She’s smart, she’s savvy, she’s loyal, and she’s orange. One of the hottest Star Wars characters of the day is one that many Star Wars fans have scarcely seen. But amazingly, she’s been around the galaxy for fifteen years. We’re talking, of course, about Ahsoka Tano, a key player in the legendary Clone Wars who is about to carry her own series on Disney+ beginning August 22nd.
So who exactly is Ahsoka, and what can we expect from her new series? Start here for a bit of a primer on this unorthodox Jedi, and learn a few of the basics (and as always, a couple fun facts) along the way. Ready to feel the Force? Then read on…
The Birth of a New Star Wars Jedi
These days, the names Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau have become synonymous with new Star Wars content. George Lucas, who single-handedly created the Star Wars galaxy in the 1970s, is barely involved in the creation of new stories and characters. But in the 2008 creation of Ahsoka Tano, Lucas and Filoni worked together to create a young spitfire who consistently gave Anakin Skywalker a run for his credits (Star Wars-speak for money).[mailerlite_form form_id=1]
The Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated film and series take place in the Star Wars timeline between Episode II – Attack of the Clones and Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. In creating the series, Lucas decided that Anakin Skywalker (pre-Darth Vader) should be the lead Jedi, and that he should be given a Padawan (Jedi-speak for student). At the time, while collaborating with Lucas on The Clone Wars, Filoni insisted that Anakin didn’t have a Padawan. But Lucas had made up his mind, and simply said, “Anakin has a Padawan.”
Lucas, a father of two daughters, wanted the young Padawan to appeal to girls, so he made her female. Early in development, Ahsoka’s name was “Ashla” (remember that name), but Lucas renamed her after the ancient Indian emperor Ashoka. The spelling was later altered slightly to its current form. Fittingly, the name Ahsoka has the meanings of “purity” and “hopefulness” in Sanskrit.
The Look of a Legend
In Star Wars lore, Ahsoka Tano is a Togruta female. She was discovered among her people on the planet Shili at the young age of three, by Jedi Master Plo Koon (if you’ve ever seen The Clone Wars, he’s the brown slightly squid-looking Jedi who wears a breathing apparatus on his face). Familiarly known as Master Plo, the Jedi brought Ahsoka to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant to receive her Jedi training.
Ahsoka’s orange coloring, facial markings, and blue and white striped montrals and lekku (head tails) make her a particularly distinct looking figure. But don’t confuse her with another species sporting lekku – the Twi’lek (most notably Jabba the Hutt’s henchman Bib Fortuna, and Star Wars: Rebels hero Hera Syndulla). Ahsoka’s facial markings have changed as she’s grown, and her lekku have grown with her.
George Lucas has been famously influenced by Japanese samurai legends and heroes in his creation of the Jedi, and Ahsoka is no different. Lucas modeled this hero after Princess Mononoke, the hero of a 1997 Japanese adult animated epic historical fantasy film. Taking the samurai influence a little further, Ahsoka’s armor in the later series Star Wars: Rebels is based on a “pseudo-samurai look” influenced by photographs of samurai women. In the Star Wars story, the armor is meant to appear as if Ahsoka found it in an ancient Jedi temple. Lastly, Ahsoka’s lightsabers tell a tale all their own. Being neither red (sign of the sith) nor another color (shared by many Jedi), the white blades of her two lightsabers demonstrate that Ahsoka is truly her own person, neither a Jedi nor a Sith.
Where Has Ahsoka Been?
As we discussed above, Ahsoka Tano was introduced to us in The Clone Wars, taking place between the second and third films in the nine-episode core film series. During The Clone Wars, Ahsoka was almost constantly at the side of her Jedi Master Anakin Skywalker, and she often fought alongside Obi-Wan Kenobi. So how is it that we’ve never seen her in either of the two bookending Star Wars films? Here is the briefest of explanations.
The Clone Wars began near the conclusion of Episode II – Attack of the Clones. Following this battle, while only 14 years old, Ahsoka was assigned to Jedi Anakin Skywalker as his Padawan (initially, she was assigned to Obi-Wan Kenobi, but her tendency to be unpredictable and passionate seemed to jive better with Anakin’s personality, so he took her on as his own).
