There were plenty of Jedis around after the fall of the Republic, as depicted in George Lucas’ prequel trilogy movies. But by the time he helped destroy the second Death Star Luke Skywalker was in a tier of his own.
The humble farm-boy-turned-space-wizard may have defeated the Emperor and his Empire — mostly — and saved his father, but Luke didn’t stop there. The time between ROTJ and The Force Awakens was a breeding ground for Expanded Universe back in the day, but now there’s an entirely new canon that makes sense of Luke’s action. After the end of Return of the Jedi, Luke was busy with plenty of important Jedi tasks.
Luke’s post-Return of the Jedi story has been told in a variety of forms since Disney took over the canon. He’s starred in everything from Battlefront 2 DLC to comic books — Shattered Empire being particularly significant. There are even a few bits and pieces of his story scattered into the sequel trilogies’ visual dictionaries. Here’s a brief look of all the things Luke has done since the end of the original trilogy.
[Ed. note: This post contains spoilers for everything Star Wars related, including season 2 of The Mandalorian.]
Luke had two main missions for himself after the “fall” of the Empire. The first was the reestablish the Jedi Order. The second was to learn all he could about the history and culture of the Jedi through their history and artifacts, and that’s where he started.
Shortly after Return of the Jedi, Luke traveled to a planet called Pillio where he met a retinue of Imperial forces including Del Meeko of Infero Squad. After being trapped on Pillio and almost dying, Del and Luke help each other out before going their separate ways as Luke tries to convince Del to leave the Empire. While he’s on the planet, Luke also finds what he was looking for: a Jedi compass.
This compass would later prove very important as it would be Luke’s first real hints at the Sith Wayfinders that would help him explore the history of the Sith and search for the planet Exegol. This compass also leads him to Ach-To, the site of the first Jedi temple and the planet that Luke would eventually exile himself to.
Luke also took a brief trip to Vetine to recover a force-sensitive tree that Palpatine stole from the Jedi Temple. He successfully managed to get a fragment of the tree so that it could be planted again. The second fragment he gave to his partner on the Vetine mission, Shara Bey the mother of Poe Dameron.
In the years after these first two trips, Luke met up with a man named Lor San Tekka (played by Max von Sydow in The Force Awakens). Lor is an expert in Jedi history and artifacts and helps Luke in his quest to find as many relics as possible to help uncover the ancient order’s secrets.
When he’s finally done with his archaeological phase, Luke decides its finally time to restart the Jedi Order. By now, he’s already spent some time training Leia, but as we see in The Rise of Skywalker she leaves the Jedi path in order to better serve the New Republic and to “save” her son.
Fortunately, Luke can use his Force-sensitive mind to find children in need of training. This even includes Grogu, who Luke rescues from near-doom in The Mandalorian’s season 2 finale. Ultimately these apprentices also include Ben Solo, the man that would eventually become Kylo Ren and end Luke’s teaching for good.