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.

Alexandre_Jacques_Chantron_(1891)_Danae
Perseus’ mother, Danae, and the golden rain

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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”

Star Wars and History: Fall of the Knights Templar

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

In Revenge of the Sith, the Chancellor/Emperor orders the sudden liquidation of the Jedi Order, including an assault on the Jedi Temple. The story models the fall of medieval Europe’s Knights Templar. The Templars were a religious order whose key members were both knights and monks (kind of like the Jedi). They fought in the Crusades and were among Christendom’s most feared warriors. They also became wealthy as pioneers in banking.

The Knights Templar
Poor Fellow Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon — a.k.a. Templars

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Star Wars and History: Roman Republic and Empire

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

In Revenge of the Sith, the evil Palpatine transforms the Galactic Republic from the top, creating the Empire — without overthrowing the state. Palpatine is already Chancellor of the Republic, though he’s held office longer than normal, thanks to a civil war. He simply switches his title to Emperor. He also centralizes power in his own hands, at the expense of the elected Senate. But he leaves the Senate in place, along with the rest of the republican government.

Star Wars and history: Augustus, first Roman emperor -- Palpatine's counterpart
Caesar Augustus

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