Ahsoka faithfully served Anakin and the Republic against the Separatist Alliance during most of the three-year period of the Clone Wars. However, she became increasingly frustrated with the Jedi Order and the way it handled politics in the galactic capital of Coruscant and beyond. The final straw came when Ahsoka was wrongfully accused of bombing the Jedi Temple. She was put on trial and was eventually acquitted of the accusation (after she spent time on the run proving her own innocence). Following her acquittal, Ahsoka was offered the title of Jedi Knight, but by then the damage was done. Disillusioned with the Jedi Order, Ahsoka walked away from the Order in the finale of The Clone Wars fifth season, to make a life on her own.
Ahsoka returned in the seventh and final season of The Clone Wars, briefly reuniting with Anakin and the Republic, then separating from Anakin and Obi-Wan in her unsuccessful attempt to assist the planet Mandalore in resisting takeover attempts by former Sith Lord Darth Maul, (and later, an early iteration of the Empire). It was during this time that Anakin’s final days as a Jedi came to an end at the saber of Obi-Wan Kenobi and the scheming control of Chancellor (now Emperor) Palpatine.
After defeating and capturing Maul, Ahsoka narrowly escaped Order 66, which turned all clones against the Republic and ordered the execution of all Jedi. Ahsoka managed to keep her most trusted ally Commander Rex from turning, resorting to releasing Maul to be a distraction to the other clones while she and Rex barely escaped execution. Following her escape after the siege of Mandalore, Ahsoka laid low, using underground tactics to help the budding Rebellion in their fight against the empire, resurfacing in Star Wars: Rebels.
After Ahsoka’s brief interlude with the Rebellion, she again fell out of commission following a battle with her former Jedi Master (now menacing the galaxy as Darth Vader) in which she was believed dead. But this cat used another of her nine lives to surface again near the end of Rebels strike out in search of Grand Admiral Thrawn (more on him below).
As you can see, Ahsoka Tano has been retroactively connected (retconned) into the greater Star Wars galaxy, threading the needle around and in-between the films we consider Star Wars canon.
Otherwise Known As…
Our hero may be named Ahsoka, but that’s not the only name she’s been called. Early on in her Jedi training (as in the very first day), the young Padawan was teasingly dubbed “Snips” by her teacher Anakin, for her overzealous tendency to get “snippy” with her superiors. Never one to pass up a chance to spar, Snips constantly retorted by calling her master “Sky Guy.” These playful nicknames carried through the first couple seasons of The Clone Wars, but faded as Ahsoka and Anakin matured, their relationship deepened, and the stakes of war continued to rise.
According to off-screen supporting lore – following the Clone Wars, when the Empire came to power, Ahsoka went on the run and into hiding, disguised under the name “Ashla.” She lived a more hidden life for years until she sought out Bail Organa (adoptive father to Princess Leia) to offer service to the Rebellion.
Ahsoka adopted a more functional alias during her time working with Bail Organa. In the early days of the Rebellion, the galactic freedom fighters – in particular the crew (or should I say family) of the Ghost in Rebels – implicitly trusted an informant by the name of Fulcrum. The informant was able to provide valuable intel which proved to help the Rebels make early gains on what, at the time, seemed like an insurmountable Empire. Who exactly was Fulcrum? She was none other than Ahsoka Tano.
The name Fulcrum reached further than just Ahsoka. The code name was used by others who worked to give even the smallest edge to the Rebellion. The most notable other Fulcrum was Agent Callus, a one-time Imperial foe in Rebels who renounced his Imperial ways, but remained under cover within the Empire to assist the Rebels in gaining an edge against Grand Admiral Thrawn.
Who Are All These Others Characters?
Ok, let’s have just a bit of a primer for some of the characters making their live-action debuts in Ahsoka.
The Ghost Crew
For folks familiar with Star Wars: Rebels, it may feel a bit like a family reunion. That’s because it is! The Ahsoka series will give us our first live-action look at several key heroes from Rebels, including most of the crew of the starship Ghost.
