Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith, was the scourge of the Jedi, a master of the dark side of the Force, and one of the Emperor's most trusted servants. He wasn't always a fearsome enforcer, however.
He began life as Anakin Skywalker, a young slave from Tatooine skilled in piloting and strong in the Force. Anakin's very origins are mysterious. His mother, Shmi, revealed that there was no biological father. Inexplicably, she became pregnant with the Force-prodigy and carried him to term. Some among the Jedi believed this to be part of an ancient prophecy of a Chosen One, willed into life by the midi-chlorians, who would bring balance to an increasingly darkening Force. There was another possibility, though. The child could have been the creation of sinister Sith manipulations, as the Dark Lords Darth Plagueis and Darth Sidious conspired to bring about the perfect apprentice by coaxing life from lifelessness.
Once discovered by maverick Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, Anakin was taken before the Jedi Council to be trained. There was some controversy on the subject -- despite Jinn's adamant assurances that Skywalker was one spoken of in the prophecy, the council was hesitant to allow his training at the age of nine.
Finally, the Council agreed that Anakin should be trained, and he was assigned to Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi. Kenobi recklessly thought that he could be as skillful a master as Yoda. His mistakes had dire consequences for the galaxy.
Skywalker was seduced by the dark side of the Force. His boundless abilities fueled a sense of pride that hastened his fall. He chafed under the rigid strictures of the Jedi Code, and would discreetly transgress from the Jedi teachings to suit his wants. Despite it being forbidden, Skywalker secretly married his love Padmé Amidala. It was his deep-rooted concern for her safety that became his greatest weakness, one that the Sith Lord Darth Sidious was able to exploit.
Skywalker was plagued with prophetic visions of his wife dying in childbirth. His friend and confidant, Chancellor Palpatine, revealed to the troubled young Jedi that a pathway to immortality lay among the teachings of the Sith. Palpatine revealed himself to be the shadowy Sith Lord Darth Sidious, and poisoned Anakin's faculties with well-crafted words of praise and conspiracy. Anakin, who had reason to doubt the Jedi's capabilities and intentions, began to lean more and more to the dark side. When it came time to make the fateful decision, he agreed to follow Sidious' teachings and knelt before the dark master.
Anakin was renamed Darth Vader. The Sith conspiracy, which had been festering in the shadows of the Republic for a thousand years, sprang into action. Palpatine elevated himself to the position of Emperor, and dispatched Vader as his ultimate enforcer. With his unparalleled Force abilities, Vader swept through the Jedi Temple. He led his elite clone trooper forces through the polished corridors, cutting a swath of death and destruction through the remaining Jedi on Coruscant.
Vader brought an end to the Clone Wars by slaughtering all the masterminds of the Confederacy of Independent Systems on Mustafar. In his twisted perception, he was bringing peace and order to the new Empire, wiping away the corruption and chaos of the Republic's twilight.
Padmé followed Anakin to Mustafar, to plead for him to return from the dark side. When Obi-Wan Kenobi emerged from Amidala's ship, Vader was consumed with rage. He saw treachery at every corner. Distraught, he began to telekinetically throttle Padmé. She gasped for air before collapsing, unconscious, on the Mustafar landing platform. Shocked at how far his apprentice had fallen, Kenobi vowed to stop Vader and the two entered into a fierce lightsaber duel that traversed the burning Mustafar landscape.
Despite his newfound power bestowed by the dark side of the Force, Anakin was grievously wounded in the fight. Kenobi's blade sheared from him his lower legs and his left arm, and his crippled body tumbled onto the searing black sands below. Vader caught fire, and he was severely burned all over his body. His anger kept him alive, and he was forever scarred not only by his wounds but also by betrayal. Vader abandoned his former identity. Sidious took him from Mustafar to an Imperial rehabilitation center where he was rebuilt. When metal coupled with flesh in the form of cyborg implants and enhancements required to sustain him, Skywalker's transformation was complete. He was no longer Anakin -- he was Darth Vader.
