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in a galaxy far, far war...








an american mythology: why star wars still matters

yub yub: meet the ewoks from endor



parallel journeys: why the star wars films are more connected than you think

this weapon is your life: a study of hystorical lightsaber



star wars in mythology: twins

studying skywalkers: darth sidious is your master now

07 from world war to star wars: stormtroopers

08 like the force, astromechs are everywhere in star wars

09 star wars in mythology: the shadow


AN AMERICAN MYTHOLOGY: why star wars still matters

Star Wars is a cultural institution of immense proportions. Its impact on Hollywood alone has been incalculable. It’s impossible to imagine Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., The Matrix, or The Lord of the Rings without Star Wars.” In fact, Lucas’s bitterest critics charge Star Wars with nothing less than “ruining” Hollywood by turning it from the gritty, “relevant” sophistication of films like The Godfather, Taxi Driver, and Annie Hall toward juvenile fantasy, spectacle, and romanticism. Here’s a typical complaint from Peter Biskind’s gossipy manifesto Easy Riders, Raging Bulls: How the Sex-Drugsand-Rock’n’Roll Generation Saved Hollywood: “When all was said and done, Lucas and Spielberg returned the 1970s audience, grown sophisticated on a diet of European and New Hollywood films, to the simplicities of the pre-1960s Golden Age of movies… They marched backward through the looking-glass.”


Those with different values, obviously, might care to see it the other way round: It was Lucas and Spielberg who “saved Hollywood” from the decadence of the “sex-drugs-androck’n’roll generation” and brought old-fashioned good-versus-evil storytelling back to theaters.

That’s not to say that Lucas’s critics don’t have a point. Artistically, the flaws and limitations of the Star Wars films — and of its many less distinguished heirs, from Independence Day to Tomb Raider — are inescapable. They are silly, indifferently acted, poorly thought out in some respects, and not infrequently inconsistent verging on selfcontradiction. As Lucas’s saga progressed, moreover, the flaws have become more pronounced. When Lucas cannily gave the original Star Wars film the puzzling subtitle Episode IV — A New Hope, it wasn’t because he had a clear vision for a series of six (or nine) films. Rather, he was paying homage to the serial matinee adventures of his childhood, and wanted to evoke the sense of a larger canvas where in fact he had only hazy ideas for possible sequels and even hazier ideas for what was then a wholly hypothetical back story. As a result, the more Lucas has tried to extrapolate what happened before and after the first Star Wars film (A New Hope), the more problems have emerged. The Empire Strikes Back is widely regarded as the most complex and interesting film of the lot, but by Return of the Jedi the seams were definitely showing. The prequels brought a host of new problems, adding more fuel to the fire.


Yet, despite these pitfalls, Lucas’s universe has had an impact on generations of moviegoers utterly out of all proportion to its formidable qualities as spectacle or excitement. The Force, the Jedi knights, Darth Vader, ObiWan, Princess Leia, Yoda, lightsabers, and the Death Star hold a place in the collective imagination of countless Americans that can only be described as mythic. In my review of A New Hope I called Star Wars “the quintessential American mythology,” an American take on King Arthur, Tolkien, and the samurai / wuxia epics of the East, dressed in the space-opera trappings of Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon and festooned with a variety of nostalgic Hollywood influences — serial-adventure swashbuckling, WWII movie dogfights, movie-Nazi villains, saloon shootouts. The saloon shootouts, of course, come from that other great American mythology, the Western. (So does Han Solo’s general cowboy look and demeanor.) By the 1970s, though, the Western no longer enjoyed the hold on the popular imagination it once had (though its influence has continued to be felt in films from Star Wars to Die Hard to Armageddon). The Americana of cowboys and Indians, in any case, was always tied to real history and geography — not to mention a level of real-world verisimilitude — in a way that seems more the stuff of legend than of myth, an art form generally set “long ago” and “far, far away,” near or beyond the borders of fairyland. (Some Westerns do introduce paranormal elements, but in a way that usually has less to do with the properly mythic than with, say, the ghost-story genre.) There is one way, though, in which the Western more than Star Wars resembles a traditional mythology: It is the creation of a culture rather than an individual. Like the stories of Arthurian Logres, or of the classical Greco-


Roman gods and heroes, the lore of the Old West is the accumulation of innumerable stories told and retold innumerable times and in innumerable ways by innumerable voices. In this respect, Star Wars is more like a pulp counterpart to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings than to Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur — an essentially original work of epic mythopoeia, one with many sources and inspirations to be sure, but shaped by one storyteller. Of course it goes without saying that as mythopoeia Star Wars doesn’t hold a candle to The Lord of the Rings. This is true for several reasons; but the main reason, indisputably, is the sheer disparity between the artistic, imaginative, spiritual, and intellectual resources of the two creators, as well as their respective ambitions. (It’s also fair to note that Lucas had a movie to make, while Tolkien had a series of texts to work on. Tolkien also had the luxury of redacting and refining his story to a greater degree than Lucas has managed to contrive, despite his best efforts in the theatrical “special editions” and the latest DVD versions.) Tolkien was an Oxford scholar of languages and literature, a man intimately familiar with Norse and AngloSaxon mythological texts in the original languages, who wanted to create a mythology for England and the English (Tolkien discounted Arthuriana as real mythology, on the grounds of its historical and especially religious entanglements with the real world). He was also a devout Roman Catholic. Lucas, by contrast, is a filmmaker of decidedly uneven talent and some passing familiarity with mythic archetypes absorbed from Joseph Campbell; a religious indifferentist who has always viewed the Star Wars films as popcorn movies for children. And so they are, though like The Wizard of Oz they make an indelible impres-


sion on young viewers that endures into adulthood; and, for many adults, they still have the power, despite their flaws, to reach the child within us. Ironically, critical disdain for the Star Wars films is often rooted not only in their undeniable flaws but also in the same mythopoeic qualities that commend them to others, by critics with an ideological axe to grind against mythopoeic storytelling per se. In fact, some of the criticisms leveled against Star Wars are precisely the same as the ones leveled against The Lord of the Rings — and could be leveled against other mythic works, from The Odyssey to Le Morte D’Arthur. What are these much-derided mythic qualities? Critics charge Star Wars (and Tolkien) with such artistic liabilities as stereotypical characters and situations, lack of psychological depth, and an unnuanced, morality-play vision of good versus evil. (Star Wars is also disparaged for its pulp inspirations, e.g., B-movie dialogue.) What such critics seem not to understand is how the conventions of mythology work. Its characters and situations aren’t so much stereotypical as archetypical — consciously so in the case of Star Wars, thanks to the mythic and archetypal patterns and structures Lucas absorbed from Campbell’s influential treatise The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Stereotypes and archetypes are superficially similar, and characters of both types strike a popular chord — but the chords they strike are very different. Stereotypes work by exploiting popular cultural prejudices and assumptions. For example, James Cameron’s Titanic, the all-time U.S. box-office champ, struck a popular chord with audiences in part by exploiting stereotyped notions of the rich as snobbish, repressed twits, of the poor as life-loving free spirits, of passionate love as transcending moral or social rules, etc.


Archetypes, by contrast, work by connecting with primal or basic categories. Archetypal figures and situations in the Star Wars movies include the hero (Luke Skywalker), the wise old man (Ben Kenobi), the call to adventure and initial refusal of the call (Luke resists Ben’s invitation to come with him and learn to be a Jedi knight), the bellyof-the-whale crisis (the heroes are “swallowed” by the fearsome Death Star space station), and so on. In these familiar patterns the struggle of good and evil stands out in sharper relief than is the case, at least without distortion, in realistic drama, which must reflect in some way the grey areas and honest disagreements, the mixed motives and awkward contradictions that are part and parcel of real life, but not of the black-and-white conflicts of fairy tales and myths. This, again, is precisely what some critics object to in the aesthetic of mythopoeia: Is this the view of conflict we want to raise our children with? Don’t we want them to have a more nuanced, critical view of the world? How many wars in the real world are as black-and-white as Lucas’s heroic Rebel Alliance versus the evil Empire? At least one: the war of heaven and hell. And the war of heaven and hell does break out from time to time, with reasonable clarity, in earthly conflicts of one sort or another. Certainly we want our children to learn to recognize nuances, shades of grey, and the legitimacy of honest disagreement. Of course we want them to be critical thinkers, to question their own leaders, to consider sympathetically the other side in conflicts, and so forth. On the other hand, we also want them to recognize that there is in this world sheer good and sheer evil, and for bringing this reality alive to the mind and imagination, there’s no substitute for mythopoeia. And, in today’s world, for bringing mythopoeia alive to children, there are few films like Star Wars. (Without question, Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings is superior mythopoeia — but it’s also less kid-friendly.)


