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At the end of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, there's a curious rock jutting out at the feet of

Luke Skywalker

Looks a bit like this

To my eye the rock suggests a hand reaching up from the earth - I couldn't place such a reference, but I wondered if it had some significance.

My six year old had been whispering to me "look for the hand" for the last fifteen minutes or so, as I hadn't noticed this character's actual hand on the first viewing. So ... I was probably wired for hand-shaped things at this point. It does look a strange rock shape though, and incongruous to the other rocks in the scene IMO.

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Submitted incomplete question while trying to add tags! Now have hurriedly edited it to make sense, as unsure what my edit powers on a newly joined SE site will be. Will go back and try to flesh it out if I can work out what the syntax for spoiler text is. – Chris Burgess Jan 7 at 21:45
    
For future reference, the spoiler syntax is >! – DangerZone Jan 7 at 21:50
    
Added the spoiler tag for you – Wad Cheber Jan 7 at 21:50
    
Thanks! Appreciated. I reverted the edit by accident while adding final para above, but happy it's restored now, makes Q better. – Chris Burgess Jan 7 at 21:50
3  
I wish I could upvote again for that drawing... :) – Wad Cheber Jan 7 at 23:21
up vote 20 down vote accepted

This YouTube video has a shot of the rock you seem to be talking about:

enter image description here

I don't think it looks like much of anything (including a hand), but in any case, it's probably not supposed to represent anything, and is likely a natural feature already present on the location long before the cast and crew arrived. The scene was filmed on Skellig Michael1, a very small island off the southwest coast of Ireland.

enter image description here

From c. 600 CE to c. 1200 CE, Skellig Michael was the site of a monastery, but now it is inhabited only by millions of sea birds2 - and covered with abundant amounts of moss and grass; mile after mile of terrifying, steep, rickety, uneven, ancient staircases; and lots and lots of rocks.3

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here This last photo depicts the "beehive huts" in which the monks lived on Skellig Michael, some 1,500 years ago; I assume Luke was living in one of these structures

With so many rocks, it is inevitable that some of them look like stuff - our brains are hard-wired to recognize familiar patterns of things, even where they don't actually exist. The phenomenon is well-known, and is called "pareidolia".

This video shows the entire scene, albeit in a very small portion of the frame, at a weird angle, and with motion-sickness-inducing instability. In the movie, the camera (presumably mounted on a helicopter) begins to pan around the characters in a wide semi-circle; as it does so, the rock in question can be seen from many different angles. If it ever looks like a hand (and I still don't think it does), it does so only for an instant, before the camera moves a bit more and it looks like nothing/something other than a hand/just a rock again. I'm still chalking this one up to pareidolia.


1 Irish: Sceilig Mhichíl; Also known as Great Skellig, or in Irish, Sceilig Mhór.

2 In fact, the island is one of the most densely populated seabird rookeries in the world, and it has been designated as a nature preserve. This is why Irish environmentalist groups were furious about The Force Awakens being filmed there - that brief appearance is expected to bring a million tourists to the island next year, and there is considerable concern about how this traffic will affect the birds. The producers have heeded the uproar, and have constructed a lookalike set in a studio for use during the filming of Episode VIII.

I lived in Ireland for a while, and although I never visited the Skelligs, I have read a lot about them; I also follow Irish news, and was aware of the controversy before I saw the movie. I paid a lot of attention to the scene on Skellig Michael, and I was very curious to see just how much of the island and the monastery would be visible. The only clear onscreen evidence that the island was once inhabited are the staircases and a few glimpses of an enormous stone wall; both of these features are unmistakably man made.

3 In fact, the Irish often refer to Skellig Michael and its neighbor, Little Skellig (Irish: Sceilig Bheag), as "the Skellig Rocks", because when you get right down to it, that's all they really are - a couple of jagged rocks jutting out of the ocean, with some moss, grass, birds, bird poop (so much bird poop), and smaller rocks on top.

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Fair enough, many of the rocks in your first picture are similarly inclined. I didn't realise this was a real location! Thanks :) – Chris Burgess Jan 7 at 22:06
    
@ChrisBurgess - The first picture is the only one I've seen that I am absolutely certain shows something that is prominently featured in the movie - Rey walks up that very staircase just before she finds Luke. The hooked outcrop above and to the right of the stairs gave it away - I noticed it quite clearly while watching the movie. It isn't hard to see why Abrams opted to shoot there - it is unbelievably picturesque and striking. – Wad Cheber Jan 7 at 22:10
    
I think your second picture really does look like an open left hand oriented to receive something from skyward. Perhaps that's what OP is referring to. – ThePopMachine Jan 7 at 22:36
    
@ThePopMachine - I guess I see what you mean, kind of, but Luke was clearly near the top of the (very steep, surprisingly tall) island, and that picture is much farther down, along the coast. When we see Luke, we see him from more or less his level, and we can't see what is at the bottom of the cliff he is standing beside. – Wad Cheber Jan 7 at 22:50
    
The one outcropping in the middle of the shot is the thumbs; the big outcropping on the right are the fingers. – ThePopMachine Jan 7 at 22:52
  • In the film, there's an outcropping that DOES look kind of like a hand. From a certain point of view

    Large pan:

    enter image description here

    And then close-up:

    enter image description here

  • The WGA script says nothing specific about its shape (which would probably be said if it was meaningful)

    EXT. AHCH-TO ISLAND - DAY
    Rey, her staff strapped to her back, begins her hike up the considerable mountain, glancing back at Chewie and R2-D2, who watch her from the bottom of the ramp. A deep breath and Rey continues her journey.
    EXT. AHCH-TO ISLAND - STONE STAIRS - DAY
    Built within the rock and foliage of this idyllic island are seemingly endless ANCIENT STONE STEPS. Rey continues to climb them, determined, despite her fatigue.
    EXT. AHCH-TO ISLAND - STONE STRUCTURES - DAY
    Rey arrives at a clearing. Small, modest, primitive stone structures. But no one around. Rey walks past them, sees, senses no one.
    And then she stops. Feels something. She turns.
    Standing forty feet away from her, his back to us, is a MAN, in a CLOAK AND ROBE.

  • Similarly, I didn't see anything specific about hand shape in the novelization's end (I only checked Foster so far, will check Junior when I get home).

Analysis:

  • All in all, I think it's more of a case of a brain assigning a pattern.

  • However, there's a possible chance that it was included in a meaningful way.

    Let's see... a beautiful woman. Handing someone a sword.... Yep, Arthuriana... and what was the other elemennt of that type of story? Yes, the hand arising from the lake.

  • But obviously, absent him outright denying or confirming that in an interview, we don't know.

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3  
AHCH-TO ISLAND? ... really? Bless you! – JK. Jan 7 at 23:22
1  
If it's a hand, it looks like it's giving someone the finger.... – Praxis Jan 11 at 5:09

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