A lot has happened in the world of Star Wars storytelling since last year’s release of Star Wars: Life Day Treasury – a compendium of “holiday stories from a galaxy far, far away” – by George Mann and Cavan Scott. We’ve gotten new insight into old characters, added layers of trauma and triumph, with which to approach these holiday tales.
Take the story, “An Old Hope.” It’s a simple, delightful tale about a little red astromech named LA-R1 who gets ambushed and abducted by Jawas. The little droid is on on an errand in a Tatooine town, Mos Gofti, and becomes distracted after “banging into a tall human wearing long brown robes.” That human, as it turns out, has a propensity to stroke his “bone-white beard,” and move things around with a wave of his hand. (Hello, there!)
The droid, though, knows nothing of old Ben Kenobi, and instead finds himself trapped on a sandcrawler among other captured droids, seemingly worse off for his chance encounter with the fabled Jedi master. Among the band of disgruntled droids, LA-R1 gets a crash course in the legend of the Oil-Bringer.
“Once a year, a jolly old human travels the cosmos to ease the burden of droids everywhere,” one of LA-R1’s companions explains. The story is met with skepticism, adding to the despair palpable amidst the captive droids.
So, LA-R1 decides to do some oil-bringing himself. He repairs his friends as best he can, giving from his own reserves. And just in time, too, because that very night a sand elk attacks the sandcrawler giving the droids a chance at escape.
They all do—though our hero, LA-R1 falters amidst the Tatooine sands, having given too much of himself to aid his friends. All seems lost.
And then, that same hooded figure appears, oil in hand, to save the day. “Shall we see about getting you home?” Obi-Wan asks, though he’s never actually named.
It’s a heart-warming story, and this depiction of Obi-Wan is in line with the man we saw in A New Hope: the mysterious, hooded warrior who appears from amidst the dunes to lend a hand and save the vulnerable just in the nick of time.
This depiction, though, is a far cry from the Ben Kenobi we met at the start of Obi-Wan Kenobi, that additional layer of storytelling given to us since the Life Day Treasury released last September. What does the TV series add to this otherwise simple fable?
A Jedi master aiding someone in need—even a droid—hardly seems that significant. And yet, we know that Kenobi refused to help one of his own kind, a fellow Jedi, in his hour need. Ben’s refusal led to that Jedi’s death.
Kenobi even resisted helping Princess Leia—the counterpart to his own charge, Luke, who he knew to be essential to the future of the galaxy. It took a personal visit from Bail Organa just to get Kenobi to leave his cave, to dig up his lightsaber from the depths of the Tatooine sand.
And yet, in “An Old Hope” Ben is casually using the Force, stepping out of the shadows to return a mere astromech to his family?
Simple? Hardly. This short holiday tale is something of a capstone to the progression we saw Obi-Wan’s character make in his self-titled series. Not only has Kenobi returned to his Jedi ways, he’s again looking out for the most vulnerable. He’s no longer hidden in shadow, focused solely on one person. He’s back to caring about the galaxy at large—and the specific, particular beings that make it up.
Perhaps that’s the key takeaway from “An Old Hope” for all of us as we approach the holiday season: No matter what has happened in our past, no matter what traumas and tragedies, we have in this moment an opportunity to refocus our efforts on the needs of others, no matter how seemingly small or simple.