Vader: He's just a boy. Obi-Wan can no longer help him (Empire Strikes Back)

How does Vader know that Obi-Wan helped Luke before?

  • He doesn't know that Luke grew up on Tatooine
  • even if he guessed, he doesn't know Luke met Obi-Wan there
  • from what I can tell, Vader wasn't aware that Luke was in the Millennium Falcon when the Death Star captured it after blowing up Alderaan
  • 1
    In the latest Star Wars comics (taking place between A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back), Vader hires Boba Fett to track down the rebel pilot that blew up the Death Star. Fett's tracking leads him to Kenobi's house on Tatooine where he battles Luke. Luke escapes but Fett reports back to Vader saying he found the pilot and specifically says his name is "Skywalker." Upon hearing this Vader's emotions get the better of him. Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 17:33

3 Answers 3


Vader probably knew Luke was on the Death Star because Vader killed Obi-Wan in sight of Luke.

Here's the relevant clip for easy reference:

Luke screams out "No!" when he sees Obi-Wan die, and he does it loudly enough to alert the stormtroopers watching the fight. Vader might have heard that. Even if he didn't, Vader likely caught a glimpse of Luke before the blast door closed on him. And it would be surprising if Vader didn't detect the Force presence of his son in such close proximity, which he later felt at the Battle of Yavin in the X-Wing that destroyed the Death Star.

Furthermore, Obi-Wan was obviously covering the escape of his friends by delaying Vader. Vader surely looked at all the security camera feeds (there was probably a camera trained on the Millenium Falcon) and saw Luke's escape. Luke's emotional reaction to Obi-Wan's death means that Luke and Obi-Wan had spent some time together.

Between Luke's Force presence with Obi-Wan on the Death Star, and the same Force presence at the Battle of Yavin, it's not difficult to put these facts together and guess that Obi-Wan -- one of the few remaining Jedi -- had helped train Luke. And since Obi-Wan died helping Luke on the Death Star, he can no longer help Luke.

  • Damn it, you beat me to the punch. Good answer, +1
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 2:40
  • Even in close proximity, Vader likely would not have recognized Luke's Force presence at that time, since he had not met Luke before, and did not know yet that he even had a son. Unless Luke's (and Leia's) Force presence resembled Padme's. Vader recognized Obi-Wan's presence, maybe he would recognize Padme's in Luke. Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 3:07
  • I thought about including this, but I couldn't really tell from the angles whether or not Vader saw him since at some points he seems to be walking away and at others walking towards, but it's a very good point - even if he didn't know who he was at the time, he could have figured it out later
    – Phyneas
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 3:07
  • 3
    @RemyLebeau Vader might not have realized that it was Luke's Force presence at the time, but he felt the same Force presence in the X-Wing that destroyed the Death Star. By the time of ESB, Vader and the Emperor know Luke is a problem and he's had some Force training, so Vader would have figured out that it was Luke's Force presence on the Death Star.
    – Null
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 3:11
  • @Phyneas I think he saw Luke just a moment before the blast door closed on him. Either way, I think it's a near certainty that there'd be a security camera trained on the captured ship -- and Vader would have seen Luke on that video.
    – Null
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 3:13

As DVK suggested in point 2, the inference is fairly strong when you consider the entire progression of the storyline of ANH and TESB up to that point.

