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I Am Your … Mother: Motherhood in the Star Wars Universe

I Am Your … Mother: Motherhood in the Star Wars Universe

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In the six Star Wars movies the father-son relationship seems to garner most of the focus when compared to other relationships. Whether it is Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader’s relationships with Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Chancellor Palpatine or Luke Skywalker, there is always a father figure involved at some point. Clearly fathers are very important in a child’s life and with me being a father I like to think we are very important. But in Star Wars and in most families, mothers don’t get their due credit. Star Wars could be a case study for the important role moms play in their kids’ lives.

According to many studies, mothers tend to emphasize emotional security and physical safety, while fathers emphasize challenge and risk-taking. They seem to balance each other. Lacking one parent doesn’t mean that a person will not have the other attributes of the absent parent or that they won’t be successful in life. I was raised by a divorced single mom and I think by most accounts I turned out ok. But Anakin Skywalker went from being raised by a loving, compassionate mother in his first decade of life to being raised by a caring yet impatient and demanding Jedi Knight in his second.

I can only imagine how difficult it would have been for Anakin to leave his mother, Shmi, when he was only nine years old. I have a son near that same age and I would hate to think of the emotional distress he may have if he lost his mom. Anakin had a difficult life as a slave on Tatooine, but he always had his mom to rely on and comfort him and it was a stable situation for him. Anakin has never known any other way of life. He’s always had his mom. Now he is leaving her to go with Qui-Gon, Padme, Obi-Wan and the others who he had only met recently. And in my opinion there is no scene more emotional than when Anakin walks away from Shmi and doesn’t look back. When I was that age I didn’t really like leaving my family overnight, let alone leave and not know if I was ever coming back.

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When Anakin first arrives on Coruscant he is taken before the Jedi Council. In the Jedi Council room, Yoda and Mace Windu are very hesitant to accept him for Jedi training. As we all know Qui-Gon defies the Council and takes Anakin as his padawan, effectively accepting a fatherly role in Anakin’s life. In just a short time Anakin has gone from having a mom that is emotionally, physically, and mentally supportive to adoptive father who is going to challenge and push him to be the best Jedi he can be.

After Qui-Gon is killed by Darth Maul, Anakin is left without any parent, and at Qui-Gon’s funeral he is clearly distraught and worried about what will happen to him. He is 9 years old and should be in third or fourth grade. He has been forced to grow up quickly. Obi-Wan explains that he will now train Anakin, but Obi-Wan has never had a Padawan. He is a newly knighted Jedi and probably isn’t prepared to take on a child.

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It’s true that most Jedi younglings and padawans have been without parents during their training and it seems like most grow up to be emotionally stable, but they have never known what it is like to grow up with any parents. Anakin has. He was used to going to his mom for advice and reassurance. Younglings and padawans were most likely used to going to their instructors and/or masters. No matter how invested and involved the master was in their padawan’s life, it likely wouldn’t equal the feelings a mom has for their child. At least not how Shmi felt about Anakin. He was her life.

When we see Anakin in Attack of the Clones he has become a teenager with teenage angst, and Obi-Wan doesn’t cut him much slack. Obi-Wan has assumed the role of a father who expects near perfection from Anakin. He may know that Anakin will make mistakes, but he still pushes Anakin to control his feelings, emotions, and actions. Difficult things for any teenager. In ten years Anakin has gone from having only a mother who gives him freedom and room to grow (she hates his podracing, but doesn’t tell him not to do it, though she fears for his safety; she lets him make most of his own decisions and mistakes) to only having a slightly over-bearing and condescending father figure in Obi-Wan.

The Jedi want Anakin to have no connections and be almost emotionless. I can only imagine how I would feel if I was in Anakin’s situation. I may be looking for someone like Chancellor Palpatine who builds my confidence and encourages me. Palpatine made him feel good about himself and the Jedi rarely did.

Is it possible Anakin would have been better off if he had never known his mother, like the other Jedi? Would he have turned to the Dark Side? Or would it have at least been a good idea for the Jedi to let him remain in contact with his mother? When he was chastised and “torn down” by Obi-Wan wouldn’t it have been helpful for him to talk to his mom to be “built back up”? It also may have eliminated his dreams about his mom.

I hate to think about how I would have turned out without my mom or how my kids would turn out without my wife. Many people can and have successfully dealt with this, but I’m not sure I could have. So for me it is understandable why Anakin made some of the decisions (good and bad) he did.

Please let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you. Please comment below, follow me on Twitter @ryderwaldrondds, email comments to ryderw@coffeewithkenobi.com. And listen to Coffee With Kenobi. This is the podcast you’re looking for!

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11 Comments

  1. Sharon
    October 11, 2014 at 22:15 Reply

    Wow I love to read Ryder’s posts He is very articulate

  2. MaysAngel
    October 12, 2014 at 00:48 Reply

    I love this! It truly reminds of the (in fact) human stories George Lucas placed on the prequels for us to explore and think about. Anakin, was sort of set up for failure because of the demands upon him, of the loss of balance and love. Hopefully on the new episodes, there will be balance of what it means to be a Jedi, and a person with (dreams, etc.. desires..)

