Title: I have a good feeling about this...
Pairing: Qui-Gon Jinn/Obi-Wan Kenobi (Star Wars: TPM)
Author: randomalia, random_alia at hotmail.com
Spoilers: general ones for their early history (Jedi Apprentice books), and through the Star Wars movies (1, 2, and the original trilogy).
Notes: quotes are from both the movies and the books. Thanks to sprencious for setting this up, and astraynotion for being a patient beta reader!
Obi-Wan felt choked with anguish at the sight. He knew his Master was alive, yet he felt as though he had witnessed his death. He didn't think his voice would penetrate the chamber. Obi-Wan spoke his Master's name quietly. "Qui-Gon."
Qui-Gon's eyes opened. He saw Obi-Wan. He smiled. He mouthed the words. I knew that you would come...
– JA #12
It begins with trust. The trust between a Jedi Master and their apprentice must be absolute, undying, unbreakable. It is the foundation of a hard life, one dedicated to service and peace. They must be able to rely on one another for anything, for everything. It ends with love, held deep and secret in an Order that forbids it. The Jedi Order believes that a Knight’s greatest dedication must be to their work, their Code of living. That a Jedi shall not know love, nor anger, nor fear.
This is a story that is beautiful and winding and often sad. It is the long road to friendship, the struggle to find trust in the face of betrayal and loss, the forging of a bond that survives long after separation. It is the story of a reserved, rebellious Jedi Master, and the dutiful, hopeful apprentice he tried to turn away. Of the ways we bind ourselves to each other and the destiny we are bound by. A story about devotion.
The name Obi-Wan Kenobi will be familiar to all, tied to images of an old man in a desolate place. The Phantom Menace (TPM) is set thirty years before, in the time of the Republic. Here, the Jedi Order serve as peacekeepers throughout a vast number of systems and planets. They mediate disputes, negotiate, investigate, protect various citizenry. To pass on their knowledge and skills, each Knight who has learned mastery of the Force takes an apprentice, a padawan. In this time, Obi-Wan is a young man, apprenticed to renowned Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn.
The relationship of master and apprentice as told here echoes the ways of our ancient civilisations: the Samurai in Japan, the Ancient Greeks. A man, experienced and educated, took a younger one and guided him to adulthood, showing him how to live. In both cultures the two men were lovers, strongly committed to one another. Many of these pairings subsided into platonic friendships once the younger man reached his own maturity, some continued to become life-long love affairs. To the Samurai, upon which the Jedi are partly modelled, this was called bi-do, “the beautiful way.”
The seeds of the old Jedi whom we encountered in the original trilogy, Ben Kenobi, can be seen in the clever, resourceful young man in TPM: a glimmer of teasing humour, a trace of loneliness. Obi-Wan is a wonderful counterpoint to his Master, Qui-Gon (pronounced Qui as in quiet). He is the more traditional Jedi, earnest and respectful, yet comfortable enough with Qui-Gon to allow both his amusement and frustration to show. He has a cheeky wit and he revels in a fight, confident and vibrant. His devotion to Qui-Gon is profound.
Where Obi-Wan is like controlled fire, his Master Qui-Gon Jinn is deep water, stillness. He is powerful, knowing, deeply spiritual. One would always feel safe at his side. And yet this is coloured by a wildness, a recklessness. He is not one to follow orders or convention blindly; rather, he listens to what his instincts tell him is right. His fellow Jedi brand him a maverick; his apprentice wonders - and worries - at his ability to oppose the Jedi Council and fair turn the world on its head.
“I shall do what I must, Obi-Wan,” he says, and this more than any other line illuminates the character of Qui-Gon Jinn. Unfailingly compassionate, he seems to care almost too deeply and it gives him a strong sense of responsibility. Whatever he believes is right to do becomes his duty to do, a duty to which he gives everything he can, often regardless of the cost to himself or others.
It is this characteristic that ends his life, and shapes the future of Obi-Wan and an entire galaxy.
