Star Wars

Star Wars Star Wars As a Mythology Fifteen years ago, I set out to make a movie for a generation without fairy tales. -George Lucas There exists in every culture a series of folk tales and stories, which make up a part of that culture’s history. These stories, called myths, often venture into the magical and fantastic, with great heroes battling terrible monsters to save exotic lands. As the human race has evolved, we have moved beyond the need to attribute unexplained events to supernatural workings beyond our ken. As a result, modern culture puts its faith in science and organised religion, and for centuries there have been no new myths. In the nineteen-seventies, a young and enthusiastic film maker/director put his imagination and heart into changing that. George Lucas’s now legendary Trilogy of movies and books, Star Wars, is the result.

To the casual observer, the movies are only exciting science fiction stories, but a closer look reveals nothing short of a complete mythology within. George Lucas collaborated with Joseph Campbell on the making of the first movie of the Trilogy, A New Hope (A New Hope is more commonly known as Star Wars, but to be accurate, Star Wars will be used when discussing the entire Trilogy and A New Hope will be used when discussing the first movie only.) Before he died, Campbell was widely accepted as the foremost authority on myths and mythologies in the world. Campbell strongly believed that every culture’s myths and legends were strikingly similar, even identical, to those of every other culture. His The Hero With A Thousand Faces compares the trials and traits of heroes from all legends. Lucas incorporated Campbell’s model of the Hero in developing Luke Skywalker as the Hero in A New Hope.

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The plot line of A New Hope is very similar to that of many mythologies. In order to better understand how Luke evolves as a Hero, it is necessary to examine the early events of the film and note how these key events are typical of other myths. A New Hope takes place in a typical science-fiction galaxy. There exist many planets and races of intelligent life. The galaxy’s government has recently been thrown into turmoil by the emergence of the evil Emperor and his Empire.

The Empire is the typical tyrant of mythological stories. In Greek legend, the creation of the universe proceeded smoothly until Cronos, father of the gods, decided he wanted supreme power. He took over and ruled ruthlessly, and it was up to Zeus and his divine siblings to overthrow him and restore peace. In A New Hope the Rebel Alliance takes the place of the gods. As in many myths, the Rebellion is young and hopelessly outnumbered.

Campbell wrote that the Hero is almost always a youth and weak relative to his enemies. The Rebellion has just won its first victory by stealing classified information from the Empire and smuggling it to Princess Leia, a high ranking Alliance member. Princess Leia is on her way to deliver the information to Obi-Wan Kenobi, a former general. It is the Alliance’s hope that Kenobi can safely get the information to the Rebel base. Obi-Wan lives on Tatooine, a desert planet on the outskirts of the galaxy which happens to be home to a young Luke Skywalker.

Luke knows Obi-Wan as Ben, and believes he is only an old hermit. This element is also present in Greek mythology. Cronos swallowed all of his children to ensure that they could not overthrow him. His wife hid his last son and gave Cronos a rock to swallow instead. The youngest son, Zeus, was sent away to live in a remote mountain valley until he grew old enough to challenge his father.

Tatooine corresponds to Zeus’s valley as the distant sanctuary for the growing Hero. On the way to Tatooine, Leia’s ship is intercepted and boarded by one of the Empire’s ships. In desperation she sends the information, stored in a droid named Artoo-Detoo, to the planet’s surface. Artoo-Detoo and his companion, an interpreter droid named See-Threepio, meet and are bought by Luke’s uncle. Thus, Luke enters the story. An introduction of some of the story’s key characters will also help in analyzing the Hero Cycle.

Luke Skywalker will become the Hero. He is nineteen years old and works as a farmhand on his uncle’s moisture farm. He is bored with his life and wishes to submit his application to the Starfighter Academy. Luke’s dream is to be a starfighter and go on grand, epic adventures. Another classic element of mythology is this yearning. Campbell thought that one of the basic prerequisites of the Hero-to-be is the desire to become something great.

Han Solo is another key figure. Han is a smuggler, and earns his living shipping cargo for unscrupulous characters. He has incurred the wrath of several crime lords, and is currently looking for easy money to pay his debts. Han joins the adventure in Mos Eisley spaceport on Tatooine and becomes Luke’s closest friend. As the plot progresses, Han along with Ben plays the role of Luke’s tutor.

