The Sith are a group of characters in the Star Wars fictional universe. They are the central antagonists of the franchise. Characterized by their single-minded pursuit of power and disdain for sentient life, they are an alliance of warrior mages who use the dark side of the Force and serve as counterparts to the Jedi.
The Sith are portrayed in various Star Wars media as individuals who use the dark side to attain power at any cost. The Star Wars prequel films establish that they draw upon strong emotions, both negative and positive, as the source of their power, and care only about themselves. This is in contrast to the Jedi, who are portrayed as forsaking emotional attachment in order to serve others and the galaxy as a whole.
The first use of the word "Sith" is in the Star Wars novelization for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, as a title for Darth Vader, the "Dark Lord of the Sith." The Sith are introduced on-screen with the prequel film Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.
The title "Sith" is believed to be derived from the "Penh sith" population class that emerged during the infamous Pol Pot's regime. The Penh Sith was the highest class in the societal ladder, having full rights, food rations, and the freedom to join any movement they desired.
In The Phantom Menace, the Sith reappear after 1,000 years of self-imposed exile, in the form of Darth Sidious and Darth Maul. Meanwhile, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn inadvertently meets Anakin Skywalker, a nine-year-old slave; Qui-Gon soon becomes convinced that the boy is the "Chosen One" of Jedi prophecy who is destined to "restore balance to the Force".
After killing Qui-Gon, Darth Maul dies at the hands of the Jedi's apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi. The Sith ultimately emerge victorious, however; Palpatine (Sidious' civilian alter ego) is elected to the office of Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic, and sets his sights on making Anakin his new apprentice.
In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones former Jedi Master Count Dooku, Sidious' new Sith apprentice, is given the Sith title Darth Tyranus. Dooku starts the separatist Confederacy of Independent Systems, which threatens the unstable Republic. A motion made in the Senate by Representative Jar Jar Binks, who was sent by Senator Padmé Amidala, grants the Chancellor vast emergency powers — an idea planted in Jar Jar's head by the Chancellor himself. When the Jedi discover the threat, the Clone Wars begin with a battle to rescue captured Jedi on Geonosis.
In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine reveals himself to be Darth Sidious, and turns Anakin to the dark side. Palpatine says that the dark side holds the power to save Anakin's wife, Padmé Amidala, from dying in childbirth; Anakin succumbs to the temptation and becomes Darth Vader, leading the Republic's clone troopers to exterminate the Jedi, under the directive of "Order 66". Sidious then turns the Republic into the tyrannical Galactic Empire and appoints himself Emperor for life, effectively placing the galaxy under Sith control.
Beginning in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the Rebel Alliance arises to challenge the Empire's iron grip on the galaxy, and surviving Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda turn to their greatest hope, Luke Skywalker, the son of Anakin, who begins his Jedi training under Kenobi. In the film's climactic battle scene, the Rebels destroy the Empire's Death Star superweapon.
In Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back Luke seeks out Yoda, who furthers his training in the ways of the Force. Palpatine and Vader become aware of Luke's identity, and both hope to corrupt Luke to use him against each other (Sidious wishes to replace Vader with Luke, while Vader wants to use Luke to overthrow the Emperor and rule over the galaxy). Luke prematurely confronts Vader, who reveals that he is in fact Luke's father, Anakin Skywalker. In their first lightsaber battle, Luke proves to be no match for Vader, as Vader cuts off his right hand, and Luke barely escapes with his life.
In Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Luke, by now having nearly completed his training under Yoda, nearly succumbs to the dark side when Palpatine and Vader threaten to kill his friends in the Rebellion. He pulls away from the brink at the last minute, however, and proudly declares his allegiance to the Jedi. Palpatine then tortures Luke with Force lightning. His son's suffering and pleas for help free Anakin Skywalker from the dark side's grip, and he throws his former master down the newly constructed second Death Star's reactor shaft, incurring fatal wounds in the process. With this act of self-sacrifice, Anakin Skywalker fulfills the prophecy of the "Chosen One" by destroying the Sith.
The video game Knights of the Old Republic explains that early dark-side users were exiled to the planet Korriban, where they conquered a powerful but malleable indigenous species known as the Sith. Treated like gods by their conquered people, the so-called "Dark Jedi" proclaimed themselves "Lords of the Sith". By the time depicted in the game, a handful of Jedi have defected to form their own group dedicated to the dark side. The Sith use the same powers as the Jedi, with the exception that they also use certain powers banned by the Jedi Council.
