One of the most powerful Sith Lords in history couldn’t find an old man? What gives? It’s really interesting that in Star Wars universe, Darth Vader is pretty much successful in hunting down and killing nearly all of the remaining Jedi who survived Order 66. However, the one that he never found, and probably wanted to kill more than any other, was his former mentor and friend, Obi-wan Kenobi.
This is actually quite strange, since Vader, who knew Kenobi quite well when the former was Anakin Skywalker, would have known better than anyone else where to find him. After their fateful duel on the volcanic planet of Mustafar, Vader vowed to find and kill Kenobi. However, after that battle, Kenobi disappears and doesn’t show up until about 15 years later on the first Death Star. That encounter though was of Obi-wan’s choosing and not because Vader happened to find him.
So then why, for all those years could Vader, with his deep knowledge of the Darkside of the Force and all of the resources of the Empire at his disposal, not be able to search out and destroy Obi-wan Kenobi?
Theories why Obi-wan was never found
While it’s never really declared in any of the current canon movies, novels or comics, these sources do give many bits of information that can form the basis of various theories as to why this may have been.
One of them is the nature of the planet Tatooine itself. As I’m sure you know, Darth Vader wasn’t always the heavy breathing man behind the black mask; he was once Anakin Skywalker, among the most promising and powerful of all the Jedi. Anakin was born on Tatooine and along with his mother was a slave.
Anakin and Obi-wan
Anakin met Kenobi on Tatooine for the very first time. It was here that he left his mother behind when he went with Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and his student (or padawan), Obi-wan Kenobi. It’s where he left his life as a slave to start his training as a Jedi. Years later while training under Kenobi to become a Jedi, Anakin had nightmares of his mother suffering and in great pain. He ventured back to Tatooine to save his mother, who was held in captivity by nomads known as Tusken Raiders or locally as “sand people.” As fate would have it, he arrived too late, and his mother died in his arms, one of the most painful memories of his life. This however was only one of his painful memories as Anakin Skywalker.
Others include the loss of his wife, princess Padme Amidala. The further one explores the events of Anakin’s life as a Jedi, the more pain and personal suffering starts to surface.
Anakin was lured to the Dark Side of the Force by Darth Siddious and took on a new identity as Darth Vader. As Vader, he loathed his old self of Anakin, who he deemed to be weak. Everything that was wrong with his past, including his inability to save his mother, was due to what he believed was his weakness as the Jedi Anakin Skywalker.
Tatooine for Anakin is a place that brings back devastating memories, pain and suffering. It has too many reminders for him – his mother, his weakness and ultimate failure as a person and a Jedi. This is why it’s so painful for him to go back there, which makes it actually a good place for Obi-wan to hide.
It’s in a sense the opposite of Vader’s home or castle on the volcanic planet of Mustafar. Though he became Darth Vader shortly before, it was on this world that Anakin Skywalker was effectively destroyed, mutilated actually, by Obi-wan and fire.
The environment there reminds him of who he has become and fills him with anger and hatred, effectively crystallizing his identity as Darth Vader.
The Planet Itself
What’s interesting is that in Episode IV, Vader actually does return to Tatooine, or at least above it. This is when his Star Destroyer is chasing Princess Leia’s ship, and he is trying to recover the Death Star’s stolen plans. Though he is above the planet, he doesn’t seem to have any idea that Obi-wan is hiding below. This is strange, since we know that Vader can actually sense the presence of his old Master, Obi-wan, which happens a bit later in Episode IV on the first Death Star. Why then did he not sense him when he was orbiting above Tatooine?
One theory with regard to this is that Tatooine is strong in its presence of the Dark side of the Force. Just like Master Yoda could hide on Dagobah because of that planet’s strong Dark side energy (Yoda’s strength in the light being evened out by the dark), so too Tatooine was surrounded in enough Dark side energy to obscure Obi Wan. Such Theories deal more with the mystical aspects of the Force and are definitely interesting from an esoteric viewpoint.
In the recent comic books that are now canon, Vader also returns to Tatooine after the Battle of Yavin in an effort to learn more about Luke and determine if he really is his son, though this is after Obi-wan has been deceased.
“Out of the way, poor”
Of course it’s also entirely possible that Tatooine was just too far in the Outer Rim, i.e. away from the Galactic Core, to be even considered by Vader or his team of Jedi killing strategists. Obi-wan even makes this point in Episode I and says that it’s a good place to hide Princess Amidala when they are fleeing from the Trade Federation. When finding it in his getaway ship’s Nav computer, he describes it as: “small, out of the way, poor… The Trade Federation has no presence there.” Even back then, Obi-wan knew that Tatooine was good place to hide. Luke Skywalker also describes Tatooine similarly, saying that if there’s a bright center of the universe, his home world is at the farthest point from it.
So essentially if you take bits of all three of these factors or theories as described above, you have the basis for a plausible explanation as to why Obi-wan just could not be found on Tatooine, and while it was ideal for him to remain there while protecting Luke in the process.
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