One of the earliest titles for the entirety of Star Wars — “The Journal of the Whills” — has suddenly been resurrected for Rogue One. According to a leaked list of titles for the soundtrack of the movie, the final track is cryptically called “Guardians of the Whills Suite.” THis would appear to mean George Lucas’s abandoned narrative framing for the entirety of the Star Wars universe is being folded back into the official canon.
To be fair, this leaked soundtrack listing for Rogue One hasn’t been 100% confirmed, but someone would have to be a pretty tricky hoaxer to slip in such a deep-cut reference. In early drafts of the very first Star Wars, George Lucas subtitled the entire story as “Being from the Journal of the Whills.” The idea was that immortal creatures were actually narrating the entirety of the saga, and these were extracts from their diaries. According to the 1998 book Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, here’s how Lucas described the Whills:
“Originally, I was trying to have the story be told by somebody else (an immortal being known as a Whill); there was somebody watching this whole story and recording it, somebody probably wiser than the mortal players in the actual events. I eventually dropped this idea, and the concepts behind the Whills turned into the Force. But the Whills became part of this massive amount of notes, quotes, background information that I used for the scripts; the stories were actually taken from the Journal of the Whills.”
Notably, the Rogue One rejiggering of the “Whills” calls them the “Guardians of the Whills,” meaning this new in-canon version of the Whills could be totally different than Lucas’s original conception.
This wouldn’t be the first time newer Star Wars has plucked an unused word or phrase from old drafts and transformed it into something new. Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens is a tip-of-the-hat to the fact that Lucas had originally had a character named “Starkiller” central to early Star Wars drafts. Meanwhile, the “kyber crystals” were not originally the power source for lightsabers, but instead, a more mysterious artifact appearing in early drafts of The Empire Strikes Back and the novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye.
So, what the Whills actually are in Rogue One remains a little bit of a mystery right now. Even though there are reportedly no Jedi Knights or lightsabers in the movie, Rogue One does seem to be expanding the generally mythology of how people interact with the Force who aren’t Jedi or Sith. The new planet Jedah is said to be a big deal for believers in the Force, too. Perhaps the Whills will now be rendered as a group of people who believe in and keep the teachings of the Force relevant. Or maybe it refers to something else — the Whills could be a brand new thing to Star Wars all together.
Rogue One opens on December 16. The soundtrack composed by Michael Giacchino will be released on the same day.