There is a story parents on Tatooine have told their children since time out of mind. The main personage of the story is called Sleepy Jopin, or Jopin the Sleeper, although not at first. To begin with, he is just Jopin, setting out into the desert to find a source of fresh water for his village...
“...he knew how to descend where the climb was not steep, and walked down into a wadi, where he saw a pool of standing water.”
Young Luke is listening with rapt attention as Owen tells the story. Beru is keeping one ear and half an eye on them as she cleans up after the evening meal.
“He looked to the sky to see if it was the rainy season. Jopin knew that if the sky was dark, it would be dangerous to get caught alone. But it was bright, so Jopin figured it would be safe to rest a while. He was very tired, after having walked all that way, and parched.”
It’s a good story to tell children who live near the desert. (And on Tatooine, who doesn’t live near the desert?) It contains several useful messages, about how to safely descend into a ravine, about how to watch the sky for signs of danger.
“Jopin looked to the sky, but he did not look to see the shadows on the sand. The wadi was a home to the Noo-uni, who inhabit the deep desert, and remain unseen except for their shadows. And when the Noo-uni came back, they saw someone sleeping in their lands...”
But Beru suspects there’s at least a part of Owen that means to impart the message: Don’t go out into the desert. There are strange people there, and you might never come back to your family.
Your grandmother went out into the desert, and never came back.
Your father went out into the desert, and the man who came back was not the man who went out.
There are strange people in the desert. There are sandpeople, and Jawas, and maybe there are Noo-uni. And certainly there is old Kenobi.
Don’t go out into the desert. Who knows what might become of you?
“The Noo-uni could search a human’s thoughts even without him waking, and they knew that he had come in search of water. ‘If it’s water he wants,’ they figured, ‘he’ll get some, all right.’ So they took him and snatched him up to a high pillar in the desert, and they cursed him to sleep until the wadi was full of water.”
There’s a sandstorm blowing through Niima Outpost, so ferocious that even Unkar Plutt has to admit no work can be done, and the assorted beings in the refectory are passing the time by drinking, gaming, and telling stories. One old man, who was a pilot before his ship came down on Jakku and never lifted again, is telling a story from Tatooine, the homeworld of the legendary Luke Skywalker. Rey is enthralled.
Other patrons are less enthralled, and there have been several interjections already. The storyteller kept his humor through all of those, and cheerfully deals with the latest one, agreeing that ‘until the wadi was full of water’ might as well be ‘forever’, when the water the wadi gathered in the wet season always vanished again during the dry—except, he says, that one time there was a season of very heavy rains, and floods, and when the Noo-uni came to check on their wadi they were reminded of the man they’d left in unchanging sleep on the pillar beyond.
“So then, they let him wake, and sounded a warning to never again trespass in their lands. But he was still up the pillar, with no way down. The Noo-uni don’t particularly care enough about humans to set Sleepy Jopin back on the ground, you see. But to make matters worse, a hundred years had passed since he’d first set out from home.”
“A hundred years?” Rey gasps. She can’t wait to hear what happens next.
So of course that’s when Plutt decides the storm has died down enough, and it’s time for everyone to get back to work.
Perhaps she can come back later, and offer to run an errand in return for the rest of the story. Or see if he has something that needs repairing. She’s getting good at repairing things.
Jopin would have been stranded up on top of the pillar, had it not been for the chopter that came by. For the people of the village had only just learned to build chopters, in the century that had passed. Jopin was still hungry and thirsty—he had not eaten in a hundred years, after all—and thought it was some monster created by the Noo-uni. Only when it circled close and a woman dropped a rope ladder did he hear a friendly voice.
Luke Skywalker, alone on his tall pile of rock jutting out of the endless ocean, tries to meditate, and instead finds himself thinking about Sleepy Jopin, alone on his tall pile of rock jutting out of the endless desert.
When Suzhon brought Jopin to the village, she was cheerful. For she had brought her chopter to see the flooded wadi, but was delighted to find a man who climbed pillars and spoke to unseen spirits. Jopin, however, was heavy of heart. All his kinsfolk and dear friends were dead; even the Jawas he had haggled with, all commended to the sand.
