If we assume the prequels are canon (even Jar Jar), then Obi-Wan’s mental journey makes a sharp left turn into psychopathsville when we dwell on what he was up to alone in his hut for 20 years.
I mean, aside from stalking young Luke and waiting for the empire to get bored and flame-broil auntie and uncle Lars, what keeps Obi-Wan sane? Those walls above look pretty bare, and the furniture is spartan at best. So what was that old crank up to? Tetris? Sudoku? Or, waging a single-man war against the planet’s natives, eventually reducing them to a shadow population of their former glory? Does that last one sound like a bit of a stretch? Let me explain. But first, a warning:
Imagine if you will, the broken spirit of a Jedi Knight whose entire order has been crushed, whose best friend and pupil was left legless in a volcano (by him), who was forced to retire from a rich life of political intrigue, high-stakes negotiation, and PTSD-inducing battles, to a planet of dunes. Boring, shifting, endless dunes.
What would you do to keep your Jedi skills sharp?
The Tusken Raiders
During the prequels we see evidence of a large Tusken Raider population, bold enough and aggressive enough to take pot-shots at pod racers during the Boonta Eve event. That takes some big sandy balls right there. The Tuskens (named so because they raid-murdered the entire settlement of Tusken) are willing to shoot at (on live television) some of the planet’s most popular sports figures. That would be akin to a group of casual snipers take shots at Formula 1 racers in front of millions of spectators — if Formula 1 was watched by everyone on the planet.
The raiders are also known for kidnapping moisture farmers. That sentence alone should tell you everything you need to know about how pervasive the Tusken Menace was on Tatooine. They were known for kidnapping and torturing — to death — the people whose job it is to provide water to the planet. Those farms should have better security than oil wells during war, but the raiders got away with it until angsty Anakin showed up with his lightsaber and rat-tail to ruin their day.
Tusken Raiders During The Original Trilogy
Now consider that 20 after the Anakin incident, Obi-Wan practically has to explain every nuance about Sandpeople to Luke — how they travel, how they conduct war, why they look like badly concealed Cenobites. This isn’t lazy exposition for the audience. This is because Luke, having grown up on those very same moisture farms that were getting raided by Tuskens, barely knows of their existence or their violent culture.
If you grow up near forests you’re warned as a child about bears and wolves. Live by the ocean, you hear about riptides and tsunamis. If you grow up in Australia you’re taught about the hoards of venomous creatures God has sent to punish you. The only way Luke wouldn’t know absolutely everything about Tuskens by age five would be if they were a non-issue. It’s almost as if a hermit with preternatural fighting abilities has been living between the Tuskens and the farmers for a generation or so, reducing their population steadily over the course of 20 years, until they were no longer a threat to civilization.
Maybe, just maybe, the Tuskens who flee from Obi-Wan in A New Hope aren’t running scared because he disguised himself as a moaning hobo. Maybe they know who this old kook is. Maybe, just maybe, they recognized him as the monster who's been pulling an I Am Legend on them for the past two decades. After all, For a species that passes on their history orally, what would their gut reaction be when encountering a Jedi in the wild?
Obi-Wan doesn’t spook the Tusken Raiders with his wacky getup. He scares the dusty piss out of them because he’s hunted them for so long. And they know, culturally, to fear the Jedi. The bard-like lessons they’ve been sharing with their children are of Jedi slaughtering whole villages because of a single kidnapped dame. And it’s happened not once, but twice according to the Obi-Wan video game. Those are Pablo Escobar levels of retribution.
Lastly, I’d like to point out that while young Obi-Wan was flowery in his swordsmanship in the prequels, by the time he’s hacking dudes apart in Mos Eisley we’re given to understand that Old Ben doesn’t fuck around anymore when it comes to fighting.
In Bushido, the art of drawing the sword to open an attack is called Iaijutsu. When Luke is shoved during the bar scuffle, Obi-Wan doesn’t draw his sword and hold it high like a Knight getting ready for fair contest. He draws and strikes, making two precise cuts — one of which chops the loud-mouthed assailant in half (according to the original script), and the other takes his friend’s arm along with the blaster he was wielding. This is a man who has learned from experience that the most effective way to stop an opponent is to slice him into tidy pieces.
Just when you thought Obi-Wan was the exemplar for all things honorable. Well, at least we can always rely on R2 to remain stoically heroic:
Still think Obi-Wan took up painting or taxidermy in his sunset years?
If you want more crackpot theories and tabletop gaming advice, you can visit Joe's home blog; Statbonus.com