From Masters to Monsters: The Trials of Asajj Ventress
By: Meg Dowell
Descent into Darkness
Most Sith we know and hate aren’t born evil. Life’s unfair circumstances often drive them so deep into despair that darkness becomes the only crutch with which they can continue fighting.
For one Jedi-turned-Sith, grief turned her life into a quest for power -- and purpose.
Even though she spent very little time on the big screen, Asajj Ventress became the subject of many plot threads throughout The Clone Wars series and one canon novel, Dark Disciple. Despite never being mentioned in any of the prequel films, she shaped the course of the pre-Empire era in ways many wouldn’t expect.
A consistent opponent for Jedi Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, her character eventually developed from a Sith with a mysterious past into a once-innocent padawan whose grief turned her already cold heart into something much darker.
Ventress fought on many sides of a war throughout her life. She murdered and subdued her way from slavery to Jedi learner to Sith apprentice and, eventually, became a hero of the Republic.
But a dark, undeserving despair clouded most of her years. This is why, to most, she will always be remembered as an assassin of the Sith.
From Slave to Student
Ventress was born of the Nightsisters, a Dathomirian clan of Force-sensitive witches she would lose twice over -- both against her will. The first time she left her coven and homeworld, it was by the clutches of a criminal called Hal’Sted, who dragged her off to a warzone and made her his slave.
She served her first master until pirates took his life and left her to fend for herself. Jedi Knight Ky Narec eventually found her, raised her, and began teaching her the ways of the Force as a Jedi apprentice. Her new master became her only source of guidance and care for the next 10 years.
Up until this point, Ventress had spent much of her life bending to the ill will of a criminal. Never before had anyone directed her toward a path that showed her what it felt like to do good. Narec showed her the power of the Light, and how she could use the Force to help others live better, safer lives.
At least, until it all fell apart.
Anger Leads to Hate
After a decade of crusading and learning beside her master, Ventress suffered yet another devastating loss -- one that would lead her down the path so many Jedi have fought to avoid.
When pirates unexpectedly killed Narec, her grief turned to anger. Anger led to hate. And as a wise Jedi Master once warned, the hate that built up inside of the Force-sensitive Nightsister paved before her a path of darkness.
She not only wiped out the war-corrupted criminals that had deprived her of two prized authority figures, but she then took their place.
That is, until another master found and “rescued” her.
If those who embrace the dark side of the Force dream of acquiring a Sith Lord to serve and impress, Ventress’s unspoken ambitions became a reality.
After discovering the former Jedi stranded on a world that was never hers to rule, Count Dooku took her in and gave her something much more substantial to oversee. Ventress became a commander in her master’s Separatist army, as well as one of the Republic’s most destructive enemies.
For the first time, Ventress’s words held power. Where she told her armies to go, they went. When she told them to fire, they fired. And where she led, they followed. Previously bound by the restraints of former masters, she was a master in her own right. Even though she still had an overlord to serve, she now had a sense of freedom within her new parameters. And that freedom made her feel strong.
Constantly competing against General Grievous for Dooku’s favor did not produce the results Ventress had long hoped for, however. Once again, she would lose her master -- but this time, through betrayal rather than through death.
Heartbreak & Bounty
Ventress narrowly escaped Dooku’s attempts to eliminate her.
She returned to her fellow Nightsisters to seek refuge and revenge, but this too would backfire. Determined to strike his former apprentice where it hurt, he attacked and nearly defeated Ventress’s entire clan. Once again, she barely escaped with her life, left to scour the galaxy for whatever meaning may have been left in it.
Bounty hunting became her new outlet. As is the case with most hunters, Ventress operated in neutral territory when collecting her earnings in the midst of a complicated, deadly war. She worked on behalf of both sides of the overarching conflict, often crossing paths with -- and joining forces with -- Kenobi, Skywalker, and associates.
And then, she found her true purpose.
Saving What We Love
In the era of the Clone Wars, the Jedi Order forbade attachment to anything that wasn’t a lightsaber. Some members of the order fell in love anyway -- including Quinlan Vos.
As seen in the Christie Golden’s Dark Disciple, Vos fell in love with Ventress as the two worked together to eliminate her only living former master. Their assassination attempt failed, and led to Vos’s eventual devotion to the dark side. Only when Dooku attempted to eliminate his would-be apprentice did Ventress perform one of the most selfless acts of her life: absorbing the Force Lighting that would have killed the love of her life so that he could live...even without her.
From a young age, perhaps Ventress had no choice but to depend upon her superiors for guidance, approval, and possibly even the affection she was likely denied as a slave and Jedi apprentice. But in the end, it was love, not hate, that motivated her to make the ultimate sacrifice.
To many, she would remain an all-but-forgotten slave of the dark side. But to the Jedi Order -- for as long as it stood thereafter -- she would remain a symbol of the good that lingers in most beings of the Force. Even clouded in darkness, all Ventress ever really wanted was to belong.
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About Meg Dowell
Meg is a health science writer by day and a Star Wars enthusiast 24/7. What started out as one spontaneous movie night with her dad quickly morphed into a lifelong quest to read everything that has ever been written about the world’s greatest fictional galaxy. She lives in Illinois with her cat, dog, and medal-worthy book collection, and believes any conversation in which Star Wars references are applicable is one worth having.
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