tremendous insight into how he became Kylo Ren.
This article will begin with entries focusing on Ben Solo as a young child, working towards the time when he became Kylo Ren.
It's time to embrace the dark side as we explore 20 Crazy Things Kylo Ren Did Before Star Wars - Episode VII.
20 He Survived A Near-Fatal Experience As A Young Child
The novel Last Shot was written as tie-in material leading up to the release of Solo, but the novel was arguably most exciting in the scenes featuring Ben Solo as a child. Ben experienced a traumatic incident as a young child.
Though it was not solely responsible, it definitely contributed to his eventual fall to the darkness.
With Han off fighting the villainous Fyzen Gor and Leia busy with her political work, Ben was left in the care of the kitchen droid BX-778. What was already not an ideal situation turned dangerous, as Fyzen Gor enacted his nefarious scheme where droids all across the galaxy were reprogrammed with evil intent towards the humans around them. For little Ben, this meant that the normally friendly kitchen droid picked him up by the neck with intent to mortally harm the child. Fortunately, Han helped stop Fyzen Gor's plan from going much further and saved his son's life.
19 He Cried Because Of Mon Mothma
Last Shot provided insight into the difficulties of balancing Han and Leia’s jobs while raising their son. The novel opened with a scene where a hologram of former Rebellion leader and at the time current New Republic Chancellor Mon Mothma appeared to talk with Leia about urgent political matters. Despite Han's best efforts, Mon Mothma's hologram caused little Ben to wake up and start crying.
It's a natural reaction for a young child to wake up and start crying from something that startles them out of sleep. Even though he'd one day become the ruthless Kylo Ren -- working to destroy the New Republic Mon Mothma worked so hard to build -- there was a time when she was the one who could send him into tears, even if it was an accident.
18 He Idolized Han
Though it's hard to believe, since he would go on to take the life of Han in The Force Awakens, little Ben Solo actually idolized his father and frequently followed him around. As seen in the beginning of the novel Last Shot, he'd also cuddle and fall asleep in his father's arms, sometimes with Han falling asleep as well.
Sometimes he also played with Han's gold dice. This makes the final shot of Kylo all the more powerful in The Last Jedi, as he picks up the dice he played with as a child, only to have them disappear from his hands.
The scene between Kylo and Han on the bridge in The Force Awakens is all the more devastating knowing that these memories were likely playing through Han's mind as he faced his son.
17 He Became A Gifted Pilot
Ben Solo was descended from some of the best pilots in the galaxy. His grandfather Anakin Skywalker, father Han Solo, and uncle Luke Skywalker showed their piloting skills numerous times in the past, flying a variety of ships, often in circumstances where their flying saved the galaxy from a catastrophic fate.
Using the gifts passed down from them and with practice of his own, Ben Solo also became a gifted pilot. This is largely why he was able to fly his TIE silencer so effectively during The Last Jedi. These abilities served him well when he used the TIE silencer to destroy the hangar of the Resistance's flagship the Raddus, along with numerous Resistance pilots and their ships.
16 He Was Sent To Train With Uncle Luke
Using not only his own experiences but also the wealth of knowledge he'd amassed about the Jedi in the years since Return of the Jedi, Luke set out to train a new generation of Jedi. Seeing that he was not only Force-sensitive but also dealing with serious inner darkness and turmoil, Leia and Han sent their son to train with his uncle Luke to join this new generation.
Recognizing the great power within his nephew, Luke believed that Ben was the Chosen One.
In many ways, he was the prized pupil of Luke's students. Of course, anyone who's seen The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi knows that things did not go according to plan, and Luke was plagued with many deep regrets of how he approached his nephew's training.
15 He Found Out Darth Vader Was His Grandfather
Set six years before The Force Awakens, the novel Bloodline provides a great deal of insight into the galaxy's political state that creates the conflict for the sequel trilogy. Part of this was the public reveal that Darth Vader was the father of galactic heroes Leia Organa and Luke Skywalker.
Lady Carise -- a New Republic senator secretly working for the First Order -- revealed this truth to the public in a session of the New Republic senate, and it quickly swept throughout the galaxy. Leia told Han the truth after Return of the Jedi, but they never told their son, as they were waiting for a right time. He was already in his twenties and off training with Luke at the time, but the news reached him eventually and undoubtedly played a major role in embracing the dark side and sparking his obsession with Vader.
14 He Defended Himself
Sensing the darkness within Ben Solo, one fateful night, Luke stood over his sleeping nephew and ignited his lightsaber. He nearly took Ben's life to prevent the galaxy from facing the kind of devastation it experienced during the reign of Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader.
