Nearly seventeen years ago, Star Wars fans learned how Anakin Skywalker came to be the apprentice to Obi-Wan Kenobi with the release of The Phantom Menace. The story was a little different from what Old Ben would tell Luke Skywalker in his hut on Tatooine during A New Hope. It isn’t so much that Obi-Wan lied, but he made an omission. Among other things, he told Luke that Anakin was a great pilot when he met him, but it was another student, Darth Vader, that betrayed and murdered Luke’s father. It was Darth Vader that Obi-Wan thought he could teach as well as Yoda, but he was wrong. None of this is news to Star Wars fans and Obi-Wan’s willingness to bend the truth has been a subject of much discussion for years. However, other questions remain. Why exactly did Obi-Wan choose to train Anakin? Did he really think he could train an apprentice as well as Yoda?
You may recall that Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan’s master and mentor, made a dying request to Obi-Wan that he promise to train Anakin, because he believed Anakin to be the chosen one that would bring balance to the Force, whatever that may mean. Grief stricken over the loss of his master, and probably the closest thing to a father he ever knew, Obi-Wan promised to train the boy, in defiance of the Jedi Council if he must. So, was Obi-Wan’s decision to train Anakin as simple as honoring a promise to his fallen master? As much as I might like to think that Obi-Wan would have elected to train Anakin as an act of compassion for the former slave, the answer is “yes.” He did so solely because it was Qui-Gon’s dying wish.
“The boys is dangerous. They can all sense it. Why can’t you?” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
From the beginning, Obi-Wan was not in favor of training Anakin. Prior to Qui-Gon’s death, Obi-Wan and Anakin were not close. They first met after Darth Maul attacked Qui-Gon and Anakin on Tatooine as Queen Amidala’s royal starship was departing the outskirts of Mos Espa. Their introduction was brief. After their escape, Anakin was thrilled to meet another Jedi, but to Obi-Wan, Anakin was another “pathetic lifeform,” a category that to that point only included Jar Jar Binks, whom Obi-Wan considered a distraction that they picked up on Naboo.
Qui-Gon presented Anakin to the Jedi Council for evaluation for potential training as a Jedi. When the council decided against training Anakin, it was Qui-Gon, not Obi-Wan that came to Anakin’s defense. In fact, Qui-Gon was ready to jettison Obi-Wan as his padawan in favor of adopting Anakin as his new apprentice and in defiance of the council. It was only then that Obi-Wan spoke up during these proceedings, but it was in support of his belief that he was ready for the Jedi trials.
After the council closed the matter on Anakin’s training, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon had an argument on the landing platform for Amidala’s ship prior to departing for Naboo. The matter of whether Anakin would be trained was left unresolved, but Obi-Wan agreed with the council. Anakin was dangerous. He shouldn’t be trained. Qui-Gon swiftly rebuked his padawan and dismissed him with the command to get on board. It wasn’t Obi-Wan’s position to opine whether Anakin should be trained or not, and that was to be the end of the discussion.
“I’m sorry for my behavior, Master. It’s not my place to disagree with you about the boy.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi
Obi-Wan next brings up Anakin with Qui-Gon after they have arrived on Naboo. The Queen has a plan to recruit the Gungans to help defeat the Separatists that have conquered Naboo. As they wait for Jar Jar to return from the Gungan underwater city, Obi-Wan apologizes to Qui-Gon for disagreeing with him back on Coruscant. The conversation is brief and the discussion of Anakin is limited to one line. What is important is what Obi-Wan doesn’t say. He doesn’t agree that Anakin is the chosen one. He doesn’t even agree with Qui-Gon that Anakin should be trained. He only acknowledges that as Qui-Gon’s apprentice, he should not have been arguing with his master about Anakin. He never admits to coming around to Qui-Gon’s way of thinking.
“Obi-Wan, promise me you will train the boy.”
“He is the chosen one. He will bring balance. Train him.”
– Qui-Gon Jinn & Obi-Wan Kenobi
When Obi-Wan finally settles on the decision to train Anakin, it is in the heat of the moment. Seconds after springing out of the shaft, calling Qui-Gon’s lightsaber to his hand, and slicing Darth Maul in half, Obi-Wan rushes to the side of his dying master. Qui-Gon knows it is too late to be saved from death. The Jedi Master knows that he has scant few moments left to secure a promise from Obi-Wan to train Anakin. Qui-Gon doesn’t waste any breath speaking of anything else. He doesn’t ask anything else of Obi-Wan or offer any other sentiments. Just train the boy. What was Obi-Wan to do? Despite his training as a Jedi and the Order’s admonishment to abstain from attachments, his best friend, mentor, and father figure lies dying before him. There is no time for discussion and debate. The only comforting thing he can do is to agree to Qui-Gon’s request and promise to train Anakin so that his master can slip into the afterlife in peace.
“Agree with your taking this boy as your Padawan learner, I do not.”
“Qui-Gon believed in him.”
“Master Yoda, I gave Qui-Gon my word. I will train Anakin.”
– Yoda & Obi-Wan Kenobi
Obi-Wan never makes a case for training Anakin after Qui-Gon’s death. He just insists it something he will do. After the conflict has been resolved on Naboo, the Jedi council arrives. They apparently meet, and decide to promote Obi-Wan to Jedi Knight. At some point, Obi-Wan makes it known to them that he intends to train Anakin. Yoda doesn’t agree with this. He senses great danger in Anakin. Despite this, the Jedi council agrees that Obi-Wan should train Anakin. However, at no point does Obi-Wan argue that he believes Anakin to be the chosen one. He never disagrees that Anakin isn’t dangerous. It was Qui-Gon’s dying wish that Obi-Wan train the boy, and train the boy Obi-Wan shall “without the approval of the council if [he] must.” It is good enough for Obi-Wan that this is what his dead master wanted.
“What will happen to me now?”
“The council have granted me permission to train you. You will be a Jedi. I promise.”
– Anakin Skywalker & Obi-Wan Kenobi
When it comes time for Qui-Gon’s funeral pyre, Obi-Wan and Anakin are among the Jedi and dignitaries present. As they watch the flames consume Qui-Gon’s body, Anakin asks Obi-Wan what shall become of him. Obi-Wan informs Anakin that the Jedi Council have changed their minds, and Anakin will be trained as a Jedi by Obi-Wan. He promises Anakin this will be his destiny. He never expresses any desire of his own to train Anakin.
There it all is. Until Qui-Gon demanded it of him with his dying breath, Obi-Wan was never an advocate for Anakin’s training as a Jedi. Obi-Wan agreed with Yoda. Anakin was dangerous. It wasn’t until the man who Obi-Wan admired most lay dying that Obi-Wan even considered training Anakin himself. One can only wonder how Obi-Wan would have come down on this issue had Qui-Gon survived. As much as Obi-Wan loved his master, he wasn’t above disagreeing with him. He openly disagreed with Qui-Gon about this very issue earlier in the story. He only relented after Qui-Gon reminded him of his place. Although he honored Qui-Gon’s wish, he didn’t stop to consider whether such an action was wise or whether he was the Jedi best suited to train Anakin. Although Obi-Wan would come to love Anakin as a brother in time, that isn’t how their relationship started. Obi-Wan had his doubts about whether Anakin was the chosen one, but that is a discussion for another time.Powered by Sidelines