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While reading this question, it came to me that Obi-Wan waited far too long to tell Luke to go find Yoda. Obi-Wan Kenobi could have appeared to Luke minutes after Luke blasted the first Death Star to pieces. He could have told him right then and there that another Jedi Master still lived and could train him.

BEN: You must go to the Dagobah System ... There you will learn from one who taught me: Yoda, the Jedi Master.

Instead he waited 3 years. Luke could have been killed during those 3 years by some wampa beast, frozen during an ice storm on Hoth, shot by Boba Fett, or hunted down by Darth Vader. Very risky to wait because Vader would known the best time to hunt down Luke was before Luke completed another day of training!

Waiting also meant a 3 year gap in his training.

Luke was safe right after he destroyed the Death Star. You'd think a wise old Jedi would have told him to seek out Yoda immediately. You'd also think Obi-Wan would have known Darth Vader survived the Battle of Yavin and would have immediately landed his TIE fighter on the moon and tracked down on rebel base to find whomever destroyed the technological terror.

Why did Obi-Wan wait 3 years to tell Luke?

(I am looking for an in-universe explanation. Not an out-of-universe explanation.)

Edit: This is not identical to the question I linked to. That question is more about why Obi-Wan chose to contact Luke during a snowstorm on Hoth right after Luke stumbled out of the wampa cave. This is about why wait 3 years at all. Nothing in the answers to that question address the 3 year time wait.

The answers there all don't make sense when compared to the simple fact that Kenobi successfully contacted Luke during the first movie. Here are the answers from that question and why they don't hold up.

  1. Obi-Wan needed time to learn to be a Force-Ghost to contact Luke. We know he could speak to Luke during the Battle of Yavin, so he should have been able to contact Luke immediately.
  2. Luke was vulnerable and therefore more receptive. Luke was certainly receptive to hearing Kenobi's advice during the Battle of Yavin.
  3. Luke was collapsing from extreme cold and therefore willing to listen to a ghost. Same answer to this one as #2.
  4. Luke needed to learn how to use the Force first or to meditate to receive the message. We know that's not true, because Luke heard Kenobi's message during the Battle of Yavin and he wasn't meditating or using the Force during the battle when Kenobi spoke to him.
  5. The planet Hoth was a Force nexus. Was the planet Yavin also some Force nexus that allowed Kenobi to speak to Luke then?
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    I think the answer can be found in the question you linked. I'd say it's a dupe. Not sure enough to VTC though. – Kalissar May 16 '16 at 8:07
  • Sorry, but this is a dupe of the linked question. DVKs answer (and mine) offer a wide range of reasons why Obi-Wan chose to appear then, notably that this is the first time that Luke has meditated and the first time that he's consciously accessed the Force – Valorum May 16 '16 at 8:39
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    @Richard The answer that "this is the first time that Luke has meditated and the first time that he's consciously accessed the Force" doesn't make sense. Luke wasn't meditating when Obi-Wan spoke to him during the assault on the first Death Star. If Obi-Wan can speak to Luke during the heat of the battle, Obi-Wan can certainly speak to Luke 10 minutes later after he's blasted away the Death Star. – RichS May 16 '16 at 16:36
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    Actually, Luke was using the Force during the battle of Yavin. He shut down the targeting computer and used the Force to aim his torpedoes, just as Kenobi advised him to do. Having said that, Kenobi could have taken the time immediately after the Death Star's destruction to send Skywalker to Dagobah. But he didn't, which meant Skywalker stuck with the Rebellion for a while longer. If there's an answer for why he didn't, I'd like to hear it. – Ellesedil May 16 '16 at 16:55
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    In mythology timelines aren't super important, and supernatural beings are generally in less of a rush than normal human beings. Moses was about 40 when God got in touch via the burning bush and told him to free the Isrealites. I mean surely YHWH would have wanted them freed earlier, right? Well, there is a time for every purpose under heaven as they say, or a time for every purpose of the force. – zipquincy May 16 '16 at 17:34
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A few minutes prior to Ben's arrival, Luke focused his Force powers to the point that he was able to move his Lightsaber. This, apparently, is the first time he's meditated, something (that we learn from Yoda in RotS) is key to communing with Force Spirits:

You look back at the lightsaber. Then you think of Old Ben. Obi-Wan Kenobi. The man who gave you the lightsaber. The man who turned your father into one of the greatest Jedi Knights of all time. The man who began to train you—before he was killed by Darth Vader. Darth Vader, the Emperor’s right hand. Darth Vader, who killed your father. You stop your mind from wandering. You focus on the lightsaber. You know what Old Ben would tell you to do. Close your eyes. Count to ten, letting the thoughts clear from your mind. Breathe in and out. In and out. Until your mind is as empty and bright as a snowfield on a clear morning. Until you can feel everything around you. As if everything in the room has a physical shape on the field of your mind. You feel the great, hot wampa. You feel the smooth, sticky bones of the tauntaun. Then closer. The mound of snow. The lightsaber.

When he moves out into the snow his delirium (coupled with his extreme state of relaxation) seems to have made him more receptive to a visit from Kenobi:

You decide just to go back to sleep. The cold is so gentle, and your heartbeat seems, now, so superfluous. “Luke…” The voice sounds like Old Ben’s. But that’s not possible. Old Ben is dead. Unless you’re dead, too… And then you realize that you are dying. Wake up! you shout at yourself. But your eyes won’t open. You cannot raise your head. You are going to die. The voice is speaking. “Luke…Go to the Dagobah system.” It sounds like Ben. “Find my old teacher, Master Yoda…”

Quotes from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back - So You Want to be a Jedi?


Taking the official Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back novelisation as a source of info, we can also see that Ben was urging Luke to survive, preventing him from sleeping (which would have likely resulted in his death) and having him make sounds that drew Han closer

The apparition spoke with the same gentle authority Ben had always used with the young man. “You must survive, Luke.”
The young commander found the strength to move his lips again. “I’m cold … so cold …”
“You must go to the Dagobah system,” the spectral figure of Ben Kenobi instructed. “You will learn from Yoda, the Jedi Master, the one who taught me.”
Luke listened, then reached to touch the ghostly figure. “Ben … Ben …” he groaned.
The figure remained unmoved by Luke’s efforts to reach it. “Luke,” it spoke again, “you’re our only hope.”

  • If Hoth is the first time Luke "meditated", then what did he do at Yavin when he shut off the targeting computer and destroyed the Death Star? – Ellesedil May 16 '16 at 19:48
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    @Ellesedil - He used the Force. Note that that there's no special indication his mental state was anything near meditative at that point. – Valorum May 16 '16 at 19:50
  • Ok, I can accept the point on meditation. My issue here is that Obi-Wan was clearly communicating to Luke in his X-Wing. And on the Death Star immediately after Vader cut Kenobi down (Kenobi clearly tells Luke to run). So, Kenobi's ghost is definitely advising Luke in ANH and Luke appears to be receptive to that advice. What is the difference to Kenobi's guidance in ANH and his appearance on Hoth in ESP, and why couldn't Kenobi suggest to Luke he go to Yoda as an additional bit of guidance? – Ellesedil May 16 '16 at 19:55
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    @Ellesedil - The novel and the script strongly suggest that Luke isn't entirely sure that Ben is offering real advice or whether he's simply imagining things. When he turns off the targeting computer, it's a big move for him, basically trusting his own Jedi instincts. – Valorum May 16 '16 at 20:13
  • I think that's actually a critical point for this specific question. In fact, if you added it to your answer on that other question to make it more complete (if the source materials are clear enough), this question would once again be a duplicate IMO. – Ellesedil May 16 '16 at 20:19
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There is no good answer.

As you've indicated, based on the things we've been shown about The Force, there's no good reason that Obi-Wan couldn't have contacted Luke.

We can speculate that Obi-Wan was waiting for something to happen in/with/to Luke before sending him off to Yoda. We could speculate that Obi-Wan wanted to minimize the chance of Yoda's hideout being discovered by waiting until it was truly necessary. But without exposition, it's just speculation.

The only possibility would be if hearing Force ghosts is more like riding a bicycle than... something that's different. With some learning processes, it's entirely reasonable to succeed once, and then have a gap of failures before you succeed again. Then those gaps become smaller and smaller as you become more proficient. It's possible that Luke was able to hear Obi-Wan once, and then failed for some time before he finally got it right again on Hoth.

...but that's also just speculation.

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    I think you got it right with the first sentence. There is no good answer. This seems like a plot hole. Especially since Force-ghost Kenobi would know Vader survived the Death Star and was in the area and would come after Luke immediately. Kenobi would surely want to warn Luke to get away. As you implied, anything beyond saying "there is no good answer" is speculation. If Kenobi wanted to minimize the chance of Yoda being discovered, that's fine. He could have waited a few days until Luke was far away from Vader. But waiting 3 years? That's excessive! – RichS May 17 '16 at 6:49
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I always just assumed Luke was too busy having adventures and seeking excitement. Yoda says it best, 'Adventure! Hah! Excitement! Hah! A Jedi seeks not these things...never his mind on where he was, what he was doing.' Is it possible Obi-Wan was constantly attempting to communicate with Luke but couldn't get through Luke's own internal monologue? That is, until Luke was near death, possibly contemplating on his past, how he arrived at that moment. Then he was truly in the moment, in the present, and the force opened up to him. That's my take.

  • Welcome to SFF. Please take our tour, we are looking for answers that are backed up in canon where possible. – Skooba Jan 24 '17 at 14:57
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First, Yoda was reluctant to teach any new Jedi (as we saw when Luke arrived on Dagobah), so this may explain Obi-Wan's delay in contacting Luke. Second, Obi-Wan appears to Luke when the latter is about to freeze to death on Hoth. Obi-Wan had to act fast, and transmit a message to Luke that would 'hopefully' grant him the willpower to overcome the bitter cold. It's possible that Luke "used the Force" to survive the snowstorm after hearing Obi-Wan's message.

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