We first met the Knights of Ren on the big screen with the release of Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens. The 2015 film chronicles the events following the Galactic Civil War as the First Order, a military junta comprised of pro-Imperial members of the Galactic Senate, tries to put an end to the New Republic in order to return to the galaxy to the glory days of the Galactic Empire.
Though the First Order consisted of many old officers of the Galactic Empire, Supreme Leader Snoke introduced a new generation of zealous military officers, notably General Armitage Hux and Kylo Ren.
But what exactly is Kylo Ren? When that question gets asked, the quickest answer is to say that he’s Ben Solo, the son of Leia Organa and Han Solo, without really telling us what’s up with the whole Knights of Ren schtick.
Who are these masked warriors? Are they just a fancy new name for the Sith? It’s about time we unmasked the mystery that is the Knights of Ren
What Exactly Are the Knights of Ren?
It doesn’t take much to guess what the Knights of Ren are at a basic level. They’re Force-sensitive soldiers working under the newly established First Order as a form of Black Ops within the larger First Order army. Answering only to Supreme Leader Snoke, and the revived Darth Sidious a.k.a Emperor Palpatine.
In the movies, they’re cool-looking, mysterious figures that sow wanton destruction all throughout the galaxy. It’s especially obvious in the scene where they slowly stalk towards Rey, looking as if they’re enjoying the hunt even though all of their faces are obscured by masks.
That said, the Knights of Ren go further back than the First Order. In The Rise of Kylo Ren, writer Charles Soule, artist Will Sliney, colorist Guru-eFX, and letterer Travis Lanham shed light on the dark history of this shadowy group.
Soule rewrites the Knights of Ren as legendary figures within the Force who begin their journey with the Dark Side in the days of the Galactic Empire. A rag-tag group of Force adept fighters begins to follow a man known as “Ren” who later gives the Knights of Ren their name.
The four-part comic miniseries tells an extended story of how the Knights of Ren came to be, fleshes out their position in the First Order hierarchy, and expounds on how Ben Solo comes to know of them.
The Rise of Kylo Ren shows a young Kylo being influenced to join the Dark Side by two different factions through the influence of Supreme Leader Snoke, who had been in his head for years, and Ren’s invitation to discover other paths in the Force.
One of the scenes shows a young Ben Solo and Luke Skywalker in a stand-off against the Knights of Ren. Instead of attempting to fight the two, Ren merely threatens to blow the place up if they don’t let the Knights leave. Ren sensed that Ben Solo had the potential to grow stronger in the Dark Side and chose to entice him instead. Before the Knights of Ren leave, Ren drops his runic mask as an invitation to their ranks.
Who Were the Original Knights of Ren?
Before he was Kylo Ren, Ben Solo was able to meet the original members of the Knights of Ren who followed Ren since the days when they served under the Crimson Dawn. While it wasn’t First Order related, the Crimson Dawn was definitely Sith related given that it was once led by none other than Sith Lord Maul. When the Knights of Ren started working for the Crimson Dawn, however, it was already being led by Qi’ra, an old childhood friend of Han Solo.
So who exactly are the mysterious men who made up the ranks of the Knights of Ren? Let’s start with Ren himself.
We never really get to know his real name but the human male who goes by “Ren” was known for being disfigured like his successor, Kylo Ren. Though the Knights wore masks to hide their faces, Ren himself never really made an effort to hide his facial scars and burns. He was known to have wielded the Ren a red lightsaber which was symbolic of the Knights of Ren themselves.
By the time we meet him in the comics, he already has his Knights and is looking to recruit more Force-sensitives to join the Knights of Ren. Though he doesn’t shy away from showing his disfigurement, Ren is often shown wearing his signature runic mask.
Vicrul joined the Knights of Ren just a bit before the rise of the First Order and began traveling the galaxy with them, leaving havoc in their wake. Though Ren, the leader of the Knights, had immense Force powers, Vicrul was one of the less trained members.
Vicrul himself couldn’t actively fight with the Force, choosing instead to instinctively make his opponents feel afraid of him and then relying on his martial prowess to mow them down while they’re impaired. Vicrul carried an ultrasonic scythe for reaping the souls of his enemies that he would then use to increase his abilities.
Cardo was the most armed member of the Knights of Ren as it was something of a hobby for him. Though he looked like the rest of the Knights in his attire, wearing the same black clothes and plasteel armor, he had a custom arm cannon designed for firing everything from lasers to plasma bolts. It even had a flamethrower feature. His skills made him the armor and weapons smith of the Knights of Ren.