He represents physical discipline and proficiency in combat. It is Han’s job to instruct Luke as a warrior. Ben Kenobi is Han’s spiritual counterpart. Ben lives as a hermit on Tatooine and is regarded by the citizens as a crazy old man. He was a general in the Clone Wars long ago, and was close friends with Princess Leia’s father.

It is for this reason Leia seeks him out. Ben is also a Jedi Knight. The Jedi were the protectors of the galaxy during the reign of the Old Republic but have become extinct, exterminated by the Empire. Ben is the only Jedi remaining. It is his role to instruct Luke in the Force, the Jedi’s source of power. Ben represents mental control and self-discipline.

He is Han’s complement in Luke’s teaching. A New Hope’s version of the classic damsel in distress is Princess Leia. She is a senator in the Republic and one of the Rebel Alliance’s key members. Leia is captured by Darth Vader and taken to the Death Star, a mobile space station and the Empire’s newest and most powerful weapon. There she is interrogated and, after giving up no useful information, is scheduled to be executed.

It is into this situation Luke and his friends enter, and it is Luke’s goal to rescue her. Here George Lucas reflected the modern view of the role of women. Instead of designing Leia as a meek, subservient woman, he has her take control and join Luke and Han as an equal. In the Trilogy, she is developed into a full-blown character. Despite her haughtiness, both Luke and Han become enamored with her. This creates something of a love triangle between the three, but, as in most fairy tales, the heroes work through it (actually, Lucas didn’t elaborate on it much.) The two most amusing characters in the movie are See-Threepio and Artoo- Detoo.

They are both droids, artificial life forms with intelligence. Artoo is an astromech droid. These types of droids are used for navigation and are frequently placed into starfighters as an engine enhancement. Artoo is placed into Luke’s starfighter later in the movie, and this gives the two the chance to develop a master-pet relationship. See-Threepio is an interpreter droid, working in human-cyborg relations as he is fond of saying.

See-Threepio is the closest thing A New Hope has to a narrator. Most of the comic relief and release of tension in the story occur as a result of the interplay between Artoo and See-Threepio. Their role in the mythological aspect of A New Hope is that of the faithful companions of the Hero. These companions serve him because they know no better or have nothing else to do or, as in the case of the two droids, because they are programmed to. The last remaining key character in A New Hope is Darth Vader. Vader is the villain, evil, sinister, and powerful.

He is dressed all in black and is half mechanical, giving his voice a deep, metallic sound which is quite intimidating. Vader plays the role of the Dark Knight in mythology. He is the being of unstoppable power and evil which plagues the land. Old Celtic legends hold that there once was a mystical island named Eire, which is Ireland today. Eire was peaceful and idyllic until the coming of Balor of the Evil Eye and his minions. Balor was a huge, one-eyed Fomorian (Irish giant). He brought hundreds of his Fomorian followers and settled in Eire, enslaving the populace and ravaging the land.

After many years, a band of heroes killed Balor and restored peace to the land. These heroes became the Celtic gods, and included Manannan Mac Lir, Lugh, and Dagda, all prominent Irish deities. Darth Vader is the Balor of A New Hope. Vader is extremely powerful and the best starfighter in the galaxy. Although he tortures Princess Leia and pursues the heroes throughout the story, he never directly threatens them.

The fact that Luke never faces him is the concession of his power; Luke, even with his newfound Hero powers, cannot hope to match him. Even at the end of the story, Vader doesn’t die; he escapes into space. Campbell’s model of the Hero involves what he called the Hero Cycle, or Adventure of The Hero. The cycle is circular, with steps along it which the Hero takes on his journey. The circle is split into two semicircles, with a line splitting the circle called the Threshold of Adventure. Those events which occur in the place where the Hero grows up and lives, called the Homeland, lie above the Threshold of Adventure.

Those which occur in the realm of the fantastic and supernatural, called the Land of Enchantment, lie below the Threshold. The steps of the Cycle are, in order: the Call to Adventure, the Helper, the Threshold, the Tests, the Supreme Ordeal, the Flight, the Return from the Threshold, and the Elixir. The crucial part of the plot of A New Hope, as in any folk tale’s, is the development and evolution of the Hero through the Hero Cycle. The first part of the Cycle is the Call to Adventure. Here, the hero discovers that there is something beyond his normal, everyday existence.