    Love this Cofee with Kenobi <3

  3. pambruchwalski
    October 12, 2014 at 23:54 Reply

    If I have a problem with the Jedi, this is it. How could they have misjudged Anakin’s situation so thoroughly as to force him completely away from his mother? Little Anakin had “EXCEPTION TO THE RULE” all but tattooed on his adorable little face at age nine. How could the Jedi not see it, not respect it? Mothers are complicated, imperfect, vital, and human. Without them, a child’s life is altered. That in itself should have been enough for the Jedi to make some exceptions with Anakin.

    1. lovelucas
      October 14, 2014 at 14:59 Reply

      Excellent – pambruchwalski – and not just because I agree 100%

      1. Pam Bruchwalski
        October 14, 2014 at 20:18 Reply

        Thank you, lovelucas. It’s one of those things about SW that I feel pretty strongly about.

  4. Ryder
    October 14, 2014 at 18:07 Reply

    Thanks everyone 🙂

  5. Melinda
    October 15, 2014 at 16:33 Reply

    Ryder, before I get into the meat of my comments, I would like to make one point (if you don’t mind) — that Shmi did NOT ALLOW Anakin to podrace. “I hate it every time Watto makes you do it,” she lamented at the dinner table, referring to Anakin’s podracing. As slaves, Shmi and Anakin had no choice but to do what they were told. Watto knew Anakin was “special”, and since Watto was most interested in making money, he took advantage of Anakin’s “talents”.

    Now on to your blog in general…

    Great blog! 🙂

    I really enjoyed what you had to say about parenthood (and mothers, in particular 🙂 ), and their role in Star Wars. In some respects, I suppose it would have been in Anakin’s best interest not to have known his mother … but one cannot change what is. I agree with you that the scene where Anakin is leaving his mother is the most heart-wrenching scene in the entire Saga. I get emotional every time I watch it. Shmi is so incredibly strong at that moment. She KNOWS what is best for Anakin, and wants to make the parting as easy on him as possible. He has adventure to look forward to while Shmi knows she will have a hole in her heart for the rest of her life.

    more…

  6. Melinda
    October 15, 2014 at 16:48 Reply

    continued…

    A mother’s love runs deep.

    In line with my comment regarding Anakin being better off if he never had known his mother, it would have been in his best interest to have Qui-Gon Jinn as his mentor. Even though he was a maverick among his brethren, Qui-Gon was mature, and knew what it meant to take a youngster under his wing. Of course, events didn’t pan out as expected. Qui-Gon was killed, and a young, still rather immature Obi-Wan took on the mantle of teacher. That was quite an onus to place upon his shoulders. I truly believe Obi-Wan came to love Anakin (the second most heart-wrenching scene is on Mustafar when Obi-Wan cries out, “I loved you!” to a dismembered Anakin. Quite frankly, I cannot imagine the agony Obi-Wan must have felt to be tasked with killing his “brother”.), and he did the best he could. It’s quite a juggling act we parents play — supporter/cheerleader, task master, disciplinarian, ally, advocate — and if we’re successful, we’ve done all that with love for our charges. I do believe Anakin knew what he meant to Obi-Wan. So many fans criticize the Jedi Master, but I think he did a very good job with Anakin. There were chinks in Anakin’s armor, shall we say, and Palpatine took advantage of them. Sadly, Anakin did not realize he was being manipulated. He put his faith in the wrong individual.

    more…

  7. Melinda
    October 15, 2014 at 17:07 Reply

    continued…

    When you think about it, the Jedi really did live a pretty hard life — always on the move, often thrown into chaotic, even dangerous situations. The Masters saw the wisdom in attempting to raise the younglings and padawans to be rather dispassionate. I’m not saying this is the best way to be raised, but it I can see the merit in this approach (especially because of my military background). Seeing the worth of such training would not come so easy to younglings, especially to someone like Anakin — someone who at least had a few years to know what it was like to be loved and cared for by someone (and that someone was his loving mother). His story really was a tragedy.

    For the record, I’d like to get my hands on those studies that cite “mothers tend to emphasize emotional security and physical safety, while fathers emphasize challenge and risk-taking.” I honestly can say our girls have received equal treatment from both their father and me in all these categories. Except for risk-taking. That most definitely comes mostly from me. 😉 (I’m not a big fan of generalities … most of the time … 😉 )

    Fun read, Ryder! 🙂

  8. Fangirl Report: Suit Up! I’m getting Take Out~ | A Fangirl's Flailing and Failing
    October 15, 2014 at 17:15 Reply

    […] start we’ve got an interesting article from Coffee with Kenobi by Ryder Waldron concerning Mothers in that galaxy far […]

  9. Becca Benjamin
    October 28, 2014 at 20:52 Reply

    There is something truly wonderful, almost mystifying, between the bond of a Mother and her son. Speaking from my own experience with motherhood and being the mother of three teens (2 girls and 1 boy), my relationship with my son is altogether different than it is with my girls. Not saying that it less important with my daughters, just that with my son there’s something … connecting us …. an invisible connection that seems to always be … attuned.

    You definitely touched on some important views in the Star Wars saga and this relationship (Shmi and Anakin) is not one to be overlooked; it should be embraced and examined a lot more closely than it is. As they say, our children are a product of their roots…teachers…mentors…their parents aka upbringing. Anakin gave without any thought of reward and he learned that from his Mother….

    Great Article, Ryder 🙂

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