What makes the "Star Wars" saga truly stand out from other science fiction films is how it's more than a story... it's a myth. "Star War"s plays out more like "The Odyssey" or "The Epic of Gilgamesh" than "Independence Day" or "E.T." George Lucas openly admits that he was heavily influenced by mythology and especially by his close friend Joseph Campbell, an comparative mythologist. Campbell proclaims that there is a Monomyth, an overlying story that is found in mythologies around the world. One of these Monomyths is the epic "Hero's Journey". Examples of this journey can be found in the "Lord of the Rings", "the Epic of Gilgamesh", "Moby Dick", and my personal favorite, "Star Wars".
Understanding the Hero's Journey will not only make reading mythology easier and more interesting but it will serve as a metaphor for the struggles every human being faces to achieve their meaning in life. The hero on the spotlight is Luke Skywalker, let's see his journey from a farm boy to a hero within 10 steps.
Note: This is a condensed version of the cycle. The average is 12 steps but some range to over 17.
1. Ordinary World
Luke feels isolated on the desert planet of Tatooine. All his friends have left him and he lives a monotonous life as a farmhand for his uncle's moisture farm. He feels unhappy that he can't leave, but our young hero could never guess the sequence of events that would transpire within hours of buying two seemingly normal droids.
2. Call to Action
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While cleaning the driods C3PO and R2D2, Luke stumbles upon a message from a princess. She is begging for the aid of Obi Wan Kenobi in a desperate mission. Confused by this brief and urgent message Luke is given the first call to help the alliance.
3. Refusal of the Call and Meeting a Mentor
After Luke chases after a rogue R2D2 and finds Ben Kenobi, he learns of the entire message sent by the princess. Luke also learns more about his father who was a former pupil of Kenobi as a Jedi Knight before the rise of the Empire. Kenobi then asks Luke to join him on his mission to the distant planet of Alderan and learn the ways of the force like his father. But Luke submits to the backlash he would receive from his aunt and uncle at the farm. He declines Kenobi's offer and begins preparations to return to his moisture farm.
4. Crossing the Threshold
When Luke returns home he finds a nightmarish situation. In realizing who the droids had been purchased by, the Empire found his moisture farm and murdered his aunt and uncle. Luke with a deep feeling of grief, channels his anger towards the Empire to return to Kenobi. Luke was going to Alderan and taking the first steps to becoming a jedi like his father.
5. Tests, Allies, and Enemies
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Luke, Kenobi, and the two droids enter Mos Eisley Spaceport to find a pilot that could take them to Alderan. At a cantina bar, Luke already encounters tests among belligerent aliens and escaping the planet of Tatooine with his newfound friends, Han Solo and Chewbacca. The crew is also being targeted by a seemingly ever present foe known as the Empire.
6. Entering the Innermost Cave
When Kenobi frightfully utters, "that's no moon," Luke and his friends are preparing for a big change on their quest. The planet of Alderan has been obliderated and they are now entering a space station crawling with Imperial soldiers and the menacing Vader. Our Hero must be cautious.
7. The Ordeal
Kenobi has shut down the tractor beam to allow for Luke and the Flacon crew (plus the Princess) to escape. With the presence of his former apprentice being a danger for Luke, Kenobi duels Vader in the docking back. Luke watches the fight at a distance while his friends board the Millenian Falcon. When Kenobi realizes the crew is safely on board, he raises his light saber and allows Vader to cut him down with a swift swing. Luke feels distraught after the death of his mentor but gathers himself to secure a safe escape from the Death Star.
8. Reward (Seizing the Sword)
Luke's reward for escaping the Death Star with the Princess and the secret plans is his acceptance into the Rebel Alliance, a group of freedom fighters with sights on dismantling the Empire. While he may have already received his "sword" from Kenobi, he now takes the reigns of an X-Wing starfighter.
9. The Road Back
Rather than return home, Luke sets his sights on taking a trip back to the Death Star but with different intentions. The goal is to destroy this machine of oppression before it destroys the rebel base. This isn't going to be an easy fight and not everyone will make it back alive.
Luke faces almost impossible odds with Vader on his tail and the fate of an entire rebellion based on the accuracy of his shot. Rather than rely on his technology, he receives a supernatural message from Kenobi to use the force. Luke then utilizes his newfound power (the force) to destroy the Death Star and save the alliance. He is no longer the whiny farm boy on Tatooine but a hero who is taking his first steps to becoming a Jedi.
The hero's journey can be applied to so many other novels, tv shows, and movies that it is absolutely fascinating how society loves this monomyth. I feel that this trend will not change in the future and I'm glad of it. The Hero's Journey is instantly accessible and will serve as a source of motivation for future generations. What other sources do you see the Hero's Journey in and what makes "Star Wars" so special to you?