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In the long interim between Return of the Jedi and Attack of the Clones, I saw a lot of claims that Luke's uncle Owen was actual Ben Kenobi's brother.

I figured from the first time I hear this that the idea arose from somebody misinterpreting an ambiguous pronoun reference (as in: it was written down somewhere—amidst mentions of Obi-Wan and Anakin—that Owen was "his" brother, and somebody inferred the wrong referent). It seemed obviously incorrect to me, given Obi-Wan's attitude toward Owen Lars, but some other Star Wars fans I talked to insisted on it—at least up until the issue was conclusively cleared up in Episode II.

But where exactly did this misapprehension get started? Specifically, is there an identifiable source (such as the novelization of one of the original films) that was misinterpreted? And where did the erroneous claim first appear in extended universe materials?

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    According to the wiki, Obi-Wan says that Owen was his brother in the original novelization of Return of the Jedi. Elsewhere this is said to have come from an early draft of the screenplay.
    – Cadence
    Dec 17, 2021 at 5:22
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    "In the long interim between Return of the Jedi and Attack of the Clones"....Yes, many of us really, really wish that The Phantom Menace hadn't happened.
    – Spencer
    Dec 17, 2021 at 19:31

2 Answers 2

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It was canon (for a while), not a mistake

In the 1983 ROTJ novellization, Obi-Wan tells Luke — after Yoda's death, when he's telling him about how Anakin is more machine now than man — that he took Leia to live on Alderaan and Luke to Tatooine:

"to live with my brother, Owen."

Based on this expanded universe information not being contradicted, as was LFL’s canon policy for many years, this information was then propagated throughout all of the official reference books that were published. For example, this also appeared in Star Wars: Essential Guide to Characters based on the expanded information from the novelization.

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    I think I read the radio adaption said they were brothers too. Not finding it with a quick search. Or maybe he was literally Anakin's brother as the father twist was not written yet. Dec 17, 2021 at 6:47
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    @lucasbachmann - It's not mentioned in the Radio Adaptation.
    – Valorum
    Dec 17, 2021 at 8:43
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    I imagine Obi-Wan was deliberately lying to Luke, because he didn't want to raise questions that would lead to Luke discovering the real family relationship.
    – Barmar
    Dec 17, 2021 at 16:07
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    The non-contradictory excuse can be novel Ben intended to describe Owen as being related by common tie or interest rather than being a blood relative.🤷 Dec 17, 2021 at 18:08
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    It appeared in Legends as late as 1999 in Jedi Apprentice: The Hidden Past, when young Obi-Wan had a vision or memory of having a brother named Owen. It was later retconned to be some kind of Force vision of Owen Lars: starwars.fandom.com/wiki/Owen_(Kenobi)
    – Milo P
    Dec 17, 2021 at 19:06
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This was introduced at least as early as the second draft of the script for Return of the Jedi. According to Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays (1997) (emphasis added):

It was decided during story meetings that Uncle Owen was in fact Ben's brother. Owen always resented Ben for imposing Luke on them, and now Ben is taking the blame for what is happening and is feeling guilty.

[...]

In the second draft [...] Ben reveals to Luke that he has a twin sister and that they were separated; Luke was sent to stay with Ben's brother, Owen, on Tatooine, while his sister and mother were sent to the protection of friends in a distant system. The mother died shortly thereafter, and Luke's sister was adopted by Ben's friends, the governor of Alderaan and his wife.

(Star Wars: The Annotated Screenplays, p 269-270)

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