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The Road to Ahsoka – Who is Grand Admiral Thrawn?

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hello world!
Art of Lily K
| August 23, 2023
hello world!

You may know me as Lily K if you are a regular here on Couch Soup. But starting from August 23rd, you can call me the Biggest Thrawn Fan ever. I mean… this was always true ever since I read the books from Timothy Zhan, and then it became set in stone when he made his debut in Star Wars Rebels, voiced by the fantastic Lars Mikkelsen. But now… now, my blue baby will appear in live action in Ahsoka. Not only that but it was announced during the London Star Wars Celebration that Lars will come back to play him. I cried. And now you might be wondering what the hell is wrong with me. I will tell you. So buckle up. 

Mitth’raw’nuruodo was born as Kivu’raw’nuru with the core name Vurawn, better known as Thrawn, during his service in the Galactic Empire. His very first appearance was in Timothy Zahn’s 1991 novel Heir to the Empire, also known as the first Thrawn trilogy. He was the most brilliant out of all the people that served the Emperor and was a wild card among all the Humans. Thrawn is from the Chiss ascendant and the fact that he became Grand Admiral in a famously racist Empire speaks volumes about his brilliance. 

Grand Admiral Thrawn

Thrawn dedicated himself to understanding the philosophy, art, and culture of his opponents. He strongly believed that in order to achieve victory, they must know their enemy. What captivated me with the books was how Timothy Zahn decided to show Thrawn. He was always shown through someone else’s eyes. A lot of times, it was Eli Vanto, but it kept changing. The main thing for Zahn was to use Thrawn’s point of view rarely. He always explained why he did what he did to the people around him, but we’ve never gotten deep into his emotions.

This can make people think that Thrawn was cold, but in reality, it helps the readers to distance themselves emotionally. It also helps us to see Thrawn for what he is: a brilliant and ruthless strategist. He has immense respect for all; he constantly wants people to think better, to see the enemy’s next move better. He isn’t controlled by hatred against the Rebellion, hence why he is always so effective against them. He has an understanding of the enemy that the Empire lacks. We see countless times how leaders like Tarkin and Konstantine fail as they are controlled by greed and hatred.

His fate – unbeknownst to him – got sealed when Governor Arihnda Pryce requested him to help defeat the rebels on Lothal. This marked Thrawn’s walk into the canon and introduced him to a bigger audience. Thrawn instantly became a fan favorite as he arrived in Star Wars Rebels, the highly celebrated and loved Disney animated series. It was also the series that seemingly took him away from us. Seemingly, she writes and smiles as Thrawn is not only back, but this time it is in live action. What a wonderful time to be alive, indeed. 

When Ahsoka first showed up in The Mandalorian and uttered that beautiful sentence: 

Where is Grand Admiral Thrawn? 

Ahsoka Tano asking the big question

We all cheered! All the book lovers and Rebels fans united as we all agree that Thrawn is easily Star Wars’ best-written villain to date. Wouldn’t even call him a villain: antagonist is a better word here. And it looks like he is taking a center spot in the highly anticipated Ahsoka series. Just to quickly recap why this is a big deal: The rebels confronted Thrawn’s forces on Lothal. During this battle, a flock of purrgil came to the aid of Jedi Padawan Ezra Bridger. Thrawn was on the bridge of his command ship when the creatures surrounded the Chimaera and pulled it into hyperspace, taking both Thrawn and Ezra into the great unknown. 

So – not surprisingly – many people speculated that it was the end of Thrawn (and Ezra). We don’t have an answer about how he actually survived that event, but if I would have to take a wild guess it will have to do a lot with his own people the Chiss. 

Other than our blue friend, we didn’t meet any other Chiss in the Star Wars canon, but their proper introduction is inevitable in the long run, and my gut tells me that it will come in this series. I won’t go into full detail on the Chiss as of now, but I will point you all toward Timothy Zahn’s other trilogy, The Ascendancy

The Ascendancy Trilogy

The other interesting thing about Ahsoka’s big focus on the return of Grand Admiral Thrawn is that she never actually met him. Sure, she could have heard about him, but we all know that’s not the same as actually experiencing what he is capable of. My first theory was that maybe she is so focused on him because he is the key to finding Ezra since, you know if he survived, then the Jedi must be alive too. But again, I dropped that theory as Ahsoka specifically mentions that she heard that Thrawn was Heir to the Empire, meaning a completely different motivation for her. She is clearly working on avoiding what happened in the past, and she knows that with Thrawn, there’s a high possibility that it will. How would she know? My thinking is that the information came from her former master, Anakin Skywalker. 

Anakin Skywalker and Thrawn

Anakin met Thrawn during the Clone Wars and worked with the Chiss. It was the very first time a Republic official came into contact with him, or a Chiss for that matter. They met near Batuu, where they both were on their separate missions, but fate had them join forces. Although Thrawn didn’t understand Basic, he was able to communicate with Anakin through the trade language (Meese Caulf). They fought side by side, and by the end, Thrawn respected Anakin as a warrior. Later, he was among the few who recognized Darth Vader as Anakin Skywalker. 

So, my theory is that if we see a force ghost talk between Anakin and Ahsoka, it will be one where the former Jedi will warn his padawan about Thrawn and the danger his reappearance means. 

Of course, we will have to wait and see what Dave Filoni will do with Thrawn and Ahsoka, but one thing is for sure: Things are about to change in the Star Wars Universe. 

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