BEOWULF AND STAR WARS
with references to Episode III and Jung
EPICS AND STAR WARS 'THE CALL TO ADVENTURE'
THE FOREMOST MYTHOLOGIST OF OUR DAY, JOSEPH CAMPBELL wrote a book called The Hero With a Thousand Faces, in which he noted that whatever the name or face: Achilles, Odysseus, Telemachus, Oedipus, Beowulf, Capts. Kirk, Picard, Janeway, Sisko or Luke Skywalker and even Darth Vader, the quest and the adventure is the same. The Hero must undergo a series of adventures that "make his day" and save the home, nation, planet or galaxy from destruction--in other words, confront evil and attempt to defeat it. Our question has been to ascertain what role God has in the process. A comparative study of these works, usually told orally from generation to generation or today seen in the moves, show common ideas, so Odysseus goes to Hades, the underworld, where he meets the prophet Teiresias who tells him his destiny, Beowulf fights the dragon, and Luke Skywalker meets Yoda who instructs him in the ways of the force as Hrothgar teaches Beowulf. WHAT DOES THE FORCE, FOR EXAMPLE, MEAN? WHY IN STAR WARS IS THE FORCE REFERRED TO AS HAVING A "DARK SIDE?" WHAT DOES THAT MEAN TO BEOWULF AND HROTHGAR'S COURT?
By calling on key scenes from Beowulf and comparing them with Star Wars, we will see the transformation of the hero from a novice to one ready to confront his destiny, and in so doing we gain a modern insight into the problem of evil.
"I have a strong feeling about interesting people in space exploration...And the only way its going to happen is to have some kid fantasize about getting his ray gun, jumping into his spaceship, and flying into outer space."
CREATOR OF STAR WARS
"FOR OVER ONE HUNDRED YEARS, science fiction stories and films have stimulated the imaginations of many scientists in the forefront of discovery, encouraged young people to choose the sciences as a career, and shaped our visions and expectations of future space travel. Among all of these science fiction tales, the Star Wars trilogy has proven to be a very special inspiration."
STAR WARS IS ESPECIALLY MEMORABLE because its story of spacefaring pilots and their daring escapades is based on an ancient form of mythology--the "hero's journey."
Underneath the flash and dazzle of special effects is the magic of myth, a shape-shifting realm where heroes, monsters, wizards, and magic dwell in labyrinths of discovery. This exhibition examines the mythology beneath the Star Wars story, a hero's journey that takes place "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."
STAR WARS: THE MAGIC OF MYTH was inspired by Joseph Campbell's story of the "hero's journey" presented in HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES, and by comments on the STAR WARS FILMS in the book and video series, THE POWER OF MYTH.
[NOTE: OUR JOB WILL BE TO TRACE AND COMPARE THE EXPLOITS OF HAN AND LUKE WITH TH E ADVENTURES OF BEOWULF IN HIS 'QUESTS' -- THIS IS THE ARCHETYPE OF THE JOURNEY THAT ALL THE HEROES WE WILL STUDY TAKE: FROM BEOWULF TO BROTHER FRANCIS IN THE 20TH CENTURY NOVEL, A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ.
THE CALL TO ADVENTURE--STAR WARS
IN MYTHOLOGY, the hero's journey begins with the "call to adventure." Destiny's herald is usually someone or something fairly ordinary--a frog, a deer in the forest, or in this case a humble droid--that carries an important message for the one who is prepared to receive it. Who or what is DESTINY'S HERALD IN BEOWULF?
AS THE STAR WARS STORY BEGINS, a battle in space rages between th evil powers of darkness (the galactic empire) and the forces of good (the Rebel Alliance). Princess Leia sends a plea for help to Jedi Obi-Wan (Ben) Kenobi on the planet of Tatooine. The hand of Fate, in the form of Jawa traders, brings her message to Luke Skywalker, a young farm boy. When Luke sees the message hologram, he is drawn into a quest to rescue the Princess and ultimately to save the galaxy. WHAT BATTLE OBVIOUSLY MOTIVATES BEOWULF?
THE WISE AND HELPFUL GUIDE--STAR WARS
A HERO FIRST MUST encounter "threshold guardians," beings who block the way to adventure. Luke faces threshold guardians when he is attacked by the Tusken raiders. He is rescued by Ben. WHO IS THIS IN BEOWULF?