Star Wars’s credentials as mythopoeia aren’t undisputed. In a scathing essay for, Steven Hart argued that the real inspirations for Star Wars are pulp sci-fi, plain and simple, and claims of mythic connections are merely pretentious self-promotion on Lucas’s part, aided and abetted by gullible journalists like Bill Moyers. Once again, Hart has a point. Lucas is a gasbag whose utterances need to be taken with a whole salt lick; and certainly the pulp sci-fi influence on Star Wars can’t be overstated — indeed, let’s just come right out and acknowledge that Lucas’s saga is pulp sci-fi, straight up, and call it a day. But Hart’s argument becomes glib when he tries to debunk the mythic patterns that really do shape the story. Hart’s example of an overblown claim of mythic patterns is the “belly of the beast” motif, which overeager commentators have found everywhere from the Millennium Falcon’s detour into the gullet of the space slug in The Empire Strikes Back to the flight into the trash compactor in A New Hope.

Hart rightly points out that neither of these really counts, since the significance of the “belly of the Hart rightly points out that neither beast” motif depends on some of these really counts, since the kind sig- of important transition or transformation, a death-and-rebirth nificance of the “belly of the beast” experience, likeon Jonah the belly motif depends someinkind of im-of the whale, or Christ in the sepulchre. After all, it’s not as if the portant transition or transformation, escape from the trash compactor a death-and-rebirth experience, were marked by some leap in in the Luke’s abilities the Force, or as if the like Jonah belly of the in whale, journey thesepulchre. space slugAfter changed or Christinto in the all, Han and Leia’s relationship somehow. it’s not as if the escape from the trash compactor were marked by some leap in Luke’s abilities in the Force, or as if the journey into the space slug changed Han and Leia’s relationship somehow.


However, if the “beast” is seen not as the trash compactor but as the Death Star itself, the pattern applies. A strikingly similar example of the same pattern, in fact, can be found in The Fellowship of the Ring, in the journey of the fellowship through the Mines of Moria. Both here and in the Death Star, the heroes are obliged to descend with great trepidation into the bowels of an enemy-occupied stronghold and ultimately battle their way out, fleeing enemies who pursue them to their final destination. Most crucially, in both cases the heroes escape only after, and immediately after, the wizard-mentor archetype sacrifices himself in battle with an icon of evil, giving the others the opportunity to escape. (There’s even a pit in the Death Star near where Obi-Wan falls, echoing the chasm where Gandalf falls — a strong suggestion that Lucas was influenced here consciously or unconsciously by The Lord of the Rings, which had a huge cult following in the 1960s.) The loss of the mentor is a key turning point in the hero’s journey (King Arthur is similarly deprived of Merlin at some point in various versions of his story), changing the hero by leaving him to rely on his own resources in a new way. In Star Wars this transition is both enhanced and softened by the fact that Luke is immediately aware of Obi-Wan’s disembodied presence (“Run, Luke, run!”), elevating Luke to a new level of awareness in the ways of the Force. Ironically, while Lucas’s wizard prophesies just before being struck down that he will “become more powerful than you can possibly imagine,” it’s Tolkien’s wizard who really does become more powerful as a result of his fall, while Lucas was never able to invest the spectral Kenobi with greater power or wisdom than he had in life — a disparity that seems to be rooted directly

in the two men’s religious views. Tolkien’s story draws on his belief in the resurrection of the dead and especially the resurrection of Christ, while Lucas’s ultimately reflects only a vague spirituality of the survival of the soul. The Death Star experience also changes Luke by giving him the opportunity to take an important first step on his journey to hero status, i.e., the rescue of the maiden. At the same time, here as elsewhere Star Wars plays with its archetypal patterns; the dynamics of the rescue of the maiden motif are obviously affected by the fact that the maiden here is no helpless damsel in distress, but a pistolpacking, take-charge Rebel leader. Other examples in Star Wars of this pattern of descent into and embattled escape from hostile territory accompanied by a significant character transition include the following: the Wampa ice creature’s cave in Empire Strikes Back, where Luke’s escape does involve a leap of his abilities in the Force the evil tree on Yoda’s swamp planet in Empire Strikes Back, where Luke is confronted by his own failure and the specter of some dark mystery involving Darth Vader Luke’s rescue mission into the bowels of Jabba’s palace in Return of the Jedi, and in particular his descent into the Rancor dungeon and last-minute escape from the Sarlacc, throughout which Luke is transformed from apprentice upstart to proven warrior-hero Luke’s journey into the second Death Star in Return of the Jedi, where he faces and overcomes his greatest challenge and finally achieves the rank of Jedi knight the entrance into the coliseum on Geonosis in Attack of the Clones, where threat of imminent death leads Amidala to confess her love for Anakin .The opening sequence in Revenge of the Sith, in which Anakin fights his way into an enemy ship and winds up taking an important step in his journey to the dark side


The mythology of Star Wars has many elements: the Jedi knights, with their preternatural powers in the tradition of the high-flying wuxia warriors of Chinese fiction and cinema; their evil counterparts, the Sith lords or “Darths,” who always come in twos; recurring motifs such as the climactic duel over a bottomless pit into which the vanquished combatant usually falls. Of these, none is more pervasive and well-known than “the Force,” locus of mystery and meaning in the Jedi universe. Here, too, it is possible to discern the Campbell influence. Campbell himself seems to have been a sort of pantheist or monist, who believed that the “ultimate mystery” was impersonal energy rather than a personal God. As appropriated by Lucas, “the Force” seems to be more ambiguous than Campbell’s idea of impersonal energy as the ultimate mystery. In A New Hope the Force is described as an “energy field” generated by living things and binding the galaxy together, which partially “controls your actions” but also “obeys your commands.” In Episode I — The Phantom Menace, on the other hand, the Force seems to have a more personal quality: Jedi knight Qui-Gon speaks repeatedly of “the living Force” and even of “the will of the Force,” which resonates more with theism. That the Force has a “good side” and a “dark side” is well known; and while we’re told in The Empire Strikes Back that the dark side isn’t stronger, it’s not clear that That the Force has a “good side” the good side is stronger either, allowing for the posand a “dark side” is well known; sibility of a yin-yang balance of good and evil.

and while we’re told in The Empire Strikes Back that the dark side isn’t stronger, it’s not clear that the good side is stronger either, allowing for the possibility of a yin-yang balance of good and evil.

