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“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” Joseph Campbell
When he first began writing the Star Wars saga in the early 1970s, George Lucas already had a tremendous vision for the movies he wanted to create. Influenced strongly by serials like Flash Gordon, Lucas knew he wanted to produce a “soap opera in space” full of lasers, spaceships, aliens, yet true down-to-Earth human interactions as well. What he lacked though was a depth in the story.
That is when he turned to the most popular mythologist of the 20th century (if not all-time), Joseph Campbell. Joseph Campbell, born in 1904, had been studying and writing about mythology since the 1920s, and taught on the same subject until his death in 1987. He first fell in love with the symbolism of Native American mythology, but would later delve into many of the world’s ancient myths, especially that of Greek mythology. Campbell would also become enamored with the story of Buddha’s enlightenment, a source for a plethora of his writings.
Possibly the most famous book ever written by Campbell was The Hero with a Thousand Faces, first published in 1949. It was from this book that George Lucas gained his true inspiration for Star Wars. One could argue this work acted as a muse for Lucas, and this is evident when Campbell once said that the filmmaker was “his finest student.”
The most popular theme from this book was “the hero’s journey,” and when watching Star Wars, it is easy to see Luke Skywalker transform through this process. In the hero’s journey, an unlikely hero begins his or her life as an ordinary individual — someone whose finest joy is going to the Tosche Station to pick up some power converters. Seemingly out of the blue, they receive a call to adventure — a feisty little less-than-honest droid who is carrying a message from a beautiful woman saying “help me!”
Two of most important elements of the hero’s journey are meeting a mentor, and refusing the call to adventure. Many mythological stories feature a wise hermit (“Hello there!”) who sometimes even comes bearing gifts — Excalibur, a lightsaber, etc. This mentor, this teacher, will show the hero that there is something larger in this world than their own existence, such as the Force. Overwhelmed, the would-be hero will often refuse the mentor’s suggestion to step into the larger world, saying “I have to stay here.” Something however, such as gazing at your crispy aunt and uncle, will make the hero cross the threshold and truly begin the heroic adventure.
From there the hero will make friends and allies to help him or her on the journey. They can come in many forms such as scoundrels, Wookiees, and even droids. One may even find a “damsel in distress,” who is hardly in distress, and would probably slap you if you called her a damsel. Together the group will go through numerous trials all while collectively and individually develop into higher beings.
The hero will then usually find themselves in a foreboding cave — sometimes this is also called “the belly of the whale.” This cave can take many forms, including a large trash compactor that is home to a not-so-friendly Dianoga. From this cave the hero will shed their old skin and emerge more confident and focused.
The pinnacle of the hero’s journey happens when the protagonist must apply everything he or she has learned and overcome a great ordeal. In Star Wars, this obviously happens when Luke Skywalker takes his X-Wing into the Death Star trench in an attempt to blow up the space station (with a special shoutout to Galen and Jyn Erso). Whereas other flying aces relied on technology to try and make the kill shot, Luke instead turned off his targeting computer and used the Force to make the shot. And boom goes the dynamite, or, in this case, the Death Star.
At the end of the journey the hero will earn a reward (unless your name is Chewbacca) and return home. The reward will come in different forms, but will usually mean a higher state of being, a state of enlightenment. Rarely do truly mythological heroes triumph in order to gain physical rewards.
There are some key things to remember about the hero’s journey. First, generally a hero does not go through this process just once. Luke can be seen going through this in every movie of the original trilogy. Second, sometimes these journeys can be part of an even larger adventure, as is the case with Anakin Skywalker. His particular story spans all six movies, and he does not receive redemption until the last ten minutes of Return of the Jedi. Lastly, the hero’s journey can happen in anybody’s life. If you watch closely, you can even see Han Solo go through his own journey who some find even more interesting than Luke’s.
With all that being said, I encourage you to study the works of Joseph Campbell (jcf.org) and apply this theme to all characters in the Star Wars universe. Jyn Erso and Rey (Skywalker? Solo? Kenobi?) are powerful female characters who go through their own unique journeys. But most importantly, I encourage you to apply the hero’s journey to your own life. Yes, every single one of us has the potential and the capacity to be a hero — just look at the work of the 501st Legion. Where are you in your personal journey? Many of us have received the call but have spent years refusing it. I strongly suggest you take the first steps into a larger world — you never know what’s waiting for you out there.
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The original radio drama gets us to Alderaan
Following chapter one, episode one, the next part opens the same way as the first with the main theme and those very famous words. Come on, say them with me now:
After listening to the entire radio play, I can tell you that it starts that same way every time: opening credits score, narration about the formation of the Rebel Alliance and a summary of what is going to happen in the following part of the story. This was done in order to allow people to catch up, as it was originally aired over a multi-day period.
