One of my favorite moments in the Star Wars film Rogue One ( and believe me there are many of them) is getting to see Darth Vader’s personal fortress. The idea of Vader’s citadel has been a notion long toyed with since the first script for The Empire Strikes Back. This fortress was to be located on a volcanic planet then known as Had Abaddon, a name derived from the Hebrew word for “Destroyer” a fallen angel who is to lead the demonic hoards from the bottomless pit in the Last Days according to the book of Revelation.
Not only was Had Abaddon the Imperial homeworld and location of Vader’s citadel, it was also where he was supposed to have received the wounds that forced him to need his iconic armor to survive. This idea was shelved due to budgetary concerns, and to be saved for Return of the Jedi. It would be nixed again due to even more budgetary concerns and instead fans were given a second Death Star. It would not be until 2005 with Revenge of the Sith that fans would get to see this world of fire and brimstone.
By that point, the planet was given the name Mustafar. It would be on this Hellish planet that Anakin Skywalker “died”, along with his wife, and Anakin’s own friendship with Obi-Wan, and Darth Vader was born once and for all. Thus, because of its ominous fate as the last known location of both Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, when the planet appeared at the end of Season One of Star Wars: Rebels, the Hera Syndulla recalled former Padawan Kanan Jarrus referring to it as “the place where Jedi go to die.”
This brings us to the point in Rogue One where we see Vader’s citadel. Director Orson Krennic, the head of the Death Star project has been summoned by Vader. His shuttle arrives at the fiery world and we see this dark black citadel towering above the inferno. An emissary enters Vader chamber to inform him of Krennic’s arrival and Vader, submerged in the healing waters of a bacta tank awakens.
We can even see a window inside Vader’s chamber, looking out at the fire bellow. Screen writer Gary Whitta said in The Art of Rogue One:
“What he’s looking at through his window is the location where his duel with Obi-Wan took place. The fact that he’d chosen to build his living mausoleum here is a node to the conflict in him—that he would go back to this place to reflect on what happened to the man he once was.”
We also find out that in the Ultimate Visual Companion for Rogue One, that the Emperor himself built this citadel for Vader. After everything Vader lost in service to his dark master, the Emperor sentenced him for nineteen years dwell in the very place that would force him to remember worst day of his life. This is the fulfillment of everything Yoda warned about in The Phantom Menace when they first tested young Skywalker,
“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate, leads to suffering.”
Vader is nothing short of living suffering. He can’t live without his suit of armor, he needs constant medical care, and everyone who truly loved him is either dead, or in hiding. All the while, unbeknown to him, his own children war against him. The boy, who won a podrace for his freedom, is now again a slave to his dark master. We see in some of the Marvel’s Darth Vader comic books series that he is tormented night and day by the his memories as he feasts on these feelings of anger, self loathing, hatred, and pain.
Vader was a man trapped in his past who couldn’t let go, and ever since the day he first left Tatooine with Qui-Gon, this had been his fatal flaw. This had been part of the reason why Yoda assigned the Padawan Ahsoka Tano to Anakin in the first place. Yoda knew he had a hard time letting go, and felt that it was one of the most important things for the young Jedi to learn. As Yoda tried to advise Anakin, when plagued by nightmares about Padmé’s death, “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.”
Pain and separation are and inevitability in any relationship. Often times, people will do exactly what Anakin did and shut people out for one reason: they are afraid. And no, it’s not of snake clowns. They are afraid of being hurt.
But as C.S. Lewis once wrote in The Four Loves,
“There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.”
That defines the entire existence of Darth Vader. However, if by cutting himself off and focusing on his pain and suffering was what trapped him in his own personal Hell, then the only way for Vader to be saved was by letting go of the pain and fear and embracing the purse, selfless love of his son. It is through this love that he knows he doesn’t deserve that in his last moments he is able to say to him, “Help me take this mask off so that I may look on you with my own eyes.” After a life time filled with pain and torment, Vader had finally earned the right to escape his Hell and defeated the Emperor once and for all.
