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Kylo Ren’s real name is

Ben, and was presumably given to him by his parents, Han and Leia, in reference to Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi.

But his mother never met the person he was named after, and his father knew the person just for a short time, and wasn't too fond of him then. Why would they name their son that?

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Regardless of whether or not they knew him well, he was an important figure in their lives. It was because of him that the group came together in the first place. Plus, he was a fairly important historical hero. Honoring him by naming a kid after him isn't an absurd idea. – phantom42 Jan 22 at 13:23
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“his mother never met the person he was named after” — are we sure about that? She certainly doesn’t in the movies, but did she outside of that? Anyhoo, maybe they chose that name as a nice gesture towards Luke (that, sadly, ended up backfiring horribly). – Paul D. Waite Jan 22 at 14:09
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I always assumed that, since she chooses Obi-Wan to send the message to at the start of EpIV, that she at least knows OF him, and knows he is trustworthy - her "only hope" in fact. So she clearly admires him, at the very least. – Max Williams Jan 22 at 15:18
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"Help me obi-wan, you're my only hope" – edthethird Jan 22 at 15:35
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Leia sending an SOS to Obi-Wan (and Obi-Wan responding as he did) was the initial trigger for the entire original trilogy. – Misha Rosnach Jan 22 at 17:43
up vote 36 down vote accepted

First, please note that I have not been able to find any canonical information on why Kylo Ren was given that birth name, so my answer is based upon reasoning and conclusions drawn from watching the movies (ep. 4-7).

Answer

  1. While it's true that Han doesn't seem to like Kenobi nor agree with him on anything, Kenobi did disengage the tractor beam and gave his life to ensure that Han, Luke and Leia could leave the Death Star alive and, relatively, unscathed. If nothing else, Kenobi is the reason (though not intentional) Han and Leia met (by employing Han to transport them).

  2. Leia knew Kenobi to be a great hero of the Clone Wars, a wise general and a great jedi. She likely held Kenobi in high reverence and would probably think that naming her son after him would be

    • a) a great homage to the late Jedi and
    • b) give her son a namesake to look up to.
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“Leia... would probably think that naming her son after him would be a) a great homage to the late Jedi and b) give her son a namesake to look up to”. Great plan, Princess! – Paul D. Waite Jan 22 at 14:11
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Although this answer makes sense, I feel like the other answer seems to hit the nail more on the head. There are numerous points in Disney canon that seem to have drawn reference from Legends. I think this is one of them. – John Bell Jan 22 at 14:24
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@PaulD.Waite - I just read that in Han's voice :D – System Down Jan 22 at 18:47
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As for point 2: Leia knew of the great Jedi Master and General, "Obi-Wan Kenobi". Unless Luke shared some stories with her (always probable, but not likely stated explicitly in canon), she would never have known of the hermit "Ben Kenobi" - the identity Obi-Wan assumed when he went into hiding after Luke & Leia's birth. That's why the line is "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi..." and not "Help me, Ben Kenobi...". – Iszi Jan 22 at 19:11
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@Iszi It has to be safe to assume that in the many years we have been away from the characters and Han and Leia are making babies and Luke is setting up his new Jedi they would have had many a conversation. They're supposed to be real people and they've had 30 years worth of dinners etc. Ben is how Luke knew him and never really shook it off, so Leia would surely be highly influenced by that. And, as mentioned, no one wants to name their baby Obi-Wan. – ThruGog Jan 22 at 20:39

Although you may never hear this from Disney ever, it is very likely that Kylo Ren's real name is inspired by Legends' very own Ben Skywalker.

In Legends, Ben Skywalker is Luke's own son, and it was Luke who decided to name his son after the Uncle Ben who watched over him growing up. Even though the Lars tried to keep Luke away from Obi-Wan because they did not want him to become a fallen Jedi like Anakin, Luke still managed to form a friendship with Obi-Wan when he could get away from the Lars' attention, developing an affection for the ageing man. Later events in the Original Trilogy would only serve to deepen Luke's love and respect for Obi-Wan.

Kylo Ren was born 0-1 years after the Battle of Endor. Leia had just recognised Luke as her brother and formally reunited with him. Luke and Leia both greatly admired Obi-Wan (Uncle Ben to Luke and General Kenobi to Leia), so the two of them probably came to an agreement among themselves what to name Leia's son (I guess Luke's vote counted more than Han's), just like how it happened in Legends for Luke's own son. But why Ben as opposed to Obi-Wan? This quote from Legends' Luke may hint at an answer.

"I'm just afraid of placing an extra one on his shoulders. Suppose I named him Obi-Wan, as a salute to my old master? Would he think that means that I want him to grow up to be a Jedi? Would he think he had to live up to Ben's reputation?"

This line of thought aligns well with Disney-canon-Leia's mentality that she wouldn't want to over-burden her son.

Conclusion: Drawing parallels from Legends, I believe Luke had a hand in deciding on Kylo's birth name, and the above quote explains why Ben instead of Obi-Wan.

Disclaimer: My answer is based fully off of Legends material, as your question cannot be answered with Disney canon sources alone. However, given that the name Starkiller is drawn from Legends, it is not the first time Disney drew inspiration from Legends without explicitly admitting to it even though it's blatantly obvious. Given that this is also a case of a son of the Skywalker line being named after Obi-Wan Kenobi, the similarities are plenty enough to believe that strong parallels had been drawn by Disney from Legends for my suggested answer to be reasonable.

