Please note: the following post discusses many aspects of life and death in the Star Wars cinematic universe. It should be considered a spoiler if you have not yet seen Revenge of the Sith, Return of the Jedi or The Rise of Skywalker.
I got the idea for this post from a tweet I saw randomly on Twitter about the Jedi and the Sith and how differently they view death. It’s a fascinating topic. It’s something I’ve never really thought about until now. But it’s everywhere in the Star Wars universe and definitely worth discussing.
So I will break this post up into two parts; the first about the Sith and their views on death and then the second on the Jedi, how they look at death and how different they are and why.
When researching this topic, there was very little to go on. Wookiepedia has a general page on death in the Star Wars universe, but it’s basically what most fans already know. As a Jedi, you can learn how to avoid death by studying the living force. Through these teachings, a Jedi can learn how to become one with the force after the physical body passes on to the “other side”. We have seen many instances of this in the Star Wars universe and in particular, in the cinematic universe.
But you’ll notice this is only about the Jedi. Up until very recently, there was nothing concrete to suggest that the Sith could live beyond their mortal “lives”. The only original mention of Sith being able to “cheat” death is during Revenge of the Sith when Emperor Palpatine is grooming Anakin to slowly turn him to the dark side. A major part of this ploy is explaining to Anakin exactly how the Sith were able to “cheat death” and live extra long lives. The Darth Plagueis the Wise speech is, of course, Palpatine talking about himself as he was Darth Plagueis’ Sith apprentice.
So it’s safe to say that he Sith definitely do not view death as the Jedi do. Palpatine’s discussion with Anakin is actually very informative, even if you know very little about Darth Plagueis the Wise. The most important difference between the Sith and the Jedi is how the Jedi are accepting of death as a natural part of the life cycle. Whereas the Sith look upon death as a finality to all things and therefore it must be avoided at all costs.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Sith had found a way to cheat death by using a combination of the force and dark Sith magic. When Palpatine advises Anakin that “the dark side of the force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural”, he is coaxing Anakin into believing that there was a way to stop death in its tracks.
Darth Plagueis therefore became a key catalyst in the turning of Anakin to the dark side. And without Darth Plagueis’ teachings, Darth Sidious would never have been able to survive the horrific fall down the reactor shaft in Return of the Jedi. Darth Sidious was able to survive or “cheat” death by mastering the technique that Darth Plagueis had discovered before his untimely death at the hands of his apprentice.
Darth Plagueis had discovered a way to transfer a being’s consciousness to another “vessel” therefore preserving that conciousness and effectively, living again once that conciousness had “died” in its host body. This is how Darth Sidious was able to “cheat” death after dying in Return of the Jedi. So cloning was also an integral part of Darth Sidious’ plan to overcome death and rule the galaxy again in The Rise of Skywalker.
Anakin’s journey towards the dark side of the force, as we know, did not involve resurrecting the dead, at least not in the cinematic universe. In a roundabout way, Anakin does “die” on Mustafar at the hands of his master and best friend, Obi-Wan Kenobi and was “reborn” as Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader. But in the comics, Darth Vader’s obsession with life after death is explored and expanded to include an encounter with Padme that is both shocking and interesting. If you haven’t read the Darth Vader comics, I highly recommend you do. They are beautifully written and the art work is fantastic. And the way that they tie into the cinematic universe is done surprisingly well.
The reason I mention these comics is because a) they are now considered canon and b) they discuss Darth Vader and how he manages to do what Darth Sidious could only imagine. And that is, well, you’ll have to read the comics to find out. But it is a nice way to follow up after this blog post and look further into the Sith and their obsession with death. You can check out the comic details on Wookiepedia and the comics themselves are available online from multiple sources.
If you’re at all interested in looking at a list of all the characters that died in the Star Wars cinematic universe, Time Magazine wrote an article listing all 111 deaths. Of those 111 deaths, 32 were Sith or affiliated to the Dark Side of the Force.
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7 thoughts on “The Sith and Death Part I”
I have always been fascinated by the topic of death, in my academic studies and in my interactions with Star Wars. The different ways the Jedi and Sith understand death is the natural center of that topic, which is why I, like you, have written about the topics on my own site (Cheating Death: The Dark; Transcending Death: The Light).
