When #StarWars7 was released, Rey captured our hearts as the plucky scavenger made her way out into the galaxy, discovering her own power in the process. One of the reasons Rey resonated with viewers was the quiet tragedy of her backstory — abandoned on Jakku at a young age, Rey spent most of her life in poverty and isolation, surviving on meagre rations and waiting for her family to return.
Of course, Rey's past isn't just compelling from an emotional standpoint. This is also one of the biggest mysteries of the sequel trilogy, and in the year following The Force Awakens' release, fans have been searching the Star Wars films, books, and comics for any clues about who Rey really is, and why she was left on Jakku.
The most popular theory is that Rey is secretly Luke Skywalker's daughter (because that wouldn't be at all predictable...) and while there are many other theories on Rey's parentage, the reason behind Rey's abandonment remains the same: After Kylo Ren massacred Luke's Jedi students, Rey was taken to Jakku for her own safety.
Which makes a lot of sense, except for one thing — that's not what happened at all.
Rey Was Abandoned Years Before The Massacre
It's difficult to ascertain the timeline of events between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, especially if you're just using hints from the movies.
However, there's a lot of info to be found in the supplementary canon materials — books and comics published by Lucasfilm after Disney purchased the company, rendering the previous extended universe non-canon. The best sources of information about Rey's life are The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary and the novel Bloodlines, which follows General Leia Organa as she founds the Resistance six years before Episode VII.
The dictionary states that Rey was born 15 years after the events of A New Hope, making her 19 during The Force Awakens. Unfortunately, no canon material has revealed exactly how old Rey was when she was abandoned, but the actress who portrayed young Rey was 8 at the time, so we can assume that Rey was somewhere between 5 and 10 years old.
This means that Rey couldn't have been taken to Jakku as a result of Ben Solo turning to the Dark Side and slaughtering the Jedi students.
We know this because of Bloodlines — in this book, Leia refers to her son Ben, who is training with Luke Skywalker at the time, meaning the massacre happened less than six years before The Force Awakens. When the Jedi students were killed, Rey was already a teenager scavenging for starship parts on Jakku.
What Does This Mean For 'Episode 8'?
So there you have it: Rey could not have been abandoned as a result of Kylo Ren going bad. This shoots a lot of theories in the foot, and probably debunks the Rey Skywalker idea — after all, there's no way Luke would abandon his daughter when everything was just hunky dory (unless he didn't know she existed, and it was her mother who abandoned her... for some reason).
Because we don't have a major event to explain Rey's abandonment, the identity of her parents thrown even further into doubt. Some fans are already speculating that another tragedy must have occurred, in order for Rey's parents to abandon her for her own safety. But this hypothesis takes it as read that Rey was left on Jakku for her protection, when actually we don't know this to be true.
Rey could have been abandoned for any number of reasons. Her parents may have lacked the funds or capacity to take care of her; she could have been orphaned and dumped on Jakku by her new guardians; Rey's parents might be Resistance agents who decided to hide Rey's identity by hiding her.
Or maybe Rey was actually grown in a lab by Supreme Leader Snoke, and dumped on Jakku as a failed experiment. Hey, it's Star Wars. Anything could happen.
The only thing we know for sure is that we really don't know anything yet. Star Wars Episode VII was just the first part of a trilogy, so the story is essentially just an introduction, setting up the rest of the saga.
And if you're hoping for all your questions to be answered in #StarWars8, you may be disappointed — while we will almost definitely get more information about Rey's past, it's likely that the more we learn, the more mysteries present themselves. After all, there's got to be some plot left over for Star Wars 9.
Tell us in the comments: Why do you think Rey was abandoned on Jakku?