We’re pairing 8-bit music thematically, rather than based entirely on series. You can find this track and more Tater-Tot Tunes on YouTube! Stop by and jam to some great tunes.
Normal Happenings is proud to present The Characters That Define Us, a year long collaboration of 52+ incredible bloggers!
Welcome to the second of two BONUS FEATURES we’ve received for The Characters That Define Us! Thank you DeiSophia for answering our all-call and supplying us with this wonderful piece on a character from a legendary game!
Please enjoy this exciting entry to the final week of The Characters That Define Us!
Please note that this will contain spoilers for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic I & II.
Kreia is introduced in Star Wars: KOTOR II as an anomalous figure. Not only does she fulfil the mentor role narratively but her machiavellian machinations, discourse on the nature of the force and the fact that she is both responsible for the development of the Exile, and is a notable antagonist to the Exile at the same time. She is not someone easy to understand, and her chequered past as Jedi then Sith then something ‘beyond good and evil’, makes her compelling as a character.
But how does any of this define me as a person. I’m more aligned with identifying with characters marginalised by stories, more a Marya Bolkonskoya than a Natalya Rostova. So Kreia is something of an anomaly for me. She seems to be a character that observes, but she is in fact a grand player in the game, an inciter of plot and prompter of characters, despite a relatively passive role, especially if the player does not choose her as a companion. This is a far cry from the observational and ostracised characters I normally identify with. But this series is on how characters define us, and Kreia’s role not only places her as a mentor to the Exile, but also as a mentor to the player, challenging you, in your conceptions and roleplaying of the exile. Kreia’s writing transcends beyond the screen, through the interactivity of play in a way that is coming to be seen as unique to the video game medium. Your realization of the Exile, is a realisation of a digital self and so Kreia’s mentorship extends not only to the Exile but to you as well.
Kreia’s journey is revealed through the game as short backstories. One of the most revelatory moments is her original position as Darth Traya, a Sith Lord and the original mentor to Revan.
This is something paramount to the human mind, that ideas can shift and change. No person’s opinion is ever set in stone. Much of life is in fact learning which causes substantial changes to one’s thought and more than that of one’s opinions and even values.
Kreia embodies this within the game’s narrative not only due to her role as mentor, a role which she has an apparently ambivalent attitude towards and yet the one thing she is most persistent about performing throughout the game.
Rudolf Steiner, founder of the Waldorf schools and a man who was influenced by the philosophy of Schopenhauer (why Schopenhauer is important I’ll discuss later) and something of a mystic wrote the following in his book Healing Education Based on Anthroposophy’s Image of Man “Man is not a being who stands still, he is a being in the process of becoming. The more he enables himself to become, the more he fulfils his true mission”
This is what Kreia pushes the Exile towards. The force wound sustained by the Exile on Malachor V, during the Jedi Civil War has severed their connection to the Force. Both the Jedi and Kreia suspect that this is not permanent, so Kreia herself pursues the Exile seeking to capitalise on the importance of the Exiles ability to create force bonds and ostensibly through her heals her own severed attachment to the force. The game’s writing is somewhat vague on this, would a force bond be established with someone severed from the force, is this possible? Nevertheless Kreia succeeds, and takes on the role of mentor to the Exile.
This allows Kreia to both guide the Exiles establishment with the force, as well as her own, a story that the game mechanically takes as an exploration of choice, becoming Sith or Jedi. Kreia is unconcerned with whichever path you take so long as you are developing. Rather her concern is with whether you follow her teachings and show her respect as a mentor. The games influence mechanics for companions don’t depend on your “moral” (Jedi or Sith) choices but rather with whether you demonstrate you are listening to what she says. Even then if you choose to not listen and instead disagree she won’t immediately cause a loss of influence, challenging her ideas with an argument of your own is in fact welcomed. It is not adhering to Kreia’s doctrine that is important to her, but that you grow and develop one of your own.
As a mentor Kreia often challenges the players actions, positing alternative solutions to the ones the player (or the exile) has chosen. Often these criticisms are levelled to challenge the players’ preconceptions about the reason for their actions. Is a good choice actually a good choice for those involved if you cannot clearly see the consequences, or is it purely a good choice due to the exiles intentions to be good (or the players intention to play a “good” playthrough) and vice versa for “evil” choices. In becoming a jedi or sith again, the player is questioned by Kreia to determine them in their course of action. This is further reinforced in the game by subsequent “experiences” where Kreia’s lessons have ramifications on your choices during the quests you undertake, and may shape your characters (and you the player’s) responses.
