In a couple of my previous blogs for Coffee With Kenobi I compared and contrasted two of my favorite characters, Han Solo (said in my best Maz Kanata voice) and Darth Vader (said in my best Rey voice), and tried to illustrate their overlooked connections. This month, I would like to analyze the parallels and mirrored differences of two confident, self-sufficient, and brave parents in Star Wars. One of them, Han Solo, is one of the most well-known and loved leaders and heroes in the Star Wars galaxy, and the other, Shmi Skywalker, is often overlooked and under appreciated, but is there any doubt that given the chance she would have been every bit the leader and hero that Padme, Leia, and Rey are? At first, Han and Shmi seem to have very little in common, but there is an interesting juxtaposition between the two and it also involves their sons.
Both Shmi Skywalker and Han Solo married later in their lives and both had sons with Force abilities that they felt unable to harness and fully train, so they allowed their sons to be trained by gray Jedi. (A gray Jedi being one who doesn’t hold fast to all of the Jedi Council’s rules and dogma, may explore aspects of the Dark Side, yet doesn’t fall to the Dark Side.) Shmi let Anakin leave her when he was nine years old to go with Qui-Gon Jinn to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. She knew her son couldn’t realize his full abilities if he stayed with her on Tatooine. As they are parting, Shmi tells Anakin to be brave and not look back, but inside she has to be dying. Sometimes I get emotional dropping my kids off at school, and here is Shmi sending off her son to a foreign planet and not knowing if she’ll ever see him again. She was apart from Anakin for 10 years until their brief reunion in the Tusken Raider hut on Tatooine in Attack of the Clones, and although she probably found some happiness with her new husband Cliegg Lars, there had to be a hole in her life with her son gone. Han Solo’s son Ben Solo/Kylo Ren left he and Leia to go train with his uncle Luke Skywalker at some point in his youth. Obviously, we don’t yet know the details of Ben’s time with Luke or how long he was gone, but it clearly didn’t go as smoothly as hoped. And when Ben left Luke and joined the Knights of Ren it was devastating to Han and Leia, as it tore their marriage apart. Shmi’s son leaves, followed by her marriage. Han’s son leaves, contributing to his marriage crumbling.
When he returned to Tatooine (a hot, dry planet), Anakin went looking for Shmi (who was taken against her will) to save her from dying and to save himself from the mental anguish he has been going through since leaving her, neither of which was successful. Anakin had dreams about his mother dying even before her death and then he experienced a living nightmare. On the other hand, Han Solo went to Starkiller Base (a snowy, freezing planet/space station) looking for Kylo Ren (who, I assume, left willingly to join the First Order) to save both of them from the emotional and mental torture they were both experiencing, and he also wasn’t successful. Kylo was “being torn apart” before he killed Han, and afterward he was likely being fully consumed by the Dark Side.
Of course, the most striking similarity between Han and Shmi is how they each die: in the arms of their son, who, after his parent dies, grows even closer to the Dark Side. The causes of Han’s and Shmi’s deaths are terribly different, yet each is heart wrenching. Shmi recognizes her son right away, and as Shmi dies in Anakin’s arms the joy can be seen on her face, as she is so happy to see her son again and is so proud of his becoming a Jedi. She touches Anakin’s face just before she peacefully passes while Anakin, in turmoil, watches helplessly. Anakin didn’t cause Shmi’s death, but he does feel responsible and takes his anger out on his mother’s captors, the Tusken Raiders. His violence stirs up even more rage, most of it aimed at his master Obi-Wan Kenobi, and it motivates him to try to find ways to save people from dying, which has only supposedly been achieved by Dark Force users.
Han Solo dies in turmoil by the lightsaber blade of Kylo Ren. He is held by his son and, like Shmi, touches his son’s face lovingly before he is let go. Han dies knowing that he couldn’t save his son. However, Kylo seems at peace that he has extinguished the light in himself. After Han falls into the Starkiller Base core and Kylo is shot by Chewbacca, Kylo’s rage erupts and he lashes out at Rey and Finn. Kylo actually is the cause of his father’s death, but wants to kill others after it. No matter the cause, though, the parent’s death results in the son growing stronger in the Dark Side of the Force. One parent dies at peace, and one in turmoil. One son anguished because he couldn’t save his mother, and one seemingly at peace after he kills his own father.
I think the ways in which Shmi Skywalker and Han Solo parallel and mirror each other are very interesting, especially when magnified by the relationship of their sons. What do you think? I’m sure there may be connections that I missed so let me know on Twitter @ryderwaldrondds, email me at email@example.com, or leave a comment below. Thanks for reading my blog and listen to the Idiot’s Array podcast if you get a chance! Make sure to check out the other CWK bloggers and remember:
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