Re-watched Return of the Jedi (1983 non-“Special” version). Near the beginning of the duel between Luke and Darth Vader on Death Star II, just after Luke kicks Darth Vader down some stairs, Darth Vader recomposes himself and says the following after Luke turns off his own lightsaber; video clip below:

Obi-Wan has taught you well.

Okay, Luke was clearly taught by Yoda during the events of The Empire Strikes Back. The audience knows that and only Luke, Obi-Wan and R2-D2 seem to share that knowledge of Yoda; past that utterly nobody else seems to know about Yoda. So it’s pretty clear that Darth Vader had 100% no knowledge of who Yoda was/is or even if Yoda is still alive. But still, even with Yoda’s guidance Luke was clearly underprepared and overpowered in The Empire Strikes Back.

So given the fact that Darth Vader clearly knows that he killed Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi during the first Star Wars film and he also clearly knows how raw and rough Luke’s skills were during The Empire Strikes Back, how exactly does Darth Vader believe Luke has been “taught” by the time the events of Return of the Jedi happen?

Luke is clearly better prepared for a serious Jedi versus Sith confrontation in Return of the Jedi. So does Darth Vader assume something along the lines of Obi-Wan’s “Force Ghost” has somehow come back to guide Luke on his journey to becoming a Jedi?

Or is Darth Vader still somehow obsessed with Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi being someone who he was in personal conflict with—as shown in the prequels—as well as someone who clearly exposed naive farm boy Luke Skywalker to the world of the Jedi? Meaning without Obi-Wan’s assistance/interference/meddling, Luke would just be some dumb-hick farm boy who was a threat to nobody in the middle of nowhere.

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    Does Vader actually know that Obi-Wan is dead? He vanished right in front of Vader leaving no body.
    – Robert
    Dec 25, 2015 at 4:25
  • 1
    !This! This has always bugged me. As far as we know, when Obi-Wan disappears this way, no-one has ever done that before. Yet Vader, just toes his cloak and moves on. No other Jedi in all of the prequels died this way, and Yoda doesn't die this way until after Obi-Wans death. How can anyone assume he is dead? No body - No murder so to speak! Jan 18, 2017 at 14:09
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    The ability to become a Force Ghost on death was considered long lost, but that's not to say Vader wasn't aware of the phenomenon. Perhaps he recognised Kenobi's disappearance for what it was (this would also explain to Vader Obi-Wan's last words and might even account for some of Luke's further training).
    – delinear
    Feb 13, 2017 at 14:37
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    "it’s pretty clear that Darth Vader had 100% no knowledge of who Yoda was/is or even if Yoda is still alive" Is this the case? If you factor in the prequels, it is clearly false. If you don't i.e. if you consider what the script writers thought that Darth Vader knew, it is still not definitely true.
    – JeremyP
    Mar 15, 2017 at 17:24
  • @KimberleyBarras There's a question about whether Obi-Wan was the first to ever become a Force Ghost. scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/148423/…
    – RichS
    May 21, 2017 at 20:42

5 Answers 5


In short, the Emperor figures out it was Yoda and did it in front of Vader.

From James Kahn's novelization:


  • THIS HAPPENS BEFORE THE FIGHT. Right after Luke entered his presence. Which means before Vader finds out Luke's skills improved as per OP's curiosity

  • Obviously, Vader was standing right by him and heard what the Emperor said. So, he knew that Luke was trained by Yoda before he found out how much Luke improved

The moment passed. He did nothing.

“Tell me, young Skywalker,” the Emperor said when he saw Luke’s first struggle had taken its course. “Who has been involved in your training until now?” The smile was thin, open-mouthed, hollow.

Luke was silent. He would reveal nothing.

