The Evolution of Jyn Erso
The YA novel Rebel Rising tells the tale of how Jyn Erso became the young woman we see in Rogue One. The book chronicles her life from age eight until her capture by the Empire somewhere around age twenty-two. It shows readers the evolution of Jyn from scared girl to hero of the Rebellion.
Note: Spoilers abound for the YA novel Rebel Rising by Beth Revis.
The book opens with Jyn scared and alone, hiding in a hatch waiting for her father to come and retrieve her. She’s just watched her mother die at the hands of Orson Krennic’s Deathtroopers, something which will effect her for years to come. She has no idea her father has left with Krennic, or how much her life is about to change, for it isn’t her father that comes and rescues her, but Saw Gerrera.
Saw takes her back to his base on Wrea and gives her a room all her own, a gesture she initially misinterprets to mean she isn’t one of the group or wanted. She soon realizes it was to give her a place of her own away from the many people who come in and out of her life over the next few years.
After a couple of days, he begins to train her using old battle droids and Stormtrooper armor. One of his first lessons is take Jyn’s hand and turn off the stun setting on the blaster, telling her to always shoot to kill. This is a stark contrast to what she’s been previously taught by her mother that she should keep the blaster on stun. She is saddened to shoot the Stormtrooper armor, and is relieved to find out that no one is in it. Unlike her parents, Saw is raising her to not only protect herself, but to kill.
In addition to training with a blaster, she’s taught explosives and hand to hand combat. Of course, as we later see, it’s the hand to hand combat she excels at. When Jyn expresses interest in learning other subjects, like with her mother, she’s eventually given a code replicator to play with. Over the next few years, she spends her time training on a daily basis and playing around with making fake Imperial codes.
At fourteen, Jyn requests to go on her first mission. Saw allows it, having her forge codes for his team. However, when an Imperial Officer boards the team’s ship and approaches her, she freezes and is unable to shoot him. In an attempt to prove herself afterward, Jyn goes on a solo mission to kill an Imperial Official with a sniper rifle. However, she is again unable to pull the trigger. Unable to kill. Instead it is the land mines laid by Saw’s team in case she should fail that kill him.
A year later, Jyn is asked to forge not just codes to allow the team’s ship to land, but invitations to an Imperial event. After handing out the forged documents, she disobeys orders to return to the ship and uses the spare invite to attend the event herself. She is shocked to see Saw and the others open fire with killing not just Imperial Officers and those they see as collaborators, but civilians. Disgusted and sick at the destruction and death, she runs back to the ship.
This is her first taste of war, and she doesn’t like what she sees. Jyn later laments that others died due to her actions stating that she remembers the faces of everyone who died because of her work. While Jyn has the training of a soldier, she doesn’t have the will to hurt anyone maliciously, let alone kill someone in cold blood.
I have seen so much blood, Jyn wanted to say. And I remember the face of everyone who’s died because of me. pg. 239
Around this time, Saw becomes increasingly paranoid with the others in his group finding out who Jyn really is. He gives her a scarf to hid her kyber crystal pendant, but eventually abandons her after a mission gone wrong. Leaving Jyn, once again, alone in a bunker. Only this time, she believes Saw will eventually come for her as he did before, but she soon realizes he isn’t coming.
Once again, she becomes that scared girl, but this time with the skills to survive. Truly alone for the first time in her life, Jyn finds temporary refuge with a woman and her son providing forged codes for their shipping business in exchange for room and board. She attempts to live a simple, normal life with them, refusing to join the fight when asked by a former contact. Then it all comes crashing down around her and she ends up alone once again.
Extremists were the problem. The rebels and the Empire, the people who couldn’t exist without drawing lines and daring others to cross them. pg. 299
Blaming both the Rebels and the Imperials for her situation, Jyn travels around the galaxy selling her forgery skills to corrupt Imperial officials, smugglers, and other criminals. She never once preys on innocents or harms them the way she witnessed Saw and his group do, instead she helps them where she can. All she wants to do is survive and live her life in peace believing that if she avoids both sides, she can achieve the peaceful life she so longs for.
However, at twenty-two she is caught by the Empire for forging documents and is sentenced to an Imperial Labor Camp. Jyn realizes that it’s all been for nothing. That she should have been fighting the whole time so that at least when she went down it wouldn’t be for nothing. In the six months that she is on Wobani, she slowly loses any hope she has left and begins to question everything she once thought.
When presented with the opportunity to help the Alliance, she realizes this is her chance. She sees the hope that Mon Mothma and Bail Organa still have, and the hope they and the Alliance can represent for the rest of the galaxy. She decides that if she helps them and gets caught, at least this time it won’t have been for nothing. She will have used her skills to make a real difference.
They were giving her a chance. It wouldn’t change what had happened in the past. But maybe it would help change the future. pg. 410
As we know, this time she did make a difference. Jyn became a hero by choosing to finally take a stand. Despite her reluctance to fight in the past, she helped uncover the plans for the Death Star, the most feared weapon in the galaxy. While she yet again didn’t kill anyone, she did use her skills to fight alongside Cassian Andor and other Rebels. It’s a shame she didn’t live to fight another day as I’m sure the Alliance could have used her forging skills to hide ships and troops. She, Cassian, and the other Rogue One crew would have made a formidable team. Despite a life of sadness and heartbreak, she finds the courage to stand up and make her stand. To become a Hero of the Rebellion.