Too old to begin the training.
When I first heard Yoda fall back on this excuse, I’m not sure I really took in what that might mean. Certainly, I never expected the Jedi to be plucking toddlers from their homes and families, forever to live a life that wasn’t theirs to choose.
I think this is one of those things that turns people off from the Jedi Order. It’s possibly even one of those “narrow, dogmatic” views that prove they have been on the wrong path all along.
But what if that’s not true? What if to truly become the best possible Jedi you really do need to start that young? And what if that proof has been right in front of us?
Let’s just get the most obvious one out of the way first. Anakin Skywalker, who was age 9 when his training began (even with Master Yoda’s disapproval), is one of two examples of someone who started young and not only fell to the dark side but fell to unimaginable depths.
The other example is Anakin’s grandson, Ben Solo. Ben didn’t begin his training until he was 10 years old, and like his grandfather, he fell to the dark side and left extreme casualties in his wake. Maybe it’s not a coincidence that these two started their training at roughly the same age to similar end results.
You may be thinking a couple things at this point, one of which may be that Luke and Rey both began their training even later than Anakin and Ben. You’re right. Both of those characters were late into their teenage years when their training began, and both of their stories (so far) end with them embracing the light and bringing the Force back into balance.
They also both have shown dark tendencies, and not just kick butt and take names a la Mace Windu, but actual moments of crossing that line. Luke not only went there in his fight with Vader when he allowed his anger to take over until he realized how much like his father he was becoming, but he admitted he went there again when he almost decided to kill his nephew. And let’s also not forget that he abandoned the Force for years, turning his back on the one thing Yoda asked him to do all those years before.
Then there’s Rey, who scares the bejesus out of Luke with her curiosity of the dark side and lack of any want to turn away. If you’ve read The Rise of Skywalker novelization by Rae Carson (and I strongly recommend you do if you haven’t), you’ll find that Rey is quite tempted by the dark side. She even thinks at one point that being called Empress wouldn’t be all bad, that she could bring peace to the galaxy. Sound like anyone you know?
Now, you could dismiss the Anakin, Luke, Ben, and even Rey examples as purely characters with a shared heritage of darkness. But the story of Star Wars, and not just the sequel trilogy, is that you are not defined by the mistakes or triumphs of your family. Luke was not bound by the fall of Anakin, in the same way Rey is not bound by the atrocities of Sheev.
And so, we’re left to wonder, what would have happened if these characters were trained from a very young age like the Jedi that came before them? Anakin’s major pitfall was his attachments – to his mother, and of course to Padmé. What if he were identified earlier in his life, when he wouldn’t have that connection with his mother, and likely wouldn’t have met Padmé in the manner that he did? Would his story have turned out differently at that point? And we can speculate the same thing with any of these other characters.
It’s easy to remember that the ways of the Jedi Order fell apart in the time of the prequels, but we also need to remember that those methods served the galaxy quite well for centuries before then. We’re hopefully going to be seeing more of that in the High Republic starting this August, but the indication for now is that the galaxy had been at peace for some time. Something had to have been working.
Maybe the training of younglings was one of those things.