Dealing with Pain and Suffering in the Star Wars Galaxy

Dealing with Pain and Suffering in the Star Wars Galaxy

Luke nooooo

“Pain, suffering, death I feel. Something terrible has happened. Young Skywalker is in pain. Terrible pain.” – Master Yoda, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

[Note – author realizes that the photo and Yoda's quote are two different Skywalkers]

Pain, both physical and psychological, plays a major role throughout the Star Wars saga. Anakin's is perhaps the most obvious, but to a certain degree, every character experiences pain and suffering.  How does it affect them and others around them?  How do they deal with it?  Finally, how does their struggle affect us?  Let's examine the Skywalker family – Anakin, Padme, Luke, and Leia.

As mentioned, Anakin Skywalker's pain is one of the driving forces behind the prequel trilogy.  He was separated from his mother, Shmi, at an older age than most Jedi, which meant that he was far more aware of the loss of that relationship.  She later died in his arms, and his resulting rage led him to slaughter countless Tusken raiders.  Later, as Padme attempted to console him, Anakin twisted the pain of the loss of his mother and his own loss of control into anger at his mentor Obi-Wan.  He did not deal with the trauma well at all, which was one of many such tragedies that ultimately led to his complete fall to the dark side, the death of Padme, and over two decades of Empire-sponsored suffering for the people of the galaxy.

On the other hand – or not – Anakin suffered horrible physical pain in addition to his psychological anguish.  He lost a limb to Dooku, and then his remaining three to his own Jedi Master.  His duel with Obi-Wan on Mustafar also left him burned beyond recognition. Only Palpatine's quick arrival and the limitless medical technology available to him allowed Anakin to live – now, of course, as the armored cybernetic villain that we all know as Darth Vader.  Palpatine directed that Vader not be given painkillers during the procedure, so that he feel the pain completely, further fueling his rage and power.*  At the completion of this Frankensteinian procedure, Palpatine lies to Vader about Padme's death.  Vader's emotional anguish leads him to destroy nearly everything in the room with his immense strength in the Force.

Padme's pain is largely emotional, stemming from the fall of Anakin to the dark side. Besides her conveniently slashed clothing and torso in the Geonosian arena fight and childbirth (which is considerable, of course), Padme's other physical pain comes at the hand – either fictitiously, or literally at greater range due to the Force – of her husband. This, of course, is very deeply disturbing, and her eventual death as a result of a broken heart has been discussed at length in many fora.

Padme was a source of great emotional support to Anakin, and her superior resilience frequently meant that she was the strongest person in many situations.  As discussed, she counseled Anakin – perhaps doing a better job than Yoda did – when he needed it.  When the people of Naboo suffered, Padme stood up to the Trade Federation and the Senate. When Anakin fought Clovis, she separated them and put them both in their places. Whatever is said about Padme's “broken heart,” the facts show that she was a strong, balanced woman who was capable of fighting through physical pain and able to support others through their own emotional distress.

Luke gets knocked down by a Tusken raider early in Episode IV: A New Hope.  Karma let him off easy, considering what his father did to an entire tribe of raiders when he himself was a teen.  Luke doesn't experience much physical pain in the first movie, but Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back makes up for it.  He's beaten and bloodied by a wampa, almost dies in the snow, pushes himself harder than ever before on Dagobah, and ultimately loses his dominant hand to his father's blade.

Luke, for all he knows, is an orphan.  He loses his aunt and uncle to the Empire, sees his first Jedi mentor cut down by the villain, and loses his cool on Dagobah under the watchful eye of his new Jedi master.  Worst of all, he finds out that the villain is his father – right after the man chops off his arm!  Despite this, Luke finds a great deal of inner peace before visiting Jabba to negotiate Han's release.  Episode VI: Return of the Jedi shows Luke fully in control of himself except for a very brief period of rage at the end.  He quickly regains control, besting the Emperor by dropping his own weapon and claiming his – and his father's – status as a proper Jedi Knight.

Leia, like her mother, was adept at comforting the whiny male Force user in her life. Despite being tortured by Darth Vader, losing her entire planet to a superweapon, and narrowly escaping a death sentence, Leia very generously gave Luke a “there, there” as he grieved for Old Ben.  The recent Marvel's Star Wars: Princess Leia comic series show that Leia chose to overlook her own sorrow while she dealt with the larger requirement of leading the rebellion and finding the remaining Alderaanians.  Time and time again, Leia showed admirable concern for others' welfare above her own – a trait that she no doubt inherited from her mother, Padme, and also learned from Bail Organa.  She also proved that she was indeed a “self-rescuing princess.”  Later, on Endor, Leia was shot, but ended up saving Han Solo and herself by shooting the stormtrooper behind him.

There are many more examples of pain in the Star Wars galaxy – physical and psychological, inflicted and healed, canon and Legends.  Technology such as interrogator and medical droids and bacta tanks played key roles, while Jedi healers assisted wounded troopers during the Clone Wars.  Lightsabers separated extremities from beings on a fairly regular basis.  There are also several instances of great pain being felt through the Force. Yoda felt Anakin's pain on Tatooine after Shmi's death and also the loss of so many Jedi during Order 66.  Obi-Wan felt the destruction of Alderaan.  Vader tortured Han Solo just because he knew that the smuggler's pain would flush Luke out of hiding.

