Star Wars: Canon vs Legends In Debating; Use Them Correctly

I'll be here all week.. or like, a lot longer than that
I'll be here all week.. or like, a lot longer than that

For anyone utterly confused by the premise of this thread, let me explain; the "cannon" you see in the picture above is actually a laser cannon from Star Wars. That's just a play on words. What we are actually discussing today, is the difference between Star Wars "Canon", and Star Wars "Legends".

As most by now know, Star Wars "Canon" is the fictional material that is considered a part of and consistent with the main universe of Star Wars. The foundation for this "Canon" universe, are the six movies. From there, other works, like TV shows, books and comics, have become "canon" to the "Canon" universe.

There are other TV shows, books, comics, and other material, that is considered "non-Canon", not a part of, the main, "Canon" universe. These works of fiction have been dubbed "Legends". Legends consists of the Expanded Universe content that has been rendered non-Canon by Disney after their acquisition of Lucasfilms.

This thread will be discussing several topics, including what material is included in each form of canon, -- Main and Legends -- how to separate them when discussing continuity, and also how to feasibly use both when debating them on the Battles board, instead of completely separating them.

Part One: What is Canon? What is Legends?

Canon is composed of the following material:

  • Episodes I-VI of the Star Wars movies.
  • The Clone Wars Movie.
  • The Clone Wars television show.
  • The novelizations of every movie, including the novelization of The Clone Wars Movie.**
  • The Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir comic book mini-series.
  • Any Star Wars material that has been released after Son of Dathomir, unless it has been explicitly dubbed Legends.

**The novelizations are only considered canon and consistent where they align with the movies; for example, in both the Revenge of the Sith novel and the movie, Mace Windu and Darth Sidious duel. However, in the movie, the duel is over by the time Anakin arrives, whereas in the novel Anakin watches them fight. Therefore, Anakin watching them fight is non-Canon. Whether that renders the event as officially Legends, or non-Canon altogether, is unknown.

Legends is composed of the following material:

  • Any Star Wars material that pre-dates the Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir comic book mini-series, which isn't already listed in the category above.
  • Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO tie-in material that is yet to come out is to be considered Legends, since it ties in directly to Legends material, unless stated otherwise.

Material that isn't consistent with either Canon or Legends, is as follows:

  • Any Star Wars material that has been assimilated into the "Infinities" timeline - events that are considered too inconsistent to be a part of either Canon or Legends.

If you want to check if something is Canon or not, it's a case of judging what type of material it is (book, comic, TV show), and checking it's release date relative to Son of Dathomir.

Part 2: How To Separate Canon and Legends Continuity

It sounds fairly simple, but sometimes it's not. The biggest issue that comes up is when two characters fight in the Canon Universe, and then people draw conclusions from that fight with Legends material in mind. This causes errors, for this reason: Canon does not acknowledge Legends. Anything that happens in the Canon universe, the films and so on, is in no way influenced by Legends material.

Now, when I say this, I mean from an in-universe standpoint. I'm saying that if General Grievous beat up five Jedi in the old Tartakovsky Clone Wars cartoon, that Canon ignores this, because in the Canon universe, General Grievous did not fight those Jedi. He fought them in Legends.

From an out-of-universe standpoint, in the minds of the fans and creators, yes, Legends does influence Canon, a lot. Exar Kun, a Legends character, invented the Saberstaff that you see Darth Maul wielding in a Canon movie. However, as far the Canon Universe is concerned? Exar Kun doesn't exist, and he did not invent the Saberstaff.

Understood? Canon doesn't care about what has happened in any Legends material. Legends does not factor in.

Now, here is the tricky part. Legends acknowledges Canon. Confusing, I know, but let me explain.

When I say Legends acknowledges Canon, what I am saying is that, while the Canon Universe ignores Legends, the Legends Universe does not ignore the Canon universe.

Anything that happens in the Canon Universe, applies to the Legends universe. So, the six movies, happened in Legends. A Legends novel like "Darth Plagueis" did not happen in Canon, however.

Think of it like two halves of a cake - one half is Legends, one half is Canon. When you are discussing the Canon Universe, you are only looking at one half of the cake. When you are discussing the Legends Universe, you are looking at the whole cake.

Now, here is the most complicated facet of this whole discussion...

Part 3: How To Debate Using Canon And Legends Material

Alright. So as we all have probably seen on the internet, on any website you can think of which discusses Star Wars, there is a fair amount of people who rush into discussions head first screaming "THAT ISN'T CANON" while vigorously waving the banner of George Lucas. This is mostly just an annoyance, because it is nowhere near that simple. In fact, it's horribly convoluted. However, that's not to say it's impossible to understand entirely. Now, the distinction between Canon and Legends is not up to interpretation, therefore, when discussing continuity, we can discuss it factually, and thus, intelligently. Hazzah!

Looking at the title for this part, you're probably thinking:

"Well, if we're using both, aren't we just using Legends? You just said that Legends looks at the whole cake. That means we use both, right?"

Correct... but not entirely.

You can use both, but you also need to separate them. You can combine feats from Legends and Canon when structuring a point of debate, but you cannot mix two pieces of material that are not canon with each other.

