I’ve done several articles in this series, looking at what some familiar Star Wars characters were up to in the years following the Battle of Endor, but today we get to the big one.
What about Luke Skwalker?
There’s still much we don’t know about what he was up to, but there’s nonetheless still enough that this is the lengthiest article yet in this series! So let’s jump in and follow Luke’s adventures post-Endor!
The Immediate Aftermath of Endor
As Luke stole a shuttle to escape the second Death Star, he was tracked by Rebel pilot Shara Bey (the mother of Poe Dameron), who was about to fire on the shuttle before Commander Skywalker identified himself. After learning the pilot’s identity, Shara escorted Skywalker as he made for the forest moon, ensuring that he safely arrived. He burned the body of his father, Anakin Skywalker, and then joined the celebration at the Ewok village. He informed the Rebellion that both Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader were dead.
Shortly after the celebration, while the Rebels were still on Endor, the Ewoks Wicket and Kneesaa frantically approached Luke and Leia for help re-setting their traps. It quickly became apparent why the urgent need, as a Gorax emerged through the trees. Luke ignited his lightsaber in an attempt to distract the creature, keeping it preoccupied while Leia assisted the Ewoks in operating the trap. Luke lured the Gorax into position, and then tossed his lightsaber to Leia, allowing her to slice through a rope and trigger the trap, successfully deterring the Gorax.
Mission to Pillio
Some time shortly after Endor, Luke Skywalker traveled to the remote oceanic planet Pillio, in search of one of the late Emperor Palpatine’s Observatories. He wasn’t the only one searching for it, however, and as he and R2-D2 arrived they discovered the Empire’s presence, led by Del Meeko of Inferno Squad, who had been tasked with destroying the Observatory. Meeko, however, wound up trapped in the amber produced by the native bug-like species, Scritters, and Skywalker discovered him. To Meeko’s surprise, Luke rescued him and teamed up with the Imperial to infiltrate the Observatory together, saying that the Force brought them together. Meeko got them to the Observatory while Skywalker opened it with the Force, and once inside, Luke retrieved a compass that Del reluctantly allowed him to keep. The Jedi said that he wouldn’t stand in Meeko’s way of destroying the Observatory, but also insisted that the planet had endured enough hardship. The two of them exited the Observatory, and Luke left Meeko with an important reminder, that he had a choice. Not a choice that required him to join the Rebellion, but “a choice to be better.” This encounter was a significant one that ultimately led to Meeko (and fellow Inferno Squad trooper Iden Versio) defecting from the Empire and joining the Rebellion.
Mission to Vetine
A few months after the Battle of Endor, Luke went on another mission with the intention of recovering valuable artifacts. R2 secretly recruited Shara Bey to accompany the droid and Skywalker to Vetine, since Luke needed a co-pilot to fly a stolen Imperial shuttle. Bey dressed as an Imperial Officer, with Luke as her security, and upon arrival they appeared to have fooled the Imperials at the base on Vetine. This allowed them to infiltrate the base and find their target – two fragments of the Force tree at the Jedi Temple, the last remnants of the Great Tree. Their deception was quickly foiled, however, and they were trapped… that is, until Skywalker ignited his lightsaber (retrieving it from R2) and defended Shara and R2 while they recovered the trees. Luke displayed a mastery with the Force and with his lightsaber as they made their escape. He sliced through a large gun, and then once outside, used the Force to throw grenades back at the Imperials, destroying them and much of the base. Back aboard the ship, Luke explained that he only expected to find one tree and offered the other one to Shara Bey, who took it and planted it on Yavin 4 with her family.
One of the most significant things that Luke wound up doing in the final year of the Galactic Civil War was training his first apprentice in the ways of the Force: his sister, Leia Organa. It seems that he trained her for the better part of a year, presumably picking up very shortly after Endor. Under Luke’s tutelage, Leia built her own lightsaber and was trained both in the Force and in lightsaber combat on the jungle world of Ajan Kloss. Leia possessed an incredible strength and displayed impressive skill; as Luke employed similar techniques as Yoda used with him on Endor, having Leia do a handstand, she actually began to levitate herself off of the ground. The two also engaged in much lightsaber training. In all of this, Luke greatly enjoyed training his sister and knew that doing so would make him a better Jedi, too. But before the War ended, Leia decided to voluntarily end her Jedi training, having sensed the death of her then-unborn son should she continue. Leia decided that she should pursue other things, focusing on serving the New Republic as a Senator and on her new family, rather than continue training as a Jedi. To show that she meant it, she gave Luke her lightsaber and asked him to give it to a promising student one day. Luke hoped that Leia would one day continue her training, and it would be three decades before he actually gave her saber to a new pupil.
