Star Wars: Tarkin, the next novel in the news series of canonical Star Wars universe novels coming from Del Rey, has a casual surprise for its readers: the revelation of Emperor Palpatine’s first name.
It’s a reveal that makes you pause for a second. Don’t we already know his first name? Surely that got slipped in somewhere, in a deleted scene or an EU novel or on the back of some toy packaging. Is this really the first we’re hearing of it, more than 30 years after the character showed up?
Apparently so, according to Wookieepedia. Ladies and gentlemen and Jedi and death stick enthusiasts, say hello to Sheev Palpatine. He’ll be oppressing you for the next few decades.
It isn’t known whether Tarkin writer James Luceno coined the name or whether this is an advance reveal of a factoid that will be revealed in Star Wars Episode VII. Could be either one, or it could be that Palpatine always had a canonical first name in the Lucas databanks and no one thought to ask what it was until now.
Sheev Palpatine, guys. Sheev. Let’s roll that around on our tongues. Sheev. Not Sheckie or Filliam or Mortimer or Luke (maybe it’s a popular name in the galaxy, you don’t know!) or Boba or Threepio. Sheev.
While it would be nice to have given the ultimate bad guy in Star Wars a more fearsome name (like Zardoz), Sheev at least fits within what we know of Palpatine’s origins. The humans on Naboo, or at least the ones notable in the story, have names that originate from sanskrit words and terminology. Padme is a hair away from padma, the sacred lotus that is a symbol of divine beauty and purity in Hinduism and Buddhism. (Her last name fits phonetically with sanskrit words, as well, and could be very roughly translated to mean “I am a part of,” if we take the Star Wars skewing into account.)
Sheev fits that style, as well, being an obvious reference to the godly aspect Shiva, the destroyer and transformer in Hinduism. Ol’ Palps certainly fits that bill. Really, he does nothing but that in the movie saga, always pushing and goading from within and without, dismantling old orders and replacing them with new ones.
It’s no Annikin Starkiller, but hey, Sheev works. And it kind of sounds like “Steve,” so if you get me tipsy enough I’ll probably start calling him “Steve Palpsatine” and that’ll be fun for everybody.
(Steve Palpatine for Student Council!)