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As far as I understand it, Obi-Wan Kenobi's motivation for engaging Darth Vader in combat and

allowing himself to be slain

was to buy time for Luke et al to escape from the Death Star. After the battle, he urges Luke, "Run, Luke, run," indicating that he is concerned about whether or not Luke will successfully get away.

But as the subsequent exchange between Vader and Tarkin reveals,

Vader allowed the heroes to escape so that the Falcon would lead them to the Rebel base.

which seems to mean that they would have escaped regardless of whether or not Obi-Wan "distracted" Vader.

While it's true that after the duel, Obi-Wan was able to assist Luke in his future development as a Jedi (as discussed in this answer), that seems to be making the best of a bad situation, rather than being the best possible way that Obi-Wan could have mentored Luke.

So my question is: Was Obi-Wan's loss to Vader a necessary tactical decision, or merely a circumstance of fate?

  • Actually, he already planned to die to become more powerful. Instead of private suicide, he wanted to show off to his old friend. – Lobo May 1 '14 at 18:53
  • @SachinShekhar, do you have a source for this? Or is this implied from Obi-Wan saying "I'm getting too old for this sort of thing"? – sigil May 1 '14 at 18:59
  • I think Sachin is pulling your leg. – Zibbobz May 1 '14 at 19:35
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    Given Obi-Wan's batting average in the prequels, I'd vote against it being a clever tactical move. – Oldcat May 1 '14 at 19:38
29

Since this is about Luke and Obi-wan's motivation, this answer is going to mostly be speculative.

We have to assume here that Obi-Wan was not going to win, or that doing so would've taken a very long time, and risked Luke's life.

And we have to take note that Luke was willing to stay behind to help Obi-Wan, even though escape was paramount.

So we can assume that if Obi-Wan hadn't died then and there, that Luke would've stayed behind, been captured, and taken in by either Vader or the Emperor, then corrupted to the dark side of the force (or just executed on the spot).

  • I was hoping to avoid speculation with a reference to some canon that clarifies whether or not the Falcon's escape was guaranteed. The conversation between Tarkin and Vader seems to indicate that Luke and the gang would have been allowed to escape no matter what. Good point about Luke being willing to stay behind, though--he stays out there getting shot at until Obi-Wan tells him to flee. – sigil May 1 '14 at 19:08
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    @sigil That's the point though, isn't it? The Falcon has to escape, but Luke doesn't. – Zibbobz May 1 '14 at 19:11
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    that's right. Leia's mission to deliver the plans doesn't require Luke's survival. I'll go with this. – sigil May 1 '14 at 19:19
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    @sigil Another point is that just because Vader is okay with letting the Falcon escape doesn't mean he's okay with Kenobi leaving alive. Kenobi getting on the Falcon could have endangered the mission. – jliv902 May 1 '14 at 21:42
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    Luke would have tried to save him, so he let himself be killed. – Preston Jun 7 '14 at 6:31
13

It was inevitable, at the moment he met Vader

Obi-wan was not going win that lightsaber duel.

Vader: When I left you, I but the learner; now I am the master.

Obi-wan: Only a master of evil, Darth.

Vader: Your powers are weak old man.

Obi-wan: You can't win. If you strike me down, I shall be more powerful than you can possibly imagine.

Vader was the Chosen One, trained by a Sith Lord. He was incredibly powerful. Obi-wan doesn't disagree with Vader; he just knows that he doesn't have to win the battle to win the war.


It was inevitable, at the moment they arrived at the Death Star

Vader: I sense something...a presence I haven't felt since...

...

Vader: Obi-Wan is here. The Force is with him.

Tarkin: If you're right, he must not be allowed to escape.

Vader: Escape is not his plan. I must face him alone.

Obi-wan separated himself from the others because he knew what would happen.


It was tactically necessary, at the moment he saw the Millennium Falcon

If Obi-wan retreated to the ship with the most powerful Dark Jedi in the galaxy in tow, it would have all but doomed the mission.

If Obi-wan stayed and resisted as long as possible, it would have meant Luke's death. Only once Obi-wan died, did Luke retreat to the ship.

Yoda: Only a fully trained Jedi knight with the Force as his ally will conquer Vadar and his emperor.

