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Star Wars has always been a family story. Spoiler alert if you’ve somehow been living under a rock since 1980: Darth Vader (a.k.a. Anakin Skywalker) is Luke’s father. But the Skywalker family tree has deeper roots than this classic plot twist. Let’s look at the Star Wars family tree to see what mysteries it holds.
A Long Time Ago, in a Foster Home Far, Far Away…
For those who skipped the more-recent films, let’s quickly recap how Anakin/Darth Vader came to father Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia Organa. In Attack of the Clones, a young Anakin falls in love with and secretly marries Padmé Amidala, the queen (and later senator) of Naboo.
Haunted by visions of Padmé’s death, Anakin is convinced by the evil Emperor Palpatine to turn to the Dark Side in Revenge of the Sith in exchange for knowledge about how to stop people from dying. He assumes the name Darth Vader and, in a rage, Force-chokes his pregnant wife, nearly killing her. Padmé survives long enough to have the babies, twins Luke and Leia. Believing Padmé and their children to be dead, Vader continues to rise through the ranks of the new Empire.
So if Luke and Leia are both Skywalkers, why do they have different last names? Anakin’s former mentors Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda secure foster homes for the young twins, fearing the Empire would find them. They send Luke to Tattooine to be raised by his Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru. (More on these two later.) Leia, meanwhile, is sent to Alderaan, where she’s raised by Prince Bail Organa (one of Padmé’s colleagues) and his wife.
This is the situation at the beginning of the original Star Wars (later retitled Episode IV: A New Hope). All four foster parents meet grisly ends early in the film: Stormtroopers kill Aunt Buru and Uncle Owen offscreen while looking for R2-D2, and the Organas perish alongside Alderaan’s billions of residents when the Empire destroys the planet using the Death Star.
“Anakin, I Am Your Father”
So we know the identity of Luke and Leia’s parents, but who is Anakin Skywalker’s father? The “prequel trilogy” (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith) all dive into Anakin Skywalker’s younger years—including his parentage.
We meet Anakin’s mother, Shmi Skywalker, in The Phantom Menace, and she and Anakin live as slaves on the desert planet of Tatooine. When asked about Anakin’s father, Shmi claims Anakin was a virgin birth. Emperor Palpatine later states that his master discovered how to create life using the Force—confirming, for many fans, that either Palpatine or his master conceived Anakin in Shmi using the Force.
One more point on this branch of the Skywalker family tree: After Anakin leaves his mother to become a Jedi in The Phantom Menace, Shmi marries a widower named Cliegg Lars. Cliegg’s son from a previous relationship, Owen Lars, is Luke’s “Uncle Owen” from the original Star Wars film. This makes Owen, Luke’s step-uncle.
Star Wars: The Next Gene-Rey-tion
The Star Wars films fast-forward 30 years beginning with The Force Awakens. These new films center around scrounger Rey and moody, lightsaber-swinging Kylo Ren.
We discover Kylo Ren (birth name: Ben Solo) is actually the son of Leia Organa and Han Solo, meaning Ben is Luke’s nephew. Luke trains Ben in the ways of the Jedi, but Ben turns to the Dark Side like his grandfather (Anakin) before him. He adopts the name Kylo Ren, and kills his father, Han, in The Force Awakens.
But that’s not the only family drama in the “sequel trilogy.” Rey’s parents abandoned her as a child, taking any knowledge of her genetics with them. Rey’s parentage is an open question in The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi seemingly confirms that her parents were nobodies—junkers on a remote desert planet that pawned her off for drinking money. But many fans weren’t convinced, speculating that Obi-Wan Kenobi or Luke Skywalker might be her father.
The Rise of Skywalker puts to rest any lingering questions about Rey’s identity. (Spoilers for that movie ahead!) Kylo reveals that Rey is actually a Palpatine—granddaughter of the infamous emperor. Because of the strong Force connection between their respective grandfathers (Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine), Kylo and Rey form a “dyad in the Force.” Like cousins, the two have a special bond, and they use it to defeat a reborn Emperor Palpatine together.
The Star Wars franchise used to be unique in that its creators allowed fans to add their own stories to the saga. In the Expanded Universe (EU), writers could receive a green light from Lucasfilm and have their works become part of the official Star Wars canon. Authors and fans went hog-wild, speculating on the adventures of various Star Wars characters before, between, during and after the films.
Most interestingly, fans also developed their own Star Wars genealogies that explain what happened to each of the main characters after Return of the Jedi. In the EU, Leia and Han married and had three children: twins Jaina and Jacen, and a son named Anakin. All three became Jedi, but Jacen (like his on-screen canon counterpart) fell to the Dark Side and became Darth Caedus.
Luke, meanwhile, married a woman named Mara Jade, an assassin who previously served Emperor Palpatine. The couple had one son, a Jedi named Ben Skywalker, whose descendants would go own to have Jedi adventures in their own times.
Don’t get too excited about these other Skywalker descendants, however. When Disney bought Lucasfilm and the rights to Star Wars in 2012, it stripped the EU of its “canonical” status. Instead, these stories are now called Star Wars Legends, and more akin to fan fiction. You can explore more pieces of the former EU on “Wookieepedia,” a Star Wars version of Wikipedia.
Last updated: April 2021