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Star Wars fan theories that could actually be true

Disney might own the trademark, but Star Wars belongs to the fans. It was the fans who transformed George Lucas' scrappy sci-fi adventure series into one of the biggest blockbusters of all time. It was the fans who kept the original trilogy alive after The Return of the Jedi, creating new adventures in a galaxy far, far away via tabletop RPGs and turning spin-off novels from curiosities into bona fide hits. They're why we got the prequels, the sequels, and a slate of movies and TV shows that'll take the franchise to 2026 — and beyond.

And so, when official Star Wars materials don't answer explain everything, it doesn't matter — the fans are there. They've pored over every tidbit about Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker to try and figure out what's coming. They've analyzed every inconsistency and dangling plot thread to figure out what really happened. The following fan theories may not be canon, but it doesn't matter. Star Wars doesn't just exist on the screen. It lives fans' hearts and minds, too.

Palpatine is Anakin's father

In Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, Anakin Skywalker's mother, Shmi, tells Qui-Gon Jinn that Anakin doesn't have a father. She woke up one day and boom! She was pregnant. In Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine tells Anakin about his former master, Darth Plagueis, who learned how to manipulate the Force in order to create life — and taught Palpatine everything that he knew.

It didn't take much for fans to put two and two together. Anakin may not have been conceived via traditional means, but Palpatine is the closest thing that the boy has to a father, right? At one point, that was George Lucas' plan. The book The Making of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith contains a screenplay excerpt featuring an exchange between Palpatine and Anakin in which Palpatine outright says, "I arranged for your conception. I used the power of the Force to will the midichlorians to start the cell divisions that created you." A 2018 Marvel comic book shows Palpatine lurking over Shmi, manipulating her womb with dark energy.

But here's the thing: Palpatine's confession was cut from the final film, and the comic leaves just enough wiggle room that it could be symbolic. After all, Rey's power came organically from the Force as Kylo Ren grew stronger. Maybe Anakin's birth was a similar response to Darth Sidious' ascent. Until there's official confirmation of Anakin's dark parentage on-screen, this remains a fan theory — albeit a really, really solid one.

Matt Smith plays young Palpatine in The Rise of Skywalker

Emperor Palpatine is back in Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker. If Sidious' sinister laugh at the end of The Rise of Skywalker's trailer — y'know, right after Luke's voiceover ominously promises that "no one's ever really gone" — didn't clue you in, Empire Magazine's James Dyer got an official confirmation from the man himself, The Rise of Skywalker director J. J. Abrams.

Ian McDiarmid, who played Palpatine in Return of the Jedi and the prequel trilogy, seems set on reprising his iconic role. However, he may not be the only Palpatine that we see. According to a fan theory proposed by The Weekly Planet Podcast (and repeated by Esquire), Doctor Who star Matt Smith might also play a younger version of the former despot in the movie.

In August 2018, Variety reported that Smith would appear in Episode IX, but the actor hasn't been featured in any promotional materials, and Smith denies that he's in the movie. At the same time, official Disney websites list Smith in the cast list. Why keep Smith's role so secret? Some fans think that it's tied to Palpatine's resurrection. Smith could play Palpatine in a flashback. He could be a younger, stronger clone body. He might be someone unrelated who gets possessed by Palpatine's spirit. We don't know quite yet — but if Smith shows up in The Rise of Skywalker flinging Force lightning, we won't exactly be surprised.

Obi-Wan and Darth Vader recognized R2-D2 and C-3PO in the original trilogy

There's one big problem with the prequel trilogy's insistence that everyone in the Star Wars universe knew each other before Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope began: it makes Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader look like idiots. We're supposed to believe that Obi-Wan Kenobi didn't remember two of his most loyal companions? The former Anakin Skywalker didn't recognize his trusted co-pilot and the droid that he rebuilt by hand? Puh-lease.

