So I was thinking – because I’m supposed to be writing a lab report about toluene contamination in groundwater – and I thought this was worth sharing.
We all know – and the more conservative Christian ‘Wars freaks are intensely frustrated and embarrassed by – the whole thing about how Anakin doesn’t have a father, he was conceived by the midi-chlorians… etc. It’s a pain. It adds nothing to the story except for making Ani ‘specialer’, which he doesn’t really need to be, because he’s kind of awesome in his own way already. That’s my bias out in the open. Here’s the backup for it.
(Yeah, Ani, I called you a special little snowflake.)
But think about it: do we know that he was? Take it one step at a time. Qui-Gon said, to the Council, and I quote, “His (Anakin’s) cells have the highest concentration of midi-chlorians I have seen in a life-form. It is possible he was conceived by the midi-chlorians.”
Note the ‘possible’. In scholarly circles, this would be tantamount to saying, “Hey, I’m just throwing ideas around here; I may or may not be high right now; don’t quote me.”
Another question: how did Qui-Gon know that ‘conceived by midi-chlorians’ was even a remotely plausible conclusion? I’d argue he probably didn’t. This is Qui-Gon Jinn we’re talking about here, after all: Master I-will-do-what-I-must. He wasn’t a scientist – so far as we know, and we know precious little. But he was a Jedi, and an experienced arbitrator. Chances are he was used to extrapolating from grievously incomplete data.
Okay, so what was the data? 1: a small boy with an unprecedented midi-chlorian count, of over 20,000. (And no, we don’t know what the units for that are: I checked.) Also, because it’s Qui-Gon, with his (known) mild obsession with the Living Force, it’s safe to assume he knew what he was talking about when he mentioned ‘a vergence‘. Don’t forget Mace Windu recognized the term, and recognized that it could be focused around a person, so presumably other vergences, historical or otherwise, were known to the Jedi Order.
Explanation of midi-chlorians, anyone? Again, we have to fall back on Qui-Gon’s data, which is probably good because that’s what the whole argument for Anakin’s… interesting origins… comes from anyway. I stress that this guy was a diplomat. He knew all there was to know about putting things in the clearest possible terms. Did anyone else notice how incredibly vague that explanation actually was? “Midi-chlorians are microscopic life-forms that reside within the cells of all living things and communicate with the Force… without the midi-chlorians, life could not exist, and we would have no knowledge of the Force.” And that was as clear as he could be in an explanation to an uneducated nine-year-old?
Conclusion: the Jedi didn’t really understand what the heck these midi-chlorians were either, and certainly not what effect a whole lot of midi-chlorians in the same person would have. Presumably Jenna Zan Arbor would have been more than happy to help out on that one, but even she couldn’t separate the midi-chlorians from the host cells… and brother do we know she tried. (Aaaggghhhh.)
In saying Anakin was conceived by the midi-chlorians, it’s plausible that for once, Qui-Gon had no idea what he was talking about, if only because nobody else did either, and he was trying to find some way of reconciling what he knew with what he’d been told. Which brings us to the second piece of data contributing to this weird conclusion.
Data point 2: The boy’s mother saying, and I quote: “There was no father. I carried him, I gave birth, I raised him. I can’t explain what happened.” Interesting.
We have to study Shmi Skywalker for a moment now, which is going to be tough, because we don’t really know anything about her. (Importantly, neither did Qui-Gon – think about the timeframes in tPM for a moment and you’ll see what I mean.) Shmi was a slave. She’d certainly been one for over nine years, because Anakin was born while Shmi was in Gardulla’s service. The smugglers, pilots, travelers in Mos Eisley – they knew about the Jedi firsthand; they knew the Jedi are peacekeepers, and generally good people. So Shmi knew the same thing, albeit at second-hand.
She was a good mother – at any rate, she was a mother. She wanted the best she could get for her son. After nine years of complete and total hopelessness – and knowing that Watto will keep making Anakin race pods until the kid gets killed – she’d take anything that was going. (We know about the racing because “every time he makes you race…”) Shmi knows the Jedi are good people, and she could see that the only Jedi she had ever actually met was interested in taking Anakin back to the Temple to train the kid. And then he asked her a tricky question. “Who’s the father?” POV Shmi for a moment: the Jedi wants to know who Ani’s father is. Jedi are Senate-sanctioned, so they operate within the law. It’s not legal for someone who isn’t a relative to take a child away from his home without both parents’ permission.
She already knew the Jedi thought her son was special – Anakin might have been in his room asleep when Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were discussing midi-chlorian counts, but she wasn’t.
Suppose for an instant that Anakin did have a father. Maybe Shmi was married to someone, and they were sold away from each other. Maybe she was raped. Maybe Gardulla just wanted her to have a baby and told her ‘sleep with this guy’. Who knows? Who cares? Point is, if Anakin had a father somewhere, it would put, not one, but two walls in the way of Shmi’s dream for her son. One: someone else the Jedi would have to ask permission of to take Anakin away. Someone whose response she couldn’t control or predict. Someone who could say no, he’s staying on Tatooine and that would be that. Two: sure, the kid had a high midi-chlorian count, but other than that he was just another kid. And she didn’t know how important the count was anyway, or what criteria the Jedi Council were looking for… but if Anakin was unique, there was a higher chance they would want him. And after all… in this Galaxy of endless coincidences and strange Force-stuff ordinary people don’t understand, who’s to say what’s impossible?
What would you do? I know I’d lie. I wouldn’t even see it as much of a lie. It was vague. She was essentially talking to a stranger, after all, and some things you don’t say outright to strangers. But even taking that into account, “there was no father” could as easily mean “Anakin has never had a stable father-figure” (true) as “I’ve never had sex.”
And “I can’t explain“? Seriously? To me, as a confirmed pantser when it comes to writing, that reeks of seat-of-the-pants pure fiction. It’s nearly as bad as “somehow”.
I’d like to offer two scenarios, and you can let me know which you think is more likely.
Scenario One: Shmi Skywalker lied through her teeth in a desperate attempt to get her son out of slavery. Qui-Gon – who we know had absolute faith in miracles – was certain that regardless of his parentage, Anakin had something, Anakin ought to be trained as a Jedi. In other words, they both preferred that Shmi have the final – the only – say in whether Anakin left Tatooine or not. So Qui-Gon either believed Shmi’s lie, or pretended to believe it.
Scenario Two: Anakin was conceived by an admittedly unusually high concentration of midi-chlorians. We don’t know j’onn chizzk about how midi-chlorians work anyway, or if that’s even possible. That said, given said j’onn chizzk data, we don’t know it’s impossible.
I’m in favor of Scenario One, but that’s just my theory.
Frankly, I think it makes for a pretty darn good story…
Thanks for reading.
War Stories will be back as soon as I find a decent nightmare for it. In the meantime, have an owl meme.
(All quotes used in argument are taken from the Lucasfilm-sanctioned 1999 Terry Brooks novelization of tPM. I got it in Canterbury on vacation and hugged it for basically the rest of the week.)