What’s In A Name? Cases For And Against “Rey” Skywalker

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It’s no secret that Rey’s name has been the subject of fierce debate over the past few years—is she Rey Skywalker? Rey Kenobi? Rey Palpatine-Calrissian-Sleazebaggano? Instead of wading into that particular topic, however, I’d like to address a different part of the mystery surrounding Rey’s moniker. Namely, is her name really Rey after all?

We already know that Rey was separated from her family at a very young age; so young, in fact, that she has virtually no memories of her life before Jakku. And, given that she seemingly has no memory of her last name either (or else is really bad at putting two and two together), it’s reasonable to wonder whether or not Rey has forgotten or changed her original name since the time she and her family were separated.

Full disclosure: since I do have to SOMEHOW limit the scope of this article, I’m basing my analysis on the evidence-based assumption that Rey is Luke Skywalker’s daughter. You can read some good cases for it here, here, and even here, in this imgur album. If this is indeed true, how could the daughter of the galaxy’s most famous Jedi forget so thoroughly who she is and where she came from? On the flip side, if Rey can remember her first name, why can’t she remember anything else about her origins, including her family name? Or does Rey actually know more than she lets on?

Buckle in, boys and girls, because it’s time for me to have an argument with myself on the internet. I present to you, the evidence for and against Rey Skywalker.

EVIDENCE FOR “REY” SKYWALKER

EXHIBIT A: It’s really hard to forget your own name

This one’s kind of a gimme. By the age of 4 or 5 (when Rey, as far as we know, was separated from her family), virtually all children know their own name. In order for Rey to forget her “real” name and start going by “Rey,” she would have to suffer an event that almost entirely wiped her memory prior to the events of her separation. The fact that we don’t know for sure how much Rey actually remembers, however, makes this point difficult to refute completely. Canon materials have been inconsistent and vague about how clearly Rey remembers losing her family, and the interrogation scene between Rey and Kylo indicates that there may be “walls” put up in Rey’s mind that prevent others—and maybe herself—from seeing her memories clearly. If Rey is in fact a false name, there must have been a seriously memory-altering event in Rey’s past that resulted in her losing sight of her true identity so thoroughly.

EXHIBIT B: Who would have named her?

An odd point, but an interesting one. If Rey did forget her own name, and presumably grew up parentless, who would have given her the name Rey? Some have argued that Rey got her name from Dosmit Raeh, the pilot whose helmet she wears in the opening scenes of TFA, but this was (somewhat) debunked by Pablo Hidalgo, who tweeted that “Raeh” was an in-joke from someone on the production team, whose children had initials beginning with “R” and “H,” and that the “ae” was an Aurebesh substitution for an ampersand. It’s possible that the writers were inspired by this to change Rey’s name midway through production (which they did, but more on that later), but it’s a stretch to think such a small detail would spark such a major change. So, unless we find out Unkar Plutt turned out to be a more devoted father figure than we imagined, it’s likely that Rey began introducing herself as Rey of her own accord. And given that most 5-year-old girls given the opportunity to name themselves would go with something more akin to “Baby T-Rex Ballerina” than “Rey,” this seems good evidence in favor of Rey going by her real name.

EXHIBIT C: Why would Rey be using a deliberate pseudonym?

Some have suggested that not only does Rey know more about her identity than she’s letting on, but that she is in fact deliberately hiding who she really is from those around her. Her odd comment to BB-8 about having a “classified” identity seems to hint at this, although it could also be a lighthearted joke poking fun at a cute robot acting like a member of MI6. But—again, assuming she is Rey Skywalker—her surprised reaction to hearing about Luke, a man who shares her last name, pretty clearly indicates there are parts of her identity she genuinely doesn’t know about. If Rey is using a pseudonym, it’s either because she’s someone other than Luke’s daughter and this whole argument is made irrelevant (again, refer back to the above links to see why I think this isn’t the case), or because she somehow knows she needs to keep her true identity a secret but doesn’t fully know why.

(Bonus: Obi-Wan calls her “Rey”)

If there’s one person who’s in the business of “knowing everything about the protagonist, up to and including things the protagonist doesn’t know about themselves,” it’s Obi Wan Kenobi. So in Rey’s force vision, when we hear that clever little cut of Alec Guinness calling out “Rey?” we’re dealing with a guy who usually knows who and what he’s talking about. Since this is pretty minor evidence, I’m not going to give it its own exhibit heading, but it’s worth considering nonetheless.

