Ben Kenobi: Desert Father

Theory: Rey is the granddaughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Since The Force Awakens hit theaters, the idea that Rey is related to Obi-Wan  has picked up quite a bit of steam among pockets of Star Wars fans. I’ve not only seen this theory show up across the interwebs, but I have a handful of close friends who are pretty adamant that Rey is directly related to Kenobi. On the surface of things, I’m really not surprised by this theory. If one doesn’t believe Rey is a Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi does feel like he should be the next likely choice. Plus, it is a rather easy leap to go from Skywalker to Kenobi, particularly since Kenobi makes an auditory appearance during Rey’s Force Vision sequence in The Force Awakens. At one point during the Vision, we hear Kenobi say “Rey” while, at the end of the Vision, Kenobi can be heard saying “These are your first steps.”

What could Kenobi’s words to Rey mean!?!?! What do they imply about his relationship with this curious orphan from Jakku? Only time will tell, but for some people his words to Rey are at least partial proof that she is directly related to the former Master of Anakin Skywalker and guardian of Luke Skywalker.

But here’s the thing: I don’t buy it. Actually, not only don’t I buy it, I think it would be a massive mistake for Obi-Wan to be Rey’s grandfather. Do you hear me Lucasfilm – IT WOULD BE A MASSIVE MISTAKE!!! 

Listen, I’m fine with all types of speculation and theories, and say more power to ya if you believe Rey is directly related to Obi-Wan. But keep this in mind: if Kenobi has a granddaughter, that means he had a son or daughter of his own, which means he had sex. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time believing Obi-Wan Kenobi, during his nineteen years in exile on Tatooine, took the time to flirt with someone, let alone have sex with anyone. A relationship of any kind, be it a committed affair or a one-night stand just doesn’t fit who Kenobi is – a Jedi Master, sworn member of his Order and devoted follower of the Light Side of the Force, with a moral obligation to protect the child of his former padawan at all costs.

In fact, in those moments when he was not actively watching over or protecting Luke, Kenobi-in-exile on the desert world of Tatooine should always be viewed as a hermit.

Granted, it is easy to overlook Kenobi’s religious isolation since his early life was massively expanded by the Prequel Trilogy and The Clone Wars animated series. The Obi-Wan who comes to mind for many a Star Wars fans is undoubtedly the younger, more active (and attractive) Jedi Knight/Master who battled Darth Maul and fought in the Clone Wars, not the wizened old man living a life of poverty and spiritual contemplation as he watches over a young boy. Yet, it is important to remember that it is the older Kenobi that informs all of his other iterations. While the stories about his younger life provide interesting and exciting depth to his character, it is his introduction in A New Hope that sets the tone for how we are to view him, and at least in part, how we should view the Jedi Order. 

When the mysterious old “wizard” named Ben first appears in A New Hope, elements of hermitic life bleed off of him. He wears simple and unassuming robes, lives in solitude on the edge of Tatooine’s Western Dune Sea, and he speaks about his devotion to the mystical and mysterious energy field known as “the Force.” For all intents and purposes, Kenobi is meant to be a pop culture re-imagining of a Desert Father.

Beginning their religious practices in the late 3rd Century CE, the Desert Fathers (and Mothers) of Early Christianity were ascetics who lived in seclusion – some as hermits, others in small communities – primarily in the deserts of Egypt. Believing it necessary to withdraw from society, these monastics lived austere lives, believing the harsh desert environment would teach them to eschew the need for material possession and tame their ego. As well, the Desert Fathers engaged in numerous spiritual practices – to name a few: recitation of scripture, interior silence and prayer, kindness and hospitality – all with the hope of becoming closer to and united with God.

Menas

Now in the Louvre, this icon of Jesus (right) with St. Menas (left) is from the sixth century and is one of the oldest in existence. That Ben Kenobi happens to look a bit like this depiction of Menas, a desert father, is coincidental, though the resemblance is striking.

Now, it is absolutely worth pointing out that the above paragraph only scratches the surface of the Desert Fathers and their place in Early Christianity. Then again, my intention is not to write an academic treatise on them and the way they influenced Christian monasticism (here is a link to book if you are interested in learning more about them). Rather, my brief description of these ascetics is to highlight the obvious: Obi-Wan Kenobi shares a number of similarities with them, similarities that are clearly present in George Lucas’ seminal film. Again, that Kenobi lives on a desert world is one thing, but that he is also a hermit, a member of once grand religious order, lives an austere life, and is devoted to his “god” (the Force) is reason enough to view him as the Star Wars equivalent of a Desert Father. And, as such, it is imperative that this fact not be undercut by Kenobi’s going off and having “relations” that would take him away from his moral duty of safeguarding Luke Skywalker and, as was added in the 2005 film Revenge of the Sith, his spiritual aspiration of learning to preserve his life force upon physical death. Both are religious commitments which Kenobi is wedded to on Tatooine, duties that he, as a character, would not shun out of a desire for companionship or sexual enjoyment.

