The Jedi Fire of 66

Order 66

We often think of wildfires as dangerous engines of destruction wreaking havoc on everything in their way. Fires burn down our homes and businesses and endanger the lives of the brave firefighters who attempt to safeguard us. In regards to humanity, fire is horrible, but in nature, wildfires can be a good thing. The heat they generate is the catalyst for some trees to spread their seeds. The destruction can also help renew the soil. For all of the problems they cause us, fires can be good for nature. Could it be that there is an equivalent to this in a galaxy far, far away? Despite all of Palpatine’s foresight, Order 66, the order to exterminate the Jedi that spread like wildfire through the ranks of the clone army, may have actually helped save the Jedi in the end. Through his machinations, Palpatine had already weakened the Jedi during the Clone Wars. The Jedi had lost their way. They had become soldiers, not peacekeepers, and they had so cut themselves off from any form of attachment that they were isolated, both from the citizens they strove to protect and from each other. Despite eradicating the Jedi Order, Order 66 may have actually burnt down many of the trees stricken by the disease of the Clone War, and in the end, the lessons learned may have helped the surviving Jedi to change their ways and become the inspirational figures they once were.

The Jedi were never meant to be warriors. Yoda told Luke as much on Dagobah when he said, “Jedi use the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.” To be a Jedi was supposed to have been a station of study and service, not of war. When Palpatine engineered the Clone Wars, he knew it would put the Jedi in a position where they would be forced to compromise their beliefs in order to save the Republic. If they wished to stop the Sith, they would have to attack. They would have to put their plans to broaden their knowledge of the Force on hold if they hoped to save senators, each other, and the citizens from a war that they never stood a chance of winning. We see multiple instances of the Jedi being put in a position where they would have to bend the rules of the Jedi Code in the name of bringing the Clone War to an end, but one of the most powerful may be in the novel Dark Disciple by Christie Golden. In this novel, many of the Jedi advocate for the Jedi Quinlan Vos to train under the former Sith and former Nightsister Asajj Ventress in order to learn the skills necessary to assassinate Count Dooku. The justification is that doing so will save countless lives and bring Dooku to justice for the many he has killed already. Most of them don’t see how committing such a heinous act, even in the name of good, can have a cost. In this case, the price is another Jedi soul gambled in the spinning roulette wheel as he bounces back and forth, struggling between the light and the dark sides of the Force before landing at his eventual destination.

The act of participating in the Clone Wars weakened Jedi morality and beliefs to the point that when the war ground to a halt, their younglings and padawans often believed in a distorted view of their teachings. In the Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode, “The Lair of Grievous,” Kit Fisto’s padawan Nahdar Vebb was less concerned with practicing the restraint and self-discipline that the Jedi Code valued. He had begun seeking the excitement and adventure of battle, and that desire caused him to rush headlong into a fight with General Grievous that he could not win. Nahdar is just one example of how the Clone Wars caused the Jedi way to become twisted. Given enough time, more and more padawans and younglings may have learned these distorted ways. Years down the line, there may have been no Jedi left.

Few Jedi were as scarred by Order 66 as Kanan Jarrus from Star Wars: Rebels. He had to see clones, friends that he had fought through multiple battles with, betray his master and try to murder him. He had to go on the run and, in a world where being a Jedi was a death sentence, he had to forget his Jedi ways. Despite all of this, Kanan was able to come back around to a more true version of the Jedi Code than we saw exhibited by many padawans. While many Jedi lost themselves in the war and dedicated their lives to aggression, the fight against the Empire reminded Kanan that sometimes the best solution was not to fight. He pursues a non-violent course of action during the episode, “The Protector of Concord Dawn,” when he reminds Sabine multiple times that they should build an alliance with the Mandalorians rather than fighting them. We see Kanan choosing to follow the course of non-violence again during the episode, “Shroud of Darkness.” During his vision within the Jedi Temple, Kanan fights a Jedi Temple Guard who taunts the rebel Jedi with the possibility of his padawan being seduced by the dark side. The two Jedi engage in a fierce battle that only ends when Kanan lays down his lightsaber and admits that he cannot fight Ezra’s future; he can only train Ezra as best he can and believe that Ezra will do what’s right. This moment is very similar to Luke Skywalker refusing to fight in front of the Emperor. By refusing to fight, both he and Kanan win something. Luke wins back the soul of his father, to say nothing of his own after having brutally attacked Vader moments before. Kanan is knighted a Jedi Knight. The Clone Wars taught many Jedi the tools of war, but Order 66 destroyed that order. In its place, a new group of Jedi had to rise by looking to the past and remembering that fear and aggression were not the Jedi way, peace keeping was.

In many ways, the Star Wars saga revolves around the attachments formed between its characters. Much of The Force Awakens is driven by the friendship between Finn and Rey and the kinship between Han Solo and his son. In Star Wars: Rebels, a band of misfits join together to form a family to replace the one they lost. In Return of the Jedi, the bond between father and son is enough to lure back the soul of Anakin Skywalker from its cold, mechanical prison. During the Clone Wars, the Jedi forbid attachments. They feared that they would be unhealthy, leading to obsession, fear, and anger. While the attachments of certain Jedi such as Anakin and Quinlan Vos did end in tragedy, the Jedi’s own obsession with avoiding these relationships also caused its share of pain.

