While we may never get a truly satisfying explanation for how he managed to survive falling into the vacuum of space and exploding in The Rise of Skywalker, intrepid Star Wars fans are starting to learn more about Emperor Palpatine's motivations in luring Rey and Kylo Ren to his creepy Exegol lair. Palpy's desperate drive to continue his legacy may have its roots in a prophecy from the little-known 2012 publication The Book of Sith.
The Book of Sith is a collection of five parts, written by five (fictional) authors, with commentary and notes alongside each. The first part is written by female Sith Lord and original author of the Sith Code Sorzus Syn. It this she recounts her first encounters with the Dark Side and experiments with alchemy. In one part, she transcribes a Sith prophecy, previously passed down through oral tradition: "The Sith'ari will be free of limits. The Sith'ari will lead the Sith and destroy them. The Sith'ari will raise the Sith from the dead and make them stronger than before."
Reddit user kyloren711 posits that Palpatine may have seen himself as the Sith'ari, therefore explaining his proposition to Rey to kill him: he feels the need to be destroyed, entrusting the prophecy that transferring his spirit to Rey will raise him from the dead and make the Sith stronger.
Why, then, did he switch tactics to stealing her life force? It could be explained by a sudden realization that his existence proves the Sith has been figuratively "raised from the dead" and the thing necessary to make them "stronger than before" is the life force of Rey and Ben. Both of these plans prove to be for naught, of course, but they provide some insight into Palpatine's thought process.
Palpatine is not the first to think of himself as the Sith'ari. Speculation runs rampant in The Book of Sith, with every author giving their reasons why the previous one was incorrect about the prophecy, while arguing that they themselves are the real deal. The author of The Book of Sith, Daniel Wallace, makes this sort of a running joke: everyone believes themselves to be the chosen one, only to be proven wrong by someone else.
This is what makes the concept of prophecies so fascinating within the world of Star Wars: no matter how hard one tries, they inevitably end up self-fulfilling. Anakin Skywalker was trained to be The Chosen One because the Jedi Council believed him to be the Chosen One. In fact, a case could be made that Darth Vader was thought to be the Sith'ari, meaning both the Jedi and Sith projected their prophecies onto him.
So who really is the Sith'ari? It may never be known, but the very existence of the prophecy itself explains a great deal about the philosophy of the Sith and the trust in the Dark Side. If nothing else, it's provided a motivational tool for ambitious Sith lords to seek glory.
The Rise of Skywalker is in theaters now.