Luke Skywalker vs Exar Kun: Context and Circumstances

Before I start, I'd like to credit @lordofthelight for bringing a lot of the stuff on this blog to my attention in our PM and for inspiring me to make the blog in the first place.

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There's a lot of users on the forums who have shamelessly tried to wank Exar Kun or lowball Luke Skywalker through the two's "fight". However, a lot of people forget the circumstances of said fight, which I'll explain in this blog. The rundown of the circumstances is:

  • The emotional state of Luke Skywalker
  • The Dark Side Nexus
  • The Inclusion of Kyp Durron

Skywalker's emotional state

Primarily, let's look at the emotional disbalance Luke was experiencing during the entire storyline of The Dark Apprentice. He's plagued by nightmares, he's lost a friend and a student, he's realizing Kyp Durron's turning to the Dark Side and he's not willing to hurt Kyp at all. So already, his emotions are getting the better of him; a common theme in Star Wars is, of course, that one's mental fortitude is everything, it leads to better control over the Force and better utilization of your powers. There's plenty of examples for why an emotional confliction can be a severe hinderence throughout the mythos, ironically a lot of them are connected to the Skywalker family: Anakin, Jacen, Leia and, yes, even Luke have all had a lot of personal issues and this is something Luke hasn't gotten rid of until a good several years after his fight with Exar Kun; In Visions of the Future(more than five years after their bout) Luke is holding a mental burden:

For a long moment Mara gazed coolly at him, and Luke felt a sudden wave of misgiving ripple through his anger. "Such as?" Mara repeated. "Well, let's see.

Such as not moving your Jedi academy off Yavin when you first found out a really nasty dark side power was infesting the place. Such as not slapping down a tipped turbolaser like Kyp Durron the minute he started showing dark side tendencies of his own. Such as not providing adequate protection for your sister's children against kidnapping, despite the fact it had already been tried a couple of times. Such as unilaterally declaring yourself a Jedi Master after less than ten years on the job. How long a list do you want?"

Luke tried to glare at her. But there was no strength behind the glare, and with a grimace of embarrassment he dropped his gaze from her face. "You're right," he sighed. "You're absolutely right. I don't know, Mara. It's been... I don't know."

"Let me guess," she said, the sarcasm gone from her voice again. "Life as a Jedi has been a lot foggier than you ever expected it to be. You've had trouble understanding what you're supposed to do, or how you're supposed to behave. You've been gaining tremendous power in the Force, but more often than not you've been paralyzed with fear that you're going to use it the wrong way. Am I getting warm?"

Luke stared at her. "Yes," he said, not quite believing it. How had she known? "That's it exactly."

Visions of the Future

Keep in mind, this is a much more controlled and mature Luke than the one we see in Jedi Academy, on top of that, there's been plenty of traumatic experience throughout the JA trilogy that would've only hindered Luke further:

Luke felt a devastating emptiness, knowing that he had lost another of his Jedi students forever.

[...]

Luke Skywalker awoke from another series of nightmares. He sat bolt upright on his pallet, instantly aware. He had felt a great disturbance in the Force. Something was not right.

[...]

With trembling hands and a deep-seated dread in his heart, Luke reached to his side and wrapped his hand around the slick handle of his lightsaber.

[...]

"Don't make me do this," Luke said, raising his lightsaber, but unsure what to do. He couldn't just cut down his student, who stood unarmed at the top of the temple.

[...]

Trying to control his growing fear, Luke felt a sudden brush of cold behind him.

Dark Apprentice

He's going to be in the same, if not an even worse state, than Anakin was during his duel with Obi-Wan. This is a major contributing factor. Moving on...

The Dark Side Nexus

It's no secret that Yavin IV is a powerful Force nexus, in fact it's been noted as being "one of the Force's favourite fulcrums":

Yavin 4 is a jungle moon in an unremarkable system far from busy space lanes. Yet if the Force has a will, Yavin 4 must be one of its favourite fulcrums.

The Essential Atlas

Particularly, it's a Dark Side nexus, who's major focal points are locked away in the Temples(where Luke and Exar/Kyp had fought):

In the final years of his life, Sadow and his Sith followers began to build huge temples, powerful focal points for the dark side of the Force.

The Official Star Wars Fact File #15

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In fact, it was this dark energy that led Exar Kun to Yavin IV in the first place:

Angry and impatient with his Jedi Masters, he[Exar Kun] was drawn to Yavin 4 by the powerful forces focused in Sadow's temples.

The Official Star Wars Fact File #15

And what makes it even worse for Luke is that the "tremendous power" concentrated within the Temples grows even greater whenever Sith artifacts are used within it. When a simple Massassi priest used Naga Sadow's amulets, the dark energy grew more powerful within his vicinity:

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I would imagine one of the most powerful Jedi in history, aided by the spirit of one of the most powerful Sith Lords, would use the amulets much more effectively than a chanting, mutated Massassi Priest. Hence, an already powerful Dark Side nexus that was amplifying Exar Kun and Kyp Durron is now further amping them, whilst further hindering Luke and the use of the amulet gives Durron an additional boost.

