According to his mother, Anakin had no father, and she just woke up pregnant one day. Anakin had at least three father figures in his life, but George Lucas was planning to reveal Sheev Palpatine (Darth Sidious) as Anakin’s father all along. Palpatine manipulated the Force into creating life.
Anakin Skywalker, AKA Darth Vader, is famously known for saying the often-misquoted “Luke, I am your father” line in the original Star Wars trilogy. This becomes a bit ironic when, in Episode I of the prequel trilogy, it’s revealed that Anakin himself had no father. This led to one of the most widely debated questions in the Star Wars fandom: Who is Anakin’s father? Let’s find out.
The tale of Anakin Skywalker is one of sadness and tragedy. This fact is made even worse when you realize that this was the plan for him all along. Darth Sidious planned the path of Anakin’s life out for him and even manipulated him into existence. But it’s not all dark. There is also redemption at the end. Let’s study his life, unconventional conception, death, and the “fathers” he had along the way.
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Anakin’s Biological Father Revealed
The Star Wars fandom had been hotly debating the topic of Anakin Skywalker’s father ever since the release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. During the film, Anakin’s mother, Shmi Skywalker, tells Qui-Gon Jinn that Anakin had no father; that she just woke up one morning and found that she was pregnant.
Qui-Gon finds that Anakin has an exceptionally high midi-chlorian count and soon starts to see his conception and birth as some kind of “miracle” of the Force, tying Anakin up in destiny and prophecy as the one who would bring balance. So, with this in mind it’s easy to believe, as Shmi did, that Anakin had no father. Fans had a few theories about the subject. The most popular ones are:
Theory 1: Anakin Was a Miracle of the Force
This is not an impossible theory to hold on to. However, it must be added that a few Star Wars fans violently criticized Lucas at the time for making the story “too unrealistic” and too focused on religion.
George Lucas has said before that his Christian upbringing at least partially inspired the background of Star Wars, and some Christian dogma can be found woven into the storyline, though never to the extent of being “preachy”. Christians are no stranger to the concept of a virgin birth or the birth of the chosen one.
In fact, we can see some parallels between the story of Anakin and the conception of Jesus. Both were destined to be great, redeem, do extraordinary things, and be extraordinary people. Both were created through some kind of miraculous supernatural intervention placing them in their mother’s womb without the need for a biological father. It sounds almost poetic.
That is more or less where the parallels between Anakin and Jesus stop, at least until Anakin’s death. But this proves that George Lucas could conceivably have planned for Anakin to have been created as a miracle of the Force and brought into the world through a virgin birth, proving his exceptional destiny and the great things that were ahead for him.
Theory 2: Shmi Skywalker Was Ashamed
There is a theory (a relatively uncommon one) that the story of Anakin’s conception is far less poetic. Some fans have speculated that Shmi, as a slave woman, was simply the victim of her circumstances. Some person abused their power over her and raped her, or even that she might have been forced to enter a life of prostitution in her younger years. She used to belong to the Hutts, after all.
Shmi would be ashamed to admit that if a tall, handsome man showed up at her door one day and offered to take her and her son away from a life of slavery and sand. If this man happened to be spiritual, it would help to prove to him how spiritual she and her son also happened to be.
This theory has some clout, and it is nearly impossible to prove wrong since it is the most sensible answer. It does not subtract from the fact that Anakin was a special boy with exceptional abilities and a unique destiny. He might just as easily have been a random person that was “chosen” by the Force rather than conceived by it.
There are very few people who hold to this theory, but it is a theory that always tends to pop up in discussions and debates, so it is worth mentioning.
Theory 3: Darth Plagueis
There is a point in Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith where Palpatine tells Anakin about the legend of Darth Plagueis, who was so wise in the ways of the Force that he could both create life and keep people from dying.
This led to some believing that Anakin Skywalker was Darth Plagueis’ son, created by him to fulfill the prophecy. Plagueis’s creation of Triclops as a son for Palpatine (Darth Sidious) further fuelled this theory. However, Triclops could best be described as a mutant and a person with severe personality disorders.
The perceived “failure” of Triclops could have led Plagueis to create for himself the perfect son in the form of Anakin Skywalker.
