George Lucas,  The Phantom Menace

George Lucas says there has never been any war between the Jedi and the Sith in his Star Wars canon

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An excerpt from StarWars.com‘s oral history of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace:

“The story for Episode I, dubbed “The Beginning” in early drafts and through production, would center around Jedi Knights Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Queen Amidala, and their accidental discovery of a young slave named Anakin Skywalker. Meanwhile, a seemingly trivial planetary blockade would be the launching point of a secret Sith Lord’s plan to gain control of the Republic.

George Lucas [The Phantom Menace writer and director, Star Wars creator]: It’s all based on backstories that I’d written setting up what the Jedi were, setting up what the Sith were, setting up what the Empire was, setting up what the Republic was, and how it all fit together. I spent a lot of time in developing those elements, and what each planet did, and why they did it the way they did. So I had all this material. A lot of the story elements were givens. Early on, it was that Anakin had been more or less created by the midi-chlorians, and that the midi-chlorians had a very powerful relationship to the Whills [from the first draft of Star Wars], and the power of the Whills, and all that. I never really got a chance to explain the Whills part.

So a lot of the story of the prequels, I’d done already. And now I was just having to put it into a script and fill it in, kind of sew up some of the gaps that were in there. I’d already established that all Jedi had a mentor, with Obi-Wan and Luke, and the fact that that was a bigger issue — that’s the way the Jedi actually worked. But it was also the way that the Sith worked. There’s always the Sith Lord and then the apprentice.

Everybody said, “Oh, well, there was a war between the Jedi and the Sith.” Well, that never happened. That’s just made up by fans or somebody. What really happened is, the Sith ruled the universe for a while, 2000 years ago. Each Sith has an apprentice, but the problem was, each Sith Lord got to be powerful. And the Sith Lords would try to kill each other because they all wanted to be the most powerful. So in the end they killed each other off, and there wasn’t anything left. So the idea is that when you have a Sith Lord, and he has an apprentice, the apprentice is always trying to recruit somebody to join him, because he’s not strong enough, usually, so that he can kill his master.

That’s why I call it a Rule of Two — there’s only two Sith Lords. There can’t be any more because they kill each other. They’re not smart enough to realize that if they do that, they’re going to wipe themselves out. Which is exactly what they did.

In The Phantom Menace, Palpatine was the one Sith Lord that was left standing. And he went through a few apprentices before he was betrayed. And that really has to do with certain talent and genes that allow you to be better at what you’re doing than other people.

People have a tendency to confuse it — everybody has the Force. Everybody. You have the good side and you have the bad side. And as Yoda says, if you choose the bad side, it’s easy because you don’t have to do anything. Maybe kill a few people, cheat, lie, steal. Lord it over everybody. But the good side is hard because you have to be compassionate. You have to give of yourself. Whereas the dark side is selfish.

But anyway, there’s a whole matrix of backstory that has never really come out. It’s really just history that I gathered up along the way. So it seemed natural that when I had the technology to actually make the film – for example, I could finally have Yoda be the warrior he was meant to be — then I would move forward to thinking about how I could make that a movie. Because I had all the backstory, I had basically the three scripts. Or at least the material that was in the three scripts. Then it’s just a matter of doing the details.”


George Lucas’ vision of the galaxy’s ancient times is clearly different from the Expanded Universe. Many wars between Jedi and Sith in the Old Republic era were told in games, books and comics. The current Lucasfilm’s canon didn’t explore this era yet.

24 Comments

  • Slicer87

    Great article. This shows the issue with the old EU as well as with the nucanon is that they often obscure the Star Wars story rather than clarify it as many fans complain. That a normie who has only watched the Lucas films probably understands Star Wars better than a so called hardcore fan who has watched and read spinoff media extensively.

    1
    • Alexrd

      I’ve reached that same conclusion many years ago. It was when I, as a fan, made the move away from EU lore and more into behind the scenes material. To paraphrase Obi-Wan, it was like taking stepping into a larger world. Without the misinformation and fan interpretations that were present in the EU, I got a more pure and consistent view of Star Wars, and thus reached a better understanding of it all.

      1
      • archdukeofnaboo

        Lucas’ films are what Tolkien’s novels are for The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings: the only primary source material and our best window into the mythology. Novels are supplementary to the former, while films are to the latter.

