“Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.” – Master Yoda on the Sith
In Part 1 of this series, we began with a question which will continue to be the focus of this discussion. That question was: how is it possible for Yoda to know about the Sith Rule of Two if the Sith have been extinct for a millennia?
Specifically, this question comes from facts that are presented in The Phantom Menace. In the film, Master Yoda is aware of the Sith Rule of Two, the notion that there are only ever two Sith at a time, Master and Apprentice. However, we also learn in the movie that the Sith have been extinct for a millennia. As I explained, the assumption we were working under was that the Rule was instituted AFTER the Sith “extinction.”
Working with the information available in Episode I, possible answers are present, but these answers also create some rather convoluted problems that begin undercutting Star Wars lore. For the sake of brevity, I will let you go back and refresh your memory on these answers and the problems they cause.
In Part 1, I purposefully chose to stick only with information from The Phantom Menace. Now, moving forward, it is necessary to add more pieces to the puzzle. To do this, we need to consider an episode of The Clone Wars.
Yoda Travels to Moraband
In the very last episode of The Clone Wars (Season 6, Episode 13) entitled “Sacrifices,” Yoda travels to the ancient homeworld of the Sith: Moraband.[i] This journey occurs around 13 years after the events of The Phantom Menance.
Walking across the deserted wasteland of Moraband, a planet long abandoned because of countless wars, Yoda is accosted by apparitions of the ancient Sith, but these spirits do not stop his journey. Eventually, the elder Jedi makes his way to a large tomb located in a large valley. Entering the tomb, the Jedi Master is confronted by an illusion of an ancient Sith Lord, Darth Bane, who manifests from the sarcophagus inside the tomb.
Here is part of the dialogue between Master Yoda and Darth Bane that is relevant to our discussion…
Darth Bane: Why do you come to my tomb, Jedi?
Yoda: To learn.
Darth Bane: Do you know who I am?
Yoda: Yes. Darth Bane, the ancient Sith Lord you are.
Darth Bane: And know why I am not forgotten?
Yoda: Created the rule of two, you did.
Darth Bane: The Sith killed each other, victims of their own greed. But from the ashes of destruction, I was the last survivor. I chose to pass my knowledge onto only one, I created a legacy so resilient, that now you come before me. Have you come to be my apprentice? You must kill me to gain my place.[ii]
From this short exchange, we can glean a lot of information, some of which we will carefully work through as it relates to our topic.
In The Phantom Menace, Yoda knows about the Rule of Two, but here, we find that 1) Yoda knows he is speaking to Darth Bane and 2) Bane was the Sith Lord who instituted the Rule of Two. This is rather curious and leads to another question: when did Yoda discover that Bane was the originator of the Rule?
My immediate assumption was that Yoda learned about the Rule of Two and Darth Bane in the same instance prior to The Phantom Menace. This would make sense since Bane and the Rule are intimately linked. However, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Yoda could have known about the Rule prior to the events of Episode I, and then learned about Darth Bane afterwards.
Moving forward, then, there is other information in this scene that needs to be addressed which comes directly from Darth Bane. What the Sith Lord presents may or may not already be known to Yoda, but we viewers are certainly unaware of it.
Specifically, Darth Bane explains that “the Sith killed each other” due to their greed, and that he “was the last survivor” of the Sith destruction. Furthermore, we learn that Bane decided to pass his “knowledge onto only one [apprentice]”, and that the apprentice must kill his/her Master in order to take the mantle of Master as their own.
This is a rather short statement from Bane, but we gain a lot of insight into the Sith Order from it.
Ashes of Destruction
The point Darth Bane makes about the Sith killing each other, and that Bane was the last survivor of the Sith destruction, is the most important piece of information that we need to address at this point. Why? Because what Darth Bane says gives rise to an entirely new question:
Is the Sith destruction Bane speaks of the same “extinction” event that Ki-Adi Mundi suggests in The Phantom Menace?
As I already pointed out, the assumption we have been working under has centered on how Yoda learned about the Rule of Two AFTER the Sith “extinction.” And, as I noted in Part 1, this raises a cacophony of answers/problems.
This new question, though, raises an entirely new possibility: that in describing the self-inflicted destruction of the Sith, Darth Bane is talking about an event that happened long before the Sith “extinction” to which Ki-Adi Mundi alludes.
If this is the case, that we are actually discussing two separate historical events, then the examination at hand can effectively be ended.
TIME OUT! I just checked the Darth Bane page on the Star Wars Databank on StarWars.com and THIS is what it says over there: “After the Sith were decimated by the Jedi Knights of a thousand years ago, Bane enacted the Sith rule of two…”[iii] But this is not what Darth Bane says to Yoda. BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT DARTH BANE SAYS TO YODA! He said that the Sith were the ones who destroyed each other, and that he instituted the Rule in the wake of their self-inflicted destruction. You know, “out of the ashes of destruction” and all. He never mentions anything about the Jedi decimating the Sith.
So what in the heck is the Databank talking about?
At this point, in this very moment, there is one, singular instance of Darth Bane appearing in the Star Wars canon…and we have been talking about it this entire time. There is LITERALLY no other information out in the canon, at this stage, that lends itself to what the Databank says.
Soooooo we have two options to make sense of this snafu.
Option one is that Bane is be speaking metaphorically about the destruction of the Sith, arguing that their downfall at the hands of the Jedi was actually the fault of the Sith Lords and their greed. In essence, the Sith were flawed, could not put up a united defense against the Jedi of old, were subsequently decimated a millennia ago, and as a result Darth Bane changed the Sith forever.
On the other hand, option two is that the Databank is wrong. This is not to say that the Databank is useless as a tool for understanding Star Wars, but rather, that the Databank should align factually with what is presented in the Star Wars canon. In the case of “Sacrifices,” what Darth Bane says is clear: the Sith destroyed each other, and from the ashes of their self-inflicted destruction, he fundamentally changed the Sith forever. If the Jedi had decimated the Sith, Darth Bane would have said as much.
Further, under this option, the Sith destruction could have been a millennia ago, or Bane could be describing a much more ancient event as I previously laid out.
And with all of that said we are, once again, at an impasse. We began with a question concerning how Yoda knows about the Sith Rule of Two, and now we are trying to figure out if an ancient Dark Lord was speaking metaphorically or factually. OI VEY!
Ultimately, the answer to HOW Bane is speaking really comes down to personal preference. Some might like the idea that he is speaking metaphorically about the downfall of the Sith, while others might see him speaking in a matter-of-fact manner about the Sith killing each other. Either way, both options, taken to their logical ends, will affect the way one thinks about a number of elements within Star Wars.
So, here is what I propose: I am going to let you choose the direction we head in. Think of it as a “Choose Your Own Adventure.” All you need to do is leave a comment down below, on Facebook, or on Twitter that says “Metaphor,” “Fact,” or, if you really want to make me work, you can ask for “Both.” Also, feel free to provide some thoughts/feedback on your choice if you feel so inclined. Whichever preference wins out, that is the direction I will head in in Part 3…so, for the sake of moving things along, give me your choice in the next few days.
But before we end, there is one tinnnnnny little question that I want you to think about in relation to everything else I have discussed, and which could impact the choice you make. It is this:
How was it possible for Darth Bane to be buried on Moraband and who built the giant statue of Bane that stands behind his sarcophagus?
I will address this in Part 3.
[i] Some of you might know the planet as Korriban, the name used in the Expanded Universe (Legends). I am not going to get into a debate about the name. Call it what you want, it is the same place in my mind.
[ii] Dialogue taken from Star Wars The Clone Wars: Season 6, Episode 13 “Sacrifices”
[iii] Star Wars Databank