OFTEN THE INEXPERIENCED HERO finds that he cannot proceed without supernatural aid, in the form of a "wise and helpful guide" who provides advice and amulets to further the quest. Ben serves as such a guide and gives Luke a special token--a light saber that once belonged to Luke's father. WHO IS THIS GUIDE IN "BEOWULF?"
BEN ALSO INTERPRETS the Princess's message and tells Luke about the spiritual power known as the force. Luke resists the call to adventure, but when he finds his home burned and his family called, he joins Ben on the journey to Mos Eisley spaceport to obtain transportation to the planet Alderan, the home of Princess Leia.
THE THRESHOLD--STAR WARS
THE HERO MUST LEAVE HIS familiar life behind to begin a journey from childhood to adulthood and to a life-transformation. The Mos Eisley spaceport is Luke's threshold to the adventure. Here he encounters danger, but he also finds a hero-partner in the form of Han Solo, a pirate and smuggler. Han's faithful mate is the enormous Wookiee Chewbacca---helpful animals often appear in myths and fairy=tales, symbolizing the power of the hero's instinctive nature. HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN TO BEOWULF?
AS THEY TRAVEL FROM Tatooine to Alderman in the MILLENNIUM FALCON, Ben begins to train Luke in the ways of the force. WHO TRAINS BEOWULF?
INTO THE LABYRINTH--STAR WARS
A LABYRINTH has always symbolized a difficult journey into the unknown, and in one way or another, it is often incorporated into tales of the hero's journey. HOW DOES BEOWULF ACCOMPLISH THIS?
WHEN THE HEROES ARRIVE in the vicinity of Alderan, they find that the planet has been destroyed by the Death Star, a gigantic Imperial Space Station. The Death Star is a technological labyrinth--a maze of hallways and passages, dead ends and bottomless trenches. RELATE THIS TO ONE OF BEOWULF'S SETTINGS.
LIKE TRADITIONAL knights, Han and Luke don armour to accomplish their first hero deed--the "princess rescue."
HERO DEEDS--STAR WARS
THE NEXT STEP IN THE HERO QUEST is a challenge to mortal combat. The heroes experience an initial rite of passage in the DEATH STAR and accomplished the "princess rescue." Now Leia leads Han and Luke to the Rebel base to plan an attack on the death star, Luke joints the fighter pilots of the Rebellion. AS he puts on his uniform, he puts aside his youth ful identify and assumes a new role--that of a heroic pilot ready to sacrifice his life for his cause. WHAT CORRESPONDS TO THE 'PRINCESS RESCUE' IN "BEOWULF"?
IN THE END GOOD TRIUMPHS over evil, and the heroes are recognized for their deeds of valor. This is the end of one adventure, but it also represents the start of the next stage--further initiation of trials. DOES THIS HAPPEN IN "BEOWULF," AND IF SO FROM WHAT PERSPECTIVE?
THE DARK ROAD OF THE TRIALS--THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
MIDWAY THROUGH THE HERO'S journey comes a long and perilous path of trials, tests, and ordeals that bring important moments of illumination and understanding. Again and again along the way, monsters and barriers must be passed. Ultimately the hero must undertake the fearful journey of the descent into darkness. THIS IS OBVIOUSLY TRUE FOR BEOWULF.
ALTHOUGH THE DEATH STAR has been destroyed, the powers of darkness have not been conquered. The empire has pursued the Rebels to the ice planet of Hoth, where the heroes face new dangers from predatory creatures and the harsh climate and are forced to flee during an imperial attack.
INTO THE BELLY OF THE BEAST-- THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
ONE PARTICULAR MYTHIC MOTIF is the "swallowing up" of the hero by a large monster. This represents the entrance into a mystical world where transformations occur, and the eventual escape represents a spiritual rebirth. WHAT IS THE OBVIOUS BEOWULF PARALLEL?
HAN AND LEIA are pursued by Imperial Star Destroyers and TIE fighters as they leave HOTH. To escape, Han files the Falcon into an asteroid "cave," which turns out to be the mount of huge space slug. Here Han and Leia at last open their hearts to love. IS THERE A BEOWULF PARALLEL?
VADER ALSO UNDERGOES a change at this point, when he emerges from an egg-like meditation chamber. The emperor appears to him through a holographic message, and Vader is revealed as a slave to the evil forces of the Empire, rather than as their master.
THE SACRED GROVE--THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
THE SACRED GROVE is another mythic motif; it represents an enclosure where the hero is changed. Ancient peoples widely believed the tree to be infused with creative energy. Forests come to symbolize mystery and transformation, and they were home to sorcerers and enchanters. THIS IS TRUE IN THE GENESIS MYTH. HOW IS IT TRUE IN BEOWULF?
