Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope introduced us to the galaxy far, far away and to the different characters in the entire Star Wars story. This was when we got to know old Ben Kenobi, who is actually Obi-Wan, as he gave Luke Anakin’s lightsaber and trained him to become a Jedi because he was the new hope of the galaxy. However, in a scene in Darth Vader’s ship when the heroes rescued Leia, Kenobi confronted the Sith in a duel and allowed himself to get struck down as Luke and the rest were escaping. But why did Obi-Wan let Vader kill him in A New Hope?
There is no exact explanation given, but it can be presumed that Obi-Wan allowed himself to get killed so that Luke and the rest of the heroes could escape or so that he could turn into a Force ghost and use his new form to guide Luke to Yoda so that he could get trained in the ways of the Jedi.
It is interesting to note that it was never really mentioned by George Lucas why Obi-Wan died or disappeared during the events of A New Hope. Nevertheless, we can infer the reason from the later events in the next Star Wars movies. In that regard, let’s look at the possible reasons why Obi-Wan let Darth Vader kill him in A New Hope.
Why Did Obi-Wan Let Vader Kill Him?
One of the greatest movies in the history of pop culture is Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope because this was the movie that launched an entire franchise that ultimately became one of the most lucrative franchises in entertainment today. Of course, this was the film that allowed us to meet the characters that formed the cornerstone of the Star Wars franchise.
While the trio of Luke, Leia, and Han is a given, another character that we got to meet in the events of A New Hope was old Ben Kenobi, who is actually Obi-Wan Kenobi. The reason why Luke went to him was the fact that he bought droids (R2-D2 and C3PO) that contained a message for Obi-Wan Kenobi. Thinking that old Ben and Obi-Wan are one and the same, he went over to the old man living nearby.
When he met Kenobi, it turned out that the old man was actually a Jedi that knew Luke Skywalker’s father. He also told Luke that his father was a former Jedi and that he had in his possession a lightsaber that once belonged to Anakin Skywalker. Obi-Wan also told Luke that he, too, had the potential to become a Jedi because it was in his blood.
That said, Obi-Wan proceeded to train Luke while they were on the Millennium Falcon after they had hired a smuggler named Han Solo to take them to Leia’s location. It was only for a very short time, but Kenobi was still a master to the younger Skywalker.
When the team got onboard Darth Vader’s ship to save Princess Leia, Obi-Wan and Darth Vader sensed one another’s presence. That was when they both met near the port where the Millennium Falcon was docked. The former master and pupil dueled with one another with no one gaining any clear advantage, even though Vader basically gloated that he had become stronger than Kenobi.
As the group of Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewbacca were on their way to the Millennium Falcon to escape, Obi-Wan gave the younger Skywalker a glance before allowing Darth Vader to strike him down. So, why did Obi-Wan let Vader kill him?
The first reason that the viewers would think of is that Obi-Wan Kenobi gave Luke and the rest of the heroes enough time to escape by distracting Darth Vader. This was something that seemed obvious at that time. However, it is worth noting that Vader was already too distracted to even notice Luke and the others. Instead, it was the Stormtroopers that were chasing Luke.
This is where it gets interesting because there is another idea that could possibly lead to the real reason why Obi-Wan allowed himself to get killed by Darth Vader. And it goes back to the events of the prequel trilogy movies.
Remember that in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Obi-Wan was a young padawan training under Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, who believed in a concept called the Living Force, which was the energy of all life.
Meanwhile, after the battle between Yoda and Sidious and the duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Yoda revealed to Obi-Wan that Qui-Gon had contacted them from death as a spirit. And his knowledge of the Living Force could’ve been the reason why Qui-Gon was able to do so. It could be inferred that he, too, passed his knowledge of the Living Force to both Yoda and Obi-Wan after the events of Revenge of the Sith and before the two Jedi Masters went into exile.
It is also worth noting that Obi-Wan believed that he had failed Anakin because he couldn’t train him to become the Jedi he should’ve been. In that regard, if he failed Anakin, he would also most likely fail Luke. That meant that he was not the right teacher for the job.
Going back to the events of Episode IV, you will probably remember that Obi-Wan told Vader during their duel the words “If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
Obi-Wan was probably referring to the fact that his death would mean that he would become one with the Living Force, just like how his old master was able to become one with it after death. This is why Obi-Wan told Vader that he would become more powerful because he was going to fuse his spirit with the Force. But why did he even want to become one with the Force?
Being one with the Force meant that he could guide Luke Skywalker from the other side as a Force Ghost so that he could lead him to Yoda, who would be the one to train him to become a Jedi. This is the standing theory that a lot of fans believe, although it was never really confirmed.
Did Obi-Wan Really Get Killed By Darth Vader?
As mentioned, the standing theory why Obi-Wan Kenobi let himself get killed by Vader is that he wanted to become one with the Force and become a Force Ghost because it was better for him to guide Luke in that state. But one of the things that fans never failed to notice in Episode IV was the fact that Obi-Wan didn’t leave a body behind. So, did Obi-Wan die at the hands of Vader, or did he just disappear?
This is one of the most ambiguous parts of Star Wars because it was never fully explained. Everyone there knew that Vader’s saber never made contact with him as Obi-Wan died before the Sith could completely strike him down. Darth Vader even noticed that fact when he examined that Kenobi didn’t leave a body behind after disappearing.
As such, it could be presumed that Obi-Wan Kenobi did indeed die but not exactly at the hands of Darth Vader. It could be possible that, old as he is, his time was about to come and that he just merely allowed the Force to take him right then and there.
Another instance of this happening is in Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. In that movie, an older Luke Skywalker used the Force to create an image of him that fought Kylo Ren. However, after exhausting himself, he just disappeared.
Considering that the filmmakers of The Last Jedi also used the same concept behind Obi-Wan’s death, it could be possible that Kenobi did not exactly die at the hands of Vader but had merely exhausted himself to the point that he just allowed the Force to take him. This is why there was visible confusion in Darth Vader’s body language when he was inspecting Kenobi’s left-behind robe, as he probably also knew that it was not his saber that killed his former master.