Obi Wan Kenobi – Wise Old Man and Sacred Warrior


Alec Guinness as Obi Wan Kenobi via Wikipedia

In the Star Wars Original Trilogy (1977-83), Obi Wan Kenobi is an honorable Jedi knight, played by actor Alec Guinness. He is also a spiritual teacher for the young hero, Luke Skywalker.

Obi Wan is the only character to appear within the first six Star Wars films. He appears in voice for the seventh but is absent in the latest Star Wars incarnation, The Last Jedi.¹

Guinness was nominated for an academy award for his 1977 Star Wars performance.

In the Prequel Trilogy (1999-2005), Obi Wan is portrayed by Ewan McGregor.

Most moviegoers and critics generally agree that the Prequel Trilogy isn’t quite as good as the Original Trilogy, but it does highlight the early development of Obi Wan’s charitable character.

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In Jungian thought, the Alec Guinness version of Obi Wan exemplifies the archetype of the wise old man. Obi Wan’s miraculous ability to manipulate “The Force” for the greater good also fits with the archetype of the Sacred Warrior.

In the PBS TV series The Power of Myth (1988), the American mythology expert Joseph Campbell says the original Star Wars films are a modern myth. They take ancient themes and recast them in a modern light.

Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (right) and Padawan O...
Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn (right) and Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, as portrayed by Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace via Wikipedia

George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, consulted with Campbell while making the original trilogy so the classic “hero cycle,” as scholars put it, would ring true with 20th century moviegoers.

Campbell met regularly with Carl Jung, Mircea Eliade, Karl Kerényi and other notable scholars of myth at the annual Eranos Conferences.

So this is a good example of scholarship having relevance, meeting with pop culture, and actually reaching the people—unlike some scholars who use academe as a kind of hideaway where they can enjoy the good life while doing mediocre work.

¹ Apparently there was not enough archival material to include him, and director Rian Johnson felt that a meeting of Luke Skywalker and Obi Wan played by Ewan McGregor (the second actor to portray Obi Wan) would be emotionally unsatisfying.

Related » Bhagavad-Gita, Yoda

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4 comments

  1. See but my question is often if Campbell would have seen the validity in the last three (“first” three) movies… as they were frankly not up to snuff compared to the original three…

    What do you think?

    ps. have you seen TOBY-Wan Kenobi?

    Liked by 1 person

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