"Who are you?"
"I've been asking myself the same thing. Am I the son of a panda? The son of a goose? A teacher? A student? Turns out I'm all these things. I am Po."
- General Kai and Po, Kung Fu Panda 3
"Who are you?"
- Random Desert Lady and Rey Skywalker, Star Wars - Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
As a new idea inspired by a series of starwars.com articles, my brother Artie and I have come up with a brand new kind of Jack's Soapbox posts I can make titled Fictional Echoes that notices how sometimes the most different of fictional heroes, villains and more can have aligning paths in their respective stories. For the first of this new breed of posts, I've decided to acknowledge how the Dragon Warrior Po from Kung Fu Panda and the Girl from Nowhere Rey Skywalker of the Star Wars sequel trilogy went on similar journeys to save their worlds, confront their inner demons and accept who they are.
Voiced by Jack Black, Po was a noodle selling Panda that was mysteriously chosen to be the legendary Dragon Warrior of ancient prophecy. Over the course of his action-packed trilogy, Po learned a lot about Kung Fu and even more about himself while he was forced to conquer foes from both the pasts of himself and his allies.
Debuting in 2015's The Force Awakens, Rey was a scavenger girl on a backwater desert planet with no future until she got caught up in a galactic struggle where she made new allies, faced powerful villains and learned the ways of the Force. Rey, however, struggled to find where she belonged in the grand plight of the resistance heroes against the First Order and when she learned who she truly was, she struggled to accept who that person is.
At a glance, their tales seem nothing alike. However, when you look at the basic skeleton of either hero's arc you'll notice that there are more to their similarities than meets the eye. In this blog post, I will be breaking down the structure of their respective stories and point out how much they have in common, trait by trait. First of all,
Both were separated from their families at a young age
As Po discovers with the audience in Kung Fu Panda 2, the dad who's raised him his entire life isn't his biological father. Po was born in a peaceful village of panda bears. But when a prophecy foretold that the evil peacock tyrant Lord Chen would be overthrown by a "warrior of black and white", Chen and his forces raided the village and caused mass genocide. It was Po's mother's dying action to hide the baby panda in a radish crate so he wouldn't be caught by Chen's forces. The baby Po had to watch his mother die, before his radish crate was delivered to a noodle shop where the goose chef Mr. Ping would serve as Po's surrogate father most of his life.
A very similar thing happened with Rey. With her father being a clone of the infamous Emperor Palpatine, Rey and her family were forced to live on the run for most of her early life. When Rey was being hunted by the Jedi Hunter Ochi of Bestoon at the young age of five, her parents were forced to abandon her on the desert planet Jakku before Ochi eventually killed them. Rey lived out the next fourteen years of her life raising herself as a scavenger who fought for her meals before meeting the rogue Stormtrooper Finn and the lovable droid BB-8.
Both were mysteriously chosen to save their world
Po's journey into self-discovery begins on the eventful day where Kung Fu legend Master Oogway is selecting a fighter to become the fabled Dragon Warrior, he randomly chooses Po who crashes into the stadium by mistake. Mocked at first by the other kung fu warriors, Po himself is even confused at why Oogway chose him. However, Po lives up to his reputation and when he encounters Master Oogway in the Spirit Realm he explains everything to Po, answering all the audience's questions from all the previous movies in a beautiful way.
Rey's story took a similar flow of events. All the characters knew she was somebody special so that was built up the entire trilogy, keeping audiences asking questions and hanging off the edge of their seats for a whole four years. While the directors had opposing view points on what her origins were going to be, the mystery on why she was picked to do what she did unveiled itself the same way Po's did with the final movie revealing her to be the granddaughter of Darth Sidious.
They each had to face villains from their past or the pasts of their allies
The Kung Fu Panda trilogy had an excellent rogues gallery with a different antagonist for each film, but there was one thing that kept it consistent; each villain either knew Po earlier in life or was a friend-turned-enemy of one of Po's mentors. Tai Lung was the pupil of Shifu before he was deemed unworthy of the Dragon Warrior mantle, Lord Chen was the very beast who destroyed young Po's life in the panda village and General Kai was the several-century-old brother-turned-rival of Master Oogway.
The villains of the Star Wars sequels and their specific connections to Rey line up with this pretty well. Like Tai Lung, Kylo Ren was the failed student of Rey's Jedi teacher and her grandfather Emperor Palpatine was the one who ordered the death of Rey's parents in cold blood, much like how Lord Chen killed Po's mother when the panda was just a baby. While there isn't really anyone you could line up to General Kai, Rey and Po's rogues galleries were rather complimentary of each other.
Each learned a useful skill that they passed on to those close to them
In the epilogue of Kung Fu Panda 3, after Po has mastered the art of chi by accepting who he is, he begins to teach the method of chi to everyone in his home, the Valley of Peace. Rey as well, learned a valuable ability in her story she proceeded to pass down to future generations, like how at the end of The Rise of Skywalker she has everything she needs to rebuild the Jedi Order on Tatooine.
Its also confirmed by director J.J. Abrams that when Rey, Finn, Poe, 3PO and Chewie were all about to sink into the quicksand and Finn was going to tell Rey something important that myself and most other audience members predicted was going to be the long awaited "I love you" that answered the fan fiction prayers everywhere, Finn was actually going to tell Rey that he as well was Force sensitive and in the non-canon Lego Star Wars Holiday Special that picks up after the events of Episode IX, Rey begins training the ex-Stormtrooper in the ways of the Force.
Both found family in unlikely places
Po may have been taken from his blood-family as an infant, but as his life went on other people came along who filled the niche as family members to Po. Mister Ping raised Po for most of his life as his own son, and when Po's birth-father comes back into the mix everything works even better because the two dads grow to learn that them both being in Po's life is what's best for him. He also grew a strong kinship with the Furious Five and Master Shifu, so by the end of the trilogy Po had a full family.
Rey, too, learned that family means more than blood. A family isn't mainly who you were related to, it was the group of people who loved you and welcomed you as one of their own which was what she found with the Skywalkers. Han, Leia and Luke were all mentors to her through the whole trilogy while she grew a strong bond with Ben Solo and the Wookie Chewbacca. As controversial as the "Rey Skywalker" statement may be among the online Star Wars fanbase, both the stories of Po and herself teach the message that family can be found anywhere.
Future of the heroes
With the upcoming Netflix series recently announced that will have Jack Black reprising the role of Po and countless Star Wars fans interested in seeing where Rey's story goes after The Rise of Skywalker, it will be interesting to see where the arcs of the characters in discussion will go but as of now, there are several uncanny similarities that make their journeys complimentary of each other.
Thank you all for reading and have a good rest of your day! Stay tuned for more Fictional Echoes posts in the future and be sure to check out some of my other interesting blogs on this website.