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I read long ago, I think it was in Timothy Zahn's Thrawn trilogy, that Yoda was able to hide his presence from Vader and the Emperor because of that Dark Side cave on Dagobah.

I found this reference :

He made his dwelling near the Cave of Evil, which further negated his light side presence
Dagobah entry on Wookiepedia

That always bugged me since. How was Obi-Wan Kenobi able to hide his light side presence on Tatooine without using any subterfuge of this kind?
Or did he?

13 Answers 13

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I can't recall ever seeing a reference to a strong dark side presence on Tatooine. In fact, I doubt there was one, as it would have been a poor environment to raise 'A New Hope' in.

I think it boils down to this: Obi-wan is NOWHERE NEAR as powerful as Yoda. Yoda's power is such that he could be sensed from a considerable distance. Obi-wan didn't ever have anywhere near that level of power.

Secondly, Vader was unlikely to ever come back to Tatooine. It held deep personal pain, and Darth Vader was continually trying to kill the little bit of Anakin left in him (as stated in several novels, including Shadows of the Empire and the ESB novelization). Visiting Tatooine would have worked against that goal.

Obi-wan counted on this and his much weaker Force presence to mask him from Vader.

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    Not powerful? I mean, he beat Darth Maul, he beat Grievous, and he even beet Vader! – DavRob60 Mar 10 '11 at 18:34
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    @DavRob60 - I think he meant powerful presence in the Force. Yoda seemed to be one of the proponents (on the Jedi side) of the idea of NOT using the full power of your connection to the Force (For further development of that idea, see Zahn's books - from initial mara Jade/Luke books, and especially his "Vision of the Future"; as well as some of New Jedi Order ones. So, purely theoretically, Yoda COULD have easily been a more powerful fighter than Obi-Wan, but chose not to. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 10 '11 at 18:43
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    @DavRob60 - Obi-wan's strength in combat is not in question. His victory over Grievous follows directly from his victory over Maul - the battle with Maul lead him to perfect his mastery of a heavily defensive combat style, one which he worked until he could put up a virtually unassailable defense and wait for his opponent to make a mistake. His skill with a 'saber positively dwarfs his power as a force user, wherein his skills were not bad, but not exceptional. He was widely regarded as wise and skilled, not for being a powerhouse. – Jeff Mar 10 '11 at 19:42
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    so basically Obi-Wan Kenobi is the Jedi version of Rocky Balboa? – tonylo Mar 12 '11 at 5:29
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    Could Anakin massacring the sand people village in 'Attack of the Clones' have created a dark side presence? If so, Obi-wan's hut in 'A New Hope' could be located near the site. – Nate Sep 26 '11 at 16:34
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Another possibility is that the distance to Dagobah was a lot less than to Tatooine (either from Coruscant, or from the general set of travels undertaken by the Emperor).

I couldn't yet find the maps to corroborate it, but Tatooine was in the Galactic Rim, and was described as being a really remote hellhole (see Luke's famous: "Well, if there's a bright center to the universe, you're on the planet that's farthest from").

This factor could work in conjunction with Jeff's idea above.

As a side note, since Vader didn't seem to detect the presence of Luke or Obi-Wan on the Death Star until after he was already there, it's unlikely he'd have detected Obi-Wan's presence on Tatooine remotely. And his precognitive abilities seem rather pathetic compared to Yoda's or the Emperor's from all available evidence. So the only one whose detection Obi-Wan had to evade would be the Emperor.

  • here's a Map: if you check the planet entry, you will get the coordinate. – DavRob60 Mar 10 '11 at 20:58
  • If you click on the image, you will see Dagobah in M-19 and Tatoine in R-16. Coruscent is at 9-10/K-L intersection. The distance difference seem not significant. – DavRob60 Mar 10 '11 at 21:28
  • @DavRob60 - "...general set of travels undertaken by the Emperor". We don't really know that. I don't think he was on Coruscant 100% of time. Also, as any Force field, actual spatial distances would not necessarily be accurate, with things in between (black holes etc...) providing interference - Tatooine was for example next to Kessel Run, – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 10 '11 at 21:39
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One might ask how none of the Jedi at Qui-Gon's funeral noticed that there was a Dark Lord of the Sith standing right behind them. Darth Vader and Obi-Wan only noticed each other when on the same station (although it was an awfully big one), and they had a very strong personal connection.

It's apparently hard to pick up another force-user without knowing he or she is there. Yoda is presented as something extraordinary, so perhaps he needed to hide better.

  • Because you don't particularly sense the presence of a force user, unless they're using the force at that moment... – dkuntz2 Mar 13 '11 at 20:38
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    I wonder if the presence of all the other Jedi is what masked the Dark Side presence? It might be hard to see a "dark spot" with all the other Force users around. – Zan Lynx Oct 17 '11 at 0:42
  • @ZanLynx I can just see the Jedi giving each other dirty looks when the Sidious was around... "You just let out a dark thought, didn't you?" "No man, you felt it, you dealt it!" – user11521 Dec 19 '15 at 23:08
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"Mos Eisley Spaceport. You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy." -Ben K.

Mos Eisley had a strong contingent of Dark Force elements (epitomized by Jaba the Hut). This was a perfect counterbalance for Obi-Wan's Force footprint -- the strength of the Dark Force there, though significant, was dispersed amongst a wide number of relatively weak characters who would not pose a serious threat to Ben or Luke's long-term presence.