This Mandalorian female has the heart of a warrior and the soul of an artist. Her striking colors and penchant for creating memorable “urban art” deftly disguise the fact that she is a highly skilled warrior, and a pretty good pilot too. At the end of Rebels, Sabine and Ahsoka made a pact to find their friend and family member Ezra, who sacrificed himself to remove Grand Admiral Thrawn from the Battle of Lothal. One of the through lines of the upcoming series will be Sabine’s search for Ezra.
Speaking of Ezra, he was just a young street kid at the onset of Rebels. Born on the exact day the Empire was founded, Bridger lost his parents at a very young age to the Empire, and spends much of his energy trying to make peace with his lot in life. After initially tangling with the Ghost crew, Ezra quickly grew to value them as a found family. He is extremely talented with the Force, and trained under Jedi Knight Kanan Jarrus, who sacrificed himself in season four of Rebels to save his friends. Through the Force, Ezra arranged for some purrgil – which I can most easily describe as “space whales” – to carry Grand Admiral Thrawn’s fleet (as well as Thrawn and Ezra himself) into hyperspace, where they remained mysteriously unheard from since. Will we see Ezra in Ahsoka, aside from a holocron recording shown in the trailer? Only time will tell.
This Twi’lek female made a name for herself as one of the best pilots in the Rebel fleet, where she advanced to the rank of General. Aside from being a General in the Rebellion, Hera serves as a combination of mom and boss lady among the Ghost crew. And if Hera is the mom, then the previously mentioned Kanan was the dad. He took on a father figure role to Ezra, training him in the ways of the Force, but also in the ways of life. Hera and Kanan grew to have a romantic relationship, causing Kanan’s sacrifice and death to be all the more heartbreaking. But the space couple brought a child of their own into the world – a young man named Jacen. Might he make an appearance in Ahsoka? Patience, young Padawan…
No Star Wars story is truly complete without a good old droid to knock around. C1-10P – affectionately known as Chopper – just may be the feistiest droid we’ve met. Originally the property of Hera, Chopper is edgy, jokey, and sometimes insulting, but he has a heart of gold and always comes through for his crew. The orange-domed astromech is voiced to humorous perfection by creator Dave Filoni.
The Bad Guys
The evildoers in this upcoming series appear to be coming from multiple angles. Two of them have history in the Star Wars galaxy, and two are brand new.
Grand Admiral Thrawn
The big (blue) bad of this series is Grand Admiral Thrawn, so let’s spend a moment on him. Fans of the recent live-action Star Wars shows may recognize his name from two different episodes of The Mandalorian. In season two, episode five, Mando meets Ahsoka Tano, who is seeking the location of Thrawn from her foe Morgan Elsbeth (more on her in a minute). Later, in season three, episode seven, Moff Gideon chides Captain Pellaeon via holo-meeting as to the whereabouts of Thrawn – even suggesting someone else should lead the Empire in his absence.
Thrawn’s absence in these live-action references looms large due to his uncompromised effectiveness as a military tactician who uses his intellect and knowledge to learn about and outwit his opponents. If not for the sacrifice of Ezra in the final episode of Rebels, Thrawn would have won the Battle of Lothal, and crushed an early movement by the Rebellion.
Fans of Star Wars books will know Thrawn from Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy. Thrawn was a patient adversary, with keen skills, shrewd tactics, and strong alliances. He’s also quite charismatic. If you aren’t careful, you just might find yourself rooting for him.
Little is known about this Imperial Magistrate. The beskar staff-wiedling baddy pays service to Thrawn, though their exact relationship isn’t yet fully known. What we do know is that she is a ruthless overlord who thinks little of overrunning cities or even entire planets full of innocent residents in the name of the Empire.
The Orange Lightsabers
If you’ve seen the trailers for the series, you’ve seen two characters wielding orange lightsabers. While not the signature sith red color, these sabers seem destined to do the dirty work of the dark side. The two Force wielders – Baylan Skoll and Shin Hati – are reportedly neither Jedi nor Sith, but opportunists hoping to find legendary power under the guidance of Thrawn.
There you have it – a few basics on the newest Star Wars phenomenon. There are only a few short days until Ahsoka goes live for all to see. The first two episodes will release August 22nd on Disney+.
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