In the two-episode premiere of Ahsoka, we catch up with Sabine Wren, Mandalorian street artist and deuteragonist of the four season Star Wars: Rebels animated series, played here in live action for the first time by Natasha Liu Bordizzo. Nine years have passed in fiction since that show’s finale, clearing the way for the Rebellion’s central campaign against the Empire and picking up after their success has settled. Sabine is older now, but still on the planet Lothal, where her former companion Ezra Bridger charged her to keep watch over his homeworld before disappearing in hyperspace with the crew’s nemesis, Grand Admiral Thrawn.
But we soon learn that, like Obi-Wan sneaking away from his watch on Tatooine to rescue a young Leia in the Obi-Wan Kenobi series, Sabine didn’t spend all that time on Lothal. We learn that, for a time, Sabine took on a different role: that of Padawan to Anakin Skywalker’s former apprentice, Ahsoka Tano.
This is more than a little curious, to those of us who have seen Rebels. Star Wars: Rebels had its share of Force using members of the Ghost crew, including Kanan Jarrus, and Ezra himself, but Sabine was never indicated to have been one of them. So what exactly happened? Did Sabine suddenly discover a latent Force connection late in life, allowing her to study under Ahsoka?
This has proven a little confusing, but a careful viewing of these first two episodes does indicate that there’s no need to adjust your holocrons – Sabine is not a Force user. Speaking with the lightsaber tutorial droid Huyang in the hospital during Episode 2, Sabine explicitly says “I never had the talent. The abilities. Not like Ezra.”
“That much is true,” Huyang confirms. “I have known many Padawans over the centuries, and I can safely say your aptitude for The Force would fall short of them all.” (An understatement, if anything, as the recent Star Wars Timelines reference book indicates Huyang has been an active aide to the Jedi Order practically since it was founded, 25,000 years before the films.)
Okay, so it’s pretty clear from this context that Sabine can’t use The Force. Or, at least, that she lacks any particular aptitude for controlling it on a level greater than your average Galactic citizen. So how could Ahsoka have taken her on as a Padawan?
It’s true that by the time of the Prequel Trilogy, and in the years leading up to the fall of the Jedi Order, all Jedi candidates were selected from birth for Force aptitude. But despite what that particular Jedi Council might have you believe, that’s not necessarily always the way the Jedi Order has operated.
An Unforced path
This is evidenced in Sabine’s case by the fact that, in at least one sense, her training had already begun before Ahsoka’s mentorship. During Star Wars: Rebels, Sabine trained with Kanan Jarrus to wield the Darksaber, an important artifact now seen in multiple Star Wars television and streaming series. However, it seemed at the time as if she was training primarily to wield a Mandalorian weapon, as opposed to a Jedi one. Though the Darksaber may have once been forged by a Mandalorian Jedi, most of those we have seen wield it have no explicit Force ability. Nevertheless, Kanan’s training represents a continuity for Sabine along the path of a Jedi weapon from Darksaber to Ezra Bridger’s own.
In the 2013-2014’s Dawn of the Jedi series of novels and comics near the very end of the Pre-Disney Star Wars continuity, we learn that from the very beginning of the ancient Je’daii Order, the way of the Jedi was never meant to be conflated with the ability to wield the Force, but in a philosophical and religious dedication towards balance, and coexistence with The Force as it exists in all things and throughout the Galaxy. The very precepts of the Jedi as they were founded were not to demonstrate great abilities, but to acknowledge The Force’s power and presence in their lives. Not unlike, for instance, the Jedha monk Chirrut Îmwe in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Although Chirrut lacked Force ability, his dedication to the philosophy of The Force allowed him greater sensitivity to the world around him, as he opened himself to Jedi teachings.
Michael Stackpole’s X-Wing novels also introduced us to Corran Horn, a Jedi with limited Force abilities, just as Kevin J. Anderson introduced us to Tionne Solusar in the novel Dark Apprentice, an apprentice to Luke Skywalker in the New Jedi Order, whose quite meager Force aptitude did not preclude her from rising to the rank of Jedi Master as a specialist in Jedi history and artifacts. Stackpole also introduced an entire Jedi-adjacent class known as the Antarian Rangers, who in the Old Republic and the New Jedi Order worked alongside the Jedi as a security force. Though the Antarian Rangers lacked Force aptitude, they were dedicated to upholding the precepts of the Jedi Order and protecting the Jedi Knights.
What a Jedi makes
This particular question was answered quite summarily by no greater authority than Yoda himself in 2022’s Stories of Jedi and Sith, a short story collection which presents tales from some of the most celebrated and notorious Force users in Galactic history. The collection opens with “What a Jedi Makes,” a story which features, but does not center, Grand Master Yoda, 200 years before the events of the films. The real main character is Lohim Nara, a boy on Coruscant who dreams of joining the Jedi Order despite any particular Force ability. After Lohim enacts an unlikely rescue of Jedi Initiate Reina Bilass from a child trafficking gang, he gets the chance to talk to Yoda himself about his impossible dream.
But Yoda assures Lohim that using The Force is not, in fact, “What a Jedi makes.” It’s Lohim’s bravery and selflessness, Yoda explains, that is far more important to being a Jedi than any ability to use The Force. And that in ancient times, it was not unheard of for those without any Force aptitude to ascend to the rank of Jedi Master. One whom Yoda alludes to by example is Lyr Farseeker – author of Luke Skywalker’s preciously guarded Sacred Texts in The Last Jedi. Farseeker was never a Force user, but his observations and writings on The Force’s nature would shape and guide Jedi philosophy for millennia.
Much evidence abounds that by the time we meet the Jedi Order as we come to know them in the Prequel Trilogies, it is an Order which has lost its way. One clouded enough to fall under the sway of Palpatine, one rigid enough to fail Anakin. One which Ahsoka Tano, after a case of mistaken identity turned the Order against her in Season 5 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, realized she no longer had a part in just in time to avoid its downfall. In the time of Obi-Wan and Anakin, there were no Jedi without Force ability. (At least, that we know of.) In training Sabine Wren, despite her lack of Force aptitude, Ahsoka may be reconnecting with the original precepts of the Jedi as they once were, not as the governmental institution corrupted by orthodoxy which they had become.
Sabine may not be able to use The Force, but as Huyang says, that sounds a lot like an excuse. Don’t count her out from becoming a Jedi yet.