Becoming a Legend
After Endor, Luke’s focus largely shifted away from the Rebellion and the New Republic, instead focusing on rebuilding the Jedi and recovering their heritage and legacy. He largely disappeared from the public eye, and because of this – plus the fact that he was the last of the Jedi – the legends and rumors about Luke Skywalker began to grow. For example, one person at the Battle of Jakku claimed to have seen a Jedi, bearing a striking resemblance to Skywalker who was also raised in a desert, pulling Star Destroyers down to the planet’s surface. This person, who was an Imperial officer aboard one of those crashed Destroyers, claimed that the Jedi rescued him and was looking to rescue other survivors as well. There’s always a bit of truth in legends, but whether Skywalker was involved at all at the Battle of Jakku remains unclear. Another rumor said that Skywalker took a break from his travels to visit Leia and Han Solo after the birth of their son, Ben. Again, however, the truth remains a bit unclear. What these show us for certain, however, is that the legends surrounding this almost larger-than-life figure continued to grow. When Luke would say years later, “I became a legend,” he wasn’t kidding. The more Luke disappeared from the public eye, the more opportunities for the legends to grow.
Heir to the Jedi
As evidenced by his missions to Pillio and Vetine while the War was still going on, Luke Skywalker was very focused on the legacy of the Jedi and on learning as much as he could about the Force and the Jedi. But once Leia stopped her training, Luke decided not to take another apprentice but to devote the entirety of his efforts to these travels. One of his first stops in doing this was Gatalenta, but he also traveled to Ossus and even to Moraband (the ancient homeworld of the Sith), among many other planets. In all of these travels, Luke amassed an incredible amount of knowledge about the history of the Force, the Jedi, and the Sith. He collected a number of artifacts, as well as a number of ancient texts. All of this he housed in a personal library, which included the sacred Jedi texts that he would later take with him to Ahch-To.
Speaking of Ahch-To, one of the major quests for Skywalker during this time was an attempt to discover the location of the first Jedi Temple. He received much help from Lor San Tekka, who was a worshipper of the Force even though he wasn’t Force sensitive. As an ally to the Jedi, San Tekka befriended Luke and Leia, and he accompanied Luke on several of these journeys. Skywalker and San Tekka were in search of this ancient Temple, but it proved elusive. However, as Luke studied some saplings from a Force sensitive tree, it helped put some pieces together. Using this and other clues he had collected, eventually Luke discovered the path to Ahch-To, the site of the first Jedi Temple, and he and San Tekka kept this location secret.
In these years, Luke would regularly commune with the spirits of Ben Kenobi, Yoda, and Anakin Skywalker, receiving guidance and counsel from his Jedi mentors. Between these spirits to guide him, the religious texts, the ancient artifacts, and the years of exploring the galaxy to learn more about the Force, the Jedi, and the Sith, it is entirely possible that Luke Skywalker became a greater and wiser historian than any Jedi in memory.
Training a New Generation of Jedi
After what happened with his attempt to train Leia in the Force, Luke remained extremely hesitant to take another apprentice, waiting many years to do so – ten years, in fact. For ten years, Luke exclusively traveled the galaxy, but in 15 ABY, the will of the Force and the bond of family finally caused Luke to reconsider taking an apprentice. Leia sensed the dark side of the Force in her son, Ben Solo, and so when the boy was ten, she sent him away with Luke to train as a Jedi, confident that Luke could keep the darkness from surfacing in him. Unbeknownst to Luke, however, the young boy was secretly being manipulated by Palpatine through his puppet, Snoke.
