Well At World’s End: Pagan Themes in Speculative Fiction
“From dragons to spaceships, from unicorns to time travel, join me around this campfire blog to explore Pagan themes in fantasy and science fiction, and all the subgenres in between. Reading just got interesting.”
STAR WARS, THE NOVEL: Pagan themes in a Galaxy Far, Far Away
For this installment of Well at World’s End, we’ll take a look at the Pagan themes in the novel, Star Wars, written by George Lucas, Donald Glut, and James Kahn. Many people have watched the movies, which have become fan-classics. If you haven’t read the book, you might enjoy the story on a more personal level. As you read, even though you have the visual image of the characters and location from the movie, your own imagination takes over to reconstruct something new. Before long, the world and characters become new inventions in your own mind. There are also nuances in the book that you won’t find or will miss in the movie. Here is a sample of the opening pages, which describes the planet, Tatooine.
“At first it seemed certain nothing could exist on such a planet, least of all humans. Yet both massive G1 and G2 stars orbited a common center with peculiar regularity, and Tatooine circled them far enough out to permit the development of a rather stable, if exquisitely hot, climate. Mostly this was a dry desert of a world, whose unusual starlike yellow glow was the result of double sunlight striking sodium-rich sands and flats. That same sunlight suddenly shone on the thin skin of a metallic shape falling crazily toward the atmosphere.”
The Force in the Star Wars novel is one of the more unique features—but is unique the correct word? It’s not a secret that George Lucas, the creator of the series, used myth and religion to construct the story. So what was the original inspiration? According to an article in Wired Magazine by Steve Silberman, Lucas got the idea for the Force from a film by Arthur Lipsett, made in 1963:
“One of the audio sources Lipsett sampled for 21-87 was a conversation between artificial intelligence pioneer Warren S. McCulloch and Roman Kroitor, a cinematographer who went on to develop IMAX. In the face of McCulloch's arguments that living beings are nothing but highly complex machines, Kroitor insists that there is something more: “Many people feel that in the contemplation of nature and in communication with other living things, they become aware of some kind of force, or something, behind this apparent mask which we see in front of us, and they call it God.” When asked if this was the source of "the Force," Lucas confirms that his use of the term in Star Wars was “an echo of that phrase in 21-87’” The idea behind it, however, was universal: “Similar phrases have been used extensively by many different people for the last 13,000 years to describe the ‘life force’” he says.
Pagans know first-hand what Lucas’ force is. It’s the energy or ether that makes up everything, including the protection of the body. Using the Force, or magic, then enhances one’s physical or mental ability. Call it magic or the Force, or metaphysical power, the key is that all humans possess it, can learn to use and master it, like a Jedi Knight, but often don’t recognize its existence.
As the novel explains it:
“Remember, the force is omnipresent. It envelops you as it radiates from you. A Jedi warrior can actually fell the force as a physical thing.”
Obi-One said, “For my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it and makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings we are, not this crude matter.”
“He knew the Force was with him.”
The Jedi Order
The Order of Jedi Knights was an ancient group responsible for keeping peace. They were practitioners of the Force. It goes without saying that the Jedi Order mirrors many Pagan organizations and covens. Substitute the Force for Magick, and you’ve got yourself the modern equivalent. At its basic level, the Jedi Order is an ordered progression of steps, from novice to master, in which progress and mastery in the Force is achieved, in order to serve humanity in keeping peace. You can read more on the hierarchy of the Jedi Order here, (http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Jedi#Hierarchy) and consider even more similarities between the Jedis and modern Pagan groups.
The Hero’s Journey
One of the interesting elements of the Star Wars novels includes the archetypal hero’s journey, a term, in-part, coined by mythology expert, Joseph Campbell. Luke begins his journey, or quest, as an average farmer, who wants to be a pilot. Gradually, Luke is led, and eventually forced, on the quest (when his aunt and uncle are killed), which begins with his training to become a Jedi Knight. Obi-One portrays the archetypal sage or teacher, a man of wisdom and learning, who imparts the historic-past, and the principles of goodness, on Luke. On the journey, Luke faces many obstacles that culminate with his defeating the plans of his biggest enemy, Darth Vadar. His achievements are far-reaching, in that he saves many, including Princess Leia, and many innocents.
Early Pagan myths, like The Mabinogion, Beowulf, Hercules, and so on, deal in some way with this journey. In a way, we are on this same journey every day, maybe not with as much grandeur, but we’re still on it just the same. When we read the hero’s journey, we can recognize that it is our own journey, and can learn how to essentially navigate our own lives. No matter what the obstacle is, we too, like Luke, can overcome the odds.
Star Wars, the novel, is chock-full of Pagan themes and a modern reader may enjoy spotting them. My hope is that this post will not only inspire you to read the Star Wars novels, but will also give you a beginning idea of what is in store for you as you look for the Pagan themes found in the series. I will close by saying, “May the Force be with you,”—much the same was one would say, “Blessed Be.”
----To contact for upcoming books discussed here, or to learn more about Hunter Liguore, please visit: www.skytalewriter.com
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