We know (from the accidents that happened between 1999-2005) that

The Sith rely on their passion for their strength. They think inward, only about themselves.

and we also know that

Always two there are, no more, no less. A master and an apprentice.

And from the EU, we know that each Sith apprentice will (try to) kill and replace their master at some point, in order to become the one who bundles the entirety of the Sith power (so to say).

Q1: Given these points, why do Sith bother to take up apprentices at all? It doesn't make sense to pass on their knowledge of the dark side, because they only care about themselves, and it would also contradict this philosophy to teach competition that will endanger their power and ultimately their life.

Q2: As a special case of this question in The Empire Strikes Back, Vader tries to turn Luke by saying

Luke, you can destroy the Emperor. He has foreseen this. It is your destiny. Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.

(emphasis by me)

Now, the same question rises: If the Emperor has foreseen that Luke can destroy him, why would he want Luke to become a Sith?

  • 26
    +1 for "the accidents that happened between 1999-2005" Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 20:11
  • 2
    @DVK: Frankly I rather expected a lot of -1s for that.
    – bitmask
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 21:31
  • 5
    If we all voted based on whether the author's minute biases (displayed within the question text) happened to fit in with our own, this Stack would be a lot less friendly and useful. Instead, we should vote because a question is well-researched and/or intriguing. When good research happens and the question's interesting, and there is a side remark which I happen to completely agree with, well, expect a "+1 for X" from me, even though the real reason is a good question. Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 21:55
  • @PeterDC - If I had to put </irony> tag in every commment I ironically make, SO database would run out of space. </hint> </irony> Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 0:04
  • @DVK ...and you'd get kicked off the site for being a resource hog... Okay, then, I'll purposely search for irony in your comments so you don't have to use </irony> tags and get booted. ;) We need our DVK! Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 0:22

10 Answers 10


Also, some times Sith masters are deep under cover in another role (ahem, ahem) and having an apprentice allows them to get their bidding done without having to get their hands dirty so to speak.

Also, I imagine that if people fear your apprentice, they will fear you all the more.

What I want to know is, if this is the case, why have only one apprentice?

  • 2
    Because multiple apprentices increases the risk of the master losing control. Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 21:19
  • maybe, but if one is becoming too powerful, then you can gang up on him with your other apprentices. Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 21:21
  • True. I haven't heard of Sith masters taking more than one apprentice but it might have happened before. Especially before the Rule of Two. Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 21:24
  • oh, I've actually never seen that happen, I was just wondering why it didn't. Maybe I'll just ask the question on sifi :P Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 21:52
  • In G-canon, the Rule of Two was never truly broken. In the Extended Universe, Sidious/Palpatine was training Maul while himself apprenticed to Plagueis, and was unofficially mentoring both Anakin and another Jedi, Vergere, while Tyrannus/Dooku was his actual "apprentice". As Emperor, Palpatine had a cadre of Force-sensitive assassins called the Emperor's Hand, of which a couple are notable (Mara Jade, who was eventually redeemed and married Luke, and Lumiya, who corrupted Luke's nephew Jacen Solo into a Sith).
    – KeithS
    Commented Feb 17, 2012 at 0:19

Think of the "reality" game show, Survivor. One might ask, "Why make alliances if only one person can win?" The reason being that in order to gain power and make it to the end, you need followers. Followers who are more powerful than your enemies but not as powerful as you. The Sith grouped together to form their own order for basically the same reason: to defeat their enemies, the Jedi.

Now on Survivor, what happens when the leader of the dominant alliance notices that one of his allies is getting too powerful and becomes a threat to his position within the alliance? He tries to get him voted off the island. But sometimes the ally wins and the old leader is voted off. The tribe is now stronger and better suited to take on external threats because a more capable leader is now in power.

These are the same principles that motivate the Sith.


Well first, there were at one point more than two Sith. The term "Sith" is generally generalized to mean all practitioners of the "Dark Side" of the Force. In the Second Great Schism (7000 years prior to the events of the Star Wars movies), a small force of Jedis discovered new Force abilities, which they attained through more "passionate" use of the Force. These practitioners were condemned as "Dark Jedi", and in their exile discovered a sentient race called the Sith, whose philosophy centered on conflict as the primary driving force of advancement. The Dark Jedi came to rule over this race through their mastery of the Force, and eventually interbred with them to produce sentient Force-sensitives which had an innate desire for conflict; the Sith Lords.

The Sith Order was established to train disciples in this new philosophy; ancestry eventually fell by the wayside as the Sith sought to train as many Force-sensitives as they could amass. Unlike the Jedi Order which taught that anger, fear and pain were negative and to be driven from one's mind, the Sith taught Force-sensitive pupils that these emotions were natural, and to be harnessed in order to fully master the Force. Even the Sith believed that control of these emotions was necessary; only the weak let these emotions completely rule their actions. For about 6,000 years, there were dozens or even hundreds of Sith, and many Sith Masters (roughly equivalent to Jedi Masters; there was one leader of the Sith, but any Master was the equivalent of any other Master).