The problem with this theory is that Darth Plagueis is a Muun, a humanoid alien species. This means that Anakin would then be half Muun. But Anakin lacked any of the Muun features, like the elongated head and the lack of hair. That means that Anakin could not be the son of Darth Plagueis.
The Fact: Sheev Palpatine / Darth Sidious
This was also a long-held theory that was debunked several times, even by Disney and Lucasfilm themselves. But in the newly-released collection of books, the Star Wars Archives, George Lucas finally revealed conclusively that it was his plan all along to reveal Palpatine / Sidious as Anakin’s father, achieved with the help of Plagueis.
Take note that this is not the canon answer; after Disney took ownership of the franchise, the official answer is the first theory: that Anakin is the result of the Force seeking balance, leading to a miraculous conception through the midi-chloriens and an eventual “virgin birth.” But it is striking to note that the father of Star Wars, George Lucas, originally had a different plan all along.
According to Lucas, Darth Plagueis and his apprentice, Darth Sidious, wanted to manipulate the Force rather than co-operate with it as the Jedi do. This led them to experiment with life and death, finding ways to create and sustain life by manipulating the Force.
Sidious eventually perfected the process that his master developed and manipulated the midi-chloriens to create the life of Anakin within the womb of Shmi Skywalker, making Darth Sidious as close to a biological father as Anakin could have.
Sidious’ reasons for doing this are still a topic of debate, though. Some believe it was simply an experiment with no other purpose or goal behind it. The fact that Anakin became one of the most powerful Sith Lords and the one who fulfilled the prophecy was just a happy coincidence for Sidious.
Others believe that Sidious attempted to make a new body or vessel for himself. One that would be so in sync with the Force that it would have powers that people previously could have only dreamed of. This theory makes the most sense in the greater scheme of the story since everything Sidious does shows planning, strategy, and a dark desire to manipulate and gain power.
It is ironic that Sidious, as Anakin’s father, was the one who indirectly led to Anakin’s destruction as well. What makes this poetic is that it was Anakin’s fatherhood and latent empathy for his own son that caused the death of Darth Sidious and the eventual (temporary) destruction of the Sith.
Why Did George Lucas Keep This Hidden for So Long?
This is a compelling question and one that we sadly do not have the answers to. George Lucas apparently planned to reveal the fact that Darth Sidious was Anakin’s father during the final minutes of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. However, during the film’s production, he decided not to just come out and say it plainly, but rather to allude to it throughout various scenes and critical moments.
This is essentially what the opera scene in Revenge of the Sith was about. Palpatine telling Anakin about Darth Plagueis and his ability to create and save life was not just pulling Anakin towards the dark side for Padme’s sake, but also alluded to the possibility of Anakin himself existing purely because of this power.
There were occasional hints along those same lines throughout the other stories, like the Clone Wars animated series. Yet, Lucas never came out and blatantly stated the fact, which is why Disney can now easily change this aspect of the story to better suit their own agenda/family values.
There Is More to Being a Father
There is a deeper side to the tale of Anakin’s father. A father is more than just the one who helped impregnate your mother. Being a father goes much deeper, to the point of helping to shape your character and even your very soul.
Anakin may or may not ever have known who his biological father was, but at least four father figures in Anakin’s life helped shape him into the man he became, for better or for worse.
Watto was the Toydarian junk dealer who bought Anakin and Shmi as slaves. Anakin essentially spent almost a decade of his life knowing only Watto as a “father.” Though Watto was far from a role model, there are moments during The Phantom Menace where you could see some genuine caring for “the boy”. He obviously cared for his wallet more, but he did care for both Skywalkers.
Though Watto never even pretended to be fatherly to Anakin (at least, not that we know of), Anakin picked up a few things from him, including his resilience, strong-headedness, and his drive to be the best.
2. Qui-Gon Jinn
Qui-Gon proved to be precisely what Anakin had been waiting for in a father figure. He was a strong male presence in Anakin’s life who showed Anakin what he could become and recognized the potential that Anakin had inside of himself, the potential to be even greater than he could ever imagine.
