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It's been said that Obi-Wan and Yoda masked their light side presence, but as far as anyone was aware, the Jedi had all betrayed the Republic and were fugitives.

Yoda hid on an uncolonized planet but Kenobi was hiding on a reasonably populated planet (even if it's in the Outer Rim territories). Furthermore, he didn't try to hide his identity at all. They knew him as Ben, but it didn't seem to be much of a secret that he was a Jedi.

Even if his presence was masked from Vader/Papaltine, surely someone would have tried to turn in one of the few remaining Jedi.

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    Don't forget he was within driving distance of such a place as Mos Eisley. But, all of this is easily... hand-waved. ;-) – Iszi Mar 7 '12 at 23:42
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    You know, he did stay hidden for 20 years and was only "caught" when he was off-world and wanted to be. In practice, it wasn't that bad of a hiding spot. – Kevin Mar 7 '12 at 23:54
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    I agree with Kevin, who is to say he did a bad job hiding? He wanted Luke to find him earlier but Owen forbid it. The only people who even knew Old Ben was in the desert were the Lars, and only because Obi-Wan wanted them to. Even then, they had no inkling he was a jedi. Really, Obi-Wan did a heck of a job hiding. – Justin C Mar 8 '12 at 0:15
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    It doesn't take much subtlety to hide from someone who can't find their own son, when he's living with his relatives on his home planet and with his own last name. – DJClayworth Mar 8 '12 at 11:11
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    Re: Vader not being able to find his own son - he had no reason to look. As far as he was aware, his only child died with Padme. Why would he look for a child he believed to be dead? – phantom42 Mar 9 '12 at 13:02
24

Sensing the presence of a Force user is not trivial and Obi-Wan is not a powerhouse like Yoda or Vader, so masking his light side presence is not an issue. As an example, Vader didn't "feel" Obi-Wan's presence while he was orbiting Tatooine, but they "feel" each others when the Millennium Falcon landed on the Death Star.

Also, Obi-Wan made care to change his name for "Ben" to stay incognito. He lived aside of everyone, making sure almost nobody (except Luke) notice him.

Finally, the galaxy is a big place to watch over, if a child named Skywalker, one who is strong in the force as Anakin was, could successfully live under the radar of the empire, I guess a old hermit could remain unnoticed.

  • But Luke hadn't done anything to bring attention to himself. As far as anyone was aware he was just another whiny teen. Kenobi, on the other hand, was a general in the Republic's army and had been to Tattooine as a padawan and returned some years later. Someone would have to recognize him and want whatever bounty was probably offered for any Jedi. – phantom42 Mar 8 '12 at 2:15
  • As I said, he lived like an hermit, aside of everyone. For the rest, there is always the mind trick : "I'm not the Jedi you are looking for." – DavRob60 Mar 8 '12 at 12:57
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    Also Tatooine was not endeared to the empire. It was in hutt space and Jabba was the most powerful and influential hutt. As such the empire avoided interferring in hutt affairs as they were not ready to stir up that hornets nest. The emporer did have plans to address the hutts once the rebellian had been squashed. – Chad Mar 8 '12 at 15:02
  • @phantom42: Luke had applied several times to the Imperial Academy. I can't think of anything better designed to bring him to the Empire's attention. – Jeff May 8 '12 at 15:34
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    @Jeff: I'm aware that it's very, very easy. That doesn't mean that anyone bothered to do it. Who had the motive to bother setting an alert for "Skywalker"? Nobody except Vader or the Emperor had any reason to pay attention to that name. If neither of them bothered to personally order that check implemented and directed to their attention - at every major academy or population database, there being no particular reason for them to single out the Imperial Academy - why would anyone else have bothered? – Tynam Feb 7 '13 at 12:53
1

Obi-Wan "hiding in plain sight" on the same world as Luke is not as absurd as it first seemed to me. Obi-Wan was on Tatooine to watch over Luke while Luke grew up. And hiding Luke in plain sight on his father's homeworld is not such a bad idea either, since Anakin/Vader hated everything about Tatooine. (That point was further developed in the "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" TV series, which fills in a lot of gaps.) It probably was the last place Vader would think to look, on a subconscious as well as a conscious level--and he was really the one who had an obsessive interest in either Obi-Wan or his son. In Season 4 of the "Clone Wars" TV series, Obi-Wan used "Ben" as a code name to report to the Jedi Council while undercover as an assassin. Something like that would make a comfortable alias (there's no worse give-away than not recognizing your own name) but not one associated with him by anyone but Jedi.

1

As has been mentioned in other answers on SE, it's likely that both Skywalker and Kenobi are common (or at least unremarkable) names on Tatooine, so hiding away was not an issue per se, except for possible rumors that Ben was a Jedi, as stated in the question. However, keep in mind Uncle Owen's attitude towards Ben (obviously to dissuade Luke from getting involved), that he's a "crazy old man." If Uncle Owen has managed to make his opinion more widespread (something which Ben himself would probably encourage, though for different reasons), then it's not really that obvious. The Galaxy probably contains numerous crazy people called Kenobi, perhaps even multiple ones who seem to think that they're Jedi or have magic powers. Even on Tatooine, that probably won't trip any alarms.

[Speculation: maybe someone did try to turn him in, and the stormtrooper patrolman (who could likely be a local recruit) laughed it off with a "he's just a crazy old hermit" comment (again, assuming that Uncle Owen's attitude was common).]

Now, if it became clear that Ben was associated with a Skywalker who lived at the Lars homestead, and this info ever reached someone who would know what that means, obviously there would be problems. But remember that aside from the Larses, Obi-Wan, and Vader himself (and R2-D2), nobody in the Galaxy knows the significance of a Skywalker living at the Lars homestead in relatively close proximity to a local madman called Kenobi. In fact, a Skywalker at the Lars homestead would seem downright natural, given that Lars the Elder used to be married to the Skywalker woman who was offed by the Tuskens; the connection to a Kenobi would probably be missed, given that Obi-Wan wasn't involved in the events on Tatooine in Ep.2 and stayed on the ship in Ep.1. So the situation wouldn't be suspicious to anyone who hasn't seen the Star Wars movies, and Kenobi is a tolerated local kook. Anyone trying to turn "old Ben Kenobi who thinks he's a Jedi" in as a genuine Jedi probably wouldn't be believed, if anyone even bothered to try.

EDIT: I've edited some of the wording above to reflect the tentative nature of these statements in the absence of a better source than other answers on SE. Keeping it around in case I find more/better sources.

  • "As has been mentioned, both Skywalker and Kenobi are common names on Tatooine," according to whom? The only skywalkers we ever meet within the course of the 6 movies are shmi, anakin, and luke. we only ever meet one kenobi in all of the movies. – phantom42 Oct 1 '15 at 10:59
  • I added links for a reason :) EDIT: see the accepted answers on both questions, and specifically the comments on the Skywalker-related question's accepted answer. I would quote them directly but don't want to take credit for someone else's work. And I'm not sure how to link to a specific comment, so... – Wolfie Inu Oct 1 '15 at 11:05
  • the comments refer to EU material, and does not mention any other skywalkers or kenobis. you're referencing other people's theories, but no evidence. – phantom42 Oct 1 '15 at 12:04
  • Fair enough. Should I edit my answer to reflect this, or just chuck it? – Wolfie Inu Oct 1 '15 at 12:28
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    These "crazy old men" are actually pretty common in real life. If you spend enough time hanging out in urban parks in major cities, you'll eventually bump into someone living on a bench and smelling of cheap whiskey who claims to be a Navy Admiral, a three-time Olympic gold medalist in figure skating, or the Czech ambassador to Denmark. For the most part they are harmless and the police don't care. – Robert Columbia Dec 31 '16 at 1:02
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The best stage trick is mis-direction. Obi-Wan placed himself and Luke in plain sight. This makes it unlikely that they would be found. Why? Because who actually looks in the very last place you can think of?

And I get the impression that Ben was a name that Obi-Wan had used before in his youth. There are times when even as a respected Jedi -- An individual needs to move around without advertising the fact that they represent the Order.

  • 1
    Do you have a source that Obi-Wan used the name Ben some time in his youth? Or is that just speculation? – Null Nov 25 '14 at 19:00

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