Darth Vader’s true identity was a closely guarded secret, and only a handful of people knew he was really Anakin Skywalker. Jedi Master Anakin Skywalker was a celebrated hero of the Clone Wars, and the galaxy believed he was killed during Order 66, along with the rest of the Jedi. Darth Vader was seen as a mysterious and enigmatic force, a powerful being who suddenly burst onto the scene as the Emperor’s enforcer. No doubt Palpatine quite liked the mystique, which would ensure people focused on Vader as the Dark Lord of the Sith rather than thought too much about his Master.
According to James Luceno’s novel Tarkin, there were countless rumors about Darth Vader’s true identity. Some believed he was a counterpart to the Confederacy’s General Grievous, held in reserve by Palpatine in case the Jedi betrayed him; others considered him to be an artificial monster created in a laboratory.
“Many believed that the Emperor’s willingness to grant so much authority to such a being heralded the shape of things to come,” Luceno writes, “for it was beyond dispute that Vader was the Empire’s first terror weapon.”
The secret was kept even after the events of Return of the Jedi, with Luke sharing the knowledge only with his immediate family; Han, Leia, C-3PO, and R2-D2. They kept it to themselves, although some of Leia’s more observant political allies such as Mon Mothma became suspicious. Finally, the truth exploded into the open in Claudia Gray’s novel Bloodline, destroying Leia’s political career – and shaking her son Ben Solo to the core, for even he had been unaware he was the grandson of Darth Vader.