Grand Admiral Thrawn is one of the most notorious and most beloved villains in the Star Wars series. Initially canon, he lost the status after Disney’s acquisition of the franchise, only to be reinstated as a canon character soon after the acquisition. In this article, we are going to dig a bit into Thrawn’s history and his relationship with Darth Vader. So, if you ever wondered whether Thrawn knew Vader was Anakin Skywalker, keep reading!
Did Thrawn ever meet Anakin Skywalker?
Before we can answer our main question, we have to determine whether Thrawn was even able to know that Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker, i.e., whether he knew who Anakin Skywalker was. The answer to this question is yes – Thrawn knew Anakin Skywalker.
Thrawn met Anakin during one of Anakin’s missions as General of the Republic. Thrawn was, at that time, an officer of the Chiss Expansionary Defense Fleet. Although the Chiss were disillusioned by the Republic’s democratic system, Thrawn and Anakin became unlikely allies when Thrawn asked for Anakin’s help in the midst of the Clone Wars, to which Anakin agreed, but only when Thrawn agreed to help him search for Padmé Amidala and Duja.
The two worked closely on the mission and Anakin was so impressed by Thrawn that he praised him in front of Palpatine; Thrawn was likely impressed with Anakin, but did not want to have anything to do with the Republic. This story was presented in the novel Thrawn Ascendancy: Chaos Rising and as a flashback segment in Thrawn: Alliances.
The two of them later worked on a mission for the Empire, but Anakin had already been “turned into” Darth Vader at the time.
Does Thrawn know that Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker?
Now that we know the relevant information about their pasts, we can answer the main question. The novel Thrawn: Alliances explores this issue in more detail. The novel heavily implies that Thrawn did, in fact, know who Darth Vader once was and we have some excerpts as proof of that:
“Vader stretched out to the Force, trying to read the sense of the figure standing beside him. But the Chiss’s thoughts were as closed to him is always. “Many years ago, I served briefly alongside General Anakin Skywalker,” Thrawn said at last.
Vader felt an unpleasant sensation creep across his back. Was the Chiss really going to invoke The Jedi’s name now?
“There came a moment when I had completed the task the Chiss Ascendancy had set for me,” Thrawn continued. “At that point I was free to abandon him to his own task”. He turned to face Vader. “You have that same freedom of choice. I am asking that you remain at my side.”
Vader stared into those glowing red eyes. No—it was impossible. The relationship between him and The Jedi was one of the darkest and most impenetrable secrets in the galaxy.”– Thrawn: Alliances
And another one:
“Vader rumbled something under his breath. “Mokivj.”
“Indeed, my lord,” Thrawn said, inclining his head. “More specifically, the Seperatist factory on Mokivj that we once assaulted.”
Vader straightened to his full height. “That you once assaulted,” he corrected. “No one else aboard the Chimaera was ever there.”
Of course,” Thrawn said, inclining his head. “I misspoke.”
For a long moment, they gazed at each other in silence. Faro [an Imperial officer working under Thrawn] found herself holding her breath, feeling a fresh edge of tension crackling through the room. There was something going on here, something deep beneath the surface.”
– Thrawn: Alliances
A later excerpt, written from Thrawn’s point of view, further adds to our theory:
“Vader’s Defender continues to sweep around Bogery Two, alternating between missile and laser cannon fire. He spins the fighter in a tight curve and heads back toward another target, doing a complete roll as he does so. It is a familiar maneuver, carried out with a familiar precision.
It is he.“– Thrawn: Alliances
So, while it was never explicitly confirmed, it is heavily implied that Thrawn does know that Darth Vader is Anakin Skywalker, the former Jedi General who worked with him on an earlier mission. Thrawn also confirmed that he knew Anakin Skywalker was dead, but this probably refers to the fact that Vader considered his current persona completely separate from the Anakin persona, meaning that Thrawn’s confirmation is merely symbolical, as is Vader’s self-perception.
Did Grand Admiral Thrawn outrank Vader?
Grand Admiral Thrawn was, as we know quite well, was one of the most powerful figures in the Empire and one of its chief military leaders.
Thrawn was a Grand Admiral of the Imperial Navy and enjoyed the Emperor’s support. He was an exceptionally powerful and influential figure, being responsible for the formation of the First Order after the fall of the Empire. Although Thrawn did enjoy a lot of power, as Grand Admiral, his powers were limited to military issues and he was in no way near Vader’s rank.
Vader, as we’ve explained, was the second figure of the Empire, second only to the Emperor himself, while Thrawn was one of the many military leaders of the Imperial Army. In that aspect, we can conclude that Grand Admiral Thrawn did not outrank Darth Vader in the Imperial hierarchy.
An interesting thing, though, is that after Vader’s death in 4 ABY, it was Grand Admiral Thrawn who took over his position of Supreme Commander of the Imperial Forces, de facto becoming the next Emperor, and opting to rebuild the Galactic Empire as Palpatine had created it.
Have anything to add? Let us know in the comments below!