Enter the fan theories. Of course Obi-Wan and Darth Vader knew who R2-D2 and C-3PO were, fans say. They just played it cool. In Obi-Wan's case, old Ben never said that he didn't know R2-D2 — he simply says that he never owned a droid. Technically, that's true. Droids were "assigned" to Obi-Wan and the other Jedi, not given to them, and R2-D2 wasn't ever Obi-Wan's anyway. Obi-Wan isn't saying that he doesn't know Artoo. He's simply talking around the truth.

As far as Darth Vader is concerned, R2-D2 and C-3PO don't really cross his path during the original trilogy outside of a couple of stray glances, save for when Vader faces off against Han, Leia, Chewie, and C-3PO at Cloud City. Before their capture, someone blows C-3PO up, but we never see who. That leaves room for Vader himself to deal the blow in an effort to keep C-3PO quiet just in case he recognized his own master. How rude!

Leia and Chewie didn't hug in The Force Awakens because Chewie was in mourning

One of the biggest complaints with The Force Awakens is that, after Han Solo dies, Leia immediately consoles Rey — a girl she's never met — and not Chewbacca, Han's best friend. J.J. Abrams has since admitted that the slight was a mistake, but he shouldn't worry. Fans have come up with a perfectly legitimate excuse for him.

On Reddit, user Cyborgcommando0 posits that Leia ignored Chewie out of respect for his Wookiee heritage. As the theory goes, Wookiees aren't supposed to touch or be touched by others after the death of a loved one until they're allowed to mourn in private. The lone exception is if physical contact is a matter of life or death. That's why Chewie is allowed to rush Finn, who's been wounded, off to the medic, but why Leia keeps her distance. She's not dissing him — she's being a good friend.

Later, Chewbacca gets his chance to grieve, which we see, and then Leia and Chewbacca share a moment off-camera. Of course, Reddit commenters have an alternate theory: maybe Leia just hates Chewbacca. After all, she didn't give him a medal, she uses the phrase "kiss[ing] a Wookiee" as an insult, and calling someone a "walking carpet" isn't exactly a term of endearment.

"Skywalker" will be the new term for Force users

Episode IX's subtitle, The Rise of Skywalker, is a curious one, given that the two most notable Skywalkers, Anakin and Luke, are dead. Then again, according to Luke, so are the Jedi. What are we supposed to call benevolent Force-users now?

Well, how about Skywalkers? This popular fan theory argues that the impotent and flawed Jedi Order truly is gone, and that Rey will found a new line of Force-wielding pacifist warriors named after her one-time mentor. That'd be a nice touch. Disney has been adamant that Episode IX will conclude the "Skywalker saga," and having "Skywalker" become a general name for do-gooders across the galaxy is a lovely tribute to both Luke and Anakin.

Besides, not only would this twist play nicely off of The Last Jedi's general thesis that the Force is for everyone, but it wouldn't be the first time that Skywalker was used as a title in Star Wars canon. In Timothy Zahn's 2018 novel Thrawn: Alliances, Force-sensitive pilots known as Skywalkers helped others navigate the most treacherous reaches of space. There are very few coincidences in Star Wars lore, and if that tidbit isn't the beginning of something bigger, we'd be very surprised.

C-3PO ignored a warning from a fellow droid on Cloud City

If you go by C-3PO's reaction in The Empire Strikes Back, "e chuta" is maybe the most vile thing that you can say in the Star Wars universe. While strolling through Cloud City, C-3PO runs across a familiar face — his own, on a silver-plated protocol droid — and says hello. The droid spits the Huttese slur back in C-3PO's face and wanders off, leaving Threepio to stammer, "How rude!"

The exact translation of "e chuta" remains a mystery, but some fans think that it wasn't an insult — it was a warning. With the benefit of hindsight, we know that Boba Fett had already tracked Han, Leia, Chewbacca, and C-3PO to Cloud City. We know that Darth Vader is on his way, and that Lando is going to sell his friends out. The silver protocol droid might've known that, too. As the theory goes, when C-3PO stopped to chat, his counterpart gave him a brief, brusque warning — something like "leave" or "let out" — that's completely out of character for a protocol droid, hoping that C-3PO would take the hint.

