When it came to Luke Skywalker’s back-story, all we knew of him in Star Wars was that he was an orphan who lived with his aunt and uncle on some backwoods planet in the middle of nowhere. What he knew of his father was only bits and pieces and any other information as withheld. That is until he met Obi-Wan Kenobi and began his journey towards becoming a Jedi. Along the way, not only did Luke learn that his father Anakin Skywalker had become Darth Vader, but he also discovered that the beautiful Princess Leia was his twin sister.
It was in that moment in Return of the Jedi when he revealed to Leia who his father really
was and of their relation that we first heard even the slightest hint at the mother of the Skywalker twins. He asked Leia, who presumable told him sometime during their many adventures that she had been adopted, what she remembered of their mother. All Leia could tell him was,
“All I remember are thoughts, really emotions. She died when I was very young. She was very kind…beautiful…but sad.”
Beyond that, Luke made little reference to his mother, save having no memory of her. He was more interested in learning about his father. In Star Wars he had told Obi-Wan how he wished he could have known him, perked up when Uncle Owen mentioned that Obi-Wan died around the same time as his father, leading him to the conclusion Kenobi knew him, and told Yoda in Empire that his father was part of the reason he wished to become a Jedi. When Vader revealed the truth about his parentage, Luke had to come to terms with that revelation.
This is very common in heroic stories, both ancient, and modern. During the events of The Odyssey, Telemecus, the son of Odysseus went on his own adventure to inquire about the fate of his father. Superman is usually met in his Fortress of Solitude by an AI of his father to give him advice, but rarely seeks the advice of his mother. This can lead one to wondering just how important the mother is to the hero, if all that matters is reconciling with the father.
However despite the lack of reconciliation with the mother, her role is still very important to the hero. From a purely biological standpoint, a person has to come from somewhere. As Joseph Campbell notes in The Power of Myth,
“…The Mother is right there. You’re born from your mother, and she’s the one who nurses you and instructs you…now, the finding of the father has to do with finding your own character and destiny. There’s a notion that the character is inherited from the father, and the body and very often the mind, from the mother.”
This is especially true with the Skywalker twins, which leads to the big question: who was this woman who brought into the world two young people who would go on to help save their galaxy from tyranny and loved the man who became Vader? That was left a mystery for fans to ponder for almost twenty years, until 1999 when The Phantom Menace came out and fans were introduced to the beautiful young queen of the planet of Naboo known as “Queen Padmé Amidala.”
Actress Natalie Portman who played her in the prequel trilogy said in the article “Padmé Amidala Speaks”, in issue #70 of the Star Wars Homing Beacon newsletter,
“She’s a leader, she’s idealistic and a good human being who has compassion for others. Plus she’s not corrupted by politics; she takes care of herself and she’s vulnerable to love — which everyone is.”
In a surprising twist, her royal title was not one of birth, but one of election. On her homeworld, Queens are elected into service by the people. Amidala was the youngest queen in the history of her world, having started ruling when she was about 13 years old. It may seem odd to some for a queen, or even a king but there are numerous examples of young rulers and leaders in the Bible, mythology and in history. King Josiah became king over Judah at the age of 8 in the biblical book of Second Kings. King Tutankhamen was said to have ascended the throne of Egypt when he was 13 years old. Joan of Arc was said to have lead the French army into war when she was 16.
What these young leaders may lack in age, and experience, they make up for more in passion, spirit and in a love for their people. A young ruler is also less likely to have been tainted and jaded by some of the ides of those who came before. After all, some early scholars speculated that King Tutankhamen was killed by his advisors to make sure he didn’t follow father his father in establishing a monotheistic religion and continue leading Egypt away from its pantheon. King Josiah rejected the apostasy of his father and grandfather, and in seeing what had happened to their neighboring kingdom of Samaria, turned the people of Judah back to Yahweh.
Even her name reveals something about her character. In “Beyond Judeo-Christianity” from the book Sex, Politics and Religion in Star Wars, Julien Fielding notes,
“Her name is derived from the Sanskrit word Padma; the lotus flower that is a symbol of purity and lucidity…As a character, Queen Amidala is brave, loyal and selfless. Even when her life is threatened she never shirks away from duty, believing that her subjects must come first…Always a champion of peace and diplomacy, Padmé is ruled by compassion for others.”
