Obi-Wan and Yoda’s plan for Luke Skywalker was incredibly risky. Not only did they let the kid keep his last name, they actually took him back to Vader’s home planet. This isn’t the smartest strategy if you’re looking to hide the son of Anakin Skywalker. Fans commonly cite this as a fairly major plot hole. Maybe it was a deliberate choice, maybe it wasn’t. Regardless, he remained Luke Skywalker and he remained on Tatooine.
I would argue, however, that there was one definite benefit to the Skywalker name, one which was made apparent as soon as Luke came into contact with the Rebellion. It gave him instant credibility. This is because Leia, and possibly top members of Alliance Leadership, already knew the name.
Leia Knew Some Things
Rewatch the moment when Leia meets Luke on the Death Star in A New Hope. After her quip about his height, he tells her, “I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you.” Her response should have been, “Wait. What?” or, “No, you’re not,” or, “I’m not falling for that one, Governor Tarkin.”
That isn’t her response, though. Instead, she says “You’re who?” possibly indicating that she recognizes the Skywalker name. He responds with, “I’m here with Ben Kenobi.” She immediately goes with him; no hesitation. She believes him instantly. She trusts him right away. Why? She already associated the name with Kenobi.
In her famous message to Obi-Wan, Leia doesn’t address him as “Master”. She addresses him as “General” and references the Clone Wars. She at no point introduces herself, yet she speaks to Kenobi with an air of familiarity, almost as if she knew him. Or, perhaps, she had heard so many stories about him that she felt like she knew him.
I believe Bail Organa told his adopted daughter stories about the heroic exploits of the Jedi in their heyday, including ones about Obi-Wan Kenobi. Maybe it was so she would trust him and Yoda when the time came. Maybe it was just so she’d know the truth about the Jedi, not what the Empire said. Either way, it would have been tough to tell stories about Obi-Wan and completely omit his right-hand man and former apprentice, Anakin Skywalker.
Look back at Return of the Jedi when Luke tells Leia that Vader is his father. Watch her face as she thinks through all the implications of this revelation. She doesn’t just realize that Vader is Luke’s father; she realizes that Vader is Anakin Skywalker.
What’s in a Name?
Luke’s last name, quite simply, gave him instant legitimacy. This is why, upon escaping the Death Star and reaching Yavin, he was immediately given a fighter and participated in an extremely important mission, literally within hours of meeting Leia. Remember, their recent victory at Scarif had been an extremely costly one. They didn’t have many fighters to spare.
Also remember that Leia, at this point, had seen Luke pilot absolutely nothing. Hell, she flew the Falcon with Chewbacca when they were escaping the Death Star, not him. Maybe Biggs vouched for Luke, but I doubt he had that much pull. He himself had only recently defected.
In addition, Leia had seen Luke exhibit exactly zero leadership skills, aside from some courage and the ability to swing across a chasm. So why was Luke given a leadership position in the Alliance military almost instantaneously? Leia wasn’t the only one who recognized the name Skywalker. Admiral Ackbar actually knew Anakin and once fought alongside him. Mon Mothma knew both Anakin and Padmé.
It’s a Good Thing Luke Skywalker Was Luke Skywalker
While Vader was certainly infamous within the Rebellion and to the galaxy at large, it has not been established in canon exactly how famous Anakin Skywalker was. He was well-known during the Clone Wars to leadership on both sides of the conflict, we know that much. Those who survived the war and went on to lead the Empire and Rebellion would undoubtedly remember his name, even if the average citizen didn’t.
In addition to Mon Mothma and Admiral Ackbar, General Hera Syndulla most likely knew of him, too. Her father, Cham, had worked with Jedi, including Anakin, during the liberation of Ryloth during the Clone Wars. It would follow that anyone whose parents were touched in some way by his heroics during the war would also have heard the stories. For those people, in both the Alliance and the Empire, Luke’s name most likely carried a great deal of weight and, possibly, propaganda value.
From a practical point of view, Rebel Leadership got very, very lucky. Their decision to give a fighter to a nobody farm boy was what ended up saving them all. If not for his father’s reputation, Luke would never have been in that cockpit. To many, the name “Skywalker” conjured up images of a courageous leader, a powerful Jedi, and a skilled pilot. Luke Skywalker lived up to his father’s name.
Did Leia know all about Luke’s famous father? Was Obi-Wan and Yoda’s plan not really stupid after all? Let us know in the comments!