Despite Luke quickly deciding not to go through with the awful act of slaying his nephew in his sleep, too much damage had already been done.
Ben awoke to see his uncle -- a man he'd looked up to and been training with for years -- standing over him with seemingly evil intent. In order to defend himself, Ben used his own lightsaber to parry the blow he thought was coming from Luke, and he sent the hut they were in crashing down upon his uncle.
13 He Destroyed Luke's Jedi Academy
Even with Rey's vision in The Force Awakens and the flashbacks in The Last Jedi, a great deal still remains uncertain about the night Luke's Jedi Academy was destroyed. Audiences know what happened between Luke and Ben that pushed him to the dark side. They know the Jedi Temple burned and that half the students lost their lives while the other half fled with Kylo.
This has led some fans -- particularly those rooting for Kylo Ren's redemption in Episode IX -- to argue that he was not solely responsible for the destruction and many demises that followed his altercation with Luke. Insteadm perhaps some of the students he fled with were more responsible for those things. Hopefully the full story of what happened will be revealed in Episode IX.
12 He Turned To The Dark Side And Became Snoke's Apprentice
With darkness brewing in him for years, Ben Solo was officially pushed over the edge and towards the dark side after the incident between him and Luke Skywalker. He'd been influenced by the First Order's Supreme Leader Snoke from afar for years at that point. Now turned to the dark side and wanting to direct his rage against the people and galaxy that had wronged him, he became Kylo Ren and Snoke's apprentice.
In this role, he grew even stronger with the Force, taking what he'd learned of the Jedi from Luke, which was now added with the knowledge and secrets of the dark side.
He existed outside the official command structure of the First Order, but could still command the First Order's military officers and soldiers.
11 He Became The Master Of The Knights Of Ren
Kylo Ren uses the dark side, but it was established before The Force Awakens was even released that he is not a Sith. That is why he does not use the title of "Darth." The name "Kylo Ren" comes from being the Master of the Knights of Ren, a title Supreme Leader Snoke references when saying that, even as Master of the Knights of Ren, Kylo has never faced a test like dealing with his own father Han Solo.
Little is known about the Knights of Ren and they have only been seen in Rey's vision during The Force Awakens. Many fans believe they are the students from Luke's Jedi Academy that Kylo fled with, and as the most powerful among them, Kylo naturally became their leader.
10 He Learned To Freeze Objects And People
Kylo Ren wasted no time proving how powerful he was when introduced in The Force Awakens. Moments after his arrival on Jakku, where he took the life of Lor San Tekka, he froze a blaster bolt in mid-air that Poe Dameron fired at him. He also froze Poe in place until Stormtroopers could detain him. Kylo kept the blaster bolt frozen in mid-air while briefly interrogating Poe, ordering him back to the ship, and then commanding Captain Phasma and the Stormtroopers to terminate all residents from the Jakku village the First Order invaded.
Later in the movie, Kylo displayed his ability again when he froze Rey in place on the planet Takodana.
Seeing how effectively he used this Force power at the beginning of The Force Awakens, he clearly learned and mastered it before the events of the movie.
9 He Constructed His Red Lightsaber
Having turned to the dark side, Kylo Ren created a new red lightsaber. The crossguard design can be traced back as far as the Great Scourge of Malachor, a design that Ezra Bridger saw for himself when he explored the ruins of Malachor in Star Wars Rebels.
Kylo used a cracked Kyber crystal to construct his new lightsaber. The cracked crystal generated far more heat than a regular Kyber crystal. This is why there are lateral vents on both sides of the hilt so the lightsaber can stay whole without exploding from the excessive heat. Like other dark side users, Kylo corrupted the crystal and made it "bleed" in order to turn his lightsaber red.
8 He Collected The Ashes Of The Enemies He Defeated
When Kylo Ren takes his mask off for the first time in The Force Awakens, he slams it down on a table of ashes. The movie never directly explained the meaning behind the ashes, but director J.J. Abrams answered the mystery.
Abrams said that the ashes are from all the enemies Kylo has taken the lives of, a disturbing detail that reinforces Kylo's obsession with the past and legacy, even if it means preserving and hoarding the remains of his fallen enemies.
It was also revealed that the ashes were originally meant for the scene in Kylo's private quarters where he speaks to the helmet of Darth Vader. This means that audiences could've seen Adam Driver's face for the first time much earlier in the movie.
7 He Became Known As The Jedi Killer
Kylo's role in decimating Luke Skywalker's Jedi Temple and taking the lives of half his students earned Kylo the nickname of "Jedi Killer" among the ranks of the First Order. This was never a name anyone said directly to his face, but it was something they whispered among themselves. Much of Kylo Ren was shrouded in mystery, yet across the First Order, it was still widely known that he played and would continue to play a crucial part in preventing the Jedi Order from rising again.
