Star Wars and Stories:
The Myth, the Archetype, The Hero, and the Believer
by Noa Ishaki
I’d seen the original Star Wars back when I was a kid with my grandfather but hadn’t watched any of the rest in the series and had absolutely no idea how the story of Luke Skywalker developed and evolved into after that very first one. And the very reason I wanted to catch up on Star Wars was precisely because of the story of the original first one: The one of the Jungian archetype of the Hero, in this case, Luke Skywalker, who goes through the Hero’s Journey according to Joseph Campbell. This myth, this story, is the premise of some of the most successful stories.
According to Joseph Campbell the Hero’s Journey follows 17 steps. In The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, Christopher Vogler explains the Hero’s Journey developed in 12 steps of a three-act Greek-play structure. We see the same journey taken by Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars, and by Harry Potter, Moses and even by Jesus. Similarly it can also be seen in the journey of the Buddha and the Hindu Ramayana, even in the Lord of the Rings and the movie Matrix.
The stages of the Hero’s Journey are as follows:
ACT ONE: Departure
The Ordinary World
Call to Adventure
Refusal of the Call
Meeting with the Mentor
Crossing the Threshold
ACT TWO: Initiation
The Road of Trial (Tests, Allies and Enemies)
Approach to the Innermost Cave
The Ordeal (Abyss)
ACT THREE: the Return
The Road Block
Resurrection / Atonement
Return with the Elixir
In the first of the Star Wars, Luke Skywalker, an orphan who is quite ordinary and is just a farmer, finds out that in fact he is a Jedi knight who is to save the galaxy form the evil. Moses too, goes out to save the Jews out of slavery in Egypt and take them to the Promised Land, and Harry Potter, an orphan boy just like Luke Skywalker who is also living with his aunt and uncle, finds out that he is a wizard and the only one who can beat Voldemort. Watching the rest of the Star Wars episodes I actually found out the resemblances between Star Wars and Harry Potter too uncanny.
I have to add that in contrast to any of the Harry Potter books and movies, Star Wars episodes were very difficult to watch even though I was in bed and had no distractions. Granted I was really sick but still they felt too unoriginal to be this successful. I had this very strong feeling that George Lucas was mocking us to see if people would believe anything and while thinking I was dying because of all the physical pain I was in, I seriously thought that he must have been doing this intentionally.
Of course over the years, I’d repeatedly heard the "May the Force be with You" rhetoric from all over but hearing it within context sounded quite un-secular to me very much like "God Bless you".
So here are my thoughts on the Star Wars episodes and similarities with Harry Potter:
1. A New Hope (1977) Episode 4
While the movie goes more like a TV episode in terms of scene transitions it is not as bad I thought it would look like in terms of technology. Luke Skywalker just like Harry Potter has no parents. An orphan finds out he is in fact a Jedi knight, much like Harry Potter finds out he is a wizard.
Luke Skywalker has to use a Light saber whereas Harry Potter a wand. Do all heroes have to use an apparatus? Come to think of it Moses had his staff, which he used to part the Red Sea, among doing other things.
The evil is represented by Darth Vader in Star Wars and as Voldemort in Harry Potter.
Both stories have magic, and the power of suggestion, the Force.
I even thought Chewbacca was like Hagrid.
Additionally Princess Leia is Hermione Granger and Han Solo is Ron Weasley. And they fall in love.
Naturally Obi van Kenobi is Dumbledore.
2. Empire Strikes Back (1980) Episode 5
Obi van Kenobi appears to Luke Skywalker just like Dumbledore appears to Harry Potter.
3. Return of the Jedi (1983) Episode 6
Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader can feel each other’s thoughts, very much like Harry Potter and Voldemort can too.
My favorite scene is when the Ewoks, a primitive tribe find C-3PO, a robot, and they declare it to be God. People love to hear stories: As C-3PO is telling the story of their arrival, everybody is mesmerized.
Also, deformed faces are considered as a thing of evil as Darth Vader just like Voldemort has a non-perfect image.
4. The Phantom Menace (1999) Episode 1
Get this: Anakin was conceived with no father! Jesus Christ! In case you didn’t know, Buddha was born through Immaculate Conception too.
Mesa is just like Harry Potter’s Dobby.
5. Attack of the Clones (2000) Episode 2
This one made me realize I was wrong with my initial observation about technology, and in fact it would be wrong to watch these newer episodes first because then the ones with Luke Skywalker would look too outdated in terms of special effects, etc.
I thought of all the movies, this one as the most fun, because of Natalie Portman as Padme and Anakin frolicking, living their romance in Villa del Balbianello in Como, Italy, and funny exactly because the location is so present-day and a known locale that makes the whole movie ridiculous in a way.
The talk of the Balance of Force, reminds me that Lucifer was once an angel too.
Telekinesis=magic. Crazy, but wouldn’t we all want to special powers?
And the ending: the marriage of Anakin and Padme at Como. While I totally dig Padme’s falling for a younger guy, the move from a battle in the future to present-day Como is so unreal. I wish they had just taken the potted geraniums out somehow, someway.
6. Revenge of the Sith (2006) Episode 3
Basically it tells us that the Devil always tricks you. And that you can’t change your fate. Destiny will manifest itself.
7. The Force Awakens (2015)
Times have changed. Storm Troopers take their helmets off, and somehow, I was surprised they were humans. Could be just me but I thought they were in a way inhuman or devoid of human emotions. So, in addition to taking the helmet off when we see one, Finn, who decides to stop being a Storm Trooper and says, “Because it’s the right thing to do” I shook my head in disbelief. Where does this come from? I looked around in the theatre but no one was making any sounds or any moves for that matter.
Lessons to be taken can be that as long there are fathers boys on the dark side can be saved? Is this a call for family values? Family lives like royal families are important, and even a good sanitation worker can beat the dark force? I don't know.
So the Hero's Journey is one of the most successful stories ever. People like to watch the archetypal Hero’s journey, his rite of passage, since it is part of the collective unconscious, as per Carl Jung. I think people like it more, because even though you can be ordinary, a farmer, an orphan, poor and unloved, you can still be a knight, a wizard, and a savior, someone special in charge of your destiny. Nobody wants to be the regular Joe, one of the insignificant ones. The minute a Storm Trooper takes his helmet off and rises above his destiny he becomes a Hero, although I think the intended Hero in this and the following episodes is in fact Rey. But while it was thrust to them in all archetypal heroes, in the latest installment The Force Awakens it is by choice. Perhaps this is the lesson we should take. That everybody is a Hero to a certain degree and to be a Hero one should not just sit down and wait to be divinely anointed or ordained by others, but take charge of one's own life. Although the process by which Finn comes to that conclusion, I mean why is he all of sudden so affected by what transpires, is not known. That there is good in all evil and evil in all good?
I waited until the end at the theater and found out that this movie was produced by "Bad Robot" and I said, “Goodness, this was the same company that produced the TV series“Lost” which took 6 years of my life getting hooked on it and in the end amounted to nothing”. I guess I can safely say these 10 days sick in bed watching Star Wars were exactly like that: 10 days of my life I am never getting back, feeling not much of a hero or in charge of my destiny either.
Oh well, I ended up writing this piece at least. I can also say that Han Solo’s and then Finn’s jackets were just fabulous :)