Yet a number of factors suggest that good and evil aren’t really on an equal footing after all. For example, there is the overall series’ moral outlook, including the climactic triumph of good over evil, especially in the daring redemptive twist at the end of Return of the Jedi. There’s also the way the characters use the language of “the Force” without qualification to refer specifically to the good side, whereas if you mean the dark side you have to specify. No one says “Use the good side of the Force” or “May the good side of the Force be with you”; it’s taken for granted. In fact, the very phrase “the good side” is hardly ever used, and “the good side of the Force” not at all that I can think of; whereas “the dark side” and “the dark side of the Force” are used all the time. “The good side” isn’t needed, because “the Force” without qualification means the good side. Intriguingly, the prequels have added a new wrinkle to the notion of “balance” in the Force by establishing Luke’s father Anakin Skywalker as a messianic “chosen one” of prophecy destined to “bring balance to the Force” — not, as Revenge of the Sith now makes unambiguously clear, by establishing an equality of good and evil, but by destroying the evil of the Sith, which occurs in Return of the Jedi. So “balance” in the Force is defined not as a yin-yang coexistence and interpenetration of good and evil, but as the triumph of good over evil. This suggests the primacy of good over evil, in keeping with Judeo-Christian teaching. In a 1999 interview with Bill Moyers, Lucas suggested that the Force is not meant to resonate particularly with any specific religious outlook, but to awaken the sense of the transcendent. “It’s designed primarily to make young people think about the mystery. Not to say, ‘Here’s the answer.’ It’s to say, ‘Think about this for a second. Is there a God…? What does God feel like? How do we relate to God?’ Just getting young people to think at that level is what I’ve been trying to do in the films. What even-


tual manifestation that takes place in terms of how they describe their God, what form their faith takes, is not the point of the movie.” In a nutshell, Lucas says, “Ultimately the Force is the larger mystery of the universe,” and to “use the Force” is to take a “leap of faith.” Like the subsequent Matrix trilogy, the Star Wars films include both Eastern and Western influences, and have been expounded and explored from a wide variety of perspectives, including Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, New Age, and many more. The Matrix films, though, fused Zen and Christian themes into a postmodern narrative lacking any real sense of transcendence or moral vision. Star Wars, by contrast, offers a more traditional moral universe with real transcendence and good versus evil. Unfortunately, the new prequels, especially Episodes I and II, have in general failed to live up to the standards of the original trilogy. Despite some staggering achievements in world-building and bravura action sequences, the heart of the original films has been lacking. The humor and charm that made Luke, Leia, and Han such fun has been basically missing among Qui-Gon, young Obi-Wan, Anakin Skywalker, and Amidala. And of course the more Lucas elaborates Anakin Skywalker’s history, the less the bits and pieces we already know seem to fit. Most seriously, the mythological and archetypal inspirations that had made the original trilogy so resonant are missing in Episodes I and II. The original trilogy was about good and evil, heroism and villainy, discipline and passion, temptation and redemption. By contrast, Episodes I and II are largely about political intrigue and debates, adolescent rebellion and tepid puppy love. The straightforward adventure plotting of the original trilogy was replaced by abstruse political machinations over trade route taxation and Republic separatism.


Where the original trilogy revolved around Jungian archetypes, the prequels are distinctly Freudian, even Oedipal; Anakin is a tragic figure destined to kill his (surrogate) father, Obi-Wan, and marry his (surrogate) mother, Amidala. Freudian symbols and patterns were not entirely absent from the original trilogy. One can easily see what Freud would make (in fact, what Mel Brooks did make in his spoof Space Balls) of laser swords that turn on and off, as well as tiny X-wings cruising about the enormous, egg-like Death Star trying to deposit their payloads, and of course of the father-son conflict of Luke and Vader. Yet the original trilogy subverted Freudian theory too. Return of the Jedi is fundamentally the story of a son who refuses to fight and destroy his father — in fact, who sacrifices himself and suffers in order to save his father. Also, the hero Luke has no mother-figure and no marriage (despite a low-level flirtation with the maiden Leia before she is revealed to be his sister). In the prequels, by contrast, the Freudian and Oedipal patterns are clear and overt. There are obvious psychoanalytic overtones in the way people are always bringing up Anakin’s mother. “Your feelings dwell on your mother,” says a Jedi Council member in The Phantom Menace who actually looks like an alien Freud, with a white beard and a curiously wrought head that seems at once philosophical and phallic. Certainly the meaningful inflection on “mother,” with an upward lilt on the first syllable, is no accident. Nor is it inadvertent that Amidala is markedly older than Anakin, or that he loses his mother as a child shortly after meeting her. Nor that he repeatedly says in Episode II — Attack of the Clones that Obi-Wan is “like a father to me” or “the closest thing I have to a father” — a father that he resents with all the violence of adolescence.


In principle, the Oedipus cycle is perhaps as valid a source for modern-day mythologizing as the battle of good and evil. At the same time, the greater emotional resonance for most viewers of the original trilogy may be at least partly due to the fact that Freud (to use a catchphrase from The Phantom Menace) “assumed too much.” Now, though, with Revenge of the Sith, Lucas has finally again tapped into the inspiration of the original trilogy, and created the mythic precursor that he first conceived decades ago. Where the original trilogy was about the rise of a hero, Revenge of the Sith is about the fall of a tragic figure, evil undermining good not only by direct attack but also by seductive subversion. Revenge of the Sith opens with an extended action sequence climaxing with Anakin piloting a spaceship out of orbit for a crash-landing to the planet below, like Lucifer falling from the heavens. By the finale, Anakin’s descent into perdition is complete as — in a sequence rumored for decades — he falls in battle with his mentor Obi-Wan on a volcano planet amid raging rivers of lava, a veritable lake of fire casting a hellish glow over the combatants. Anakin’s climactic near-destruction in the lake of fire is the last and one of the most striking examples of Lucas’s dependence on Christian imagery and categories. Other examples include The Phantom Menace’s overtly satanic Darth Maul, a horned, red-skinned destroyer in black; Anakin as a virgin-born “chosen one” of prophecy destined to destroy evil; Revenge of the Sith’s terrible “Directive 66,” an echo of the number of the beast from the book of Revelation; and the redemptive suffering of the son, Luke Skywalker, at the climax of Return of the Jedi. Needless to say, Star Wars is very far from Christian allegory; and, if it avoids overt yin-yang dualism or pantheism, elements of Eastern religion are still very much in evidence. In The Empire Strikes Back Yoda famously endorses gnostic contempt for physicality and the body (“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter”), and


in Revenge of the Sith Yoda articulates the Jedi ethic of detachment in a way that goes beyond Christian freedom from excessive attachment into Buddhist impassiveness: According to Yoda, our acceptance of death should be so complete that we shouldn’t even mourn the dead. Yet these Eastern strains are leavened, even contradicted, by the series’ humanistic and Christian tendencies. Yoda may dismiss the body, yet the series embraces personal immortality, individual life after death rather than mere oneness with the Force. What’s more, it affirms that the eschatological fate of the good and the bad is not the same: Death for the evil Sith is simply destruction, but for the Jedi is the doorway to new life (even if Lucas wasn’t able to realize that new life in a truly transcendent way). Because of this eschatological finality, the ubiquitous theme of temptation and moral choice has an urgency in Star Wars that it can never have in Eastern religion. Buddha might have had temptations, as Lucas commented to Campbell — but temptation for Buddha could only be a stepping-stone on the inevitable path to enlightenment. For Anakin and Luke, by contrast, temptation represents the treacherous appeal of the road to destruction. And, in the end, the series rejects Yoda’s Zen-like doctrine of total detachment by predicating the redemption of Darth Vader and the destruction of the Sith on Luke’s filial loyalty to his father and Vader’s paternal bond to his son. Ultimately, what the Star Wars films offer is not a coherent philosophy of life, morality, or spirituality. Rather, they offer rousing storytelling suffused by themes of moral struggle and transcendence. They aren’t Christian, and not without their problems — any more than the classical GrecoRoman myths that generations of Christian children have grown up reading. Yet, like those classical myths, they give imaginative shape, albeit imperfectly, to basic human insights, and like the classical myths they have become a part of the cultural landscape.


If the adventures of Hercules and Odysseus can be enjoyed by Christians and shared with their children, those of Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi have a place as well. Star Wars is pop mythology — a “McMyth,” as a recent critical article put it — but in our McCulture even a McMyth can be vastly preferable to no myth at all, and certainly to other, less wholesome mythologies (e.g., the Matrix trilogy). Even for those who generally prefer more traditional fare, there is still much to enjoy and appreciate in these half-baked, stunningly mounted fantasies of good and evil in a galaxy far, far away.



