“I thought I could instruct him just as well as Yoda. I was wrong.” Obi-Wan said this to Luke Skywalker as a Force ghost in Return of the Jedi, and with a heavy heart. You can tell by the way Sir Alec Guinness delivered the line, Obi-Wan Kenobi still blamed himself, at least on some level, for the creation of Darth Vader. He even carried the weight of decades of guilt into the afterlife. But with the addition of Obi-Wan Kenobi to the canon, it’s reframed everything about the Star Wars saga. Because we now know that it’s not Obi-Wan’s fault that Anakin became Vader—certainly not entirely.
But it was Obi-Wan’s doing, in very large part, that both of Anakin’s children became the key heroic figures of the Rebel Alliance. He was the most important person in the galaxy, but not just for his failure with Anakin. But mainly for his two greatest achievements: Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia. What would either of the Skywalker twins have become without the early influence of Old Ben?
Ever since the original Star Wars hit theaters in 1977, we’ve known that Obi-Wan Kenobi, or Old Ben, was key in helping Luke Skywalker leave his life on Tatooine behind and become a Jedi Knight. He told him about the Force, handed him his first lightsaber, and did his very first training with him. And when he became one with the Force, he still guided Luke from beyond. Without Obi-Wan, he would have never received the “Force coaching” to blow up the Death Star. Or to find Yoda to complete his Jedi training.
But with the added context Obi-Wan Kenobi series, we now know that Ben was equally, if not more, impactful on the life of young Princess Leia Organa. Because of their adventure together, she learned about sacrifice, putting the needs of the many over the needs of the one, and so much more. A lot of these lessons she learned from her adoptive parents, the Organas, to be sure. But living a sheltered life in the palace on Alderaan wasn’t the same as facing what the Empire really was, with someone like Ben Kenobi at her side, guiding her. There are some things she could only learn through experience.
In their final duel in Obi-Wan Kenobi Part VI, as Vader lies defeated, mask cracked open, his former mentor was brought to tears with heartbreak. He saw the friend he thought of as a brother, “more machine now than man.” He told Anakin that he’s sorry, for all of it. He blamed himself not just for the metal body which his former student found himself in (which was his fault, to be fair) but for Anakin’s turn to the dark side.
But in a strange moment of comfort, Darth Vader took much of the weight off Obi-Wan’s shoulders. He told him, “I’m not your failure, Obi-Wan. You didn’t kill Anakin Skywalker. I did.” We saw later in the original trilogy, on some level Ben still believed he bore some responsibility. But it’s clear he turned some kind of corner at that moment. He realized that it was not entirely his fault at last. Anakin’s choices were ultimately his.
This made Obi-Wan finally accept that his former friend was dead, and all that remained was Darth Vader. Whether or not Obi-Wan would have done things differently or not, Anakin’s decision to join Palpatine was his alone to make. The universe didn’t fall to fascism just because of Obi-Wan. It’s possible that Anakin would not have become Vader if Qui-Gon Jinn had lived. But not certain. Anakin’s feelings of anger and possessiveness were there before he ever met Obi-Wan. A maverick Jedi like Qui-Gon might have been able to teach Anakin in a more unorthodox fashion than Obi. But Kenobi was simply the Jedi that the Order made him. It’s not his fault that he carried out their orders to the letter.
And Luke and Leia were the proof that Obi-Wan was indeed a great mentor in the end. He instilled in the Skywalker twins the same lessons and virtues that he instilled in their father. But unlike Anakin, they took those lessons to heart, and ultimately saved the galaxy. Not once, but twice. The galaxy needed both Skywalkers to save it. And interstingly, both Luke and Leia took after Obi-Wan more than they did their own biological father.
Luke, like Obi-Wan, totally dedicated himself to the ideals of the Jedi Order, perhaps to a fault. When their apprentices turned to the dark side, they felt the heavy weight of that failure deeply, and exiled themselves. But both men found their way back to the Jedi way, and sacrificed themselves to allow the next generation to get away and keep the fires of rebellion going.
General Leia also had more aspects of Kenobi in her than her own father too. That’s aside from the fact that they were both generals in a great war. As we saw in Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi Master always knew how to make the best strategic calls. Even if they’re not popular with those he leads. We saw an example of this with Obi-Wan leading the refugee’s escape in Part VI. And we saw this also with General Leia in The Last Jedi. Whatever Anakin’s failures were with his original apprentice, he more than made up for them with Anakin’s twin children. All of this makes Obi-Wan more important than we ever thought to the overall Star Wars saga.