I personally think there is a fundamental misunderstanding among the Star Wars creatives at this point in how death operates, and I believe The Rise of Skywalker is a prime example of this misunderstanding. I have not yet built the post I am planning to write on the topic, but it will piggyback on things I lay out in the two posts I mentioned above. But in short, I think TROS mishandled the concept of death and seems to forget a number of things that had already been laid out in the Star Wars canon. For example, although I really dislike Palpatine being the villain, there was a far easier solution to ensuring his survival: submerging himself in the Dark Side to such a degree that his hatred literally keeps him alive. This is precisely what happens with Darth Maul and they easily could have applied it to Palpatine. There would be no need for transfer of consciousness and all that jazz (which Abrams just ripped out of the Dark Empire graphic novels from the early 90s anyway).
On the other hand, neither Abrams nor his co-writer, Chris Terrio, seem to grasp the concept that only certain Jedi have been able to learn to maintain their identities after death. If they had watched the final 3 episodes in Season 6 of The Clone Wars – or if there was a certain Story Group doing its job – they would have learned this. Instead, TROS complicates those episodes by bringing in voices from the beyond that absolutely cannot and should not be “alive” in the netherworld of the Force. Cinematically, it is an exciting moment where all of these Jedi speak to Rey (because she is all the Jedi or something). But philosophically, it doesn’t work like that and all the proof is already in SW.
Then again, while I might sound like a bit of a purest, I am also not stupid. At the end of the day, these movies are about making money and if violating established facts will help them do that, then that is what they will do. It just disappoints me and makes me question why I invest so much time when there seems to be a willingness to undercut things at will.
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Ah wonderful reply! Thank you again for your insight IT, I was hoping you’d reply to my post 🙂 And yes, I agree with you. I actually prefer the comics and how they tie in death with the Sith and particularly with Darth Vader. The story is actually so interesting. Have you read the comics at all? They really take Anakin’s story to the very edges of the dark side and explore the whole concept of life after death really well. I do like the whole idea of the Sith “cheating” death but I agree with your idea also about the dark side taking over completely and surrendering to hatred. I never really thought of Darth Maul but yes, you’re right. People don’t talk about Darth Maul very much but you’ve just given me another great idea for a future post, thank you 🙂
I’ll definitely check out your articles and maybe create another post in this series. Oh, maybe we should guest post on each other’s blogs? That’d be fun and I haven’t done that before 😀 Only if you want to, of course lol 🙂
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[…] quick post of new edits I’ve made. After writing about Darth Vader and his quest to find everlasting life as a Sith lord, I decided to animate this textless cover from one of the […]
I’m drawn to posts about death in Star Wars like a moth to light. I couldn’t possibly resist reading it.
I DO read the comics, and I am presuming you are referring specifically to the Dark Lord of the Sith comic/story arc involving his castle and Lord Momin. If I’m wrong, my apologies. The story, though, was incredibly fascinating, particularly Momin’s story (but he is a topic for another time). The idea of using the dark side to tap into the past, to try and bring someone back from the dead, is really intriguing and exceedingly disturbing. That Momin does it with himself is intensely interesting, but that Vader wants to do it to access Padme just goes to show how deep into the darkness he is willing to go, how obsessed he truly is. He just cannot accept that what is done is done.
I was not 100% on board when Maul was brought back in The Clone Wars, in large part because, you know, he was cut in half. How the hell do they account for that? But, I really liked how it was handled. The notion that one can go so deep into their hatred and tap into an aspect of the Dark Side that will ensure bodily survival is disturbing. At some point, I plan on doing a post about how Anakin/Vader “goes there” on Mustafar when he is burning. My thought is that when he starts creaming “I hate you” to Obi-Wan, he is flowing with so much hatred that he is able to survive his injuries until Palpatine arrives. I just wish I had more time to work on the 1,000+ ideas I have every day.
I would definitely be down for some guest posting. I try to con some of my friends to write things for me at times but only a handful bite (like the two who wrote the posts about Luke). Feel free to shoot my some ideas that you might want to tackle.
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I’ll definitely do that 🙂 Also, HAPPY STAR WARS DAY 😀 MTFBWY!
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[…] I got the idea for this post from reading one of Imperial Talker’s excellent posts on the Sith cheating death, which I also talked about briefly here. […]
[…] This post is part of a small blog series about the Jedi, Sith, and their views on death and how each side of the force relates to death in the cinematic universe. You can read part I about the Sith and death here. […]
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