It is no wonder then that the intuitive young Anakin Skywalker asks if she is an angel upon first meeting her in the junk shop on Tatooine. While in around about way, he admits that he thinks she’s beautiful, her personality only adds to that Angelic quality. Like the western cultural depiction of the feminine Angel, she is gentle and always ready to provide comfort to others. Yet, just like a biblical Angel, she is also willing to fight when called upon to protect those under her charge.
The people of her home world of Naboo would need an Angel to protect them. On the outset, Naboo is established as a direct contrast to some of the more hostile worlds in the Star Wars galaxy like Tatooine, Naboo and Dagobah. Further, it’s name has a strong mythical tie to it Paul F. MacDonald notes in the book The Star Wars Heresies,
“Naboo is a world rich and green and bursting with potential, a dream landscape of sweeping grasslands, bright open fields, and vast blue lakes. It boasts a wisdom and an aesthetic, one of the few places in the galaxy where the organic and the mechanical have struck a harmony rather than a tension. All of this speaks of a people in tune with nature and themselves, not to mention the timeless cycles of life and fertility… At the start of the Saga, Naboo shines, bright, as does her queen. Her planet itself is named after Nabu, the Babylonian god of wisdom, Amidala brings with her shades of the female deities who were once imagined to rule that part of the world…”
However, despite its beauty, it is a world under siege as the Neimoidians set up a blockade around the planet of Naboo forbidding any ships to buy, sell, or trade with them. The Jedi, Obi Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn had been sent to help negotiate a peace, but in the end it was all for naught. The Jedi were nearly killed and escaped with their lives to warn of something far worse: the Neimoidians were planning an invasion.
She was tired of the political back dealing and double talk and needed action. During a Senate hearing regarding the blockade when Chancellor Valorum asked if she would be willing to defer while the Senate investigated her claims she responded,
“I will not defer. I’ve come before you to resolve this attack on our sovereignty now! I was not elected to watch my people suffer and die while you discuss this invasion in a committee!”
Ever the diplomat, Padmé firmly believed in giving peace and democracy a chance until all other recourse had been exhausted. However, when situations become dangerous, she dons her guise as the queen’s handmaiden “Padmé” while her decoy takes her place as the queen. During their entire flight from Naboo to Coruscant it was actually her decoy in the royal dress, while Padmé spoke closely with the Jedi and even joined Qui-Gon on Tatooine.
The experience on Tatooine was an eye-opening and heartbreaking one for her. Upon learning that Anakin and his mother were slaves she pointed out that in the Republic slavery had been abolished. Shmi informed her that those laws had no application on Outer Rim worlds like Tatooine, making her realize the limits to the importance she and the rest of the Republic had. In the Star Wars: Episode I Adventures: Queen Amidala comic book, she promised Anakin,
“That is…unacceptable. The Queen will be made aware of this. Someday- – I promise you – – the republic will eliminated slavery…on all worlds.
She was also quick to question Qui-Gon on trusting in the help of a strange young boy, Anakin Skywalker. Her skepticism was necessary. They were on the run and in a remote backwoods planet run by gangsters and blindly rusting anyone could be dangerous. Further, she regards his betting as an unnecessary risk, especially once Anakin confided in her that he never finished a race before. She may not be a gambler, but she has a good idea that it is better to trust in a proven winner.
Further, her concerns were motivated for the safety of the boy. She didn’t know about Anakin’s Jedi potential as Qui-Gon had only shared that with Obi-Wan and Shmi. As far as Padmé was concerned, Anakin was just a very caring little boy. As she told him in the Queen Amidala comic book,
“You know I don’t approve of this business, Annie… no child your age should be put in the position of having to risk his life for…for any reason! You must take no unnecessary chances…”
She was not going to risk the boy’s safety or freedom for anything, even her. She may have been more than willing as queen to make the hard choices, but she felt Anakin shouldn’t have to do the same. However her fears are assuaged when Anakin not only finished the Pod Race but won. With the parts, and the boy secured, they returned to the ship and left for Coruscant.
Then in the dead of night as they travel to the senate, she finally gets to see a message from one of her chief advisors alerting her to the increasing crisis on Naboo as the Trade Federation subjugates them. As she finished she saw Anakin shivering in the cold, missing his mother. She provides him with a blanket and some words of comfort, showing that more than anything she does care for the boy, and even tells him as much. As a token of affection and good luck, Anakin gave her a necklace carved of a Japor snippet.