Many Irish and Celtic folk tales begin with the hero riding in a forest and discovering a ring of small standing stones with a luminescent rock in the center. The hero enters a doorway in the rock and is transported to a land of faeries and magic. In A New Hope, Luke chases a runaway Artoo- Detoo into the desert which makes up the vast majority of Tatooine, and is ambushed and knocked unconscious by a group of desert scavengers. Luke is saved from certain death by Ben Kenobi, a mysterious hermit. Ben takes him to the cave where he lives and tells him of his heritage as the son of a Jedi Knight.

This is his entrance into the faery rock. Sometimes the Hero refuses the Call to Adventure. In his cave, Ben asks Luke to accompany him off-world and join the Rebellion. Luke declines and decides to stay. Campbell said that this refusal, although seemingly against the Hero’s wish to accomplish legendary deeds, is present in every Hero, representing his desire to lead a normal life. Luke feels that he should stay and help his uncle despite his adventurous nature (Reference A New Hope, 4342–4513). Meanwhile, the Empire’s soldiers, which have been searching for See-Threepio and Artoo- Detoo, track the droids to Luke’s uncle’s farm and kill his aunt and uncle. Upon returning, Luke realizes that there is no reason for him to stay (Reference ANH, 4724–4914 and 5000–5946), and agrees to accompany Ben to return the stolen data and join the Rebellion. Campbell repeatedly emphasized the importance of the revenge factor in the Hero’s evolution.

The Hero’s most common Call to Adventure is the response to some action taken against him. The brutal killing of Luke’s family is what makes him change his mind and answer his Call to Adventure. He leaves his previous mundane existence and enters the realm of enchantment and danger. The next step in the Hero Cycle is the introduction of the Helper. The Helper is a character who aids the hero’s first faltering steps into the Land of Enchantment. This character is often a supernatural, mysterious entity who instructs the hero and equips him for the trials ahead.

When Perseus set off to slay Medusa, he was told to seek out advice and aid from the gods. Medusa was the only mortal sister of three Gorgons, and was so hideous in appearance that any who glanced at her would immediately turn to stone. Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom and honorable warfare, lent Perseus Aegis, her brass shield. She told him to look into the shield and fight Medusa while viewing her reflection. Hermes, the god of thievery and trickery, gave Perseus a magic sack and a pair of magical sandals.

The sack would grow large enough to contain anything put in it, and was to be used to hold Medusa’s head should Perseus prove successful. The sandals would enable Perseus to fly and bestow upon him superhuman speed so he could escape the wrath of Medusa’s sisters. Thus armed, Perseus was ready to engage his foe. Ben Kenobi and Han Solo play the roles of the helpers in A New Hope. Ben instructs Luke in the ways of the Force, the Star Wars equivalent of magic.

He gives Luke a lightsaber, the weapon of a Jedi Knight. This enables Luke to compete with the enemies he will face in his adventure. Han Solo is Luke’s friend and companion. He doesn’t give Luke anything tangible, but serves as the guide from the Homeland to the Land of Enchantment. His ship, the Millennium Falcon, is the physical mode of transportation between Tatooine and elsewhere.

The physical transportation to adventure is easily seen in Greek mythology. Several Greek legends take place in Hades, Greece’s version of Hell. In order to cross over into Hades, the traveler must cross the River Styx. This river flowed with poisonous, acidic water and killed all who came into contact with it. The only way to cross this barrier was to pay Charon, the boatman of Hades. Charon would ferry the souls of the dead or those heroes brave enough to enter Hades for a price. The dead had only to pay a single silver coin, which they were buried with.

Charon refused to ferry living beings across without an extravagant form of payment or persuasion, however. Han Solo’s price for taking Luke and Ben to Alderaan, their destination before it was destroyed, was ten thousand credits. Luke balked at the price, as Ben and he didn’t have that much money, but Ben offered to pay Han a small amount now, plus much more upon arrival at their destination. Han agreed, and they were on their way (Reference ANH, 5539–5709). Han also defends the passengers throughout the voyage to Alderaan and ultimately the Death Star, providing Luke with his first taste of combat.