A New Hope

  • Leia sends the Death Star plans via droids in an escape pod down to Tatooine, Vader sends a detachment down to get them
  • At Mos Eisley, Ben Kenobi uses a blue lightsaber in the bar fight, witnessed by a lot of unsavory characters
  • C-3PO and R2D2, the droids that the stormtroopers are looking for, are seen in the company of Luke and Ben in Mos Eisely, Vader knew both of those droids extremely well
  • Luke and Ben openly went by their own names on Tatooine for years, Luke as Luke Skywalker and Kenobi as Ben Kenobi (Luke knew him by this name, though perhaps not everyone did). Vader doing a little research after the fact would easily find that out, that Kenobi had been there off and on for years, and that he would have quite plausibly known about Luke and his parents
  • Ben and Luke were seen talking to Han Solo in Mos Eisley and disappeared at the same time as him, Kenobi reappearing with the Falcon to rescue Leia
  • The spy Garindan (the anteater guy with the black goggles in ANH) discovered that it was Luke Skywalker that sold his landspeeder (tying him back to the Lars farm) and goes and tells the stormtroopers who try and intercept him and Solo who both leave in the Millenium Falcon thus tying Skywalker to the Millenium Falcon even perhaps before he knew his actual name
  • The stormtroopers were already probably looking for Skywalker, they'd just wasted his parents Owen and Beru, after learning about them from the Jawas but didn't find the droids at their home
  • Vader knew of both Owen and Beru Lars from his time on Tatooine trying to rescue his mother Shmi in AOTC
  • Obi-wan shows up at the same time as the Millenium Falcon, which is recognised as the one blasting its way out of Mos Eisely, after it is captured by the Empire; the Falcon escapes later on during the rescue of Leia and where Obi-wan faces Vader holding him off
  • In the control room Han without his helmet on calls him 'Luke', and in Leia's jail cell Luke takes his helmet off and says "I'm Luke Skywalker, I'm here to rescue you" and later "I'm here to rescue you. I've got your R2-unit. I'm here with Ben Kenobi."
  • The aforementioned Millenium Falcon then stops Vader shooting down Skywalker, whom Vader senses somewhat "the force is strong with this one", and then Skywalker goes and destroys the Death Star

The Empire Strikes Back

  • By this time Vader has used Garindan and no doubt others to do intel work on Tatooine to supplement what he already knew, and by then he knew it was Luke Skywalker who was responsible for the destruction of the Death Star, as he and Sidious discuss it

I don't think that Luke being strong in the Force necessarily implies that it was Ben who trained him, since a lot of Jedi survived the Purge/Order 66. But Vader, by that point, would definitely have known that Luke and Ben were together on Mos Eisley (the anteater guy saw them), so the most logical inference would be that Ben had trained Luke.

  • Not sure I agree fully with "Luke and Ben openly went by their own names on Tatooine", because Obi-Wan's name was really Obi-Wan; Ben wasn't his real name.
    – Mr Lister
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 12:04
  • I didn't mean that Ben was his real name, only that since Luke referred to him in ANH as "old Ben Kenobi" and he had been on Tatooine off and on for a long time, it was a good bet that at least some others there may have known him by that name so it would be easier for Vader to find out about him. And if both Kenobi and Luke had been on Tatooine and hadn't hid their identities, a connection between them would seem more tenable. Kenobi would at the very least know of Luke. I'll rewrite it though to make it clearer.
    – Phyneas
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 12:11
  • That answer gives a starting point for a script of a very interesting movies/series. I'd love to watch it.
    – bruno
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 12:26
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    Third bullet.... but the sandtrooper said that those weren't the droids they were looking for :-)
    – Doug B
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 14:11
  • @Doug B - I thought of mentioning that as well, alongside Kenobi using the lightsaber, using a Mind Trick on the troopers, but I don't know how that would progress in-universe, whether or not they'd remember it or report it et cetera, so I left it out. I wonder what Vader thought about that, if he ever found out. Woe unto the troopers ... :)
    – Phyneas
    Commented Jul 27, 2015 at 22:09

I'm not aware of canon information of how Vader knew, but there are two likely ways he guessed:

  1. Luke carried Anakin's old lightsaber. According to new Disney canon (Marvel Star Wars comic, #2), Vader confronts Luke prior to the question's chat between Darth Vader and the Emperor; and recognizes Luke's lightsaber as Anakin's... which was lost during his Mustafar duel with Obi-Wan and therefore most likely was acquired by Luke from Obi-Wan.

    To borrow a screenshot from this SFF answer:


  2. Obi-Wan shows up JUST as Luke shows up, pretty much the same day (and based on blowing up the Death Star, Luke is already strong in the Force, so someone must have trained him!). Seems like too much of a coincidence. Anakin is no dummy.

  3. Also, while not proof, I have a sneaky suspicion that Vader may have felt Luke in the Force on board the Death Star, or for that matter, found him on security cam footage after the Millenium Falcon's "escape". Remember that Luke took off his helmet in Leia's cell, to prove he was not a stormtrooper.


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