Star Wars Master & Apprentice Qui-Gon/Obi-Wan Novel Is a Great Lesson in “What They Grow Beyond”
This piece contains minor spoilers for the novel Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray.
From a certain point of view, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi were present at the genesis of the Skywalker saga; the opening scenes of Star Wars: Episode I follow the Jedi Master and his Apprentice as they arrive to investigate a dispute between the Trade Federation and the people of Naboo.
When Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi first appear onscreen in The Phantom Menace, they are already working together with the ease of well-worn familiarity, but the early days of the relationship between the two Jedi, depicted in the novel Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray, were considerably more strained.
Qui-Gon & Obi-Wan
When the novel opens, the relationship between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan has grown tense. While Qui-Gon takes a more relaxed view of Jedi rules, Obi-Wan is inclined to ensure he is obeying the spirit of the law by also obeying the letter. Qui-Gon doubts his ability to provide Obi-Wan with the guidance to fulfill his potential, while Obi-Wan views Qui-Gon’s lax interpretation of Jedi Council edicts as the sign of a changeable nature.
The underlying tension is forced to a head when Qui-Gon is presented with an opportunity to join the Jedi Council. Qui-Gon sees an opportunity to help make some of the meaningful changes he believes the Jedi Order requires in order to sustain itself and remain relevant, but accepting the position would require the termination of Obi-Wan’s apprenticeship.
Dooku & Qui-Gon
Flashbacks to “before,” set when Qui-Gon was a Padawan, offer insight into how his apprenticeship to Jedi Master Dooku informs his philosophies, interests, and even demeanor as a Jedi Master. Although Dooku would eventually be revealed as a Sith apprentice himself, the novel offers a window into Dooku’s time as a member of the Order, before he renounced the ways of the Jedi and claimed the title of Count. Qui-Gon and Dooku were quick to define their relationship as master and apprentice, and Dooku’s interests in language, history, and prophecy had a formative and lasting effect on Qui-Gon.
While Qui-Gon and Dooku may find the rhythm of their relationship with little difficulty, the nature of that relationship is very far from warm. When young Qui-Gon meets Rael Averross, who had previously been apprenticed to Dooku, Qui-Gon is hopeful that he’ll be able to gain insight into his reserved Master, but all Rael can say is that, in spite of Dooku’s stiff nature, he’ll eventually open up.
Nevertheless, Qui-Gon looks up to his Master’s stoic example as aspirational.
Words & Reality
In a way, Qui-Gon attains his aspirations of matching his Master’s stoicism: at one point in the novel, Obi-Wan reflects that Qui-Gon is like a stone in water, allowing words to flow around him without having an effect. However, while the fact that Count Dooku departed from the Jedi Order and reclaimed the title that was his birthright on his home planet of Serrano, Qui-Gon remains ignorant of the true nature of his former Master’s loyalties. Late in the novel, Qui-Gon even goes so far as to attempt to contact Dooku for help—a call that goes unheeded.
Nevertheless, Dooku’s influence over Qui-Gon is critical throughout the events of the novel, particularly evident in the way Qui-Gon approaches prophesy. Although Qui-Gon had viewed the Jedi prophesies as more literal during the time he was a Padawan, time had taught him to regard them as more or less metaphorical. Qui-Gon is forced to reconsider this position when he has a dream he believes may be prophetic.
While Dooku may not have been acting in good faith when he instilled knowledge of the Jedi prophesies in Qui-Gon—he does turn out to be a Sith, after all—the information he learned from his former Master informs Qui-Gon’s decisions as a Jedi Knight.
Obi-Wan & Luke
Just as Dooku’s belief had an effect on Qui-Gon, Qui-Gon’s beliefs have an effect on Obi-Wan. It’s no coincidence that the epilogue of Master & Apprentice focuses on events that unfold on Naboo during the coda of The Phantom Menace, as Obi-Wan resolves to continue Qui-Gon’s pursuit of the Jedi prophesy by taking Anakin Skywalker on as his Padawan.
Qui-Gon’s influence on his apprentice is also evident during Obi-Wan’s training of Luke. While Obi-Wan is aware of the fact that Luke doesn’t quite grasp the nature of his relationship with his father, he nevertheless allows him to believe inaccurate information, a tactic not-infrequently utilized by Qui-Gon.
When Luke confronts Obi-Wan’s Force ghost over the discrepancy in Return of the Jedi, Obi-Wan claims that what he told him was true … from a certain point of view, anyway. It’s not a position that would have been palatable to the Padawan we meet in the early pages of Master & Apprentice, with his slavish devotion to the letter of the law, but the effect a Master can have on their Padawan can last a lifetime—and then some—and Qui-Gon’s willingness to remain silent rather than correct someone who has the wrong idea seems to have had a lasting effect on Obi-Wan.
Luke & Rey
As the sequel trilogy draws to a close, the question of Luke’s influence over Rey looms large over the narrative. While Rey went to great lengths to seek out Luke’s tutelage, the events of The Last Jedi reveal that he has an aversion to the very idea of imparting his wisdom to the next generation. He tried being a Master and imparting his knowledge to apprentices, he tells the hopeful Rey, but it didn’t go well, and he refuses to try again. When Rey insists that the Resistance needs him, he asks what he’s going to do—face down the entire First Order armed only with his laser sword?
Of course, the words may as well be prophecy, as he does just that (more or less). Nevertheless, Luke spends a limited amount of time training Rey during the events of The Last Jedi, but she nevertheless absconds with the Sacred Jedi Texts that had been kept in the Temple on Ahch-To.
The Sacred Texts
Although Luke doubted that the Jedi knowledge of the Force could be useful going forward, Qui-Gon believed otherwise: as he tells Obi-Wan near the conclusion of Master & Apprentice, turning toward the light is a choice. They do share a similarity, though. Luke believed the source of the Jedi Texts was imperfect, just as Qui-Gon believed many of the rules espoused by the Council were flawed.
However, in spite of the imperfect source of the information, Rey may still be able to utilize the information contained within the Jedi texts for a heroic purpose, leaving behind the imperfect elements to rise above. It’s a lesson that’s been handed down from Master to Apprentice, but it’s one that bears repeating.
(featured image: Del Rey)
Avery Kaplan is queer trans woman who lives in Southern California with her books and her cats. She and her partner co-authored the forthcoming book LGBTQ Life: Double Challenge, a resource about intersectionality for middle schoolers. For more of her writing, please follow @averykaplan6 on twitter.
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