Even with Ben as his apprentice, Skywalker did not stop traveling the galaxy in search of artifacts. He took Solo with him, which occasionally bored the teenager, and continued traveling at times with San Tekka. For instance, at one point they traveled to Elphrona, in search of a great many Jedi treasures. But in the Temple, the trio encountered the fabled Knights of Ren, who taunted Skywalker and Solo. “This is Jedi Master Luke Skywalker,” Solo yelled out to the Knights. “He is a legend!” Luke ignited his lightsaber and made quick work of the Knights, fighting all seven at once and sending them running away in defeat. “I am one man,” Luke said as he fought. “But I am not alone. The Force is my ally. And it is powerful. You’re clumsy. Untrained. You use the dark side like a hammer. But the light side is a blade. And so am I.” Luke embarrassed the Knights of Ren, but they had made an impression on Ben, one that would prove useful years later.
Skywalker spent several years training Ben Solo before he decided to take on more apprentices, hoping to continue on the Jedi Order. He wound up accumulating around a dozen apprentices, including Solo, Voe, Hennix, and Tai. Luke constructed a new Jedi Temple on a secret world, one that was known only to a select few: Luke, R2-D2, and the apprentices. Luke turned his attention to training all of his pupils, instructing them in the way of the Force. One time, Luke trained his apprentices in lifting rocks with the Force. “Good, all of you,” he told them. “The Force flows through you. It’s everywhere. To it, a stone in the air feels the same as a stone on the ground. Let it show you that truth. There is no difference. No difference at all.” Another time, Voe expressed discontentment to her master that Ben was so much stronger than her, to which Luke replied, “Ben isn’t stronger, Voe. That’s not how it works. The Force can be a trickle, a stream, a river, a flood… for anyone who can sense it. Think of yourself as a door. The wider you open, the more easily the Force flows through you. Some people just start out with their door a bit more open. But any door can open wide.” Yet another time, Luke instructed Hennix as the pupil attempted to open a holocron, saying, “Every holocron is unique, based on the teachings held inside. You have to hear what it’s trying to tell you before it will open.”
Luke’s teachings demonstrated a remarkable wisdom in the Force and a kindness toward his pupils, but with his attention now split between his many apprentices, Ben Solo was left more open to being manipulated by a dark voice…
Searching for Exegol
But while Ben Solo wasn’t quite sure what to make of this voice, he wasn’t the only one to sense something sinister. By 21 ABY, Luke Skywalker sensed the continuing and growing presence of the dark side. There were whispers swirling of an enemy from the past having returned, and Luke set out to discover the truth. He wondered whether the Sith could have survived or returned, and as he searched for the answers, he began following the trail to Exegol, a mysterious ancient Sith world. Aiding him in this quest was an old friend, Lando Calrissian, whose underworld contacts informed him of a Sith assassin named Ochi, who bragged about having found a wayfinder in one of Palpatine’s vaults. Again using Lando’s contacts, the two heroes tracked Ochi to the desert planet of Pasaana. They found Ochi’s ship abandoned, but found no trace of him. With the trail having gone cold, Skywalker left, but Calrissian decided to stay behind to live on the planet.
Though Luke sensed the growing presence of the dark side in the Force, he was unable to find the way to Exegol, thus leaving him with many questions, but few answers. If the Sith had returned, Luke was the galaxy’s last line of defense, but he was focused on training a new generation of Jedi, one that could counter the rising darkness should the Sith ever come back.
Rebellion and Exile
Ultimately, those efforts would collapse on one fateful night at Luke’s Temple in 28 ABY, however. Luke had sensed darkness in Ben Solo at moments during his training, and so one night he decided to use the Force to look into his nephew’s mind while he slept. Luke was shocked at what he saw, as he realized that Snoke had already turned Ben’s heart, and Luke saw the destruction of everything he loved when he looked into Ben’s mind. Stunned, Luke instinctively reached for his lightsaber and ignited it – in a very similar way to how he stood over his father many years earlier. Just like he did then, Luke felt immediate shame, but it was too late. Solo had awaken to his master standing over him, lightsaber ignited, and in an act of self-defense, Ben called his lightsaber to his hand to meet Luke’s blade. Ben used the Force to collapse the hut on top of Skywalker, knocking him unconscious. Solo emerged from the hut and cried out at someone, “Why? Why? Why did you do it?” At that moment a strange storm filled the night sky, and an explosion rocked the Temple. Ben rushed to try to do something about it, but was repelled back. “I never… I didn’t want this,” he muttered. A voice in his head responded, “And you did not choose it, Ben. The Jedi did. Skywalker.” Ben fled the scene, heading to meet up with Snoke, thinking he was the only one he could turn to for refuge. Ben’s fellow apprentices were all presumed dead, except for Voe, Tai, and Hennix, who had been offworld during the fateful events. They pledged to hunt down Ben, who they thought killed their master, but they were killed in the process.
