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The trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi has done what few trailers achieve: it's left us with more questions than answers. Why does Luke believe the Jedi need to "end"? Why is Rey experiencing visions of the Galaxy's past? Why has this film reintroduced the Prequel-Era concept of "balance"? And... just what are those books?
A Surprising Detail In The Trailer
In a haunting series of visions, Rey sees images that represent light and darkness — and then, in a strange twist, she refers to sensing "a balance." With these words, the trailer gives us a glimpse of ancient books that have presumably been secreted away in the ruins of the Jedi Temple on Ahch-To. A hand wipes away the dust to reveal a logo we Star Wars fan know so very well: the symbol of the Jedi.
We know that The Last Jedi is set to explore Force-secrets we've never seen on the big screen before. Concept art released during Star Wars Celebration has already shown Rey surrounded by golden globes, symbolic of a deep and intense experience with the Force.
The pattern of the trailer makes it clear: these books themselves represent this mysterious "balance" between light and dark. The knowledge contained within them — knowledge most likely lost since the Galaxy's most ancient days — is the key to the balance the Galaxy needs.
The Journal Of The Whills?
Excitingly, it's entirely possible that Rey and Luke have just discovered the Journal of the Whills. When George Lucas originally created #StarWars, he imagined the tale told through the eyes of an all-knowing race. As he explained in the annotated screenplay of A New Hope:
"Originally, I was trying to have the story be told by somebody else; there was somebody watching this whole story and recording it, somebody wiser than the mortal players in actual events. I eventually dropped this idea, and the concepts behind the Whills turned into the Force. But the Whills became part of this massive amount of notes, quotes, background information that I used for the scripts; the stories were actually taken from the 'Journal of the Whills.'"
As you can see, the symbol traditionally associated with the Whills - and with the earliest Jedi Knights - is a very familiar one:
The old Star Wars Expanded Universe didn't pay much attention to the Whills, but the new canon has already dropped in a lot of references to them. Alan Dean Foster's novelization of The Force Awakens gave us an excerpt from the Journal of the Whills — and, even more excitingly, #RogueOne introduced us to a group known as the "Guardians of the Whills."
To everyone's surprise, Chuck Wendig's novel Aftermath: Empire's End dropped in another quote from the Journal of the Whills, and hinted at yet another obscure Force order linked to their beliefs: the Church of the Force. Significantly, Lor San Tekka — who gave Poe part of the map to Ahch-To in The Force Awakens — was a member of the Church of the Force.
Could it be that all of this is building up to a moment of discovery...when Rey stumbles upon the Journal of the Whills?
What Would Rey Learn From These Journals?
"First comes the day
Then comes the night.
After the darkness
Shines through the light.
The difference, they say,
Is only made right
By the resolving of gray
Through refined Jedi sight."
We've seen a handful of excerpts so far (the above is from the novelization of The Force Awakens), and they've been a blend of prophecy and mystic teaching. It's generally believed that the ancient Prophecy of the Chosen One is linked to the Whills, as their knowledge of the Force infinitely exceeds that of the Jedi. If that's the case, then the whole idea of "balance" in the Force is presumably a Whill concept.
Perhaps the best insight into the Journal comes from casting our eye to the Guardians of the Whills. Lucasfilm don't want us to know much about the Guardians of the Whills just yet; in fact, although Donnie Yen knows the whole backstory of his character Chirrut Imwe, he's still forbidden revealing any of it!
For all the secrecy, though, this much is clear: the Guardians reject the traditional division of the Force into light and dark. We can safely assume that the Guardians got that teaching from the Journal itself. And now Luke is also telling Rey that it's not so simple as "light" and "darkness."
Bringing this back full-circle to the trailer — is this why Luke believes the Jedi have to end? Does he learn an ancient truth, one forgotten by the ancient Jedi, one that exceeds that common duality?
Tellingly, the poster for The Last Jedi shows Rey standing inbetween light and dark, holding her lightsaber aloft in the symbolic manner of the ancient Jedi. Whatever secrets those books hold, that poster teases that Rey will take them to heart. We may be seeing the end of the Jedi — but we're also seeing the beginning of something very, very new.