Star Wars is not an allegory, but a modern day myth. And like all great myths it has applicability to our lives. The Myth of Vader shows us the danger that lies in holding on to the past and dwelling on pain. At the same time he also shows that only by letting go of that pain, learning to trust, and finding some way to love again, we can be free.
It’s hard to move forward, and loving any one, or thing, for that matter is always a risk. However, it is always one worth taking. As J.R.R. Tolkien once wrote,
“But… only the rarest good fortune brings together the man and woman who are really as it were ‘destined’ for one another, and capable of a very great and splendid love. The idea still dazzles us, catches us by the throat: poems and stories in multitudes have been written on the theme, more, probably, than the total of such loves in real life (yet the greatest of these tales do not tell of the happy marriage of such great lovers, but of their tragic separation; as if even in this sphere the truly great and splendid in this fallen world is more nearly achieved by ‘failure’ and suffering). In such great inevitable love, often love at first sight, we catch a vision, I suppose, of marriage as it should have been in an unfallen world. In this fallen world we have as our only guides, prudence, wisdom (rare in youth, too late in age), a clean heart, and fidelity of will …”
FILM: Kershner, Irvin (Dir) Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Sir Alec Guiness and Frank Oz. 1980. LucasFilm. LTD. Released by 20th Century Fox.
FILM: Edwards, Gareth (Dir.) Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Starring Felicity Jones, Deigo Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen,and Forest Whitaker. Chris Weitz, Tony Gilroy, John Knoll, and Gary Whitta (writers). 2016. LucasFilm/LTD and Walt Disney Studios.
Hidalgo, Pablo. Star Wars: Rogue One: The Ultimate Visual Guide. 2016. DK Publishers. New York, NY.
Lewis, CS. The Four Loves. pg. 121. 1988.Harcourt Brace. New York, NY.
FILM: Lucas, George. (Dir) Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Starring Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Jake Lloyd, Ian McDiaramid, Ray Park, Ahmed Best, Pernilla August, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Samuel L. Jackson and Frank Oz. Written by George Lucas. 1999. LucasFilm. LTD. Released by 20th Century Fox.
FILM: Lucas, George. (Dir) Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Starring Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiaramid, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Samuel L. Jackson and Frank Oz. Written by George Lucas. 2002. LucasFilm. LTD. Released by 20th Century Fox.
FILM: Lucas, George. (Dir) Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. Starring Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Ian McDiaramid, Christopher Lee, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Samuel L. Jackson, Jimmy Smits, and Frank Oz. 2005. LucasFilm. LTD. Released by 20th Century Fox.
FILM: Lucas, George. (Dir) Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope. Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Peter Cushing, Alec Guiness, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse and James Earl Jones. 1977. LucasFilm. LTD. Released by 20th Century Fox.
FILM: Marquand, Richard ( Dir.) Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. Starring Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, David Prowse, James Earl Jones, Alec Guiness, Ian McDiaramid and Frank Oz. 1983. LucasFilm. LTD. Released by 20th Century Fox.
TV SHOW: Ridge, Jeff ( Dir.) “Rebel Resolve” Star Wars: Rebels. Starring Freddie Prinze, Jr., Vanessa Marshall, Steve Blum, Tiya Sircar, Taylor Gray, David Oyelowo, Liam O’ Brien, Keith Szarabajka, and Jason Isaacs. Charles Murray and Henry Gilroy ( Writers.) Original Airdate: February 16, 2015. LucasFIlm, LTD/Walt Disney.
Sciretta, Peter. “Darth Vader’s Castle In ‘Rogue One’: Your Questions Answered” Slashfilm. December 19, 2016. Last Accessed February 14, 2017.
Tolkien, JRR. “Letter 43” The Letters of JRR Tolkien. Humphrey Carpenter, ed. pg. 52. 1995. Houghton Mifflin. New York, NY.
PHOTO CREDIT: All photos 2016 LucasFilm, LTD/Walt Disney Studios.