The Sith as a large Order were destroyed with the coming of the Sith'ari; a Sith "overlord" who epitomized the teachings of the Sith and became free from all restrictions on the power of the Force. The prophesy stated that this being would rule the Sith, but also destroy and remake it. This came to pass around 1000BBY with the rise of Bane, who was the first to take the title Darth after it was banned by the Sith Order, and who first instituted the "Rule of Two"; If there is only one Sith Lord, the line, and all the knowledge and power of the Sith, rests in one person; kill him and the Sith are extinct. However, if there are more than two, the most powerful among them - the Master - will eventually be betrayed by an alliance of the two lesser Sith "apprentices". Thus, the natural result is two; one Master, and one Apprentice.

For the thousand years thereafter until the death of Darth Sidious and Darth Vader in 4ABY, there were between one and three Sith, sometimes breaking the Rule of Two; a Master might take two apprentices, or an apprentice, while still serving their own Master, might train their own apprentice (Darth Sidious was apparently training Darth Maul while still apprenticed to Darth Plagueis, while Darth Vader in turn trained Lady Lumiya while apprenticed to Sidious). Of course as Masters and apprentices were killed over the years, they may only be one surviving Sith for a time until a new apprentice is found.

In G-canon, the Sith became extinct at the Battle of Endor, as Vader turned on Palpatine to save his son Luke, and was mortally wounded in the process. In the Extended Universe, the Emperor's Hand, consisting of Force-sensitive assassins, scattered to the winds to remain a constant source of new Sith. Of the Emperor's Hand, notables include Mara Jade, who was saved from the Dark Side and married Luke, and Lumiya, who was personally trained as a Sith by Vader while serving with the Emperor's Hand, and in turn corrupted Han and Leia's son Jacen Solo into the Sith Darth Caedus.

  • It would seem now that the Sith did not in fact become extinct.
    – ouflak
    Commented Jan 9, 2020 at 16:58

Q1: Concern for yourself does not mean you cannot have allies, especially if you keep those allies subordinate to you. From the master's point of view it's a way to extend his power without having to do everything himself (such as using Darth Maul instead of hunting Jedi on his own). From the student's perspective he hopes to one day gain the power the master offers. I almost guarantee they don't "trust" each other, demonstrated by the fact that both the emperor and Vader are willing to sacrifice their partner to convert Luke, because they see him as an opportunity to expand their own power.

Q2: If you knew that a person had the power to destroy you, wouldn't you try to convert them instead? Especially if you saw the seed of corruption already within him?

  • The Master can (by definition) kill the student easily when starting to teach him, so fear is not a good explanation.
    – bitmask
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 19:15
  • It all falls under the concept of taking your greatest enemy, and turning it into your greatest asset.
    – Ashterothi
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 19:16
  • Well, but after turning them, they teach them. Knowing that one day they would threaten them. Also they have to divide their power: Something that the Sith certainly don't do lightly.
    – bitmask
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 19:17
  • see my answer to Q1: Palpatine could not have done everything he did without the pawn Darth Maul to play
    – Ashterothi
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 19:19
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    One other possibility; Ego. Most of what the universe knows of what they do is at a great distance, and really has little to do with their actual power. But there is no one who can appreciate how powerful/skillful/etc you are as much as an apprentice can. I doubt they acknowledge this to themselves, but I suspect it plays into things, given their mindsets. Even those who prefer to rule 'From behind the scenes' still want SOMEONE to know what they have done.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Feb 16, 2012 at 19:45

The need for legacy inherent in any mortal being.

Humans usuallyr express it as the need for your memetic payload to propagate (similar to the way your genes are evolved to propagate the genetic information).

If you are a Master of any art, you express that by needing/wanting to teach students.

A Sith Master is no different (Plagueis being a minor exception).


I believe that the reason for the rule of two is that there is a master to posses the power, and the apprentice to learn to desire the power that the master has.

It is only when is the apprentice is strong enough does he overcome his master and become the master.

Concerning the rule of two: it was that there were too many in-fighting problems (which heavily contributed to the fall of the Sith order).

Why have an apprentice: the sith knew that no one lives forever and all of the sith contributed to the grand plan to strike back at the Jedi. Think of it this way, "I hold a philosophy (The Sith). I have to prove it is the best, to prove myself to be the best. But this will take more than my lifetime. So, I will, in conjunction with those who also have this goal, prove it by taking on apprentices until we prove the way of the Sith is the true and best way."