“Fear is the path to the dark side� Yoda (The Phanton Menice)




parallel journeys: why star wars films are more connected than you think For Star Wars fans watching The Phantom Menace for the first time back in 1999, one thing was immediately clear: there were a lot of similarities to A New Hope. In fact, some critics called out what they saw as a simple rehash of the original storyline. And on the surface, the criticism certainly appears justified. After all, both films center around a young boy on the desert planet of Tatooine who leaves home to embark on an epic journey involving a beautiful, royal young woman in distress and a Jedi Knight who becomes his mentor. A closer look, however, reveals something far more complex and interesting. Now, according to George Lucas, the similarities were deliberate. And during the making of the prequels, he actually spoke fairly often about this use of repetition in Star Wars. “I create themes,” he told Entertainment Weekly back in 2002, “and I repeat those themes, in different chords and different arrangements.” Just like a piece of music. On The Phantom Menace’s audio commentary, Lucas stated, “It’s very, very clear in the two


trilogies that I’m putting the characters in pretty much the same situations, sometimes even using the same dialogue so that the father and son go through pretty much the same experience.” In a documentary on the making of the film titled In the Beginning, he likened the repetitions to poetry. “Instead of destroying the Death Star [like Luke], [Anakin] destroys the ship that controls the robots. It’s like poetry. Every stanza kind of rhymes with the last one.” And this is where things start to get interesting. Now, as many of you probably know, contemporary English poetry is often characterized by rhyming sounds. But ancient poetry, like the kind found in the Old Testament, is characterized instead by rhyming ideas. This poetic form is called parallelism. Bill Arnold, professor of Old Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary, helps explain. “The single most important characteristic of Old Testament poetry is a symmetry of thought, which we call parallelism. The poetry you are most familiar with balances sounds in a symmetrical way — usually rhyme, rhythm, or meter, or a combination of these. Old Testament poetry may occasionally do this, but only rarely. The type of poetry we encounter in the Old Testament balances ideas in a kind of conceptual rhyming.” Scholars have defined parallelism as “words, phrases, or sentences that correspond, compare, contrast, or repeat.” To better understand the concept, here’s a very simple example from Proverbs 10:1:


A. A wise son B. brings joy C. to his father, A’ but a foolish son B’ brings grief C’ to his mother. As you can see, A is closely related to A’, B to B’, and C to C’. This ABC A’B’C’ pattern is sometimes called “step parallelism” and is one of the many forms of parallelism found in ancient texts. Not only does this poetic pattern help structure how one thought or idea is related to another, it also helps emphasize messages (often moral), expands them, and makes them easier to remember. Of course, as you’ve probably realized by now, the first six Star Wars films certainly follow this pattern. That is, The Phantom Menace (A) corresponds with A New Hope (A’), Attack of the Clones (B) corresponds with The Empire Strikes Back (B’), and Revenge of the Sith (C) corresponds with Return of the Jedi (C’). Interestingly enough, the six films almost certainly follow a second form of parallelism at the same time. It’s a much more complex form called “inverted parallelism.” But you may have heard it referred to by a different name: ring composition. It’s what formed the basis of my Star Wars Ring Theory essay. So, just as George Lucas borrowed from a multitude of ancient sources in crafting the story of his modern myth, the use of multiple types of parallelism suggests that he also borrowed from ancient sources in creating the structure (or form) of his myth. But now that we know a little bit about the concept of parallelism, let’s take at look at some of the extremely subtle ways Lucas designed The Phantom Menace to correspond with A New Hope right from its opening frames.


At the start of A New Hope, a Rebel blockade runner has apparently broken through an Imperial blockade (hence the name of the ship) with secret Death Star plans. The Phantom Menace cleverly inverts the original film by opening with a Republic ship flying into a blockade. Both ships then enter even larger ships. In A New Hope, the story is told mainly from the point of view of C-3PO and R2-D2, a device similarily used by Akira Kurosawa in The Hidden Fortress with two bickering peasants. Here’s what Lucas had to say on The Phantom Menace’s commentary track: “[In A New Hope] we follow the two most insignificant characters, which are the droids. This was an idea I was enamored with… where you take the least important characters and you follow their story amongst this gigantic, intergalactic drama that’s going on around them that they don’t understand…[I told] the story from their point of view and the film was sort of shot from their point of view.” In The Phantom Menace, Lucas shifts the point of view from two insignificant robots to two significant Jedi, QuiGon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi. “As in say A New Hope where the story is told through the eyes of the droids,” says Lucas, “in [The Phantom Menace] it’s told through the eyes of the Jedi.” Both films feature an attack aboard a spaceship in the early moments. In A New Hope, Rebel troopers aim their weapons towards a door when stormtroopers blast it open and emerge through the smoke. In The Phantom Menace, nervous battle droids aim their weapons towards a door as two lightsaber-wielding Jedi emerge from a deadly fog of poisonous gas. And finally, particularly alert viewers may have noticed that a door is cut at the beginning of both films (with a twist, of course). “I kind of reverse the classic monster coming through the door motif,” says Lucas. “So now


it’s the aliens, the droids, and all the villains who are faced with these two sort of invincible creatures. I kind of enjoyed the idea of making the good guys invincible and the bad guys cower in fear.� So, right from the get-go, Lucas was carefully arranging the films in parallel by taking similar ideas and expressing them in a different way. And, in my view, like the poetic form of parallelism, Lucas was setting up the prequel trilogy to be read together with the original trilogy as a complementary unit (in order to fully understand what either half means, as well as to fully understand the whole). All of this adds up to quite a unique cinematic storytelling experience, to say the least.

“Remember: Your focus determines your reality.” Qui-Gon Jinn (The Phantom Menace) 36



star wars in mythology: twins

In ancient times, twins were a subject of curiosity. Perhaps society didn’t understand the science of birthing twins, or perhaps they were an easy comparison to the strange duality of the universe, but they have always been a large part of ancient and modern mythology.


Definition: Twins in Mythology Another name for twins in mythology is dualistic cosmology, because the twins motif is not restricted to blood twins. In some cases, they are considered twins because of commonalities between them. In some cultures, for example, two people could be considered twins if born on the same day. In mythology, the twins’ relationship is usually complementary; they are different but the same, and almost always rivals or partners. Either way, they are usually portrayed as being two halves of a whole. Twins in mythology are often used to describe the duality of nature, whether it be the sun and moon, male and female, winter and summer, etc. Mythological twins were often attached to these forces of nature as a way to explain them. Sometimes they are at odds with each other, and sometimes they work together as equal partners. This is the fundamental nature of twins in mythology.


Examples in Mythology Twins appear in many mythologies. Artemis and Apollo are one example of twins working in unison as the goddess of the moon and the god of the sun. In some mythologies the twins go on adventures together, such as the Amazon myth of Kuat and Iae, who forced the king Urubutsin to give light to the world. Like Artemis and Apollo, Kuat and Iae took on corresponding roles of the sun and moon. In the oldest story known to man, “The Epic of Gilgamesh,� Enkidu is the twin of Gilgamesh in spirit. Enkidu was formed from clay so he has no blood connection to Gilgamesh, but they both represent the mythological concept of dualistic cosmology. Gilgamesh represents civilization, and Enkidu represents chaos, complimentary opposites forming a whole. The Egyptian Osiris and Set, or the Persian Ahriman and Ahura Mazda, are other great examples of twins in opposition. And these only represent a fraction of the twin motifs found in mythology.

Twins in Star Wars Let’s take a look at some of the twins that figure prominently in Star Wars. Luke/Leia: Of course, the twins that first jump to mind are Luke and Leia. They are the perfect example of partner twins. They have the same goals in building the Rebellion, but they have different roles to that end. Leia is the leader and responsible for the more administrative aspects of the Rebellion. Luke’s role is more spiritual as he is responsible for restoring the Jedi, and ending the corruption of the Sith. You could potentially describe Leia as the head, and Luke as the heart of the Rebellion. The Son/Daughter: In the episode “Overlords” from Star Wars: The Clone Wars, we meet the Son and the Daughter. They are the perfect example of twins at odds. One represents the dark side, and one the light. Attaching these twins to the Force is very similar to the mythological use of twins to explain the duality of nature. And yet they are two halves of a whole that can be seen in the above symbol reminiscent of the Yin Yang circle. Jacen/Jaina: In the Legends canon, Jacen and Jaina are interesting because they start as complementary twins, but soon become rivals. Jacen falls to the dark side and Jaina is forced to face him. They are nearly equal in strength, and both are seen as the future of the Jedi Order, but their methods differ. In the end it is Jaina who survives and continues the Skywalker legacy.


