How 'Kenobi' Can Explain Where Obi-Wan's Nickname Came From
What are your theories?
One of the major reasons I loved Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was its ability to re-contextualize A New Hope right from the opening crawl. The crawl mentions rebel spies winning their first battle against the evil Galactic Empire and how spies stole secret plans for their ultimate weapon, the Death Star. For me, watching the opening scene of A New Hope directly after watching Rogue One is maybe my favorite Star Wars thing to do because they connect so well.
And this feeling is what I’m hoping to get after watching the Obi-Wan Kenobi series on Disney+ in May. Maybe I’m setting my expectations too high, but that trailer, the show’s details, and the sheer possibilities have skyrocketed my hype level.
I’m actually a little disappointed in the name Obi-Wan Kenobi. I would’ve preferred Disney to call it Kenobi. For starters, it’s shorter and cleaner. But the real reason is the idea that Obi-Wan is also known as Ben Kenobi in many instances.
The most obvious instance, of course, is with Luke. When he talks to Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru after cleaning up R2-D2 in A New Hope, he mentions that the droid claimed to be the property of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Luke wondered if Obi-Wan was still around and if he might show up looking for R2. Quick tangent here: this suggests that Luke never knew Obi-Wan by his real name, but only by Ben Kenobi. So if Luke ever crosses paths with Obi-Wan, it’s likely Owen and Obi-Wan will cover up what’s going on by lying about his name (more on why Obi-Wan chooses the name Ben later).
Anyway, Uncle Owen says something that I think could be a hidden driving force behind the entire narrative of the Kenobi show. He says to Luke, “He won’t. I don’t think he exists anymore. He died about the same time as your father.” While Owen likely was just referencing that to not give away too much about the circumstances of Luke’s birth and Obi-Wan’s secret mission in hopes of Luke dropping the subject, to me, there’s a foreshadowing of a character change in Obi-Wan that we will witness during this show. Obi-Wan already feels a little broken and defeated after the events of Revenge of the Sith. So when he finds out that Anakin turned into Darth Vader, he will be shocked, perhaps even feel like a failure (which, of course, would play into Vader’s “Now his failure is complete” line in Return of the Jedi).
Another instance involving someone who knows Obi-Wan as Ben Kenobi is when we see Leia in A New Hope. When Luke rescues Leia from prison cell 2187 aboard the Death Star, he convinces Leia to come with him by mentioning her R2 unit and Ben Kenobi. Leia even shouts his name, “Ben Kenobi,” back to Luke. She clearly knows about the Ben cover-up name. In the message she recorded in R2’s busty innards, she calls him General Kenobi and Obi-Wan Kenobi. It’ll be interesting if the Obi-Wan Kenobi series addresses how Leia might’ve known his name is Ben instead of Obi-Wan. After all, Bail Organa, who raised Leia as a princess on Alderaan, knew him as Obi-Wan throughout the prequel trilogy.
What I think we could see on the show is Obi-Wan visiting Alderaan and Bail to check on Leia (after all, she’s in hiding, too). First of all, if that happens, it’d be cool to see Alderaan in an actual live-action project that doesn’t involve the planet getting blown to smithereens. Secondly, Obi-Wan might need to tell Bail about his fake name, and Bail might even introduce Obi-Wan to Leia and tell her why he’s going by the name Ben.
So why the name Ben? This has been an added detail in the Legends Star Wars book, Kenobi. Kenobi (no longer canon, of course, but still, it’s there) mentions the only woman Obi-Wan ever loved: Satine Kryze. Satine, of course, is from the planet Mandalore (she even becomes the Duchess of Mandalore), which we learned in The Clone Wars (which is canon). Interestingly enough, Satine’s sister is Bo-Katan, a character who has already jumped to live-action during The Mandalorian. Obi-Wan kept his love for Satine a secret. In the Kenobi novel, Satine even had a nickname for him. Yep, you guessed it: Ben. Obi-Wan’s nickname is a tribute to his secret love.
Unfortunately, Satine dies in Obi-Wan’s arms during an episode of The Clone Wars at the hands of none other than Maul! While this likely means we won’t see Satine in this series save for maybe a flashback, her death may fuel Obi-Wan’s character change as much as anything. At one point, it is revealed that Obi-Wan would’ve been willing to leave the Jedi Order for Satine. Satine’s storyline takes place between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, and Obi-Wan Kenobi is a decade after Episode III, so the writers shouldn’t mess with this story.
Furthermore, the fact that Maul is the one who killed Satine could fuel Obi-Wan’s hatred for him. Remember, Maul is around at this time, as we saw at the end of Solo: A Star Wars Story (we’ve seen recent reports that Maul will not appear in the show, but that could be a misdirect).
