When Obi-Wan Kenobi met Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 in A New Hope, it seemed to be for the first time. The same goes for C-3PO. Yet, as depicted in the prequel movies, Star Wars fans know that Obi-Wan knew R2 was Anakin Skywalker’s droid, and that 3PO was often right beside R2.
This is a perplexing gap in knowledge. Obi-Wan should have remembered R2-D2 and C-3PO, right? Some of the answer lies with when the movies were made, but there is more to the explanation.
Obi-Wan, R2-D2, and A New Hope
When Obi-Wan Kenobi saved Luke Skywalker from his scrape with the Sandpeople, Luke explained how R2-D2 was looking for Obi-Wan. Kenobi responds, “I don’t seem to remember ever owning a droid.” He did not recognize R2.
In some ways, this scene conveys the truth. Obi-Wan did not own R2 in the prequels. R2 was Padme Amidala’s before she gave the droid to Anakin Skywalker. Yet, Obi-Wan was not being completely honest.
By saying he didn’t own a droid, he rejected recognizing R2, which he would have remembered. Obi-Wan may have done this to protect Luke from the truth at this point in the Star Wars movies (more below on this topic).
However, we should recognize that Obi-Wan knowing R2 did not figure into the scope of the first movie.
Released in 1977, A New Hope was the breakthrough, smash-hit, George Lucas, space-opera movie. It focused on developing characters like Luke, Han Solo, and Princess Leia, and did not convey all of the prehistory leading up to Episode IV.
It was only after the launch of the three prequel movies that this discrepancy became an issue. Only after Episodes I, II, and III, did it become apparent that Obi-Wan knew R2.
Thus, an initial answer to the question about not remembering R2 is that A New Hope was busy launching the Star Wars saga and could not factor in all of the Jedi past, including Anakin and Obi-Wan’s relationship.
Why Didn’t Obi-Wan Remember R2-D2?
Pressing into the films, though, we can uncover more to the answer. One notable point is that Obi-Wan pretended not to know R2 “to downplay the importance of the droid’s arrival.” Obi-Wan needed to proceed cautiously with Luke and R2’s arrival.
Obi-Wan knew who Luke was, and once R2 conveyed Princess Leia’s message about the Death Star, Obi-Wan knew he needed to convince Luke to follow the path of the Jedi. This would have been a more difficult task if Kenobi told Luke the truth about Anakin.
Obi-Wan sought to conceal the past in A New Hope when he told Luke that Darth Vader killed Luke’s father Anakin. Telling Luke that he knew R2 would have opened a doorway to the truth that could prevent Luke from joining the Rebellion and the light side.
Fans support this premise, along with the idea that the prequels had not been made yet. So far, we have two ways of looking at why Obi-Wan did not remember R2: when the films were made or Obi-Wan deliberately concealing the past.
The second viewpoint holds greater weight if we refer to The Princess, The Scoundrel, and The Farm Boy. This book has a scene where Obi-Wan recognized R2 and affectionately called him “my old friend.”
This provides continuity between the prequels and the original movie. As a unique astromech droid, R2 went from serving Padme Amidala to Anakin Skywalker. R2-D2 went on many missions with Anakin, who was often with Obi-Wan Kenobi.
In Revenge of the Sith, for example, R2 tried to rescue Anakin and Obi-Wan when they were trapped in a ray shield. R2 was always on hand to lend a hand, of sorts, during the Clone Wars. R2 was even there after Anakin’s downfall to Darth Vader and trip to Mustafar where he battled Obi-Wan.
Hence, a great in-universe explanation is that Obi-Wan knew R2, but was keeping it a secret from Luke.
Why Didn’t Obi-Wan Remember C-3PO?
The same holds for C-3PO. Letting Luke know that he knew this droid could have also jeopardized Luke’s quest to become a Jedi.
Not all agree, though. Some posts reveal that not remembering C-3PO, like R2-D2, was George Lucas’s mistake. It was faulty storytelling, plain and simple.
Actor Anthony Daniels who played C-3PO provides an alternative explanation, stating that Obi-Wan may have known too many droids. Perhaps C-3PO didn’t stand out well enough for Kenobi.
Daniels is the only actor who appeared in all nine Star Wars movies. So, we may give him some credence. His appearance as C-3PO in the Obi-Wan Kenobi television series may bolster this outlook. In Episode 1, C-3PO was seen in the background and didn’t have any lines.
In A New Hope, Kenobi may have forgotten C-3PO or did not think that this was the same protocol droid with R2-D2.
However, C-3PO was usually with R2-D2 during the prequels. For example, 3PO also served Queen Amidala and went on a mission to Orto Plutonia with Kenobi and Anakin during the Clone Wars.
The amount of time Kenobi spent with both droids makes it unlikely he truly forgot them.
Obi-Wan, R2-D2, and C-3PO
Obi-Wan’s forgetfulness concerning R2-D2 and C-3PO in A New Hope may be explained by the order of the movies and inconsistencies in storytelling from the original film to the prequels.
Another answer lies with Obi-Wan purposely distinguishing his knowledge of both droids to shield Luke from the truth about what happened to his father and better prepare him to become a Jedi. This second reason is more interesting and helps fit the films together.
Todd Wahlstrom is a creative and analytical freelance writer and life-long Star Wars fan who has expanded into writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He has written about recent shows such as The Mandalorian and Andor and classic topics like Darth Vader, the Jedi, and Boba Fett. His recent articles include the MCU’s Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor. Todd is the author of a non-fiction book, holds a Ph.D. in history, and enjoys hiking, running, and reading about science.