Ahsoka/Barriss: Though not biological twins, Ahsoka and Barriss easily represent the dualistic cosmology found in twins’ relationship. They both acknowledge the faults of the Jedi, but they react differently. Barriss takes the negative approach, attacking the Jedi Order to bring it down from within. Instead of attacking the Order, Ahsoka leaves. Both know there is corruption in the Jedi Order and the Republic, but they both react differently to the situation, demonstrating a classic complementary opposition. So there are several examples of twins in Star Wars, used in the mythological sense. It will be interesting to see how these relationships continue in the future and what new twin relationships we may see. Jason is a writer and presenter, working in online marketing. By day he manages company blogs and teaches others how to develop their own websites. By night he is the editor in chief of, and co-host of Far, Far Away Radio, among other podcasts and YouTube channels. Jason has a deep fascination with mythology and recurring archetypes in storytelling that continue to resonate with audiences today. He is always asking the question, what makes ___ popular?



“Somebody has to save our skins� Leia Organa (A New Hope)



yub yub meet the ewoks from endor

Imagine you’re on the moon of Endor after taking Star Tours Flight 45. Close your eyes and concentrate on your surroundings. You can smell the forest, touch the soft humid soil, and hear the distant song of a lantern bird. Then, suddenly you might find yourself hanging upside down, caught in a booby trap of an Ewok tribe. Welcome to the land of the Ewoks. The origin of the Ewoks is rather diverse. Story wise, the Ewoks evolved from Wookiees. George Lucas had foreseen that the decisive battle in the Galactic Civil War would take place between the Wookiees and the Empire, but since Chewbacca was too skilled at using technology, Lucas wanted a more primitive species to defeat the Empire. In our own history the origins of the Ewoks can be found in the Vietnam War (1955 – 1975). In that confrontation during the Cold War, the guerrilla Vietcong warriors were a constant threat to the anticommunist soldiers because they knew every inch of the jungles they called home.


The small and adorable Ewoks managed to rise far above their appearance in Return of the Jedi. They were the stars of two television movies (Caravan of Courage and The Battle for Endor) and in a cartoon series made by Nelvana. They even made an appearance on Ice Capades in 1986! To the untrained eye, many Ewoks look alike. But if we have a closer look, you’ll recognize many individual Ewoks. And the best thing is that we don’t need to be dragged into their village as prisoners in order to meet them!

Return of the Jedi The word Ewok is never mentioned in Return of the Jedi and neither is one of the Ewok names. A handful Ewoks were named by the production or were mentioned in the novelization. Six Ewoks are mentioned on the credits of Episode VI. Wicket is the most famous by far. Wicket Wystri Warrick is the young inquisitive Ewok scout who meets Princess Leia after her encounter with the Imperial biker scouts. Wicket leads Leia to Bright Tree Village where she gets a warmer welcome than her friends would get. Wicket goes on to warn his tribe of the trap that has been sprung by the Empire near the shield generator bunker. During the battle against the Empire, Wicket shows bravery, but he hasn’t been able to fully master all of his species’ fighting techniques. Chieftain of the village is Chirpa, a wise and older Ewok who leads a Council of Elders. Chirpa is advised by his pet iguana and agrees that the rebel strike team can become a part of his tribe. Logray is the shaman of the tribe. He doesn’t believe that C-3PO has special powers, but when he apparently does seem to have magic powers after all, he immediately decides to set the heroes free. Logray also fights against the Empire in the battle along Teebo. He’s another scout and warrior who leads the


scouting party that brings the captive heroes to the village. Teebo sports the skull of a gurreck as a headpiece. Paploo is a scout and together with Wicket he reveals a secret passage to the strike team, a pathway that will lead straight to the shield generator bunker. He even manages to lure three biker scouts away after stealing one of their speeder bikes. The last Ewok mentioned on the credits is Nicki. For a long time fans had no idea who Nicki was, but it was uncovered that he’s the Ewok with gray fur who does a cartwheel during the festivities. Kenner made five of the six Ewoks mentioned in the credits, but they decided to add three more to their line of action figures. Lumat is the chief woodcutter of the tribe (though his action figure came with a bow). Warok is the father of Teebo and a known Ewok warrior. Romba can easily be seen in Episode VI since he’s the Ewok who mourns for his fallen comrade Nanta. Wokling (a baby Ewok) Nippet gets her name during the vintage era, but it took some time before she was properly identified in the movie. Nippet is the daughter of Lumat. Despite some of Decipher’s typical errors, the CCG names a few Ewoks in the nineties. Graak is a cunning Ewok who’s armed with an ax. Kazak is the first Elder


and an important adviser to Chirpa. Rabin is a loner and a survival expert. These three Ewoks are all part of the group that captures the heroes. Wuta is a scout who searches for fallen trees in order to make tools out of them. He can be seen talking briefly to Wicket in the village courtyard. After the CCG, more Ewoks gradually received their name. The two Ewoks who operate the AT-ST walker alongside Chewbacca are known as Widdle Warrick and Wunka. Widdle is Wicket’s older brother and Wunka is the Ewok with very dark fur who carefully caresses Chewie in the cockpit of the AT-ST. Leektar can easily be recognized by the large skull he’s sporting as his headgear. He originally hails from Red Bush Grove, and is eventually named an Honorary Elder by Chirpa. Tokkat is Wunka’s brother, and this Ewok with dark fur uses a bow during the battle. Nanta, Flitchee, Nho’Apakk, Chubbray, and Stemzee were all named by Hasbro who made their action figures. Nanta is the Ewok who gets killed in combat and is accompanied by Romba, who mourns for his fallen friend. Flitchee is the Ewok who can be seen swinging an E-11 blaster rifle during the battle. Nho’Apakk has been tricky to identify. Before Hasbro released Chubbray and Stemzee, two Ewoks that operate one of the catapults, it was believed that Nho’Apakk was one of them. Additional research identifies another Ewok as Nho’Apakk.


A final group of names were given in the Rogues Gallery article in Star Wars Insider 135 by Leland Chee. The Ewoks that receive their name for the first time in this article are Wispeth, Greemon, Lakotup, Wijunkee, Barneeson, Taras, Brethupp, Fufuneek and Khungata. Some of these individuals are rather hard to identify. Brethupp is an easy one since he has spotted fur and can be seen in the village square. He’s also one of the Ewok drummers during the festivities. Taras and Khungata are part of the group that encounters the trapped heroes. Greemon has a greenish headgear and can be seen in the village square piling up logs under Han Solo. Fufuneek has brown fur, small ears and can be recognized by his ‘pointy’ hood. Wijunkee has a white strap across his shoulder.


Legends from television As mentioned earlier the Ewoks also starred in two television movies and a cartoon series in the eighties. Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (ABC, 1984) features Wicket, Widdle, and Logray from the movies, but also introduces the powerful Chukha-Trok, the priestess Kaink, and other members of the Warrick family, including Wicket’s father Deej, Wicket’s mother Shodu, Wicket’s eldest brother Weechee, and his Wokling sister Winda. Ewoks: The Battle for Endor (ABC, 1985) features several Ewoks from Return of the Jedi, but only mentions Wicket by name. Star Wars: Ewoks was produced by Nelvana on behalf of Lucasfilm and ran for two seasons (1985 – 1986). The thirty five episodes focused on the life of young Wicket and his friends. Introduced in the cartoon is Wicket’s best friend and romantic interest Princess Kneesaa A Jari Kintaka, the youngest daughter of Chief Chirpa. Kneesaa has become a popular character due to many appearances in the cartoon, in comics and as merchandising. Other new friends of Wicket are Latara (Teebo’s love interest) and Malani (Teebo’s younger sister). A funny thing to notice is that the cartoon apparently switched the identities of Teebo and Paploo. Among newly introduced Ewoks in the cartoon are Asha (Kneesaa’s long lost elder sister), Erpham Warrick (Wicket’s greatgrandfather), Bozzie (Paploo’s mother), Ra-Lee (Chirpa’s deceased wife), Wiley (Latara’s wokling brother) and Zephee (Lumat’s wife and Latara’s mother). Other Woklings of Bright Tree Village are Leeni, Mookiee and Gwig. Warwick is an Ewok mentioned in the novelization of Episode VI.