The chapter opens with something similar yet different to the 1977 movie. Princess Leia’s ship Tantive IV is intercepted by an Imperial ship, but this time over the planet Ralltiir instead of Tatooine, “and forced to land under escort”. It isn’t Vader who captures her, it’s someone named Lord Tion. Only having read a small selection of Legends novels, there is not much I can glean from this. I don’t recall coming across Tion — is he someone to be feared like Thrawn or simply some lower ranking Imperial sent to retrieve her? If anyone knows, please explain in the comments below.
Then — as per the movie — in order to hide her involvement with the Rebel Alliance, Leia repeats her standard line of her ship being that of a consular on a diplomatic mission. In my mind, I couldn’t help but add “to Alderaan,” as that is the famous line, even though that part has yet to come up. At this point, she is simply trying to re-equip the rebels on the planet below. It is only through her keen skills of diplomacy that she is able to escape this encounter without having her ship immediately searched. The catch is that she has to agree to have dinner back on her home planet with the arrogant Lord Tion, the man who captured her ship. What Leia does for the rebellion…
After agreeing and leaving in order to make way to her ship, she has her first encounter with the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Vader. Again, it is only due to her knowledge of Imperial protocol and Vader’s desire to keep everything legal that she is allowed to remain free. One problem down, another to go.
This part is interesting in that it shows yet another time Leia was able to skillfully slip through the Empire’s grasp. Not just the Empire’s, but Vader’s to boot. As she’ll later learn, escaping from him is not the easiest thing in the galaxy. To do so now re-enforces her knowledge of Imperial regulations and protocols.
After setting a trap for Lord Tion that will lead to an important discovery later on, she meets a wounded rebel solider who passes on important information.
Leia then makes her way back home to Alderaan via “the old roads” on foot. She does this in order to sort out her thoughts about what she saw on Ralltiir. Being as it is a day’s journey, it gives her a nice long while to think everything over and figure out how she is going to help them.
According to Leia, “people on Ralltiir have been chased from their homes, penned up like animals, executed without trial. Torture chambers are set up everywhere, they [The Empire] call them interrogation centers.” To this her father simply comments that it is the “usual Imperial procedure.” I found this fascinating because it shows two different levels of experience in this way of life. Her father has come to expect it and adjusted accordingly, while still of course disagreeing. His daughter, on the other hand, is still amazed by it all. It goes to show how an event that affects two people — in this case a father and daughter— can result in completely different reactions.
Hope to see you all next post. Until then, May the Force be with you…always.
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Luke is torn between family and adventure in the original radio drama
Hello everyone and welcome back. I hope you’re doing okay. If not, hopefully this will cheer you up. In this next section of the radio drama the excitement really begins. I’d tell you everything I’m going to be talking about, but that would ruin the surprise. So let’s get into it.
Picking up where we last left off, Luke now knows of his friend’s plan to jump ship and join the Rebellion. Just like in the movie of course.
A new scene follows. Luke and Biggs argue over the former’s decision to put off going to the Imperial Academy another season, even though both know that there’s no place he’d rather be. In this debate, Biggs tells his friend that in the process of putting off his application it was cancelled, thus sending the point home that unless Luke applies again, he really is stuck on Tatooine.
During the course of this dispute, Biggs manages to really infuriate his friend by saying, “Your uncle uses that ‘I fed you and brought you up’ line to keep you here. Can’t you see that?” By doing this, he is implying that Luke’s uncle is simply manipulating him. While the young man may know this to be true, he is still tied between his duty to help his only remaining family — “My aunt and uncle are the only family I’ve got. They’re all I’ve got” — and his desire to follow his dreams off-planet into whatever adventure awaits him. Oh, if only he knew! This leads me to wonder what would have happened if Luke had left his family behind and gone to the academy. Well, that’s a topic for another day.
Luke eventually drops his friend off at his destination. Seconds pass before Biggs starts the conversation again, not yet ready to get out and leave. People in the Imperial Academy — and indeed the Rebellion — don’t know what will happen to them day to day. As such, he wants to leave things between himself and Luke as amicable as possible.
The first episode of the radio play thus comes to a close with the traditional end title score and a narrator giving the participants the credit they deserve.
So, what did I think of the first episode overall? It was…fun. Nothing too dramatic has happened yet, but it still managed to suck me in by giving more detail to one of the most well known characters in the saga: Biggs Darklighter. No, of course not, I’m talking about Luke Skywalker! Again, it was nice to see a more relaxed and playful side of him.
The first episode does an excellent job of giving more depth to Luke’s character by showing exactly how good a pilot he is along with establishing his relationship with Biggs. While obviously not as big a character, it’s still nice to see more of him and get more depth to his character as well. Things like this really bring a story to life.
Before I go I would like to give a big shout-out to Phil Roberts for liking my posts and passing them on to Future of the Force, with whom I am obviously now working. Thank you so much! Also to everyone who has liked and retweeted my articles both on here and Twitter such as Andrew in Belfast, MonkeesbloodCreative, Bryan Fontaine, Stephanie Hope, Ken $olo, Wesley van Wensen, Stewart Gardiner, Chris White and Zoe Roberts. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart and I hope to see you in my next post. May the Force be with you…always!