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In Defense of Obi-Wan Kenobi
Sigh. I know, you’re probably thinking, “Jeez, another Star Wars article.” But I’ve been sifting through the crazy amount of crap written about Star Wars the last few months and I found a couple of articles discussing how bad of a general and tactician Obi-Wan Kenobi was. I felt like I needed to say a few things in his defense. This topic was originally broached with the question “Why did Obi-Wan hide Luke on Tatooine (the planet his now evil father is from) with Anakin’s only known relatives, while keeping the surname Skywalker?” It does sound a little weird, so I’ll discuss it from my point of view.
First, I’ll put this out there: the Prequel Trilogy messed a lot of things up. You’ll see, more often than not, changes being made to the Original Trilogy to align more with the Prequel Trilogy. This is the exact opposite of what should happen. The prequels should have been made to align with what was already completed, so we can partly blame the prequel nonsense for mucking things up a bit. But, let’s not forget that the story for the Original Trilogy was changed a lot too. For example: Originally, Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker were two different people. When Episode IV was made, and even in the first draft of Episode V, Darth Vader did in fact kill Anakin Skywalker, in a literal sense. Luke was supposed to talk to the ghost of Anakin on Dagobah before he goes off to face Vader for the first time. George Lucas changed the Skywalker lineage in subsequent drafts of Episode V, eventually turning Darth Vader and Anakin Skywalker into the same person, revealing that Darth Vader is in fact Luke’s father. Being an Original Trilogy purist, this wasn’t necessarily a bad move. It was a shocking plot twist leaving many viewers asking themselves, “Why did Obi-Wan lie to Luke about his father’s death?” Of course, Obi-Wan explained this to Luke in episode VI, saying that what he told Luke was true from a certain point of view: the good Anakin had died when he became evil. The persona of Darth Vader had taken over and he was “more machine now than man. Twisted and evil.” One can reasonably assume that if Obi-Wan told Luke who his father really was, Luke would never want to run off and fight Darth Vader.
So why did Obi-Wan basically hide Luke in plain sight of Vader and allow him to keep the surname Skywalker? It does sound like a bone-headed move. Let’s consider what happens at the end of Episode III: the final duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin. Obi-Wan decisively wins this battle and leaves Anakin to burn to death in a lava pit. When Yoda, Obi-Wan and Bail Organa are sitting around the table discussing what to do with the twins, you can reasonably assume that they believe Anakin Skywalker to be dead. Granted, Obi-Wan didn’t wait around to see if he actually expires, but you would think that a leg-less person on fire, sliding into a river of lava with nobody around to help, would likely die. I would believe that to be about 99.99% accurate. So they’re not really hiding the twins from Vader, they’re hiding the twins from the Emperor. Here’s where the prequels mess this up. In Episode VI, Obi-Wan tells Luke, “To protect you both (Luke and Leia) from the Emperor, you were hidden from your father when you were born. The Emperor knew as I did, if Anakin had any offspring they would be a threat to him.” Does this mean Vader was still alive when they were born? How would Obi-Wan and Yoda know he was alive when he was left for dead? They didn’t know he was alive. So the end of Episode III screwed this plot point up a bit. Obviously, Luke and Leia could be a threat: they are the children of one of the most powerful Jedi to ever live, and you can bet that the Emperor would be threatened by this.
If Obi-Wan believes Anakin to be dead, leaving Luke with his aunt and uncle wasn’t that bad of a decision. Anakin more than likely didn’t tell the Emperor that he had a step-brother back on Tatooine, and the Emperor knows that Anakin’s mother is dead, therefore he would have no reason to believe that Anakin/Vader would have any reason to return to Tatooine, where he was raised as a slave and where his mother died a horrific death. Even if the Emperor did know about his step-brother, what significance does he have to Anakin? Very little I would say, seeing that Anakin only meets him for a brief time, and then goes on his way with Padme to save Obi-Wan on Geonosis. Now for this to be an issue, the Emperor and Vader would have to know that the twins survived; but they don’t! Vader believes that he accidently killed Padme before she even had the children and the Emperor has no clue if the kids were even born. He lies to Vader and says that Vader killed her in his rage. In reality, Padme dies in childbirth. Therefore, the Emperor and Vader have no idea the twins survived in the first place, and the Jedi think Vader is dead. Also, throughout the entire saga, it’s mentioned that Tatooine is a desolate, out-of-the-way place that doesn’t get very many visitors. It’s obviously of no strategic importance to the Empire and is basically ruled by the Hutts and other criminals. If you ask me, I would say that’s a pretty good place to hide someone, especially since Obi-Wan watched over Luke the entire time ensuring his protection. Seems like a pretty fool-proof plan to keep Luke out of the way. Of course, Leia takes the surname Organa and is raised as a princess on Alderaan, who later becomes a sneaky politician. More on that in a bit.