The strength of the pairing rests in these characters. I can’t help but feel drawn to them - their strength and the subtle sadness of their story, the undercurrents of emotion that aren’t permitted to exist out in the open. Of course it doesn’t hurt that these two - played by Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor - are pretty much Good Sex Walking. Jedi are a curious mix of the ascetic and the sensual - they aren’t celibate - but physical matters are not of primary importance. “Luminous beings,” Yoda calls them.
The relationship between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan does not tread a smooth path. Their history is marked by old wounds that break gently open again in TPM. As a teenager, Obi-Wan was overdue to be chosen by a Master and his last hope to avoid being sent away from the Temple was a hurt man, one suffering the betrayal of his former padawan. After seeing one apprentice turn to greed and hatred, Qui-Gon seemed to lose the ability to trust another. He rejected Obi-Wan, crushing the boy’s dreams of becoming a Knight and consigning him to a new, unwelcome life in the Agricultural Corps.
Even Qui-Gon Jinn cannot resist destiny, however. He eventually agreed to guide Obi-Wan to Knighthood, after Obi-Wan offered up his life to save Qui-Gon and salvage the mission. It was an interesting twist to the usual system of the master actively choosing the apprentice, and points to the sense of fate - vast and difficult - that wraps around this story. That old rejection is brought to life again years later, in TPM. Qui-Gon, having discovered a boy he believes to be the Jedi ‘Chosen One’, asserts that the boy must begin training as a Jedi immediately. When the Council refuses, Qui-Gon feels he must abruptly finish Obi-Wan’s apprenticeship so he may take this Chosen One as his padawan.
That moment speaks volumes, quietly and inconspicuously. This is the Jedi Master who will do whatever duty demands, if he feels it is right. This is also the man who guards his private emotions with the same fierce dedication. His dismay at having to take on Anakin (the Chosen One) and give up Obi-Wan to Knighthood in this way, is clear. A single look, one which does not even meet Obi-Wan’s questioning gaze, holds more feeling than his words ever will.
What exists between Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan is subtle, conveyed not so much in words but actions, small moments of freedom amongst the structures of duty. Over ten years of being constant companions has given them a rapport best symbolised by their fighting style: a fluid, powerful force drawing on the talents of both. Their dynamic can also be strained; the differences in their ideas of what is proper for a Jedi especially lead them to clash. Obi-Wan wishes his Master would not stray off the mission path to help all manner of ‘pathetic life-forms’, wishes too that Qui-Gon would not put himself at odds with the Jedi Council. Such feelings could speak of a meanness of character, but it is Qui-Gon that he worries about, rather than himself. “If you would just follow the Code you would be on the Council!” Obi-Wan argues. There is great respect between them, for all their disagreements.
Being a Jedi is not so much a job as an identity, a way of life they believe deeply in. In the movies, you won’t see either Jedi yell when they disagree, nor make swooning romantic declarations. Neither is given to being immature, hurtful, or stupid. Obi-Wan’s tears come only as his Master dies; Qui-Gon’s never. This is a ‘ship of nuance, of quiet strength and equally quiet wanting. What goes unspoken isn’t necessarily unknown with these two, and what transpires between them is all the more powerful for it.
The best example of this comes at the end. As with all the Star Wars movies, the themes of renewal and the continuous cycle of life are present in TPM, where the apprentice takes the place of the master. Struck down by an enemy, Qui-Gon is near death when Obi-Wan reaches him and gathers him into his arms. The words that pass between them are pure Jedi, pure Qui-Gon: he tries to ensure the well-being of the very galaxy by securing a promise from Obi-Wan to train Anakin. He knows Obi-Wan cannot refuse him, not because he is dying but because of Obi-Wan’s devotion. Obi-Wan can’t refuse Qui-Gon anything.
While duty is being expressed in words, a more personal communication is also taking place. The reserved Qui-Gon reaches to his apprentice, a gentle touch of fingertips to Obi-Wan’s cheek, his hand. It is both goodbye and declaration, resounding in its simplicity and affection. And although Obi-Wan believes it is a mistake to train Anakin, he promises he will do it - with or without the Council’s permission. “Qui-Gon believed in him,” he explains to Yoda in a later scene that was cut from the movie, “And I believe in Qui-Gon.”