EVIDENCE FOR “SOMEONE ELSE” SKYWALKER

EXHIBIT A: Han’s Reaction

This is my personal biggest indicator that “Rey” might not be our protagonist’s real name. Let’s assume that, however busy he was gallivanting around the galaxy, Han was at least tuned-in enough to know that his brother-in-law/best friend had a daughter at some point, and would have probably remembered her name. So when he comes across a desert-dwelling, backseat-driving, scrappy mechanic kid with no family who was born right around the time his niece was, you would think his reaction would be slightly more intense than this:

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There are a million different ways you can analyze Harrison Ford’s delivery here (and unfortunately, the scene isn’t on YouTube, so you can’t hear the vocal inflections he uses), but he certainly doesn’t stop dead in his tracks the way he might if he found out this grown-up version of his preschool-age niece just happened to have the exact same name as her. All we can observe is that Han hesitates and avoids eye contact while asking Rey her name, softens and smiles slightly when he hears it, but then immediately continues with what he was previously saying. Whether his reaction is then one of dismissal (“Well, guess I was wrong.”) or poignant happiness (“So that’s what the little scamp goes by now, huh?”), it certainly doesn’t read as someone who just discovered the biggest “coincidence” of his life.

EXHIBIT B: Rey’s name changed mid-production

Those of us who followed TFA hype from the beginning know that Rey’s original name was “Kira” (or “Keera,” depending on who you ask), which was then changed to “Rey” when the crew was already filming in Abu Dhabi. So why would JJ suddenly feel strongly enough to change his protagonist’s name midway through filming? Simple answer: he liked “Rey” better. Alternate answer: Rey’s real name is (or, rather, was) Kira, and the TFA team decided that it would be easier from a storytelling perspective if she went by a different name than her birth name while on Jakku. Based on deleted lines from the novelizations of The Force Awakens, such as Kylo’s “It is you!” and the mysterious male voice in Rey’s vision saying “I’ll come back, sweetheart, I promise,” there’s some evidence Rey’s identity was originally far more obvious than it ended up being in the final film. So if the production team did indeed make the choice to play things closer to the vest partway through production, they may have given Rey a pseudonym to prevent scenes like Han and Rey’s introduction from giving away too much. And, although I am loath to go into etymology territory here, “Kira” is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning “beam of light,” or “ray of light.” So there is some evidence that the name “Rey” wasn’t picked at random just because it sounds cool, given that it shares a meaning with the character’s previous name. Now that the infamous Han Solo spinoff has a female lead named Kyra (thought to be pronounced KEE-rah), it seems unlikely that this particular name will be revealed to be Rey’s real one. But the connection between Rey’s original old and new names gives us an indication that there was some method to the madness of renaming her so comparatively late in the production process.

EXHIBIT C: ¿Por que no los dos?

If I were a betting woman, my money might be on this option. Although Luke is most closely associated with Tatooine, and Leia with Alderaan, their longest-running family lineage stems from the planet of Naboo. And if there’s one thing we know, it’s that the Naboo people LOVE names that end in “-ey” sounds. So much so that when you list some of them by name—Saché, Sabé, Dormé, Cordé, Rabé, Eirtaé, Padmé–it sounds like a deleted verse from RuPaul’s 1993 classic, “Supermodel.” So is it really so inconceivable that Luke and Mama Skywalker decided to name their daughter something befitting her Naboo roots (or even just a pretty name featuring the syllable “-ré” or “-rey”)? In this sense, maybe Rey both is and isn’t our heroine’s real first name. If she was, say, Freya, Aurelia, or Reyna Skywalker (just to use a few earthling names and spare myself the embarrassment of trying to invent Naboo-sounding ones), her going by “Rey” would explain Han’s reaction—this was, indeed, likely his niece, but she went by a nickname that gave him just enough doubt to keep him from being entirely stunned by the revelation. This is also a great way to show that Rey’s developed her own identity, allowing her to keep the name she’s been using for ¾ of her life (and, more cynically, the name she’s been marketed as by Disney, Hasbro, et al), while also explaining why neither Han nor Leia, at any point, went “Holy shit, her name is Rey? Like, Luke’s Rey?” like any normal person would.

CONCLUSION

Look, at this point, we’re less than a month out from the movie, and this article will either be tossed aside or get me hailed as some sort of Star Wars psychic (but will, in either case, be mostly irrelevant). So I can only speak for myself when I say that I think Rey will, ultimately, be the name that our protagonist goes by for the remainder of the trilogy. But I think there is a very good chance it is not her real and/or full name. If we are, in fact, dealing with the long-lost daughter of Luke Skywalker, we already know there’s a long and bumpy road to finding out all the secrets of who she is and how she got in her current situation, and her name being part of that unraveling mystery wouldn’t surprise me in the least. So, if you want to take my word for it, I’d say go ahead and get that custom-embroidered “I Love Rey, My Fictional Psychic Samurai Girlfriend” leather jacket you’ve been longing for. That’s relatable, right? Everybody wants one of those.


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