Who Was Anakin Skywalker?
What the Prequel Trilogy Ignores in the Original Trilogy
by Tom Farr
There’s no doubt that the original Star Wars trilogy sparked our curiosity for the story of the man behind the mask of Darth Vader. Who was Anakin Skywalker? What drove him to turn to the dark side and what turned him into part machine?
The prequel trilogy of The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith was George Lucas’ answer to those questions. Honestly, for the most part, when they came out, I enjoyed them. They were at least fun movies.
But were they a sufficient answer to the questions we had about Anakin Skywalker and his journey to becoming Darth Vader?
Most Star Wars fans would say no. The prequel movies, though attempting to tell the story of Anakin Skywalker, ignored much of what we already knew about Anakin from the original trilogy.
I would suggest that the hints planted in the original trilogy create at least the framework for a much more interesting prequel story of Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker than what we were given.
Anakin Skywalker, According to Episodes IV-VI
Anakin Skywalker was a young man, strong in the Force, from the planet Tatooine. His brother/half-brother Owen believed he should stick with the family business and become a farmer, but Anakin craved adventure.
Anakin became a skilled pilot, the best pilot in the galaxy. After he became a pilot, he met a Jedi Knight named Obi-wan Kenobi and wanted to learn the ways of the Force. Anakin came to believe that he was meant to leave Tatooine, become a Jedi, and fight in the Clone Wars.
Though Jedi Master Yoda would not train Anakin, because he believed there was too much anger in Anakin, Obi-wan took it upon himself to train Anakin as a Jedi. Though his anger was a hindrance to his training, Anakin became a powerful Jedi and a good friend to Obi-wan, and they both fought in the Clone Wars. Anakin was a cunning warrior.
Anakin fell in love with a woman and she became pregnant with his children. Anakin, thrilled with the prospect of being a father, mentions to Obi-wan that he wants to pass on his light saber to his son someday so that he will be brave Jedi like him.
Anakin began to be seduced by the dark side of the Force. His seduction to the dark side created an inner conflict inside of Anakin between the good side of the force and the dark side, causing him to adopt a new name, Darth Vader.
Anakin’s wife gave birth to twins, Luke and Leia, but they were both hidden from him when they were born. His wife disappeared with Leia and Obi-wan took Luke in secret to be raised by his Uncle Owen. Anakin may have never known his children were born. Luke and Leia’s mother died when they were both young, and Leia was adopted by Senator Organa.
The Emperor, strong in the dark side of the force himself, led Anakin to embrace the dark side of the force and his identity as Darth Vader. Darth Vader was injured and nearly killed in an unidentified event. He was turned into part machine, having to wear a mask at all times in order to live.
Darth Vader, under orders from the Emperor, hunted down and killed all of the Jedi except Obi-wan and Yoda.
The Emperor was kept from knowing that Anakin had children because his children would be a threat to Darth Vader.
Obi-wan tried to turn Anakin back from the dark side, but it didn’t work. Obi-wan retreated to Tatooine to watch after Luke.
The Longer Version
Everything above was taken from quotes from the original trilogy. Below is my more detailed thinking through what characters said about Anakin if you’re interested.
Episode IV: A New Hope
A Jedi from Tatooine, compelled to fight in the Clone Wars
LUKE: No, my father didn’t fight in the wars. He was a navigator on a spice freighter.
BEN: That’s what your uncle told you. He didn’t hold with your father’s ideals. Thought he should have stayed here and not gotten involved.
LUKE: You fought in the Clone Wars?
BEN: Yes, I was once a Jedi Knight the same as your father.
Obi-wan told Luke that Anakin was a Jedi Knight, which the prequel trilogy got right, but there’s an important part here about the relationship between Anakin and Luke’s Uncle Owen. Anakin’s ideals were in conflict with Owen’s. Owen knew about the Clone Wars, but believed that Anakin shouldn’t get involved.
The prequels presented us with a minimal relationship between Anakin and Owen. We know from those films that Anakin is Owen’s stepbrother, but they hardly speak to one another.
Obi-wan’s description Owen and Anakin’s relationship in the quote above would lead us to believe Anakin and Owen fought over Anakin leaving Tatooine to fight in the Clone Wars. Like brothers. Like two sons of the same parents. The farmer and the adventurer.
