This is not the post you are expecting it to be. Read on and see what I mean…
It’s a Star Wars question so common that I rarely think about it: since Obi-Wan uses his lightsaber to cut off Ponda Baba’s arm in the Mos Eisley Cantina, why does the arm bleed? A fair question to be sure – technically, there shouldn’t be any blood because the wound should be cauterized when the blade goes through the arm. When others are dismembered by lightsabers, like Luke in The Empire Strikes Back or Zam Wesell in Attack of the Clones, their wounds are cauterized, there is no blood. But Ponda Baba is the exception, his wound is a bloody mess and I haven’t the slightest clue how to explain it. Perhaps Ponda Baba’s race, the Aqualish, are incapable of being burned and only bleed when wounded? Or maybe Obi-Wan cut the arm at just the right angle to open an artery but not cauterize it? Frankly, your guess is as good as mine.
But I’m not really interested in solving the dilemma about the bleeding arm (though I think my “Aqualish always bleed” approach makes sense). Instead, I’d rather take this moment, since I have your attention, to pose a much different question about this particular incident in the Mos Eisley Cantina…
Why does Kenobi dismember Ponda Baba and kill Baba’s partner, Dr. Evazan?
This is a question I have wrestled with for some time, with the starting point to answering it always being the most obvious explanation: Kenobi is simply acting in self-defense.
Initially, Luke is the one who is threatened by Evazan and Baba, and when Kenobi intervenes to calm the situation, the two nefarious individuals become rather violent. Kenobi ignites his lightsaber and, rather quickly, puts an end to the scuffle. The deed finished, the bloody arm lying on the ground and the groans of pain being heard, Kenobi stands resolute with his blade upright. And, just as quickly as the incident began, the scene moves along and we are introduced to Chewbacca and Han Solo.
Now, first and foremost, I certainly think Obi-Wan is allowed to defend himself and Luke. But the issue I’m raising in the question is not whether Kenobi can act or should in self-defense, but how he acts in self-defense.
To me, the issue of the bleeding arm is a distraction from the real issue inherent in the incident – the fact that one of the last remaining Jedi, a Jedi Master no less, chooses to kill one individual and maim another. When Dr. Evazan and Ponda Baba become enraged and attack Old Ben, why is Kenobi’s immediate reaction also a violent one? Surely a Jedi Master could disarm these two in a less confrontational manner, doing so without the need to call upon the Force in an obvious, attention grabbing way. Kenobi needn’t, for example, use the Force to throw the two across the room. Rather, using his finely tuned Force skills, Obi-Wan could have easily incapacitated the two, making them trip over their own two feet if he wanted.
But, that isn’t what happens. Instead, we are left with the absurd reality that Kenobi uses deadly force, inflicting pain and death without the slightest bit of remorse. And this is where things get tricky. Suggesting, for example, that Kenobi’s actions are of the Light Side of the Force would entirely undercut the fact that the Light Side does not lend itself to the destruction of life. At. All. So no, I absolutely do not think Kenobi is guided by the Light when he strikes down Evazan and wounds Baba.
Does this mean, then, that Kenobi was being guided by the Dark Side? Well, if he does the deed out of anger and malice, then sure, we could say he is using the Dark Side. However, we have no idea what Kenobi is thinking in the moment, so it’s hard and a bit unfair to suggest he is dropping into the Dark Side without knowing his thoughts. Then again, dishing out pain and death are specialties of Dark Siders…
So where in the name of Malachor do we go from here? Honestly, I haven’t the slightest idea. The fact that Kenobi kills Evazan and maims Baba opens the door to a cacophony of thoughts and questions, the Light Side/Dark Side being just the tip of the iceberg. Thinking about the incident for some time, and now putting the thoughts into a post, I am pulled in numerous directions with no clear-cut end in site. Part of me wants to absolve Kenobi because he is one of my favorite characters, another wants to chastise him for not acting the way a Jedi Master should act, and yet another wants to throw papers into the air in frustration (maybe I will).
In lieu of all of my hair going gray thinking about this, I want YOU to chime in. Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments and, as a team, think about Kenobi killing Evazan and maiming Baba. I’m curious to hear what others have to say about Kenobi’s actions during this short but violent incident in the Mos Eisley Cantina.