It’s not a new thought. The first time he felt like Sleepy Jopin was after he came out of the desert with old Ben and the two droids his uncle had bought the previous day, to find that though he had not been gone even one night, all his kinsfolk were dead, and even the Jawas he had haggled with.
These days, he thinks more about another part of the story, the part where Jopin lost everything he valued because he looked up and out for signs of danger but neglected to attend to the shadows gathering at his own feet.
He is roused from his thoughts by a tremor in the Force: someone is approaching, over the ocean. He turns to watch the approach, though it’s some minutes before it becomes visible to the eye: large and airborne, but skimming so close to the waves that it leaves a trail of white water behind it.
When it gets close enough to make out details, he suddenly feels like Jopin again. It’s not that he thinks it any kind of monster; he would have to stay on his pillar for many more than a hundred years before he forgot the lines of a Corellian light freighter, of this particular Corellian light freighter. Knowing what it is only heightens the feeling that what flies toward him is his doom, come to finish a job half-done.
So the desert folk were happy, all but Jopin, who wished he had never set foot into the sands.
One day when Luke (who refuses to be “Master” to anyone, not that Rey would probably have called him that anyway) is being especially trying, she snaps at him, “I don’t know why you think you have it so bad! You’re not... not Sleepy Jopin, who went into the desert for a hundred years and came out to find all his family and friends were dead! You were away less than ten years! You have a sister, and friends who have missed you, and possibly even Jawas, whatever a Jawa is!”
He stares at her. She scowls back, and refuses to look away.
Typically, when his answer does come it’s a reply to the thing she didn’t say instead of the thing she did. “And even if I regret what has become of my family, at least I have the comfort of knowing. You’re right. I apologize.”
“Well... good!” says Rey, when her brain fails to suggest anything more eloquent.
“Perhaps something more active is in order, to lift the spirits,” Luke says. “How do you feel about a sabre duel?”
“You mean... with you?” It’s the first time he’s suggested such a thing; up to now it’s been dummies, and the target remote, and exercise patterns. “You’re not worried I might injure you?”
“I shall bear your wrath,” he says serenely, and waggles his prosthetic hand at her. “What more can you do to me?”
She snorts, recognizing the quotation from the Sleepy Jopin tale. “I’m not that angry, and I wouldn’t anyway, not deliberately. But I might by accident—when the Force isn’t guiding my hand, I’m about as good with this thing as you are at not wallowing in self-pity.”
Luke laughs. “Then we both need to practice more. Shall we begin?”
But he thought back to the desert, and said, “I have an idea.”
“The underlying principle is based on something I read during my quest for the first Jedi temple,” Luke explains. “I didn’t think much about it at the time, because it needs two trained Jedi to form a stable configuration, and I was the last Jedi.”
“But now you have me,” says Rey. Then, “But you had to train me. Couldn’t Leia...?”
“Jedi training, as you have discovered, is... time consuming. Leia could not have trained and also done the work that needed to be done, building and maintaining the Resistance. It’s always been that way, with Leia. She’s had to give up the Jedi she might have become because the galaxy has urgent need of the person she already is.”
“So it was just you,” Rey prompts, “and now there is also me.”
“Yes. I can set up the pattern, you can help me stabilize it, and then...” He begins filling in the details. The first two people in the configuration have to be trained, and it helps if the next few are Force sensitive, like Leia, or Finn if he’s recovered enough, but after that, they can extend it to include anyone. In principle, Luke says, they could eventually extend it to include everyone—the entire Resistance, part of a single working.
Rey is reminded of a story. She and Luke share so many stories now, but it’s Sleepy Jopin her mind goes back to, Sleepy Jopin setting off to carry out his idea, and Suzhon coming to help, and then the whole town joining in...
“‘Old and young together, they fused together a seamless chain,’” she quotes. “‘And that is how Jopin the Sleeper took a hundred years to bring water to his village.’”
“So you’ve decided I am Sleepy Jopin after all?” says Luke. “I suppose I have learned the lesson he did, that it’s more useful to look at what the journey has given me than to dwell on what it has taken away. But no, you were right the first time: I still have family and friends, and I’ve achieved my goal in much less time.”
“Only if this works,” Rey says, just to be contrary. “It might still take a hundred years to get the details figured out.”
“Well, then,” says Luke, “the sooner we get started, the better.”