Immediately upon leaving Tatooine, Han pulls some fancy maneuvers to evade two Imperial Star Destroyers, huge ships which would have easily destroyed the Millennium Falcon. Han’s role as defender is the same as that of the Argonauts as they accompanied Jason to Colchis in the Greek legend of the Golden Fleece. Jason had a huge ship built to fetch the prize which would restore him to the throne of his country. He invited the greatest heroes from Greece to accompany him, and they defended and aided him on his journey to Colchis. The peril the Argonauts faced which is most similar to the Star Destroyers in A New Hope is the Clashing Rocks of the Symplegades. In order to pass, the Argonauts had to follow a specific procedure, and succeeded with only the stern of the ship being crushed.

Han is able to save the heroes with only superficial damage to his ship. A necessary part of the Hero’s journey is the actual, physical transport out of his previous life. There is a gate or Threshold which the Helper from step two aids the hero to cross, and on the other side of the Threshold lies the Land of Enchantment. In Norse mythology, there existed a rainbow bridge which spanned the gap between Midgard, the land of men, and Asgard, the home of the Gods. This bridge, named Heimdall, was one such Threshold.

The Threshold in A New Hope is the spaceport of Mos Eisley. It is an extremely dangerous place, as Ben warns Luke. Luke responds arrogantly, as the naive Hero-to-be often does. (Reference ANH, 5047–5106 and 5217–5230) Mos Eisley is where Luke sells his landspeeder, a representation of his former life, and enlists Han Solo’s aid. The Threshold contains a guardian of some sort which must be passed. This guardian dwells within the Threshold, and is usually a creature or living enemy.

Heimdall was guarded by a god of the same name whose sole purpose was to prevent the crossing of the bridge by mortals. Luke’s first encounter with such a danger occurs while Ben and he are attempting to enter the spaceport. They enter the city with See-Threepio and Artoo–Detoo, and are stopped by a group of stormtroopers. The stormtroopers, which are the Empire’s standard soldiers, are searching for the droids, and begin to question Luke about his ownership of them. Ben uses the Force to exert mind control over them, and convinces them to allow Luke and him to pass. This is Luke’s first taste of the magical power which he himself will come to possess.

Another significant encounter takes place in the Cantina, Mos Eisley’s combination bar/information center. While talking to Chewbacca, first mate aboard the Millennium Falcon, about securing passage, Luke is left alone for a brief time. He is bullied by Ponda Baba, a walrus-headed monster. Ben attempts to calm the situation by offering him a drink, but Ponda Baba’s friend, a humanoid mercenary who has the death sentence in twelve systems, attacks him. Ben slices off Ponda Baba’s arm with his lightsaber and ends the conflict.

Here Luke first witnesses Ben’s power in combat. According to Campbell, this is characteristic of the Threshold. In addition to being the gate to the Realm of Adventure, it offers the Hero his first glimpse into a bigger world. The Hero exits the Threshold eager for more excitement and mentally more able to accept the wonders he will face. After leaving his Homeland, the Hero finds himself faced with many challenges along the path to adventure.

After overcoming these challenges, the Hero is then presented with a final difficult task and finally the prize. In one Germanic/Norse myth, the hero, a mighty warrior named Siegfried, seeks to win the hand of Brunhilde in marriage. Brunhilde has been asleep many years atop a mountain, placed there by her father Odin as a punishment. Siegfried sets out and must fight many monsters and face myriad obstacles to reach the mountain. Once there, he is faced with Odin disguised as an old man.

Siegfried passes by Odin by breaking Odin’s staff–representative of disarming him. Upon climbing the mountain, he is faced with a curtain of magical fire which circles the sleeping Brunhilde. The only way anyone can pass through the flame is to plunge immediately into it without hesitation, and Siegfried does so, making his way to his bride. Luke faces obstacles from the start, but unlike Siegfried, he is unable to cope with all of them by himself. He is aided by helpers as described above.

After facing the obstacles, the Hero enters the Land of Enchantment. In A New Hope, Luke enters the Death Star and attempts to rescue Princess Leia. The Death Star is Luke’s Land of Enchantment, where he faces most of his personal challenges. Here there is a minor discrepancy between the hero cycle in A New Hope and that in most other mythologies. In nearly every folk tale or legend, the obtaining of the prize is preceded by the Supreme Ordeal, a task of seemingly impossible difficulty.