Qui-Gon also gave Anakin the opportunity to get away from the things that had been plaguing him. Through Qui-Gon, Anakin envisioned a better, safer, and more prosperous life for himself and his mother.
Yet the relationship was not without its disappointments, as is typical in every human relationship. We are all disappointed by our fathers at some stage, and Anakin’s relationship with his newly-found father figure was no different.
First, Qui-Gon could not manage to save both Anakin and his mother from their lives of slavery and Anakin had to hesitantly leave his mother behind. Though Qui-Gon did what he could at the time, this disappointment would have a lasting effect on young Anakin. And, of course, the disappointment when Qui-Gon died too soon, and Anakin was left without a father and a mother.
3. Obi-Wan Kenobi
Obi-Wan was Anakin’s Jedi master, but their relationship was never what Anakin truly needed at the time: a father-son relationship. Because they both looked up to Qui-Gon as a father figure, their relationship was closer to that of brothers.
Obi-Wan re-affirms this at the end of Revenge of the Sith, where he cries out to a dying Anakin, “You were my brother, Anakin! I loved you!”
The relationship Anakin had with Obi-Wan after the death of Qui-Gon was like the relationship between two brothers who were recently orphaned. Obi-Wan was a father figure for Anakin in the same way that the older brother would be for a younger sibling in the absence of their parents.
This, of course, is a loving relationship but a challenging one since the older brother doesn’t quite know what he’s doing but wants to appear confident and the younger would resist and rebel whenever he had the opportunity to do so.
4. Shreev Palpatine
And so, we’ve come full circle, and we’ve reached Shreev Palpatine / Darth Sidious once again. Palpatine was the last great father figure in Anakin Skywalker’s life and, ironically, according to George Lucas, he is also Anakin’s biological father. But, was he a good father?
On the surface, yes. Palpatine recognized Anakin’s struggles and fears in a way that nobody else had up to that point. And more than just acknowledging them, he even offered possible solutions, even if it was in a roundabout way.
Palpatine saw that Anakin was afraid of losing Padme after suffering the loss of his mother. Anakin was fearful of death, the destruction, and the emptiness that is created in those who lost someone. Palpatine recognized this and hinted at a solution. This is what a good father should aim to do.
However, we should also note that Palpatine did all of this out of a hunger for power and a desire to manipulate. It was never for Anakin’s benefit, and most of the eventual death and destruction was caused by the very whispers and hints that Palpatine threw at Anakin, gently pulling him towards the dark side of the Force.
A true father would lay down his very being and all he has for his children. A real father is never out to manipulate or destroy. They seek to build up, encourage, and motivate. To be a guiding force for the good of their children and not for their destruction.
Palpatine managed to convince Anakin for some time that he was looking out for him. That he cared and wanted to give Anakin the best. Anakin trusted him, and this trust led to the destruction of everything that Anakin loved and held dear.
He may have been Anakin’s biological father, but Palpatine was never worthy of being a dad.
Anakin’s Own Fatherhood
It is interesting that Palpatine/Sidious wasn’t destroyed by the military power of the rebels. His experiments with life had caused him to become even more powerful every time he should have died, so their attempts would have backfired spectacularly. Sidious wasn’t even killed by his apprentice in line with the Rule of Two, at least not in the classic sense.
What eventually caused the destruction of Darth Sidious was Anakin revealing the father in him. Seeing his son being tortured, tormented, and almost killed drove out Darth Vader and brought back Anakin Skywalker, who loved his wife and had a family. It brought back memories of a life outside of darkness, and in his last moments, Anakin Skywalker became the father he never had.
Through Anakin’s sacrifice, Darth Sidious was destroyed, the Sith was eradicated from the galaxy (for a time), and Luke, Leia, and the republic were all saved. This is the heart of a father: laying down yourself to the point where you would give anything and everything for your children’s lives, success, and freedom.
Continue Reading: How To Meet Your Dead Father (Spiritual & Secular Paths)
The tale of Anakin Skywalker is a tale of sadness, fear, and destruction. But it is also one of hope; it is evidence of how one person, regardless of their upbringing, genetics, or life circumstances, can change for better or worse through an important figure’s guidance. But it also shows how love, in this case, a father’s love, can redeem even the worst of the worst. There is always hope.