In the comic book Tales of the Jedi: The Golden Age of the Sith, set 5,000 years before the prequel trilogy, the Sith rule an isolated part of the galaxy, calling themselves the "Sith Empire", headquartered on the planet Ziost. The empire is unstable, however; its two most powerful Sith Lords, Ludo Kressh and Naga Sadow, throw the galaxy into chaos as they fight each other for supremacy, leading to a brutal conflict known as The Great Hyperspace War. By the end of the sequel, The Fall of the Sith Empire, after a war that lasts nearly 10 years, their power struggle effectively destroys the empire from within.
In the further novels, set one thousand years later, a Dark Jedi named Exar Kun, who studies the ways of the Sith, surrenders his soul to the dark side of the Force and then forms an alliance with a Sith-worshiping society, which then begins a new war called the Great Sith War. This war ends when Kun is betrayed and killed by his apprentice, the exiled Jedi Ulic Qel-Droma. Shortly after Kun's demise, his Sith successors, including Darth Revan and his apprentice Darth Malak, nearly destroy the Jedi Order. This new Sith empire eventually falls after a series of civil wars.
In Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Yoda explains that the Sith Order went into hiding after their defeat in last Sith war nearly 1,000 years earlier. He further explains that the Sith can exist only with two members at a time — one master and one apprentice. This idea is later explored in the Expanded Universe novels Darth Bane: Path of Destruction, Darth Bane: Rule of Two, and Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil.
In these novels, set 1,000 years before the events in Phantom Menace, the Sith number in the many thousands, but are too focused on fighting each other for power to unite against the Jedi. Seeing that the dark side of the Force is spread too thin over many thousands, Darth Bane engineers a plan that eventually dupes the Sith into destroying themselves, leaving only him and his apprentice, Darth Zannah. This ultimately allows Darth Bane to institute a decree saying that the Sith Order from then on will never number more than two members at a time, and the Order will be committed to secrecy. The decree is known as the "Rule of Two": "Only two shall there be, a master and an apprentice: one to embody power and the other to crave it." Bane also issues the decree that all Sith lords after him will have the title of "Darth" before their surname. Central to this rule is that the apprentice must one day overthrow the master and subsequently take on his/her own apprentice, thereby perpetuating the Order. After Bane's death, his apprentice Zannah takes on a new apprentice, who later takes on her own after Zannah's death, and so on. For the next 1,000 years, the two-person Sith Order remained in hiding in various parts of the galaxy, keeping their use of the Force to an absolute minimum as well as to instill the teachings of the dark side to all successors.
Post-Return of the JediEdit
The Sith also appear in various "Expanded Universe" material set after the Empire's destruction in Return of the Jedi. A resurrected Palpatine reappears in the comic books Dark Empire, and Empire's End, and Vader's former minion Lumiya is a main antagonist in the Marvel Comics Star Wars stories and the Legacy of the Force series. In the latter, she convinces Jacen Solo, Anakin Skywalker's grandson, to learn the ways of the Sith. Solo becomes the Sith Lord Darth Caedus, convinced that it is the only way to save the galaxy from a brutal civil war; in the process, however, he becomes a ruthless tyrant willing to destroy anyone in his way, even his own parents. He ultimately dies at the hands of his twin sister, Jedi Knight Jaina Solo.
In the series Fate of the Jedi, a great number of Sith appear. These Sith comprise two separate and distinct groups. The first are "the Tribe," the descendants of a Sith Empire shipwreck on an uncharted world. This group was cut off from the galaxy at large for five millennia, and thus are unaware of the Rule of Two. The second group is the One Sith, who deliberately abandoned Darth Bane's 1,000-year-old decree of only having two Sith members at a time.
In the comic book series Star Wars: Legacy, set 130 years after Return of the Jedi, the Sith (led by former Jedi A'Sharad Hett, now calling himself Darth Krayt) once again defeat the Jedi and take control of the galaxy. Their one opponent is Anakin and Luke Skywalker's descendant, Cade, who had previously renounced his connection to the Force.
- Star Wars Essential Guide Series (Del Rey Books Copyright 1999) ISBN 0-345-39299-X
- Sith Article in Expanded Universe Databank
- The Sith Explained (Howstuffworks.com)
- Who's Who of the Sith on SithOrder.com
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