When the first Death Star was destroyed, the Emperor punished Darth Vader by removing his arm (according to the novel "Heir to the Empire"). This was originally said to explain Vader's mechanical arm, but it was later revealed that all of Vader's limbs were mechanical after a near-fatal duel with Kenobi (technical retcon is he removed a prosthetic and Vader got a new one). But how did he do it?

When that info was first revealed, the Emperor wasn't known to wield a lightsaber. Of course now we know he did, but back then we assumed he didn't have one. With that retcon in mind, still by 0 ABY, Palpatine didn't have a lightsaber "anymore" and wouldn't awkwardly get up, activate a lightsaber and chop off Vader's arm. It's not his style. I imagine him forming an "energy blade" out of pure Force energy or something to cut off the limb. Does my theory have any credence with canon, or is there another amputation method?

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    I would think it would be more impressive and mind messing to take vaders light saber with the force and use that, then leave it on the floor in front of him while saying 'Get yourself fixed up.'. Commented Aug 4, 2012 at 1:24
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    Emporer: I bet those dodgy contractors you hired screw this up. Vader: Nah, it'll be fine ... I'd bet my arm on it!
    – Moog
    Commented Aug 4, 2012 at 2:35
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    Given Vader's (seemingly unconditional) obedience, I wouldn't be surprised if the Emperor ordered Vader to sever his own arm and Vader simply complied.
    – bitmask
    Commented Aug 4, 2012 at 3:35
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    @bitmask - you're confusing Sith with Yakuza Commented Aug 4, 2012 at 13:17
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    Where are you getting that the Emperor punished Darth Vader for the first Death Star by removing his arm? If you're thinking of the first X-Wing book... that's a lower level of canon than the actual movies. Commented Nov 6, 2012 at 19:01

6 Answers 6


I pondered over this question, and I don't see why the Emperor would punish Vader by amputating his limbs with a lightsaber...I don't see any use in that sort of punishment, since it won't hurt Vader...

Therefore, I think that if Sidious really wanted to punish Vader for some blunder or such, he would probably use Force Lightning on him...of course, he will use just enough power to torture him but not kill him...

By the way, to use the Force to form an energy blade, hmmm...such a feat is too high even for Sidious to achieve...I don't remember any Force Users doing that before...


In the novel "Heir to the Empire":

"I don't imagine that the Emperor was pleased," Luke murmured. "No, he wasn't," Mara said, her voice dark with memories of her own. "Vader nearly died for that blunder." Deliberately, she looked over at Luke's hands. "That was when he lost his right hand, in fact."

There were no details beyond that, so anything in addition to it is speculation.

Since the statement is ambiguous, it is open to a variety of interpretations:

Jade's claim is not straightforward. Vader had already lost his organic right hand during the Battle of Geonosis [AOTC]. Did he lose a cybernetic hand as punishment after the Battle of Yavin? Perhaps Jade was a misinformed non-witness to the punishment? Perhaps her recollections are biased by her jealousy of Vader's position in the Imperial Court or by the tormet she feels since her loss of status? Palpatine did not hold Mara Jade in full confidence: he let her believe that she was unique as "Emperor's Hand", he concealed Vader's identity as a Skywalker. Perhaps her reference to Vader's hand betrays a fixation on her own status as a "Hand." Alternatively, Jade may have spoken metaphorically, and Vader's lost "hand" may have been a favourite instrument or human aide (in the sense of "right-hand man").

Source: Injuries of Darth Vader - Limbs, Star Wars - Technical Commentaries


I don't think Palpatine could make a "lightsaber" by sheer willpower, but he could have used the force (a form of force lightning) to do something somewhat similar to a blade. If Palpatine could create his own lightsaber with sheer energy, why would he need to actually wield one? Wouldn't he just be able to summon his? I think he could have used the force the disconnect Vader's arm from his body due to it being prosthetic, or just burn it off with something like force lightning.


The statement says that he nearly died. The loss of a limb could have been incidental to whatever life-threatening action that was taken. Maybe he got hit with a barrage of force lightning so fierce that his artificial limbs shut down, and maybe the damage done to his right hand was so great that he had to get a new one. Either that, or Mara is just repeating a rumor that she heard or she was deliberately misinformed by the Emperor to maintain his control via fear.

Although, all this is really retconning. It's pretty clear that the original intent of this statement was that he had a real hand, and then the Emperor took it from him as punishment. At that point, nobody knew that he had more than one artificial limb.


Of course the novel in question was written before the prequels, and GL made little effort to harmonize his own creation with the tales of a bunch of novelists on his payroll. Anything contradicted by the films is automatically retconned. Hence, Vader did not lose a hand as punishment for Yavin. There has been speculation based on the skeletal Vader that flashes at the end of the revised ROTJ as Vader is hefting the Emperor into the shaft... It appears that the powers that be are implying tbat Vader had artificial vertebrae. It has been speculated that that meant he was really a quadriplegic without the suit, unable to breathe on his own at all, and that since these injuries clearly did not happen on Mustafar, that they happened off camera as the Emp threw Vader headlong into a wall or somesuch in punishment for Yavin. I find it hard to believe that such a cataclysmic event would be allowed to happen to such a pivotal character off camera, and in fact we see in the original trilogy that Vader is able to breathe on his own without the mask, perhaps in a hyperbaric environment, and is able to sit up and move on his own. Therefore, no broken neck or paralysis. It could be that the Emperor blamed Moff Tarkin rather than Vader for the loss of the first deathstar, since Vader was the only one from that facility left to tell the story, he showed significant capacity for fooling Palpy, and he could basically make up any story he wanted.


The Emperor used his "Sith Lightning" to torment Vader. Though Palpatine was certainly adept at wielding a lightsaber (as the Force Ghosts of Mace Windu and Kit Fisto would attest), he dispensed with even the elegant weapon from a more civilized age and got down to business with direct application of the Force.

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    We'd prefer if you would back up your claim with some evidence. As it stands, your answer is not very useful because it appears to be pure speculation.
    – bitmask
    Commented Sep 17, 2012 at 21:08

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