  • I tried to express in the question that by definition a Sith only cares about him/herself. A true Sith would therefore not care what happens after (s)he dies. Especially if there is a chance, that apprentices may shorten their own life.
    – bitmask
    Commented Feb 24, 2012 at 3:52

One thing to consider is that in many martial arts schools you cannot attain the very highest rank without teaching new techniques (of your own design) to students.

Or, to paraphrase Harry Dresden, "Teaching the basics to a student forces you to go over them again yourself, now with the benefit of years of experience."

In teaching a student and watching them on the path to knowledge, the teacher can and usually does gain valuable insight. Trying to figure out how to explain something you understand can help you better understand it.

A teacher who finds a particularly bright pupil has historically lead to partnerships which bring about much better understandings.

The same is true for the Sith. Teaching the ancient, forbidden techniques and the lore of the Sith helps the Master better understand it. The experience of instructing is, itself, a teaching experience. The Master becomes more powerful, and the Apprentice learns much. The Master (who, like most Sith, will likely have an enormous ego) will also gain a follower who can truly appreciate their power. The certainty of eventual betrayal, at some future date, is a small price to pay for the benefits gained. And I'm sure it's educational to ferret out and defeat your Apprentice's plots.


You assert that Sith only care about themselves, but that is not entirely true. They also care about their philosophy, especially their hatred of the Jedi Order. Because of this, they recognize a need to pass that philosophy, and the accumulated knowledge of the Sith Lords, to a new generation.

They also realize that being entirely selfish will serve to hinder them even more than the threat posed by an apprentice. They understand that in all things, there is give and take, and that in order to maximize their long term benefit, they have to give something up along the way, though they will always strive to take more than they give.

One of these benefits is that they gain strength from their apprentice even as the apprentice does from them. Other answers have cited the benefits that teaching has for the teacher. Beyond that, as the apprentice becomes stronger, they challenge the master. If the master is as powerful as he hopes to be, he will come out the victor when his apprentice turns against him, though this situation is rarely seen. Knights of the Old Republic (probably not canon, I know) contains the story of a fallen Sith master--though he was brought down by Jedi rather than his apprentice--gaining power and then returning to destroy his former apprentice, depending on how you play the game; besides that, I don't know of an instance where a master was able to defeat his rebellious apprentice. We do know, however, that Darth Sidious survived at least 2 of his apprentices, with Darth Maul falling to the Jedi and Darth Tyranus being killed by the man who would become Sidious's next apprentice. This shows that an apprentice can serve very useful purposes before being disposed of in pursuit of the master's ultimate goals.

Finally, an apprentice allows for the master to have a Sith presence in the field without endangering himself. The apprentice can serve as an enforcer, as a general, etc. so that the master does not have to take unnecessary risks.

Ultimately, taking an apprentice is risky, but has enough benefits that even the most selfish of the Sith see the need to do so.


Q1: Personal power isn't the full extent of power. An apprentice increases his Masters power (he is after all in servitude). The reasons a Sith would think the reward worth the risk (and the methods they'd likely use to minimise that risk) are likely many. I personally like 'if you're not capable of training Apprentices without them turning on you and killing you then you deserve to be killed by your apprentices'. The Master must represent strength and the path to knowledge to the Apprentice. The Apprentice must in return offer obedience and competence. As long as that is the case they will work well together. As soon as the Master is weak or unable to teach the Apprentice then the Apprentice should turn on the Master. Just as the Master should turn on the Apprentice if he is incompetent or disobedient. Palpatine says something to this effect in Lords of the Sith.

Q2: Palpatine had already taken one Apprentice he had reason to believe would be more powerful than him. Simply put Palpatine was likely arrogant, sure Luke may be able to destroy him, but Palpatine likely thought he was able to side step that and put Luke to use until then.

As an aside, I find the Rule of two raises an interesting question. How did Vader think things were going to play out with recruiting Luke and the Rule of Two?

My head canon has long been Vader realized that Palpatine would either kill Luke or recruit him. At this point someone was going to die. He went to Bespin hoping that he could get Luke to join him in destroying the Emperor. By the time of Endor I suspect that Vader was resigned to the fact that the only way to save his son was to die.


Master teaches because it makes him stronger. The only reason for the rule of two was that weak should not defeat the strong.

If You have an apprentice You have more power (he can do things for You) and a treat keeps You in shape. Remember that Sith worship power - if You become weak, You deserve to die.

  • 2
    The Rule of Two's intent, as noted in another answer, was to prevent an alliance of weak Apprentices to defeat a strong Master. Its other intent was the flip of your closing line: If your Apprentice becomes stronger than you the Master, the Apprentice deserves to become the Master. Commented May 22, 2014 at 15:04

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