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    @Snake - could you elaborate in your answer? While the movie quote is nice, could you further elaborate on how this answers the question, or at least delete your answer if you don't want to elaborate . – Mark Rogers Mar 10 '11 at 22:02
  • @Mark sure: Mos Eisley had a strong contingent of Dark Force elements (epitomized by Jaba the Hut). This was a perfect counterbalance for Obi-Wan's Force footprint -- the strength of the Dark Force there, though significant, was dispersed amongst a wide number of relatively weak characters who would not pose a serious threat to Ben or Luke's long-term presence. – Faust Mar 10 '11 at 22:34
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    While I agree that Mos Eisley was a bad place to be, it could hardly be compared to the Cave on Dagobah. There were genuinely decent people who lived there, and not a single Jedi (light or dark) had spent a significant amount of time present. While it may have had a 'bad vibe', force-wise, it was not about to spit out any full-sensory illusionary prophetic attackers at young jedi. – Jeff Mar 10 '11 at 22:40
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    @Snake - I edited your answer to include the information from the comment, hopefully that will slow your influx of downvotes. – Mark Rogers Mar 10 '11 at 22:44
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    There's a difference between "bad" and "Dark side of the Force". You can't use the former as a substitute for latter. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 11 '11 at 15:39
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In the book Allegiance, Luke actually mentions training near a Dark Side location, similar to the Dagobah cave, on Tatooine near Obi-Wan's house, and he makes occasional references to it during the Fate of the Jedi series.

  • Could you please add a bit more detail? Seems like a potentially great answer if they were added. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Jan 6 '12 at 17:21
  • I've been unable to find the detail requested due to no longer having access to these books. But will update again as soon as I regain access to specific this detail. – chcuk Apr 2 '12 at 21:57
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Obviously, some Force users can dampen or nullify their Force signatures ( e.i. Sidious and Maul, possibly Obi-Wan). I think some Jedi who have extremely high midichlorian counts (i.e. Yoda, Vader, Luke) need to have additional Force-negators in order to hide their presences. Hence Yoda on Dagobah.

Also, it would seem that Force signature are a lot like energy radiation. If you look at the night sky while you're in the city, you're not going to see as many stars as you would outside said city (or world, if you prefer). That probably helped Sidious mask his presence.

Same with Yoda, letting his presence be shadowed by the cave.

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Actually, if you you ever played Knights of the Old Republic (KOTOR) where Revan is answering the Computer on Dantooine to unlock the Star map, it asks what are the life giving worlds. ie Forests, Plains etc. The other terminal, asks the death giving worlds, Swamps, Deserts etc. I think Obi-Wan was able to mask his presence because anywhere where death and/or desolation is prevalent, the dark side is strong. Hence Yoda hid on a swamp planet and Obi-Wan hid on a desert planet.

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    Personally I think the Swamp thing is kind of silly. What is more full of life than a Swamp? It's got a lot of life, just that most of it is repellent to humans. – Zan Lynx Oct 17 '11 at 0:43
  • If you've played KOTOR, you know there is a Star Map on tatooine. Star maps are related to the star forge, a pretty damn strong dark side construct. That's all you'd need for a dark side site. – acolyte Jul 18 '13 at 15:22
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Check this out:

I've always thought about this since the original trilogy (a lot), and here's my take. Obi-Wan is a master of stealth and invisibility, much like a ninja. Watch him closely in all 4 movies he's in. He's sneaking around the Death Star to disable the tractor beam in New Hope. In the new movies, he's also doing a lot of spying and avoiding detection, although he does manage to get captured (younger / less-honed skills). You can also couple this with his Jedi mind tricks; he's hidden in plain sight! "This isn't the Obi-Wan you're looking for!" Seriously, watch all of the movies, and tell me you don't pick up on this!

I believe he knew he had to blend in until Luke was of age. Tatooine? This had to be the last place Vader would want to go. Anakin saw his mother die after she was brutally beaten and raped by Sand People, and he also began his path to the dark side with murder, including women and children. It's safe to say that any of the Anakin left in Vader would never want to see that place again.

EDIT: yeah, counting his spirit, he was in all of the movies, not 4, inb4, etc. etc. ;)

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As explained in Wookieepedia a Jedi or Sith can use the force to mask their presence from another force-sensitive being... In other words, He used the force to make himself hidden.

  • This is certainly possible, but is there any actual quote or evidence that this was the case? Even an example of Obi-Wan using such an ability as not all Jedi know how to do everything as well as others. – phantom42 Jul 18 '13 at 10:22
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Distance? Seems that detection decreases with distance, and if nobody (that could sense him) went there... Perhaps he just wasn't as cautious about hiding like Yoda was.

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Well of one the biggest reasons is that in theory the Empire had no presence in Tatooine since it was controlled by the Hutts. If everyone recalls in Episode I, it is clearly stated by Shmi Skywalker that the Galactic Republic has no presence in the Outer Rim territories therefore it would only seem logical that the Empire wouldn't either.

  • However, the Empire does has stormtroopers stationed in Mos Eisley or at least chasing after R2D2 and C3PO in A New Hope, so it is not quite as logical as you would think. They clearly have the means to project power onto Tatooine. – ardent Jul 18 '13 at 22:17
  • yes but they would gain no profit in doing. going back to the original question, if anyone read any of the expanded universe books, you can recall that Obi Wan wasn't always on the planet, he briefly left to help a defected jedi. – Zig Zag Jul 27 '13 at 23:46
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Obi-Wan chose a planet that was Hutt Controlled and also a haven for a good portion of scum and villainy. One would not assume that a respected and powerful Jedi Master would willingly live there.

But hiding where you least expect to be found is how you stay in the game (alive) longer.

Yoda chose a planet that lacked any technology but still realized that his connection the Force was such that being next to the Cave of Evil would mute his Force Footprint.

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I believe I read in one noval that Ben Kenobi brought yasalmiri to tatooine and established a training area inside a wrecked starship. This would have negated the effects of the force.

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    Hi there! Which novel would that be? Could you edit it in? – Jenayah Jan 20 at 13:46

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