Before Kylo Ren's character took on an official name, backstory, and arc, he was only known as the "Jedi Killer" during pre-production as concept art was developed. Eventually, he became the character fans now know well, but early on, he was referred to by the same name whispered within the ranks of the First Order.
6 He Learned To Probe Minds Through The Force
Among Kylo Ren's impressive abilities demonstrated in The Force Awakens was that of the mind probe, which is the Force power to navigate through the mind of an individual. Despite his best resistance, Poe Dameron was unable to withstand Kylo's mind probe, allowing Kylo to learn that the droid BB-8 held a missing piece to the Luke Skywalker map on the planet Jakku.
Later in the movie, Kylo used the ability against Rey to see the piece of the map to Skywalker.
He was able to see into her mind briefly, but not before she revealed her own astonishing Force-sensitivity and combated his mind probe. Given how effectively and comfortably used Kylo used the ability in The Force Awakens, he clearly learned it in the time leading up to the film, most likely from Snoke himself.
5 He Retrieved Darth Vader's Helmet
At some point after learning Darth Vader was his grandfather and before The Force Awakens, Kylo Ren retrieved the charred helmet of the grandfather he idolized so much. When speaking of his inner conflict and wanting to finish what his grandfather started, Kylo talks directly to the helmet in his private quarters.
It is not only a link to the past, but also a reminder of the legacy Kylo wants to continue and build for himself.
It hasn't been officially revealed how and when Kylo retrieved the helmet. Some fans think he went to Endor and took it from there, the same place where Luke lit a funeral pyre for his father at the end of Return of the Jedi. However, others stand by a theory that he hired a mercenary to find it for him.
4 He Led The Hunt To Find Luke Skywalker
Even though he didn't actively fight against the First Order until the end of The Last Jedi, Luke Skywalker still represented a grave threat to the First Order's vision. As long as Luke Skywalker lived, hope that the Jedi would rise again remained, which was a major obstacle for Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren.
Having trained with him for years, Kylo knew Skywalker better than anyone. He also had more emotional investment in finding and destroying Skywalker considering his uncle's betrayal. Given these facts, Supreme Leader Snoke had Kylo Ren personally lead the First Order's hunt for Luke Skywalker. He is still undertaking this pursuit when audiences first encounter him on Jakku at the beginning of The Force Awakens.
3 He Probed Del Meeko's Mind To Locate Lor San Tekka
In a story campaign taking place shortly before The Force Awakens in the 2017 video game Battlefront II, Kylo Ren arrived on the planet Pillio. Kylo use his mind probe Force abilities to interrogate Del Meeko. As one of the protagonists of Battlefront II, Del Meeko was a former member of the Empire's elite Inferno Squad before he changed sides to aid the New Republic in finishing the Galactic Civil War.
Del Meeko knew Lor San Tekka had taken the map to the planet Bayora, which Kylo was able to extract from his victim's mind through his mind probing.
This took Kylo a step closer to finding Lor San Tekka on Jakku at the beginning of The Force Awakens.
2 He Handed Del Meeko Over To Gideon Hask
Once loyal to the Galactic Empire, Del Meeko's defection to the New Republic made him particularly hated by Gideon Hask. Del Meeko and Hask had once been close and fought side by side as members of the Empire's elite Inferno Squad.
Now an officer in the First Order, Hask relished turning the traitorous Del Meeko over to Kylo Ren for interrogation. After retrieving the information he needed from Del Meeko's mind concerning the location of Lor San Tekka and piece to the Luke Skywalker map, Kylo handed the prisoner back over to Hask. No longer needed by Kylo Ren, Hask executed his old friend for his betrayal, setting up the final confrontation between Hask and Iden Versio.
1 He Concealed His Identity
Much like precious few knew Darth Vader had once been Anakin Skywalker, most individuals in the galaxy are also unaware that Kylo Ren was once Ben Solo.
Those who knew Kylo's true name was Ben Solo were forbidden to say it aloud, a decree made by Supreme Leader Snoke himself.
The mask was also part of concealing this identity, as it hid his face, made him more intimidating, and dehumanized him further into "a creature in a mask," which is what Reycalled him before seeing his face. Making him conceal his Ben Solo identity and embrace the identity of Kylo Ren fit well with Snoke's plans to make his apprentice even darker and more powerful than Darth Vader.
What's your favorite thing Kylo Ren did before Star Wars: The Force Awakens? Let us know in the comments!