Thanks to the Ahsoka’s Untold Tales panel at Star Wars Celebration Europe 2016 and E.K. Johnston’s young adult novel, Star Wars: Ahsoka, we’ve learnt a little more about those years between Ahsoka Tano’s departure from the Jedi Order and her long-awaited return to our screens in the season one finale of Star Wars Rebels.
We now know that she spent some time living in the Coruscant underworld, assisting the Jedi in the discovery of an ancient Sith temple, leading troops into battle during the Siege of Mandalore, and ultimately carving a new life for herself in a galaxy under Imperial rule.
But for a long time, fans were left wondering about Ahsoka’s fate and it wasn’t until she climbed down those steps at the end of ‘Fire Across the Galaxy’ to introduce herself to the Lothal rebels that they knew she was alive and well and a key figure within the fledgling Rebel Alliance.
So what made Lucasfilm Animation decide to bring back Ahsoka Tano for Star Wars Rebels?
Dave Filoni (Supervising Director of The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels) and Pablo Hidalgo (Lucasfilm Story Group) helped shed some light on the matter.
“Bringing [Ahsoka] into Rebels“, Hidalgo explained, “Which, you know, we managed to keep mostly a secret for most of season one. We surprised a lot of people at the end of season one, which was a great experience”.
A number of Filoni’s sketches for an older Ahsoka appeared on the screen behind the panelists. “I just started drawing Ahsokas early on”, Filoni pointed out, “But, again, it [felt] a bit self-serving to put [Ahsoka] in Rebels. I didn’t want Rebels to just be The Clone Wars: Part Two. I wanted the characters to stand on their own. So I would draw [Ahsoka] a lot but not put [her] in the show”.
Filoni drew people’s attention to the star scribbled next to one of his sketches. “See? It gets a star if I like [the design]. And we were developing the look of Rebels during this time so I was, like, what would [Ahsoka] even look like?”
Another batch of sketches then appeared on the screen, some of which depicted an older Ahsoka wearing elaborate helmets or headbands.
“I tried these helmets”, Filoni explained, “And you can see I put some of the rebel pilot symbols on the helmets”.
But despite Filoni’s efforts, Ashley Eckstein, voice of Ahsoka Tano, wasn’t convinced that this would have been a good look for her character. “I’m not feeling the helmets…”
“It’d be great for cosplay”, Filoni argued, “I think of that all the time. Like, ‘Hey, it may be cool for cosplay’. But then I thought it’d be difficult too because what would hold that up? You’d tear your lekku. So I got rid of it”.
Drawing his attention to the new batch of sketches that appeared on the screen, Filoni told the audience that he liked the one on the right, a minimalist sketch that depicted Ahsoka wearing a bulky, yet graceful headpiece.
Although the idea of a helmeted Ahsoka was shot down early on, it’s clear that Filoni always intended for Ahsoka to wear a headband of some sort to replace the akul-tooth headdress she sported in The Clone Wars (a Togruta tradition she seemingly ditched following her departure from the Jedi Order).
“Her headband became a nod to Aurora”, Filoni explained, referencing the Disney princess from the 1959 animated feature Sleeping Beauty.”Aurora’s crown is very much what Ahsoka’s headband in Rebels looks like”.
Another batch of sketches were brought up on screen, which depicted Ahsoka wearing a more stream-lined headband and an early version of the outfit she’d come to wear on the series.
“This piece of armour on the centre [sketch] … was very samurai-like. I found some old photographs of samurai women from a long, long time ago and that started to influence the costume, because I wanted her to become more of a warrior-like looking character”.
This segment of the panel ended with a discussion of lightsaber colours, thoughts on kyber crystal lore, and a stunning coloured sketch of Ahsoka wearing a heavy, hooded dark blue cape and brandishing her twin white lightsabers, which drew a few “Wows” from Ashley and the audience.
“I thought maybe a blue cloak for a while”, Filoni explained, “But then didn’t do that”.
Panel host David Collins chipped in to ask Filoni about Ahsoka’s lightsabers. “Where the white lightsabers always part of it?”
“Yeah. I always wanted white lightsabers”, Filoni confessed, “I love that [Ahsoka] would have seen them with Tera Sinube“.
Fans of The Clone Wars may recall the elderly Jedi Master who teamed up with Ahsoka in the season two episode ‘Lightsaber Lost’ to help the headstrong and impatient young Padawan retrieve her stolen lightsaber. There are conflicting reports about the colour of Sinube’s lightsaber blade (some sources now describe it as being a very pale blue) but it’s generally thought that his lightsaber was the first recorded instance of a white-bladed lightsaber in Star Wars canon.
Coming back to his decision to give Ahsoka white lightsabers, Filoni explained that “the white lightsabers are just more indicative of the fact that she’s not really on a chosen side. She’s not a Jedi and she’s certainly not a Sith. And the lightsaber colour is reflective more of your internal attitude and feeling, of your soul and who you are.”
He explained how Jedi had a set system of lightsaber colours, how most Jedi had blue or green-bladed lightsabers while the Sith and other Dark Side users had red-bladed sabers….or “purple, if you’re Sam Jackson”.
“I always thought the Sith were torturous with their crystals”, Filoni continued, “That they make them bleed and that’s why they’re all red. ‘Bleed’ is just a metaphor. Kyber crystals are just clear. They’re not, like, ‘Here’s a blue one’. I know that it’s been like that in some games and stuff but as George [Lucas] described it, ‘That’s not how it works'”.
Those who watched the younglings arc of The Clone Wars will know exactly what Filoni means. In the season five episode ‘The Gathering’, Ahsoka escorts a group of Jedi younglings to Ilum, an icy planet whose crystal caves were sacred to the Jedi.
There, the younglings were tasked with exploring the caves’ maze-like catacombs and attuning themselves to the Force in order to harvest the crystals that would come to power their lightsabers. This rite of passage formed an integral part of Jedi training and required younglings to overcome their personal fears or character flaws before they could go on to become Padawan learners.
One of the younglings, the overconfident Petro, was a little hasty in his search for his crystal and rushed back out of the cave to seek Yoda’s approval…only to discover that the “crystal” (which was actually just a shard of ice) had melted in his hands. This only highlights how hard it would be (if not impossible) for a non-Force user to find a kyber crystal hidden amongst the ice.
“That’s why Ilum is an ice cave”, Filoni added, “You can’t tell the ice from a crystal if you’re an average person. The Force is kind of protecting itself as nature tends to do from time to time”.
The Ahsoka novel expands on the established lore of kyber crystals, detailing how the Imperial Inquisitors may have gotten hold of kyber crystals from the former Jedi Temple (or even from the lightsabers of fallen Jedi) and corrupted them, turning them red in the process. The novel also details how kyber crystals “sing” to their chosen owners and how Ahsoka came to acquire the crystals for her new lightsabers, which I won’t expand on here to avoid spoiling things for those who haven’t read E.K. Johnston’s novel yet (you can buy it on Amazon or Amazon UK).
All in all, Star Wars: Ahsoka and the Rogue One prequel novel, Catalyst, go a long way to reinforce the idea that kyber crystals are living crystals and that it takes a certain skill and insight to harness their powers. You can find an interesting discussion on kyber crystals and their uses in Matthew Applebee’s article, A Crystalline Duet.
This article is the sixth in a series of articles on the “Ahsoka’s Untold Tales” panel from Star Wars Celebration Europe. In the next (and final) installment, we’ll be taking a closer look at *that* fateful showdown between Ahsoka Tano and Darth Vader.