1977's Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope broke new ground in more ways than one, dazzling fans with these stories set "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away." The opening crawl from this original classic became a hallmark of the franchise, with the scrolling text setting up the adventure that would follow on the big screen. As it turns out, though, the opening crawl text from all the Star Wars movies actually comes from a narrator, who until now, was anonymous.
In 2014, Chris Taylor published a book dubbed How Star Wars Conquered the Universe: The Past, Present, and Future of a Multibillion Dollar Franchise, where the journalist delves through the history of this multi-billion dollar franchise. The author reveals in his book that, on the set of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith, franchise creator George Lucas revealed what he called his "ultimate framing device" to animation director Rob Coleman, after he arrived for his first day of work. Here's an excerpt from the book, available on Amazon, which reveals who the Star Wars narrator really is.
"The entire story of Star Wars is actually being recounted to the keeper of the Journal of the Whills-remember that?-a hundred years after the events of Return of the Jedi by none other than R2-D2."
The Journal of the Whills was originally conceived as a plot device that would have connected the Star Wars galaxy to the "real world," although that idea was ultimately scrapped. In Star Wars lore, The Journal of the Whills was a record of all the events that transpired in the galaxy, which was recorded by a secret organization known as the Ancient Order of the Whills. The Journal was first mentioned in the novelization of A New Hope, and the novelization of Star Wars: The Force Awakens actually opens with the following quote from the Journal.
"First comes the day Then comes the night. After the darkness Shines through the light. The difference, they say, Is only made right By the resolving of gray Through refined Jedi sight. ― Journal of the Whills, 7:477[src]"
It's not terribly surprising that R2-D2 is the narrator, since this beloved droid is one of the few characters who is in all seven movies. The book points out that Artoo is also "fully formed" in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, unlike C-3PO, and R2 doesn't have his memory erased like C-3PO did at the end of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. What isn't known is if this narrator tradition will carry over into the new movies.
While R2-D2 certainly is present in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he is largely inactive for most of the movie, until the very end when he springs to life after being presented with the rest of the map to Luke Skywalker's whereabouts from BB-8. Since R2 wasn't exactly around to see all of the events transpire in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, perhaps BB-8 could serve as the new "narrator" for this trilogy. It's also worth noting that Star Wars: The Force Awakens is set 32 years after Return of the Jedi, which means there is 68 years in between that movie and R2-D2's recounting of the whole saga to the Journal keeper. We don't know if there are any plans for this new trilogy to catch up with R2-D2's narration, but we'll have to wait and see.