This is most easily explained with an example. Let's discuss Darth Sidious, during the Revenge of the Sith time period. Now, in both the Canon Universe, and the Legends Universe, Darth Sidious is considered the most powerful Sith Lord, and user of the Dark Side of the Force, of all time. This is indisputable fact, as has been echoed by various sourcebooks, works of literature, and Lucasfilms staff who are in control of continuity, most importantly, George Lucas and Dave Filoni.

So, in any debate, you can say Sidious by Revenge of the Sith is the most powerful Sith Lord. And you're right.

In Legends, Sidious is more powerful than them all - Emperor Vitiate, Darth Nihilus, Darth Caedus, Darth Vader, Darth Maul. He is more powerful than any Dark Side user in any form of Legends fiction, or Canon.

In Canon, Sidious is the most powerful Sith Lord - he's better than Darth Maul, Count Dooku, Darth Vader - all of the Sith Lords we've seen in the Canon universe.

However, the Darth Sidious we see in the Canon Universe is not the most powerful Sith Lord in the Legends Universe. The Sidious you see in the films, the film novels, the TV shows, and so on - Canon Sidious - is not strictly or factually more powerful than a Sith Lord from the Legends universe.

This is because Canon does not acknowledge Legends. Just because Sidious is the most powerful Sith Lord in Canon, it does not mean he is more powerful than characters from another universe entirely - Legends.

What I'm saying in a nutshell is this: Legends Darth Sidious is better than all other Legends Sith Lords, factually. Canon Darth Sidious is not factually better than any Legends Sith Lord. The latter is up to interpretation.

Now, allow me to quickly address some common arguments before closing up.

"Canon overrides Legends. Therefore, if it is said in Canon that Sidious is the best, then Sidious as we see him in the movies and so on, is still more powerful than Emperor Vitiate, the guy who Force drained an entire planet's population."

This is false. Again, while it is true that Legends acknowledges Canon, Canon ignores Legends. Therefore, whenever it has been said in the Canon Universe - be it by creator or Canon sourcebook - that Darth Sidious is the most powerful Sith, that statement is ignoring the feats of beings from the Legends universe. Darth Sidious from TCW or the Revenge of the Sith movie, is not factually more powerful than Emperor Vitiate from SWTOR. I mean, you could argue he is, but it's up to interpretation, and frankly, Sidious has done nothing in Canon that is better than what Vitiate has shown in terms of Force power. I'm not a Vitiate fanboy either, by the way, I just find him to be the easiest example to use. Legends Sidious beats Vitiate, though. Suck it SWTOR fans.

"There is a relationship between Legends and Canon. Legends has always influenced Canon. There are characters that were created in Legends that were used in Canon because they were so popular. It's clear that, to some extent, Legends factors into the main universe."

Again, this is incorrect. I debunk this notion by using a pretty simple example; I believe it was Tolkien who first started using the fantasy species "elves" in fiction, although I may be wrong. Regardless, he was one of the earlier ones we know of who did so. Therefore, just because another universe utilizes the species "Elves", it does not mean that that universe is in any way canon to Tolkien's universe (or whoever created Elves). There is a difference between ripping off or sharing an idea or concept, and being a part of a fictional continuity.

So sure, Quinlan Vos might have been born in the Legends continuity - but that doesn't mean that Canon cares about his feats in Legends. As far as Canon is concerned, the only Quinlan Vos that exists is the one who appeared in The Clone Wars TV show. *cries*

"There is nothing to prove that Canon Sidious is weaker than Legends Sidious. Unless we have confirmation that Sidious as shown in Canon is weaker than how he is shown in Legends, then we must assume he is still the strongest Sith."

This, right here, ladies and gentlemen, is an appeal to ignorance. Nothing more, nothing less. The proof is in the pudding - if you want to tell me that Canon Sidious is as strong as Legends Sidious, the burden of proof lies on you. And that's where the argument crumbles - there is no proof.

And the reason there is no proof, is because in Canon, Force Users are, on the whole, weaker than they are in Legends. In Legends, armies are mind-controlled, black holes are manipulated with telekinesis, massive capital ships are disintegrated or swallowed up by Force storms. Time is manipulated, Midichlorians - the very fabric of one's being - are ripped apart. Entire civilizations are drained of their life force. Armies of hundreds are conquered by single beings in melee combat. Thousands upon thousands of hardened soldiers are subjected to the horror of Sith Illusions. The list goes on for a long, long time. You will see nothing of this scope in Canon (at least, not at the time this blog was posted). In Legends? You'll see a bunch of it. And Sidious, in that universe, is right at the top of the foodchain. Aside from The Ones of Mortis.. but they're, well, Force-Gods.

But remember - you can use both Canon and Legends in a debate. You just need to remember things like this; when Darth Sidious, in the Son of Dathomir comic, has a close fight with Mother Talzin, that doesn't mean that Legends Sidious would be challenged by her. In all likelihood, Legends Sidious would annihilate Mother Talzin. However, that isn't to say that Mother Talzin being a rival for Canon Sidious isn't a good feat. It's a great feat, and it's one that can be used in Legends debates.

If you have any questions or rebuttals, leave them below. I'd be happy to check them out, and even possibly be corrected on something, whether that means I'm wrong or new information has come out.

Thanks for reading.

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