For me this conception around charity, that Kreia delivers on Nar Shadaa is one I was already familiar but had not yet articulated. During mild autumns usually around the time of Easter School Holidays I would have the opportunity to follow my father to his work. As a civil engineer he worked on numerous projects usually far from our home, this particular project was located outside of Port St Johns in the Eastern Cape. Before going to the small village where he was installing a new water pumping system for the villagers so they didn’t have to walk all the way to the river to gain water but use a conveniently located communal tap, we purchased some small sweets to give to the rural children. This was a regular ritual, with most of the children immediately swarming from the surrounding scrub at the hum of a vehicles engine. Their English extended to cries of Helllooo and “sweetie” asked in their most plaintive questioning tone they could muster. Those sweeties did not last very long. Immediately disappearing in a brief moment of exultation before they arrived back to try their luck again. As much as those moments must have been exciting and wonderful they were only fleeting changes in their existence. A sweet is nothing substantial against the various nutritional disorders they face or offer any significant sustainable variety to a diet of umsobo (mealie pap) and amasi (type of fermented milk). What was significant however was the water pumping station my father had ended up installing. Already the women had gathered around it, anticipating the day they would no longer have to send their daughters down the valley or walk themselves. They were the ones being taught the maintenance procedures and mechanical troubleshooting since the men had decided this was domestic work, and a woman’s concern therefore beneath their notice. This was something tangible that could change the life of a community, not sweets given out for a moment’s delight and as fast as gifting a penny to a beggar. Kreia’s words resonated with this conception I had formulated earlier, and gave the possibility to articulate the dangers of charity and the creation of dependency as opposed to encouraging others to uplift themselves, and simply guiding them to realise their own potentials, and anything given is to further this far more difficult and arduous path, that would have longer term benefits.
Kreia herself is not unfamiliar to changes in ideology either, her original role as a Jedi historian, gathering relics and learning ancient mysteries was not too different from my own roles as an undergraduate student learning archaeology, going out to various iron age sites around the Magaliesberg, and trying to piece together what life might have been like for the ancient forebears of the Bantu peoples.
Kreia however eventually comes to change her positions, though her change in position is an ideological one and caused by events wherein she failed her students, whereas my change in position towards knowledge and learning came about not as a result of failure but as a natural consequence of understanding more of the world. In both cases it was exposure to differences of opinions and dissatisfaction with one’s own lack of knowledge that drove the change.
Kreia finds that the Jedi’s teachings are insufficient in that they precipitate a Jedi’s fall to the dark side. This is largely a result of the asceticism inherent within the Jedi code. In contrast is the Nietzschean concept of the will-to-power, as embodied within the Sith code. Kreia’s dissatisfaction with the Jedi code comes with its inability to provide its students a comprehensive worldview that prevents them from falling. A large cause of so many Jedi rebelling against their code and following Revan is due to the councils inability to act. The jedi code focuses on passivity, its refusal to act against the mandalorian threat which ultimately causes the schism. If the Sith code of passion and more importantly will is to be followed then the will to act in this scenario was the correct action to take in order to protect. As those more familiar with the movies though, this action to protect also stems from fear of the republics fall, with fear being one of the paths to the darkside, as it indicates the Jedi is perceiving their lack of power and in order to allay that fear will seek out power.
In Knights of the Old Republic though, the concept that the force has its own will (which embodies itself in the generation of Jedi and Sith), that acts to create harmony not as a natural force such as gravity but with its own will is an important distinction. This is contradictory to Schopenhauer’s view that will is devoid of rationality or intellect.
