The death of Darth Vader in ‘Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi’ was both tragic and necessary to the overall plot of Star Wars because this was supposed to be his role the entire time. He was supposed to bring balance to the Force by destroying the Sith, which meant he also had to die. Of course, he had one last moment with his son, Luke Skywalker, before he died. But what did Luke do to Darth Vader’s body?
Luke Skywalker held a private funeral for Darth Vader’s body on Endor by cremating it, which aligned with the Jedi traditions. However, in Legends, Darth Vader’s body disappeared and became one with the Force, and that was why Luke only burned Vader’s robotic parts on Endor.
It was never explained in detail in canon whether or not Darth Vader’s body disappeared as well, but we do know that Luke did indeed cremate whatever was left of his father. Of course, not everything was destroyed or turned to ash because we know that Kylo Ren, Anakin Skywalker’s grandson, eventually found Vader’s helmet. That said, let’s look at what happened to Vader’s body.
Darth Vader’s body disappeared in Legends
The events of ‘Return of the Jedi’ were both heroic and tragic because we saw how Luke Skywalker was able to pull his father from the dark side of the Force as Darth Vader became Anakin Skywalker one last time to save his son from the wrath of the emperor. In that regard, Vader killed the emperor at the cost of his own life. But before he died, he had one last moment with Luke as he finally saw his son’s face without relying on his helmet.
Vader died on the Death Star II before its destruction, but in the Legends continuity of Star Wars, Anakin’s body disappeared off-screen. This makes a lot of sense because we know that Anakin appeared as a Force Ghost to Luke right at the movie’s end when they were celebrating the Rebels’ victory over the Empire.
In Legends, only those who have become one with the Force can turn into Force Ghosts. Their bodies also disappear upon death as this was a symbolic way of showing that the Force had taken their bodies so that they could become one with it. In that regard, it makes sense for Anakin’s body to disappear upon death, considering that he did appear as a Force Ghost at the movie’s end.
Of course, in canon, those who become one with the Force also disappear upon death. We know that Anakin also appeared to Luke at the end of ‘Return of the Jedi’ as a Force Ghost in canon. But it was never specifically mentioned whether or not his body disappeared. As such, we can’t conclude that his body disappeared after he died on the Death Star II.
Luke burned Vader’s body on Endor
Regardless of whether or not Vader/Anakin’s body disappeared after he died, there is no doubting the fact that Luke brought whatever he could salvage back to Endor upon escaping the destruction of Death Star II. That’s because he held a private funeral for his father on Endor as he burned Vader’s remains on a funeral pyre.
Even though Leia was also Vader’s daughter, Luke was the only one in attendance. In that regard, it was clear that Luke and his father had a different kind of connection, as he was the only one there when he cremated his remains. Of course, Leia must have also decided to leave her brother alone because of all the emotions running through him after what happened to Anakin.
It is worth mentioning that cremation is the Jedi Order’s preferred method of saying goodbye to their own. Different cultures all over the galaxy have their own preferred burial methods, as seen from the fact that Padmé Amidala’s body was entombed instead of cremated or buried. In the case of the Jedi, they preferred to burn their fallen brothers and sisters because this was always the preferred burial method in the Jedi tradition.
As such, Luke cremated his father’s remains on Endor, the closest planet/moon to the Death Star II. However, in the Legends continuity, Luke only burned his father’s suit and robotic parts because Anakin’s biological parts had disappeared off-screen. But Luke still proceeded with the funeral as a symbolic gesture of saying goodbye to his father even though he only burned Vader’s suit and robotic parts.
There is also something symbolic about the fact that Vader’s remains were burned after his death. We know that he became who he was when he lost to Obi-Wan Kenobi on Mustafar and got burned by the lava river of that planet. So, in a way, fire turned Vader into the robotic monster that he was known to be. And it was symbolic that fire also destroyed the robotic remains of Darth Vader.
Kylo Ren found Vader’s helmet
Of course, even though Darth Vader’s body was cremated on Endor, the thing is that we know that Kylo Ren, who was born Ben Solo and the grandson of Anakin Skywalker, actually had Vader’s helmet in his possession during the events of the sequel trilogy.
After learning about his family’s dark past and the fact that he was Vader’s grandson, Ben became obsessed with Darth Vader as he wanted to be as strong as he was in the dark side of the Force. As such, he ended up worshipping his grandfather and even had the ruins of his helmet with him when he became Kylo Ren.
He often tried to speak to Vader through the helmet as if he were seeking guidance from the dark version of his grandfather.
However, it was never explained in the sequel trilogy how Kylo Ren got his hands on Vader’s helmet. We know that the helmet was on Endor and that Luke burned it alongside all of Vader’s remains. But it is possible that the helmet was never completely destroyed and that Kylo Ren or someone else had found it on Endor.
Of course, there’s a good chance that this will be addressed in a book or a comic book detailing the events between the end of ‘Return of the Jedi’ and ‘The Force Awakens.’ We might even see an explanation in one of the shows that take place in the New Republic era. Regardless of that, we know that Ben Solo was able to salvage the remains of his grandfather’s body and worshipped Vader after he turned to the dark side.
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