“Jedi and Sith. The light and the dark. I’m the one in the middle. The Bendu”―The Bendu
That was some Celebration, huh? Throughout all the panels and news, the most prominent thought in my mind was “what a great time to be a Star Wars fan.” Obviously, the biggest highlight from the Rebels Season 3 panel was the return of the fan-favorite Legends villain Grand Admiral Thrawn (I, of course, squealed like a kid when I saw Timothy Zahn working with Dave Filoni.) However, one other character in the trailer really caught my attention–the enigmatic being known as Bendu.
“Once a secret is known, it cannot be unknown” – The Bendu
I know there’s not much information about the character yet, but he piqued my interest for several reasons. First, he’s voiced by the legendary Tom Baker of classic Doctor Who fame. We can chalk this cameo up to Filoni’s super-Whovian wife (fun trivia: she was also responsible for bringing David Tennant in to voice the robotic lightsaber tutor Huyang in The Clone Wars.) Second, the Bendu’s design just screams Hayao Miyazaki (Studio Ghibli) and he wouldn’t be out of place in one his animated films. Third, the concept of a “greyer” Force just hasn’t really been explored much outside of Legends.
That said, there is one previous character who comes to mind who was “in the middle” of both the light and dark sides of the Force.
“It is only here that I can control them. A family in balance–the light and the dark. Day with night. Destruction replaced with creation.” – Father
The Mortis arc of The Clone Wars introduced three powerful beings who personified different aspects of the Force–light, dark, and balance. Son represented darkness, Daughter embodied light, and Father kept a tenuous peace between the two. Father was responsible for bringing Anakin to his world to discover if he truly was the ‘Chosen One’ who could bring balance to the Force and ultimately replace him as a mediator between his children.
So why am I bringing this oft-maligned Clone Wars story into a post about the Bendu? Well, you need to take a closer look at the quote above. Mortis itself was a world in a constant state of flux. Life and death occurred in a rapid day and night cycle. Further, Father explained to Anakin that either side of the Force (even light, interestingly) gaining dominance would spell certain doom for the galaxy. What this says to me is that light and darkness transcend mere concepts like Jedi morality or Sith ambition. Instead, these antipodean forces could probably be viewed as extensions of the Living Force itself. Light and vitality, darkness and death–all of these things are necessary for life to thrive in any universe.
Now, consider all of this and take a look at the Bendu. Does he not look like a personification of nature? How about an aged and weary avatar of balance? I tend to think so. Of course, we won’t know his full role until later this year, but I have a feeling at least some of my theories will be proven right.
My favorite episodes of both animated shows are the ones that explore the deepest parts of the Force and expand its more spiritual and esoteric sides. I have a strong feeling that the Bendu and his teachings will have major ramifications for the saga as a whole.
Oh, and finally, props to the Rebels team for the name of this creature. Much like the repurposed Ralph McQuarrie artwork in the show, Bendu was George Lucas’ prototypical name for the Jedi Order.
The Cantina Cast
The wretched hive your Jedi Master warned you about!