The prophecy of the Chosen One lies at the heart of the Star Wars saga - and it could all have been one of Palpatine's schemes. The Emperor is the greatest villain the Star Wars galaxy has ever seen, a Machiavellian figure who orchestrated the Clone Wars, brought down the Jedi Order, and survived death itself.
Fortunately, although the dark side was ascendant, in Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn stumbled upon a young boy who had apparently been conceived by the Force itself. Qui-Gon believed Anakin Skywalker to be the Chosen One, and he was brought into the Jedi Order and trained as a Jedi Knight. Unfortunately for the Jedi, it didn't take long for Palpatine to sink his hooks into Anakin's life, and the Sith Lord manipulated Anakin until he fell to the dark side and became Darth Vader.
But was this really just opportunism on Palpatine's part? There's evidence that Palpatine knew about the Chosen One before the Jedi did, which raises the disturbing possibility that he was the one behind the entire Chosen One prophecy.
Anakin (& The Skywalkers) May Be Part Of Palpatine’s Immortality Scheme
Palpatine was always obsessed with the idea of immortality, and the trailer for Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker revealed that he was ultimately successful in his quest. "The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural," he told Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars - Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Canonically, he's been shown interacting with the Nightsisters, a dark side cult who have their own mystic ways of surviving death; learning from Lord Momin, an ancient Sith whose consciousness was preserved inside one of his Sith helmets. And he even researched clone technology in order to create new bodies to transfer his soul into.
There are canon ways for a Sith to survive death, and they typically involve a power known as Essence Transfer. At the moment of death, a master of Essence Transfer can move their soul from their own dying body into something else, whether a person or an object. Palpatine certainly knew of the technique, given he had studied the ancient secrets of the Sith, and possessed the helmet of Lord Momin. But naturally, he wouldn't have been happy with the idea of living on in a helmet, or any other artifact. He'd want to possess a body, ideally the most powerful body of all. That would explain why the Emperor was so desperate to keep Anakin Skywalker alive after his fateful battle with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar; he hoped the body could be salvaged.
Recent evidence suggests that Palpatine knew about the Chosen One long before the Jedi Order, and perhaps even created Anakin Skywalker himself. A recent tie-in comic, Darth Vader #25, saw Vader explore his own past in a Force vision. As part of this, he saw a glimpse of his mother, with Palpatine's arms encircling her, his hands curled in Sith sorcery as a swirl of dark side energy formed in Shmi Skywalker's womb. The vision clearly seemed to suggest that Palpatine himself had brought the Chosen One prophecy into play by creating Anakin Skywalker, perhaps as his ultimate host. But why would he do this?
The Chosen One Prophecy Is Mysterious (& Not Just For The Jedi)
The prophecy of the Chosen One was introduced in Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Menace, and it's always been rather mysterious. In fact, Lucasfilm has only recently confirmed what the Chosen One prophecy says in the first place. "A Chosen One shall come," it reads, "born of no father, and through him will ultimate balance in the Force be restored." The prophecy was written in ancient High Adleraanian, which suggests that it may well predate the Jedi Order itself. Indeed, that would explain why it embraces a concept of "balance" that appears to be largely foreign to the Jedi, who believe the light side of the Force should be dominant. Interestingly, Jedi Master Yoda actively discouraged the study of the Chosen One prophecy, believing that the very idea of attempting to interpret the future was an exercise in the dark side of the Force.
Given that's the case, it's perhaps unsurprising that the Chosen One prophecy worked its way into both the Jedi and the Sith traditions. The Jedi seem to have interpreted the Chosen One as the being destined to destroy the Sith once and for all; in contrast, on his deathbed Darth Maul indicated that he too was schooled in the prophecy of the Chosen One, but expected him to be the one who would avenge the Sith. Prophecies can be misinterpreted, of course, but these two completely different takes suggest that the truth of the Chosen One prophecy hasn't been revealed just yet.
Perhaps the most curious thing about the Chosen One prophecy, though, is that it's largely self-fulfilling. Claudia Gray's novel Master & Apprentice revealed that Qui-Gon Jinn was well aware of the dangers of training someone who was too old; one of his closest friends in the Jedi Order had held the previous record for the oldest child inducted into the Jedi, and he'd watched him struggle. Like the Jedi Council, Qui-Gon Jinn would probably have discounted Anakin altogether were it not for his faith in the prophecy. That fact, of course, raises the curious question of whether or not the prophecy was actually designed to be self-fulfilling.
How Far Back Have The Sith Been Manipulating The Jedi?
