During The Empire Strikes Back, Palpatine refers to the father of Luke as Anakin.

Darth Vader: What is thy bidding, my master?

Emperor: There is a great disturbance in the Force.

Darth Vader: I have felt it.

Emperor: We have a new enemy, the young Rebel who destroyed the Death Star. I have no doubt this boy is the offspring of Anakin Skywalker.

Darth Vader: How is that possible?

Emperor: Search your feelings, Lord Vader. You will know it to be true. He could destroy us.

Darth Vader: He's just a boy. Obi-Wan can no longer help him.

Emperor: The Force is strong with him. The son of Skywalker must not become a Jedi.

Darth Vader: If he could be turned, he will become a powerful ally.

Emperor: Yes. He would be a great asset. Can it be done?

Darth Vader: He will join us or die, my master.

This seems a little odd, considering that:

Vader is Anakin.

I realise that to have said that too early in the film would have ruined the big reveal. Is there some in-universe reason for Palpatine to refer to Luke's father as Anakin? Some kind of psychological game that Palpatine is playing with Vader, perhaps?

  • 1
    Would Vader vs. Skywalker be a spoiler?
    – bitmask
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 21:54
  • 3
    I hate to be nitpicking, but while hiding a part of the question body, the question title is still a dead give away. Just like these comments.
    – bitmask
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 22:23
  • 2
    meta discussion, btw.
    – bitmask
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 22:33
  • 4
    Were you watching the special edition? Cuz in my copy of tESB, the dialogue is just: "We have a new enemy: Luke Skywalker." "yes my master." "He could destroy us." "He's just a boy. Obi-wan can no longer help him." so on.. seems like the sort of thing they would change. Commented May 28, 2013 at 3:02
  • 1
    You were most certainly not watching the ORIGINAL. One would assume that given but the base title of a movie that you are referring to its theatrical release and not an adulterated version.
    – Mazura
    Commented Dec 19, 2014 at 8:42

6 Answers 6


Two solutions come to my mind

An in-universe explanation would be, as Obi-Wan uses it, that Anakin "died" in a metaphorical sense when he became Darth Vader: he is no longer Anakin. Both Obi-Wan and the Emperor were wrong, as we can see in the end of Return of the Jedi: some of the "old" Anakin still remained in him, leading to his redemption.

An out-of-universe explanation would be just as simple as not to spoil the surprise at the end of the movie...

"I am your Father".

  • 10
    The spoiler tag makes this kind of cute.. but I do not think it is actually saving any mystery. A quote block would have worked just fine seeing as this is one of the most well known movie quotes ever.
    – Chad
    Commented Apr 3, 2012 at 13:09
  • 5
    Not much point in hiding half the spoilers. Commented Apr 3, 2012 at 13:40
  • 11
    @Chad - the consensus on meta is that the spoiler tags are NOT time sensitive. Commented Dec 22, 2012 at 2:21
  • 8
    The first part of the answer is as much a spoiler as the last bit.
    – algiogia
    Commented Apr 13, 2016 at 8:04

I disagree with the statement that 'Vader is Anakin.' The correct statement is 'Vader was Anakin.' Part of becoming a Sith is accepting the transformation that you are no longer what you were. This is a problem noted by Darths Maul, Tenebrous, and Plagueis with turning a Jedi. They always retain some what they were and a true Sith would never be willing to "be saved."

To Palpatine, as to Obi-Wan and Yoda, Anakin was dead and all that remained of him was Darth Vader. Palpatine assumes that this is the truth for Vader as well.


In Hindu and Buddhist traditions, which is what a lot of The Force and Jedi religion is based from, when a person "leaves home" to become a monk he takes a new name and is no longer his old self. He no longer identifies with his past or associates with anyone from it. Vader was no longer Anakin--or at least that's the way it was supposed to be.


  • 1
    it would be nice to know why this was downvoted twice--once after i added a reference link
    – tyson
    Commented Apr 26, 2014 at 5:12

Palpatine's declaration of Luke as the son of Anakin Skywalker rather than Vader himself would have been a spoiler for the "No...I AM your Father!" line. But also, Palpy would want to reinforce that Luke is the son of "goody-good" Jedi Anakin, and not "big, bad" Darth Vader, so that it would be understood that the boy was an enemy with the potential to destroy them both. Hence WHY Vader would offer to turn Luke to the Dark Side.."he will join us or die."


The "He's just a boy" is a pretty solid acknowledgement by Vader not only of his paternity and desire to protect Luke from the Emperor, but also that both Palpatine and Vader clearly had an understanding of one another regarding Vader's/Anakin's paternity. Vader's "How is this possible?" is a pretty ballsy attempt at denying knowledge of Padme's pregnancy before his turn and her death. It answers the unspoken question Palpatine must have had, "What did he know, when did he know it, and has he been hiding this brood of kiddies in order to overthrow me at some future date?"


Acctually, when shooting The Empire Strikes Back, the actor for Darth Vader came up with that line himself, as a suggestion to Lucas. So until that scene, Vader wasn't Luke's father. This conversation was filmed before that other scene, as you know, thus he wasn't supposed to say:

Emperor: We have a new enemy, the young Rebel who destroyed the Death Star. I have no doubt this boy is the offspring of you.

So yeah.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.