Siegfried’s Supreme Ordeal was the fiery curtain. Perseus had to kill a monster he couldn’t look at. The Hero’s Supreme Ordeal was the biggest, most impressive encounter he had to face, and was the highlight of his adventure. Luke’s rescue of Princess Leia was indeed spectacular and daring, as he an …

Star Wars

.. d Han had to cope with a space station full of enemy soldiers, but the rescue is eclipsed by Luke’s destruction of the Death Star at the end of the movie. This was presumably done because A New Hope was an action movie, which as a rule needs to present a final conflict at the conclusion rather than the climax. Therefore, Luke’s Supreme Ordeal, the destruction of the Death Star, is separate from his prize, the rescue of Princess Leia. Upon entering the Land of Enchantment, the Hero is typically left to his own devices to complete his quest.

If the Hero has learned his lessons well and fulfilled his role, he will do well and succeed. If not, his quest is doomed to fail. The Greek Hero Orpheus is an example of such an unfortunate. Orpheus fell in love with a girl named Eurydice and they intended to wed. Several days before their wedding, the girl stepped on and was bitten by a venomous snake, and later died. Orpheus determined to go to Hades to retrieve her. Orpheus, whose mother was Calliope, the muse of poets and musicians, was widely known as the most skilled bard in all the land.

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He was able to calm man and beast alike by playing his lyre. He was also known for being cocky and arrogant, and in some variations of the tale his beloved’s death was planned by the gods to warn him of his pride. Orpheus set out and entered Hades by playing music so melancholy that Charon, filled with pity, agreed to ferry him across. Orpheus then fought off and charmed the spirits of the dead, and made his way to the palace of Hades and Persephone, the king and queen of the underworld. He again charmed his antagonists, and was allowed to have his beloved back if he could make his way back above the earth without glancing back at her. While making the journey back, Orpheus called her name to make sure she was following him.

She didn’t hear him, and Orpheus glanced back at her. The girl was immediately drawn back to Hades and lost forever. Despite its unhappy ending, the myth of Orpheus bears much resemblance to Luke’s quest. Immediately upon entering the Death Star, Luke and his friends hid themselves until they could ambush several stormtroopers and disguise themselves in their uniforms. At this point Ben left the group to disable the tractor beam keeping their ship imprisoned. This is symbolic of the supernatural force which aids the Hero to a certain point, then leaves to pursue other goals.

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Gandalf was only present for certain obstacles, leaving when he deemed it necessary. His absences allowed Bilbo, the hero of the story, to prove his worth. Perhaps the hardest leg of Bilbo and his friend’s journey, the trip through Mirkwood, was traversed without the aid of Gandalf. The events which occurred in this forest, and up until the very end of the story, were those in which Bilbo took control and matured into a Hero. When Ben left, Luke too started to prove his worth by coming up with a plan to rescue Princess Leia, who was being held prisoner.

His plan worked until Luke, Han, and Chewbacca reached the prison cell where Leia was being held. Their success due to Luke’s cunning corresponds to Orpheus’s charming of the spirits which threatened him. They then had to fight the guards in order to reach the princess. They successfully defended against the guards long enough to reach the princess and rescue her, finally escaping from immediate danger by sliding down a garbage chute. The friends’s success due (in part) to Luke’s combat ability corresponds to Orpheus’s success in fighting off the spirits which didn’t succumb to his music. After the obtaining of the primary goal, the Hero must flee from the place of his adventure and face more obstacles along the way.

In this escape, termed the Flight by Campbell, the Hero exhibits what he has learned and proves that he has earned his prize. In A New Hope, the obstacles faced by Luke and his friends after the rescue of the Princess were far greater than those faced before. Again Luke takes control and starts to fulfill his role as Hero. Immediately after escaping down the garbage chute, the friends find themselves in a garbage compactor. Luke is seized and dragged underwater by a snakelike creature. Han is helpless to save him, and Luke would have drowned had it not been for the introduction of the next obstacle.

The creature withdraws when the walls start to move in toward themselves, leaving Luke and company to deal with a new threat. This series of events is a classic example of the frying pan-fire analogy. The heroes escape from the stormtroopers to be threatened with the sewer-creature, which they survive only to be faced with the walls caving in. The obstacle of the walls is another example of the Clashing Rocks of the Symplegades in the myth of Jason and the Argonauts. In the myth, the heroes escape by following a blind seer’s advice given in a previous adventure.

