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How Old Was Darth Vader When He Died And What Actually Killed Him?

Originally, Darth Vader was known a young slave called Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd), but after to his chance encounter with Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), the Jedi believed Anakin to be the prophesied chosen one that is fated to bring balance to the Force. 

Unfortunately, events transpire that see an older Anakin (Hayden Christensen) slowly filled with doubt and anger that assure his fall to the Dark Side — but not before he incurs grievous wounds that require augmentation with cybernetics and life support systems. That said, Anakin/Darth Vader wasn't as old as some might expect in "Return of the Jedi," and the character died at the ripe age of 45. How Darth Vader died is a bit more complicated of a question to answer, but certainly worth some investigation. Was Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) to blame or something else?

Geeks Gonna Geek notes that Anakin Skywalker was born in 41 BBY. BBY stands for "Before the Battle of Yavin," which occurs during "Star Wars: A New Hope." Considering this, young Anakin Skywalker runs into Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan in "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace" in the year 32 BBY, marries Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman) in 22 BBY, and falls to the Dark Side in 19 BBY. It's around this point where Anakin would eventually battle Obi-Wan Kenobi and sustain grievous injuries — injuries that both cemented the former Jedi's new persona as Darth Vader and may have inadvertently led to his speedy demise at the end of "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi."

Although Force Lightning damaged Darth Vader, there may have been something else keeping him alive

Some, like the website Dork Side of the Force, believe that Emperor Palpatine's salvo of Force Lightning is actually what results in the death of Darth Vader. Of course, some might argue that the powerful Dark Side ability wasn't the smoking gun, but what led to Vader's death. As anybody who has seen the original "Star Wars" movies might be able to tell you, Vader is incredibly weak when exposed outside of his cybernetic suit. The machinery entombed within the suit and helmet are key to keeping the Sith Lord alive, and a surge of electricity could have fried essential components within the life support systems.

One might also be able to argue that Vader was using his hatred and strong emotions to sustain his broken life, which wouldn't be the first time a powerful Dark Side user pulled off the feat. In the video game "Star Wars Knight of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords," Darth Sion (Louis Mellis) is nothing more than a corpse animated by his strong hatred and skill in the Dark Side. The player is forced to defeat Darth Sion many times before his will finally breaks and the villain dies.

In this regard, when Darth Vader finally gave up on his hatred and was redeemed by his son Luke (Mark Hamill), the Dark Side powers that kept him alive may have subsided. Much like Anakin's wife Padmé, who gave up on life when Anakin became Darth Vader, perhaps when Vader finally came to terms with his own actions, he was ready to meet his own fate. That would certainly explain his changed visage as a Force Ghost at the end of "Return of the Jedi."

Emotions, redemption, and martyrdom play a big part in Star Wars

Though Emperor Palpatine definitely blasted Darth Vader with Force Lightning, the skill alone may not have been enough to kill him on its own. Especially when considering that Luke spent far more time being cooked by the Emperor and appeared seemingly fine after the assaulted ended. Though it's clear that the Emperor's Force Lightning attack definitely played a part in Darth Vader's death, it may not have been the only reason. 

It has already been established that Darth Vader was kept alive by cybernetics at the very least, and it's clear that they took a concentrated jolt of electricity when Vader tossed the Emperor into that chasm. So, it's not too wild to think that cybernetic or device failure could have played a part. Aside from this, the "Star Wars" universe has shown before that the Dark Side can also be a path to many things people would consider unnatural, and that the simple power of hatred might have ended up keeping Vader alive.