“Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn’t allow it. He feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damned fool idealistic crusade, like your father did. It’s your father’s lightsaber. This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon for a more civilized age. For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy. Before the dark times. Before the Empire.”
-Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope
This statement would launch the imaginations of millions of fans for over two decades. What lead to the fall of Luke’s father? How did the Empire rise to power? We heard of the Clone Wars, but never knew the details of this galaxy-changing event. It wasn’t until Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: The Clone Wars that we would learn the details of these events.
But why did Obi-Wan tell Luke the story of his father’s downfall “from a certain point of view?” Now a jaded fan might write it off as bad writing, but Star Wars is a modern myth. Characters are deep, with powerful and emotional motivations. So, let’s take a deeper look at Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber and what it meant to the man who passed it on to Luke, Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Moments after defeating the newly dubbed Darth Vader, we see Obi-Wan Kenobi do something unseen in any other film: Give way to his emotions. Obi-Wan weeps as he looks down on the burning form of Darth Vader. Tears streaming down his face, he cries out “You were my brother, Anakin! I loved you!” He then takes the last remnant of the Jedi Knight he once knew as Anakin Skywalker, his lightsaber, and leaves him to burn on the fiery shores of Mustafar.
Almost twenty years would pass as Obi-Wan Kenobi sat in solitude, meditating on the fall of Anakin Skywalker and his own failure as a mentor and master. From a distance, he watched the younger Skywalker. Finally, he and Luke would meet during the events of Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope.
I put forth the theory that Obi-Wan Kenobi saw the Jedi Knighthood of Luke Skywalker as a chance for his own personal redemption in the wake of his own terrible failure. Luke Skywalker might rise to become a full-fledged Jedi Knight status where Anakin had failed. More over, Obi-Wan could be the man to set Luke upon that path, guide him, train him, and find redemption for his own failures in training Anakin through this training.
Anakin complains that his master is “overly critical” and implies that his master refuses acknowledge his natural proficiency with the Force. While Anakin is arrogant regarding his own abilities, he’s not entirely wrong. Obi-Wan does pick on Anakin a bit. Obi-Wan says to Anakin “If you practiced your saber technique as much as you did your wit, you would rival Master Yoda as a swordsman,” and he gives Anakin quite the lecture when the padawan loses his lightsaber. By Revenge of the Sith and Anakin’s status as a Jedi Knight achieved, Obi-Wan has eased up – but the seeds of bitterness have already been planted and bloom in the battle on Mustafar.
By contrast, when Obi-Wan takes Luke has his apprentice he is both gentle and compassionate. He is understanding, guiding Luke with reassurance instead of pointing out his short comings. He reminds Luke over and over again to trust in the Force – often literally, as seen in the Battle of Yavin. Even when Luke abandons his training on Dagobah, Obi-Wan does not point out Luke’s recklessness. He tries desparately to remind Luke “don’t give in to hate.” There’s concern, compassion and a genteel nature in Obi-Wan’s training – things that seem absent when training Anakin. At the very least, Obi-Wan’s pragmatism when training Anakin prevents him from taking a more fatherly role as he did with Luke.
So, given this, he passes Anakin’s saber to Luke in hopes that Luke may symbolically carry on his father’s legacy to true fruition and not only bring balance to the Force and redeem an old man of his greatest failure. While Luke would go on to lose that weapon in a duel against its original wielder, it is by stepping out of Anakin’s shadow and going beyond the legacy laid upon him by Obi-Wan Kenobi that Luke would truly bring balance to the Force. The sign that Luke is truly becoming his own man, his own Jedi, is in the construction of his own lightsaber.
Thus, Obi-Wan’s hope of redemption is fulfilled – from a certain point of view.