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How Ahsoka Tano went from sidekick to one of Star Wars’ most important characters

Ahsoka isn’t in the Skywalker Saga. But she is in Clone Wars, Rebels, and more

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Ahsoka (Rosario Dawson) standing and looking out at something while Sabine (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) stands behind her in her Mandalorian gear Photo: Suzanne Tenner / Lucasfilm Ltd.

When Ahsoka Tano made her first appearance in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the 2008 theatrical premiere of the animated series of the same name, it was hard to imagine that she would grow into one of the most popular and prolific characters in the franchise. In the early years of The Clone Wars, Ahsoka could be easily dismissed as an annoying kid sidekick shoehorned into the saga to engage younger viewers, but in the decade-plus since, she has become the soul of the Star Wars expanded universe, appearing across multiple animated and live-action television series. She’s arguably the most important Star Wars character who doesn’t appear in the Skywalker Saga (though her voice can be heard among the choir offering encouragement to Rey at the climax of Episode IX).

But Ahsoka has been featured pretty heavily beyond the main movies. She was a major character in both Clone Wars and Rebels, and made big waves when she showed up in just a single episode of The Mandalorian. Tales of the Jedi on Disney Plus also partly centers on her, with three animated shorts filling a few gaps in her journey from padawan to soldier to outcast.

Tales wasn’t meant to stand on its own; it’s a series of vignettes that expand on the stories of both Ahsoka and the errant Count Dooku, using them as keyhole viewpoints into the turbulent years surrounding the fall of the Jedi Order. It echoes the way Ahsoka approaches the character in the initial episodes: We get glimpses of her story, and brief mentions of important people that are part of her hunt for Grand Admiral Thrawn.

Where Dooku’s three episodes of Tales have a clear, coherent narrative thread running between them, documenting his disillusionment and separation from the Jedi, enjoying the Ahsoka-centered shorts depends more on the viewer’s ability to place them in the context of her life as documented throughout a wealth of other Star Wars works.

Ahsoka the Prodigy: Tales of the Jedi episode 1

A close-up of a baby Ahsoka Image: Lucasfilm/Disney

The first chapter of Tales of the Jedi, entitled “Life and Death,” begins on the day of Ahsoka’s birth to hunter Pav-ti and her husband, Nak-il, on the Togruta homeworld of Shili. One year later, Pav-ti takes her young daughter along with her on a hunt, as is tradition in her village. Pav-ti is skilled with a rifle, but is caught off guard by a large feline predator that steals Ahsoka away. Instead of becoming the beast’s next meal, however, the baby Ahsoka reaches out with the Force and telepathically influences it to return her home to her family. As Ahsoka rides into her village on the back of the big cat, a village elder stands in awe and identifies the child as a Jedi. This is the unseen beginning of Ashoka’s story, but also establishes the Jedi as something wondrous, an idea that is gradually eroded over the course of Tales of the Jedi and Ahsoka’s journey in the Star Wars canon.

“Life and Death” is the first Star Wars story to take place on Shili, in either the current canon or the Legends canon that preceded it. Our only other on-screen glimpse is in a brief flashback in the season 1 Clone Wars episode “Rising Malevolence,” in which we see a 3-year-old Ahsoka get recruited into the Jedi Order. Ahsoka becomes Anakin Skywalker’s apprentice at age 14, which places “Life and Death” in the years 36 and 35 BBY. (BBY is short for “Before the Battle of Yavin,” placing A New Hope as Year 0 for the Star Wars calendar. For reference, The Phantom Menace takes place in 32 BBY.)

Ahsoka the Fugitive: The Clone Wars season 5

The following three shorts in Tales of the Jedi follow Count Dooku of Serenno, outlining his disillusionment with the Jedi Order and the Galactic Republic in the decades before the Clone Wars. That Tales juxtaposes Dooku’s fall from grace against Ahsoka’s trials is no coincidence, as she, too, eventually separates from the Order, though under different circumstances. In the final arc of the fifth season of The Clone Wars (beginning with “Sabotage”), promising padawan Ahsoka is framed for the bombing of the Jedi Temple and subsequent cover-up. Despite her years of service to the Jedi, her superiors turn on her with an ease that she finds shocking and disheartening. Rather than face conviction for a crime she didn’t commit, Ahsoka flees in the hope of proving her innocence.

The true culprit is eventually identified, but only after Ahsoka has been expelled from the Jedi Order. Frustrated by the ordeal, the exonerated Ahsoka refuses the Jedi’s invitation to rejoin their ranks. Ahsoka would ally herself with the Jedi only once more, in the closing days of the Clone Wars, to lead a company of Republic clone troopers in the Siege of Mandalore (as seen in The Clone Wars’ fantastic four-part series finale).