But let's face it: C-3PO isn't the smartest droid in the galaxy. Instead of taking the other droid's words at face value, Threepio took offense and doomed his friends. If only C-3PO hadn't been so, well, C-3PO, Luke wouldn't have lost his hand, Han wouldn't have been frozen in carbonite, and the fate of the galaxy would've been very, very different.

Naomi Ackie plays Lando's daughter

By this point, we know that Lady Macbeth actress and rising star Naomi Ackie is in The Rise of Skywalker, and that she's playing a character called Jannah. We know that Billy Dee Williams is in the film too, reprising his role as the charming scoundrel Lando Calrissian on the big screen for the first time in over 35 years. We know that family legacy is an important piece of the Skywalker saga. We do not know Jannah's last name.

Could it be Calrissian? Many fans seem to think so. While some purported on-set "leaks" don't seem to have panned out (they get Jannah's name all wrong, for one thing), Ackie herself is playing pretty coy. "Lando is a charming man," she said at Star Wars Celebration, "so he could have children all over the universe." That's not a confirmation, but it's not a denial either.

Besides, one of the last times that we saw Lando in Star Wars canon was in the Solo tie-in novel Last Shot, which contains a plotline that takes place a few years after Return of the Jedi. By the time that Last Shot ends, Lando decides that he's ready to settle down and start a family. Even if Lando's Last Shot girlfriend, a Twi'lek named Kaasha, isn't Jannah's mother (and she could be — Star Wars Rebels showed us that human-Twi'lek babies don't necessarily have the Twi'lek's signature head-tails), that's an extremely curious detail for Lucasfilm to include if it's not going to pay off later.

Supreme Leader Snoke is (or was) Darth Plagueis

The Last Jedi did its best to convince us that Supreme Leader Snoke doesn't matter, but remember, this is the guy who transformed the remnants of the Empire into the First Order. There must be something important hidden in his past, and some fans think they've discovered what it is: Snoke is Darth Plagueis the Wise, Palpatine's former master and the Sith lord who used the dark side to unlock the secrets of life itself.

Much of this theory comes down to the process of elimination — in Star Wars lore, there aren't many other characters who Snoke could be — but the movies do offer a few intriguing clues. For one, there's a specific music cue that plays in Revenge of the Sith when Palpatine is talking about Plagueis that only appears in one other place: John Williams' Snoke theme. Given that Williams' Star Wars scores are character-based, that's a big clue. At one point, Kylo Ren says, "The Supreme Leader is wise," which recalls Plagueis' preferred title. Besides, Snoke just looks like he's been ravaged by a disease — or a plague.

It's thin, and it probably doesn't matter either way, but it's fun to think about. Besides, if Palpatine can return from the dead, Plagueis can too. Unnaturally long life is the dude's whole thing.

There's more to Rey's parentage than The Last Jedi lets on

Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi seemed to settle one of the sequel trilogy's biggest mysteries — who are Rey's parents? — in the most subversive yet satisfying way possible. Bucking years of Star Wars tradition (and suddenly silencing millions of fan theories in a single blow), Kylo Ren told Rey that her parents weren't anyone special. They were simple scavengers who sold Rey for some booze, and are now "dead in a pauper's grave in the Jakku desert."

Well, some fans aren't buying it. For one, Kylo Ren has an agenda, making everything he says suspect. For another, in The Force Awakens, Rey flashes back to when her parents abandoned her on Jakku, and it certainly looks like their ship is headed off-planet. Finally, this is Star Wars. People's families are important.

