The tragedy of the Jedi is greater than simply their mass genocide at the hands of one of their own. It's also heartbreaking to see how their work, lives, and love is erased from the galaxy. As part of his rise to power, Emperor Palpatine vilifies the Jedi, turning the galaxy against them so that there is nowhere safe, nowhere sacred.
By the time we reach the sequel trilogy, Rey only recalls the Jedi as myths and make-believe. The stories she's heard are full of contradiction and falsehood. So thorough was the Emperor in his slander that our view of the Jedi Order has become skewed even in real life.
Here are ten myths about the Jedi Order that Palpatine would like you to believe but which are simply not true.
The Jedi Snatched Babies
While training to become a Jedi knight does begin at a young age, the Jedi Order does not steal padawans from their parents. This vicious rumor originally started as a piece of Separatist propaganda. During the Clone Wars, one famous Separatist rallying point was the story of Baby Ludi.
The Jedi Order formally adopted Ludi after they found her orphaned in the wake of a disaster on her homeworld. Then they discovered her mother, Jonava Billane, still alive months later. Billane tried to sue for custody, but her suit was denied.
At first glance, this might suggest some merit to the rumor, but that's not the whole story. It eventually came out that Billane was not so much desperate to regain custody of her daughter as she was to turn a profit from her account.
She signed away rights to a holofilm production and got too busy watching auditions and perusing contracts to bother with her daughter at all. In the end, Billane pursued the case no further than it took to guarantee she could profit from the fame it brought her.
The Order (And Obi-wan) Failed Anakin
Few moments stand out as more iconic in Star Wars than Obi-Wan's victory over Anakin Skywalker on the banks of Mustafar. As Anakin prepares to make his final attack, fully expecting to cut down his master, Obi-Wan apologizes, saying, “I have failed you.”
Obi-Wan could refer to any number of things with this statement, but most often, people think of it as an admission of guilt. He didn't show his padawan enough love, and the Order had become too dogmatic. Qui-Gon Jinn was better suited to raising the Chosen One. Anakin just needed a daddy.
The tragedy of Anakin's life is that, while there were many mitigating factors, ultimately, he bore full responsibility for his fall. He made a choice and continued to make a choice. George Lucas explains that Anakin's problem is, in fact, his greed. In the Attack of the Clones DVD commentary, he calls Anakin “greedy in that he wants to become more powerful in order to control things to keep the things around that he wants.”
Obi-Wan's failure exists only in his mind. He feels responsible for the fall of the Jedi Order. But Anakin knows it isn't Obi-Wan's fault. He tells him so. “You didn't kill Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan. I did.”
Relationships Are Forbidden
Jedi teaching does not prohibit relationships. In fact, the Jedi depend on their bonds to each other. Masters spend years training their padawans, raising them from childhood to become fully-fledged knights. Those knights go on to have their own padawans, and much like a family tree, the Jedi each have a distinct lineage.
They also use terms more familiar to us when defining their relationships. For example, Anakin refers openly to Obi-Wan as being “like a father,” while the climax of Revenge of the Sith sees Obi-Wan declaring his love for Anakin and calling him his “brother.”
Blood siblings exist in the Order as well. Tiplee and Tiplar, two Mikkian masters who appear in The Clone Wars, were sisters by birth, and Adi Gallia was the cousin of Stass Allie. They kept these familial ties despite becoming Jedi. Relationships are necessary. The whole Jedi Order relies on them.
The Jedi Were Corrupt
In the book Star Wars Propaganda, Pablo Hidalgo gives readers some fascinating insight into wartime perspectives on the Jedi. He writes that because the Jedi eschewed the limelight, the Separatists could say anything and everything about the Order with impunity. “Anti-Jedi sentiment,” he says, “was more a product of their cultural absence rather than a refutation of anything substantive.”
The idea that the Jedi Order was corrupt is merely an extension of this idea. That idea comes to full realization at the end of Revenge of the Sith when Palpatine stands before the Senate a proclaims the Jedi traitors. Palpatine needed to justify his extermination of the Jedi to validate his rise to Emperor. So he lied.
The Order Was a Cult
As easy as it is in the modern age to imagine any insular, exclusive religion to be a cult, the Jedi Order doesn't meet the criteria to be considered one.
First, Star Wars never makes clear that the Jedi even worship the Force. They listen to it and try to follow its will, but do they pray to it? Do they make sacrifices or give offerings to it? Instead, Jedi note a significant lack of divinity placed upon the Force. The Jedi stress its ubiquity. It's in everything and everyone.
Other cultural traditions coexist with Jedi practices. Barriss Offee meditates before a Mirialan idol. Ahsoka Tano participates in a traditional Togrutan coming-of-age ceremony. Many Jedi wear clothing that reflects their heritage better than the typical beige robes, and often modify them to display the wearer's personal preferences.
This open expression of personality, desire, and practice doesn't fall in line with the restrictive and isolating policies distinct to cults. On the contrary, the Jedi Order is a group of like-minded individuals brought together by a shared belief but made different by how they express it.