Though the comics and movies never say it outright, this may be a hint that Cardo is the least powerful Force sensitive out of the Knights of Ren seeing as he seems to rely on his weapons more than his Force abilities.
Though just as faceless as the rest of his brothers in arms, Ushar was distinct from the rest of the Knights of Ren for one thing: his love of cruelty for its own sake. There’s little known about the Force powers that Ushar had, he was clearly one of the more brash members of the Knights. When seeing Luke Skywalker, his reaction was to tell his brothers in arms to fight him because “He’s only one man.”
Ushar enjoyed forcing prisoners to beg for mercy, giving them the illusion that they might be free and safe if they did. But Ushar only did this to test the will of his victims as he would make death slow and painful for those who begged and fast for the ones who fought back against him.
Trudgen may have been untrained in the Force but he was still a formidable member of the Knights of Ren. This mysterious soldier has a reputation for killing death troopers, an elite soldier of the Galactic Empire prized for their raw strength and espionage training.
As a Knight, Trudgen wears a messy helmet that looks to be made of several small trophies he collected from defeated enemies. In fact, the helmet itself belongs to the death trooper he had killed.
Like Vicrul, Trudgen had a signature weapon in the form of a vibrocleaver.
Out of all the Knights of Ren, Kuruk is one of the two to not use a bladed weapon, opting instead for a multi-barreled custom rifle. This might give the impression that Kuruk is a weaker Force user like it did with Cardo but Star Wars: Episode IX The Rise of Skywalker shows that he’s anything but weak. Kuruk was able to fend off Kylo Ren for a time by using telekinesis against him, putting this Knight of Ren on the upper end of the power scale.
Last on our list of members of the Knights of Ren is Ap’lek. Unlike his fellow Knights, Ap’lek didn’t rush into a fight. Like a cat playing with its food, Ap’lek preferred to trick his opponents in order to trap them which is why he carried a smoke canister filled with smoke that could alter his opponent’s vision and even throw off sensors. Ap’lek carried an ancient modified Mandalorian executioner’s ax until, of course, he was killed by Ben Solo.
The Philosophy of the Knights of Ren
No Star Wars Force-related organization would be complete without its own distinct philosophy. Where the Jedi tried to practice non-attachment and a lack of emotion, the Sith reveled in darker emotions like anger to grow in the Force. Though they’re closer in alignment to the Sith way of seeing the Force, the Knights of Ren had their own philosophy.
Ren describes it to his Knights like this, “You don’t follow me, friend. You follow this. The Ren. The Ren doesn’t stop to worry about what it’s burning or the right or wrong of it, or the goals it might achieve. The Ren just is. It lives, and it consumes, and it doesn’t apologize. It is its nature and nothing else. I believe in that principle on a deep, deep level. In fact, I’ve dedicated my life to it.”
What exactly is the Ren that the Knights of Ren adhered to? It was none other than the lightsaber that their original leader wielded. The Ren symbolized an amoral, completely adaptive way of life that adjusted to situations as they are and indulged in darker desires. The Ren taught the Knights to have no moral qualms about what they did, leaving no room for anything but embracing what they wanted, when they wanted it, and how they wanted it.
I’m not going to lie, the whole “It lives, and it consumes, and it doesn’t apologize” part appeals to me on a spiritual level. Maybe it appeals to you, too. So, hypothetically speaking, if we were Force-sensitives in the Star Wars universe, what would it take to join the Knights of Ren?
How Do You Join the Knights of Ren?
Given what we know of Ren, it seems he only looks for Force-sensitives with an affinity for the Dark Side to join the ranks of the Knights of Ren. But if you’re someone who finds the whole “anything goes” philosophy appealing, you might find yourself scouted for membership. That is if you have a strong enough connection to the Force.
When a Force-sensitive known as Filin tried to join the Knights of Ren, he was asked to make a sacrifice by killing someone he loves, something the Knights call “a good death”. Filin didn’t hesitate to shoot his older brother to death but while Ren admired his commitment, he ultimately killed Filin for not being strong enough in the Force.
It’s not enough to just kill anyone either. Though Ben Solo was a powerful Force user, Ren didn’t accept his sacrifice of killing the Jedi Hennix. While Ren let it slide, he wasn’t convinced it counted as a good death since Ben Solo had no emotional attachment to the death.
From that, we can glean to requirements: have a strong connection to the force and kill someone you love. If you’re born with the first and can stomach the second, you could be a Knight of Ren and show up with them in their next show or movie.
Is there really a chance the Knights of Ren might come back? Who knows. With new media being made around their story, we might see at least an animated series.