Meanwhile, Luke awoke and freed himself from the burning rubble of Ben’s hut. As he emerged, he found the Temple burning, his pupils dead, and only R2-D2 still around. Luke hobbled forward and fell to his knees beside his loyal droid, crying out of anguish for what had happened. The crushing weight of failure fell upon the Jedi Master’s shoulders, as he felt he had failed his students, his nephew, the Jedi, Leia and Han. Luke picked up everything and left, having lost faith in the Jedi, and headed off to a self-imposed exile on Ahch-To. There he remained in isolation for six years, cut off from the Force, living a simple life. He was friendly with the local Lanai and would show up to some of their events, but other than that, Luke lived in exile. His closest friends guessed that he had headed to the first Jedi Temple, but no one knew where it was. Luke had disappeared.
The Last Jedi
In Skywalker’s absence, the mysterious First Order began to make their move. Supreme Leader Snoke of the First Order had taken Ben Solo as his new apprentice, Kylo Ren, and they began to exert their influence. The New Republic was largely oblivious to this, so Leia Organa formed the Resistance to counter the rising threat. As the cold war escalated, Organa quickly realized that her band of rebels would need help, and so she began searching for her brother. This search led her to a reunion with Lor San Tekka, who in turn set off looking for a clue to Skywalker’s whereabouts. He found one, and Organa sent her best pilot, Poe Dameron, on a secret mission to Jakku to retrieve it. He did, but not before Kylo Ren and the First Order showed up. Ren killed San Tekka and captured Dameron, but the Resistance droid BB-8 escaped with a piece of the map to Luke. As the Force would have it, BB-8 was discovered by a scavenger girl named Rey, and the adventure began. Within days, Rey would be sent to find the long lost Jedi Master, as R2-D2 supplied the rest of the map, providing the location of Ahch-To. Rey, Chewbacca, and R2 left on the Millennium Falcon to the planet, and she found Skywalker in exile.
He initially wanted nothing to do with her, even when he discovered that the Force had awaken in her. But as Luke reunited with R2, with whom he had spent nearly three decades before his exile, the droid played a part of Leia’s message that had gotten Luke wrapped up in the whole adventure. This compelled Luke to begin training Rey, but not to make her a Jedi but rather to show her why the Jedi needed to end. As this training went on, Rey grew increasingly disillusioned with this larger-than-life legend, but Luke slowly began to regain his faith in the Force. One night, he finally re-opened himself to the Force and sensed his sister across the galaxy. Thinking he might re-join the fight, Luke went looking for Rey – but when he saw her touching hands with Ben through the Force, he reacted in anger, dueling Rey and ordering her to leave the planet – which she did.
Luke headed off to the first Temple, resolved to end the Jedi once and for all, but was greeted by an old friend: Master Yoda. Luke’s old mentor showed up to Luke in a moment of need, and in a surprising move, Yoda was the one who destroyed the Temple, calling down lightning from the sky to burn it down. He did this because Luke didn’t possess the resolve to do it himself, and because Rey didn’t need the ancient Jedi texts (because, unbeknownst to Luke, she had already taken them). Luke figured this meant it really was time for the Jedi to end, but Yoda corrected him that it was time for Luke to stop looking to the horizon at the expense of the present.
“Heeded my words not, did you,” Yoda told him. “Pass on what you have learned. Strength. Mastery. But weakness. Folly. Failure also. Yes, failure most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is. Luke, we are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters.”
Sometime while on Ahch-To, presumably after Luke’s encounter with Yoda (though not known for certain), he recorded notes on a history of the Jedi. It is unclear whether he may have started this earlier or not, but Luke had put together an overview of the Jedi Order, drawing upon his years of study.
