“Forgive me. I feel it again. The pull to the light. Supreme Leader senses it. Show me again, the power of the darkness, and I will let nothing stand in our way. Show me, Grandfather, and I will finish what you started.” – The Prayer of Kylo Ren
It is a scene in The Force Awakens in which the audience is invited to witness a small, sacred act – the prayer of an individual seeking forgiveness from, and offering continued devotion to, the object of his worship. Sitting before an altar, an altar which bears a cherished relic – the burnt helmet of Darth Vader – Kylo Ren, the film’s primary antagonist, invokes the strength and guidance of the deceased Sith Lord, his grandfather. The words spoken by the young Knight of Ren, brief as they are, offer a glimpse into the soul of a young and clearly tormented man, a man seeking respite and aid from his divine ancestor.
One can certainly imagine that this is not the first time Kylo Ren has offered a prayer to his grandfather, nor will it be his last. In turn, there are any number of things – thoughts and questions – that this scene, and this prayer, leaves open to the imagination. For example, while his prayer is offered to the burnt shell of Vader’s helmet, a narrative indication that he self-identifies with the Sith Lord, I have often wondered what Ren knows or understands about the man Vader once was – Anakin Skywalker. In turn, as Ren states “I will finish what you started” it is left open-ended as to what he means by this phrase. Is Kylo Ren referring to the destruction of the Jedi Order? The conquest of the galaxy? The continuation of the Sith Order? Or, perhaps, if he is thinking of his grandfather as the “Chosen One” who, according to prophecy, would bring balance to the Force, does Kylo Ren believe it is his responsibility to “finish” the balancing act? And if so, does Kylo view the “balance to the Force” as being not about equal sides, Light and Dark, but rather about completely extinguishing the Light altogether?
These and other thoughts/questions percolate in my mind each time I watch this scene (and even when I am not watching, like right now), and to be entirely frank I do not find any easy or quick answers. Which actually begs an entirely different question altogether:
Is it even necessary to interpret Kylo Ren’s prayer beyond what it is – a prayer?
Asking this hardly means we Star Wars fans need not, or even should not, consider what Kylo Ren says, using his words to further our conceptual understanding of the Force, the Jedi, the Sith, the Prophecy, etc. Rather, it is simply a question, nay a suggestion, that Kylo Ren’s prayer serves as a very direct reminder that within the Star Wars galaxy matters of the Force are matters of religious belief for many characters. It is easy to forget this, to become so focused on piecing together every last detail of Star Wars, obsessing over how “A connects to B” and “B connects to C” that we (myself included) can at times lose sight of the reality that Star Wars serves as a mirror which reflects our own concepts of the Sacred and religion. And, in the case of this particular scene, it is a reflection of devotion and supplication. Instead of contemplating the near infinite “meanings” of the words Kylo Ren directs towards his grandfather we should instead sit back and ponder, with open hearts and minds, how this scene serves another important purpose: as a reminder that prayer is a powerful tool/act which religious persons engage in as they seek connection and guidance from the Sacred.
Beyond that, we really do not have to dig any deeper.
It’s totally necessary to interpret it! Kidding. Kind of.
The only thing I thought of for a while was finishing destroying the Jedi.
Kylo Ren does know about Anakin turning back to the light side at the end of RotJ (see this post: https://starwarsanon.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/backed-up-update-on-kylo-ren/), so we can assume that he knows SOMETHING about Anakin. How much he knows is debatable. I would assume Luke told him quite a bit when training him, but again, we don’t know and it’s not confirmed until TLJ (if then).
But seriously, that question has been bothering me for a while. What did he mean – finish what you started? I’d love to get an answer to it. I don’t want it to be a prayer…I want to know more!
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I am with you, interpretation is the natural response to Star Wars, especially with words and actions that are laced with cryptic suggestions about the Force. Like you, my first thought at the time was that he was speaking about the destruction of the Jedi. It is the most direct and obvious answer, but certainly not the only possibility. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that everything he says could (and probably does) have numerous meanings and layers.
All that said, I do think it is necessary to step back at moments and allow ourselves to just experience Star Wars as something that need not be interpreted (in this case, we can view the prayer as just as prayer). But, in saying that, I also have to acknowledge that this also points to other layers, layers that may not point inwards to Star Wars but outwards to all of us. The prayer can have internal meaning but also meaning that offers us consideration about our own lives, our own connection(s) with the Sacred (however individuals care to define that term). In this regard, my hope is that this post serves as just a small reminder that SW can serve more than just the purpose of more SW, and can offer really powerful reminders about our own lives.
And now, I shall head over to your site and check out the post you linked!