They let a dove fly through the Rocks ahead of the ship. The dove’s tail feathers are crushed, but it safely makes it through. The heroes start to row as the Rocks begin to separate, and the ship just barely passes through. The Rocks then withdraw and become forever rooted to the ocean floor. The dove in this scene of A New Hope is Artoo- Detoo.

As Han, Chewbacca and Leia try to block the closing walls with a length of pipe, Luke contacts See-Threepio through his comlink. See-Threepio instructs Artoo- Detoo to interface with the computer and shut down the garbage facilities, which he does just in the nick of time. There is a brief but meaningful encounter just before the band reaches their ship in which there is another example of Luke’s growth as a hero. Luke and Leia become separated from the others, and are faced with a wide ravine. There is no way across, and stormtroopers are attacking them from behind as well as the other side of the ravine.

Luke, thinking quickly, throws a grappling hook across and swings to the other side. This is Luke’s first trial he has faced alone, and he successfully overcomes it. The last obstacle during the Flight occurs as the companions are leaving the Death Star. Ben has died, killed by Darth Vader while drawing attention away from Luke and his band, but Luke’s training with him has been completed. Ben’s role was to instruct Luke and teach him how to use his cunning.

He exhibits his mastery of this in the crossing of the ravine and the escape from the garbage pit. The only training Luke has remaining is instruction in the physical, combat-oriented skills. In Celtic mythology, there existed a mighty warrior named Cuchulainn. Cuchulainn was the most powerful hero in the land, and could be bested by no one in his Homeland. Cuchulainn traveled to Skatha, a great warrior queen who dwelt in the faerie land, for training and competition.

Han takes Skatha’s place in A New Hope. He doesn’t actually teach Luke; he is more of an example for Luke to follow. Han is a brilliant pilot and fighter. His ship is the fastest ship known to the Rebellion or the Empire as a result of his careful modifications, although it is less-than-attractive to the eye (Reference ANH, 10027–10107). Han uses many complicated and dangerous tactics in ship-to-ship combat, and is headstrong and fearless in battle.

Luke witnesses his friend’s abilities and learns by copying them. His skills are tested in the escape from the Death Star. Four TIE Fighters, the Empire’s standard starfighter, pursue the Millennium Falcon away from the Death Star. Han leaves Chewbacca and Leia to pilot the ship while he and Luke go to the weapons controls. It is significant that Han asks Luke to help him. Earlier he reprimanded Luke’s overeagerness (Reference ANH, 10129–10309) and now he welcomes his aid (Reference ANH, 13956–14227).

They successfully destroy their enemies, and Luke shows skill equal to Han’s by destroying an equal number of ships. Upon finishing training with Skatha, Cuchulainn aids her in a netherworld battle with an enemy force. In the battle he fights as well as Skatha, proving he has completed his training. The next part of the Hero’s adventure in Campbell’s Cycle is the return from the threshold. This is the Hero’s exit from the Land of Enchantment and return to the normal world. This is not a lull or end of activity; rather, it is a heightening of danger and resolve.

The Hero has succeeded in winning his prize, but in most myths the prize is necessary to accomplish some deed in the Hero’s homeland. Perseus slew Medusa not on a whim but as a request. His mother, Danae, was a beautiful woman whom the king of the land, Polydectes, lusted after. Polydectes was evil and greedy, and decided to force Danae to marry him. Perseus defended his mother so strongly and heroically that Polydectes decided to get rid of him. He pretended to marry another princess, and invited Perseus to attend the wedding.

Perseus was poor and could afford no wedding present, and told Polydectes this when it came time for the presentation of the gifts. Polydectes condescended to him, knowing that Perseus’s pride would be stung. Perseus told him that he would do anything the king wanted as his gift, and Polydectes told him to kill Medusa and bring back her head, not believing he could do it. Meanwhile, he intended to force Danae to marry him. When Perseus accomplished the deed and escaped from the remaining two Gorgons, his adventure was not over. He still had to return and confront the situation at home. Luke’s return from the threshold is his escape from the Death Star to the Rebel base on Yavin IV.

He has won a victory for the Rebellion by rescuing Princess Leia and the information aboard Artoo- Detoo, but the Empire knows where the Rebellion’s base is. The Death Star is on its way to destroy the planet, and the Hero must somehow stop it. Luke has now exited the realm of the fantastic but must still finish his quest outside of it. The last step of the cycle is the return with the Elixir and the Resolution. Beowulf, after wounding Grendel, had secured Hrothgar’s Mead Hall, but he still had to track Grendel down.

