Or, Anakin’s need for a positive role model/father figure
In the novelization of The Phantom Menace, there is an early scene in which Anakin and his friends encounter an ‘old spacer’ one evening in the streets of Mos Espa. As with anything relating to Anakin’s destiny, the scene contains its share of dramatic irony. But more importantly, it also provides a tantalizing glimpse into a ‘what if’ scenario for ‘this here Anakin guy’.
It’s a lengthy passage, but one that I feel is significant enough to include in its entirety [emphasis mine]:
They went out through the gap in the fence and down the road behind, turned left, and hurried through the crowded plaza toward the food stores just ahead. The streets were still crowded, but the traffic was all headed homeward or to the Hutt pleasure dens. The boys zipped smoothly through knots of people and carts, past speeders hovering just off surface, down walks beneath awnings in the process of being drawn up, and along stacks of goods being set inside under lock and key.
In moments, they had reached the shop that sold ruby bliels and had worked their way up to the counter.
Wald was as good as his word, and he produced the requisite druggats in exchange for three drinks and handed one to each of his friends. They took them outside, sipping at the gooey mixture through straws, and made their way slowly back down the street, chatting among themselves about racers and speeders and mainline ships, about battle cruisers and starfighters and the pilots who captained them. They would all be pilots one day, they promised each other, a vow they sealed with spit and hand slaps.
They were right in the middle of a heated discussion over the merits of starfighters, when a voice close to them said, “Give me the choice, I’d take a Z-95 Headhunter every time.”
The boys turned as one. An old spacer stood leaning on a speeder hitch, watching them. They knew what he was right away from his clothing, weapons, and the small, worn fighter corps insignia he wore stitched to his tunic. It was a Republic insignia. You didn’t see many of those on Tatooine.
“Saw you race today,” the old spacer said to Anakin. He was tall and lean and corded, his face weatherworn and sun-browned, his eyes an odd color of gray, his hair cut short so that it bristled from his scalp, his smile ironic and warm. “What’s your name?”
“Anakin Skywalker,” Anakin told him uncertainly. “These are my friends, Kitster and Wald.”
The old spacer nodded wordlessly at the other two, keeping his eyes fixed on Anakin. “You fly like your name, Anakin. You walk the sky like you own it. You show promise.” He straightened and shifted his weight with practiced ease, glancing from one boy to the next. “You want to fly the big ships someday?”
All three boys nodded as one. The old spacer smiled. “There’s nothing like it. Nothing. Flew all the big boys, once upon a time, when I was younger. Flew everything there was to fly, in and out of the corps. You recognize the insignia, boys?”
Again, they nodded, interested now, caught up in the wonder of coming face-to-face with a real pilot—not just of Podracers, but of fighters and cruisers and mainline ships.
“It was a long time ago,” the spacer said, his voice suddenly distant. “I left the corps six years back. Too old. Time passes you by, leaves you to find something else to do with what’s left of your life.” He pursed his lips. “How’re those ruby bliels? Still good? Haven’t had one in years. Maybe now’s a good time. You boys care to join me? Care to drink a ruby bliel with an old pilot of the Republic?”
He didn’t have to ask twice. He took them back down the street to the shop they had just left and purchased a second drink for each of them and one for himself. They went back outside to a quiet spot off the plaza and stood sipping at the bliels and staring up at the sky. The light was gone, and stars were sprinkled all over the darkened firmament, a wash of silver specks nestled against the black.
“Flew all my life,” the old spacer advised solemnly, eyes fixed on the sky. “Flew everywhere I could manage, and you know what? I couldn’t get to a hundredth of what’s out there. Couldn’t get to a millionth. But it was fun trying. A whole lot of fun.”
His gaze shifted to the boys again. “Flew a cruiser filled with Republic soldiers into Makem Te during its rebellion. That was a scary business. Flew Jedi Knights once upon a time, too.”
“Jedi!” Kitster exhaled sharply. “Wow!”
“Really? You really flew Jedi?” Anakin pressed, eyes wide.
The spacer laughed at their wonder. “Cross my heart and call me bantha fodder if I’m lying. It was a long time ago, but I flew four of them to a place I’m not supposed to talk about even now. Told you. I’ve been everywhere a man can get to in one lifetime. Everywhere.”
“I want to fly ships to those worlds one day,” Anakin said softly.
Wald snorted doubtfully. “You’re a slave, Ani. You can’t go anywhere.”
The old pilot looked down at Anakin. The boy couldn’t look at him. “Well,” he said softly, “in this life you’re often born one thing and die another. You don’t have to accept that what you’re given when you come in is all you’ll have when you leave.”
He laughed suddenly. “Reminds me of something. I flew the Kessel Run once, long ago. Not many have done that and lived to tell about it. Lots told me I couldn’t do it, told me not to bother trying, to give it up and go on to something else. But I wanted that experience, so I just went ahead and found a way to prove them wrong.”
He looked down at Anakin. “Could be that’s what you’ll have to do, young Skywalker. I’ve seen how you handle a Podracer. You got the eyes for it, the feel. You’re better than I was at twice your age.” He nodded solemnly. “You want to fly the big ships, I think maybe you will.”
He stared at the boy, and Anakin stared back. The old spacer smiled and nodded slowly. “Yep, Anakin Skywalker, I do think maybe one day you will.”
This scene stands out for several reasons, not in the least because of the warm and reassuring way the former Republic starpilot speaks to little Anakin. While the older man may at first come across as all boastfulness and bravado, it soon becomes clear that he is truly sincere in his praise and encouragement. There is nothing in it for him; he has no ulterior motives. He genuinely wants to pass on what he has learned from his own considerable life experiences to this young boy, within whom he sees so much ‘promise’.
Later that night, back in his humble slave quarters with his mother, Anakin finds himself dreaming of far different—and far brighter—possibilities for his future.
He gazed skyward, his mother’s hand resting lightly on his arm, and thought about what it would be like to be out there, flying battle cruisers and fighters, traveling to far worlds and strange places. He didn’t care what Wald said, he wouldn’t be a slave all his life. Just as he wouldn’t always be a boy. He would find a way to leave Tatooine. He would find a way to take his mother with him. His dreams whirled through his head as he watched the stars, a kaleidoscope of bright images. He imagined how it would be. He saw it clearly in his mind, and it made him smile.
One day, he thought, seeing the old spacer’s face in the darkness before him, the wry smile and strange gray eyes, I’ll do everything you’ve done. Everything.
He took a deep breath and held it.
I’ll even fly with Jedi Knights.
Slowly he exhaled, the promise sealed.
It is clear that this encounter with the starpilot has a profound effect on Anakin, and illustrates just how desperately he needs a figure like this in his daily life. Someone he can look up to and from whom he can draw inspiration—not to mention receive sincere and well-meaning advice and guidance. And indeed, spurred on by the older man’s confidence and faith in him, as well as his warm encouragement (note how he affectionately calls him ‘young Skywalker’—where have we heard that before, eh?), Anakin allows himself to imagine a future in which he (and his mother) might finally be free. A future in which he could become like the old pilot and learn to do everything he had done, and more.
In that moment when Anakin makes the promise to himself, it is almost as if he is defiantly proclaiming: “I am a
Jedi starpilot, like my father the old spacer before me.”
** Original post HERE