With the next chapter of the Star Wars saga fast approaching, this timeless epic is reigniting the passion of Star Wars fans both past and present and offering a new generation of fans a chance to experience the magic so many of us grew up with. In anticipation of the new Star Wars release, I have created a book display that pays tribute to the Star Wars saga as depicted in the History Channel’s episode “Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed.”
As a modern epic, the Star Wars saga takes the viewer on a cosmic journey imbedded within classic literature, mythology, history, and religion. Star Wars is based on what is known in classic literature and mythology as the hero’s journey, which is seen in classic tales such as King Arthur, Perseus, and Hercules. Within this motif, the hero usually starts out naïve and innocent and is eventually called to action to perform a great feat that seems nearly impossible. Sometimes the hero may have powers they do not yet know about and they are usually given a special weapon or weapons by a mentor to aid them on their quest. Throughout their adventure, the hero will also make unlikely friends that assist them as the hero is forced to prove their mettle through the completion of a series of difficult tasks. However, in the end, the hero must ultimately face their calling alone.
While Star Wars certainly embraces the motif of the hero’s journey, it also draws on other aspects of classic literature such as the “looming father figure” in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Moreover, the father and son conflict between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader is very similar to how Zeus fights with his father in Greek mythology. We also see connections to Paradise Lost with the Luciferian fall of Anakin Skywalker from good to evil. This fall from grace leads to the creation of the Emperor’s evil Frankenstein-like monster in the form of Darth Vader. Star Wars even references classic literature such as the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid several times over throughout the saga.
The one-two punch of classic literature and myth in Star Wars is enough to get any fan excited. However, George Lucas doesn’t stop there; he also turns to history to spice up the movie. When it comes to the Empire’s Imperial troops, Lucas directly calls them stormtroopers, which is a clear parallel to the feared Nazi “stormtroopers” of World War II. Lucas also uses lessons from history in politics when depicting the destruction of the Galactic Senate and the formation of the Galactic Empire. The fall of democracy and the rise of a dictatorship through the use of “emergency powers” is another direct reference to the Nazis and how Hitler took over Germany. This depiction of the destruction of democracy also harkens back to the reign of Julius Caesar and how he dissolved the Roman senate to consolidate power in himself as the gold-like Emperor of Rome. Furthermore, Lucas uses the history of the Roman Colosseum games in his scenes with the pod races and the execution of prisoners in the great arena.
Star Wars also touches on religion with its representation of the force. The force is the living energy that gives Jedi and Sith their power. The force is very similar to what is known in Buddhism as chi. To master the force, the Jedi and Sith must undergo very strict mental and physical training similar to Buddhist monks. This strict form of mental and physical training allows the Jedi and Sith to reach what would be considered zen in Buddhism. Once the student has reached this state, they have full command of the force (their chi). The Jedi and Sith also abide by a warrior code of honor that is very similar to the Japanese Samurai code of Bushido.
I hope this blog post has been enlightening and that people have a chance to more deeply explore some of the literature embedded in Star Wars. To see a visual of some of the connections to these disciplines made in Star Wars, please come visit the book display on the second floor of the library. The display will be featured until the end of December.
Don’t forget to stop by the Library for the Star Wars Party, 2 – 4 on Saturday, December 12th.
May the force be with you…
“Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed.” Narrator: Robert Cotworthy. The History Channel. Prometheus Entertainment. DVD. 2007.
About the Author