“Oh, I know it was Obi-Wan Kenobi at first,” the wicked ruler continued, rubbing his fingers together as if trying to remember. Then pausing, his lips creased into a sneer. “Of course, we are familiar with the talent Obi-Wan Kenobi had, when it came to training Jedi.” He nodded politely in Vader’s direction, indicating Obi-Wan’s previous star pupil. Vader stood without responding, without moving.

Luke tensed with fury at the Emperor’s defamation of Ben—though, of course, to the Emperor it was praise. And he bridled even more, knowing the Emperor was so nearly right. He tried to bring his anger under control, though, for it seemed to please the malevolent dictator greatly.

Palpatine noted the emotions on Luke’s face and chuckled. “So, in your early training you have followed your father’s path, it would seem. But alas, Obi-Wan is now dead, I believe; his elder student, here, saw to that—” again, he made a hand motion toward Vader. “So tell me, young Skywalker—who continued your training?

That smile, again, like a knife. Luke held silent, struggling to regain his composure.

The Emperor tapped his fingers on the arm of the throne, recalling. “There was one called … Yoda. An aged Master Jed … Ah, I see by your countenance I have hit a chord, a resonant chord indeed. Yoda, then.”

Luke flashed with anger at himself, now, to have revealed so much, unwillingly, unwittingly. Anger and self-doubt. He strove to calm himself—to see all, to show nothing; only to be.

“This Yoda,” the Emperor mused. “Lives he still?”

Luke focused on the emptiness of space beyond the window behind the Emperor’s chair. The deep void, where nothing was. Nothing. He filled his mind with this black nothing. Opaque, save for the occasional flickering of starlight that filtered through the ether.

“Ah,” cried Emperor Palpatine. “He lives not Very good, young Skywalker, you almost hid this from me. But you could not. And you can not. Your deepest flickerings are to me apparent. Your nakedest soul. That is my first lesson to you.” He beamed.

Please note that the novelization (which is fully Disney canon) does NOT have the famous movie line "Obi-Wan has taught you well". In the place where it is in the film, we just have:

The Emperor, watching joyously, saw this, and goaded Luke on to revel in his Darkness. “Use your aggressive feelings, boy! Yes! Let the hate flow through you! Become one with it, let it nourish you!”

Luke faltered a moment—then realized what was happening. He was suddenly confused again. What did he want? What should he do? His brief exultation, his microsecond of dark clarity—gone, now, in a wash of indecision, veiled enigma. Cold awakening from a passionate flirtation.

He took a step back, lowered his sword, relaxed, and tried to drive the hatred from his being.

In that instant, Vader attacked. He lunged half up the stairs, forcing Luke to reverse defensively. He bound the boy’s blade with his own, but Luke disengaged and leaped to the safety of an overhead gantry. Vader jumped over the railing to the floor beneath the platform on which Luke stood.

“I will not fight you, Father,” Luke stated.

For completeness, Junior Novelization by Ryder Windham does NOT have Kahn's story progression, and instead faithfully follows the film's dialog (it basically is pretty much a movie script's copy), with this training mind-reading by the Emperor NOT happening, and with the famous "Obi-Wan has taught you well" line being the only clue as to Vader's thoughts.

Having said that, it is clear why Obi-Wan's training is what Vader cares about, and not someone else's.

  • He was Obi-Wan's prior student. Now, Luke's taken his place. It's a rivalry.

  • If we include Episode III canon, he has a really really intense relationship with Obi-Wan. Brother. Teacher. Teacher he loves to hate. In the very end, someone Anakin is even jealous of as far as Padme, when they both get out of Padme's ship. Obi-Wan is the center of Anakin's world, and Yoda (or anyone else) is not anywhere close in his concerns.

