Father

Son of Solo

The line, coming in a dramatic moment in The Forces Awakens, is powerful in its brevity and delivery. Han Solo, helping to plant charges which he hopes will give the Resistance an advantage in destroying Starkiller Base, sees the film’s villain Kylo Ren standing alone on a bridge, a bridge which spans a seemingly bottomless chasm. At this point in the film we know that Kylo Ren and Han Solo are related, that Solo is Ren’s father. However, it is not until Solo advances towards the dark-shrouded man that we  suddenly and unexpectedly learn Kylo Ren’s given name. “Ben!!!!”, Solo shouts to get the villains attention, doing so and beginning a conversation which, we also know, ends just as suddenly and unexpectedly when Solo is killed by his tormented offspring.

There are any number of ways one could approach/discuss the events which unfold in this dramatic scene in The Force Awakens. And, I am sure I could provide some well-developed and, I’d like to believe, insightful thoughts on it. But my intentions in this brief conversation far less overarching, and I am much more interested in providing, for now, a small morsel of consideration regarding the moment Han Solo shouts the name Ben.

To begin, when I heard Solo pronounce Kylo Ren’s true name, I was, undoubtedly like many others, struck by the fact that Ben is also the pseudonym used by Obi-Wan Kenobi whilst he lived on Tatooine (Ben Kenobi). Assuredly, this is an indication that Han Solo and Leia Organa named their only child after the famed Jedi Master, perhaps as a way to honor the man who, from a certain point of view, brought the lovers together. Plus, if we backup and consider the countless ways The Force Awakens borrows from/echoes A New Hope, it seems appropriate that the film includes a character named Ben. And yet, that Kylo Ren’s real name is Ben has another equally important and symbolic meaning, one that resonates as loudly as Solo’s voice when the name leaves his mouth.

A Hebrew name originating in the Jewish Tanakh, Benjamin (the anglicized form of Binyamin) is often translated in two distinct ways: “Son of the south” or “Son of the right hand.” Thus, taken alone as a masculine noun, “Ben” quite literally means “Son” and/or “Son of” (Yeshua ben Eleazar ben Sira = Joshua [Jesus] son of Eleazar son of Sira). Ben is used in both given names and surnames of Hebraic origin, although philologists who study Hebrew will be quick to point out that “Ben” is used in a number of other ways as well.

While I would enjoy delving deeper into the nuanced meanings and usage of “Ben” and “Benjamin” in Biblical texts, my reason for noting its usage as a masculine Hebrew noun should be fairly obvious. On the one hand, Han Solo is not just yelling the name “Ben!!!” to get Kylo Ren’s attention, but he is also, quite literally, yelling “Son!!!” On the other hand, we can translate the name Ben Solo as the “Son of Solo.”

I cannot say with any authority that the writer(s)/director of The Force Awakens, when  choosing the given name for Kylo Ren, were aware that the name Ben could be translated as “Son” or “Son of.” While it is likely that the name was chosen to create superficial connection with Ben Kenobi, I am never-the-less left wondering whether Ben was also chosen because of it’s original Hebrew meaning. Still, intentional or not, the meaning in the name Ben is present, rippling outwards as it leaves Han Solo’s lips. With these complimentary meanings in mind – “Ben” = “Son” and “Ben Solo” = “Son of Solo” – the potential for new insights about The Force Awakens may emerge. And if they do, I hope you will share some of those insights with me.

Happy Father’s Day, Obi-Wan Kenobi!!!

“You’re the closest thing I have to a father.” – Anakin to Obi-Wan in Attack of the Clones

On Mother’s Day, I decided to give a shout out to Mother Talzin, the leader of the Nightsisters of Dathomir and mother of Darth Maul. Well, today is Father’s Day and it’s time to honor a father-figure in the Star Wars galaxy.

Of course, the obvious choice to receive such honors is Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. Then again, though he might be the biological father of Luke and Leia, he, ah, sorta sucked at the job of fatherhood. I mean, he knowingly cut off his son’s arm and then had the audacity to be all like “join me and rule the galaxy!”

No, I think someone else in the Star Wars universe is a bit more deserving of today’s honor. That someone is Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Now, I know what you are saying: “But Mr. Imperial Talker sir, Obi-Wan Kenobi had no children of his own.” Yes, well, that is true and all, but then again, biological fatherhood is hardly the only form of fatherhood. Besides, if the standard for fatherhood is just biology, then Vader set a REALLY low bar for being a good father.

No, Obi-Wan may not have had any children of his own, but he still exhibited a number of the positive traits expected of a father-figure. And while Obi-Wan may have been “overly critical” and “never listened” to Anakin, Kenobi was still “the closest thing to a father” Anakin ever had.

Obi-Wan and Luke on Tatooine Photo Credit - Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Obi-Wan and Luke on Tatooine
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

In fact, it is worth mentioning that while Obi-Wan was father to Anakin, he was also, by both extension and action, the grandfather to Luke.

So sure, there are lots of fathers and father-figures in the Star Wars universe that we could praise today, and in the future I will give them some love, but I believe Obi-Wan is the most fatherly of them all.

Happy Father’s Day, Obi-Wan Kenobi!