The Chosen One is the one chosen by a higher power to save us all. A Hero: the one that must undergo a series of risks, forced into unfavorable choices, and faced with enormous stakes.
Throughout the trilogies of the Star Wars saga, each protagonist or hero is always presented with a choice. Each one begins their Hero’s Journey by way of choice or a possible course of action. In A New Hope, Luke is to choose between staying on Tatooine and going to Alderaan with Obi-Wan Kenobi. Whereas the young scavenger Rey, in The Force Awakens, is to choose between staying on Jakku or helping BB-8 find his Resistance base. And then, we have the Chosen One, Anakin Skywalker. In The Phantom Menace, he is being asked to choose between his mom and freedom. That, to me, is probably the most consequential ‘choice’ out of the three heroes thus far. So, I’d like to take a closer look at how choice, change, and cost affected Anakin’s path as the Chosen One.
Anakin Skywalker is the legendary Hero with No Fear, and most likely the greatest Jedi Knight to have ever graced the galaxy far, far away. A cunning warrior and the best star pilot in the galaxy. All of that is quickly discredited or pushed to the wayside, forgotten and replaced, by his fall to the dark side. Well, some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions.
The best intentions, yes, we all have them and so did Anakin Skywalker. But choices do not come without cost and Anakin’s choice, in The Phantom Menace, is what paved his path to the dark side. And in doing so, it bred a fear of loss in Anakin. This is psychologically damaging on many levels and in my opinion, is the underlying factor to his future decisions – the dark side. I mean, how many nine-year-olds are asked to choose between leaving their family, in Anakin’s case, his mother and start preparing for their future? Now that is a hefty choice to make and again, one of the most consequential choices we’ve seen in the Star Wars saga so far.
Anakin is a small boy with little possibilities as a slave, but as a Jedi, suddenly the impossible becomes possible. He knows nothing of greed and has special powers. He deserves better than a slave’s life, but it comes with a cost – leave everything else behind. And by leaving I mean, no contact. Not ever. Cutting all ties and never looking back.
The paths or choices our heroes choose, along their journey pave their destiny, and Anakin’s began here. This path was placed before him and him alone. Alone, yes, this one word will set the course for Anakin’s predestined fall to the dark side. Interestingly enough, it is Shmi who encourages Anakin to chase after his dreams of becoming a Jedi. “This path has been placed before you. The choice is yours alone.” It’s the nudge he needed, and it had to come from Shmi. After all, what nine-year-old doesn’t believe in their mother’s love?
As children, we seek the approval and support of our parents. Their hopes and aspirations for us give us the motivation to become something greater. It is the only way we grow. Only, Anakin is the exception. He is severed from his maternal ties at an impressionable age and in a sense, becomes emotionally stunted. Leaving him in a state where as he ages, his emotional capacity is unable to match that of his physical growth or develop properly. And it all starts here…
“I don’t want things to change.” – Anakin
“But you can’t stop the change, no more than you can stop the suns from setting.” – Shmi
Shmi’s lesson is true and worldly, but she is also encouraging her son to let go. Honestly, I think Shmi’s words were meant for the both of them, not just Anakin. To me, it’s pretty clear when she says, “He was in my life for such a short time” to Qui-Gon Jinn, that she’s having second thoughts. And even though Shmi was confiding in Qui-Gon, her whispers were just an earshot away from her gifted son. So, it doesn’t take long for him to catch on that mom too, is struggling with the sudden change ahead of them. A choice, she herself encouraged Anakin to take.
Again, if you pay attention to her body language, it’s obvious that she is not so sure that either of them is choosing right. Shmi stays behind. As she stands in the doorway of their home, she watches him leave with a sad smile on her face, and it is more than he can stand. Anakin stops and turns back, rushes straight into his mother’s arms with tears welling in his eyes and says, “I can’t do it, Mom. I just can’t.” She instantaneously scoops him up in her arms and coddles him as any mother would do. For Anakin, in her arms, all seems right and safe in the world.
It’s heart-wrenching to bear from a mother’s perspective and even more so, to understand, from Anakin’s point of view. This is his mother, his entire world that he is leaving behind and he can never go back.
“Now be brave and don’t look back. Don’t look back.” –Shmi
He doesn’t look back. He marches quickly after Qui-Gon Jinn with a look of determination upon his little face. Determined, yes, but grim, nonetheless. It’s as if he’s saying: I’ll make you proud of me, Mom. I will become a Jedi and I’ll come back and free you. Watch me. I won’t look back. This is a significant moment for Anakin, the beginnings of what will eventually influence his decisions in the future. A major splinter that will crack the mold to the Jedi Order’s most promising pupil, a domino effect and a cost that will be far greater than he or anyone had anticipated.
Anakin lacked the means to cope with disappointment, abandonment, and loss. Why? Well, because he chose freedom over his mother and at that time in his life, he needed her influence more than the Jedi’s. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he chose wrong, not exactly. But becoming a Jedi at nine-years-old stunted his emotional capacity for future relationships and the coping skills to deal with life’s challenges and disappointments.
Think of what came from that. The repercussions from holding Anakin back from seeing his mother and what it provoked. All of it derived from a choice and would eventually lead to years of regret. Regret for not following through with his promise to come back and free her. But, he was told to let go of all he feared to lose and to forgo all or any attachments. Whereas, if he had Shmi’s presence in his upbringing, those skill sets would have been addressed, nurtured, and set into place. Instead, he was chastised by the Jedi Order for having different feelings than their own such as, missing his mother. The Jedi found that notion to be quite disconcerting, but it left Anakin baffled and a bit miffed as well.
“I miss her.” – Anakin
“Afraid to lose her, I think.” – Master Yoda
“What’s that got to do with anything?” – Anakin
“Everything.” – Master Yoda
You could feel the resentment rising within Anakin as Yoda continued to speak. After all …
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Master Yoda
Yes, he was only a child when he made that promise, but it wasn’t just any promise made to just anyone, this was his mother. Could he keep such a promise? Would he be able to attain that power to one day achieve that feat? Anakin had hope. He had Master Qui-Gon Jinn. Or, at least he thought he did. In a matter of days after Anakin’s choice to be free, to become a Jedi, he not only loses his mother but his guardian as well. Anakin, in a sense, has lost everybody – Shmi, his friends back home, and now Qui-Gon Jinn. He has faced so much loss.
“What will happen to me now?” – Anakin
“You will become a Jedi. I promise.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
Choice, Change, and Cost, this was the path of Anakin Skywalker, the Chosen One. In a way, this was a chain reaction. This one choice was the foundation for a series of similar events or changes to occur and eventually manifest into the unthinkable – insufferable loss.
As a child, he made a choice to leave the only family and life he had ever known because he was simply too afraid to stay a slave in the only life he ever knew. Every choice has its price, a cost, and Anakin’s was loss. But perhaps, the Force understood and accepted his choices because the Force chose him to choose. Well, from a certain point of view, of course.
The Cantina Cast
The wretched hive your Jedi Master warned you about!
- Original Sources: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace and Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Scholastic and Lucas Books edition by Patricia C. Wrede
Becca Benjamin is a Medical Receptionist for a Retina Specialist, and the Editor-in-chief for The Cantina Cast, an innovative and thought-provoking Star Wars podcast and website, with a down-to-earth approach. She is also a host (with co-host Mark Sutter) on Tarkin’s Top Shelf, a literary Star Wars podcast and the personal author for Lucasfilm artist Steve Anderson. Becca is a monthly blog contributor to Coffee with Kenobi , and can also be heard on The Star Wars Hour; the official Star Wars podcast for Channel Star Wars discussing anything and everything Star Wars!