Obi-Wan Kenobi has a reputation among Star Wars fans for his honor, humor, compassion, commitment and martyrdom. Although these are all traits that are undeniably synonymous with the Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi also developed a spectacular skill for lying during his time spent on Tatooine.
He's never fully honest with Luke, lying from the outset of A New Hope. However, Obi-Wan is far less guarded with his first apprentice, Anakin Skywalker. His cynicism might have been forged in the fires of Mustafar, but what if there's a deeper reason for the lies of Obi-Wan Kenobi, and perhaps more importantly, could this change of character have lead to Luke's bold claim during The Last Jedi's trailer?
"I only know one truth: it's time for the Jedi to end."
To answer these questions, we have to understand why Obi-Wan decided to bend the truth so frequently throughout A New Hope.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, Master of Semantics:
"Obi-Wan? Now that's a name I've not heard in a long time."
Thus begins Obi-Wan Kenobi's cagey relationship with the truth in Star Wars: A New Hope. In the same scene, he stalls the conversation with Luke through semantics, giving himself a moment to ponder: is now the time for Luke Skywalker to know the truth? The answer is no, so he whitefangs R2D2 callously:
"I don't seem to remember ever owning a droid."
The prequel trilogy shed light on the events prior to A New Hope, but also left plenty of questions for fans to chew on, including many lies and inconsistencies. So, when did Obi-Wan become such a good liar, and why?
While his claim to not recognize R2D2 could be an unfortunate side effect of rapid ageing, it's actually one of several striking examples of semantic manipulation. He rarely lies, but instead bends the truth with a selective word choice - and this happens time and time again.
In the canon novel 'Star Wars: A New Hope - the Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy', Han witnesses a private moment between Obi-Wan and R2:
The R2 unit moved to Ben's side as if it were his faithful pet, an image that was further reinforced by the old man stroking a hand over its domed head.
"It's good to fly with you again," the old man said.
Admitting that R2 actually belonged to Anakin would've opened a can of tauntaun guts, and would have muddied the narrative he'd prepared to tell Luke about his heritage. Later, Obi-Wan sets up the immortal twist at the end of Empire Strikes Back by telling Luke that Darth Vader "betrayed and murdered [his] father". He creates a myth of Anakin Skywalker that's in-keeping with his own point of view, considering Anakin and Vader as separate entities.
There are also instances where Obi-Wan bends the truth even further. He gives Luke his father's lightsaber, claiming:
"Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough".
He creates a genteel picture of Anakin, entrusting Obi-Wan with a keepsake for his son, an image that was bound to spur Luke - an adventure-seeking orphan - to do right by his late father.
As every Star Wars fan will know, the reality Obi-Wan neglects to tell Luke is far bleaker: He severed the lightsaber from Anakin Skywalker's grasp and left Luke's father to barbecue on Mustafar.
These lies all seem driven to protect Luke from the truth about his father, and perhaps to avoid a similar fate befalling his new Padawan. So, many fans agree that these are simply 'white lies' necessary for the greater good - but given the character's honorable characteristics throughout the prequel trilogy, what made Obi-Wan share this perspective?
Wishful Thinking on Tatooine:
The traumatic battle of Mustafar and the subsequent loss of Anakin fundamentally changed Obi-Wan's perspective on how to train his new Padawan. In the prequel trilogy, Obi-Wan was always brusquely up-front with his Padawan and connected with him on a deeply personal level:
"You were the Chosen One...You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you".
However, he eventually came to regret the decision to train Anakin, which he admitted to Luke in Return of the Jedi:
"I was amazed how strongly the Force was with him. I took it upon myself to train him as a Jedi. I thought that I could instruct him just as well as Yoda. I was wrong."
Obi-Wan Kenobi retains an element of naivety and innocence throughout the prequel trilogy, as Ewan McGregor plays a quippier, more sprightly version of the older Jedi Knight. However, by the time the character is seen in #StarWarsRebels, Kenobi is already a wise master, weighed down with responsibility and purpose:
Darth Maul: "Tell me, is it the Chosen One?"
Obi-Wan Kenobi: "He is".
Much has been made of Obi-Wan's admission that he believes Luke is the real Chosen One, but these are his last words to a troubled, dying man. There's no telling if he actually believes it or if he's simply offering some small comfort to an adversary he's been intimately aware of for years. Yet, there always seems to be a midichlorian of truth to Obi-Wan's lies. He truly believes that Luke is the Jedi's "last hope", and his timid approach to telling the young Skywalker anything genuine about his heritage shows either concern, or strategy.
Perhaps the lies he tells Luke aren't meant to protect him so much as to prepare him, to feel the horror of betrayal that Obi-Wan felt and catalyze his destruction of the Sith. It's certainly one interpretation of why striking him down would make him "more powerful than [Darth Vader] could ever imagine".
Obi-Wan's death creates an emotional catalyst to keep Luke from turning to the Dark Side. When Luke eventually discovered the truth, as Obi-Wan expected him to, Vader's evil would be unmistakable.
By the time Luke returns to Dagobah with the truth in tow, Obi-Wan changes his tune:
"You must face Vader again"
Having survived the trial of the Dark Side and Vader's temptations, Luke has now become the figure that Obi-Wan tentatively believed in: the Chosen One.
Will Obi-Wan's Shift In Character Be Explored With An Anthology Movie?
As the new trilogy forges ahead with The Last Jedi, its down to #StarWars anthology movies like Rogue One to fill in any remaining blanks on the canvas.
Whether Obi-Wan Kenobi had merely been out in the sun for too long, or had concocted a master plan to restore order to the Galaxy, we may never know for certain. His inconsistencies have led to a plethora of theories and suggestions, as well as constant calls for an Obi-Wan standalone movie to stitch up any plot holes.
Did he learn to lie during many games of Dejarik in the Mos Eisley Cantina? His inconsistencies have left a world of possibilities for character progression and change, and as the Star Wars anthology movies elaborate on every gritty piece of lore, it's purely a matter of time before Obi-Wan returns to the silver screen to explain himself.
Ewan McGregor is open to returning, having already provided some voice acting for The Force Awakens, and the changes his character undergoes in the 19 years between Episode III and IV interest him as much as any fan:
"I'd very much like to do one too. I think the story between Episode 3 and Episode 4, I think there's a story there. I think that that's the Obi-Wan Kenobi story if there is one. The one that bridges my Obi-Wan Kenobi and Alec Guinness's Obi-Wan Kenobi."
Obi-Wan's Lies and The Last Jedi:
Which leads us to the next Star Wars installment, The Last Jedi. Luke Skywalker is set to train Rey, yet there's something not quite right about the once-farmboy from Tatooine. As I mentioned previously, director Rian Johnson almost broke the internet with the first trailer for Episode VIII, in which Luke spoke for the first time:
"I only know one truth: it's time for the Jedi to end."
These words have been scrutinized and analyzed, with the consensus being that Luke is attempting to move away from the dogmatic principles of the Jedi towards something more balanced. Could it be that this is a reaction to Obi-Wan's less than truthful teaching, along with the catastrophic events prior to The Force Awakens?
Both Jedi Masters have suffered defeat and betrayal and both went into exile, yet Luke's situation is a distillation of everything that happened to Obi-Wan Kenobi. He's cognizant enough to see the continued failings of the Jedi, and to realize the half-truths and manipulations Obi-Wan employed in his own training.
Could Obi-Wan Kenobi's lies have informed Luke's decision to end the Jedi? We want to know your thoughts! Vent them in the comments below.