However her thoughts of the boy were of her least concern upon reaching Coruscant. She went to the Senate to appeal to them for the humanitarian crisis faced by her homeworld. The Trade Federation denied the charges and, under the guidance of Senator Palpatine, called for a vote of no confidence on the part of Chancellor Valorum, feeling he was not doing enough to help her people, and in the pocket of the Federation.
Realizing that the Senate would do nothing to end the blockade she returned to her homeworld to rid her planet of their oppressors. In order to do this, she sought the help of the other race of Naboo, the Gungans. Under the advice of Jar-Jar Binks, she learns they have a decent sized army and realized that they only way they can free their world is for both the humans and the Gungans to work together.
With their unlikely allies by their side, Padmé with the two Jedi Knights Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon and the boy Anakin, the Naboo is freed from the Trade Federation. A time of peace is declared and eventually, Padmé’s term as queen comes to an end. However, even though she was no longer on the throne, she still found a way to serve. As she later explains to Anakin in Attack of the Clones,
“I wasn’t the youngest Queen ever elected, but now that I think back on it, I’m not sure I was old enough. I’m not sure I was ready. And, truthfully, I was relieved when my two terms were up. But when the Queen asked me to serve as Senator, I couldn’t refuse her…”
In fact she would find that even darker days were on the horizon. Due to a growing Separatist movement, that included the Trade Federation, the Republic was in turmoil. The Jedi were spread too thin, and there was a bill on the senate to create an army to combat this threat. As Padmé was arriving on Coruscant for a hearing on the military spending bill she found herself the target of an assassination attempt.
This attempt brought her and Anakin back together, after ten years apart. The first thing she noticed was that the “funny little boy” from Tatooine had grown up. After a second attempt on her life, she was ordered to return to go into hiding with Anakin serving as her protector. She did not like the idea of going into hiding, as she had worked hard to move the bill through the senate and knew it could easily be defeated without her there. However, as reluctant as she was, she returned home, and took refuge at a lake home. It was at this time that she and Anakin began to struggle with feelings towards one another following a stolen kiss.
Anakin was insistent, believing they could find a way to be together, but she refused not wanting either of them to sacrifice their higher calling. Here, Padmé takes a higher ground, acting as a voice of reason against Anakin’s impulsive nature. She tells him,
“No you listen! We live in a real world, come back to it. You’re studying to become a Jedi, I’m… I’m a senator. If you follow your thoughts through to conclusion, it will take us to a place we cannot go, regardless of the way we feel about each other.”
Despite not wanting a relationship with him, she still deeply cares for him. When he is troubled by dreams of his mother’s death and wishes to go and see if she is safe, Padmé is more than willing to come with him. After he murdered the Sand People for killing his mother, Padmé comforts Anakin, reminding him he is human. She doesn’t judge him, she doesn’t yell at him, she just sits by his side and does what she does best: listen to someone’s problems and act as a sounding board.
She also demonstrates that she is quick witted and can adapt to any situation. When they receive a distress call from Obi-Wan, and Anakin feels he has to follow orders and stay put. Padmé, ever the politician, managed to find a loophole in Kenobi’s order: Anakin was ordered to stay with Padmé and protect her; however, if she was going to embark on her own mission to save Obi-Wan then Anakin would have to come with.
When they arrived at Geonosis they were promptly sentenced to be executed In a gladiatorial arena alongside Obi-Wan by Count Dooku. As they were about to be carted out, Padmé revealed to Anakin that she did in fact love him. Here, she fully demonstrated her ability to hold her own alongside the Jedi as she managed to free herself from her hand cuffs, climbed to the top of a pillar and leapt atop one of he beasts trying to kill him, and took down several battle droids attacking her. After all of this, Anakin and Padmé were married in secret.
The ensuing Clone Wars did not give them much time to be with each other, meaning they had to reduce their relationship to secret liaisons in alley ways as was depicted in the Clone Wars micro series, or simply Anakin having a meeting with her for state business. However she still loved and supported him, even keeping his Jedi braid in a keepsake box alongside her Japor snippet and giving R2-D2 to Anakin to act as a companion on her husband’s travels.
Despite their brief time together, they managed to conceive twins. Padmé announced this news to Anakin who was overjoyed, and overwhelmed by the prospect. They both knew their lives would change forever when the babies came, and instantly Padmé’s roll in the film changed as well. No longer was she a total action babe, but seemingly relegated to the sidelines.
