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Summary

  • Darth Vader’s true identity as Anakin Skywalker was a highly guarded secret, known only to a select few individuals including Palpatine, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke, Han, Leia, R2-D2, C-3PO, Master Yoda, Bail Organa, Ahsoka Tano, Darth Maul, Grand Moff Tarkin, Grand Admiral Thrawn, Jocasta Nu, Ferren Barr, Verla, Reva, Inquisitors, and Baylan.
  • Palpatine, the Emperor, was the one who decided to keep Darth Vader’s true identity a secret and may have shared it with his closest advisers.
  • The revelation of Darth Vader’s true identity had significant impacts on characters like Luke, Leia, and Ahsoka, leading to a great deal of emotional turmoil.
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Darth Vader‘s true identity was a closely guarded secret in the Star Wars galaxy, and only a handful of people knew he was really Anakin Skywalker. A celebrated hero of the Clone Wars, Anakin Skywalker was generally assumed to have killed during Order 66. To the galaxy as a whole, Darth Vader emerged fully-formed as a powerful and enigmatic being. No doubt Palpatine quite liked Darth Vader’s mystique, which ensured people focused on his apprentice rather than his master.

There were countless rumors about Darth Vader’s true identity.

According to James Luceno’s novel Tarkin, there were countless rumors about Darth Vader’s true identity. Some thought he was a counterpart to the Confederacy’s General Grievous, held in reserve by Palpatine in case the Jedi betrayed him. Others thought he was an artificial monster created in a laboratory.

Many believed that the Emperor’s willingness to grant so much authority to such a being heralded the shape of things to come,” Luceno writes, “for it was beyond dispute that Vader was the Empire’s first terror weapon.” The secret was kept even after Return of the Jedi, with the Skywalker family concealing the truth until it exploded into public decades later, ending Leia’s political career. Here are all the people who have been confirmed to know the truth before that fateful time.

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15 Palpatine

The Sith Lord responsible for Anakin’s fall

Palpatine led Anakin Skywalker to the dark side and gave him the name of Darth Vader. The Emperor always knew the truth, and seems to have been the one who decided it should remain a closely guarded secret. It’s unknown whether he ever told Darth Vader’s true identity to his closest advisers; some of these knew Palpatine’s identity as a secret Sith, so may have known about Darth Vader as well. It’s possible Mas Amedda in particular was in the loop, but that hasn’t been confirmed.

14 Obi-Wan Kenobi

Although Obi-Wan believed Darth Vader dead for years

Obi-Wan Kenobi was aware of the truth, of course. The Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney+ TV show revealed he didn’t actually know Anakin survived their battle on Mustafar until a decade later, when he was drawn out of hiding by Reva and the Inquisitors. This reveal does raise some rather odd questions, though; he was aware of the Imperial Inquisitors, so presumably had also heard of their leader. He never seems to have spent much time considering who this Sith powerhouse could be, simply trying to keep his head down.

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13 Luke, Han, and Leia

Darth Vader’s children were shocked to learn the truth

Darth Vader told Luke he was his father in The Empire Strikes Back, leaving Luke shaken to the core. It wasn’t until Return of the Jedi that Luke told Leia, but interestingly, her focus seems to have initially been on the fact Luke was her brother. The emotional impact is explored in Beth Revis’ The Princess & the Scoundrel, set immediately after Return of the Jedi; it’s then dealt with decades later in-universe by Claudia Gray’s Bloodline.

“She’s always wondered what had led her father to turn to the dark side, to become Darth Vader.”

It wasn’t until Bloodline that Leia began to truly understand Anakin Skywalker, in a situation where she too felt tempted. “She’d always wondered what had led her father to turn to the dark side,” Leia reflected, “to become Darth Vader. She’d imagined it came from ambition, greed, or some other venal weakness. Never had she considered that the turn might begin in a better place, out of the desire to save someone or to avenge a great wrong. Even if it led to evil, that first impulse might be born of loyalty, a sense of justice, or even love.

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12 R2-D2 and C-3PO

One of these droids always knew…

Unlike C-3PO, R2-D2 never had a memory wipe in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. Instead, the diminutive droid appears to have kept his own counsel, perhaps wary of interfering too much in Luke’s personal journey. C-3PO lost those memories, but he remained with Han and Leia’s family after Return of the Jedi, so can reasonably be assumed to have learned the truth by eavesdropping. Fortunately, while Threepio is hardly discreet, he wouldn’t have seen the need to tell anyone unless it came up in conversation. C-3PO now remembers the whole saga after Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.

11 Master Yoda

Always knew, this Jedi Master did

Master Yoda knew that Darth Vader was once Anakin Skywalker – the boy he sensed too much fear in to train way back in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. For many years it’s been assumed Master Yoda was aware from the day Vader gained his cybernetic enhancements and signature wheeze. However, since it’s been revealed that Obi-Wan didn’t learn Anakin survived for a full ten years, it’s no longer a guarantee Yoda knew for the entirety of time between Episode III and the first Yoda appearance in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

10 Bail Organa

This rebel leader took a terrible risk

Jimmy Smits as Bail Organa in Rogue One.

Bail Organa was present during the climactic end of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, and there can be no doubt he was aware of Darth Vader’s true identity. That makes Bail particularly impressive because he remained politically active, and any ill-judged reaction – or even stray thought – could have told Palpatine or Vader he knew more than he was letting on. Worse still, Bail had a lot to lose if he was found out; a close look at his affairs could well have led Vader to realize the orphan in Bail’s care was actually his own daughter, Leia.