WHEN LUKE LEAVES HOTH, he travels to the planet Dagobah to undergo training with the Jedi Master Yoda. The hallmark of Dagobah is its large, oddly shaped trees.
FORESTS CAN ALSO SYMBOLIZE the unconscious mind, where there are secrets to be discovered and perhaps dark emotions or memories to be faced. In this forest, Luke battles an image of Vader, prefiguring his combat with the Dark Lord later in the story.
THE PATH OF ATONEMENT--THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
THE HERO'S JOURNEY sometimes includes a "father quest." After many trials and ordeals, the hero finds his father and becomes "at one" with him. This process is called "atonement." WHEN DOES THIS HAPPEN IN BEOWULF?
LUKE HAS TRIED to follow in his father's footsteps as a heroic pilot and Jedi Knight. The dark side unknown of his father--and of himself--is now unveiled as Luke confronts Vader in the dark byways of Cloud City. Vader reveals to Luke that he is his father. Luke realizes that he must sacrifice himself, rather than become a tool of evil like Vader. HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN IN BEOWULF WITH ITS CHRISTIAN AND PAGAN SETTING?
LEIA RESCUES Luke as he falls from the underside of Cloud City, and when Vader calls to Luke through the force, Luke acknowledges him as "father"--they have begun to move toward reconciliation. Luke has recognized the dark side of himself as part of his destiny, and Darth Vader has begun his own journey toward transformation. CAN WE MAKE THIS STATEMENT FOR ANYONE IN BEOWULF?
THE HERO'S RETURN--THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
THE 'HERO'S RETURN' marks the end of the 'road of trials.' The hero must return from his adventures with the means to benefit his society. Luke comes home to Tatooine to rescue him from Jabba, the Hutt. This is not as easy transition for Luke; his new-found abilities as a Jedi Knight are doubted by friend and foe alike. WHAT IS THE JABBA-LIKE IDEA IN "BEOWULF"?
AS THE STORY CONTINUES, all the characters undergo changes: Han is resurrected from his carbonite tomb, Lando makes up for his his betrayal of Han by helping to rescue him, and Leia assures the end of Jabba's reign of tyranny by destroying him herself. THE THEME OF BETRAYAL FROM WHICH MAY COME 'ATONEMENT' IS IMPORTANT IN "BEOWULF". HOW?
THE SHADOW RISES--THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (SEE ALSO EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH), AND MY DISCUSSION OF JUNG'S SHADOW ARCHETYPE ON MY GOTHIC FICTION WEB PAGE:CLICK HERE
THE HERO'S ARE NOT THE only ones who can undergo change and rebirth. The forces of evil can also recoup their power and grow with new strength. While the Rebels continue to struggle against the imperial tyranny. The empire is constructing a new Death Star. A final confrontation must now take place. The forces of good, Mon Mothma, leader of the Rebel Alliance, and those of evil, led by the Emperor, regroup to plan their strategies. DOES THIS HAPPEN IN BEOWULF?
LUKE DISCOVERS that Leia , who has guided and supported him throughout his journey, is his sister. In many ways, she represents his positive "anima," the personification of the feminine aspects of his psyche. He also finds that he must confront Vader again. Yet when they make mind-to-mind contact through the Force, Vader appears uncertain rather than aggressive--a sign that he is beginning a transformation. DOES THIS TRANSFORMATION APPLY TO BEOWULF?
THE ENCHANTED FOREST--THE RETURN OF THE JEDI
THE INHABITANTS OF AN "enchanted forest" can be both dangerous and helpful. The hero must know magic to evoke their protective powers. Luke wins the help of the Ewoks, the small furry inhabitants of the forest moon of Endor. HOW DOES THE SINGER OF "BEOWULF" USE THIS IDEA?
THE EWOKS PROVE that heroes can come in any size or shape. They battle the high technology of the empire with logs, stones and vines. Their lush green environment and harmony with nature make a stark contrast to the cold, austere technology of the empire. The Ewoks help the Rebels deactivate the Death Star's energy shield generator, so Lando can fly into the Death Star and bomb the reactor core. WOULD THE BOMBING OF THE GENERATOR HAVE A PARALLEL IN THE BEOWULF?
MEANWHILE, LUKE REALIZES that he must set out on a different path from his friends to attempt to reach that part of Vader that is still his father and to turn him back from the dark side.
