The biggest deception that the world of Star Wars has ever seen was the fact that Supreme Chancellor Sheev Palpatine was actually Darth Sidious the entire time. That means that the Jedi Order served under a Sith Lord without them even sensing that the most powerful man in the Republic was the very same enemy that they wanted to destroy. This allowed Palpatine to eventually operate secretly in his quest to destroy the Jedi Order. But how did Palpatine hide in plain sight?
It was never explicitly mentioned in canon how Palpatine hid from the Jedi Order, but it is possible that he used some sort of a Sith Force power to conceal his presence and power from the rest of the Jedi. He also used the dark side of the Force to cloud the Force and make it impossible for the Jedi to sense him.
The one thing that Palpatine was known for was the fact that he was the product of a thousand years of Sith Lords preparing for the destruction of the Jedi Order, and that is why the Sith finally got their revenge on the Jedi with the machinations and scheming of Palpatine. Of course, it was thanks to the power of the Sith that Palpatine was able to hide from the Jedi. Now, let’s look at how that happened.
How did the Jedi not sense Palpatine as a child?
One of the things that we know about the Jedi Order is that different Jedi Knights and Masters are not only there to serve as peacekeepers but are also tasked to find other Force-sensitive children all over the galaxy so that they can train them in the ways of the Force and replenish the numbers of the Jedi Order.
That’s why children tend to be taken to the Jedi Temple at the age of four or five, as their families allow the Jedi Order to bring them to Coruscant so that they can be trained as Jedi. This has always been the case for thousands of years.
The closer the children are to Coruscant, the easier it is for the Jedi Order to sense them because the power and the numbers of the Jedi are much more concentrated in the worlds close to Coruscant.
That explains why Anakin Skywalker, who was supposedly created by the Force and had the highest potential in the Force in the history of the galaxy, wasn’t sensed by the Jedi Order. He lived his entire life in the backwater planet of Tatooine, which was located in the Outer Rim of the galaxy. In the Outer Rim, the presence of the Republic is no longer as powerful as it is, and that’s why the Jedi and the Republic forces can’t keep slavery and lawlessness in check in those areas.
And because the Jedi Order couldn’t sense Anakin in Tatooine and didn’t even have someone to find Force-sensitive children on such a planet, they missed him when he was still around four or five years old.
On the other hand, one of the things that we know about Palpatine is that he was likely never trained to be a Jedi when he was younger. Even though he became one of the strongest Force wielders in the galaxy, Palpatine wasn’t raised to be a Jedi. And this seems odd because Naboo isn’t a backwater planet found in the galaxy’s far reaches.
So, the fact that the Jedi couldn’t find Palpatine and train him to be a Jedi while he was still young can be quite baffling because Naboo is actually a Mid Rim planet and isn’t too far from Coruscant. This makes people question why the Jedi couldn’t sense Palpatine when he was still a child.
There really hasn’t been any answer in canon as to how or why the Jedi couldn’t find Palpatine and train him. In the Legends storylines, Naboo used to be an isolationist planet. Palpatine was born to a family that supported the isolationist ways of Naboo, and that probably explains why the Jedi didn’t get a chance to get to him when he was still a boy.
And in the same Legends storyline, it was explained that Palpatine’s power in the Force wasn’t innately strong and was difficult to sense due to how it was weaker than other Force-sensitive individuals.
But, of course, we all know this is no longer the case in the canon lore of Star Wars. The only thing we know about Palpatine is that he was born to an influential family in Naboo and was raised to be a politician while training in secret under Darth Plagueis. Other than that, we don’t know a lot about his past.
He may have had a weaker connection to the Force when he was still just a boy. After all, in canon, Palpatine said that Jedi Librarian Jocasta Nu had a weak connection to the Force but was still able to become a Jedi Master through diligent training and hard work. So, if that was also the case for Palpatine, he may have been weaker in the Force but could work his way up to become so strong that he became the personification of the dark side.
But while that may be possible, we can also say there were other possibilities. Plagueis might have gotten to Palpatine before the Jedi could even sense the boy, and he may have used the dark side of the Force to hide Sheev’s presence from the Jedi throughout the entire time that he was grooming him.
But there’s also a good possibility that the Jedi just simply missed Palpatine because 10,000+ Jedi Knights and Masters aren’t able to cover the entire galaxy, where countless people live.
So, while we are still waiting for the official canon explanation of how Palpatine was never sensed by the Jedi Order when he was still young, we are going with the possibility that the Jedi simply missed him. And they had to miss the man that ended up destroying the Jedi Order.
How did the Jedi not suspect Palpatine?
After Palpatine became a Sith Lord, he continued his ascent through the political ladders of Naboo until he became a senator. According to canon sources, Palpatine killed Darth Plagueis during his rise as a senator as he no longer had any use for his master. But throughout that time, none of the Jedi sensed him at all.
There were a lot of instances wherein Palpatine was together with the strongest Jedi Masters in the galaxy. But none of them even stopped to wonder whether or not they were talking about the biggest threat that the Jedi Order has ever faced. And that means that Palpatine did a great job of hiding his presence.
There are several reasons why Palpatine was able to keep himself hidden in plain sight. First, Yoda and the other members of the Jedi Council often talked about how the dark side was clouding their ability to sense the future or even know who was the true Sith Lord that had been pulling the strings of the Clone Wars. If that’s the case, then Palpatine must have been using his powers in the dark side to cloud the Force and make it more difficult for the Jedi to use the Force to sense the mysterious Sith Lord.
Of course, while that may be true, we know that the Jedi can still sense the dark side of any other user of the dark side as long as they are within proximity. In his duel with Dooku, Yoda quickly noticed that he had become strong in the dark side. So, if that’s the case, how is it that no Jedi sensed Palpatine’s powers on the dark side?
During his duel with Mace Windu, we saw that Palpatine’s face turned uglier when the Jedi Master deflected the Sith Lord’s Force Lightning back at him. Palpatine used his deformity to prove that the Jedi tried to kill him. But the standing theory is that he always had a deformed face that had become ugly and twisted due to his usage of the dark side of the Force. After all, in the Legends storylines, most Sith Lords end up having deformed appearances when using their powers too much.
So, it is possible that what Mace Windu did when he deflected the lightning back at Palpatine was that he only removed the shroud that the Sith Lord had placed over his appearance to make himself look less deformed. As such, there’s a good chance that his deformed appearance was his true nature the entire time and that he only used his powers in the dark side to hide his true nature as a Sith Lord while making his face look normal.
If that’s the case, this explains why the Sith Lords were able to operate in secret for a thousand years, as they must have mastered different powers and abilities that allowed them to hide in plain sight. And it just so happened that Palpatine was the culmination of the powers they mastered in a thousand years of preparing for the downfall of the Jedi Order.
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