But the incredibly dark-horse theory that could come out of nowhere during this show and really jolt the entire Star Wars franchise is if they somehow imply that Obi-Wan and Satine had a child together in secret. Part of the story underlying the current arc of Disney+ shows revolves around the Jedi who had to stay hidden during the dark times after Order 66. Before we, the audience, might’ve thought that Obi-Wan, Yoda, and the twins were the only ones to survive, but there have been countless comics and hints in The Clone Wars, The Bad Batch (with Omega), and even in The Mandalorian with the outright reveal about Grogu escaping the Jedi Temple when it was on fire, that many other Jedi escape the fate of Order 66. The other interesting part about this theory is that it is not a new one.
After the release of The Force Awakens, many people thought Rey’s heritage could link back to Kenobi if he had a secret child with, say, a secret lover. Maybe one that was even established in the canon cartoon show. It didn’t turn out to be true for Rey’s story, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see a different child come to light. When The Bad Batch started releasing every week last year, I wondered if maybe Omega was this secret child since she seemed to have Force tendencies, but alas, her heritage was revealed to be from the DNA of Jango Fett just like the other clones. Obviously, Obi-Wan didn’t have a secret child, but it’s possible.
Adding to Omega’s mystery was that she didn’t have a last name. Naming conventions have been engaging in recent Star Wars history. Rey is asked who she is in The Rise of Skywalker. I remember seeing criticisms because casuals think names have never been important in the saga before, but that’s highly inaccurate. As we learned in Solo, Solo is not Han’s last name. He doesn’t give away his true last name for fear of the Empire, so he just has one given to him. Leia used Bail’s last name in the original trilogy because of her royalty instead of Amidala. Luke, interestingly was still given the last name Skywalker even though that would’ve been a major red flag to the Empire when tracking down his whereabouts (maybe they should’ve used Lars?). But why that’s interesting is because they, like Obi-Wan, already thought Anakin was dead. They didn’t know he would become Darth Vader, so they didn’t think it was necessary to hide his name.
For Rey, maybe the people who took her in after her parents died knew something about her heritage was a little shaky (she turned out to be a Palpatine, after all), so maybe they didn’t want her last name to be known. Then at the end of The Rise of Skywalker, she realizes she wants to represent all that Luke represented, and that’s why she took the name Skywalker upon herself.
What likely is happening in Obi-Wan Kenobi has more to do with the Sith Inquisitors tracking down Jedi, maybe young Jedi in particular. In the same way that it’s easy to assume Obi-Wan doesn’t know about Anakin turning to Darth Vader, it’s doubtful the Empire knows of Obi-Wan’s whereabouts. Anakin survives their fight on Mustafar, but now that we are 10 years removed from that duel, it’ll be interesting to see if Vader is even aware that Obi-Wan is still around.
If I was in his mechanical, artificially breathing suit, I would think that he’s still out there somewhere, and maybe Vader is the one who helps track him down on Tatooine, especially since it was Anakin’s family who lived. The trailer makes it seem like the Inquisitors are either stumbling upon some random information that led them to Tatooine, or they’re thoroughly searching every planet they can. So they might come to Tatooine with no idea that Obi-Wan is even there. And that would make sense since Obi-Wan is supposed to be hiding from the Empire. Apparently, he’s been successful at it for 10 years already.
I feel at odds with that potential storyline because Obi-Wan doesn’t seem to change his last name. Who knows, maybe Uncle Owen had to improvise about Obi-Wan’s true name in front of Luke for some reason, and that’s why Luke knows him as Ben Kenobi. But I wouldn’t be surprised if Obi-Wan used a different secret name for everybody else. It just wouldn’t make sense for him to keep his Kenobi name and still be able to hide for that long.
But if the Empire catches wind of him on Tatooine, I would have to assume it’s because they knew his name, or Vader knew. My guess is that’s not why the Empire is on Tatooine. In fact, if you look back at the trailer, you can see Obi-Wan shooting enemies with a blaster instead of using his lightsaber because his laser sword would be a dead giveaway. If he does need to pull out the lightsaber because he gets caught in a tough spot (as the trailer indicated might happen), he might be forced (no pun intended) to use his lightsaber, which would signal his whereabouts to the Empire.
In fact, his use of his lightsaber might prove to be a key reason he needs to leave Tatooine in the first place. I highly doubt we’ll see a six-episode show of him just babysitting Luke. He’s going to travel to other planets, and who knows what other threats he will uncover. If the Inquisitors are, in fact, looking for young Jedi, Obi-Wan might feel compelled to stop them from killing the Jedi children. I could even see Obi-Wan needing to keep other Jedi in hiding too.
The problem with this (as with so many other Disney+ story threads) is that it would completely nullify what we knew during the original trilogy. If they undermine the fact that Obi-Wan knew other Jedi survived when he talks to Luke in A New Hope or Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, I will have major problems with the story. But like the theory with Obi-Wan’s secret child, this line of thinking is full of bantha poodoo.
If you can’t tell already, Obi-Wan Kenobi has the potential to be one of the greatest Star Wars stories ever told, and I’m very excited for it to get here starting May 27.
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Written by Jeremy Costello
Syndicated from Culture Slate