        I’m not against new material being added, however. I think it’s a great when gaps in the story are being tackled, and the fans generally appreciate it.

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a fan restricting their cannon to the films, but we must remember than for some other older fans, they narrow it down further to just the OT.

        1
    • Jam1531 (@Jam1531)

      Even in New canon, The Jedi and The Sith had wars,Rebels shohws it.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7pkmZEyMMZs

      In 2005,George also explained what “Revenge of the Sith” meaning:
      “The Sith learned how to manipulate both sides of the Force, and then they fell into the trap of being corrupted by the dark side. The Jedi Knights are like marshals in the Wild West. It’s their job to make sure everyone is protected, to bring peace. They are the enemy of the Sith, because the Sith want to dominate the galaxy, to control everything, and for a thousand years they have had a plot against the Jedi.
      So, in this movie, it is time for them to seek revenge against the Jedi for perceived injustices and to carry out that plot.”
      http://sci-fi-online.com/Interview/05-11-01_GeorgeLucas.htm

      1
      • Alexrd

        Even then, Lucas never said that there was a war between the Jedi and the Sith. Only that the Sith and the Jedi are enemies and that they seek revenge against them (which is not, and never was, a secret).

        As for new canon, they’ve disregarded Lucas since day one, so whatever is in it is not really relevant.

  • archdukeofnaboo

    It really is a treat when Lucas speaks at length about the nature of his mythology. This excerpt is superb – how I wish there were a little more!

    Wouldn’t it just be awesome if he were to expand these thoughts in a book?

    • Alexrd

      He did write the backstory to TPM that dealt with this and Darth Bane (that’s where the character came from). Sadly, I’m not confident that Lucasfilm/Disney will ever release these notes of his. This, along with his sequel trilogy treatments, would be one of the very few things I’m willing to pay Disney for, if they ever release it.

      • archdukeofnaboo

        @Alexrd

        Do you when these words from Lucas were obtained? A recent 2019 interview, or something from the archive?

        Wasn’t it Drew Karpyshyn who wrote the Darth Bane books though? Do you mean to say Lucas had heavy involvement in those?

      • Alexrd

        @archdukeofnaboo

        The words from the article above? At least this year, since he mentions his daughter being five.

        Regarding Darth Bane, I meant the character itself. It was created by Lucas and part of the backstory he mentions above. The EU books came later and Lucas had no involvement with those.

  • Bob Jones

    As a fan who loves KOTOR, this feels weird to me. I understand it is George’s mythos, but so much incredible material has been contributed that supports and elevates his ideas thematically (not saying that any of it NEEDS elevated, the prequels are perfect and I love them). There has to be a happy medium between old EU and George

    • Marshall

      What I hate is when EU fans throw shade at the 2008 Clone Wars TV show for no reason except that it contradicted what came in the CW EU before. But the show never made the CW EU obsolete, in fact in interviews, Filoni is always respectful of the EU and even used the EU as inspiration.

      • Bob Jones

        Tbh, I don’t really see any contradictions at all. Part one is immediately after episode 2, then all of the 2008 clone wars happens, and part 2 of 2003 clone wars is after ahsoka leaving the order. It all fits together. Also supporting this is that Anakin and Ventress knew eachother before their first meeting in 2008 clone wars, from their fight in the 2003 one.

      • jppiper

        @bob jones one big contradiction was the death of even piell in the novels he was killed after the events of rots in the 2008 series he’s killed before the events of rots needless to say fans weren’t happy about it and it’s been declared that the 2003 series is no longer canon

  • Marshall

    What really happened is, the Sith ruled the universe for awhile, 2000 years ago. So what were the jedi doing all this time? It wouldn’t be like them to just sit around and do nothing while the sith are ruling the galaxy with an iron fist. I liked how the Knight Errant series by John Jackson Miller showed a galaxy divided between the Republic and the sith, the contrasts between the two and the power struggles within one sith family in particular. The series also helped me understand why the jedi were so adamant on participating in the Clone Wars.

    • Alexrd

      In the Clone Wars, the Jedi were reluctant participants. Palpatine took advantage of his new emergency powers, and used the Jedi’s position of service to the Republic to put them in military ranks in the hopes of settling the conflict as soon as possible.

  • Jam1531 (@Jam1531)

    Maybe George forgot what Obi-Wan Kenobi said:
    For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic.

