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It's pretty clear why Yoda was hiding out on Dagobah before ESB - he was saving himself from the Sith so he could tutor Luke.

Then Luke up and goes to confront Vader - totally unprepared - to save Han and Leia on Cloud City.

If Luke dies, or is captured, or falls to the Dark Side, Yoda basically lost 100% (Leia is already under Vader's control, so no more Skywalker Midichlorians). And Yoda seemed pretty sure Luke wasn't ready to face Vader, and had no Force-future-reading to know things would turn out OK.

So, why didn't he go and help Luke to get his friends back? He couldn't face the Emperor, but he could surely face Annie-boy.

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I see two explanations that would make sense:

  1. Yoda was too weak, physically, to be of any use. He was older, and living on Dagobah had surely taken its toll on his physical strength. His connection with the Force might have been stronger than it was during the Clone Wars, but his body certainly could have only gotten weaker. There is no guarantee he would have been of any use in a fight with blasters and light sabers, and possibly could have even been a hindrance.

  2. Yoda would have made the probability of their escape even less likely. Yoda was in hiding on Dagobah, masked by the planet's strong Dark Side aura. We can assume not even the Emperor was aware of Luke's training with him. Vader and Palpatine assumed Luke had been training on his own after Obi-Wan's death, and likely thought that without a teacher, he could easily be turned to the Dark Side. Remember: Vader LET Luke and friends escape Bespin. Had he wanted them dead from the beginning, they would be dead. Had Yoda confronted Vader with Luke, Vader's plan probably would have quickly shifted from trying to turn Luke to wanting to kill them both as fast as possible.

It's also not impossible that a part of Yoda wanted Leia to be rescued, should Luke eventually fall to the Dark Side.

Keeping that in mind, let's look at the possible outcomes:

Yoda and Luke stay: Luke is the last hope, will be more easily turned because of grief and anger that his friends were killed/captured.

Yoda and Luke go: Both are probably killed by Vader. Leia captured. Hope is lost.

Yoda stays, Luke goes: Luke confronts Vader. Leia given a chance to escape. Vader might not kill his son. Yoda chills in swamp hut with his new flashlight toy.

Yoda is gambling on what from his perspective seems to be the only way to both keep Luke far away from the Dark Side and keep his own presence hidden. He surely remembers what happened the last time a Skywalker lost somebody they thought they could save, and as macabre as it sounds, he probably thinks Luke is better off dead than giving the Emperor Darth Vader 2.0.

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    +1 for “Yoda chills in swamp hut with his new flashlight toy”. :-D – Janus Bahs Jacquet Sep 11 '15 at 23:52
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    Vader did NOT let Luke and friends escape Bespin! They only escaped because R2 fixed the hyperdrive. PIETT: They'll be in range of our tractor beam in moments, my lord. VADER: Did your men deactivate the hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon? PIETT: Yes, my lord. VADER: Good. Prepare the boarding party and set your weapons for stun. – Ras Morthil Sep 12 '15 at 19:43
  • Excellent comment! Yoda was near dying-less than what, a year away? Makes perfect sense. – King of NES Sep 22 '16 at 12:47
  • @RSmith I disagree that if Luke stays he would have been more susceptible to the dark side "because of grief and anger that his friends were killed/captured." If he had stayed, it would be because he accepted Yoda's advice that Anakin couldn't, to let go of the things he cared about, and accept their potential loss, without getting emotionally invested – childcat15 Dec 9 '17 at 5:50
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So, why didn't he go and help Luke to get his friends back? He couldn't face the Emperor, but he could surely face Annie-boy.

Well, the lack of a ship to leave Dagobah probably didn't help him do too much on his own volition.

Which limits his option to stopping Luke from leaving (or coming along). It's probably not a good sign for a Jedi to coerce or steal a ship from someone. Him controlling Luke and forcing Luke to remain is likely not a good sign for a Jedi (it might be for a Sith). X-Wings are pretty small though and stuffing Yoda into one for a long trip with Luke probably wasn't a viable option.

The real question is more, why did Yoda provide Luke the means to leave himself by retrieving his ship for him.

  • Also as luke is not THAT weak minded (jedi in training) it is questionable if he could have controlled him at all – Thomas Sep 12 '15 at 0:20

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