Posted in Film and Literature Analyses, The Story of Star Wars as taken from the Journal of the Whills

The Story of Star Wars as taken from the Journal of the Whills Part V

By: Bryan Ricardo Marini Quintana

Star Wars Episode V The Empire Strikes Back, directed by Irvin Kershner

Myths Before The Skywalkers

In an article by Ancient History Encyclopedia, titled Mythology, Joshua J. Mark discussed the meaning behind myth. Being a fundamental element of cultures, myths were created and passed on from generation to generation, by societies that sought to understand the nature of the world. They pondered questions such as: Where did we come from? How did our way of life come to be? Why did events occur in this manner? Searching for answers, societies became civilizations by finding meaning in myths that granted an identity, which formed cultures. Hence, for a myriad of civilizations, these stories became the primary source to explain how their people originated and how their social and cultural way of life came to be, giving significance to a chaotic world that was made comprehensible through myths.

Derived from the Greek word “mythos”, Mythology means in direct translation, Story. As a field of study, Mythology researches and interprets a compendium of stories that deal with the human condition. Amongst these are: the dualities of good and evil, the origins and prophesized end of humanity, the meaning of suffering and happiness, the meaning of life and death, along with the deeds of mortals and gods. Therefore, these myths hold the beliefs and customs of a civilization in a given time and space.

Furthermore, in the same article by Ancient History Encyclopedia, titled Mythology, Joshua J. Mark presented the differing types of myths. Firstly, Etiological Myths seek to answer the why and how, giving an explanation on the nature of the world. Defined as being an origin story, this myth illustrates why the world is a certain way and how it came to be.

(Peter Paul Rubens, Saturn Devouring His Son, 1636)
(Saturn is Roman for the Greek Cronos)

In Greek Mythology, the etiological story of existence began in the void inhabited by Chaos, who made Nyx. Their union conceived Erebus who took Nyx as his betrothed, having Aether and Hemera. Mating, the siblings birthed Gaia (Earth), who created Uranus (Sky). Both shaped titans and cyclops, with Gaia loving her creation but Uranus hating it. Seeking to protect her children, Gaia rebelled with the aid of her son, Cronos. This led to Uranus being castrated by his son and from his blood and flesh various beings and creatures were born. Thereafter, Cronos mated with his sibling Rhea, who gave birth to the Twelve Olympians. However, following the footsteps of his father, Cronos despised his children due to fear of being overthrown by them, devouring each one as Rhea birthed them. Consequently, Rhea became horrified and gave birth to Zeus in secret, growing up to be a powerful god who defeated Cronos and freed his kin from the titan’s belly.

Moreover, the etiological story of Pandora’s Box explained the nature of how suffering was unleashed upon mankind. Here, the titan Prometheus, mankind’s creator and protector, defiled Zeus by stealing fire and gifted mortals knowledge. Enraged, Zeus plotted to destroy mankind for this treachery and fashioned the first woman, as the gods of Olympus molded Pandora with beauty and speech. Thereafter, Zeus sent Pandora to mankind, with a sealed jar that contained every conceivable evil. Finally, Pandora opened the jar, pouring out diseases and miseries that plagued mankind.

(Marten Eskil Winge, Thor’s Fight with the Giants, 1872)

Meanwhile, in Norse Mythology the etiological story behind creation began in an abyss, with only the Ice Realm of Niflheim and the Fire Realm of Muspelheim that formed through the mixing of water drops and fiery heat the giant Ymir. Thereafter, the god Odin alongside his brothers slayed Ymir, shaping from the giant’s dismembered limbs The World Tree of Yggdrasil and The Nine Realms. Hence, Odin ruled alongside Frigg as the chief god and goddess over Asgard (Heaven), with mankind under the protection of Thor, who inhabited Midgard (Middle Earth), and the damned souls suffered in Hel (Underworld) under the dominion of Loki’s daughter, as Baldur became haunted by visions of his death, a warning sign to the Aesir and Vanir deities that the predestined end of all creation drew near, Ragnarök.

(Michelangelo, The Fall and Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, 1509–1510)

Alongside, in Christianity, the etiological story of how the world was formed is told in The Bible. By reading The Book of Genesis, it’s explained how God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh. This gave humanity an identity by illustrating how God made man and woman in his own image. Later on, Adam and Eve ate a fruit from the forbidden tree of knowledge, gaining consciousness and becoming awake. By heeding the deceitful promise of Satan, a fallen angel in the guise of a snake, of acquiring a godlike vision with a bite of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve caved into their darkest and deepest impulses. Upon devouring the fruit, both committed sin and recognized their nakedness, being ashamed of themselves. Realizing they had disobeyed God’s command; Adam and Eve hid in fear. Nevertheless, this proved futile as they were found and exiled from The Garden of Eden, with the history of humanity and their condition of suffering commencing since the banishment from Paradise.

