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The Secret History of the Sith

Fun fact! While most people know that May 4th is Star Wars Day, with Star Wars fans affectionately saying “May the Fourth be with you” to celebrate their fandom, May 5th has also become a holiday of sorts. Fans have taken to calling it “Revenge of the Fifth,” a play on the title of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. It’s on May 5th that fans can celebrate their love of all things dark sided.

There’s always been something captivating about Star Wars villains, particularly the Sith. Ever since Darth Vader stormed onto the Rebel blockade runner in Star Wars: A New Hope, we’ve wanted to know more about the villains we love to hate. From Vader to Emperor Palpatine, and Darth Maul to Count Dooku, the Sith proved to be the most formidable enemies of the Jedi in the first six Star Wars films.

We still don’t know much about the Sith, just the broad strokes, but average moviegoers are probably in the dark (no pun intended) about the ancient history of the Sith. Not to mention why the Sith wanted revenge in the first place. Did you know that…

The Sith Were Once Jedi

In ancient times, there was only the Jedi Order. But through events that have yet to be revealed, there was a schism amongst the Order’s ranks. It was in that time that a rogue Jedi went against traditional Jedi beliefs and said that the true potential of a Force wielder could only be unlocked by tapping into the dark side of the Force. The Jedi Council, as you might expect, rejected this idea. The rogue Jedi became an outcast, but others followed him. This led to the Hundred-Year Darkness, from which the Sith were born.

Although we don’t yet know the canon story of the Hundred-Year Darkness, the non-canon Star Wars Legends continuity depicted it as a century-long conflict between the Jedi and the Dark Jedi who wanted to follow a new path. The Jedi won this war and the Dark Jedi became outcasts from the Republic, eventually forming the Sith deep in the Outer Rim.

Whether the official story of the rise of the Sith follows this same course remains to be seen, but I have to imagine we will see that story some day. Perhaps even on the big screen through spinoff films!

The Sith Built Terrifying Superweapons

The Sith temple on Moraband was an ancient superweapon, dating back to the Great Scourge of Malachor.

In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi were sent to investigate the death of a Jedi Master on the planet Utapau, which audiences may remember as the sinkhole planet in Revenge of the Sith. Through the course of this investigation, Anakin and Obi-Wan discovered that the Separatists managed to get their hands on a massive kyber crystal. Typically, kyber crystals are very small and live in the heart of a Jedi’s lightsaber. It’s what gives the lightsaber its power. Giant crystals, however, are much more powerful. Anakin and Obi-Wan were able to destroy this crystal, but they also learned from Master Yoda that, during the ancient wars between the Jedi and the Sith, terrifying superweapons were created that were powered by giant kyber crystals.

One of these superweapons was the Sith temple on Malachor, an ancient Sith world that was the site of a climactic battle between the Jedi and the Sith called the Great Scourge of Malachor. At the heart of the temple was a superweapon that had the power to destroy life. How it could do this, exactly, has yet to be revealed, but the events of the television series Star Wars Rebels showed Darth Maul—that’s right, he actually survived his duel with Obi-Wan in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace—attempting to activate the weapon in order to destroy the Sith who betrayed him.

The Empire itself also built a weapon powered by giant kyber crystals: the Death Star. Its green superlaser was powered by these giant green crystals. It’s possible that Starkiller Base, built into a planet with a unique crystalline structure, was also powered by kyber crystals in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The Sith Were Reformed by Darth Bane

After the Hundred-Year Darkness, the Jedi and the Sith fought numerous wars against one another. In their last great war, the Jedi triumphed over their mortal enemies. Through the actions of the Jedi and the in-fighting amongst the Sith ranks, almost all of the Sith were destroyed—except for one. That Sith Lord was named Darth Bane.

Darth Bane knew it was in-fighting that ultimately doomed the Sith. He saw the dark side of the Force for what it truly was: selfishness and self-destruction, and for that the Sith needed protection from themselves. To do that, he created the Rule of Two—”Always two there are. No more, no less. A master and an apprentice,” as Yoda said in The Phantom Menace—so the Sith could endure. One master and one apprentice was all that was needed to preserve the Sith, and anything else was a danger. Rather than build empires like they once had, these Sith would act in the shadows and take over the Republic from within. This became the grand design of the Sith Lords who followed him, and it’s why we only ever saw two Sith at a time in the Star Wars films.

Bane’s legacy was fulfilled when Chancellor Palpatine, the Sith Lord known as Darth Sidious, engineered the Clone Wars to take over the Republic. It was through that conflict that Palpatine crowned himself Emperor and gave rise to the Galactic Empire, with the Sith as its true rulers. Of course, the victory was only short-lived. Darth Vader was redeemed and destroyed the Emperor, bringing an end to the Sith and the legacy that Darth Bane had created.

Side note: in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Yoda travelled to the Sith homeworld of Moraband and encountered a vision of Darth Bane. That vision was voiced by none other than Mark Hamill, famous for playing Luke Skywalker in the original and sequel trilogies.

The Sith Are No More (We Think)

Star Wars - Kylo Ren

When Anakin Skywalker was introduced as a child in The Phantom Menace, we learned that he was the Chosen One destined to bring balance to the Force. By the time of Revenge of the Sith, we learned that bringing balance to the Force meant destroying the Sith. Anakin fulfilled that destiny in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi when, as Darth Vader, he was redeemed by Luke and killed Emperor Palpatine. By destroying the Emperor and sacrificing his own life as a result, Anakin brought an end to the Sith and restored balance to the Force.

How that legacy will play out in the new films and beyond is something only time will tell us, but we can be pretty confident in saying that there are no Sith in the galaxy anymore (unless certain fan theories about Supreme Leader Snoke end up being true). Kylo Ren in particular is not a Sith. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary tells us that Kylo is the leading warrior in a new generation of Force users trained by Supreme Leader Snoke, and that Snoke sees Kylo as someone who has equal potential for both good and evil. The Supreme Leader encourages Kylo to tap into both light and dark, becoming something different than both Jedi and Sith. Of course, given that Kylo quite literally worships at the altar of his grandfather, Darth Vader, it’s certainly possible that he may want to become a Sith Lord himself. But to be a Sith is much more than wielding a red lightsaber and tapping into the dark side. It’s an ancient and exclusive philosophy passed down from master to apprentice—and all the Sith are gone. It’s unlikely there will ever be a true Sith Lord again.

If there’s one thing that was clear to me in writing about the Secret History of the Sith, it’s that we still don’t know much about them. We know that they have certain philosophies about using their passions for strength, and that they are inherently selfish, but we don’t know much beyond the broad strokes of their history. Expanding the Sith mythology is fertile ground for future Star Wars storytelling.

What do you love about the Sith? Send me a tweet with your favorites!


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