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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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.