Star Wars and History: Samurai and Nazis

~ This is the last of a six-post series called Star Wars and History. ~

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Samurai with faceplate

Star Wars draws on history for its look and feel as much as for its plot choices. In particular, the samurai of Medieval and early modern Japan contribute their style both to good guys and bad buys. Darth Vader’s armor looks like a night black, plastic version of samurai armor, and the Jedi’s robes have medieval Japanese feel too. Continue reading “Star Wars and History: Samurai and Nazis”

Star Wars and History: Divine Conception in Myth

~ This is the fifth of a six-post series called Star Wars and History. (See below for a list of the six titles.) ~

In The Phantom Menace, we learn that the Force conceived Anakin Skywalker in his mother’s womb, without a father. That divine conception puts him in company with the Buddha, according to some stories, and of course with Jesus Christ, along with a long list of pagan heroes. For instance, in The Secret History of the Mongols, a radiant being descends through the roof of a lady’s yurt and fathers Bodonchar Munkhag, founder of Genghis Khan’s dynasty. And in Greco-Roman myth, Zeus conceives the hero-king Perseus by descending on a virgin as golden rain — while Mars conceives Rome’s Romulus and Remus when his phallus emerges from a sacred fire tended by a virgin priestess.

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Perseus’ mother, Danae, and the golden rain

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Star Wars and History: Father vs. Son in Myth

~ This is the fourth of a six-post series called Star Wars and History. (See below for the six posts’ titles.) ~

In The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker fights his father, Darth Vader. Revenge of the Sith repeats this father vs. son theme when Darth Sidious (Palpatine) reveals that Sith apprentices often kill their masters: their figurative fathers. That aligns Star Wars with a common theme from myth. Many mythic heroes confront and kill their fathers. Mordred, for instance, kills his father, King Arthur (and is killed by him). And of course, the Greeks’ Oedipus kills his father and takes his place as king of Thebes. Gods battle their fathers too, including the titan Cronus, who overthrows — and castrates — his father, Ouranos, the sky god. But a similar fate awaits Cronus; he’s later overthrown by Zeus, his own son.

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Mordred and King Arthur

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Star Wars and History: Joseph Campbell and the Urban Myth with a Thousand Faces

~ This is the third of a six-post series called Star Wars and History. (See below for the six posts’ titles.) ~

In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, mythologist Joseph Campbell argues that the same basic stories and themes appear in all the world’s myths. It’s widely believed that George Lucas built Star Wars around these “monomyth” elements from Campbell. For instance, Campbell says the hero in any myth at first refuses “the call to adventure” but then relents — just as Luke Skywalker refuses Obi-Wan’s invitation to Alderaan but later agrees to join the quest (after finding his aunt and uncle slaughtered). Campbell’s hero also finds a wise mentor — Obi-Wan or Yoda, for Luke — as well as an animal familiar — presumably R2D2. And the myth hero confronts a father figure and must reach atonement with him. Luke, of course, fights Darth Vader, his father, but they reconcile as Vader lies dying, in Return of the Jedi. Continue reading “Star Wars and History: Joseph Campbell and the Urban Myth with a Thousand Faces”