In his case, the Elixir, or the key item or piece of information needed to complete the quest, was the knowledge of the location of Grendel’s lair. Only by acting upon the Elixir was he able to kill Grendel’s mother and end the threat forever. The Elixir in the story of Perseus was Medusa’s head, which Perseus stuffed in the magical wallet given to him by Hermes. When he returned to Polydectes’s palace, he found that his mother had been made to marry the evil king. Perseus stormed into Polydectes’s throne room, where he and his nobles were celebrating.

Polydectes was stunned that Perseus had come back, and before he could act Perseus held aloft Medusa’s head and turned everyone present save himself into stone. The Elixir in A New Hope was the information Princess Leia had stored in Artoo- Detoo. Specifically, the information was the technical readout of the Death Star. Once at Yavin, the heroes set about searching the readout for a hidden weakness, and found one. The pilots rushed to their starfighters and prepared to launch.

Luke was invited to join them, thus completing his transition. He started out as an ordinary boy, answered the Call to Adventure, and entered the Threshold. He passed the obstacles before him and successfully overcame his Supreme Ordeal. He escaped safely back into the ordinary realm, and now all that remained was the use of the Elixir to finish his quest. Luke was the one who destroyed the Death Star in the nick of time, thus saving the Rebellion.

The legend of Beowulf again proves useful. Beowulf finds that Grendel’s lair is underwater, and he immediately dives in to find him. This symbolizes the impossible situation the Hero must act in. The Rebels’s situation in A New Hope is similar, having small one-man starfighters to attack a battle station as big as a moon. Beowulf is confronted with Grendel’s mother, an opponent larger and meaner than Grendel himself.

The immediate worsening of odds is also a typical part of the final conflict of the Hero. Luke and the other Rebel pilots not only have to destroy the Death Star, but they must also fight off enemy starfighters, including Darth Vader, one of the best pilots in the galaxy. The heroes have a bit of luck, though; the Death Star has a small exhaust port which leads directly to its center. A direct torpedo hit into the port will destroy the station. Beowulf too gets lucky.

He finds a large, gleaming sword hanging on the wall of Grendel’s lair. The blade is magical, and allows the user the ability to fight normally underwater. The heroes in A New Hope get several more lucky breaks. The exhaust port, which is two meters in length, cannot be hit with the starfighters’s targeting computers, meaning that the pilots must aim manually. Ben’s spirit speaks to Luke, instructing him to Use the Force and guiding him. At the critical point when Luke fires his torpedoes, Han shows up and damages Darth Vader’s ship, allowing him to fire.

These seemingly random events are well known in mythology. Again, Han and Ben team up and help Luke in the end. Han gives him what he needs physically and Ben clears his mind mentally. It is Hermes and Athena at work again. The inability of the computers to hit the target is the obstacle’s built in defense system. If any mundane person could defeat it, a Hero wouldn’t be needed.

Only someone with the necessary knowledge and discipline can succeed. This hearkens back to Siegfried’s curtain of fire, where only those without fear could proceed. Luke destroys the Death Star and the Rebels return home triumphant. The Hero Cycle has been completed. The Hero Cycle is also prominent in George Lucas’s entire Star Wars Trilogy. It is somewhat harder to discern, since the plot is drawn out over three movies.

The concept is broader, with more detail found within the Hero’s training and internal fulfillment. Everything that was present in A New Hope is present in the Trilogy, only on a greater scale. There is also a new element present in the Trilogy, that of the atonement of the Father. Campbell describes the Atonement as a conflict between the Hero and a father figure. The father figure doesn’t have to be the Hero’s actual father, he can be any older character the Hero knows. The Hero becomes grown and nears the time of his sojourn into the adult world.

It is the father figure’s responsibility to usher him into the strange new realm. Th Hero, afraid of what lies ahead, seeks comfort with a mother figure, and regards the father figure as evil and sinister. He soon realizes that he must proceed, and once he does so, he realizes that the father figure is not evil as he once saw it, but is just experienced or bitter. The Hero returns to the father figure and joins him in the adult world. Many primitive cultures have stories which deal with this aspect of mythology. In The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Campbell uses as an example a village ritual common in primitive African and Asian tribes.