(Franz von Matsch, The Triumph of Achilles, 1892)

Thereafter, Historical Myths recite an episode of the past from a civilization, embellishing the original event. Although the story has a basis on historical events, figures and locations, there are dramatized and romanticized. Examples of such are found in The Hebrew Bible along with Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey. Firstly, the story of Abraham provided an answer to the origins of the Jewish People, who were bestowed with a foundational figure that made a covenant with God, making them His people, the chosen nation that would inherit the promised land of Judea. Meanwhile, the kidnapping of Helen by Paris lead to the Siege of Troy, in which Greeks and Trojans fought for the coveted woman, as the event is told through the exploits of Demigod Achilles and the journey of King Odysseus.

(Léon Auguste Adolphe Belly, Ulysses and the Sirens, 1867)
(Ulysses is Latin for the Greek Odysseus)

Lastly, Psychological Myths narrate a journey undertaken from the ordinary world to the extraordinary world, representing a psychological need to balance the external world with an internal consciousness. In this story, a hero embarks on a voyage traversing through trials and tribulations that will lead to uncovering an identity. Primarily, the hero’s fate will be determined by the ability to carry the burden of responsibility and reach Destiny to become. Hence, through this expedition the audience relates to the hero’s struggle, focusing on the morals and values held by the protagonist that determine his or her thoughts and actions.

(Charles François Jalabert, The Plague of Thebes, 1842)

An example of a psychological story is the Greek Play of Oedipus The King, a tragedy by Sophocles. In the story, King Oedipus was tasked with lifting a plague from the city of Thebes. To resolve this crisis, he sought the oracle for guidance, being told that to repel the curse he must find the murderer of the former King Laius. Previously, at an early age, Oedipus had fled his home in fear of a prophecy that he would kill his father, with Laius abandoning his son due to the same reason. However, neither of them escaped the prophecy, as Oedipus unknowingly murdered his father at a crossroads. In the unraveling of the tragedy, the protagonist became horrified upon discovering that he had committed patricide and was in an incestuous relationship with his wife Jocasta, that turned out to be his mother. Therefore, Oedipus ironically resolved the misfortune of Thebes by finding that he was the murderer, making him a tragic hero who became tormented by Destiny and gouged his eyes as punishment.

Another psychological story is the Norse Poetic Legend of The Saga of the Volsungs. In the story, Odin punished Sigi for killing a slave, cursing his family lineage. Tragedy struck when Signy, daughter of King Volsung, had been promised against her will to King Siggeir. When King Volsung and his sons traveled to the kingdom of King Siggeir, they had been warned by Signy that treachery would befall them, as her father died and her brothers were imprisoned. Devoured one after the other by a wolf, the brothers of Signy were eaten, save the youngest, Sigmund, who survived with help from his sister. Later on, dealing with a witch, Signy exchanged appearances with her and engaged in an intimate relationship with Sigmund, becoming pregnant with Sinfjotli. Thereafter, she returned to King Siggeir and transformed back to herself, leaving the task of raising her son to her brother. With training from his father, Sinfjotli became a man, aiding the siblings in avenging the Volsung family by killing King Siggeir and restoring their throne. Hence, the bloodline of the Volsungs became the driving force of the narrative that embroiled King Volsung then Sigmund and finally Sinfjotli in a generational conflict in which a son inherited the sin of his father.

Star Wars Episode III Revenge Of The Sith, directed by George Lucas

Through Etiological and Historical Myths, The Story of Star Wars acquired the origins of its universe and conflict in the religious creeds of Jedi and Sith that wield the mythical power of the Force. Clashing through a millennium, these noble knights and power-hungry sorcerers resemble the dualities of good and evil within mythology, that are embodied through characters such as Jedi Master Yoda and Sith Lord Darth Sidious. This eternal duel between Jedi and Sith is fought in The Clone Wars and The Galactic Civil War, coming to a climactic end in The Family Tragedy of The Skywalkers.

However, Psychological Myths provided the main source of influence to Star Wars with The Mythical Hero’s Journey. In the stories of Oedipus The King and The Saga of the Volsungs, The Family Tragedy of the heroes had them undertake a journey from the known world to the unknown world. On one side, King Oedipus fulfilled Destiny by saving Thebes of its curse through uncovering the culprit behind King Laius’ murder. In a twist of irony, the protagonist discovered that he killed his father, bearing responsibility and enacting punishment on himself. Meanwhile, the Volsungs struggled through a generational conflict against King Siggeir, which involved grandfather, father and son. Therefore, Sinfjotli inherited the curse of the family, but fulfilled Destiny by avenging his kindred.

The journeys of Anakin and Luke Skywalker are evidently influenced by Psychological Myths, with The Hero’s Journey and The Family Tragedy being present in the story of a father that falls to the Dark Side and damns existence by turning into a Sith, whilst his son embraces the Light Side and achieves Destiny by becoming a Jedi. Nevertheless, Luke Skywalker doesn’t become a Jedi to destroy his father, but rather uses his newfound purpose to save Darth Vader by stripping away the dark within and unearthing the light of Anakin Skywalker, leading to the salvation of the galaxy.