Today, Star Wars helps a great many people deal with pain.  The saga brings joy and excitement to innumerable fans; some of them are dealing with issues of a far more real nature, so this is quite a welcome escape.  Also, fans have created religions based on Jedi and Sith teachings, due to the belief that the tenets of these fictional organizations can provide help for their followers in the profane world.  The 501st Legion, Rebel Legion, and Mandalorian Mercs are well-known for visiting hospitalized children to brighten their days. If this important cause sounds interesting, consider visiting their linked webpages to learn more.  Of course, there are also THESE items, for assisting with pain management:


Has Star Wars helped you deal with pain?  What have you learned from the saga that factors into your life?

Until next time, thank you for reading, may the Force be with you, and remember –

This is the podcast you’re looking for!

Contact me at or on Twitter @MediocreJedi.

*More interesting information about Vader's injuries can be found here.

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  1. Jay Krebs
    September 14, 2015 at 10:38 Reply

    Star Wars fixes everything!

    Pain is certainly present in all our lives, in some shape or another. It’s inescapable. Some of us have definitely endured more than our fair share.

    Star Wars has certainly gotten me through some very rough spots in my life, and it always seems to be my go-to salve whenever I’m needing something. Whether it be the movies or the music, Star Wars has a way of soothing me, grounding me, and bringing me back to “me” again.

    I have a lot of stories I could share with you, maybe over a cup of coffee someday, but suffice it to say Star Wars has saved me more than once!!

    Great entry, once again, my friend!! 🙂

    1. MediocreJedi
      September 16, 2015 at 18:01 Reply

      Thanks for the comment, Jay! I’ll take you up on that cup of coffee at the next Celebration, okay?

  2. ladylavinia1932
    September 16, 2015 at 13:35 Reply

    [“Padme’s pain is largely emotional, stemming from the fall of Anakin to the dark side. “]

    And the loss of the Republic at the same time.

    [“Time and time again, Leia showed admirable concern for others’ welfare above her own – a trait that she no doubt inherited from her mother, Padme, and also learned from Bail Organa. She also proved that she was indeed a “self-rescuing princess.” Later, on Endor, Leia was shot, but ended up saving Han Solo and herself by shooting the stormtrooper behind him.”]

    You failed to point out how Leia (and Chewbacca) dealt with the pain of losing Han to Boba Fett on Bespin. Neither handled that loss very well. In fact, I’ll go even further and state that both Leia and Chewie handled the loss of Han rather badly.

    1. MediocreJedi
      September 16, 2015 at 18:14 Reply

      Great points! It’s hard to cover six movies, several books, comics, and 100+ episodes in one short blog post, though.

      However, wouldn’t you say that Leia and Chewie recovered pretty quickly? They saved Luke – at great risk to themselves – then risked even more to attempt an elaborate (though very imperfect) plan to save everyone. What do you think?

      Thanks for your comment!

  3. ladylavinia1932
    September 21, 2015 at 09:19 Reply

    [“However, wouldn’t you say that Leia and Chewie recovered pretty quickly? They saved Luke – at great risk to themselves – then risked even more to attempt an elaborate (though very imperfect) plan to save everyone. What do you think?”]

    I don’t know about Chewbacca. But I had read in an EU novel that Leia continued to mistrust Lando for quite some time. And this didn’t sit well with me. If Leia had “recovered” from what happened to Han, she should have realized by the events of that novel that Vader had put Lando in a bad situation. Or that he had to think of Bespin’s citizens over his friendship to Han. But she didn’t.

    I realize that many fans like to view Leia as an ideal character. But ever since I first saw “The Empire Strikes Back”, I never have.

    1. MediocreJedi
      September 21, 2015 at 20:12 Reply

      Which Legends book is that? I’ve read many, but nowhere near all of them. Thanks!

      The discussion of Lando being in a bad position, and needing to make the best decision for the most people, is a good one. There’s been a lot written on that, but I’m afraid I don’t recall where.


  4. Melinda
    October 23, 2015 at 07:20 Reply

    Another wonderful post, MM! 🙂

    I enjoyed reading what you shared — it does sound odd to say that when the topic is pain and suffering. 😉 You encapsulated the topic and how it pertained to some of the characters very well. I thought it was interesting how you included Padme in this. Please don’t get me wrong — I think she was a wonderful character, and an excellent role model. Yes, she was a Skywalker — but only through marriage. She didn’t have the Skywalker DNA coursing through her veins, so, quite frankly, I don’t put her in the same “category”. Luke and Leia, on the other hand, most definitely were members of the Skywalker lineage. I suppose I’m splitting hairs here. When I got married, I changed my last name. I was welcomed into a wonderful family, and I consider myself honored and lucky to be a part of it all these years. However, I most definitely am NOT a **** (I choose to remain incognito 😉 ). The basis of the person I am truly is a result of who my parents are (although I have put my own spin on my life 🙂 ), and that is my true identity.

    I understand why you included Padme in your discussion. Obi-Wan, who was more like a brother to Anakin, and spent more time with Ani than Padme, could just as easily have been included in your list. But you had to stop somewhere. 😉 These are the thoughts that popped into my head as I read, and I just thought I’d share them with you.

    MTFBWY 🙂

    1. MJ
      October 23, 2015 at 15:31 Reply

      Thanks, Melinda. You’re right, of course. I hadn’t meant Skywalker lineage so much as just the “household,” though of course there never really was such a thing!

      Thanks for reading and MTFBWY!

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