Who Is Snoke? How The New 'Star Wars' Books May Be Setting Up The Supreme Leader

Star Wars fans are notoriously detail-minded. Just look at the selection of Star Wars-related books that publisher DK releases. There are ultimate guides, visual dictionaries, atlases, blueprints of weapons and ships; it goes beyond the scene-by-scene breakdown and crosses into in-universe knowledge you won't necessarily find on screen, all to help make the characters, objects, and places of Star Wars all the more real for the die-hard fans.

And in those details, fans may sometimes find some hints about what's to come in the feature films that sell billions of dollars worth of tickets, getting a leg-up on those who only hit the theater each year. They're not necessary to understand or enjoy the core story of the Skywalker Saga, but they can certainly build it up and enhance it. Such has been the case since Lucasfilm was sold to Disney, and the Story Group at Lucasfilm has started coordinating everything related to Star Wars. If there's a book or comic or animated series or narrative-driven game in the works, it gets the Story Group stamp, as they help storytellers bring the world of Star Wars into a whole new galaxy.

And if you're willing to do some detective work, it certainly looks like the recent books have been laying the groundwork to explain Supreme Leader Snoke, the villainous leader glimpsed in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as well as the uncharted areas of the Star Wars universe.

Spoilers ahead for recent Star Wars novels.

Thrawn’s Introduction

The recently released Thrawn shows off the Story Group in action in more than one way. The novel, written by Timothy Zahn, tells the now-canon origin story of Grand Admiral Thrawn, a popular character first introduced in the "Legends" novels formerly known as the Expanded Universe, and brought into modern canon on the animated Star Wars Rebels series.

The fan-favorite blue-skinned character comes from a special part of the Star Wars galaxy identified only as the ominous "Unknown Regions." This area of the galaxy is becoming increasingly important in the Star Wars story and may give us more hints about just who the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke in the Sequel Trilogy really is, and what he wants for the galaxy.

star wars the unknown regions

The Unknown Regions

The Unknown Regions have held importance throughout the history of Star Wars, but they have been gaining traction in recent years. Identified specifically as "The Unknown Regions" (commonly confused with "Wild Space") in the novel Tarkin, the Unknown Regions have been mentioned in nine canon novels before and after the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. They've also been mentioned in comics, and in the aforementioned reference books. That's a lot for a nebulously-named area of the galaxy. In the "Legends" continuity, the planet Rakata Prime in the edges of the Unknown Regions had a key role in the story of the Old Republic – even that planet was brought into modern canon in The Force Awakens: The Visual Dictionary.

Recent years have also seen the Unknown Regions brought to the fore as the planet Ilum (introduced in Star Wars: The Clone Wars), which was a primary source of Jedi Kyber crystals. Some fans think it may be the planet that Starkiller Base was carved out of by the First Order. Both Wild Space and the Unknown Regions have been mentioned across several pieces of new canon material – including one especially surprising one.


Wild Space

Wild Space, bordering the Unknown Regions, has been equally important. In Star Wars Rebels, it was revealed that the homeworld of the Lasat (Zeb's species on the show) was in Wild Space. In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Wild Space was the location of the very first story in the series, presented in the movie that kicked things off. Wild Space was also home to Mortis, the traveling planet that "Force gods" known simply as Father (balance), Daughter (light), and Son (dark) lived upon. In the Aftermath trilogy, the "pirate ruler of Wild Space" Eleodie Maracavanya was also introduced.

empire's end

Aftermath: Empire’s End

Many fans were heavily focused on the character of Gallius Rax in the Star Wars Aftermath trilogy by writer Chuck Wendig, as he was set up as the de facto leader of the Imperial remnant and orchestrated much of what would become the First Order. The mysterious character was a devotee and personal student of the Emperor, leading some to believe that he's a prime candidate for the true identity of Supreme Leader Snoke.

Well, we're here to tell you that's almost certainly a big red herring. And Rax's presence, and the hints at his involvement in birthing the First Order, are meant to distract you from the real clues in the book.

In the final chapter, it was revealed that Emperor Palpatine had recruited Thrawn "because of what he knew of traversing those deadly interstices" of the unknown regions. The Sith Lord who brought about their ultimate revenge against the Jedi had been contacted, in a way, by something or someone beyond those regions:

"The Emperor was convinced that something waited for him out there–some origin of the Force, some dark presence formed of malevolent substance. He said he could feel the waves of it radiating out now that the way was clear. The Emperor called it a signal – conveniently one that only he could hear... He believed that something lay beyond, and so that became a singular obsession."

The Emperor's singular obsession, and a major part of his contingency plan if the Empire were to fall, lied beyond the Unknown Regions. It's possible this points both to the past and the future – it could be linked to the aforementioned Mortis and those incredibly powerful symbols of the Force, and to Snoke himself, as well.

