After I watched The Last Jedi, I started thinking about the Master/Apprentice relationships of the Jedi throughout all the Star Wars films, I realized that they all are very different. I thought about the Jedi that we had seen in the films who we knew as apprentices and gradually grew into Masters themselves. The most prominent of these, and the ones that we got an in depth look at, are Obi-Wan and Luke. We see both in the Saga movies as Apprentices, and then Masters.
(Please note that while I would love to discuss Anakin/Ahsoka and Kanan/Ezra, I primarily try to stick to the movies in my blog to keep it as inclusive as possible – however, if someone else wants to discuss those, I’d love to hear your thoughts!)
I’ve divided the Apprentices and Masters into four labels:
Obi-Wan Kenobi – The Golden Child
As a master – The Cautious
Anakin Skywalker – The Restless
Luke Skywalker – The Hopeful
As a master – The Jaded
Rey – The Seeker
We only see Obi-Wan’s apprenticeship in one film, but it seems clear that he’s the “good kid”. You can see that the way he acted as an apprentice ended up steering the life he lived as a Jedi Master. Obi-Wan as an apprentice was rational and curious, but also followed directives. His Master, Qui-Gon Jinn, seemed to be the one who was more uncontrolled by nature. Obi-Wan is not an outside-of-the-box thinker when faced with the larger picture. He could think on his feet in the moment, in a battle, but he was not able to deviate from what he was presented when it came to larger life choices. We see this reflected mostly in Anakin, and in some ways, Luke.
As an Apprentice, Obi-Wan lives a very different life than what we see in the Original Trilogy. In TPM, Obi-Wan’s world as he knows it is intact. The Republic has flourished, the Jedi Council and members are strong and intact, and the Sith are mere whispers.
But over 15 years, everything he knows crumbles. He takes on Anakin as his apprentice and seems to grow even more cautious than he was an apprentice. He has a good relationship with him but in some ways, he stifles Anakin and too much of that relates back to his inability to think outside of the box.
Anakin pushes the boundaries and as a reaction, Obi-Wan tries to rein him in even more. I labeled Anakin as The Restless because even in TPM, we never see Anakin satisfied. When he’s young, he wants to be the greatest Jedi, free the slaves, and leave Tatooine to visit all the planets. In AOTC, we see Anakin fall in love, dissatisfied with Jedi Council’s forbiddance on attachment. Though I can’t stand the movie, one of the scenes that shows his true restless emotions is when he and Padmé are seated by the fire and acknowledging they’re falling for each other but refuse to do so at the same time. He is fidgeting, sweating, and held back by the rules of the Jedi – a real manifestation of the torture within him. In ROTS, we see his need for power grow. He knows he should not want more but he does. Instead of being satisfied with his life and who he is, this restless energy is becoming stronger and more potent within him. It’s a perfect breeding ground for Palpatine to come in and envelope him in the dark side of the Force.
When Anakin, who was The Chosen One, falls to the dark side and becomes a Sith who helps wipe out the entire Jedi Order, Obi-Wan’s life as he knows it drastically changes. If he was cautious as a Master to Anakin, you can imagine him being even more cautious with Luke.
We see Obi-Wan at his most guarded when he outright lies to Luke about who his father is. We could argue all day about WHY he did it, but the fact remains that he lied (from a certain point of view) and that was the cautionary side of him. He didn’t want to tell Luke at that moment because the timing was not right. Luke had no knowledge of the Force or of his Jedi ancestry. Perhaps Obi-Wan thought it would be better to wait until he became more invested in the ways of the Force.
Interestingly, the one time I believe Obi-Wan threw caution to the wind was when he gave himself up to the Force while fighting Darth Vader in ANH. He knew he could be of more help as a Force ghost than alive, but I do not think he deliberately planned out that situation.
Yet in ESB, he returns as a cautious Jedi Master. In Empire, he pleaded for Luke not to go to Cloud City. He wanted him to stay and finish his training. Ironically, the last pupil he had, Anakin Skywalker, also chafed at the leash of the Jedi training and Obi-Wan’s approach turned him to the dark side (there’s a lot more to Anakin’s fall; this is just one aspect of it). While Anakin restlessly remained a Jedi, Luke decided to disobey outright and go and help his friends, understanding full well the consequences of his actions.
In ROTJ, he seems to have a sense of despair layered onto his cautious side. He believes Vader cannot be turned back to the light side and the Emperor has won because Luke refuses to kill his father. He cautions him not to reveal that he has a sister, which in all fairness, seems to be the right choice. Yet, for all of Obi-Wan’s cautionary measures, nothing goes as planned and perhaps finding out that he not only one child, but two children with Padmé is his undoing.
I understand why people love Obi-Wan. He is an exemplary Jedi Knight who follows the Jedi Code and stays true to his roots. But his cautionary outlook is almost too inhibiting for those he takes under his wing and does some damage. As an apprentice, he closely followed the rules and continued to do so as an adult Jedi Master. Though he was less restrained as he grew older, he still did not bend the rules as much as he probably could have. It had different consequences in both apprentices – one who turned to the dark side and one who rid the galaxy of the dark side – both outcomes of not following the cautionary guidelines set forth by Obi-Wan.