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In a world full of space ships and laser swords, perhaps nothing is too out there to belong in Star Wars – even magic. For a long time, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Force, the power wielded by the Jedi Knights and their enemies, the Sith, was gifted upon them in a kind of mystical, magical way. But it turns out that isn’t entirely the case.

In the Phantom Menace, it’s revealed that Anakin has an unusually high count of something they call Midi-chlorians. The count is so high that the Jedi believe he could be the one to bring balance to the force. So what are they?

What are Midi-chlorians?

Midi-hlorians are, intelligent microscopic life-forms that live inside the cells of all living things. Having Midi-chlorians grants users the ability to detect the Force. A normal creature boasts relatively few Midi-chlorians and shows little to no force sensitivity.

Their Midi-chlorian count can be used to judge how much potential a person has within the Force, but there are other factors that could influence that too. Just because a Force user has an unusually high Midi-chlorian count doesn’t mean they have a greater Force ability than other Jedi with lower counts.

The total Midi-chlorians that a Jedi has isn’t the same for all force users. Anakin Skywalker was said to have had the highest count in history, even above Master Yoda own. What makes Anakin’s case unique is that he is believed to have been conceived by Midi-chlorians, hinted at by the fact that Anakin doesn’t have a birth father.

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A person’s Midi-chlorian count can be tested through a blood test, as demonstrated by Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace. These tests were one of the most common ways that the Jedi Order located Force-sensitive children.

One of the key things that these life-forms work to do is to connect users to the Force, which allows them to sense for disturbances and powerful entities in the distance. On the darker side of the force, as Emporer Palpatine has explained, Midi-chlorians have been used to create life. And in a deleted scene from Revenge of the Sith, he even tells Anakin that he had manipulated the Midi-chlorians in his mother’s womb to birth the perfect apprentice.

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