At the beginning of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, Obi-Wan Kenobi met with Luke Skywalker after R2D2 went searching for the old Jedi Master to deliver an important message from Princess Leia. Although this wasn’t the first time that Obi-Wan and Luke had met, it was seemingly the first time that they discussed Kenobi’s past as a Jedi Knight.
During the conversation, Obi-Wan tells Luke that Darth Vader, an old pupil of his, had betrayed and murdered Anakin Skywalker, Luke’s father. However, as we now know, this was a lie as Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader were the same person.
There are a number of reasons why Obi-Wan lied to Luke about this, both from a canonical and storytelling point of view. Here is everything you need to know.
Why Did Obi-Wan Lie To Luke About His Father?
While there are speculative reasons for Obi-Wan lying to Luke about his father, which we will get on to surely, a concrete explanation is given in Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. When Luke visits Yoda on Dagobah to complete his Jedi training, he asked the old Jedi Master to confirm whether or not Vader is his father.
Before passing away, Yoda told Luke the truth which angered the young Jedi because he had been lied to by Obi-Wan. Shortly after, the Force Ghost of Kenobi appears and explained to Luke that what he said about Darth Vader murdering Anakin Skywalker was true, from a certain point of view.
Obi-Wan argued that the minute Anakin turned to the Dark Side and became Darth Vader, Anakin Skywalker ceased to exist and therefore Vader did, metaphorically at least, kill Anakin.
This notion is stressed in other Star Wars media as well. Later on, in the same movie, Darth Vader tells Luke that the name Anakin Skywalker no longer has any meaning. While in the Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney Plus series, Vader tells Obi-Wan explicitly that he had killed Anakin Skywalker.
Here are some other explanations for Obi-Wan lying to Luke about his father –
Obi-Wan wanted to protect Luke
One theory which explains why Obi-Wan lied to Luke about his father is that he wanted to protect Luke from the truth. This is the first time that Kenobi opened up to Luke about his friendship with his father with Luke under the impression that his father was a navigator on a spice freighter.
The news that his father was in fact a Jedi Knight who had died during the Clone Wars was a lot to take in itself, but still less severe than learning that your father had turned to the Dark Side, brought about the end of the Jedi Order and become the most feared man in the galaxy.
Obi-Wan was also well aware that Luke had much of Anakin’s personality traits and powers. If he had told him the full truth, rage could have taken over Luke, just like it did Anakin, and the Jedi’s final hope would have been lost before he had even gotten started.
Instead, Obi-Wan decided that it was best to speak positively about Anakin and to give Luke something to aspire to.
Obi-Wan didn’t want to admit to his own failure
As we saw during the Obi-Wan Kenobi Disney Plus series, Obi-Wan lived with guilt for many years about his role in Anakin’s downfall. He held himself responsible for his padawan’s fall to the Dark Side and the subsequent destruction of the Jedi Order and the Republic.
While by the end of the series, Obi-Wan isn’t the same defeated man, he still lived with that guilt until he died. Many people theorise that this guilt was the reason why he didn’t tell Anakin’s son the truth about his former best friend’s fate.
By doing so, he would have had to admit the part he played in ensuring Anakin was bound to a mechanical suit and full of hatred. Instead, it was easier for Kenobi to say that Vader had murdered Anakin as that is what he had to tell himself to repress the severe guilt that had consumed him ever since their duel on Mustafar.
Additionally, Obi-Wan wanted to get Luke on his side. Without Luke, any hope of restoring the Jedi Order and peace to the Galaxy was effectively gone. Mentioning in your pitch that your last apprentice had become Darth Vader wouldn’t have exactly been the wisest move, and Luke would have likely stayed on Tatooine instead of joining Obi-Wan.
Darth Vader wasn’t going to be Luke’s father at the time of writing
One final reason for Obi-Wan lying to Luke relates to the plans for Star Wars when A New Hope was released. When the film was released in 1977, nobody could have predicted the scale that the Star Wars Universe would expand to. In fact, it was meant to be a standalone movie.
After the success of the movie, Lucas then got to work on mapping out the future of the story and how all of the current and future characters would link up. It was only at this point that he decided that Darth Vader would be Luke Skywalker’s father.
This means that when the script was finalised for A New Hope, the story Obi-Wan tells Luke about his father being murdered by Darth Vader was the truth. After it had been decided that Vader and Anakin were the same person, work began on how Obi-Wan’s story in A New Hope could be retconned. This is what led to the “from a certain point of view” line in Return of the Jedi.
Therefore, if Lucas had mapped out the full Star Wars story from start to finish before writing the first film then it is likely that we would never have even gotten this scene in A New Hope.
The most concrete in-universe explanation for Obi-Wan telling Luke that his father was murdered by Darth Vader can be found by watching Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. If you’re looking for George Lucas’ reason for including this bit of dialogue, though, then the simple answer is – he didn’t envisage Darth Vader being Luke’s father at the time of writing!
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