J.J. Abrams is giving those fans hope. In an interview with ABC News, Abrams says that he wants to honor what The Last Jedi did, but that "there's more to the story than you've seen." And so, the speculation began again. Fans have since argued that Rey might be a secret Kenobi, a secret Skywalker, a secret Palpatine, or even her own parents' murderer. Until The Rise of Skywalker premieres, we won't know anything for sure — unless, of course, Abrams is just toying with us, and Kylo was telling the truth. In many ways, that would be the biggest twist of all.

Rey is a clone

This fan theory builds on the one above, but it's wild enough that it deserves some discussion all of its own: maybe Rey's parents don't matter because she doesn't really have any. Perhaps, instead of a normal kid, Rey was actually a clone of one of the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy, Luke Skywalker.

We know, we know. Stick with us. As the theory goes, Rey was cloned from Luke's hand, which Darth Vader chopped off in The Empire Strikes Back. When Rey finds Luke's lightsaber in Maz Kanata's castle in The Force Awakens, she sees and hears snippets from Luke's past, including his scream upon learning that Darth Vader is his dad, and a close-up of Luke's mechanical hand. Maz tells Rey, "That lightsaber was Luke's, and his father's before him, and now it calls to you," implying a direct familial lineage. Rey and Kylo have some kind of connection, which makes sense if they're related — aunt and nephew? Cousins? Cloning is confusing.

In addition, we know that Luke's old hand was originally supposed to open The Force Awakens, and there's a precedent for this kind of thing: Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy, which kickstarted the whole Star Wars Expanded Universe in the early '90s, features a Luke clone made from the Jedi's severed appendage. Heck, as outlandish as it is, this theory even means that Kylo was telling the truth: if she's a clone, Rey's parents really were "nobody," at least from a certain point of view.

The Knights of Ren are clones, too

If Rey is a clone, then that opens up all kinds of possibilities. Promotional materials for The Force Awakens made a big deal out of Kylo Ren's henchmen, the Knights of Ren, but outside of a brief flashback they barely appeared — unless we already met one of them, kind of. Maybe, like Rey, the Knights of Ren are also clones of Luke. Maybe, as one theory posits, they're even clones of Rey herself.

Rumors suggest that J.J. Abrams wants to use Episode IX to tie all three Star Wars trilogies together, and clones are a big part of the prequels. If the Knights of Ren are clones of Rey, that would explain why they all wear masks, and why their identities are such tightly-kept secrets. Some fans are taking Rey's vision on Ahch-To, in which she sees multiple versions of herself, as evidence that she's just one in a long line of clones. Heck, maybe Keri Russell's mysterious role in the film is a grown version of one of the early Rey prototypes.

Of course, it's more likely that the Knights of Ren are simply the other students who left with Kylo when he burned Luke's Jedi academy to the ground. Hopefully, The Rise of Skywalker will make things clear. Either way, we can't wait to find out.

Ewoks ate a bunch of Stormtroopers

Ewoks look cute and cuddly, but they're downright mean. Not only are they skilled at creating elaborate and deadly booby traps, but they eat people. That's not up for debate. In Return of the Jedi, when the fuzzy little savages capture Luke, Han, and Chewbacca, they tie the rebels to a spit and hang them over a campfire. That's not a low-tech tanning salon — they're planning to eat our heroes for dinner.

Thanks to Leia and C-3PO, Luke and company escape before things get too grisly, but that doesn't mean that the Ewoks went hungry. As keen observers have noticed, they simply dined off-screen. During the Battle of Endor, Ewok troops decimate an entire squadron of Imperial Stormtroopers. In the ensuing victory celebrations, they can be seen drumming on Stormtrooper helmets with mallets, using them as makeshift musical instruments. But where are the heads that belong inside? Where are the Stormtroopers' bodies?

Why, in the Ewoks' bellies, of course. Honestly, there's no other good explanation. Keep that in mind, and you'll never watch Caravan of Courage the same way again. Watch out, Cindel. Those aren't your friends… they're simply saving you for dessert.