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“I guess Luke's vote counted more than Han's” — whilst Chewbacca’s suggestion of “Lumpy” was pretty much entirely ignored. – Paul D. Waite Jan 22 at 14:13
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Chewie's suggestion was "Wrrhwrwwhw Huurh", roughly translated into English as "small meal". A shame it didn't happen, well actually no because then we wouldn't have 3 more movies. – John Bell Jan 22 at 14:26
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@PaulD.Waite - It only just now occurred to me that there are no Wookie names that are actually pronounceable by Wookies. How could they have developed an entire culture where none of them can pronounce each other's names? – Darrel Hoffman Jan 22 at 15:24
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@DarrelHoffman In the real world, the sense of smell factors strongly into the social life of animals from a hairy species, be it in identification, socialising, or during mating season. In a sentient society of walking carpets, I won't be surprised if an entrepreneuring carpet named Zuckarbul invented SmellBook as the first Wookie social media platform. – thegreatjedi Jan 22 at 15:55
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@DarrelHoffman Hanharr in KOTOR 2 had a name that was probably just what he said when asked what his name was. Also, I imagine Wookiees have personal names only used by other wookiees. – Axelrod Jan 22 at 16:04

She trusted him enough to deliver the plans in A New Hope. Which he succeeded in doing by sacrificing himself which allowed Leia and Han to escape with their lives ...I was named after a TV character from MASH...

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Really? It's been a long time since I last watched MASH, but I don't remember a user59793 in the 4077th... – rickster Jan 23 at 4:50
    
Oh, yeah. He was really popular. – Shawn V. Wilson Jan 24 at 0:15

As thegreatjedi notes, his answer is non-canon. Gunnar's answer is missing some key points in my opinion.

Yes, it's true that Leia never met Kenobi and that Han met him for a very short time, and didn't really like him.

However:

  • As, Gunnar pointed out, Leia knew him as great hero of the Clone Wars
  • At the time Han knew him, he was still in smuggle mindset and not committed to the Rebels
  • But after the events of A New Hope, you have a span of years where Leia and Han are both fully committed to the Rebel Alliance, and are working closely with Luke. And we know Luke holds Kenobi in extremely high regard and as a father figure. Then, even later (after Return of the Jedi) Luke founds the new Jedi Academy. So basically the entire success of Rebel Alliance, the downfall of the Empire, and the reason there are Jedi in the galaxy at all can be attributed partly to Kenobi.
  • Also, why would one assume you have to know someone well to name your child after them. People do it all the time. You just have to revere them or their ideals.

So, in light of all this, there's nothing surprising about Han and Leia naming Ben Solo after Kenobi. Perhaps the only question is why they didn't name him Yoda Solo.

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Like I said, Luke's vote counted for more than Han's. – thegreatjedi Jan 22 at 20:04
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The point that I'm making is that there are many years where Han and Leia were working closely with Luke on/with/near the Rebellion and the New Jedi Academy, where they would gain exposure and appreciation to the importance of Kenobi. It's not just 'Luke gets a bigger vote'. – ThePopMachine Jan 22 at 20:51
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How on earth can you say "It's true that Leia never met Kenobi"? Her message to him sparked off the entire original trilogy. I guess you forgot? :) – Wildcard Jan 23 at 1:21
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Kenobi was in exile. Leia didn't need to have met him. "Years ago you served my father (Bail Organa) in the Clone Wars" suggests she heard of Obi-Wan through Bail Organa, but didn't necessarily meet him. Bail Organa's words would be enough for his adopted daughter. – thegreatjedi Jan 23 at 2:22

I'll posit another possible reason.

Leia makes clear in the movie that she was worried about Ben/Kylo going over to the Dark Side - perhaps from the start. It was always a risk with Skywalkers, after all...

Naming him Ben may have been in the hope that it would help keep him on the Light Side. People often name their children after famous people, in part in the hope that some of the virtues of the famous person carry on to their child - perhaps because the child looks up to their namesake, or perhaps for other reasons. Naming him after a famous Jedi Knight who was always true to his word and was a great warrior for the Light Side may have been an attempt to guide their son to follow in his footsteps.

Of course,

it didn't work out very well...

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I'm pretty sure the bit you hid at the end was the least spoilery thing in your whole answer :) – KutuluMike Jan 22 at 20:32
    
@MikeEdenfield Well, yes, but it's more fun that way. – Joe Jan 22 at 20:33
    
"a famous Jedi Knight who was always true to his word" Did we watch the same movie?! This is the same guy who famously told huge lies to Luke about his father. +1 for the good point about namesakes, though. – Null Jan 22 at 20:35
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@Null From a certain point of view... ;) – Joe Jan 22 at 20:36
    
Yeah, yeah. He's a dirty liar who didn't have the guts to tell Luke that he lied at the time until Luke was ready for the truth, which is a perfectly understandable reason. Just my "point of view", though. :) – Null Jan 22 at 20:41

It's not uncommon for people to ask for opinions/suggestions from relatives when naming their children. Ben was obviously a very important person, a mentor and a father figure, to Leia's twin brother Luke. If Luke didn't have children of his own (we'll have to see about Rey), then it could be a way for Leia to honor her bond with her brother.

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