  • @JakeGould - The Emperor himself has put the parallel (Vader himself was taught by Obi-Wan) in his head. That's what he (Vader) cares about. He's comparing Obi-Wan's 2 students, himself and Luke Dec 25, 2015 at 0:42
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    OK. I'll buy that.
    – Valorum
    Dec 25, 2015 at 0:44
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    @JakeGould - in light of Episode III, that makes perfect sense. Remember, he was ALWAYS hung up on how Obi-Wan didn't treat him right, AND jealous of him and Padme at the end. And now Obi-Wan ALSO gets a new Padawan instead of Vader. GRRRRRR! Dec 25, 2015 at 0:49
  • Also, remember, Lucas is all about Myths, Hero's Journey and Storytelling. Yoda is basically an insignificant figure in Vader's own Story. Dec 25, 2015 at 0:51
  • This was one of my favorite scenes from the book. It really shows the power of the emperor as well as Luke's intuitive powers and control. May 23, 2017 at 20:36

At the time, Obi-Wan is the only Jedi known to have survived at least as far as the events of A New Hope. Darth Vader therefore assumes that Luke got all his training from Obi-Wan before his death.

You say "[Vader] also clearly knows how raw/rough Luke’s skills were during The Empire Strikes Back", but he might have assumed one of the following:

  • Luke wasn't performing at his full potential then, due to the circumstances
  • Luke had been honing his skills on his own since then, based on Obi-Wan's training before his death

Or he might have just been speaking sarcastically, saying "Obi-Wan has taught you well" as a jibe since Luke's performance still isn't up to much by the standards of the old Jedi system.


The Emperor (and I assume Vader) know that Yoda could be alive. After Yoda and the Emperor fought he says to the clones searching for the body.

Emperor to clone troopers, "If there is no body then he is not dead"

Yoda is known to be very old and powerful, there is no reason to think he would have died in the last twenty years of natural causes.

I guess Vader recognised Obi-Wan's fighting style. For example the kick Luke had done just before was probably not a common move for one of Yoda's stature.

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    Well, I doubt anyone ever found a body of Yoda ;) Or Obi-Wan for that matter.. Are you saying Force Ghost people aren't dead?
    – BMWurm
    Mar 15, 2017 at 17:00
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    @BMWurm The emperor discounted the possibility of Yoda being a force ghost when he made that statement. He would have no reason to change his mind. He has hundreds of Jedi bodies to prove that most Jedi do not disappear when killed.
    – PStag
    Mar 15, 2017 at 18:35

There is actually no plot hole here. It really has nothing at all to do with Luke's fencing skills. (In fact, Vader may still have the advantage, though it is hard to tell since Luke basically handicaps himself, and Vader may not even be fighting to win. There's too much rhetoric for it to be a real fight to the death.) Consider the context of the quote:

(Luke fences Vader, kicks Vader down the staircase, starts to advance)

Emperor: (cackles) Good! Use your aggressive feelings, boy! Let the hate flow through you!

Luke: (powers off his light saber, faces Vader, exhales) I will not fight you, Father.

It is not Luke's fighting skills that prompts Vader's comment, but his ability to resist the seduction of the Dark Side. Even during what Luke believes to be a duel to the death, standing alone against two opponents likely stronger than he, and with all of his friends dying just outside the window, Luke still keeps at the forefront of his mind what Obi-Wan told him on Dagobah before he reunited with the fleet:

Bury your feelings deep down, Luke. They do you credit, but *they could be made to serve the Emperor.

And also Luke in this fateful moment still maintains his composure with Jedi discipline, as Yoda counseled him from his death bed:

Remember, a Jedi's strength flows from the Force.

But beware: anger, fear, aggression - the Dark Side are they.

Once you start down the Dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.

Do not underestimate the powers of the Dark, or suffer your father's fate you will.

Obi-Wan and Yoda similarly counseled him as he was preparing to leave Dagobah for Cloud City:

Luke: But I can help them! I feel the Force.

Obi-Wan: But you cannot control it. This is a dangerous time for you, when you will be tempted by the Dark Side of the Force.

Yoda: Yes, yes! To Obi-Wan you listen! The cave - remember your failure at the cave....