In the Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode “The Rise of Clovis,” Obi-Wan Kenobi has a conversation with Anakin about Anakin's relationship with Padme Amidala. Obi-Wan explains how he can kind of sympathize with Anakin because of his own past feelings concerning the Duchess Satine of Mandalore. Their conversation is a veiled one, and despite Obi-Wan’s concern, Anakin refuses to admit that he and Padme have been having a relationship. While he and Obi-Wan are friends and brothers in many ways, there is a distance between them that was created and maintained by the Jedi’s hesitancy to form attachments. This scene and others leave the viewer wondering how Anakin’s fate may have been different if the Jedi would have viewed attachment differently. Anakin may have been willing to come forward and talk to Obi-Wan about his sadness about being away from his mother. He could have admitted his fears about losing his mother and the rage he felt at finding her tortured and dying on Tatooine. By forbidding attachment, the Jedi distance themselves from each other, and this distance only makes their journey to master their emotions a more lonely and difficult one.

Not only does their avoidance of attachments keep the Jedi from sharing and supporting each other, it also isolates them from the citizens of the galaxy and helps create an anti-Jedi sentiment. We see this in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode, “Sabotage.” Citizens of Coruscant are showing picketing the temple in protest of the Jedi and their place in the war. When questioned, one of the suspects in the bombing talks about how hard it was to work in the Jedi’s “precious temple” and how her husband had passed every test put in front of him to do so. By participating in the Clone Wars while sequestering themselves away in the temple, the Jedi inspired feelings of jealousy and anger in many. The citizens outside the temple after its bombing certainly felt this way. Their friends and family had worked hard to be allowed to serve the Jedi who were supposed to protect them and protect the galaxy, but they couldn’t even protect themselves. By the end of the Clone Wars, resentment and anger towards the Jedi was high and only served to further the distance between them and the citizens of the Republic. Their positions as generals and commanders in a losing war only helped isolate the Jedi from those they swore to protect.  

Following the destruction of the Jedi Order, Kanan Jarrus, Ezra Bridger, and Luke Skywalker learned that, if properly managed, attachments would actually empower rather than endanger them. During the first season of Star Wars: Rebels, Kanan repeatedly tells Ezra that he has to connect with living beings. Through the course of the show, we see Ezra connect with many animals and aliens. In doing so, he is able to accomplish things that he never would have before. In the episode, “The Call,” Ezra is able to connect with the space whale creatures called the Purrgil. Through this connection, he is able to survive a fall that would have killed him, defuse the prejudice Hera has against the Purrgil, and learn a secret about the origins of hyperspace travel. His ability to connect made him stronger. Kanan is stronger for having connections, too. His connection to the crew of the Ghost helps him to accomplish more good for the galaxy than he could have alone. Through his relationship with Ezra, Kanan is able to grow and become the Jedi he was destined to be.

The greatest advocate for the benefits of attachment has to be Luke Skywalker. Throughout his story, he is dedicated to his friends and that dedication brings Han back into the fight above the Death Star trench. It also calls Anakin Skywalker from the depths of the darkness. By refusing to relinquish that bond, Luke has grown stronger. It is no wonder that Emperor Palpatine tells Luke that his “faith in his friends” is a weakness. The way of the Sith is one without connections. The way of the Jedi should be like the flow of the Force: a way that surrounds and binds the people and creatures of the galaxy together.

If Order 66 wouldn’t have happened, where would the Jedi have ended up? Palpatine could have likely kept the galaxy divided and at each other’s throats for years. As the years wore on, how many more Jedi would have fallen away from their code in order to bring the war to an end? How many would have been driven mad like Pong Krell, sought power like Nedar Vebb, or been asked to work in the dark like Quinlan Vos? As the Jedi continued their ineffectual search for Dooku and his Sith Lord, the citizens of the galaxy may have turned against the Jedi. There are many who already felt that they Jedi were privileged beings who sat in their tower and chased after Dooku and Grievous with too few results to show for it. How long before the ranks of those citizens grew? Palpatine may not have even needed the clones. If he kept the war going long enough, the Jedi Order may have collapsed in on itself or been hunted by the very people they had sworn to protect. By initiating Order 66, Palpatine may have destroyed the forest. The Jedi were almost no more, but their seeds remained. A shriveled green master hidden in the swamp, a seemingly insane hermit living in a desert wasteland, a shell-shocked padawan running illegal supplies with a crew of Rebels, and a former padawan who left the Order behind and ended up forming a rebellion; despite the cost, the fire made each of these Jedi stronger and spread their seed wider. Their lives connected and inspired senators and princesses, pilots and misfits, smugglers and farmboys to grow into a forest that could topple the technological might of an empire.