Note: The following piece contains heavy spoilers for Star Wars Rebels
Nowhere in the Star Wars universe is the tie between the natural world and the Force more apparent than in Star Wars Rebels’ Lothal (named after one of the southernmost cities of the ancient Indus valley civilization). Dave Filoni, a noted nature and animal lover, imbued various environmental and spiritual themes into his trademark planet. Lothal provides a textbook case study of what happens when we let our desires, as sentient beings, for rampant industrialization and a twisted sense of “progress” lure us into destroying our delicate natural world, as we’ve too often seen in real life. This wanton destruction of Ezra’s Force-strong home planet spurred its protectors, the Loth-Wolves, to recruit him and his friends to save it.
Progress and industrialization are not vices in and of themselves, but the unsustainable and unfettered push for industrial progress results in the destruction of the natural world, and potentially a loss in connection to the Force. Before the Empire’s presence, Lothal thrived in both its sustainable industrialization and the retaining of its environment. It was Emperor Palpatine and the Imperials’ hunger for power and influence above all else that led them to strip Lothal of its resources and leave it (thankfully temporarily) barren. However, as we see in the epilogue to Rebels, Lothal thrives again, maintaining that balance between the industrialized and natural world with presumably more active dedication to maintaining it.
The role of the Loth-Wolves was likewise pivotal to the survival and sustainability of Lothal. As mentioned above, Dave Filoni is a noted animal lover and environmentalist. Rarely is he seen without his wolf symbol t-shirt, and he advocates for saving this endangered and important species. As apex predators, wolves help guarantee a sustainable food web by hunting species like deer that could overgraze on grass and other plant species. They are crucial to ensuring there is food and a sustainable environment in the long term. The wolves enlist the aid of Ezra (a native to Lothal himself) to help protect their planet and its space-time portal. They are shown capable of extraordinary feats, including transporting the Ghost crew to the other side of Lothal in just minutes or hours. Being tied so inexorably to the planet and its ecosystem, particularly in their role as apex predators maintaining the ecological balance, they are likewise tuned heavily in with the Force.
Lothal, pre-Imperial colonization and industrialization, appears to have had a pristine environment, with its cities and other civilizations not expanding too far outwards and allowing its grassland environment to flourish. Its connection to the Force also grew stronger with this relative balance between sentients and the wild. The Force was so powerful on this planet that the Jedi Order established a temple there. It was so powerful that a space-time portal manifested, which, thankfully, Ezra permanently closed. But the Empire threatened both the balance and to use its power to wreak havoc on the rest of the galaxy.
Perhaps Dave Filoni meant to offer this real world lesson with the Empire’s industrialization: when we let ourselves go too far with development, we lose our connection to where true fulfillment lies with the Force and nature. The Emperor, craving only power cultivated over time from this pristine world, nearly destroyed the the planet’s ecosystem entirely. The planet ultimately prevails because its natural forces are strong enough in and of themselves to fight back, with the help of Ezra and the rest of the Ghost Crew. This is ultimately represented by the loth-wolves.
I should note that many of these elements, both in story and visual storytelling, are taken from Hayao Miyazaki’s stunning masterpiece Princess Mononoke. Dave Filoni has said this film inspired him. However, some might say he borrowed too much from this original story, as the cues from scenes from the film are very obvious. I highly, highly recommend Mononoke it if you haven’t yet. While Rebels offers some great insight on this overall topic, often it is best to watch the original source.
While I appreciate the environmentalist themes in Lothal, I must admit I find its role as a nexus of space-time a bit far-fetched. It’s clear that Filoni wanted to make Lothal a unique place among all planets strong in the Force, but the execution, in my view, felt heavy handed. This isn’t to say that there can’t be a space-time portal on some other planet or region of the Galaxy, but to place it on the main protagonist’s home planet seemed far too coincidental for me, even in a franchise as fantastical as Star Wars.
Despite my scruples, I admit that thematically it works with the tying in of Lothal’s nature to the Cosmic Force. Perhaps it is by being extremely strong in the Living Force for so long that it was tied it to the Cosmic Force in a particularly strong way in the form of the space-time door. Being a place so pure with Force energy, it was able to manifest the door. Although, if we had it here due to the powerful Force presence, then why not on Ahch-To or Dagobah? It may have to do with a direct connection with Mortis, as the Father, Daughter, and Son were shown on its physical entrance. Perhaps they were the ones to choose Lothal as a nexus of their own energy. Filoni has heavily implied that the door was one-of-a-kind, and permanently shut after the events of Rebels. While the practical explanation for this is that it ensures Star Wars won’t deal with time travel again, it does, in-universe, convey that the planet had a special role in the Galaxy. All of this made the ecologically pristine planet a target for the Emperor who desired the power to manipulate time for his own ends.
Lothal is meant to represent an ideal balance of civilization and nature by which we can cultivate sustainable practices. It also offers a case of hope for when things may be severely dire with our environment. Nature almost always rebels back against the forces of greed and destruction. The Force clearly willed for this in Star Wars: Rebels. Like Ezra, Sabine, and the rest of the Ghost Team, we can and should rebel alongside with it.