Obi-Wan: Luke! Don't give in to hate! It leads to the Dark Side!

Even though Obi-Wan is only with Luke physically for about a day's worth of time before Vader kills him, Obi-Wan and Yoda have counseled Luke on resisting the Dark Side about equally, at least judging by what is shown on screen in the films.

Returning to the climactic sequence, another relevant detail is the reaction of the Imperial fleet command officers to the Emperor's orders for the Battle of Endor:

Admiral Viett: Hold here.

Officer: We're not going to attack?

Admiral Viett: I have my orders from the Emperor himself. He has something special planned for them. We only need to keep them from escaping.

The Star Destroyers could have just destroyed the rebel fleet themselves, but the Emperor personally ordered them not to. The Emperor also claims:

Everything that has transpired has done so according to my design. Your friends on the sanctuary moon are walking into a trap, as is your rebel fleet. It was I who allowed the Alliance to know the location of the shield generator....

The Emperor seems to have orchestrated the entire elaborate ambush on the rebellion primarily in order to provoke Luke into rage and thereby seduce him to the Dark Side - with actually killing the rebels amounting to a bonus.

Emperor: Come, boy. See for yourself. From here you will witness the final destruction of the Alliance, and the end of your insignificant rebellion.

Luke: (looks at his light saber on the arm of the Emperor's throne)

Emperor: You want this, don't you? The hate is swelling in you now. Take your Jedi weapon. Use it. I am unarmed. Strike me down with it! Give in to your anger!

Luke: (gives a mocking look, turns away)

Emperor: With each pulsing moment you make yourself more my servant.

Luke: (breathes heavily, turns back) No.

Emperor: It is unavoidable. It is your destiny. You, like your father, are now mine.

And later:

Emperor: Your fleet is lost. And your friends on the Endor moon will not survive. There is no escape - my young apprentice. The Alliance will die, as will your friends. Good... I can feel your anger. I am defenseless. Take your weapon. Strike me down with all of your hatred, and your journey towards the Dark Side will be complete!

This scene in Episode VI, and Anakin's conversion to Darth Vader in Episode III, indicate that at least when Sidious is involved, provocation to rage is a critical element in converting a Jedi to the Dark Side. The Jedi must lose discipline and indulge in anger, fear and aggression, and in doing so make himself vulnerable to the domination of his new Master. But despite the combined efforts of Vader and the Emperor, Luke maintains composure under intense pressure, even to the point of powering off his saber in the middle of the fight.

It is this very high level of discipline that causes Vader to compliment Obi-Wan. Because Obi-Wan tried, and failed, to teach Anakin those very virtues, but in Luke's case, along with Yoda's help, Obi-Wan has not failed this time. By heroically resisting their provocations, Luke defies the Emperor's foresight and remains a Jedi.

With this quote, Vader gives credit where it is due. I even perceive in this statement by Vader not only an admiration for Obi-Wan, that Luke is so well trained in his mental discipline, but also an expression of regret, that had Anakin been so well prepared himself, that he would never have been seduced by the Dark Side to begin with.


Vader and Palpatine didn't know how long Obi-Wan trained Luke. They have figured out that Luke lived on Tatooine, and Obi-Wan was also hiding there. What they did know about Jedi is that training must start as soon as possible. Therefore, they probably assumed Luke was training for quite some time. What they didn't understand is that Jedi changed their ways, just like Sith before them. Vader probably was not impressed with Luke's skills during their duel in Cloud City. Then again, it is not uncommon for a learner to understand lessons from his teacher only after some time. In the official novelization, Palpatine did learn about Yoda by probing Luke's mind, but this novelization contradicts the movie in several important details.

Overall, from what Palpatine and Vader knew about Jedi training cycle, they would probably assume that Luke spent his early years training under Obi-Wan, and later after his death under Yoda. They didn't understand he was basically self-taught, training at most few months with Yoda (if even that) and few hours with Obi-Wan.

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