THE HEART OF DARKNESS--THE RETURN OF THE JEDI
THE HEROES MUST at last enter the "heart of darkness" the fortress of Evil itself, to destroy its stronghold. OF COURSE BEOWULF DOES THIS.
WHEN HAN AND LEIA FINALLY destroy the energy shield generator, Lando and Wedge fly into the death star to fire on the reactor core at the center of the space station. While conflict rages around the Death Star, Luke struggles with the dark forces within the Death Star, where he is undergoing a spiritual conflict in his battle of wills with the Emperor. This same battle of wills agonizes his father, Anakin (Darth Vader), whose love for Padme would appear to cost her her life, and later the death of Palpatine (Emperor). ARE THERE SIMILAR MOMENTS IN "BEOWULF? Note that Jung believes evil to be less the existence of the shadow archetype, than its repression.
THE FINAL VICTORY--THE RETURN OF THE JEDI
THE DESTRUCTION OF EVIL IS NOT ALWAYS accomplished by sheer physical force or cunning. There is always a hope that those who have given themselves to the forces of darkness can be redeemed. In his confrontation with Vader and the emperor, Luke wins not through his warrior skills, but through an appeal to his fatherÍs heart. It is Vader who slays the Emperor to save his son. CERTAINLY THIS WOULD APPLY TO BEOWULF, BUT WITH WHAT SUCCESS?
AT THE CLIMAX OF THE STAR WARS TRILOGY, Vader asks Luke to unmask him. Masks are frequently part of a mythical ritual. They can strike fear into the hearts of enemies, summon ancestors, or invoke supernatural beings.
VADER'S MASK IS PART OF HIS DEMONIC PERSONA. The droppings of the mask represents VaderÍs release from the imprisonment of his role, a release that comes for him only at the moment of death. Yet this gesture is also an affirmation of life, the final opening up of father to son. THIS IS JOSEPH CAMPBELL'S "ATONEMENT" OR "AT-ONE-MENT." WHAT WOULD BEOWULF SAY ABOUT THIS?
JOURNEY'S END--THE RETURN OF THE JEDI
AS THE REBELS and Ewoks celebrate the destruction of the Death Star, and their victory over the empire, Luke burns his father's armor on a funeral pyre. The spirit of Luke's father, Anakin Skywalker, joins the spirit of Ben and Yoda. Luke has achieved the final triumph of the mythic hero's journey--he has brought back from his adventures, the means for the regeneration of his society.
IN THE END HUMANITY HAS TRIUMPHED over a repressive, monolithic system, and Luke, through his hero's journey, has opened his heart to compassion and succeeded in following a spiritual path between light and dark, good to evil.
THE STAR WARS TRILOGY ENDS WITH GOOD WINNING OUT. MUST GOOD WIN OVER EVIL ALL OF THE TIME? WHAT DOES THE VICTORY SAY ABOUT WHAT THE "BEOWULF" SCOP BELIEVED?
THE RELEASE OF EPISODES I-III COMPLETES THE CYCLE. EPISODE III, REVENGE OF THE SITH, OF COURSE DRAMATIZES THE DARK SIDE OF THE FORCE, WITH DARTH VADER EMERGING FROM THE INNOCENCE OF THE ANGELIC ANAKIN SKYWALKER, BUT ON HER DEATHBED AFTER GIVING BIRTH TO LUKE AND LEIA, PADME NOTES THAT THERE IS YET SOME GOOD IN HER HUSBAND, AS LUKE WILL REMARK MUCH LATER. MY GOTHIC FICTION CLASS EXPLORES THIS ASPECT OF STAR WARS USING JUNG'S PSYCHOLOGY OF ARCHTYPES AS THE POINT OF DEPARTURE. CLICK HERE FOR THAT SITE. FOR THE PRESENT, TRACE THE MOMENTS IN EACH EPISODE THAT YODA IDENTIFIES AS MOMENTS OF DANGER FOR ANAKIN:
EVIL COMING FROM GOOD HAS PERPLEXED PHILOSOSPHER SINCE THE PRE SOCRATICS. WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN PREMISE?: SEE MY PHILOSOPHY WEB SITE AND THE HOME PAGE FOR THIS COURSE FOR DISCUSSIONS OF GOOD VS. EVIL IN CLASSICAL, MEDIEVAL AND MODERN TIMES FOCUSING ON PLATO, AUGUSTINE AND AQUINAS.
THE ANGLO-SAXON PERIOD CURRICULUM LINK
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