An Expert Pilot and a Cunning Warrior
BEN: He was the best star-pilot in the galaxy, and a cunning warrior.
Anakin was an expert pilot. We saw that in the prequel. But a cunning warrior?
The Anakin of the prequel trilogy wasn’t so much cunning as he was brash and self-consumed. The Clone Wars television series does a better job of presenting Anakin as a cunning warrior than the prequels did.
A Father with Hopes for His Child
BEN: I have something here for you. Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn’t allow it. He feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damned-fool idealistic crusade like your father did.
The prequel trilogy forces us to read this as something Anakin would want for Luke if he hadn’t turned to the dark side.
But what if Obi-wan was telling the truth here? What if Anakin actually knew about Luke? What if he spent a short amount of time in Luke’s childhood being a father?
It changes the story completely. Of course, it does leave us with the question of why Darth Vader didn’t just go to Tatooine to find Luke. My suggestion? Anakin’s turn to the dark side and conversion to Darth Vader tampered with his memories. Or perhaps he was led to believe Luke died with his mother. This would add some depth to when Palpatine tells Darth Vader about Luke being the son of Anakin Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back.
Conflicted Man “Murdered” by Darth Vader
OBI-WAN: A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pupil of mine until he turned to evil, helped the Empire hunt down and destroy the Jedi knights. He betrayed and murdered your father. Now the Jedi are all but extinct. Vader was seduced by the dark side of the Force.
We learn in The Empire Strikes Back that Darth Vader is, in fact, Anakin Skywalker. So what do we make of what Obi-wan tells Luke here? It’s a question Luke himself asks in Return of the Jedi.
From what Obi-wan says here, we learn that Anakin was a student of Obi-wan Kenobi, that he adopted the name Darth Vader while being a Jedi (there’s no mention of Sith at this point), and that Vader represented the dark side of Anakin’s personality that eventually won out over the good.
After Anakin turned to the dark side, he helped to destroy the Jedi Order. The question this raises is why would Anakin turn against the Jedi, of which he was a part, and kill all of them? The prequel trilogy presented Anakin giving in to the dark side way too easy.
Obi-wan says Darth Vader was “seduced by the dark side.” Seduction means that we find something appealing about the object seducing us. Anakin found something in the dark side that led him to believe the Jedi needed to die.
That’s a great question to explore and one that wasn’t sufficiently handled by Revenge of the Sith.
AUNT BERU: Luke’s just not a farmer, Owen. He has too much of his father in him.
Aunt Beru tells her husband that Luke “has too much of his father in him,” which is why his destiny isn’t to be a farmer. Owen is afraid that she’s right, which reminds us of the conflict between Anakin and Owen and their ideals.
It’s interesting here that Beru seems to have known Anakin as well to be able to judge Luke as being like his father.
Interesting story possibility: What if Anakin and Beru were brother and sister?
Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
A Powerful Jedi, in Yoda’s Opinion
YODA: Ahh… father. Powerful Jedi was he. Powerful Jedi.
In the prequel trilogy, Yoda sees that Anakin is strong in the Force, but he’s hesitant to allow him to become a Jedi. Yet he calls Anakin a powerful Jedi here. There seems to be a certain respect for who Anakin was that Yoda is reflecting on, which would make for an interesting storyline. How did Anakin earn Yoda’s respect?
Filled with Anger
YODA: “I cannot teach him. The boy has no patience.”
OBI-WAN: “He will learn patience.”
YODA: “Hmm. Much anger in him, like his father.”
OBI-WAN: “Was I any different when you taught me?”
Yoda remembers that Anakin had much anger in him. Of course, who doesn’t have anger in them? Anakin’s anger, however, seemed to be a significant deterrent to his training.
The big question here is, what made Anakin so angry? The prequel trilogy gave us Anakin’s mom being killed as the source of his anger, but I would suggest elsewhere that Anakin wasn’t a virgin birth (goodbye Midichlorians) and the loss of either parent might have created the spark of anger in him.
There’s also the war. Why does Anakin feel the need to get involved? What’s his personal investment?
Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
Trained by Obi-wan against the Wishes of Yoda
OBI-WAN: When I first knew him, your father was already a great pilot. But I was amazed how strongly the Force was with him. I took it upon myself to train him as a Jedi. I thought that I could instruct him just as well as Yoda. I was wrong.
Notice that Obi-wan doesn’t say that when he first met Anakin, Anakin was a great pod-racer. Anakin “was already a great pilot.” This means that Obi-wan must have met Anakin when he was old enough to be a pilot. Not the little boy we met in The Phantom Menace.
Obi-wan took it upon himself to train Anakin as a Jedi, assuming he could do as great a job as Yoda. Evidently, Yoda was the model for training Jedi and Obi-wan got a little too confident in his own abilities.
Now would be a good time to consider the question of age difference between Obi-wan and Anakin. Probably, Obi-wan was older than Anakin, but probably not more than a decade. They were close enough in age for them to be great friends.
So Anakin was both student and friend to Obi-wan Kenobi.
Obi-wan Tried to Turn Anakin Back to the Dark Side
BEN: I also thought he could be turned back to the good side. It couldn’t be done. He is more machine now than man. Twisted and evil.
This quote implies that after Anakin turned to the dark side, Obi-wan tried to turn him back. And his comment about Vader being more machine than man implies that Obi-wan tried to turn Anakin back after he became Darth Vader.
The prequel trilogy misses this plot point entirely.
His Children Were Hidden from Him
BEN: To protect you both from the Emperor, you were hidden from your father when you were born. The Emperor knew, as I did, if Anakin were to have any offspring, they would be a threat to him. That is the reason why your sister remains safely anonymous.
Anakin’s children were in danger by the Emperor, so they were hidden away. Now, this conflicts with what I pointed out earlier about Anakin wanting Luke to have his light saber when he was old enough, implying that Anakin knew he had a son.
This means, of course, that we may have to go with the interpretation that Anakin would have wanted his son to have his light saber if he hadn’t turned to evil.
There is a question here of why Leia was adopted and her last name changed and yet Luke is raised by his uncle and keeps the name of Skywalker.
Anakin’s Wife/Mother of His Children Didn’t Die in Childbirth
LUKE: Leia, do you remember your mother, your real mother?
LEIA: Just a little bit. She died when I was very young.
LUKE: What do you remember?
LEIA: Just images really, feelings.
LUKE: Tell me.
LEIA: She was, very beautiful, kind, but sad. Why are you asking me this?
LUKE: I have no memory of my mother. I never knew her.
Why does Luke not remember his mother, but Leia does? Leia tells Luke her mother died when she was really young. How young can a child remember something? Leia remembers her mom as beautiful but sad. Why was Anakin’s wife sad?
This bit of dialogue, if taken at face value, without the prequels in mind, would suggest that Luke was separated from his mom at birth, but she kept Leia until she died. After her death, she was adopted by Senator Organa.
Where was Luke? Was he with his father for at least a little while? Was he taken to be raised by Owen and Beru upon birth, even though his mother was alive?
Contradictions in the Original Trilogy
Obviously, there are some contradictions in Anakin’s story in the original trilogy. Probably has something to do with the fact that when George Lucas wrote Star Wars, Luke’s father and Darth Vader were separate people. But the contradictions in the original trilogy are nothing compared to the glaring contradictions between the two trilogies.
The prequel trilogy ignored much of what we’d already learned about Anakin in Episodes IV-VI, which is why I’d love to rewrite the entire prequel trilogy. I’ve got a lot of ideas of how to tell the story.
The question now is if I want to dive into a project which will largely be considered fan fiction. Something to ponder.
Tom Farr is a writer, teacher, and storyteller who believes in crafting lies to tell the truth. When he’s not enjoying the good life with his beautiful wife Lindsey and their three much-adored children, he’s striving to create stories that thrill and inspire and preparing for the day Disney calls him to write a Star Wars movie. He’s also a contributing editor for Made Up Words. His work has also appeared on Panel & Frame, Wordhaus, Curiosity Never Killed the Writer, and The Unsplash Book. Check out his fiction writing portfolio on Medium and sign up for his author newsletter.
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