When each generation of males comes of age, the tribal elders gather to hold a ceremonial circumcision. The boys are driven out by their mothers and told that they must face a terrible and frightening ordeal. The terrified adolescents attempt to return to their mothers, but they are repeatedly pushed away. They are then herded to a clearing in the woods where the elders are dressed as tribal animals and monsters from myth. Each boy is taken in turn and surrounded by the elders.

He must close his eyes, and the circumcision is performed. The boy must do his best not to cry out. Afterwards, he is dressed as an adult and sent back to the village. From then on, they are treated as men. George Lucas may have been considering the development of the Atonement in A New Hope, but there wasn’t space for it.

It is focused on heavily in the Trilogy, however. In the second movie, The Empire Strikes Back, Luke fights a climactic battle with Darth Vader. Luke has not yet become the equal of Vader and is defeated. Vader reveals to Luke that he is his father. (Reference The Empire Strikes Back, 15401–15514 and 15729–15950) Luke, shocked and horrified yet somehow knowing it is true, struggles to deny it.

Part of Luke’s Supreme Ordeal is facing Vader and defeating him, and once he does, he discovers that his father is not entirely evil. This realization helps him to comprehend the bigger picture of Good and Evil in the galaxy, and enables him to finish his adventure. Several other developments in the Trilogy are worth considering. The theme and scope of the adventure have been broadened from those of A New Hope, so the individual plots and points of the Hero Cycle are broadened as well. Luke’s aims are much higher in the Trilogy; no longer is he concerned about becoming a starfighter.

He wants to be a Jedi Knight. He has reached his physical aspirations and now craves more. A good comparison is found in Faust. Faust had learned all there is to know in the world, and desired to move on to the supernatural. Like Faust, Luke had to play a dangerous game to acquire his knowledge.

He had to resist the temptations of the Emperor and the dark, easy path to power. Faust had to resist giving in and exulting in his pleasure, thereby ceding his soul to the Devil. Luke’s Threshold becomes the planet Dagobah. The Threshold in the Trilogy is the place where Luke realizes his potential and harnesses it. Luke travels to Dagobah unsure of what he expects to gain.

He meets Yoda, an ancient Jedi Master. Yoda instructed Ben, and takes Ben and Han’s place as the teacher in the Trilogy. He teaches Luke to use the Force and trains him physically. When Luke leaves the Threshold, the Elixir he bears is the knowledge and power of the last Jedi Knight. As the forces and power of good have grown, so has the power of evil.

The teacher has been upgraded in character and the Hero has become greater in power. The villain must therefore be more sinister and powerful. Darth Vader was the villain in A New Hope, but his role as the father figure allows a new, stronger enemy to step in. Enter the Emperor, Vader’s master and the leader of the Empire. The Emperor represents the opposite of everything Yoda stood for.

He is the ultimate power of Evil. He is not a Jedi Master, but is trained in the Force and has some unknown link to the Jedi (Lucas never elaborated on this.) Part of Luke’s Supreme Ordeal is defeating the Emperor, but he cannot do it alone. In A New Hope, only after Han had stopped Vader’s ship from threatening Luke could he destroy the Death Star. In Return Of The Jedi, the last movie of the Trilogy, Vader must be the one who aids Luke in destroying the Emperor (Reference Return Of The Jedi, 20243–20456). The astounding success and popularity of Star Wars from its debut until now, over twenty years later, can be readily attributed to its fairytale aspect.

Myths and legends originating hundreds or thousands of years ago still fascinate us today. The labors of Hercules and Perseus’s slaying of Medusa are still read by wide-eyed youths because they embody their ideas and hopes. Myths have a timeless quality about them that has enabled their survival. Star Wars is simply a modern mythology. Daring starfighters armed with lasers and blasters take the place of armour-clad warriors on horseback.

An evil, part-robotic juggernaut with the Force at his side replaces the Black Knight. Instead of an impenetrable castle, an armored space station full of enemy soldiers is the bastion of Evil. The role of the Hero remains constant, however. The retrieval of the Golden Fleece, the slaying of Grendel, the rescue of Brunhilde–all are cherished myths belonging to ancient cultures. Star Wars and A New Hope are those belonging to ours. Movies and Television.


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