At the time of his transformation, Vader never knew that Padmé had given birth to twins. Obi-Wan Kenobi hid the children from the Dark Lord and Emperor Palpatine. Vader somehow discovered that he had a son, Luke Skywalker, but never suspected he had a daughter, Leia, who was secretly taken to be raised by Bail Organa, Viceroy and First Chairman of Alderaan.
In the chaos that accompanied Palpatine's rise to power, Vader became one of the Emperor's most loyal servants. The Emperor entrusted him with the elimination of the Jedi Knights. During these dark times, Vader and his agents destroyed the remnants of Jedi order.
When the Galactic Civil War raged across the Empire, Darth Vader was tasked with discovering the location of the Rebel Alliance's secret base. Vader captured Rebel operative Princess Leia Organa and had her tortured to reveal the location of the hidden fortress. Vader also sought technical plans stolen by the Rebels which contained the complete schematics of the Empire's most powerful weapon, the Death Star battle station. When a rescue team successfully liberated the princess, Vader found himself face to face with his former master, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Vader defeated the aged Jedi Knight in a lightsaber duel.
Using the stolen plans to pinpoint the Death Star's weakness, Rebel forces launched a starfighter attack on the station. Entering the battle, Vader piloted his own specially modified fighter. He managed to destroy the most Rebel pilots in the battle, but was forced out of the conflict when his own vessel was crippled by the Millennium Falcon.
Three years after the destruction of the Death Star, Vader led an elite squadron of Star Destroyers headed by his flagship, the Super Star Destroyer Executor. He was to seek out and capture the Rebels responsible for the Death Star's demise. Eventually, Vader tracked the Rebels down to the ice-world of Hoth. There, he launched a ground attack destroying the base. His quarry, the Millennium Falcon, escaped.
During the Hoth campaign, the Emperor commanded Vader to track down the "son of Skywalker," and have Vader turn him to the dark side of the Force. Vader planned to use Skywalker's friends as bait to lure him into a trap. He hired a motley gang of bounty hunters to track down the Falcon, and drew Luke to Bespin's Cloud City. He and Luke clashed in a lightsaber duel that Vader won by ruthlessly severing Luke's sword-hand. Vader then revealed to the broken young Jedi that he was his father, and that they would rule the galaxy as father and son. Luke refused to succumb to the dark side, and escaped his father. Vader was left empty-handed.
After these incidents, Palpatine reassigned Vader from the Imperial fleet, and instead put him in charge of overseeing the new Death Star operation. The Emperor began to distrust his once loyal servant. Vader's contact with his son sparked something within him, something the Emperor did not like.
Palpatine was scheduled to arrive at the second Death Star. The Emperor foresaw that Skywalker would come before the two, and then they would seduce young Luke to the dark side, just as Anakin had been drawn to its power decades earlier.
When Luke surrendered, and was taken before the Emperor, Palpatine pitted father and son in a lightsaber duel. Skywalker refused to fight and give into the temptation of the dark side. Vader, probing his mind, learned of his daughter, Leia Organa. He threatened to turn her to the dark side. At this threat, Luke gave into his hatred and attacked his father. In the ferocious assault that followed, young Skywalker nearly killed Vader.
Horrified by what he had become, Luke abandoned his newfound dark side rage, and refused Palpatine's offers of power. "I am a Jedi, like my father before me," Skywalker proudly claimed.
Palpatine unleashed a deadly barrage of dark side energy at the young Jedi. Lightning bolts spawned from pure evil tore into Luke's body with searing pain. Vader stood helplessly, watching his son writhe in agony from torture delivered by his master. Unable to watch anymore, Vader turned against the Emperor. He grabbed a surprised Palpatine from behind, hoisted him above his head, and tossed his evil master down a bottomless reactor shaft. Vader was bombarded by the Emperor's Force lightning, mortally wounding him.
As he lay dying, Vader ceased to be. Anakin Skywalker returned. He asked his son to remove the cumbersome, fearsome mask that had concealed his face for decades. His mask and life support removed, Anakin looked upon Luke for the first and last time. He then died, his body disappearing into the light side of the Force. Luke burned the dark armor that had encased Anakin's crippled body in a quiet funeral pyre on the forest moon of Endor that night.