9 Ahsoka Tano

Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan was shocked by the realization

Anakin Skywalker’s Padawan during the Clone Wars, Ahsoka survived Order 66 and became a key agent in the nascent Rebel Alliance. Ahsoka began to suspect the truth about Darth Vader in Star Wars Rebels season 2, and her worst fears were confirmed when she confronted the Sith Lord in the dramatic finale. She would have died if not for the intervention of Ezra Bridger via the World Between Worlds. She clearly never told the Rebel Alliance what she’d learned, although she may well have discussed it privately with Bail Organa.

8 Darth Maul

Darth Sidious’ first apprentice worked it out too late

Star Wars: The Clone Wars season 7 strongly suggests Darth Maul had figured out Anakin Skywalker’s fate. He had deduced Darth Sidious’ plans, realizing the Emperor’s goal was to seduce Anakin Skywalker to the dark side. It’s unknown whether Maul ever realized Obi-Wan Kenobi was the one to cripple Vader; he would have found a certain dark humor in that.

7 Grand Moff Tarkin

Darth Vader’s closest ally in the Empire

Grand Moff Tarkin

James Luceno’s novel Tarkin confirms the Grand Moff had deduced who Darth Vader really was. Tarkin had worked with Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars, and he found the Dark Lord of the Sith eerily familiar, even recognizing some of his tactics. While Vader’s face and voice made it nearly impossible to recognize his identity, Tarkin felt like Vader already had a familiarity with him, meaning he may have been someone Tarkin was already well acquainted with.

Tarkin knew better than to voice his suspicions.

While he never confirmed it outright, Tarkin had a brilliant tactical mind and recognized Anakin’s technique with a lightsaber, his military strategy, and his interaction with the stormtroopers under his command. But Tarkin knew better than to voice his suspicions. He and Darth Vader became close allies, even doing favors for one another throughout the Dark Times.

6 Grand Admiral Thrawn

The alien Grand Admiral deduced the truth

Grand Admiral Thrawn had encountered Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars while on reconnaissance missions detailed in Thrawn: Alliances and Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising. In fact, it was Thrawn’s name-dropping Anakin that initially persuaded Palpatine to allow the Chiss into his presence in the first place. A strategic genius if not a political one, Thrawn swiftly deduced Darth Vader was in fact Anakin Skywalker. He too had the wisdom to keep quiet about the knowledge, although he did indicate his suspicions to Vader in Thrawn: Alliances.

5 Jocasta Nu

The Jedi Archivist put the knowledge to good use

Star Wars The Clone Wars Jocasta Nu

Jocasta Nu was one of the few survivors of Order 66 to figure out the truth about Anakin Skywalker, having learned this when a medical droid scanned the Sith Lord. She attempted to use this knowledge to cause discord in Imperial forces, revealing it to a group of Stormtroopers who had arrested her, but Darth Vader killed them all in order to preserve his secret. He then cut Jocasta Nu down for good measure.

4 Ferren Barr

A Padawan who learned the shocking truth

Star Wars Ferren Barr

Ferren Barr was a Jedi Padawan who served in the Clone Wars and managed to survive Order 66. He fled to the aquatic planet of Mon Cala, and spent months attempting to learn the truth about the fall of the Jedi Order. A slicer he hired managed to access security recordings from the Jedi Temple, and Ferren Barr was shocked to learn that Anakin Skywalker had slain the Younglings. Ferren Barr trained a group of Force-sensitives on Mon Cala, but his band was attacked by Darth Vader. Barr did not survive his encounter with the Dark Lord of the Sith.

3 Verla

A survivor of Darth Vader’s wrath

Star Wars Verla Knows Truth About Anakin

Verla was the only one of Ferren Barr’s disciples to survive Darth Vader’s attack on Mon Cala, and she spent a lifetime on the run before eventually meeting Luke Skywalker. Their encounter was shortly after The Empire Strikes Back, and Verla used a dark side mind probe to learn Luke was Vader’s son; she attempted to kill him in an act of vengeance, but fortunately Artoo intervened. Verla asked Luke never to approach her again, and presumably continued to live as a hermit, hiding from the galaxy.

2 Reva And The Inquisitors

Darth Vader’s Inquisitors knew the truth

The Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney+ TV show confirmed the Inquisitors were well aware Anakin Skywalker was Darth Vader. This was the real reason Reva had joined the Inquisitors; she was an Order 66 survivor, and she sought to kill Darth Vader in an act of revenge. Needless to say, it didn’t go to plan. It’s possible Reva learned this through accessing confidential files, given the Inquisitors had access to records helping them identify Order 66 survivors.

1 Baylan

The most surprising addition to this list

Introduced in Ahsoka, Baylan was an Order 66 survivor who became a mercenary and continued to operate even five years after Return of the Jedi. During one confrontation with Ahsoka, he name-dropped her former master and confirmed he was aware of Anakin’s legacy of death and destruction. He may not have explicitly referred to Darth Vader, but he clearly knew who Anakin became.

Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader Split By a Lightning Bolt
Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader

Conceived by the will of the Force itself, Anakin Skywalker was the prophesied Chosen One, destined to bring the Force into balance. Anakin struggled to balance competing attachments to the Jedi Order and his wife Padmé Amidala, and ultimately fell to the dark side, becoming Darth Vader. For years he served as Palpatine’s right hand man, but he was ultimately redeemed by the faith of his son, Luke Skywalker. Now a Force Ghost, Anakin continues to act as an agent of balance.



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