Without Luke (or Leia...), there would be no hope of winning against the Empire. Obi-wan had dedicated his life to watching, safeguarding, and training Luke; he wasn't about to renege.


Trap, or not

Even if Obi-wan somehow knew of the trap for the Rebels, it wouldn't have changed anything. The Jedi were the only real threat to Vader and the Emperor. If Obi-wan escaped on the Falcon, Vadar may have decided to remove the larger threat, and save the Rebel base for later.


It was best

As good a training record as Obi-wan had (or not), Yoda was going to be the better teacher. Whether Obi-wan was alive or not, Luke would have traveled to Dagobah and be taught by Yoda.

But as a "powerful" omnipresent Force ghost, Obi-wan could guide him wherever he was.

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    Obi Wan was a fool. I would have carried for years a nuclear thermo detonator set for 1 second. If ever met Vader, he dies whatever the outcome of the saber dual. – Joshua Nov 23 '15 at 2:15
  • I think your last line is the most important. Obi-wan became a presence that could guide Luke where ever he was. He fought with Vader, holding his own as far as we could tell, until he saw Luke out of the corner of his eye. Then he stops fighting and, as it appears, he begins to concentrate on "disappearing" and becomes a force ghost; even telling Luke to run seconds after his "death." Before Vader's blade hits his body disappears and Vader is even confused stepping on his robes wondering where the body went... – Odin1806 Mar 17 at 20:53
1

(Yes, it's a year past, but since someone else resurrected the question...)

(And yes, it's exactly the same as my answer elsewhere)

Alec Guinness openly despised the role of Obi-Wan, referring to it as "fairy-tale rubbish" with "banal mumbo-jumbo dialogue, none of which makes the character even bearable". Sir Alec convinced Lucas to kill off the character, ostensibly to make him (Obi-Wan) stronger, but really so he (Sir Alec) could wrap up his part and get off the set, preferably permanently. It's not like he needed the money.

Lucas, being a moderately competent scriptwriter (keep him far, far away from any romantic plotline), decided to put Obi-Wan's death where it is. Falling off one of the non-OHSA-approved walkways that seem to be absolutely everywhere would have been rather anticlimactic, but a swordfight against the Dark Lord? Oh yeah.

And for the whiners who say this is an out-of-universe answer: Reality wrote the plot here. If Sir Alec was a Trekkie his character would not have been offed 2/3 through the film, and the rest of the story would have turned out rather differently. Maybe in that universe there is no Yoda, as the green guy basically takes over OW's role.

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    Without the colour commentary, this isn't a half-bad 'out of universe' answer. Unfortunately, you ruined it by trying to make a bunch of unrelated points. – Valorum Apr 12 '15 at 1:19
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    Nope. Just a myth. He didn't like the dialog and was not crazy about his experience, but Obi-Wan's death was NOT Guiness' idea. – phantom42 Apr 12 '15 at 1:35
  • @phantom42 I think direct quotations and Wikipedia are slightly more reliable sources than comicbookresources.com. – paul Apr 12 '15 at 8:33
  • Wikipedia which can be edited by anyone is more reliable than the movie commentary and actual movie drafts which have been published? Ok then. You go on believing that. – phantom42 Apr 12 '15 at 12:45
0

What about the idea that Obi-wan knew/hoped that one day Luke would confront Vader, and that something good, some sort of "resolution," for both son and father, might come out of that meeting? Obviously, that couldn't happen if Vader were dead, i.e., killed by Obi-wan (because, for some reason, apparently only the good guys can come back after death and talk to the living). So, again for "some reason," Obi-wan [seems to have] said, "I don't need to beat this guy Vader after all -- besides, it's not my battle to win; it's not supposed to end this way."

I think Obi-wan chose to die precisely when Luke was watching -- to make the points that 1) you don't have to succumb to "fate" or "the dark side;" you always have some kind of self-determination, and 2) we never really die; we live on (as Obi-wan momentarily demonstrates by talking to Luke from "the beyond"), in a better, and perhaps, as Obi-wan has threatened Vader, an even stronger way, i.e., "Luke, do not fear death -- just follow the Force." That actually turns out to be pretty good advice later on, when Obi-wan urges Luke to "use the Force" when trying to knock out the force-field protecting the Death Star.

Anyhow, fun conversation. :-)

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