“We do hope you have enjoyed our tour of the Ewoks on Endor. Please remain seated until the captain has opened the doors. Meechoo che donno moktok. Yeha!”

Tim Veekhoven (Sompeetalay) from Belgium is president and co founder of TeeKay-421, the Belgian Star Wars Fanclub. He has contributed to Star Wars Insider (Rogues Gallery), is an administrator for Yodapedia and has written four character back stories in “What’s the Story?”.



Ewoks (Return of the Jedi)





this weapon is your life a study of hystorical lightsabers

Described to Luke Skywalker by Obi-Wan as an elegant weapon for a more civilized age, the lightsaber has become one of the most recognizable icons from the saga. The lightsaber fulfilled an important symbolic role in A New Hope. When Luke gets his father’s lightsaber, the young farm boy receives his talisman, a powerful symbol of his heritage. Similar moments in mythology occur when Arthur Pendragon receives the sword Excalibur or when the Norse hero Sigurd gets the sword Gram which he will use to kill the dragon Fafnir. In this feature we’ll have a look at the lightsabers of four Jedi who played a crucial part during the events of the Star Wars movies.


Qui-Gon Jinn’s lightsaber The lightsaber used by Qui-Gon Jinn during the Invasion of Naboo wasn’t as ornate as the weapon used by his former Master, Dooku. Qui-Gon built his saber so it could be used to handle both classic and other fighting techniques. The metal hilt was 28.50 centimeters long and 3.80 centimeters wide. Qui-Gon used an Adegan crystal for his green saber. This lightsaber’s special feature were many micro-power cells, inserted in the ridged handgrip. Those cells gave Qui-Gon more control over the power levels of the saber. The weapon had a red activator button and a charging port at the side.

 After Qui-Gon had been mortally wounded by Darth Maul on Naboo, Obi-Wan Kenobi grabbed the lightsaber with the Force and used the weapon to slice the Zabrak in half.

Obi-Wan temporarily gave Qui-Gon’s weapon to Anakin Skywalker after he had built a new lightsaber. Eventually the lightsaber ended up in a memorial in the Jedi Temple.


Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lightsabers The lightsaber used by Obi-Wan Kenobi during the Invasion of Naboo was constructed to resemble Qui-Gon’s weapon. Padawans usually did this to show respect to their Master. Obi-Wan’s weapon had one power cell, but the handle was scalloped to give Obi-Wan a firm handgrip. The metal hilt, measuring 28 centimeters long and 5 centimeters wide, ended in a ball which contained a reserve power cell. Kenobi used a single Adegan crystal for his blue lightsaber. There also was a button to alter the length and the intensity of the blade. Obi-Wan lost this lightsaber when it got kicked into the abyss of the Theed Generator Complex by Darth Maul. Although Maul rose from the dead after falling into the same pit, Obi-Wan’s saber was lost forever. After briefly using his former Master’s lightsaber, ObiWan constructed another weapon almost similar to the one he had lost. He used this weapon during the Separatist Crisis and during his journey to the missing planet Kamino. When Obi-Wan got captured on Geonosis, his lightsaber was seized and it was never seen again. During the Battle of Geonosis, Obi-Wan used a blue saber tossed at him by Sephjet Josall. Kenobi constructed another lightsaber at the start of the Clone Wars. This weapon was different in design and featured a thin neck and a ribbed handgrip. The saber was 29.20 centimeters long and 5 centimeters wide. A single Adegan crystal was used. This blue lightsaber sure carried a lot of historical weight. Obi-Wan used it during the Clone Wars and in his two legendary duels against his former friend and Padawan Anakin Skywalker. When Darth Vader struck down Obi-Wan on the Death Star, Kenobi’s lightsaber and cloak dropped to the floor. By then the gleaming metal of the hilt had weathered by the harsh conditions of Kenobi’s stay on Tatooine.


Anakin Skywalker’s lightsabers As a Padawan Anakin first used Qui-Gon’s lightsaber before he constructed his own weapon on the planet Ilum. Instead of building a lightsaber that followed the design of his Master, Anakin broke with this tradition. His saber was built for power with a thin cylindrical metal alloy and carbon hilt. It was 25.40 centimeters long and 3 centimeters wide and a single Adegan crystal was used. Despite several warnings from his Master that his lightsaber was his life, Anakin once again lost the blue lightsaber when it got damaged beyond repair by the infernal machines in the droid factory on Geonosis. During the Battle of Geonosis and in the duel against Dooku, Anakin used a green saber tossed to him by Nicanas Tassu. The second lightsaber constructed by Anakin would become a legendary weapon. The design didn’t differ a lot from the previous one, though this saber featured a lot of technical interfaces that had grown out of Anakin’s passion for technology. The hilt, which featured a quick recharge plug and interfaces to adjust the length and the power of the blade, was 28 centimeters long and 5 centimeters wide. Anakin used this weapon during the Clone Wars and lost it when he was defeated on Mustafar by Obi-Wan. Kenobi took the lightsaber as a painful memory of their friendship and of his own failure. Nearly twenty years later Anakin’s son Luke received the lightsaber as a gift from Obi-Wan. The saber served Luke well until his memorable duel against Darth Vader on Cloud City. The lightsaber was last seen falling into Bespin’s atmosphere.


As Darth Vader, Anakin would construct a new dual-phase lightsaber with a red synthetic crystal. The design was a bit more dark, but it looked very similar to the one that had been taken on Mustafar.

Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber After the ominous revelation of Darth Vader, Luke ventured to Obi-Wan’s hut on Tatooine where he found instructions to build his own lightsaber. The design closely resembled that of Obi-Wan’s last saber, but Luke added field energizers to give the saber a stronger and more reliable blade. Luke used one green synthetic crystal for his weapon. The hilt was made from metal and salvaged material and it measured 28 centimeters tall and 5 centimeters wide. When Vader saw that his son had constructed his own lightsaber, he realized that Luke had indeed become powerful in the Force. Luke defeated Vader with this lightsaber, but he tossed it away when he refused to join the Emperor. Luke accepted his fate as a Jedi and confronted the Emperor with the Force as his ally. At the end, Anakin’s compassion for his son’s suffering ended the Emperor’s reign over the New Order. New and familiar lightsabers will without any doubt continue to play an important part of the Star Wars legacy in The Force Awakens and other future feature films.



“Do. Or do not. There is no try.” Yoda (The Empire Strikes Back))



STUDYING SKYWALKERS: darth sidious is your master now

An examination of Star Wars reveals some strong examples of mentors and mentorship and brings to the forefront moments that help us learn more about these fascinating characters. We have explored the heroes of the films, as well as burgeoning relationships in Star Wars Rebels, but an important question was brought to my attention recently that deserves further examination: what about the dark side mentors?


Clearly there are relationships in Star Wars amongst the villains of the series, but do they qualify as mentor/pupil relationships? At the core of what makes a mentor (a teacher or instructor that fosters growth and change in the student while passing along wisdom and knowledge), the answer seems clear, but since a Sith only deals in absolutes, perhaps this should be discussed further. Inevitably, the primary mentor of the dark side would be the emperor himself, Sheev Palpatine, a.k.a. Darth Sidious. Palpatine took on a number of apprentices in the Star Wars universe — Darth Maul, Darth Tyranous, and Darth Vader all had unique relationships with the Sith Lord that could fall under the umbrella of mentor. While known for their power, cunning, and ruthlessness, each villain was submissive to Darth Sidious, bringing a twist to the mentor/pupil relationship.


