Intro to Sithology: The Rule of Two (Part 2)

“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

Yoda on Moraband Photo Credit - Star Wars The Clone Wars (Season 6, Episode 13),

Yoda on Moraband
Photo Credit – Star Wars The Clone Wars (Season 6, Episode 13), “Sacrifices”

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]

Master Yoda and Darth Bane, face-to-face Photo Credit - Star Wars The Clone Wars (Season 6, Episode 13),

Master Yoda and Darth Bane, face-to-face
Photo Credit – Star Wars The Clone Wars (Season 6, Episode 13), “Sacrifices”

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?

Darth Bane Photo Credit - Star Wars The Clone Wars (Season 6, Episode 13),

Darth Bane
Photo Credit – Star Wars The Clone Wars (Season 6, Episode 13), “Sacrifices”

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.

The sarcophagus of Darth Bane on Moraband Photo Credit - Star Wars The Clone Wars (Season 6, Episode 13),

The sarcophagus of Darth Bane
Photo Credit – Star Wars The Clone Wars (Season 6, Episode 13), “Sacrifices”

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

21 comments

  1. This is definitely a very complex topic. The only way that I can understand it is if the Jedi and Sith were in their heated battle. Then some of the Sith started to question their path, or what was truly right and became rouge. Then they started to turn on the Sith and it became Rouge Sith vs. Sith. Eventually, most of the Sith were killed off and the Jedi finished killing them off. With Darth Bane being the last of the Sith, he realized that having too many Sith created this division and destruction. He needed to find one Jedi who he could corrupt and make sure that he would never turn on him. This is why the Rule of Two was created, so that the Sith could exist forever without the chance of a revolution. So I guess I’m voting for Both because I see the metaphor turn into fact. Again this is just how my brain is currently comprehending it and not grounded in research. I can’t wait to hear what you come up with!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, but consider this Mr. Carvelli: the purpose of the Rule of Two is precisely so the Apprentice WILL turn on the Master. The way to gain the mantle of Master under the Rule is for the Apprentice to kill his/her Master. When Bane says to Yoda ‘you must kill me to take my place’ this is what he is referring too.

      At this point, given the established canon that exists, there is only one visual instance of the Apprentice killing a Master (Vader killing Sidious), and one allusion to an Apprentice killing a Master (Sidious killing Plagueis).

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      1. Also, it is fair to point out that with the Rule of Two, it basically ensures that the Sith keep getting stronger and stronger because each apprentice must surpass the master… This is especially true if you believe that the Sith can outwit death like Sidious claims in Episode III.

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      2. Precisely right Mr. Baldwin. In fact, in the Tarkin novel, it becomes clear that Sidious intends to reign indefinitely as THE Master. In effect, his goal is to dominate the Force and ensure that he can never die.

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      3. Fact. I think that Darth Bane must have been speaking about an event that actually happened, because the Rule of Two seems to be a direct result of an internal conflict, as opposed to a giant defeat by the Jedi. I have thought a lot about this, so for organization’s sake I’ve broken it up into a few key reasons…

        1) If the Sith had simply fallen at the hands of the Jedi, which somehow would leave only one survivor as opposed to many or none, then I believe the gut response of anyone who had embraced the dark side would be revenge. It would make more sense to try to quickly raise another army in secret and take your already weakened foe by surprise ten or twenty years later.

        2) In Episode I, the claim is that the Sith went extinct, not that they were ever defeated. You would think that somewhere in six movies there would be at least one reference to some giant ancient battle against the Sith, a subtle “Beat them once, we did.” Instead, all we ever hear about is the fact that they’re are somehow all gone. This doesn’t mean that the Jedi weren’t involved, but it certainly doesn’t point to it.