Kreia, who is more Grey Sith, than Grey Jedi, wishes to contest the force (as will), which exerts its will over both Jedi and Sith. However her abnegation of the Force falls in line with the passivity of Jedi thinking, and is closely aligned to Schopenhauer’s view of abnegation and seclusion but also to his views most succinctly titled in “The World as Will and Representation”. He posits that the world is made up of two aspects: that which is internal and that which is perceived, with a third included by separating perceived objects into those that are internal and those that are external. This leads him to a tri-fold system very similar to that of Mahayana Buddhism, the same Buddhism that gave inspiration to some of George Lucas’s original conceptions of the Jedi. Kreia wishes to act as a free individual removed from the force and not subject to its universal control over force-wielders and force-sensitive individuals. Her view shifts between Schopenhauer and his desire to be removed from the world, and the Nietzschean conception of will as a force that is exerted. To Kreia to rid herself of her “slave morality” she must contest the force itself and remove it from the universe. She turns to the Exile for this specifically due to the Exiles deliberate and intentional refusal of the force after Malachor V where she separates herself from the Force.
Like Kreia, I too wish to be free and move independently in the world. The easiest way to accomplish that is to remove oneself from society. As an introvert this is no hard thing to do, and the most valuable thing I cherish is the ability to think, independently and freely and seek and pursue knowledge in books. Arriving at my own conclusions, often conclusions I find that leave me separate and distinct from others around me. It is hard to connect with others when your views do not conform to broader societal consensus. One finds oneself to be a foreigner in ones own culture. Kreia is distinct in this way too, neither Jedi nor Sith, with an abnormal viewpoint that exists independently of the binary. Yet Kreia is also too subject to that most human of needs, the desire for some sort of connection.
Though her relationship to the Exile is manipulative, she still seeks acknowledgement from the Exile, not in affirmation but simply as someone who is willing to entertain a position beyond what is normally encountered. Kreia hopes that in the Exile she has found someone who is willing to follow her views of the Force as something that strips an individual of their abilities, making them reliant, as she often criticises Jedi and Sith as being overly reliant upon the force and her greatest dismay is the players ultimate siding with the dark or light side of the Force by the end of the game, as she sees both aspects of the force as problematic. Her ultimate plan is to remove force sensitivity from the universe to ensure that it cannot cause either the rise of the Sith or Jedi again. In this she is unlike her disciple Nihilus who would devour the force entirely, and likely end up in the situation of the Ourobouros.
The other hugely important function of Kreia is her role as a mentor. She fulfils Jung’s archetype of the mentor incredibly well. The important thing about a mentor is that they serve as a guide on the hero’s journey. Kreia as an NPC can both interact with the player character in this manner, and watch over their direct experience, reflecting their decisions back to them and challenging preconceived notions.
As a teacher this is often the role that needs to be played in the classroom. Most students have already preconceived ideas, some true, some not true. Evaluating students’ responses and ascertaining what knowledge they have via their answers and decisions made in regards to the work set them is integral to teaching.
Another aspect of teaching is the abnegation of the self. Learning occurs entirely independently of you, the teacher, just as the Exile learns independently of Kreia through XP points but also may use her as a narrative tool to ask questions about abilities or even learn new force abilities, such as the combat scene between the Exile and Visas demonstrates.
As a teacher the most you can hope to fulfill is simply the role of guide. To efficaciously encourage students to learn more quickly means to allow them to experience situations themselves then challenge ideas and notions revealed so students either decide to change them, or consolidate why they hold a particular position or idea. The primary goal is to encourage reflection and awareness of self so that students know who they are and are able to consolidate their identities and beliefs that shape that identity. This is largely the role Kreia fulfills in the game. As someone who has been teaching extensively now over the past few years, these principles of Kreia, to encourage independent development, to challenge ideas and concepts, to force students to think in more than just one way and develop a more holistic view of the world, is the same as Kreia’s pushing the Exile to try to formulate an idea of the Force that is more holistic than simply Jedi vs Sith/Good vs Evil. Kreia may have failed to teach this to the Exile, as she expresses her disappointment in the end, no matter which morality you chose. To Kreia your final choice is to remain a slave to the determination and destiny that the Force ascribes to you. Her vision is destroyed, but although she dies thinking she has failed all her apprentices, Revan, Nihilus, Sion and the Exile, but her apprentice in another universe may not quite have failed her. Not if they too question her conceptions of morality and try to seek out new paths and ways to think. To understand things-in-themselve. As a character Kreia challenged the player as well, to see the Force in a new way. Whilst she is negative about it, there is some hope for us. For we have no force and our closest conceptions to it such as the Dao/Tao, and Brahman are benevolent forces that do not adhere to moral principles of light and dark as the Force does. In this at least I will follow the way of Kreia and seek to understand things in more than just the opposition of binaries.