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Why Does Obi-Wan Let Darth Vader Kill Him?

Why Does Obi-Wan Let Darth Vader Kill Him?

Star Wars fans are quite familiar with the scene in Stars Wars Episode IV: A New Hope when Obi-Wan Kenobi allows Darth Vader to kill him. It occurs when Luke Skywalker and friends are attempting to escape from the Death Star. 

Many of us might think that Obi-Wan let himself die to help them escape. But is that the real reason why Obi-Wan let Darth Vader kill him? Probably not. Obi-Wan most likely allowed it to happen so he could become one with the Force.

A New Hope and the Death of Obi-Wan Kenobi

Most of us know the pivotal scene in A New Hope when Obi-Wan Kenobi faces off with Darth Vader in a lightsaber duel. Obi-Wan had just deactivated the tractor beam to allow the Millenium Falcon a chance to fly away. Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, and the two droids are running to the Falcon to make their escape.

Obi - Wan Kenobi Vs Darth Vader HD

Once Obi-Wan sees them, he stops fighting, holds his lightsaber in front of him, and lets Darth Vader win. We assume Obi-Wan purposely did so to allow time for Luke and company to get to the Millenium Falcon. 

However, Obi-Wan is probably after a greater objective. As Obi-Wan famously says to Darth Vader before he dies, “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” 

This quote provides a reference to Obi-Wan’s goal: he saw his death as a way to become one with the Living Force. He had learned about this Living Force from Yoda, who in turn knew about it from Obi-Wan’s former master Qui-Gon Jinn.

What It's Like to be a Force Ghost As Explained by Qui-Gon Jinn

Those Jedi who are able to thoroughly connect with the energy of life around them can converge with the Living Force upon death. In Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, both Obi-Wan and Yoda became familiar with this eternal connection with all energy and life. 

Obi-Wan may have thought that he could help Luke more in this form of life rather than as a live Jedi. Keep in mind that Obi-Wan thought he had failed Anakin. Obi-Wan did not want to repeat the same cycle with Luke turning to the Dark Side. 

By becoming one with the Force, Obi-Wan possibly thought he could steer Luke to Yoda who could train him more effectively. Obi-Wan could also appear to Luke as a Force Ghost to help direct Luke’s course of training.

Did Darth Vader Really Kill Obi-Wan Kenobi?

When Darth Vader swung his lightsaber at Obi-Wan, it seemed that Kenobi perished. However, Obi-Wan actually just vanished; nothing remained of him but his brown robe.

Most lightsaber fights end with someone visibly afflicted by a lightsaber. For example, Darth Maul was actually cut in half in Episode I: The Phantom Menace. A body may remain on the ground, sometimes without a head, as with Count Dooku at the hands of Anakin Skywalker in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. 

But Obi-Wan just disappeared, even before the lightsaber hit him. He may have disappeared before Vader sliced him so that Obi-Wan could become more influential as a Force Ghost. 

Star Wars: Return of the Jedi | Obi-Wan Force Ghost | 4K HDR

Instead of dying, Obi-Wan did become a Force Ghost. By following a life dedicated to the Jedi code, some Jedi like Obi-Wan were able to transform into “a state of immortality.”

In A New Hope, Obi-Wan speaks to Luke just after presumably dying at the hands of Vader. Obi-Wan urges Luke to run to the Millenium Falcon. 

In Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Obi-Wan also comes back as a Force Ghost to talk with Luke more substantially. Hence, Obi-Wan did not really die. 

Not only Obi-Wan Kenobi, but Master Yoda and Luke Skywalker also became Force Ghosts. Master Yoda appeared to Luke in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi and Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. All three of them were able to engage with the living world.

Another slightly different explanation specifies that Darth Vader did not really kill Obi-Wan, but that Obi-Wan had become so exhausted at that point in his life that he allowed the Force to carry him away

A similar scenario plays out in Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. After Luke Skywalker had configured an image of himself by use of the Force to fight Kylo Ren, Luke also fades away from exhaustion. 

Luke Skywalker vs Kylo Ren scene

Either way, Obi-Wan did transform into a Force Ghost. As Force Ghosts, Yoda, Luke, and Obi-Wan live on as spirits after death and continue to engage with the Jedi.

Other Reasons Obi-Wan Kenobi Let Darth Vader Kill Him

Still, there are other reasons why Obi-Wan may have let Darth Vader kill him, or turn him into a Force Ghost. Chief among them are: 

  1. When Luke Skywalker saw Vader and Obi-Wan dueling, Obi-Wan may have thought Luke would come to help him. This was a dangerous proposition since Luke was not ready to fight Vader. He was not even ready in The Empire Strikes Back.
  2. Obi-Wan may have realized that Vader had become too powerful, just as Vader stated to him. Hence, Obi-Wan would not be able to win and may have disappeared so that Vader would not have a chance to defeat him.

This second reason has some traction. Darth Vader had become more powerful through the Dark Side over the previous decades before confronting Obi-Wan. 

On the other hand, Obi-Wan had been hiding in the desert on Tatooine, not using the Force. It would be better to end things on his terms.

What Was Obi-Wan Doing on Tatooine After Revenge of the Sith? (Canon) - Star Wars Explained

Why Does Obi-Wan Become a Force Ghost?

More pragmatic explanations are helpful, but it still appears most likely that Obi-Wan wished to become one with the Force. By turning into a Force Ghost, Obi-Wan could continue the fight against the Dark Side. 

Obi-Wan could still help direct Luke on his journey to becoming a Jedi Master, perhaps more effectively.