Warning: SPOILERS for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
It’s official: no, Emperor Palpatine did NOT create Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars canon. When George Lucas launched the prequel trilogy in 1999, he introduced Anakin Skywalker as the prophesied “Chosen One.” This ancient Jedi prophecy stated that a child would be born, conceived as a Virgin Birth, destined to bring balance to the Force. It was clearly a Messianic symbol, albeit quite a confused one.
Then in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine dropped what many viewers believed was an important clue. He seduced Anakin Skywalker to the dark side by telling him the Tragedy of Darth Plagueis the Wise, his own mentor in the ways of the Sith. According to Palpatine, Plagueis wasn’t just any dark Lord of the Sith, but “so powerful and so wise he could use the Force to influence the midichlorians to create life.” This seemed to explain the previously inexplicable, suggesting either Plagueis – or more likely Palpatine himself – had secretly created Anakin. Since then, the theory has been generally accepted as fact by many viewers, especially after James Luceno’s (now non-canon) novel Darth Plagueis.
But statements from the Lucasfilm Story Group on social media have finally cleared up the mystery, at least for now. As far as Lucasfilm is concerned, Anakin Skywalker was not directly created by Palpatine.
Viewers were taken aback when the concept of the Chosen One was introduced in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. George Lucas had previously drawn his Star Wars mythology from eastern mysticism, particularly Buddhism, but suddenly he was linking in the Christian concept of the Virgin Birth. It seemed a somewhat uncomfortable fit, and as a result there was instantly speculation that Anakin’s conception was some great mystery that would eventually be resolved. Palpatine’s words in Revenge of the Sith appeared to confirm that, and the point was made far more explicit in an early draft of the script. There, Palpatine explicitly stated that he had “used the power of the Force to will the midichlorians to start the cell divisions that created [Anakin].” This became part of the old Expanded Universe courtesy of James Luceno’s Darth Plagueis novel, but was rendered non-canon when Disney started its own plans.
The idea was revisited in Charles Soule’s Darth Vader comics, which appeared to show, yet again, Palpatine creating Anakin Skywalker. Revisiting the events of his life during a walk through the Force, Vader sees a vision of his mother being overshadowed by Emperor Palpatine, clearly manipulating the life in her womb. The natural conclusion was that Anakin’s mother, Shmi, had become pregnant because of some Sith incantation woven by Darth Sidious himself. It all seemed to join together quite neatly; as Plagueis’ apprentice, Palpatine would have learned how to manipulate the midichlorians in order to induce life, and this appeared to be evidence that he had done just that.
But it seems that’s not the case after all. Matt Martin, a member of the Lucasfilm Story Group who worked with Charles Soule on the Darth Vader comics, has stepped forward to insist that Palpatine did not directly create Anakin Skywalker. As noted by Culture Crave, he took to social media to confirm that “the scene is all in Anakin’s head” and that it does not intend to imply anything about Anakin’s origin. He was further supported by writer Charles Soule himself, who pointed out that this scene saw Anakin Skywalker diving deep into the dark side of the Force. “The dark side is not a reliable narrator,” Soule observed.
In truth, a critical examination of the scene supports this interpretation. In Anakin Skywalker’s vision, Shmi is shown to already be pregnant when Palpatine stands behind her. Thus this is probably better seen as a symbolic representation, perhaps implying that the Emperor would come to dominate the destiny of the child within her womb. Palpatine is not being shown as Anakin’s father; rather, he is being portrayed as the father figure who fills that particular void within his life. That is most definitely a message the dark side of the Force would like to send to Darth Vader, who at this point was still new to his role as Sith Apprentice.
All this means viewers are basically left with Qui-Gon Jinn’s theory; that Anakin Skywalker was the Chosen One One promised to the Jedi, conceived of the Force, destined to bring it back into balance. The exact mechanism is unclear, but Anakin appears to have fulfilled the prophecy when he killed the Emperor in Return of the Jedi. That would explain why, in the novelization of Revenge of the Sith, Mace Windu sensed that Anakin Skywalker is Palpatine’s “shatterpoint” – his point of weakness. It also fits with a scene in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which features the Force Voice of Anakin Skywalker telling Rey that she could defeat the Emperor and bring balance to the Force – just as he had done.
By this reading, Anakin’s origin story actually isn’t relevant. All that matters is that he is the prophesied Chosen One, destined to bring balance to the Force, and that he accomplished this. Indeed, this may well be why Lucas has been reluctant to comment about Anakin’s conception; because he doesn’t want that to be the focus.
At first glance, Star Wars seems unlikely to ever properly address the question of Anakin’s origin. During the conversation on Twitter, Martin notes that he for one would never sign off on anything exploring this, because he’d feel as though he was dishonoring Lucas. But it’s important to note that this could change; after all, Lucas had previously imposed a similar moratorium on introducing other members of Yoda’s species, and yet that rule has been cast aside in The Mandalorian. What’s more, it appears to have been done with Lucas’ blessing, and there have even been unconfirmed reports that Lucas himself submitted story treatments for the series. Thus it’s not inconceivable that Lucas will one day agree to Star Wars revealing another story he had once avoided.
Still, if Martin’s comments are anything to go by, that day has not yet come. For the foreseeable future, there is only one thing Star Wars viewers can be sure of; Lucasfilm says Anakin Skywalker was not directly created by Palpatine. There is probably an indirect link, in the sense that Palpatine was the imbalance Anakin was destined to correct, but that’s about all there is to it.
More: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – Every Easter Egg & Reference