Indeed, the end of the book saw the Imperial remnant, hand-picked by Palpataine and Rax, taking a unique path through the Unknown Regions, a path that was no doubt dictated to the Emperor by Grand Admiral Thrawn himself. They saw creatures, a magnetic burst, and storms before finally locating the other loyalists.

Star Wars Rebels Thrawn


And that brings us back to Thrawn, where the Unknown Regions are named 14 times, and Wild Space an additional 17. That's significant on its own, or course, showing how important those areas of the galaxy are. Both Thrawn (from the Unknown Regions himself where the "Chiss Ascendancy," his alien race's own empire of sorts rule) and his assistant Eli Vanto (from the even more ambiguous "Wild Space") consistently bring up their homes throughout. Indeed, Thrawn is seen, as mentioned first in Empire's End above, being recruited by the Emperor because of his knowledge. When he speaks with the Emperor, he mentions something new, though – not just routes through the Unknown Regions, but a new threat (or threats) as well.

"'As a start, I offer information,' Thrawn said. If he was offended, Eli couldn't hear it in his voice. 'There are threats lurking in the Unknown Regions, threats that will someday find your Empire. I am familiar with many of them.'"

Indeed, the Emperor instantly recognized both the importance of these threats, and the fact that they could affect both the Empire and the Chiss, something Thrawn offers up with ease.

Later in the conversation, the Emperor notes the "great potential" and "great danger" of the Unknown Regions. He brings that conversation back more than once when speaking to Thrawn.

Further in the book, Thrawn encounters a group of pirates – who once again hail from the Wild Space and/or Unknown Regions area of the galaxy, even speaking the language native to the blue-skinned Chiss (without realizing it, to their detriment). Thrawn is also called back to the Imperial Palace on multiple occasions, something Vanto deduces is being used to plan for the future:

"Thrawn's discussions at the Palace–could the Emperor be planning something special? A series of expeditions into the Unknown Regions, perhaps."

That tracks along with what we discover at the end of Empire's End – he did indeed plot out a path through the Regions to give the Empire, or the First Order as they'd come to be called, a place to regroup and reform.

The most telling part, however, comes when Thrawn reveals that while he's working for the Empire, he's still loyal to his own people, and he's focused on finding a way to protect them:

"There are evil things in this galaxy, Nightswan. Far more evil than the Empire, and far more dangerous to all living beings. We know of some, while of others we have heard only rumors. We needed to know whether the Empire that was rising from the ashes of the Clone War could be an ally against them."

Is this threat Snoke? Is it the same Force that the Emperor heard calling out to him? Is it something that Snoke may have defeated in order to take the First Order under his command? That remains to be seen, but it being from the Unknown Regions or beyond almost certainly means Snoke is as well.

Then there was perhaps the most surprising recent mention of Wild Space or the Unknown Regions of all, at Star Wars Celebration in Orlando.

Star Wars Land concept art - The Star Wars Experience

Star Wars Land

At Star Wars Celebration, new details about "Star Wars Land," the new sections of Walt Disney World and Disneyland parks, were revealed, including a hint at the location of the land. The land was revealed as being an outpost planet that hasn't previously been revealed in the Star Wars galaxy. The outpost is in-story, allowing fans to live in the Star Wars world when they go there.

"We're creating a place that is an extension of the Star Wars universe," Disney Imagineering executive creative director Asa Kalama teased. While Story Group creative executive Pablo Hidalgo wouldn't reveal exactly where the planet was in the galaxy, he said they  "know exactly where in the galaxy this planet is," and had "examined what the ramifications of where it is on the map are."

Luckily, another Imagineering creative executive, Scott Trowbridge, dropped one last hint, and he said the magic words.

The location of the planet is "somewhere on the outer-rim, lying on the edge of unknown regions," it was announced. Trowbridge added, "We wanted to build new Star Wars destinations. That required us going to a new place, a place with lots of stories yet to discover. It's a new planet, a new place, this remote frontier outpost somewhere on the edge of Wild Space."

Yes, both the Unknown Regions and Wild Space are mentioned for the all-new outpost planet that will be embodied in the Star Wars Land projects, that fans will be able to live in during visits starting in 2019 – the same year that Star Wars: Episode IX, the finale of the Sequel Trilogy, is released.

Star Wars The Last Jedi poster

More to Explore

Fans of the new all-100%-canon approach to the Star Wars universe have enjoyed getting additional insight into the "primary" stories of the cartoons and films, but have also wanted more to actually come out of those stories and into the "main" world. Well, if our reading here is correct, there may be much more to these novels – and even to future interactive experiences in the Star Wars universe – than a first glance revealed. While it's unknown how much these wild ideas will affect the Star Wars films, their importance cannot be denied.