What about the name Skywalker you ask? Well, in a universe with names like “Obi-Wan Kenobi” or “Qui Gon Jinn” or “Padme Amidala” etcetera, “Skywalker” actually seems like a normal-sounding name. I would think in a galaxy consisting of thousands of solar systems with trillions and trillions of people, there could be others named Skywalker. It’s not like a boy with that last name on a back-water planet would stick out like a sore thumb. Perhaps “Skywalker” is the “Smith” or “Jones” or “Lopez” of Star Wars. Of course, if Vader or the Emperor heard the name, they would definitely do a double-take, like I’m sure you do if you hear your last name. But where would they hear it or see it? The Intergalactic Phone Book? Probably not.
Even though this explanation works from the prequel standpoint, what about when Obi-Wan tells Luke they were hidden from Vader when they were born in Episode VI, before the prequels were even conceived? In order for the prequel not to mess this up, the twins should have been born with Vader’s knowledge of their birth, maybe even before Anakin turns evil. I would have thought that at some point Obi-Wan would realize Anakin is turning evil and he needs to hide the children from him, or protect them in some other way. Then after the children are hidden away, he goes to face Anakin/Vader after the Jedi extermination is underway and he leaves his old apprentice for dead. Even in this scenario, it would have made sense to leave Luke with his aunt and uncle for the same reasons stated above. Of course, now we have ventured into “what-if” territory and I’m sure there are tons of ideas out there that would have made more sense than what happened in the prequels. Since the circumstances surrounding the fall of Anakin were not explored in any detail in the Original Trilogy, you have to fill in the gaps yourself.
Why would Luke be hidden away in this manner, while Leia remains safely anonymous? One theory I have read is that Yoda and Obi-Wan wanted Leia to be groomed to be the next leader of the Republic and they used Luke as bait to lure the Emperor into a trap. Once again we start getting into this “what-if” territory, but this theory is in fact plausible. In order to defeat the Emperor, the remaining Jedi would need to raise and train a powerful Jedi AND a skilled politician to take over the government after the Emperor is defeated. If we look at just the Original Trilogy, the explanation does make a bit of sense. Luke and Leia needed to be hidden because they were a threat to the Emperor, and if they were found they would either be killed or groomed as Sith. Obi-Wan and Yoda would of course need the twins to be raised to defeat the Emperor, one as a powerful Jedi Knight and one as a powerful and skilled politician.
Vader survived the duel with Obi-Wan and is forced to do the bidding of the Emperor, who has no knowledge of any offspring. This leaves Vader wondering for years what happened to his children; however he can’t focus on the issue because he’s become the new enforcer of the Galactic Empire. Years later, along comes this small band of rebels that blow up the Death Star and Vader finds out the pilot who destroyed the space station has his old last name! Could this be one of his long lost children? The Emperor tells him that yes, after much meditation, the rebel pilot is in fact the offspring of Anakin Skywalker. The Emperor wants Vader to attempt to turn Luke to the dark side as he would be a powerful ally. But, Vader would rather take Luke as an apprentice because even though Vader is evil, he secretly hates the Emperor and feels tricked into becoming a Sith Lord; however he isn’t powerful enough to defeat the Emperor yet. With Luke as his partner, they would be more than capable of destroying the Emperor. Vader doesn’t count on his son’s devotion to the light side, and Luke escapes in disbelief now knowing that the man who killed his mentor, Obi-Wan, is actually his father. Luke feels cheated and lied to but Obi-Wan explains that it had to be done, otherwise Luke would never want to face off against his own father. Obi-Wan explains that for many years, Luke’s father was truly dead in a sense; however Luke felt good in him and wants to turn him back. Obi-Wan explains that Luke has a twin sister, who was also hidden and remains safely anonymous from the Emperor to this day. This puts her in a perfect position to help lead the rebellion and maintain order after the galaxy is won back, seeing that she was raised by a great senator from the Old Republic. Luke eventually defeats the Emperor, with a little help from Darth Vader now turned good because he can’t bear to see his son murdered in front of him.
In defense of Obi-Wan Kenobi, hiding Luke in plain sight wasn’t a terrible idea, if you look at it from a certain point of view. Even though the prequels messed up some of the details, Obi-Wan and Yoda assumed Vader was dead and thought that Luke would be safe being raised by his only remaining family, with Obi-Wan keeping a close watch on the young boy. I don’t see this decision as being poor or in bad judgment; I feel like the Jedi took a calculated risk and knew exactly what they were doing in light of the information they had at the time.