If we assume the prequels are canon (even Jar Jar) then Obi-Wan’s mental journey makes a sharp left turn into psychopathsville when we dwell on what he was up to alone in his hut for 20 years.
I mean, aside from stalking young Luke and waiting for the empire to get bored and glass Vader’s old haunt, what keeps Obi-Wan sane? Those walls above look pretty bare, and the furniture is spartan at best. So what was that old crank up to? Tetris? Sudoku? Or, waging a single-man war against the planet’s natives, eventually reducing them to a shadow population of their former glory? Does that last one sound like a bit of a stretch? Let me explain. But first, a warning.
Imagine if you will, the broken spirit of a Jedi Knight whose entire order has been crushed, whose best friend and pupil was left legless in a volcano, who has just retired from a rich life of political intrigue, high-stakes negotiation, and PTSD-enducing battles, to a planet of endless dunes. Boring, shifting, dunes.
What would you do to keep your Jedi skills sharp?
During the prequels we see evidence of a large Tusken Raider population, bold enough and aggressive enough to take pot-shots at pod racers during the Boonta Eve event. That takes some big sandy balls right there. The Tuskens (named so because they raid-murdered the settlement of Tusken) are willing to shoot at–on live television–some of the planet’s most popular sports figures. That would be akin to a group of casual snipers take shots at Formula 1 racers in front of millions of spectators…if Formula 1 was the most popular sport on the planet.
The raiders are also known for kidnapping moisture farmers. That sentence alone should tell you everything you need to know about how pervasive the Tusken Menace was on Tatooine. They were known for kidnapping and torturing, to death, the people whose job it is to provide water to the planet’s population. Those farms should be better guarded than oil wells in a war, but the raiders get away with it until Anakin shows up to ruin their day.
Now consider that 20 years later, after the Anakin incident, Obi-Wan practically has to explain every nuance about Sandpeople to Luke. This isn’t lazy exposition for the audience. This is because Luke, having grown up on those very same farms that were getting raided by Tuskens, barely knows of their existence or their violent culture.
If you grow up near forests, you’re warned as a child about bears and wolves. Live near the ocean, you hear about riptides and tsunamis. And if you grow up in Australia you’re warned about the many venomous creatures god has sent to punish you. The only way Luke wouldn’t know absolutely everything about Tuskens by age five would be if they were a non-issue. It’s almost as if a hermit with preternatural fighting abilities has been living between the Tuskens and the farmers for a generation or so, reducing their population steadily, until they were no longer a threat to civilization.
Maybe, just maybe, the Tuskens who flee from Obi-Wan in A New Hope aren’t running scared because he disguised himself as a moaning hobo. For a species that passes on their history orally, how would they remember the few Jedi they’d come into contact with?
Obi-Wan doesn’t spook the Tusken Raiders with his wacky getup. He scares the piss out of them because he’s hunted them for so long. And they know, culturally, to fear the Jedi. The bard-like lessons they’ve been sharing for the past 20 years are of Jedi slaughtering whole villages because of a kidnapped dame. And it’s happened not once, but twice. Those are Pablo Escobar levels of retribution.
Lastly, I’d like to point out that while young Obi-Wan was flowery in his swordsmanship during his battle with Darth Maul, by the time he’s hacking dudes apart in Mos Eisly we’re given to understand that Old Ben doesn’t fuck around anymore when it comes to fighting. In Bushido, the art of drawing the sword to open an attack is called Iaijutsu. When Luke is shoved during the bar scuffle, Obi-Wan doesn’t draw the sword and hold it high like a Knight getting ready for a fair contest. He draws and strikes, making two precise cuts– one of which chops the loud-mouth assailant in half, according to the original script, and the other takes his friend’s arm, along with the blaster he was wielding. This is a man who has learned from experience that the most effective way to stop an opponent is to slice them into tidy pieces.
Images and Tusken facts from Wookieepedia. This post was originally written for Masksofmonsters.wordpress.com