Ahsoka the Warrior: Tales of the Jedi episode 5

Anakin standing with his arms folded with Ahsoka; they’re both looking seriously at something off-camera Image: Lucasfilm/Disney

The fifth episode of Tales of the Jedi, “Practice Makes Perfect,” begins with Ahsoka undertaking a difficult test of her combat abilities, fending off a small swarm of floating droids with her lightsabers. (Young padawan Caleb Dume, aka Kanan Jarrus of Star Wars Rebels, can be seen on the bleachers, marveling at her skills.) Ahsoka’s master, Anakin Skywalker, is not impressed. Anyone can defeat droids (as we can plainly see throughout The Clone Wars and the Prequel Trilogy), but Anakin wants Ahsoka to be prepared for anything, including fighting less predictable, organic opponents. Anakin devises a new exercise, in which Ahsoka is surrounded by her own clone troops from the 501st Legion and forced to fend off stun blasts from all directions. Through a montage, we see Ahsoka continually improve her performance in this test over a period of years.

“Practice Makes Perfect” appears to take place during the third season of The Clone Wars (21 BBY), during what we might consider Ahsoka’s “growth spurt.” Between her appearances in the episodes “Sphere of Influence” and “Heroes on Both Sides,” Ahsoka receives a new, aged-up character model, reflecting the year that has passed since the start of the war. Her appearance at the beginning of “Practice Makes Perfect” may reflect some missing link between those two looks. We also see her training with clone troopers wearing Phase 1 Republic armor (with the Mandalorian-style T-shaped visors) at the start of the montage, versus Phase 2 armor (the more familiar Stormtrooper shape) toward the end, indicating the time passing throughout the war.

Though it’s impossible to precisely place most of the short on the Star Wars timeline, we know exactly when its closing moments take place: during “Victory and Death,” the final episode of The Clone Wars. (The finale takes place concurrent with Revenge of the Sith, in 19 BBY.) In this brief, grim scene, Ahsoka prepares to put her training to the test and confront an entire company of clone troopers. By now, Order 66 is at hand, and the soldiers that she once fought and trained alongside have become brainwashed against her. She has managed to free only one — Captain Rex, the trooper holding her at gunpoint as part of a ruse — and the rest will stop at nothing to kill her. Jesse, the very trooper seen supervising Ahsoka’s training in “Practice Makes Perfect,” will give the order to fire. When the battle is over, Ahsoka will bury him herself.

“Ashla” the Outcast: Tales of the Jedi episode 6

The final episode of Tales of the Jedi, “Resolve,” begins with the funeral procession of Senator Padmé Amidala. Ahsoka attends her friend’s memorial in secret, and meets briefly with Senator Bail Organa, who attempts to enlist her in his efforts to undermine the nascent Galactic Empire. Ahsoka, weary from years of war and grieving her fallen comrades, declines. Instead, she goes into hiding on a remote world, working in a small farming community under the assumed name Ashla. But, after she uses her command of the Force to save a townsperson from a near-deadly accident, one of her neighbors reports her to the Empire, who dispatch one of their Jedi-hunting Inquisitors to kill her. Ahsoka defeats the Inquisitor, after which she decides to finally join Bail Organa in the fight against the Empire.

Like “Practice Makes Perfect,” “Resolve” takes place over an extended period of time, in this case beginning in 19 BBY. Padmé’s funeral procession on Naboo can also be seen in the montage that closes Revenge of the Sith. Much of the short also adapts and condenses chapters from the 2016 novel Ahsoka by E.K. Johnston, which chronicles the former Jedi’s life in exile. Ahsoka places these events a year after the end of the war, in 18 BBY, on the moon of Raada. The friend she rescues from harm seems to be analogous to Miara Larte, Ahsoka’s companion in the novel who eventually joins the Rebel Alliance and is the subject of the short story “By Whatever Sun” in the collection From a Certain Point of View.

Ahsoka the Rebel: Star Wars Rebels and beyond

Ahsoka Tano in a white robe, holding a white staff, in Star Wars Rebels Image: Lucasfilm

After the events of “Resolve,” Ahsoka begins functioning as a secret intelligence operative for the nascent rebellion, utilizing the alias Fulcrum. She crops back up throughout the second season of the animated series Star Wars Rebels (set in 4 and 3 BBY) as a friend and ally to the resistance cell known as the Spectres, a role that sets her on a collision course with her fallen mentor, Darth Vader. This, in turn, plants the seeds of Ahsoka’s forthcoming live-action miniseries, which features the return of several main characters from Rebels. In between, Ahsoka makes guest appearances on The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett (set in 9 ABY, or nine years after the Battle of Yavin), cementing her as the throughline that binds most of Star Wars television together.

Ahsoka takes place after her appearances there, on the hunt for Grand Admiral Thrawn and bringing Sabine back into the fold.

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