It's important to remember that, by the time of the prequel trilogy, the Sith had been manipulating the Jedi for a very long time. The Sith's long-term plan spanned millennia, and was only possible because the Jedi Order made the mistake of relocating to Coruscant, becoming too closely intertwined with the politics of the Old Republic. Indeed, one of the most disturbing aspects of all this is the fact that the Coruscant Jedi Temple was built atop an ancient nexus of the dark side itself. That may have originally been intentional, with the Jedi believing that their light could counterbalance the darkness, but if so, it was soon forgotten in the mists of time. Palpatine was able to use this dark side nexus to shroud the Jedi Order in the dark side of the Force.
The Sith are naturally self-interested, with each Sith Lord focused on the preservation and expansion of their own power base. That makes this kind of extended plan seem more than a little strange, given you'd expect each Sith Lord to aim to be the fulfillment of it. But Palpatine's knowledge of immortality may be a significant factor in all this; he could potentially have learned the secret of eternal life millennia ago, and thus been moving from body to body all this time. That would fit with the Emperor's character, neatly explaining why no Dark Lord compromised the Sith strategy in the thousands of years since the time of Darth Bane.
If this is the case, then it's entirely possible that the prophecy of the Chosen One was a part of Palpatine's plan. It could have been a fabrication, designed to mislead the Jedi and encourage them into bringing a Chosen One into play when the time was right. Alternatively, it could even have been a Sith prophecy in the first place, secretly introduced into the Jedi teachings. Jedi Master Yoda did connect the prophecies with the dark side, after all, and a number of Jedi who studied them - notably including Count Dooku - actually became Sith.
The Chosen One Prophecy Serves Palpatine's Masterplan
Putting all these pieces together, then, the Chosen One prophecy could well lie at the heart of Palpatine's master plan. He didn't just want to create, and rule, an Empire; he wanted to rule it forever. He knew he'd have to use Darth Plageuis' power to manipulate the Midichlorians and create the perfect host. But the complicating factor is that Palpatine wouldn't necessarily know where in the galaxy this powerful being had been born. Thus Palpatine gave the prophecy of the Chosen One to the Jedi, or perhaps even fabricated it altogether. He knew that, as the Jedi Order grew, the Jedi would organize themselves so that any Force-sensitives would be brought to the Temple. The Jedi would serve his goal, bringing his creation to Coruscant for training, and when they encountered this Force-born child they'd naturally make him a priority.
If this theory is true, then Palpatine's millennia-long plan moved to its endgame nine years before Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, when he manipulated the Midichlorians and created the Chosen One. Presumably at this point in time he'd already positioned himself so that, should the child be brought to the Temple, he'd be able to subtly exert an influence; tie-in books have recently confirmed that, as a Senator, Palpatine had excellent connections with the Jedi. But here is where Darth Sidious' plan almost went wrong, because Anakin Skywalker was born on Tatooine, a Rim world outside the Republic. The Jedi never discovered him as an infant at all.
Fortunately for Palpatine, the dark side of the Force was ascendant, and as a result events began to conspire against the Jedi. Qui-Gon Jinn - one of the few Jedi to have really studied the prophecies - stumbled upon the 9-year-old Anakin Skywalker on Tatooine, and brought him to the Temple. Palpatine must have been delighted; because Anakin hadn't been trained as a Jedi from an early age, he was that much easier to manipulate. Darth Sidious' plans were back on track for the next few years, until the moment when Anakin's body was so badly injured on Mustafar, and he ceased to be a viable host. That was when things all fell apart, and ever since then he's been trying to recover.
This is only a theory, but it's a surprisingly feasible one. If it's true, then Palpatine is likely still seeking the perfect host. There are two obvious candidates: Kylo Ren and Rey. The first is the grandson of the Chosen One, with a Midichlorian count that could potentially be as high as Anakin's. The second is Rey, the mysterious Jakku orphan whose Force abilities somehow rival Kylo Ren's. It's entirely possible that, just as Palpatine created Anakin Skywalker, so he also created Rey; perhaps 11 years after Return of the Jedi, the Emperor had regained enough of his strength to manipulate the Midichlorians and attempt to create a brand new host. J.J. Abrams has promised that there's more to the story of Rey's parents than viewers have seen; perhaps Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Rey discovers her parents and learns that she, too, was born of the Force. That would explain why she is able to take on a dark side powerhouse like Kylo Ren, but it would also mean she's in terrible danger, given the Emperor's imminent return.
- Star Wars 9 / Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) release date: Dec 20, 2019