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Ahsoka Tano: The Middle Road

Ahsoka Tano. Her growth as a character, from precocious young padawan to skilled Force-user and rebel agent, has made her an enduring favorite among fans. She faced many challenges during her time at the Jedi Temple and beyond. From adversity comes evolution, and Ahsoka has experienced plenty of both. 

Star Wars has always been a fantastical backdrop for telling relatable stories. For all the adventure, magic, and epic space battles, at the heart of it exists the people and their stories, their relationships to each other, and their efforts to rise above the struggles they face as mere mortals in a vast galaxy. As with many characters we meet in that galaxy far away, Ahsoka’s struggles are often larger than life, with actions of greater consequence than most of us will ever face here on Earth. 

However, in our galaxy as in hers, there is something that we all must face: loss. Be it the loss of home, of the familiar, or of the people we love (perhaps even people we care about who only exist in fictional worlds), loss is universal. 

Taking place shortly after the events of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, E.K. Johnston’s novel Ahsoka highlights a period of evolution from adversity for the eponymous heroine as she navigates through her grief after Order 66 (some spoilers ahead). Ahsoka was alone in the galaxy, lacking belonging and purpose. She could no longer sense her Master, nor any of the other Jedi, and compared the sudden absence to a missing limb. One can only imagine how painful and lonely this was for her. She faked her own death, placing upon a grave the lightsabers Anakin had given to her. Ahsoka “stopped looking for Anakin through the connection they shared. She stopped remembering the clones, alive and dead.” Her grief was simply too intense, and she had to shut it out in order to cope, to get to safety and consider what to do next. 

When she forced herself to admit the truth, that the Jedi were likely all dead, she wondered “why had she survived?” Had she been with the Jedi, she reasoned, she too would have been killed when Palpatine gave the order. As frequently happens to those left behind, she questioned the unfairness of being the one to survive, of having a chance to live when others couldn’t. She felt that she had no right to the Force, and her meditations became difficult.

Early in the novel, Ahsoka travels to the moon Raada and meets a group of farmers who quickly welcome her like family. She reacts to this with confusion and resistance. Ahsoka was wary of forming connections with anyone again. After an inevitable run-in with the Empire, she flees the moon, worried that her presence would endanger others, but her courage and compassion overrule her fears and gives her the strength to return and to fight for those who didn’t stand a chance against the might of the Empire. Her actions helped to lessen the remorse she felt for being unable to save (or suffer the same fate as) the Jedi.

Moving forward from the pain of her losses wouldn’t have been possible for Ahsoka until she accepted the events of the past as painful truths without trying to bargain with or get mired down in them. Rather, she focused her mind on the present, able to meditate even amongst chaos. It is in this place of calm that she sensed the corrupted crystals calling to her. She healed them as she had begun to heal herself.

In the end, there isn’t a definitive resolution for Ahsoka’s grief, as she still feels the loss of her old friends and master and always will. Like ripples in water, grief fades over time until nearly imperceptible, but healing is a messy process. When one least expects it, the smallest pebble can disturb that hard-won peace. Ahsoka had gained the skills necessary to navigate her way through those complex and evolving feelings, and to a new purpose: serving as an agent for the Rebel Alliance.

When she speaks with Senator Bail Organa at the end of the novel, they talk of the “middle road.”  This not surprisingly suggests the Middle Way of Buddhism, which encourages wisdom, strong morals, and freedom from attachment. Caring without clinging. Balance. Ahsoka is reunited with the tenets of her Jedi training, but also to something uniquely Ahsoka, centered but independent. A fulcrum, so to speak.

Though Star Wars is set in a galaxy far away, we would not have an abiding connection to Ahsoka Tano if we did not sympathize with her struggles, mourn her losses, relate to her imperfections, and cheer her triumphs. 

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Renee Luna
“I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” — Luke Skywalker

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