Those Who Leave the Jedi Are Disgraced
The Order celebrated those who quit for having the strength to leave everything they knew behind; it didn't shame them. The busts of ex-Jedi on display in the Archives at the Temple support this possibility. In a deleted scene, Jedi Jocasta Nu tells Obi-Wan about Dooku. Dooku is one of the “Lost Twenty” – the small group of Jedi who left after growing disillusioned with the Order.
Instead of the bitterness we might expect, Master Nu speaks of Dooku fondly. Indeed, the Council talks about Dooku with respect and trust. They cannot believe he'd fall to the dark side and continue to defend him until his villainy becomes too apparent to ignore.
The “Grey Jedi”
The dark side is selfish and indulgent. The light side is self-sacrificing and forgiving. There is no room for vengeance or anger, but these feelings are natural and beg to be expressed. It's tempting to think there could be some way to thread the needle and walk both paths.
Imagine a Jedi who does not let offenses pass without answering them, who gets angry about injustice and fights back. He defends those he loves and finds a balance between the dark and light.
Unfortunately, that's not possible with the Force. George Lucas states, “The Force has two sides – [Light and Dark]. It is not an inherently malevolent or a benevolent thing. It has a bad side to it, involving hate and fear, and it has a good side, involving love, charity, fairness, and hope.”
There can be no Grey Jedi because there is no grey path. It is black and white. Good and evil. The balance is following the light and turning your back to the dark.
A Jedi Does Not Kill
The Jedi, sadly, are not Batman. They have no rule about refraining from killing people – at least, not the way Batman does. But, because they cleave to the light, they make every effort to extend compassion and eliminate harm. Unfortunately, they may have to choose between one injury and another bigger one.
The Jedi do kill, but they do not murder.
That distinction is crucial. Though the Jedi make every effort to preserve life, they can and will kill when pushed to it. After all, one of the most sacred symbols of their Order is a weapon. A lightsaber is deadly, and mastery of it is simply leashing that power through self-control and restraint.
To use it to kill is a conscious and skillful act. Jedi measure themselves this way. The decision to kill is unrighteous if the intent is motivated by fear, anger, or selfish desire. By taking pleasure in the act, they have touched the dark, and forever will it dominate their destiny.
Obi-wan and Yoda Wanted Luke To Kill Vader
The Jedi have indeed suffered at Vader's hands. Vader brought terror and violence to bear upon the entire galaxy. In the end, even Obi-Wan had given up on Anakin, but it's not true that Yoda and Obi-Wan expected or even wanted Luke to kill Darth Vader.
That misconception is easy enough to make. Lucas dedicates half of The Empire Strikes Back to Luke's training in the Force, preparing him to confront Vader when the time comes.
As George Lucas clarified in The Making of Return of the Jedi, “The mission isn't for Luke to go out and kill his father and get rid of him. The issue is, if he confronts his father again, he may, in defending himself, have to kill him”. Luke's narrow and inexperienced insistence that Anakin will not kill him worries Yoda and Obi-Wan. He refuses to acknowledge the possibility that he will have to kill Vader and instead runs headlong into a confrontation he cannot hope to win.
The remaining Jedi don't wish for Anakin's death. Instead, they want to prepare Luke for the cost he might pay–just as they have, many times over.
Attachment Does Not Equal Love
A Jedi shall not know anger, nor hatred…nor love.
This phrase is excellent marketing but misrepresents the truth. Attachment being synonymous with love is probably the most enduring myth about the Jedi, and it comes down to a simple misunderstanding of terms. George Lucas defines compassion as “selfless love” and attachment as “selfish love.” The Jedi, he says, “can love, but they can't love people to the point of obsession.”
Anakin knows this and defines it for us. In Attack of the Clones, Padmé asks, “Are you allowed to love? I thought attachment was forbidden for a Jedi.” Anakin clarifies that “attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is central to a Jedi's life, so you might say we're encouraged to love.”
Critics often cite the line as proof of the Jedi's prohibition of love. However, the definition of attachment as being synonymous with being fond of or preferring something or someone is not in line with the way George Lucas uses it.
Anakin and Obi-Wan love each other. Obi-Wan dedicates his life to safeguarding Anakin's children. Even after everything, Obi-Wan waits to welcome Anakin to the other side.
Perhaps it's not romantic, but that kind of love is still strong enough to set the stars on fire.
The Jedi Were Pacifists
Luke didn't refuse to kill Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi because of some pacifistic Jedi training. He refused to kill him because he believed he could turn Anakin back to the Light Side of the Force. Jedi, in general, avoid taking an aggressive stance, but even then, when faced with an imminent threat, don't shy away from a fight. See also: Obi-Wan's behavior in the Mos Eisley Cantina, or in facing down Vader on the Death Star.
When the Jedi Order Fell, Nobody Believed in the Force Anymore
Again, simply not true. Part of the beauty of The Clone Wars and subsequent other TV series comes from their exploration of Force users outside the Jedi and the Sith. George Lucas originally envisioned the Jedi and Sith as samurai-like warrior clans that did not have a monopoly on the Force. Since then, various Star Wars properties have explored the Bendu, the Night Sisters, various animal species connected to the Force, and so on. Fans may not like this expanded vision of the Force, preferring to focus only on human characters rather than animals or aliens. Then again, this is Star Wars, so doesn't so much of the fun come from its exotic, sci-fi storytelling?