One of the most compelling questions left lingering at the conclusion of Star Wars: the Force Awakens, after Rey offers a bearded Luke Skywalker his old lightsaber on a remote, mysterious island, is what relationship (if any) exists between the legendary Jedi and this new, ass-kicking young heroine. Star Wars loves the notion of long-lost family members. Is Rey’s natural Force talent a direct result of her lineage? Is she Luke’s daughter? Or is she Han and Leia’s, making her the troubled Kylo Ren’s sister? Or is she from another family altogether? A Kenobi, perhaps?
The short answer to all of Episode VII’s unanswered questions—of which there are a ton—is simply patience, young padawan. Rey’s origins, along with ex-stormtrooper Finn’s, will almost certainly be revealed in Episodes VIII and IX. But until the next Star Wars movie’s 2017 release date, you can find us here obsessively over-analyzing what we already know, searching the film (and our feelings) for what we know to be true.
The plot symmetry-loving Force Awakens goes to every length possible to establish parallels between Rey’s story, Luke’s in A New Hope, and Anakin’s: all three Star Wars protagonists start out as young, desert planet-dwelling dreamers with a knack for piloting and machinery. And, as we see later in Force Awakens, Rey, like Luke and Anakin, is staggeringly strong in the Force. One minute the ex-scavenger is Kylo Ren’s captive, and the next she’s pulling off Jedi Mind Tricks (on Daniel Craig, no less!) and overpowering Han Solo’s murderer with Luke’s lightsaber—all without any formal training, as far as we know. For simple poetry’s sake, Rey fits the Skywalker bill.
That lightsaber’s grand reveal—met with gasps and applause in most early screenings—seemingly offers more evidence directly tying Rey to Luke. The blade calls out to her from below Maz Kanata’s cantina-like domain, where she experiences a series of visions and flashbacks. Among other things, Rey sees Kylo and his accomplices standing over a field littered with dead bodies (Luke’s dead padawans, maybe?), the hallway where Luke encountered Darth Vader, Luke’s cybernetic hand reaching out for R2-D2, and a younger version of herself screaming at a receding spaceship, presumably when she was first abandoned on Jakku. She also hears Luke’s devastated Empire Strikes Back “NOOO!” and voices from other Force-strong, Skywalker-adjacent beings including Yoda and Obi-Wan Kenobi, who utters both her name and the words “these are your first steps.”
Here’s why any of that matters: Luke’s iconic blue lightsaber—which was passed down from Anakin to Luke via Obi-Wan, before the younger Skywalker lost it on Bespin after losing his hand in a duel with Darth Vader—chooses Rey again later, during a desperate duel with Kylo Ren in that snowy forest. This time, it doesn’t simply call out to her, or grant her a vivid glimpse of the past—it actually heeds her call over Kylo’s. Kylo! A direct descendant of Anakin, the blade’s original owner. Sure, Rey is Force-strong, possibly even stronger than Kylo, who never completed his Jedi training and isn’t a fully-fledged Sith either. But wouldn’t a more direct tie to that lightsaber through ancestry help out too?
Kylo’s link to the Skywalker clan is through Leia, who never wielded the blade, as far as we know (she had better things to do, like commanding an entire Resistance, thank you very much). If Rey is Luke’s daughter, that gives her a clearer cut link to the weapon—you could even say she was destined to wield it. And if there’s anything this franchise loves more than soapy family theatrics and epic poetry, it’s destiny.
Of course, if Rey is Luke’s daughter, that also leaves a parsec-long trail of unanswered questions behind: Namely, who is her mother? Why would Luke (or whoever he entrusted Rey to) abandon her on Jakku hand-in-hand with a cruel, greedy scrapdealer? Why didn’t Han, Leia, or Kylo seem to recognize her immediately? And why would Luke, a Jedi forbidden from falling in love in the first place, have a child at all?
Another popular fan theory tries plugging in at least a couple of those plot holes. It posits that Rey, if not connected to Luke by blood, is at least a former padawan of his, possibly the only one to escape Kylo’s massacre alive. For her own protection, Luke may have wiped her memory and hid her on Jakku, where at least one Resistance ally, Lor San Tekka (the elderly gentleman who hands Poe Dameron a piece of Luke’s map at the beginning of Force Awakens) eventually roosts. It took the Force visions in Maz Kanata’s basement and Kylo Ren’s mind-probing—which Rey not only resisted, but volleyed back at him, learning of his Vader-induced insecurities—to trigger (or, ahem, “awaken”) Rey’s dormant abilities.
Other fans, meanwhile, are making the case for Rey as Kylo’s sister, rather than his cousin. Han and Leia, in their brief moments together, never explicitly call Kylo their only child—though why they would neglect to mention a daughter is beyond anyone’s comprehension. According to this theory, rather than risk having another Force-sensitive, Vader-DNA-infused offspring turn to the Dark side, Han and Leia send her away… to a dry, hostile planet where she can barely survive.
And, while it’s unlikely given the heavy-handed parallelism, there’s always the possibility that Rey is from a fresh, non-Skywalker bloodline altogether, making her a successor to Luke by pure virtue of her skill and commitment to the Light. Or, hell, we could just ignore the fact that Obi-Wan was a stickler for Jedi rules (especially the no-falling-in-love thing, see: Anakin Skywalker) and theorize that maybe, just maybe, Rey is old Ben’s descendant. Somehow.
What we do know is this: After spending enough time with her, Han seems to recognize something in Rey—whether that’s simply her innate skill or some deeper connection is left unclear—leading him to offer her a job aboard the Millennium Falcon (much like what he offered Luke in A New Hope). When he hands her a blaster before entering Maz’s place, she resists, replying, “I can handle myself.” Han’s comeback: “I know, that’s why I’m giving it to you,” a line that could be read as either a vote of confidence in what he’s already seen from her, or a knowing reference to her dormant abilities. Soon after, when Maz asks Han, “Who’s the girl?” the camera quickly cuts away from their conversation. The next time we see Maz, she is in the basement with Rey, encouraging her to take Luke’s lightsaber and leave all notions of waiting for her departed “family” on Jakku behind.
Force-sensitive Leia’s long, comforting hug upon meeting Rey for the first time onscreen might also suggest some connection, ditto Kylo’s sudden tantrums at hearing that “a girl” was piloting the missing piece of Luke’s map away. And finally, we’re left with the look of wonder on Luke’s face as he sees Rey for the first time onscreen. In the film’s first few trailers, Luke was heard in a voiceover culled from Return of the Jedi saying, “The Force is strong in my family. My father has it. I have it. My sister has it. You have that power, too.” If we had to make a wild guess, we’d say he could deliver that line to Rey too—maybe his niece, maybe his daughter or apprentice but definitely, in some way, his family.