*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the original Stars Wars trilogy. Read at your own risk if you are just now discovering the original trilogy. For this post, I will also be briefly delving into some of the narratives in the prequels.
There is something to be said about a well written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations.
In this series of weekly blog posts, I will examine character using the characters from the original Star Wars trilogy to explore how writers can create fully dimensional, human characters that audiences and readers can relate to.
In previous posts, I have examined Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia Organa of Alderaan (the late Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford). In this post, I will be writing about Obi-Wan Kenobi (the late Alec Guinness).
There are two perspectives in life: one of youth and one of maturity. If Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) represents youth, then Obi-Wan Kenobi (the late Alec Guinness) represents maturity. Known to Luke as Ben Kenobi, he seems like an old man who has chosen a life of solidarity. But, Ben or Obi-Wan, has a secret. He is the one of last of the last surviving Jedi, going into hiding after watching his brethren killed by Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. After watching his former pupil turn to the dark side, Obi-Wan separates Anakin’s motherless twins, Luke and Leia and watches Luke grow up from afar.
A generation later, with the Empire closing on her ship, Leia contacts her adopted father’s old friend, Obi-Wan. She is in peril and needs his help. Taking Luke and the droids, R2D2 (the late Kenny Baker) and C3PO (Anthony Daniels) with him, they meet up with space pirate Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his lieutenant, Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), who agree to help them with the rescue.
While Obi-Wan dies at the hands of Darth Vader in Episode 4, he lives on in spirit, watching over Luke and guiding him in Episodes 5 and 6.
Obi-Wan is to Merlin as Luke is to a young King Arthur. While Obi-Wan is briefly in the narrative in physical form, his presence and memory as Luke’s mentor/father figure remains throughout the entire narrative of the original trilogy. Every hero needs a guiding hand, someone who can help the hero to overcome the obstacles in his or her path. Obi-Wan Kenobi is that guiding hand.
To sum it up: Sometimes in life, we need someone older and wiser to guide us. In creating the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi, George Lucas paved the way for Luke Skywalker to become the Jedi that he eventually becomes. We may not appreciate the mentor characters in the short-term, but in the long-term, we begin to see how important they are to the growth and destiny of their student.