Obi-Wan Kenobi

Star Wars Character Profile

Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi
Lucasfilm Ltd. Photo by George Lucas.

Obi-Wan Kenobi is Luke Skywalker's mentor in the Star Wars Original Trilogy and Anakin Skywalker's master in the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy. As a Jedi, he embodies the ideals of the Prequel-era Jedi Order: cautious, focused, and very traditional. These aspects of his personality often put him in conflict with his unorthodox master, Qui-Gon Jinn, and his rebellious apprentice.

Obi-Wan Kenobi Before the Star Wars Films

Obi-Wan Kenobi was born on an unknown planet in 57 BBY. Like most Jedi, he was taken from his family at a very young age and brought to the Jedi Temple for training. For a while, however, it seemed that his chances of becoming a Jedi were slim; at the age of 13, he was sent to the Agricultural Corps, the destination for Force-sensitives who weren't chosen as Padawans.

On his way to the AgriCorps, however, Obi-Wan found a mentor in Qui-Gon Jinn. Because Qui-Gon's former apprentice, Xanatos, had turned to the dark side, the Jedi Master was at first hesitant to take Obi-Wan as a Padawan; but he soon realized Obi-Wan's Force potential and helped him develop into a powerful Jedi.

Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars Prequels

Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Obi-Wan avenged Qui-Gon's death after he was killed in a duel with Darth Maul; the fight earned him the rank of Jedi Knight. Although he did not share his master's opinion that Anakin Skywalker was the Chosen One of Jedi Prophecy, Obi-Wan wanted to honor Qui-Gon's wishes to train the boy. Despite the Jedi Council's disapproval, Obi-Wan accepted Anakin as his Padawan.

Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Ten years later, Obi-Wan's investigation of an assassination attempt on Padmé Amidala led him to Kamino, where cloners had created a vast army at the secret request of a Jedi Master. Obi-Wan's discovery occurred just in time for the clones to assist the Republic in fighting the Separatists, led by the Sith Lord Count Dooku. In the subsequent Clone Wars, the Jedi became leaders of the Clone Army. Obi-Wan became General Kenobi and earned the rank of Jedi Master, as well as a seat on the Jedi Council.

Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

The Clone Wars led to dark times for the Jedi. While Obi-Wan hunted down General Grievous, the cyborg Separatist leader, his former Padawan Anakin turned to the Dark Side. Chancellor Palpatine, who was secretly a Sith Lord, ordered the clones to turn on their Jedi leaders with Order 66; Obi-Wan and Yoda were among the few Jedi who escaped. When he realized what had happened, and that Anakin had set a trap for the remaining Jedi, he attempted to warn them away with a beacon.

Obi-Wan faced Anakin in a duel, but could not kill him. Palpatine rescued Anakin, who was missing several limbs and badly burned. Surviving within the confines of a protective suit, Anakin became the Sith Lord Darth Vader. With the help of Yoda and Senator Bail Organa of Alderaan, Obi-Wan hid the newborn twin children of Anakin and his wife, Padmé. Organa adopted Leia, while Obi-Wan took Luke to Tatooine, Anakin's homeworld, and gave him to Anakin's stepbrother Owen to raise.

Obi-Wan During the Dark Times

During the Dark Times -- the time of the Empire, when the remaining few Jedi were being hunted down -- Obi-Wan hid on Tatooine and watched over Luke. He created a new identity for himself: the strange old hermit, Ben Kenobi. During this time, he received guidance from the ghost of his former master, Qui-Gon Jinn.

For a time, Obi-Wan believed that he and Yoda were the only survivors of Order 66. After a year in exile, however, he learned that Ferus Olin, a former Padawan who had left the Jedi Order, was still alive. While training Ferus, Obi-Wan was surprised to discover that even more Jedi had survived.

Obi-Wan in the Star Wars Original Trilogy

Episode IV: A New Hope

Nineteen years after Obi-Wan first came to Tatooine, Bail Organa sent Leia to recruit him for the Rebel Alliance. Leia's ship was captured, but the droids R2-D2 and C-3PO arrived safely on Tatooine and were purchased by Luke Skywalker's uncle. R2-D2 led Luke to Obi-Wan Kenobi. Not wanting to tell Luke the truth, Obi-Wan said that Darth Vader betrayed and murdered Luke's father, a Jedi Knight; this was true, he justified later, “from a certain point of view.”

Obi-Wan, Luke and the droids hired smugglers Han Solo and Chewbacca to take them to Alderaan, Leia's home planet. When they arrived, they discovered that the planet had been destroyed by the Death Star, an Imperial superweapon. After they were dragged in by the Death Star's tractor beam, Obi-Wan set out to disable the tractor beam, while Han and Luke rescued Princess Leia.

On the Death Star, Obi-Wan faced his former apprentice one last time. “If you strike me down,” he warned Vader, “I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” Sacrificing himself to save Luke, he focused himself in the Force at the moment of his death, making his body disappear.

Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

As a Force ghost, Obi-Wan offered further guidance to Luke. As Luke attempted to destroy the Death Star, Obi-Wan advised him to turn off his targeting computer and use the Force; this resulted in a successful shot. On Hoth, Obi-Wan's spirit appeared to tell Luke to find Yoda, hidden on Dagobah, and receive further training. When Yoda seemed resistant, Obi-Wan helped convince him to train Luke. After Yoda's death, Obi-Wan revealed to Luke that Leia was his twin sister.

Obi-Wan After the Star Wars Films

Obi-Wan's spirit would continue to guide Luke after the defeat of the Empire at Endor. He warned Luke about a possible invasion by the Ssi-ruuk, helped him find another surviving Jedi in the Lost City of the Jedi, and led him to Lumiya, a Dark Jedi and secret apprentice of Darth Vader.

But Obi-Wan's spirit form was only temporary; nine years after his death, he appeared to Luke in a dream and said that he had to move on to a new plane of existence. He reassured Luke that he was the first of a new order of Jedi and that he was strong enough to continue without Obi-Wan's guidance. Many years later, Luke would name his son Ben in honor of Obi-Wan.

Character Development of Obi-Wan Kenobi

In early drafts of Star Wars, the Obi-Wan-like character was Luke Skywalker, an aging general from the Clone Wars who was finally returning to the battlefield. Eventually, Obi-Wan Kenobi became the archetypal mentor figure to the new Luke Skywalker, the archetypal young hero.

The vaguely Japanese sound of the name Obi-Wan Kenobi points to George Lucas' inspiration from Japanese samurai films. In the Star Wars DVD commentary, Lucas mentions that he had considered a Japanese actor, Toshiro Mifune, for the role. Mifune had played General Makabe Rokuruta, one of Lucas' inspirations for Obi-Wan's character, in the film The Hidden Fortress.

Obi-Wan Kenobi Behind the Scenes

Obi-Wan Kenobi was first portrayed by Sir Alec Guinness in Episode IV: A New Hope. Guinness was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and is the only actor to receive an Academy Award nomination for a Star Wars film. Ewan McGregor portrayed the young Obi-Wan in the Prequel Trilogy. Voice actors for Obi-Wan in animated series, radio dramas, and video games include James Arnold Taylor, David Davies, Tim Omundson, and Bernard Behrens.