        3) The psychological effects that an internal brawl which left Bane as the only survivor would have on Bane can be directly linked to the actual Rule of Two. If Bane was the only survivor of this massive battle, I think it is safe to assume that he was the strongest of the Sith, since every other one was killed. This would mean that Bane would place a high value on strength. The Rule of Two primarily focuses on the fact that the apprentice must defeat, and therefore must be stronger than, the master. Also, Bane would have lived in the time leading up to this giant battle, the climax of years of internal friction caused by the presence of so many greedy and power-hungry Sith. Having witnessed this, it would make a lot of sense that Bane would create a system that would be the exact opposite of this, a system with one leader, and one follower.

        Also, just as an afterthought, I think Bane himself built his tomb. It is obvious that there specifically he can appear to someone if they approach. By creating this means of posthumous communication, it would allow the chance that, if under the rule of two a master died before finding an apprentice, the Sith could be re-established when someone eventually stumbled upon his tomb. Don’t ask me how the body got there, but other than that small detail I think that this explanation makes a lot of sense.

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      4. I will go in reverse….

        I like what you are saying about the tomb, it is a thought I had as well. There are a couple of loose ends with this approach, but then again, there are with just about any approach to the tomb at this point. I could definitely see Bane having a tomb built for himself, though it would seem the tomb would have needed to be built prior to the Sith “destruction”/”extinction” if that event was a millennia ago. It would be hard to make sense out of a tomb being constructed on Moraband after the Sith were defeated and presumably extinct…one would think the Jedi would notice a construction project of any type on Moraband, even if only two people were building it. As a Dark Lord, though, Bane surely could have had it constructed prior to his being the sole survivor of the destruction…it would have been his right as one of many Dark Lords, we could presume. Of course, the fact that his body got into the sarcophagus is another issue, as you note. Why the Jedi would allow a Dark Lord to be buried on Moraband after the “extinction” is beyond me…were the Jedi just that inept?

        I REALLY like what you say about the psychological effect the Sith destruction would have on Bane. There isn’t toooo much to use to psychoanalyze Bane (though how cool would it be to psychoanalyze the Sith!) but I think that the downfall of the Sith surely would have affected Bane in some sort of way. In the Darth Bane novels (which aren’t canon), Bane purposefully dismantles the Sith internally, causing them to destroy themselves. This hardly affects Bane on a psychological level. However, what you are suggesting, and I agree with, is that Bane was affected by what happened and rather than wallow in the destruction of the Sith, he used it to fuel his rage (yeah Dark Side!) and decided to rebuild the Sith in an entirely new way. I don’t want to say Bane cried over the Sith destruction, but that he was moved to be proactive and do things differently since he was the sole survivor.

        You know what: I think we need a new Darth Bane novel (or, maybe they should just make a Bane movie!) Lets actually witness the Sith destruction first hand!

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      5. I’m sorry, I didn’t word that correctly. I meant that he wouldn’t turn on Bane by joining the Republic. With only keeping two Sith, Bane could eliminate the chance of a revolution. He would have to show his power and commit the ultimate act of killing the person closest to you to then embrace that anger to become stronger than your master.

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      6. No worries. But yes, you are correct, it essentially ensures the legacy of the Sith by keeping things simple and narrow. Any “revolution” just comes in the form of the Apprentice challenging the Master and, if successful, they just become the new Master and take on an Apprentice. Or, they die trying. A simple, yet effective rule.

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  2. I might suggest ending with a summary of various possibilities: 1. Yoda and Windu knew things about the Sith they did not share with the rest of the Council. 2. Yoda was speaking more generally of times long before when the Sith had been reborn starting with a master and an apprentice. 3. My personal favorite, Lucas screwed up. Those are the only theories I can think of. You may have others.

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  3. I say you write on the factual approach. That’s the one that seems most logical to me. It’s also the one that seems the most fun/interesting, especially in light of your conversation with Matt above. I think he raised some spot on theories in regard to how the Sith became only two, and the effects of those events on Bane specifically and the Sith in general. I say, keep that going and bring on the factual interpretation!

    Liked by 1 person

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