With The Last Jedi seemingly poised to spend a good chunk of time in the environs of the first Jedi Temple, it is likely to include revelations about the history of the Jedi, or even the Force itself, that affected Luke Skywalker profoundly and perhaps contributed to his belief that “it’s time for the Jedi to end.” We’ll have to wait a couple more weeks to find out what those revelations might be, and just how much detail we’re given. But in the meantime, did the Expanded Universe ever get into this?
You’d better believe it did—though impressively, Lucasfilm resisted the impulse to fully explain the Jedi’s beginnings for almost thirty-five years. In 2012, the comic book series Dawn of the Jedi by John Ostrander and Jan Duursema finally pulled back the curtain and stitched the few scant details we did have into a much larger tapestry of brand-new characters and conflicts that still felt true to their trademark brand of Star Wars melodrama. The series was successful enough that a tie-in novel, Into the Void by Tim Lebbon, was released about a year later (and only one year before the reboot was officially announced, meaning the whole project came in pretty close to the wire). Let’s talk about what they came up with.
26. How and where was the Jedi Order founded?
Our story begins about thirty-five thousand years ago on the planet Ando Prime, where a population of Dai Bendu monks were camped out around a mysterious pyramidal structure embedded in the Andobi Mountains. The Dai Bendu (dai meaning center, and bendu meaning balance) were your basic garden-variety monks for the most part, except they had at some point discovered the existence of midi-chlorians (go ahead and blame them, they won’t mind) and through this knowledge had already begun communing with the Force to a certain degree, and answering its calls as they perceived them. It was such a call that led them to Ando Prime from their home planet of Thape, and ultimately to the weird mountain pyramid thing, which they named Tho Yor.
The Dai Bendu suspected that one day the Tho Yor would open to them and reveal its nature, and a millennium later they turned out to be correct. The Tho Yor was in fact a spacecraft, and after scooping up a bunch of monks it zipped off to the rest of the galaxy, picking up groups of various species both familiar to your average Star Wars fan like Zabraks and Sullustans and relatively obscure like Miraluka and Krevaaki. The Tho Yor’s final destination was the planet Tython, where it was joined by eight others—seven identical ones with their own complements of priests and scholars and randos who were passing by and had nowhere else to be, and one larger one that appeared to have been on Tython to begin with. The eight smaller Tho Yor disgorged their populations in seemingly random spots around the planet, then parked themselves nearby (some even hovering motionless in the sky).
Over the next ten thousand years or so, the Tho Yor didn’t do a damned thing, but the countless beings they’d ferried to the planet gradually spread out and developed a new society. Not everyone was Force-sensitive or particularly religious, but those who were built temples at each of the Tho Yor sites and eventually cohered into the Je’daii Order—again a Bendu term, je meaning mystic, thus Je’daii = “mystic center”. In truth the Dai Bendu were only one of many ancient Force religions to contribute to what became the Je’daii, but they’re the only ones who were particularly defined in the EU—the moral here is always be the one to name things.
Je’daii trainees started out at the temple Padawan Kesh (see what they did there?), and upon completion of their basic training they became Journeyers, as their advanced training consisted of traveling across the planet to the other temples and learning the various ways of Force use—martial arts, healing, science, et cetera. After this last round of study adults graduated to the rank of Je’daii Ranger, which somehow sounds both dorkier and more dangerous than “Knight”.
Tython had two moons, a bright white one named Ashla and a dark one named Bogan—their constant presence in the sky led to a dualistic view of the Force as having a light and dark side, but unlike the modern Jedi, Je’daii took their namesake seriously and aimed to maintain a perfect balance between the two extremes. Those who “fell” too far to either the dark or the light were exiled to their chosen moon to meditate, kind of like being caught with a cigarette and forced to smoke the whole carton. This way of thinking was further encouraged by Tython itself being extraordinarily sensitive to the currents of the Force—serious imbalances, even within individual people, resulted in chaotic and dangerous weather and made life there tenuous for many.
Conveniently, the Tython system had a crapload of other inhabitable planets as well, and they were eventually settled by Force-sensitives and muggles alike. Slowly but surely, Tython became the exclusive domain of the Je’daii, while the rest of the system became a sort of microcosm of the modern Galaxy Far, Far Away—some nice places, some not so nice, some civilized, some wild.
I should note here that hyperdrive existed in this time period, but nobody in the Tython system had access to it, so everyone was stuck there for ten thousand years. Ancient races with possible ties to the Tho Yor had used portals to travel instantaneously around the galaxy, and while at least two were known to exist in the system neither was in working order; a splinter sect of the Je’daii called the Stargazers even became outlaws through their fanatical attempts to activate one portal and leave the system.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the galaxy, the Rakatan Infinite Empire had Force users of its own—Xesh, a highly-trained servant called a Force Hound, was tasked with finding new worlds for the Rakatans to enslave, and eventually he found his way to Tython. Xesh’s innate power and his strong dark side bent triggered huge Force storms on the planet, signaling his arrival to the Je’daii. Long story short, Xesh eventually defected to the Je’daii and helped repel the Rakatans’ invasion of the system, adding to their technological resources his Rakatan Forcesaber, basically the Zack Morris cellphone of lightsabers (the Je’daii of this time were using regular swords that had been strengthened with the Force).
Xesh was joined in the fight by Daegen Lok, a grizzled veteran of earlier Je’daii conflicts who had been “driven mad” by visions of the coming Rakatan conflict and exiled to Bogan. Together they set out to create more Forcesabers based on the one Xesh had brought with him, but Lok proved too volatile for Xesh, who was struggling to remain balanced himself, and Xesh officially cast his lot in with the Je’daii, taking the new name Tau to replace the one given to him by his Rakatan masters.
Daegen Lok’s return to prominence in the Rakatan invasion led to no shortage of other followers, though, and from the dark moon of Bogan they eventually came into open conflict with the Je’daii. As it typically does, extremism led to reverse extremism, and the Je’daii soon left behind their ideas of “balance” in favor of a light-centric philosophy. Sadly, ten years after Xesh’s arrival Tython had finally had enough—a cataclysm left the planet uninhabitable and the Je’daii, now simply Jedi, left the system behind in generation ships.
Centuries later, the last Tythan darksiders having been hunted to extinction (this was long, long before the Sith), the Jedi settled on the planet Ossus and established something much closer to the modern Jedi Order. Once established there they made contact with scouts from the nascent Galactic Republic; the Jedi thought that sounded pretty cool, and the rest is history.