Some complained in Revenge of the Sith Padmé didn’t have much to do in terms of action. Padmé had established herself as a woman of action both in the battle of Naboo in The Phantom Menace, and the Battle of Geonisis in Attack of the Clones. Both cartoons that chronicle the Clone Wars also saw Padmé getting into the heat of action, from the episode of the original micro-series in which she accompanied Yoda on a rescue mission to save two Jedi trapped at a temple on Illum, to traveling to the seedy and dangerous part of Coruscant to negotiate with the Ziro the Hutt, the brother of Jabba, in the movie Star Wars: The Clone Wars. She even set up her own extraction plan with Threepio if she didn’t return at a certain time from Ziro’s.
Then in Revenge of the Sith, when Anakin, Obi-Wan and the rest of the Jedi have all the action, Padmé had been seemingly relegated to the sidelines to become a mother. Some fans were disappointed as they wanted to see Padmé fighting in one last big battle, however to do so would have gone against who she was as a character. First, while Padmé may have had her share of battles in the first two prequels and the cartoons, she had always seen that as a last resort. She is, first and foremost, a queen, a senator and most importantly, a diplomat. She would prefer to solve problems in a non-aggressive manner. Padmé believed that war was the result of when the two opposing parties failed to listen to one another and work together for a common good.
Second, and most importantly, is the obvious fact that she’s become an expecting mother. There is no solid reason for her to be running around jumping off of things when she knows she is pregnant. She is going to want to do what she can to preserve the life of her child. She is going to have to make some sacrifices, in order to serve that role.
As Campbell notes
“That’s (birth) an enormous transformation, and had it been consciously undertaken, it would have been, indeed a heroic act. And there was a heroic act on the mother’s part, as well, who had brought this all about…the male was the more conspicuous role, just because of the conditions of life. He is out in the world, and the woman in the home…giving birth is definitely a heroic deed, in that it is the giving over of oneself to the life of another…you have to be transformed from a maiden to a mother. That’s a big change, involving many dangers.”
Nothing is more dangerous for Padmé then what is going on around her. While the Clone Wars are drawing to an ending, the Republic she served is starting to crumble under the weight of Chancellor Palpatine, a man she thought she could trust. Realizing that Palpatine will not listen to her or any of the rest of the Senate, she asks Anakin,
“What if the democracy we thought we were serving no longer exists, and the Republic has become the very evil we have been fighting to destroy?…. Anakin, this war represents a failure to listen… Now, you’re closer to the Chancellor than anyone. Please, please ask him to stop the fighting and let diplomacy resume.”
Throughout the Revenge of the Sith, Padmé is often seen wearing the Japor snippet Anakin made for her. This simple token of affection becomes even more to her. It is a symbol to her of the person her husband used to be. A good, noble, and compassionate man, who only cared about helping others.
This is all the more reason why she threw caution to the wind and went to see him on Mustafar. She had seen the fire from the Jedi temple and heard of the attack, and feared the worst. He told her, that the Jedi had risen up against the Republic and hoped Obi-Wan was still loyal. Saying he was leaving on official business, he headed for the fiery world, only for Obi-Wan to arrive later and for him to tell her the truth. Upon hearing that Palpatine was a Sith Lord, and that Anakin had fallen to the Dark Side she was stunned beyond belief, especially when she heard what Anakin had done.
Her life in turmoil she chose to head off to see Anakin rather than listen to her friend, at great peril. She tried to speak with Anakin only for him to lie to her. As he spoke she saw for herself that he wasn’t the same man. He was cruel, power hungry and almost insane. To her great disgust he showed no remorse over the accusation of killing Younglings.
She pleaded with him,
“I don’t believe what I’m hearing! Obi-Wan was right… you’ve changed! You have turned to the dark side! You’re not Anakin anymore!… Anakin, you’re breaking my heart! You’re going down a path I cannot follow!.. Stop now… come back… I love you!”
Then when it turned out Obi-Wan stowed away in her ship, Anakin flew into a range and Force choked her, nearly killing her. To Obi-Wan’s great relief she was still alive, but barely holding on. Traveling to a remote outpost Obi-Wan, Yoda, and Senator Bail Organa saw to it that her twins were delivered to full term, but there was nothing more that could be done. In a controversial moment for many fans, Padmé had lost the will to live. The woman who was a strong and confident leader had wilted, not unlike a lotus blossom, crushed under foot.