11 comments

  1. Amen. Totally agree with this. I think it takes away from Obi-Wan as being one of the greatest Jedi – and yes, I believe in some ways he is greater than Yoda and most definitely greater than Mace Windu.

    I can’t imagine Obi-Wan breaking his vows just because the Jedi Order no longer exists. If anything, I think that it would push him to remain even more devoted to the Force and the Code. And you make a good point that younger Obi-Wan is dictated by older Obi-Wan.

    Like you, I understand why people like this theory and gravitate to it, but I do not think that it is true. I still think she’s a Skywalker in some way because the trilogies focus on the Skywalkers and since Rey is the main character, and Disney is playing it so safe, Rey is most likely a Skywalker.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. First, that icon trips me out. It looks JUST LIKE Obi-Wan! Wow. You’ve totally blown my mind for the day.

    Second, I’m with you – to make Rey related to Obi-Wan Kenobi is to alter the fundamental nature of his character. And, as exciting a story point as it could be, it’s dangerous to disregard what we get in ‘A New Hope.’ As you say above, and as you’ve written before, it all starts with ‘A New Hope’ so we have to use that as the lens through which we interpret and the framework to create what comes after. To throw something aside in Lucas’s work – especially the original film that gave birth to all of this – is problematic to say the least.

    Personally, if Rey isn’t related to Luke in some way, I’d rather she be a completely new character. Perhaps the Force is incarnate in her for some new reason or she’s some sort of avatar of the Force for some new task, outside of balancing it. Connecting her to Kenobi is an easy and fun way to tie her to the larger Star Wars mythos but you do so at a disservice to the character of Obi-Wan Kenobi.

    I loved this post! Thanks for putting it all so perfectly!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. What if Rey is not a granddaughter from amorous relations during Obi-Wan’s time on Tatooine, but instead a granddaughter from a rendezvous with Duchess Satine? We know Obi-Wan and Satine fell in love. If Obi-Wan is fallible, then he could have succumbed to his feelings. Even if he is incredibly strong with, and devoted to, the Force, maybe love is a part of the Force that one must understand, both metaphysically and physically, to be a true Jedi Master.

    In an ironic but compassionate twist, Satine may have hidden the pregnancy and their child from Obi-Wan to protect Obi-Wan from disgrace as a Jedi. So, while Obi-Wan is hiding Luke from his father, Obi-Wan’s progeny is hidden from him.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. If, for some reason, Kenobi was to have had “relations” of some kind, I would think it would have been with Satine. Obviously they were close, and it is pretty clear that he loved her, but I am not sure if their closeness resulted in anything physical. I am not exactly opposed to the concept, but I am also not sure if the way he speaks to her about their past lends itself to physicality. Still, if Kenobi was to have offspring, I’d rather it have been with Satine and not someone else. I like the idea that Kenobi felt close with her and never got close to another woman afterwards. Protecting his religious isolation on Tatooine is important, but I think too his feelings for Satine need to be protected as well.

      As for Satine hiding the secret child from him, I could see TCW/Rebels Director Dave Filoni doing something like that BUT I am not sure if Filoni would actually go that route. I do know that Filoni wants to tell the Satine-Kenobi story someday, that he has (with a few others) laid it out, but beyond that I am skeptical that he would add a secret child into that mix. If there was a child, it would seem like something Satine would have told Kenobi when she died, but then again maybe not? For all intents and purposes, I would just rather Kenobi not be put in the position of having a kid, period.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The thing with Kenobi and Satine was that it paralleled Anakin and Padme, only instead showing how a devout and mature Jedi dealt with his feelings. If Kenobi and Satine had a child it would totally devalue that stance and only add to the hypocrisy of the Jedi.

        Great post by the way. Loved learning about the desert fathers!

        Like

  4. I am so torn! You make excellent arguments against Ben being Rey’s grandfather, and yet…

    I also want her to be connected into the Skywalker clan, so random parentage would be a huge letdown. I, and all other Star Wars fans, can enjoy speculating until the movie arrives!

    Liked by 2 people

      1. My inclination is to think that Rey is neither Skywalker or Kenobi, for various reasons. I actually like the idea of her being a new and independent actor separate from established relations/families. That said, I could see them having an easier time relating her to Luke than Kenobi, and in doing so violating the Jedi Code. In fact, I’m not entirely convinced there even is a Jedi Code anymore, at least nothing that is permanent or set in stone. I think the Code as guiding principles for the old Older makes perfect sense, but that he Code changed over time. The idea of Luke being “the last Jedi” could, I reckon, point to the full dissolution of that old Order, with a new one with a new Code arising (an Order that might not even be called the Jedi).

        But honesty, I have no idea. I’m spitballing here.

        Liked by 1 person

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