So there's yet another crucial circumstance that leaves Luke practically helpless, while ramping up Kyp and Kun through external means.

The Inclusion of Kyp Durron

One of the many things people either willfully or ignorantly forget about Luke's fight with with Exar Kun and Kyp Durron is that it was Exar Kun's techniques that were used, not his power. The power was provided by the Dark Side Nexus, the ancient Sith amulets(which further increased the nexus' potency) and Kyp Durron himself:

Against the full might of Kyp Durron and the forbidden weapons of the long-dead spirit of Exar Kun, even a Jedi Master such as Luke Skywalker could not prevail.

Dark Apprentice

It's Kyp's might, not Exar Kun's, that's the real clincher here. Said might is dramatically boosted by several factors; I already explained why the nexus and the amulets create an incredible difference, but then there's Exar Kun further "boosting" Durron's talents:

Ultimately, [Exar Kun] has Kyp return to Yavin Four and helps him reclaim the Sun Crusher. He also bolsters Kyp's talents to allow him to defeat Luke and place him in a coma.

Jedi Academy Sourcebook

On top of that, Exar did in fact not just amplify Kyp further, but also joined in with his own attack:

With the Sun Crusher looming behind him, Kyp stretched out both hands and blasted Luke with lightning bolts like black cracks in the Force. Dark tendrils rose up from gaps in the temple flagstones, fanged, illusory vipers that struck at him from all sides.

Luke cried out and tried to strike back, but the shadow of Exar Kun joined the attack, adding more deadly force. The ancient Dark Lord of the Sith lashed out with waves of blackness, driving long icicles of frozen poison into Luke's body.

Dark Apprentice

So essentially a hindered, holding back, emotionally conflicted Luke is fighting two exceptionally powerful Force users, both of whom are being amplified by several, tremendous external sources of energy. And the best part is: neither the tendrils nor the lightning ever effectively caused any physical harm to Luke, indicating his paltry Force shields actually withstood a good deal of the assault and Kun only succeeded in ripping his astral self out of his body:

It had been a week since the trainees at the Jedi academy had found Luke Skywalker's motionless body atop the temple. They had brought him inside, done their best to care for him-but they did not know what to do. The best New Republic medics had found no physical damage. They agreed that Luke still lived, but he lay in complete stasis. He responded to none of their tests or probes.

[...]

Cilghal hesitated, then moved to stare down at Luke. "Master Skywalker told me I have an innate talent for healing with the Force. He had just begun to show me how to develop my skills - but I've tried all I know. He is not sick. There's nothing physically wrong with him. He seems frozen in a moment of time, as if his soul has left and his body is waiting for him to come back."

Champions of the Force

Conclusion

To conclude: Luke is actually confirmed to be more powerful than Exar Kun in a direct confrontation:

To his surprise, Kun recognizes the leader to be the same man that visited Yavin Four years earlier, more powerful in the force. Too powerful for the moment for Kun to handle.

Jedi Academy Sourcebook

Not to mention, when Luke and Exar were both mere spirits and were caught in a brief power-struggle, Luke practically one-shotted him:

Luke rounded on him, still not knowing how to fight this intangible enemy. Exar Kun laughed, as if an idea had just occurred to him. "I came to you first in a dream disguised as your fallen father, Skywalker... perhaps I should appear to them in your own form. They will certainly follow the teachings of the Sith if the words come from your mouth."

"No!" Luke said. With his astral body he leaped to tackle the shimmering silhouette of the Sith lord. But though his sparkling body passed smoothly through the shadow, Exar Kun did seem to discorporate momentarily.

Luke felt a spear of ice plunge through his core as he touched Kun, but he stood firm while the Dark Lord reeled against the stone wall, seeping back into the cracks to escape.

"I've already been tempered by the dark side," Luke said. "I came out stronger. You are weak because you know only the evil teachings. Your understanding is no greater than that of my apprentices."

Champions of the Force

And keep in mind that this Exar Kun siphoned some of Kyp's energies for himself and was also amplified by the Temple's nexus, which would've hindered Luke's spirit. In a fair, direct, one-on-one fight, Luke has been presented as the clear superior.

The only real reasons Exar could've done what he had done to him are the ones I've listed above. To recap:

  • Multiple external amplifications
  • Luke was emotionally conflicted and hardly at his best
  • It was primarily Kyp's amplified power that damaged Luke, not so much Kun's
  • In a direct confrontation on a neutral playing field, Luke came out on top

I hope this sheds some light on the fight. Thanks for reading.

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