Star Wars Jedha

(Welcome to A Different Point of View, a column where we explore the supporting characters, planets and objects of the Star Wars universe and discuss why they deserve more time in the spotlight.)

Despite a stubborn fascination with the Skywalker legacy, Star Wars is a smorgasbord of narrative hooks just waiting for their moment in the twin suns. Every new entry into the lore — be it film, show, book, or comic — adds to the diversity and complexity of a galaxy far, far away. Up until now in this series, I’ve focused on minor characters who could carry their own stories. But Star Wars is more than just the people inhabiting it. It’s a living, breathing universe full of nooks and crannies to explore. That includes places and objects. 

Which brings us to Jedha, a dusty moon with quite a few parallels to Earth’s Israel. Even with only a quick smattering of lore, Lucasfilm has hinted there are secrets hidden beneath its dunes. I say it’s time to crack open those mysteries.

What Is It?

The moon of Jedha is a cold desert planet located on the western side of the Star Wars galaxy. Ostensibly in the Mid-Rim, Jedha is still on the outskirts of known civilization. The moon and its accompanying planet of NaJedha sit on the edge of Wild Space, surrounded by unexplored galaxies. Before the invention of shorter hyperspace jumps on the west side of the galaxy, Jedha was a bustling economic hub but has since become an intersection for the faithful and the criminal. 

Archaic even by the standards of long-lived species, the Holy City of NiJedha (Jedha City) is the heart of Jedha. Situated atop a natural mesa and split into two halves — the Old city and the New city — NiJedha is a great walled mecca. The city and the surrounding countryside play host to millions of pilgrims each solar cycle. The “New City” is a misnomer as the buildings in this section are well over 5,000 years old. Those in the “Old City” are ancient beyond measure. Jedha City houses the massive Temple of the Kyber, a towering edifice sacred to followers of the Church of the Force and its varying sects.

When Was It Introduced?

Audiences first got a look at Jedha in the 2016 film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Within the narrative, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) find themselves on the moon in search of freedom fighter/terrorist Saw Gerrara (Forest Whitaker). They become embroiled in a local skirmish between the locals and the Empire, ultimately culminating with Jedha City being the first target of the Death Star. 

The moon itself survived the destruction, as showcased in the Star Wars comic The Ashes of Jedha. Survivors relocated to other parts of the desert while resistance fighters took up shelter on the strange pink crystalline seas of NaJedha itself. During the comic arc, Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and Han Solo help the survivors fight off the return of Empire. Not content with destroying an invaluable artifact of faith in the galaxy, the Emperor’s minions wanted to continue to mine the moon for kyber crystals to power the Death Star. 

What Makes It Fascinating? 

Everything about Jedha is fascinating. The landscape is dotted with ruins from an ancient, forgotten civilization. From the larger-than-life Jedi carved into the mountains to the Catacombs of Cadera where untold numbers of the forgotten dead of a long lost culture sleep to the millennia-old statues grown from pure kyber beneath the Temple in Jedha City, you can’t swing a dead Lothcat with hitting a new mystery.

The sheer age of Jedha lends itself to endless speculation. On the edge of Wild Space, the same uncharted area houses the Force “gods” on Mortis and could hide the planet where Snoke’s people are from. In other words, Wild Space is ripe with Force power. Then there’s this tiny moon butting right up against all this powerful space and it just happens to be one of (if not the) cradle of human civilization in the galaxy? That’s right, to this day Star Wars hasn’t said where humans come from. Oh sure, some say it was Coruscant but everyone knows the Architects put people there for whatever purpose all-knowing ancient aliens do anything.

What little information we have about Jedha can be extrapolated into an enticing theory. Humans or human-like ancestors emerge from Wild Space and set up shop on this tiny moon that is tied deeply to the Force. Without hyperspace travel, they evolve their culture over the centuries into a proto-Jedi belief system. Finding a rich vein of kyber crystals on a mesa, Jedha City begins to take shape. Eventually, the people branch out to explore more space, and in doing so fracture the homogenous culture. Suddenly there are dozens of religions instead of one, each taking different parts of the Force as their guiding point. Over the millennia, traditions are created, adapted, and forgotten. The origins of Jedha lost to the mists of time. But still, the moon holds secrets to the very beginnings of the Force, the Jedi Order, and the Sith within its depths.

What Stories Could Lucasfilm Tell?

With what is probably ten millennia worth of history, the number of stories Lucasfilm could tell is nigh incalculable. There is the story of the initial pioneers: who were they? Where did they come from? Where they searching for Force-rich outposts or stumble upon Jedha by accident? Why did they leave their homeworld? 

Then there are the tales of the Temple of Kyber, a skyscraper by any standard that is at least 5,000 years old. Who built it? Why? How did they teach the kyber crystals within to grow into lifelike statues of Jedi fighting unknown creatures? What were they using all those kyber crystals for? After all, surely they didn’t need that many lightsabers. Unless they did. Were they at war with some unknown foe? Is this all Snoke’s fault?

Of course, that doesn’t even scratch the surface of the dozen religious splinter sects that make pilgrimages to the Holy City. What do these individual groups believe? How do they interact with each other? How did they come to be and how many followers do they have? In a world where Force powers are on display on the regular, how can anyone choose to disbelieve their own senses?

All of these and more are stories worthy of exploration. All Lucasfilm has to do is pop Doctor Aphra planetside and let her sift through the charred remains and see what spoils turn up.

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