Darth Maul — The agile, acrobatic Zabrak from Dathomir was given to Palpatine at birth by the Nightsisters and was trained in the ways of the dark side. Like his master, Maul is resilient and has the uncanny ability to cheat death, surviving a potentially fatal encounter with Obi-Wan Kenobi on Naboo. Maul even showed leadership abilities gleaned from Darth Sidious as he attempted to enslave Mandalore. However, this was not met with aplomb by Sidious, who sought to end Maul’s resurrection since it did not fit in with his master plan. Far from encouraging personal growth, Sidious’ enslavement of Maul occurred even after his apparent death.

Darth Tyranus — Known as Count Dooku to many in the Star Wars universe, the penultimate Sith Lord to Darth Sidious appeared to have the qualities of his mentor throughout much of the Clone Wars. The two manipulated the galaxy together, with Sidious passing on his wisdom, counsel, and knowledge in order to orchestrate his machinations. Sidious allowed for personal growth and critical thinking in his older apprentice, but only so far as it fit his grand design. As with Darth Maul, Darth Tyranus proved to be expendable in his master’s quest for absolute power. Darth Vader — The powerful, vengeful apprentice of


Darth Sidious — encased in the black armor that personified his own anger — had perhaps the most intriguing mentor/mentee relationship with the Sith Lord. Vader’s story is the fulcrum of the Star Wars saga, and much of his rise to power is through the tutelage and mentorship of Palpatine/Sidious. While Anakin was growing in wisdom and strength as a pupil of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Palpatine, through subterfuge and cunning, mentors the young Jedi to slowly become disenfranchised with the Jedi way and to embrace a different, more intrinsically-motivated approach to the Force. In a literary sense, the mentor guides the pupil to find personal solutions to challenges and to promote an awareness of self through personal reflection, maturity, and growth. Anakin finds the answers to his problems while being guided in his decisions by Palpatine, and the results are cataclysmic for the galaxy. There can be little doubt that Darth Sidious mentored Anakin Skywalker to become Darth Vader and helped shape his personal philosophy as a Sith Lord.


While Star Wars had many positive examples of mentors building up characters to become the best version of themselves, the dark side, perhaps poetically, subverts the idea of such a mentor (much as each Sith apprentice is subverted) in order to meet the tyrannical agenda of the machiavellian Darth Sidious. No matter the guise, the Sith Lord promotes personal growth through passing on knowledge and wisdom, but strictly for his own personal gain. While not traditional, the stratagems used are extremely effective and ensure a rich palette for which Palpatine enacted his schemes and efficiently ensnared the galaxy.


“I find your lack of faith disturbing� Darth Vader (A New Hope) 70



from world war to star wars stormtroopers

An Emperor is nothing without the support of ground forces to enforce their will. These troops must be unquestionably loyal to the cause and its leader. In the Star Wars galaxy, that task falls to the Imperial stormtroopers. This faceless corps of soldiers was inspired by the similar storm troops from the past. While most well-known “storm troops” were the Nazi Sturmabteilung, the formation of “storm troop” units predates the National Socialists or World War II. In Germany, the SA (Sturmabteilung) took its name from the small units of storm troops used in German offensives of World War I. When the First World War turned into a trench-laden stalemate, both sides looked for new ways to break through enemy defenses. Organized into small units of fast moving soldiers and often armed with grenades, these original storm troops were trained to quickly break through enemy lines using stealth and surprise to their advantage.


After the Great War ended in 1918, the burgeoning National Socialists established their own storm troops in the 1920s to protect Nazi party meetings. Like so many of the most iconic elements of Hitler’s Nazi party, the name storm trooper was simply repurposed from earlier times. Over time, the SA grew into the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party. Used to maintain order, they were widely identified by their brown shirts and black jackboots. Hitler’s SA, and later the SS, were prominent in party propaganda leading up to the outbreak of war. Thanks to newsreels everywhere, the image of jackbooted storm troopers became one of the iconic images of fascism and inspired the iconic stormtroopers of Star Wars. Germany wasn’t the only nation to form such a force after World War I. Italy formed the Arditi in 1917 to play the role of shock troops, similar to the storm troops in the German army. After the war, a number of the Arditi aligned themselves with the fascist movement in the country, including Mussolini. Like Hitler, Mussolini relied on his paramilitary troops, known as Blackshirts, to enforce his will. The most famous group of stormtroopers in the Star Wars galaxy is the 501st Legion. In real life, the legion is the largest Star Wars costuming group, promoting costuming and charity around the world. Fellow blogger Albin Johnson founded the group in 1997 that has now grown to more than 12,000 members. Coming up with the name for the iconic fan group, Johnson reached back to his past. “Something in my head clicked and I thought back to my dad’s old flight school graduation book from World War II.” The son of a veteran, he went on to explain, “My first thought was that the Empire was super-huge. The movies made that clear. So if they had a unit number it was a big number. And whatever number should be a memorable one,


and lend itself to working with a cool nickname. The first thing I thought of was “Fighting” as part of a unit name. So something starting with that word, and I thought that 500 was a good round number — plus, adding a number on the end would make it more realistic. So ‘Fighting 501st’ came up. It sounded so good, I just couldn’t see improving on it.” World War II had its own 501st too. The 501st Infantry Regiment was part of the famed 101st Airborne Division in World War II. This paratrooper unit dropped into Normandy on D-Day in June of 1944, later participated in Operation Market Garden, and went on to fight at the Battle of the Bulge in 1945. Like other paratrooper regiments, this elite unit was made up entirely of volunteers who went through rigorous training before jumping by parachute behind enemy lines.

The idea of volunteer soldiers is especially important in Star Wars. Whereas the clone army of the Republic was made up of soldiers created for the sole purpose of service, Lucasfilm’s Pablo Hidalgo explains that, “stormtroopers are men and women like you and me. They volunteer.” As we will see in Star Wars Rebels, the Empire finds, “better uniformity in fervent patriots who volunteer for service.” Convincing millions to volunteer for the Empire requires a powerful propaganda machine — a machine that we will explore next month!


... Stormtroopers (All Episodes)




like the force, the astromechs are everywhere in star wars

Tweet Badeep Brrrrrp. Meet the Astromech droids. The mechanical all-rounders from the classic trilogy are ready to increase the power! Astromech droids (or astro droids) are class-2 droids developed by Industrial Automaton. Usually small in size, they can be considered the most all-round droids in the galaxy. They are excellent co-pilots, superb mechanics, and excel in communicating with computers. Some can even develop quite a personality when they haven’t fallen victim to a memory wipe. By far the most famous Astromech droid is R2-D2, who has been a loyal friend of the Skywalker family ever since he served on Queen Amidala’s Royal Starship on Naboo. More recently, we’ve encountered another Astromech droid called C1-10P (Chopper). Without the quirky and mischievous Chopper, the crew of the Ghost wouldn’t have succeeded in many of their dangerous missions. But who are the other Astromech droids that are lurking in the background or co-piloting one of the Rebels Alliance’s starfighters? Let’s find out!


Tatooine The desert planet in the Arkanis Sector seemed like a haven to Astromechs. Despite the fact that Jawas and moisture farmers were always keeping their eyes open for them, Tatooine cities such as Mos Eisley featured a lot of the little droids. R1-G4 was an old and battered R1 Astromech droid sold by Nebit’s Jawa clan at the Lars moisture farm. This large Astromech may once have been employed by Kroeskin Fabrications, and it was left behind when its previous owner got captured. R5-D4, nicknamed ”Red,” was first chosen by Owen Lars instead of R2-D2. When it turned out to have a bad motivator, C-3PO advised Luke Skywalker to buy R2-D2 instead. There have been several explanations in Legends why R5-D4 malfunctioned. Some stories made R5-D4 an unsung hero because he damaged himself so that R2-D2 could continue his crucial mission. In another story, R2D2 sabotaged R5-D4, leaving him as the only remaining functional Astromech that the Jawas had for sale. The most crazy story, though already considered non-canon


when it appeared in 1999, was that R5-D4 was actually Skippy, a Force-using droid. It’s also possible that R5-D4 was part of the R2-AG-series, a sub-line of Agromech droids. Many of Tatooine’s Astromechs were seen during Luke and Ben Kenobi’s visit to Mos Eisley. R2-A5 was a unit with white and green markings that specialized in combat communications. The droid could be used to acquire targeting data for starfighters and gunnery systems. In the Special Edition of A New Hope, R2-A5 disappeared and was replaced by a ronto. R3-T2 didn’t have the typical transparent dome of an R3 unit. Possessing expanded memory capacities, it had escaped from a band of pirates and could enhance and sabotage hyperdrive systems. R4-E1 was a red and white Astromech that preferred to work independently, though it was owned by the Corellian smuggler BoShek. The droid was near Spaceport Speeders when Luke sold his X-34 landspeeder. Finally there was the yellow R5-A2, which, like many other R5 units, was rarely used as a navigator. Its owner was unknown.


