This article contains spoilers for Obi-Wan Kenobi episodes 1 and 2.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is bringing some old Star Wars mysteries back into the spotlight, such as why Obi-Wan didn’t change his last name from Kenobi when hiding on Tatooine. As much as Obi-Wan Kenobi as a character has been deeply explored throughout the original trilogy and the prequels, there was still a lot of room for the Star Wars character to be developed. The period between Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith and Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope was the most obvious choice, as it is one of the most important periods in Obi-Wan’s life that had yet to be seen in live-action.
Creating a show whose main character’s fate is already known by the audiences is a difficult task, but Obi-Wan Kenobi is already proving that it can succeed in this way. While there can be no mortal stakes for Obi-Wan, as he dies in A New Hope and not sooner, the show can still change how audiences perceive Obi-Wan by offering new insights into his personality, emotions, and choices he made after Order 66 and the fall of the Jedi. For example, Obi-Wan Kenobi now reveals that Obi-Wan did leave Tatooine at least once, and it was for a good reason: finding and rescuing a young Leia Organa.
One of the many mysteries created by the Star Wars prequels regarding the original trilogy is why Obi-Wan changed his name to Ben but continued using the last name Kenobi. In terms of a behind-the-scenes answer, it is important to remember that the story of how Obi-Wan went into hiding after Order 66 to watch one of the Skywalker twins was only crafted years after A New Hope, Star Wars’ first ever film, was released. A New Hope made it clear that Obi-Wan “Ben” Kenobi did not want to draw much attention to himself, but it is likely that George Lucas still did not have the full picture of why exactly that was the case, much less that there were Jedi hunters known as the Inquisitors searching for the Jedi Master. This apparent plot hole is similar to many others indirectly caused by the Star Wars prequels, such as why Obi-Wan chose to take Luke to Anakin Skywalker’s home planet or why Leia can remember her biological mother when Padmé died during childbirth.
However, there can also be in-universe reasons as to why Obi-Wan kept his last name. In the now Legends Star Wars: Kenobi novel, for example, it is suggested that Obi-Wan changed his name primarily not to hide from the Empire, as he was already hidden on a desert planet in the Outer Rim, but rather to symbolically leave his life as a famous Jedi Master behind. Obi-Wan Kenobi fought in the Clone Wars and was part of the Jedi Council, but Ben Kenobi was a simple worker on the sands of Tatooine. Although part of Legends, that answer could work very well as a canon explanation for the Kenobi name mystery. It was highly unlikely that the Grand Inquisitor, Reva, or Darth Vader were ever going to hear anything about Kenobi from Tatooine, and simply changing his name from Obi-Wan (most likely an uncommon name in Tatooine) to Ben would already help him blend in with the locals.
The transition from Revenge of the Sith to A New Hope, a period to which Obi-Wan Kenobi is adding a lot, is one of the biggest sources of plot holes and inconsistencies in the Star Wars canon to date. That said, Obi-Wan keeping the Kenobi last name is far from being the biggest of them. In fact, considering the size of the Star Wars galaxy and the lack of strategic importance that Tatooine held for the Empire, the Kenobi last name would likely never be a big problem for Obi-Wan, provided he continued to live a hermit-like existence.
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Obi-Wan Kenobi releases new episodes Fridays on Disney+.