Even if you consider yourself to be a casual fan of the Star Wars franchise, you likely still recognize the name Anakin Skywalker.
The man who would one day become Darth Vader and give up his life to save his son began his life on a remote desert planet without much to his name and little hope for a bright future. It was his supposed lack of a father that caught the interest of the Jedi, and eventually the anomaly that set him up to become one of the most feared Sith Lords across the entire galaxy.
According to his mother, Anakin Skywalker never had a father. Presumably, he was conceived by microscopic life-forms called midi-chlorians. Think of these as living organisms that are responsible for all life in the universe.
The apparent reason Anakin was able to use the Force so skillfully at such a young age was because he had an abnormally high number of these organisms inside of him, making him more in-tune with the Force than the average Jedi.
But did Anakin really never have a father — was he conceived in unexplained measures by some sort of space magic? Some think so. Others have come to believe Palpatine was his real father, creating him so that the boy could one day become his apprentice.
Is Palpatine Anakin’s father, in the strictly biological sense of the term? There are several stories across the Star Wars Expanded Universe that have suggested this possibility over the years, but nothing has outright confirmed he is solely responsible for Anakin’s creation.
Palpatine may be a powerful wielder of the Force and a knowledgeable student of the dark side, but at this point, Shmi Skywalker’s claim that Anakin never had a father and that he was conceived by midi-chlorians remains the accepted explanation officially. Whether or not that could change in future stories is another possibility entirely.
The idea that Anakin quite literally came from nothing does amplify the narrative that his achievements were even more astronomical considering he used to be a slave on Tatooine, the son of a single parent doing everything she could to give him a better life — so much so that she sent him off to study the Jedi arts assuming the two would never see each other again.
Though Anakin presumably never had a father, it was his unbreakable attachment to his mother that ultimately sent him down the path of self-destruction years later.
A loving final act
However Anakin Skywalker came to existence and grew up to be one of the most powerful Force-users of all time, his tragic fall remains one of the most heartbreaking stories in Star Wars. Perhaps at points he may have questioned who his father may have been, and perhaps the absence of a father figure in his life contributed to his desire to be a caring mentor, partner, and friend. But he never got to practice the art of fatherhood himself. The opportunity was taken from him — ironically, by the man he may have once considered to be the closest thing he had to a father at all.
Still, in the end, Anakin Skywalker used his ultimate power — that of love — to stand up to his master and save Luke Skywalker from death. He may or may not have had a real father himself, but his final act was to be the best version of a father he knew how to be.