But he had saved the most staggering display of his Force prowess for last. Having had his faith in the Jedi restored and having re-opened himself to the Force, Luke knew that he could hide no longer. He decided to be the spark that his sister and Rey so desperately needed. With the small remnant of the Resistance pressed back into a base on Crait, the last Jedi returned. Projecting himself across the galaxy through the Force, Luke appeared to Leia, talking with his sister once again, saying he came to face Ben. He comforted Leia by telling her that, “No one’s ever really gone,” handing her Han’s lucky dice. Luke kissed his sister’s forehead, then proceeded to walk out of the command center (but not before giving C-3PO a wink). As the Resistance fighters looked on in awe, Skywalker walked out to confront the entire First Order by himself. Infuriated by the appearance of his former master, Supreme Leader Kylo Ren ordered every gun to fire on Skywalker – but after an intense barrage, Luke emerged from the smoke unphased, mockingly brushing off his shoulder. Kylo couldn’t believe this, and he landed to confront Luke face-to-face.
As he did, Leia and the Resistance found a way out of the cave, thanks to the heroics of Rey and Poe Dameron, and left on the Millennium Falcon. Luke faced off with Ben, apologizing to his former apprentice for how he had failed him. But as Ben taunted Luke, the wise master responded, “Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong. The Rebellion is reborn today. The war is just beginning. And I will not be the last Jedi.” This angered Ben even more, so he charged to kill Luke once and for all… but his lightsaber went right through him. Stunned, it was only then that Ben realized that Luke wasn’t actually there at all. “See you around, kid,” Luke said before disappearing. He had stalled the entire First Order in their tracks and saved the entire Resistance without so much as laying a finger on anyone. He had used the Force for defense, not for attack. It was maybe the most Jedi-like action anyone had ever committed.
And with his task done, having provided a spark of hope to the galaxy that would quickly spread, Luke sat on the ledge on Ahch-To, looking out at a binary sunset, resolved with a sense of peace and purpose. He became one with the Force as his physical body disappeared, leaving behind his cloak and his other belongings on the planet. Luke had become more powerful than anyone could have possibly imagined.
With Luke gone, Rey needed a new teacher, so Leia Organa stepped up to teach the young Jedi. She drew upon her training with Luke, but also spoke with her brother through the Force at times. But Leia was wearing down, and a year after the Battle of Crait, it was time for Leia to become one with the Force as well. Using her remaining strength and drawing upon Luke’s actions on Crait, Leia reached out through the Force to call to her son. The realization that his mother still cared about him and wanted him back rattled Ben, ultimately leading to him returning to the light. As Leia became one with the Force, Luke welcomed her.
But Rey needed him, too. She had been trying to hear from the Jedi from the past but to no avail, and after she saw the darkness in her as Palpatine’s granddaughter, she followed Luke’s lead and left for Ahch-To, intent on living in exile as well. But as she threw the Skywalker lightsaber toward the flames she had constructed, hoping to destroy it, Luke Skywalker appeared as a Force spirit, catching the lightsaber. “A Jedi’s weapon deserves more respect,” he said, hinting at how he had been wrong previously. As Luke talked with her, he revealed that he and Leia both knew of Rey’s real lineage, but the reason Leia didn’t mention it was, “Because she saw your spirit. Your heart. Rey, some things are stronger than blood. Confronting fear is the destiny of the Jedi. Your destiny. If you don’t face Palpatine, it will mean the end of the Jedi, and the war will be lost.” Luke then gave Rey Leia’s lightsaber, telling her, “A thousand generations live in you now. But this is your fight. You’ll take both sabers to Exegol. … You have everything you need.” He used the Force to raise his old X-Wing from the waters of Ahch-To, giving it to Rey to fly. At that, she headed off to Exegol to face Palpatine and face her destiny, sending the coordinates for the Resistance to follow.
On Exegol, Rey teamed up with Ben Solo to confront Palpatine, but things didn’t go too well from there – leaving Rey laying on the ground, staring up into space, pleading with the Jedi of old: “Be with me.” And they were. Luke joined with the voices of many Jedi from the past in speaking to Rey, supporting her and strengthening her to stand. She faced off against Palpatine, defeating him once and for all.
At some point after the battle, Rey journeyed to Tatooine, to the Lars Homestead, to bury the Skywalker lightsabers as a way of paying tribute to them. As she did, she took the name Skywalker, as Luke and Leia smiled at her as Force spirits, while Rey stared off at the binary sunset.
Check out more in the “What were they up to after Endor?” series: