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In the first Star Wars (spoilers incoming), there is a scene where Luke, Ben, and the 'droids come across a bunch of dead Jawas. These were the same Jawas that had found and sold the 'droids, and they'd been killed by the same Stormtroopers who killed Luke's aunt and uncle. But before the main characters leave for Mos Eisley, they make sure to throw the bodies into a pile and light them on fire.

Now this, to me, seems like a potentially incredibly offensive thing to do. Funerary practices are really important to many cultures here on Earth, and I know there are some sects of Christianity that are wholly against cremation. Similarly, think of the Fremen from Dune, to whom cremation would be an unforgivable waste of water. Considering the Jawas are scavengers, I'd have assumed they'd want their bodies, or at least their personal belongings, to be put to good use rather than just burned.

Is there any explanation given for whose idea it was to burn these bodies, and why they thought that was the best thing to do? Is there any indication that Jawas prefer to be set on fire when they die? Is it possible the 'droids were just getting revenge on their former captors by denying them access to their afterlife?

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    We probably can't do much more than guess. One guess is that a sandcrawler is an autonomous Jawa "tribe", so to speak, and no other Jawas would be concerned about the fate of any other sandcrawler. Assuming all the Jawas from this sandcrawler were killed, there's no one who would want their belongings and no one else to do anything with the bodies and no one left who would care what would be done with the bodies. For body disposal, burning is the most practical in that environment. – Todd Wilcox Jul 14 '16 at 18:56
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    They are burned so they won't rise from the grave as Zombawas. – John Sensebe Jul 14 '16 at 19:01
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    Keep in the mind Ben was there, and he was familiar with the traditions of the Sand People as well as the Jawas. He'd probably have learned what to do when Jawas pass. . – CBredlow Jul 14 '16 at 19:52
  • Who? Me. Why? Jawas are gross. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Jul 15 '16 at 4:07
  • If I'm not mistaken, there's only one burial in the movies - Padme's. Qui Gon and Vader are cremated. So are the Jawas. Obi-Wan and Yoda simply disappear. So cremation might just be the norm in TGFFA. – Wad Cheber stands with Monica Jul 15 '16 at 4:17
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"Who decided" - clearly, Obi-Wan Kenobi.

The only sentients involved in the scene were Luke - who went to the farm to find Owen and Beru's bodies and wasn't present when bonfire started, Obi-Wan, R2-D2 and C-3PO.

C-3PO and R2-D2 aren't likely to decide to burn the bodies, being droids owned by Luke, so it must have been Obi-Wan.

Why?

Film canon:

We don't know. Having said that, remember that

  • C-3PO is a protocol droid. While not specified in canon, it's entirely possible he was well aware of Jawa's burial customs as part of his protocol knowledge and thus suggested the idea to Obi-Wan.

  • Obi-Wan lived on Tattooine for many years and was familiar with both Jawa and Sand People. He could have known the rituals himself.

  • Another option is that Obi-Wan was simply following the Jedi burial customs. We see that both Qui-Gon Jin and Anakins Skywalker bodies are burned on a bonfire.

Novelization canon (which is C-canon by Lucas rules but full canon by Disney rules)

Obi-Wan wanted to prevent scavengers from getting to Jawas. Doesn't say so outright but clearly burying them wasn't a feasible option.

Working together, the two ’droids helped Kenobi throw the last of the bodies onto the blazing pyre, then stood back and watched the dead continue to burn. Not that the desert scavengers wouldn’t have been equally efficient in picking the burned-out sandcrawler clean of flesh, but Kenobi retained values most modern men would have deemed archaic. He would consign no one to the bone-gnawers and gravel-maggots, not even a filthy jawa.
("Star Wars IV: A New Hope" novelization by "George Lucas" - in reality, Alan Dean Foster)

Junior novelization doesn't go into any detail.

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  • Plus one for process of elimination. I thought for sure the why was to prevent plague (then again, it is a desert...). Source for Jawa burial customs? – Mazura Jul 15 '16 at 3:06
  • @Mazura - it's a guess. My bet is on C-3PO being the source but canon doesn't say IIRC – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 15 '16 at 3:31
  • Burying a large number of Jawas in sand in a short amount of time would also be quite difficult. – Rogue Jedi Jul 15 '16 at 3:39
  • @RogueJedi - that's what I meant by "not feasible" – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jul 15 '16 at 3:40
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According to the film's junior novelisation, it was Ben Kenobi that built the pyre, with the assistance of the droids. There's no indication what prompted him to do so, though.

Luke drove his landspeeder back to the ruined sandcrawler. In his absence, Ben had prepared a pyre near the sandcrawler, and he returned to find C-3PO and R2-D2 placing the Jawa corpses onto the flames. The droids stopped what they were doing and watched Luke as he stepped away from his landspeeder and went to Ben. Ben saw the torment in Luke’s face and said, “There’s nothing you could have done, Luke, had you been there. You’d have been killed too, and the droids would now be in the hands of the Empire.”

Luke didn’t have time for pity. He said, “I want to come with you to Alderaan. There’s nothing for me here now. I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father.”

Ben nodded. When the last Jawa had been placed on the burning pyre, the two men loaded the droids onto the landspeeder and drove off.

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  • How would R2 place a corpse onto the flames? – Reinstate Monica - Goodbye SE Jul 15 '16 at 9:11
  • @Wikis - I assume he used his grabber arm to drag them to the fire, then used his leg-rockets to hover over the fire before dropping them. – Valorum Jul 15 '16 at 9:17
  • I didn't think his grabber would be strong enough but perhaps it is. His rockets may have worked, or may already have been out of warranty. – Reinstate Monica - Goodbye SE Jul 15 '16 at 9:19
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    @Wikis - His grabber was strong enough to drag Padmé across the landing pad. – Valorum Jul 15 '16 at 9:21

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