Mothers and Star Wars

Today is Mother’s Day in the UK so we thought we’d say a special thank you to some of the amazing mothers and mother figures that we have seen in Star Wars. There are many more but I thought let’s stick with some of the obvious and some of the less obvious! Before we get started I’d love to link you to one of our Star Wars Class posts about ‘The Female Core of Star Wars for some background. 

Let’s start chronologically, and in the bottom right corner of the header image, with Shmi Skywalker. As we have written previously, Shmi Skywalker forms a major part of not only the story of The Phantom Menace but of the development of Anakin Skywalker throughout the whole of Star Wars. She forms the emotional core of the first film and is shown to impress those around her, whether it’s Qui-Gon Jinn or Cliegg Lars. What is fascinating about her is the development in her character, much of which occurs off screen. In The Phantom Menace we see her as a strong and resilient woman who knows it is the right thing to do to let Anakin go. On the one hand she feels like a very calm and in-touch character, but on the other hand there is a sadness in her. Leia’s words about Padme in The Return of the Jedi could also be applied to her: ‘She was, very beautiful, kind, but sad‘. In Attack of the Clones we only see her briefly but her presence is noticeable throughout the film.

shmi skywalker

Shmi makes an interesting case for importance over presence. After The Phantom Menace we don’t see much of her, but unlike as in other films, she doesn’t get fridged and forgotten. Anakin is always his mother’s son and the kindness and generosity he has learned from her is one of the things that keeps him human throughout the saga. Her appearance in The Clone Wars during the much-beloved ‘Mortis’ arc is again an expression of the lasting influence she has on Anakin as the Son tries to convince him to join the Dark Side by conjuring up an image of Shmi. Although Not always appreciated the way she should, Shmi is a crucial character not only to the Prequels but to the Saga overall due to the foundation she laid with Anakin.

Second in Star Wars time is Padmé Amidala. Often she is approached as the wife of Anakin and her role as mother to Luke and Leia is forgotten. Yes, on the one hand she hardly has an influence on them because she dies but thematically there is definitely an influence. In both Luke and Leia we can find traces of Padmé’s personality, which are absolutely fascinating. On the one hand it is Padmé’s political sass which returns very strongly in Leia, whose chosen career path is of course very reminiscent of Padmé as well. However, Leia has also inherited a lot of fieriness from her father, whereas Luke’s more considerate nature definitely finds a part of its origins in Padmé. The lack of contact between Padmé and the twins is a shame, but there is one final link between them I want to look at. Some people seem to be oddly opposed to the idea of Leia being Force-sensitive, but there are numerous moments in The Empire Strikes Back and The Return of the Jedi that prove this. One of those is mentioned above: Leia’s memories of Padmé. The fact that she has memories of her, ones that encompass both how she looked and also how she felt, to me always suggested that the strength of the Skywalker family comes not just from Anakin but also from Padmé.

Now, I want to give some attention to “two mother-figures” in Star WarsBreha Organa and Beru Lars. In the case of both women they adopt the Skywalker twins into their houses, at least partially knowing the danger of this. I always found the similarity in their first names extremely interesting although it probably coincidence. Or is it? Bail Organa, when saying him and Breha will take Leia, betrays that they have wanted to adopt a girl for a while which must reveal a quiet heart-break at the centre of their marriage. We see him give Leia to Breha and it is a very touching moment as their family comes together in the frame. From what we see of Leia early on in A New Hope she has clearly been raised to be sure of herself, politically active but also weary. With Breha as Queen of Alderaan it is not a far stretch to assume that she has been a major part of teaching Leia the grace and composure with which she handles herself. The love with which both Breha and Bail have raised Leia is obvious from how long the trauma of the destruction of Alderaan remains with her, in which both of them die.

Beru and Luke

Beru Lars is one of the few characters that appear in both sagas. We see her twice in the Prequels, once in Attack of the Clones  as Beru Whitesun, Lars’ girlfrend, and once in Revenge of the Sith, now wife of Lars.  I think it’s not insignificant that eventually it is both Breha an Beru who end up holding the Skywalker twins. In any kind of media, whethers it’s literature, tv, film or art, women represent, at the basest level, fertility and nurturing. The New Hope that Padmé has brought into the world is now in the hands of these two women who, in part, sacrifice their own chance at having children to nurture this hope into a salvation for the galaxy. For that they reserve more recognition. I want to focus on a specific moment in RotS and that is the final scene in which Obi-Wan delivers a sleeping Luke to the Owens. With Luke in her arms Beru walks up to Lars on the ledge. It is she who is the first one to look up at the sunset, a look of quiet determination and hope on her face. The first time I saw it the shot immediately reminded me of the famous Luke moment in A New Hope. Combining this with Beru’s better understanding of Luke in A New Hope, I wouldn’t be surprised if we can thank her for the more sensitive and understanding side of Luke.

Next up is another mother-figure, Hera Syndulla. Already dubbed Space Mother by the fandom, Hera forms an integral part of the Ghost-crew. She very much forms the emotional part of the crew, adding both rationality and warmth to some of the crew’s crazier plans. On the one hand she does typical “mom-things”, kicking the young ones off her ship when they’re making a mess, telling the others off for losing one of her “kids” etc. but the most crucial part of her character is the constant support that she provides for the younger members of the team. Especially the constant contact between her and Sabine in the first season is a constant reminder of that role, as Hera moves between wanting to confide in her and treating her as a child.

And finally we have the most “current” mother in Star Wars, Leia Organa herself. Throughout the Orginals she is still a young woman who now finds herself practically alone in the Galaxy. As she finds herself she gets more in touch with her more sensitive side as she becomes more trusting and learns she can rely on her friends. The major gap between the Originals and the Sequels covers a time in which seemingly Leia retreats a bit into her old character. Except now she has a son. We get to see no interaction between Leia and Ben/Kylo and we, sadly, also never hear about her from him. He seems to have an intense grudge against his father whereas his mother, the clearest link he has to his idol, seems to be pushed aside. However, she never abandons her faith in him, recognising the light that still exists within him. As such I have to join the ranks of those convinced that any possible redemption for Ben/Kylo has to come from Leia. Interestingly, Leia can also be seen as something of a mother-figure to Rey. Although they hardly interact, and don’t meet until the end of the film, there is an immediate emotional connection between the two and it’s the first time Rey is embraced. Leia and Rey also have a conversation later on before the latter goes off to find Luke. Hopefully we’ll get a deleted scene to fill in the gap of what happened there, but it is clear that the ‘May the Force be with you‘ is a sign of these two women being close. Here’s to hoping that we’ll be able to see more of these two together.

This post turned out longer than I thought but the different mothers in Star Wars deserve all the time we have. They are a crucial aspect to continuing the story of Star Wars, of nurturing future generations but also to providing a strong backbone to all the other characters. Amongst the six characters above we have 2 Queens, 2 politicians, 2 farmers, a pilot and an ex-slave. These women cover all the different layers of society and each strive towards making a great life for themselves and theirs. So on this Mother’s Day, let’s send a quick thank you to the heavens for such amazing women!

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