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"What Are Some Of Star Wars’ Ancient, Medieval Themes?" Topic


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625 hits since 10 Mar 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP10 Mar 2018 2:12 a.m. PST

I can think of one … tragic twists about parentage. :)

I guess that would make Luke a good Mordred to an evil Arthur, or something like that?

Any others?

Dan

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Crazyivanov10 Mar 2018 3:07 a.m. PST

Well let's see. Obiwan Kenobi acts as both an old knight and also Merlin. Han Solo goes on a journey from Knave to Knight. Princess Leia acts as a sort of Lady in the Lake, stirring the male characters to rise to their better natures. Lando Calrissian is kind of like the Moorish Romantic False Lead from The Merchant of Venice. Vader killing the Imperial officers who fail him can be seen as a round about Roman Suicide, especially for Captain Needa. And Jabba the Hutt has a slight twofer, 1) he's something of a decadent Ottoman Sultan, and 2) his bodyguards are axe wielding barbarian mercenaries.

baxterj10 Mar 2018 3:59 a.m. PST

The whole fall of the star Wars Republic is just the collapse of the Roman republic repeated.

Personal logo Andrew Walters Supporting Member of TMP10 Mar 2018 11:18 a.m. PST

All this stuff is fun, but it always depends on how tight you want the fit. The human mind is deft with symbols, and things can be a loose fit and we still see the pattern whether or not it's real.

For example, you can pick a myth and then look for it, you'll find it. Our brains are good at finding such things. Oedipus – well, there are not a lot of mothers in the series, so that shouldn't crop up, right? Except when Luke's X-wing fertilizes the Death Star, where his father lives. Is that a good fit? No, it is not, but you could certainly write a thousand convincing words about it.

Or you can just research until you hit something. Obi Wan trains Luke. Chiron the centaur trained Heracles. We hit wikipedia: Chiron was a renowned trainer and healer, blah, blah, oh, look, he willingly gave up his life, as Obi Wan did in the death star. Chiron's sacrifice won the release of Prometheus, Obi Wan told Vader "if you strike me down I will become more powerful" and his death let him mentor Luke. Not a great fit, but I'm working fast. If this was college and I had a week you could more.

Heracles performed his twelve labors. What are the odds that we can match them up to things Luke accomplished in the three good movies? About 100%.

Luke confronts Vader in the underworld on Dagobah and fails, then faces him again in front of the emperor and succeeds in rescuing the father.

The fall of the Roman Republic things fits Julius Caesar except that the senate then assassinated Caesar, whereas Palpatine escapes this and rules as Caesar hoped to.

So this isn't a matter of what can you find, it's a matter of what do you *want* to find. Because Lucas was very informed by mythology and wedged in all the symbols he could find. When you cherry pick those symbols you can recreate all kinds of things, whatever you need, probably.

Except I can't find Antigone, but if I gave myself an hour maybe I could.

Zephyr110 Mar 2018 10:24 p.m. PST

Well, hopefully Obi Wan took Luke aside at some point and told him "Princess Leia is your sister, you know", forestalling any thoughts of hanky-panky between them…

JC Lira11 Mar 2018 5:15 p.m. PST

Generals settle their grudge in a one on one sword fight instead of commanding their armies from an air conditioned bunker.

Personal logo Parzival Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2018 10:23 a.m. PST

Star Wars is a classic example of the epic, which goes back to before Homer. The film is deliberately so, as Lucas long ago stated he based it on Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which examines the epic tradition as it appears throughout human narratives across multiple cultures. The details are these:
In media res ("in the middle of things"): The story begins in the middle of a series of events, with considerable backstory that is revealed as the tale goes along, or sometimes only really hinted at. Thus, Star Wars begins with the galaxy in the middle of a civil war, after a despotic empire has seized power usurping a previous "golden age" republic, etc., etc..
The "fallen times" (my term): The world used to be much better, having a golden age, but at the time of the epic, this age is long past, with much beauty and wisdom lost, and unlikely to rise again.
The hero of mysterious origin: A hero arises, typically an orphan, whose parents (particularly the father) are either unknown or magical/mystical in some way, or the hero's birth is magical/mystical/mysterious in some way.
The sacrificial mentor: The hero is guided by a mystical older mentor, who is lost, usually due to a self-sacrificial act, leaving the hero to continue on, typically without the full aid and instruction the hero had expected from the mentor (the training is incomplete).
The hero gains unusual allies, sometimes even former enemies or societal rejects, who aid the hero in his/her quest.
The hero travels to the Underworld (or even actually dies) to gain insight or power.
The hero returns from the Underworld/rises from the dead.
The hero defeats the great enemy in a surprising way.
The hero returns to the people to give them the benefit of his power and usher in a new Golden Age.

We tell this story over and over and over again. We tell it in the epic of Gilgamesh, the Labors of Hercules, the myth of Osiris, The Illiad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, the various Scandinavian sagas, Beowulf, the legend of Arthur, Parzival and the Quest for the Holy Grail, the Journey to the West, the Bible… Pick an epic. It will be there. Pick a movie, too. Star Wars. E.T.. Raiders. Virtually any superhero movie (that big defeat the hero suffers in the middle, the first time he faces the villain? Then he goes and learns from his error, improves his power or his thinking, and returns to triumph? Yep, that's the Epic Hero story).
Pick a literary work. Shakespeare. The Lord of the Rings…even The Hobbit. Sherlock Holmes, for Pete's sake! Even when we don't mean to be retelling it, we retell it!
It's hard-wired into our souls.

So, yes, Star Wars has ancient and medieval elements within it.
And so does everything else.

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