Qui-Gon does not live to see his apprentice knighted, and ten years have passed when we next meet Obi-Wan. It is an interesting sight. He is very much in his prime, a Master who is comfortable in the weight of his Jedi robes. To my eyes, however, he seems like a man who has suffered disappointment in his life. It is a mere undertone; a drifting sense that he has lost some of those passions that once lay within him - his duty is of prime importance. He is harder, more cynical. His relationship with his own padawan is tense; Anakin taking on the role of the young buck challenging for his freedom and maturity. Anakin complains of Obi-Wan’s harshness, and although it’s clear that Obi-Wan cares about him, in some ways he’s right.
It serves to highlight the differences between this master-padawan relationship and that which Obi-Wan shared with Qui-Gon. Even after all these years there is only one person Obi-Wan will put above his duty. It is a dedication we see once more when he is captured by Qui-Gon’s own master, Dooku, who has since turned to the dark side. It angers him to hear Dooku even speak Qui-Gon’s name. “Qui-Gon Jinn would never join you,” Obi-Wan declares and we know he is right, and we know that he still reveres his Master.
This is a story with wonderful scope for exploration: Obi-Wan’s early years without a master, Qui-Gon with the talented, bright apprentice that eventually betrayed him. Qui-Gon, trying to isolate himself and rejecting Obi-Wan numerous times, followed by over a decade of having to learn to live and work with one another. The fic in this fandom is extremely diverse, and much of it captures the dry humour Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan share. Some authors take the same tone with the characters themselves in fond parody. The best characterisations balance this against the hardship of a Jedi’s life, the quiet power a Knight possesses, and the dedication to duty inherent in each.
Apart from the characters and their story, there are a few things that make this pairing appealing for me. First among them is this fantastic creation of the Jedi. As Ewan McGregor (Obi-Wan) himself says, “Nothing’s cooler than being a Jedi Knight.” Too right! As a child I rather fancied being a Jedi. Being able to use the Force, the robes, the boots - it was the height of Cool as far as I was concerned. Forget Leia with bagels on her head, I wanted to be Luke Skywalker! As an adult who has only recently come into this fandom, I now see much more to appreciate. I like their selflessness and their heroism. I like their mystic abilities and the fact that they are still very human despite them, with failings and hopes. I still like the boots.
Add to that the grand, sweeping narrative, the sense of life in Star Wars. I love the epic nature of the story that allows us to see generations unfold and how those generations are affected and shaped by what came before. It all begins, of course, with Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
“Of course," Qui-Gon added, "you would not have succeeded with your plan. I would have stopped you dying for me."
"You would not have been able to, Master," Obi-Wan replied serenely.
They exchanged a look, half-challenge, half-amusement.
May the fandom be with you!
Just a small selection of the variety of fic centred on this pairing:
Faith by Isabeau: a short and sweet piece from an outsider’s pov.
A Warm Place by Jane St Clair: Later, he remembered fires…beautiful.
The Petition by Cynthia Martin: pre-slash, in the early years of Obi-Wan’s apprenticeship. They’re both as stubborn as each other.
Lost in Translation by Helen: great fun. Pleasure Slaves are popular in this galaxy!
Aurora by M. Fae Glasgow: hot. So hot. And a clever play on the slash fan also.
Conflicting Loyalties by Trudy West: a long AU but very worthwhile. This is a characterisation of Obi-Wan that I love - he’s breaking on the inside, on the outside he’s smart, effective, does what he has to do. And repressed as only a Jedi can be! Picks up at the end of TPM.
Bass by Tem-ve H'syan: a brilliant alternate reality fic. If not Jedi, how about band members? It works.
The Naming of Jedi by Elizabeth: great essay that delves more into the character of Qui-Gon.
Master and Apprentice Archive: huge archive, caters to all sorts of q/o fic. Attached to the MA mailing list (link at the site).
quiobisupport: a new community for q/o fans to discuss, post fic/art/icons.
tpm_flashback: fic recs dealing with characters from TPM, a lot of q/o but other pairings/characters are represented as well.
jedi_archives: my little rec journal.