Rebel Alliance The Rebel Alliance was always looking for more Astromech droids, not only because of their resilience and their versatility, but also because they were compatible with X-wing and Y-wing starfighters. Several Astromechs assisted Rebel pilots during their assault on the first Death Star. R2-X2 was the droid designated to Red 10 (Theron Nett). R4-D6 was a dark blue R4 unit that served on Base One at the Great Massassi Temple, while R5-D8 was the Astromech of Lieutenant Jek Porkins (Red 6). R5-K6 was the black and red droid of Red Leader Garven Dreis, and R2-Q2, the gray unit that accompanied Biggs Darklighter aboard Red 3, rounded out the Astromechs that assisted in the Battle of Yavin. Several Astromechs were also encountered in the icy caverns of the Echo Base on Hoth. The orange R3-A2 could coordinate piloting coordinates and approach angles during combat. R3-Y2 was encountered in the command center (though the Hasbro figure has green markings instead of yellow) while R5-M2 played an important part in the evacuation of Echo Base. With his owner Captain Valdez, this droid planned evacuation routes from Echo Base for the Rebel forces. Last but not least, R5-G19 was an Astromech that was present during the important briefing at Home One near Sullust right before the Battle of Endor. Other Astromechs of Rebel pilots included R5-F7 (Lepira), R2-T7 (Grizz Frix), and R5-P9 (Ekelarc Yong).


Galactic Empire What you may perhaps not immediately realize from watching the movies is that there were also a lot of Astromech droids working in the service of the Galactic Empire. R2-Q2 (who looks like Biggs’ droid and has the same name) spent several decades working with the Imperial fleet in the Expansion Region. It was brought aboard the Tantive IV after the ship got captured by the Devastator above Tatooine. R3-M3 was a Astromech that worked aboard the first Death Star, similar to R4-I9 (this droid hasn’t been officially identified in the movie itself, but at least one dark blue R4 unit appears in a behind the scenes clip on the Death Star). R4-M9 was the second Astromech droid brought aboard the Tantive IV to retrieve data from its computer banks. R2-Q5 and R5-J2 were two black Astromechs that operated aboard the second Death Star and were present when Darth Vader arrived.

Unidentified After all these years and publications, a few Astromechs from the classic trilogy still haven’t received a proper name. You can spot unidentified Astromechs in Mos Eisley, Echo Base, X-wing starfighters (Wedge’s Astromechs in both Death Star assaults), or aboard the second Death Star. There are also some broken Astromechs in Jabba’s droid pool and an unnamed Astromech waiter aboard Jabba’s Khetanna.


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star wars in mythology: the shadow

Carl Jung is essentially the great-grandfather of Star Wars, as Joseph Campbell included much of Jung’s psychological research in his work. Jung’s work highlights the concept of the collective unconscious, aspects of our psyche that exist for everyone. Jung theorizes that this collective unconscious is responsible for the common themes in our mythology, even across isolated, independent cultures. All were drawing from archetypes hidden in our subconscious, archetypes that are part of what makes us human. The Shadow is one prevalent Jungian archetype. But it is Star Wars that definitively makes use of it.


Definition: The Shadow The Shadow is an aspect of our unconscious psychology that our conscious refuses to acknowledge, and is usually negative. It can be anything from aggressive animal instincts, to laziness, to sadistic behavior. Jung specifies that “the less [the Shadow] is embodied in the individual’s conscious life, the blacker and denser it is.” In other word, acknowledging and mastering the Shadow is essential to keep it from worsening. A merger of the individual with the Shadow is common. However, for the merger to be positive, it must be initiated by the individual himself. Allowing one’s Shadow to take control usually leads to a negative lifestyle, where one is controlled by their impulses. Actively acknowledging one’s darker side and taking control of it is a much more positive approach. According to Jung, it produces a stronger, wider awareness/consciousness than before. Confronting your dark side leads to a stronger, more balanced individual. You might see where this is going.


Examples in Mythology Since the Shadow is a part of our collective psychology, it frequently emerges in our mythology and storytelling. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is possibly the most obvious example. In it, the Shadow literally takes control of Jekyll’s mind and body, enslaving him to his basest instincts. The werewolf motif is another example. It is common to have mythological characters who can’t control their dark side, and as a result their Shadow emerges into the realm of the physical. Turning someone into an animal is often used as a form of punishment in mythology, such as Zeus turning Lycaon into a wolf for killing his children, or Athena turning Ariadne into a spider. In these cases, the animal represented the psyche for those individuals, showing their true colors for all to see, a physical manifestation of the Shadow. Joseph Campbell also points to the story of the Frog Prince. In the story, a princess is confronted on three separate occasions by the Frog. On the first two visits, she is repulsed, but she relents on the third occasion and kisses the Frog, who then transforms into a prince. According to Campbell, the Frog is the Shadow, the kiss is acceptance of it, and the prince is the reward. The Shadow can be found in almost every story ever told. Whether it’s the devil tempting Eve, or Mordred corrupting his father’s kingdom, the Shadow saturates our mythology.


Use of the Shadow in Star Wars Star Wars is our own modern mythology, and it borrows many of the same motifs. The Shadow is no exception. In fact, the Shadow is one of the most dominant. The most obvious use of the Shadow is the dichotomy between light and dark sides of the Force. The dark side of the Force represents the Shadow, while the light side represents the ego. Balance is attained when the light side masters the dark. We see this explicitly in The Clone Wars. In the Season Six episode “Destiny,” Yoda is confronted by a literal Shadow of himself. The ensuing fight does little good. It isn’t until Yoda acknowledges and accepts the Shadow that he is able to master and control it. This is a direct parallel to Jung’s recommendation to merge with the Shadow, gaining strength and awareness. Both Anakin and Luke Skywalker merge with their Shadow, but with different results. Anakin allows his Shadow to take over, probably because he was unaware that it existed. As Jung would say, being unaware of the Shadow means it is likely darker and more dangerous. Once the Shadow has taken over, Anakin becomes Darth Vader, a literal embodiment of his own Shadow, much like the mythological concept of the werewolf. Luke goes through a similar trial. His vision on Dagobah is a direct representation of what he must go through psychologically. After cutting off Vader’s head in the cave, he realizes the head was his own. In that instance, Vader was Luke, or rather he was Luke’s Shadow. This is probably the first instance where Luke becomes aware of his Shadow. He is forced to acknowledge it further when he learns of his parentage and just how much darkness exists inside of him. However it is this awareness of his Shadow that allows Luke to overcome it. Just as Jung


suggests we confront our Shadow to overcome it, Yoda tells Luke he must confront Vader to become a Jedi. In that final moment, when Luke confronts Vader, Luke looks at his hand, acknowledges the similarities between himself and his father. He acknowledges the potential that he has to join the dark side (his Shadow) and become just like Darth Vader. He acknowledges the fact that he has a dark side, and it is poised to take over.

And he accepts it.

When Luke utters the words, “I’ll never turn to the dark side…I am a Jedi,” he completes the final task of confronting his Shadow and mastering it. Like Yoda in The Clone Wars, Luke accepts his dark side as a part of himself. Thus, the Shadow archetype is balanced. Vader, who in this case symbolizes the Shadow, is redeemed at this exact moment, becoming an outward representation of Luke’s inner triumph.


“Remember... the force will be with you, always.” Obi Wan Kenobi (A New Hope) 92



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97 ...may the force be with you.




Star Wars - Journal of the Galaxies  
Star Wars - Journal of the Galaxies