    If there has never been any war between the Jedi and the Sith,then
    why Darth Maul said: At last we will reveal ourselves to the Jedi. At last we will have revenge.

    And EP3 title “Revenge Of the Sith” ?

    • Alexrd

      What about Obi-Wan’s quote? Since when does seeking revenge requires a war?

      Contrary to popular belief, there was no war where the Sith were beaten. The Sith once ruled the galaxy and ended up destroying themselves in their greed. The few that survived their in-fighting, in the frail position that they were left in, were easily finished off by the Jedi.

      • archdukeofnaboo

        @Alexrd

        Have you always held this view regarding a Sith-Jedi war, or are you altering it because Disney is now taking an interest in doing an “Old Republic” series/movie? Just curious.

        I agree that there would have been severe Sith infighting, but I don’t think the Jedi would have been neutral in this affair either. As Jam rightly points out, the Jedi must have inflicted enormous damage on them such that they would harbour hatred and a desire for revenge for centuries – all in the shadow of a peaceful Republic until the Blockade of Naboo.

        I don’t want a cheap “Game of Throne in Space” knockoff either. That series is over the top violent and antithetical to what Star Wars has always been about. A lot of fans need to quit their obsession with crossovers. SW is a very different kettle of fish to the comic book worlds and middle ages style of fantasy in GoT. They just all happen to be popular works of fiction, end of story.

        Personally speaking, I am more interested in the question of how the Jedi Order came to be so integrated within the structure of the Republic’s security. I’m not convinced there was a High Jedi Council for the entire “1,000 generations” or 30,000 years. I think a lot of events happened around ~1022 BBY which Palpatine hints at in Ep 2, and this could be a mixture of both politics and warfare. It’s the perfect ground for a TV series – far more than the Cassian Endor thing nobody asked for.

      • Alexrd

        I didn’t know that there was never a Jedi vs Sith war (or that there had been one). That’s something Lucas only revealed now. What I did know is that the Sith had destroyed themselves (they weren’t defeated due to a war) and were finished off by the Jedi, because that has always been what Lucas had established. This was true in interviews, in TPM novel (which used the backstory established by Lucas) and it was reiterated again in the episode of TCW that featured Darth Bane.

        The fact that there wasn’t a Jedi vs Sith war doesn’t mean the Jedi were neutral (how could they be neutral?) or that they didn’t fight the Sith. It only meant that there wasn’t a full-scale war of Jedi vs Sith, as shown in the EU and elsewhere.

        And if we really think about it, how could there have been one? There was no Republic (it would only come into being 1000 years later), the Jedi were not in a position of power nor were they a military group. They are a peacekeeping sect, spread throughout the galaxy, few in numbers (a reality in the PT as well). With the Sith in power, they were probably being hunted down.

        As for why they wanted revenge? Well, the Sith came into being from dissident Jedi, so there’s an inherent antagonistic relationship between the two groups. And like I said, the Jedi did finish off the few that were left standing in power. Back when Revenge of the Sith was released, Lucas said that they sought revenge for “perceived injustices”:

        “The Sith are people who are very self-centred and selfish. There used to be many Sith, but because they were corrupted by power and ambition, they killed each other off, so now there are only two – a master and an apprentice.
        Sith rely on their passion to get things done. They use their raw emotion, their hatred, their anger, their bitterness – which is the dark side of the Force. The Force is what binds the galaxy together, and it has a good side and a bad side.
        The Sith learned how to manipulate both sides of the Force, and then they fell into the trap of being corrupted by the dark side. The Jedi Knights are like marshals in the Wild West. It’s their job to make sure everyone is protected, to bring peace. They are the enemy of the Sith, because the Sith want to dominate the galaxy, to control everything, and for a thousand years they have had a plot against the Jedi.
        So, in this movie, it is time for them to seek revenge against the Jedi for perceived injustices and to carry out that plot.”

      • archdukeofnaboo

        @Alexrd

        It would appear that there were a very many details missing from Obi-Wan’s explanation of the former Republic in Ep IV. I don’t blame him – he was a Jedi, not a historian – but it’s clear that the “1,000 generations” he speaks of was not free from civil strife or major conflict of its own. There was definitely no 30 millennia of uninterrupted Republic Rule as some have interrupted from his speech.

  • David

    Ummm del rey books had a Jedi and Sith war in the first Darth Bane book…under his canon. Lucas needs to double check what he says and you need to get fact checked lol

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