Star Wars: A Hero’s Journey
By Robert G Parent
I remember when Joseph Campbell was talking about myth on one of his PBS shows. One of the types of myth Joseph Campbell talked about was The Hero’s Journey. George Lucas was also a part of that show, and I remember George Lucas talking about how he wanted to create a new myth for the 21 century, which was Star Wars, which he also said it was a myth of The Hero’s Journey. I think that George Lucas did succeed in creating this myth because Star Wars has captured the imagination of many generations. While George Lucas wrote and directed the first six movies, other writers have written for the extended universe that occurred after “Return of the Jedi” and before “The Phantom Menace”, “the Clone Wars” and “Rebels” animation series, there have even been people so inspired by the Jedi that a whole new religion was created separate from the movies. Yes, I think George Lucas succeed in creating a modern myth for a new time. Still, many people don’t see the Hero’s Journey within Star Wars and have written about other reasons and other story patterns within the first six movies of Star Wars. I don’t want people to forget about why and for what purpose Star Wars was created. So, here in this essay, I show how Star Wars is about the Hero’s Journey of Anakin Skywalker and how George Lucas mirrors Anakin’s journey with Luke’s journey. And now the beginning animation rolls down the screen of our minds. Any quotes I use in this essay are from the Wikipedia article entitled “Monomyth” that I accessed on February 28, 2015 at 6:15pm at http://en.my.Wikipedia.org/wiki/monomyth.
The Hero’s Journey consist of three parts called the Departure (also called the Separation), the Initiation, and the Return. The three parts can be broken down further to 17. As quoted, “’Departure’ deals with the hero’s adventure prior to the quest; ‘Initiation’ deals with the many adventures along the way; and ‘Return’ deals with the hero’s return home with knowledge and power acquired on the journey.”
The first part of the Hero’s Journey is the call to action, which Anakin received after the podrace was won with his freedom. Qui Gon asks Anakin to go with him and learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi Knight. The supernatural aid that Anakin received was the Force.
Next comes crossing the threshold from the known to the unknown. Anakin didn’t do this until the movie “Attack of the Clones”. The guardians at the threshold were the Jedi Council, which at first they denied Anakin Skywalker, but by the end of the first movie he had proven himself worthy to the Jedi Council to begin the official training.
Next in the Hero’s Journey is beginning the transformation and with that the hero gets a mentor or helper, which was Obi Won Kenobi. All through “Attack of the Clones” Anakin was faced with challenges and temptations.
Next comes the abyss, which is where a death and rebirth comes. This comes to Anakin in “Revenge of the Sith” where he was initiated into the dark side of the Force, by killing the younglings, killing the trade federation’s leaders, and fighting his mentor in hate. After this transformation, Anakin Skywalker begun his return.
Next on the Hero’s Journey comes the atonement, which Anakin did through his son Luke Skywalker when Anakin saved Luke’s life by killing the emperor. And to complete the return to the known, Anakin received “a gift from the goddess,” in this case the Force, where his son Luke Skywalker became the first of the new Jedi. Anakin Skywalker wanted to bring peace to the galaxy and he did. Anakin completed the return because he was a child of the force, virgin born.
While the six episodes of Star Wars is about Anakin’s full Hero’s Journey, the first three movies, the originals, and the second three, the prequel, are both smaller versions of the Hero’s Journey as George Lucas mirrors the first and second trilogies, even in the titles; such as, episode one corresponds to episode four. In these stories both Anakin and Luke Skywalker are young and innocent in the ways of the force and the bigger picture of the galaxy.
The second episode corresponds to the fifth episode and this is where Anakin and Luke Skywalker received their initiations into the Force and the bigger, unknown galaxy. Also in the second and fifth episodes they both had “a meeting with the goddess,” find unconditional, encompassing love. Anakin found this through Padme, which gave him his children. Luke found this love with his friends. In the second and fifth episodes, they also found the “woman as temptress;” in other words, they were tempted to leave their quests. The episodes had a variety of temptations. Also in these episodes, both Anakin and Luke Skywalker had the “atonement of the father;” this is where “…the person must confront and be initiated by whoever holds the ultimate power in his or her life.” In Luke’s story, it was Luke’s father. In Anakin’s story, it was Palpatine.
The third episode corresponds to the fifth episode. In these episodes, they both had the “apotheosis,” which is when “…someone dies a physical death, or dies to the self to live in the spirit, he or she moves beyond the pairs of opposites to a state of divine knowledge, love, compassion and bliss.” For him, Anakin lost his wife and he thought his children. For him, Luke lost his father. The next part of the Hero’s Journey is the receiving of “the Ultimate Boon,” which “…is the achievement of the goal of the quest.” Anakin didn’t receive that boon, which was, to his knowledge, to save his wife and child. Luke did receive his boon, which was to redeem his father and bring him back to the light side of the Force.
In his world as Darth Vader, Anakin didn’t find bliss or enlightenment until episode six at the end of his journey. We know this by the look on his face when his son took off his mask. Anakin received his boon in the form of his son Luke living with the gift of the Force which Luke passes onto a new galaxy free of Sith, at least in the short term from Anakin’s perspective. Luke’s story does continue in the extended Star Wars universe where Leia, Han, Chewbacca, C3P0, and R2 work to rebuild the galaxy and Luke builds the new Jedi Order. If you haven’t read any of the books on the extended Star Wars universe, I encourage you to read them in audio or text. For all those who love the epic myth of Star Wars, you will love these stories from great authors. Remember the three tenants of the Jedi – Focus, Knowledge, and Wisdom. And of course, may the Force be with you all.