Some are quick to question why Padmé would lose the will to live while Yoda and Obi-Wan could go on. After all, Padmé had her children to live for. However, aside from enduring the pyshical pain of giving brith to a set of twins, Obi-Wan and Yoda had been trained since childhood to let go of their attachments. To add to it, Kenobi and Yoda had their faith in the Force to sustain them. While the loss of their friends and way of life was heartbreaking, they had a level emotional, mental, and spiritual discipline that Padmé would have lacked. This is to say nothing of the additional physical pain she would have experienced of giving birth to a set of twins, a feat achieved by neither Jedi Master.
Some have likened it to Ophelia in Hamlet succumbing to despair, but for Padmé the situation as far worse. Ophelia only had a manic psychotic boyfriend, while Padmé’s whole universe had come to an end. The Republic had become an Empire. Palpatine, a man she trusted and helped put on the path to power, corrupted her husband and now ruled the galaxy with an iron fist. Kenobi and Yoda, two of her closest friends, were now fugitives while the rest of the Jedi were dead. It would be easy for anyone to give into despair when everything they fought for is gone.
However, even in death Padmé would still play a role in Vader’s life. In the graphic novel Darth Vader and the Lost Command, set sometime after Revenge of the Sith, Vader is actually seen tapping into the Force, and traveling to an alternate universe in which he turned on Palpatine and helped Mace Windu and now lives happily with Padmé and their son. It is a process he undergoes in times of great stress, or pain, such as when he has to go in for regular maintenance procedures on his armor and prosthetics. Padmé’s ghost even awakens him to warn him of an assassination attempt staged by a treacherous commander.
As he endures one of these painful procedures, he calls out to her, telling her,
“Seeing you…it’s the only thing that keeps me sane…please keep me sane… keep me sane my love.”
In this story, it highlights just what role Padmé played in Anakin’s life both before and after his downfall. Padmé is the Gretchen to Anakin’s Faust, the eternal incorruptible feminine, who beseeches for Anakin in favor of the light. Even until the very last, she held onto hope in the form of her Japor snippet that Anakin could be saved. That good was retained through his love for her and their children.
Her ghost even visits him at one point where he is close to death. As they speak he insists over and over that he, Anakin is dead and only Vader remains, and that his deeds were unforgivable and how he regrets losing her. However, Padmé tells him,
“Oh, Anakin…look at you. You are so broken…you know that I never left you…you killed me. You…Lord Vader. I forgive you…”
Whether it was just an illusion caused by a nearby Shaman, Vader’s wishful thinking, or her actual ghost is a matter of debate, however one thing remains: even in death, Padmé loved and forgave Anakin for what he did, knowing that deep down he was still the man she loved. It was the one thing she believed in that could never be fully shaken, even when the democracy she believed in failed her. As she promised him in Chapter 21 of the Star Wars Clone Wars micro-series,
“ Ani… We knew it would be like this. Perhaps things can change after the war, but for now, the Republic needs you. And in the shadows of Coruscant, or any other city, but most importantly, in my heart, I will always love you.”
Blackman, Haden, Rick Leonardi, and Daniel Green. Star Wars: Darth Vader and the Lost Command. 2011/2012 Dark Horse Comics.
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FILM: Lucas, George. (Dir) Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Starring Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiaramid, Ray Park, Ahmed Best, Pernilla August, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Samuel L. Jackson and Frank Oz. 1999. LucasFilm. LTD. Released by 20th Century Fox.
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FILM: Lucas, George. (Dir) Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Starring Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiaramid, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, and Frank Oz. 2005. LucasFilm. LTD. Released by 20th Century Fox.
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FILM: Marquand, Richard ( Dir) Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Alec Guiness, Ian McDiaramid and Frank Oz. 1983. LucasFilm. LTD. Released by 20th Century Fox.
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Fielding, Julien. “Beyond Judeo-Christianity” Sex, Politics, and Religion in Star Wars; An Anthology. Pg. 26. 2012. Scarecrow Press.
TV SERIES: Tartakovsky, Genndy ( Dir). “Chapter 14” Star Wars: Clone Wars.Original Airdate. March 31st, 2004. LucasFilm, LTD.
TV SERIES: Tartakovsky, Genndy ( Dir). “Chapter 15” Star Wars: Clone Wars.Original Airdate. March 21st, 2005. LucasFilm, LTD.
TV SERIES: Tartakovsky, Genndy ( Dir). “Chapter 16” Star Wars: Clone Wars.Original Airdate. April 1st, 2004. LucasFilm, LTD.
TV SERIES: Tartakovsky, Genndy ( Dir). “Chapter 21” Star Wars: Clone Wars.Original Airdate. April 2nd, 2004. LucasFilm, LTD.
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