Once you say it aloud, you start to see all the medeival stones slide into place: In what ways does Star Wars echo the Arthuriad?
Even early on, before I had a fancy word for this sort of thing (intertextuality), I could detect it. My childhood framework was the Empire=Nazi regime over against the struggling resistance. As a politically minded child, this David and Goliath epic intrigued me. Now I can see how much Star Wars (and here I am leaving out the prequels, which I almost always do for reasons that are clear to most) are like a Samurai Western Arthurian quest in Outer Space, from the dusty roads, to knights on their steeds, to the (clearly awesome) sword fighting.
George Lucas made some of the links for us; the “Jedi Knights” are a bit of a give away. In A New Hope, we see a shattered round table, the goodly knights scattered across the realm. The Father-Son (including the orphan/non-orphan theme, as well as rebellion and reconciliation) and Brother-Sister (hidden origins and temptations to incest) links draw us back to the Arthurian stories, especially as the orphan child (Luke) appears out of the swamp to seize the weapon and claim his right to leadership. Add in duels, adventures, honour and shame, mentorship, field battles, monsters, and the epic struggle of good and evil, light and darkness.
Despite working on a chapter for an upcoming Inklings and King Arthur volume, I had not taken the time to think forward to A Force Awakens and consider the Arthurian or medieval links. It wasn’t until I started working on some courtly love literature for a summer Signum University course, that I started to see what I was missing. As SWVII is an echo–even a remake–of SWIV, it is no surprise that Arthurian links abound. May 4th gave me the chance to hammer it out a little bit.
As there is no single “King Arthur Legend,” and as the Star Wars universe is now a huge, sprawling space gala, I would hesitate to make a lot of one-to-one links. There is no single Arthur, Mordred, Merlin, Lancelot, Guinevere, Morgana le Fey, or lady (alian) of the lake. Instead, the film narratives play loosely with the characters and storylines while allowing these Arthurian tropes to emerge directly into the film.
Yet, the character links are there too. Instead of playing them out myself, ultimate Star Wars nerd and “New Media Rockstar” @fimo slams us through a number of references in just four minutes at the end of this little fan film. Go to 41:53 and see if you are won over by the internal intertextual links within the Lucas-Abrams Star Wars universe and their links back to the Arthuriana we know and love. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of the Sword/Sabre in the Stone/Snow! What other links are there that you would want to make that @fimo and his team leave out?
Wow, love this! I only have time to watch about 5 minutes of the vid and then skipped ahead for the last bit. I will definitely watch the rest later. It makes sense that these Arthurian references and nods are in the Star Wars films, because as I’m sure you know Lucas crafted his tale from Joseph Campbell’s examination of the Hero’s Journey – the structure that many of our western myths and legends follow. I love the way the Abrams added all these little geeky Easter eggs, though…so much fun!
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Yes, and Campbell went back and looked at Lucas. A nice reciprocal kind of thing.
The Easter Egg thing is new to me. My son schooled me. Love it.
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I haven’t seen the latest one, yet, so must keep my ‘spoiler-specs’ on for awhile… As a fan of Lembas-extra 1990: ‘Elrond’s Holy Round Table’, I wonder if some if this may have been mediated through Tolkien?
I remember when the first film came out comparisons being made both with The Wizard of Oz (1939 film version) and Leni Riefenstahl… Speaking of the later of which, and “My childhood framework was the Empire=Nazi regime over against the struggling resistance”, we’ve got a copy of the novelization, Star Wars (Del Rey, 1977), attribute to George Lucas, in storage somewhere, and, as I remember, it has an introduction that talks about the Emperor (in contrast to those surrounding him) in a way not dissimilar to the way I remember hearing that David Irving was writing about Hitler at about the same time (e.g., Hitler’s War) – ! I’m not sure how this fits into all the ‘Canon’-‘Non-canon’ considerations that seem always swirling wildly about things Star Wars… (As an enjoyer of John Whitman’s Galaxy of Fear series, whether in Dutch translation or the original English, I soon acquired a pretty sharp sense of those ‘Canon Wars’…)
I don’t know that I had thought (or heard) about the Arthurian parallels before (if so, I strangely fail to recall it or them), but now you say it… Uncle Owen and Ector? (But Ector isn’t killed. And where’s Kay? Han as a Disney-goofy Kay, taking a turn for the better?) Yoda and Merlin? (Or Obi Wan and Yoda splitting Merlin between them?) Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back as an quasi-Willamsesque combination of Pelles-the-Wounded-King and Uther? This is fun! – but I feel sure you are right about that “play loosely with the characters and storylines”…
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Fun response. And I have to find Elrond’s Holy Round Table.
Hey! Great stuff.
I think this guy in the video, while he’s brilliant at detailing all these little “Easter eggs,” is kind of missing the big picture. What are Arthur/Luke-Rey fighting FOR? What’s it all about? If Arthur is fighting for Christendom, does that mean Luke-Rey are fighting for the Force? Or is it more of a political move? Is Arthur seeking to establish Monarchy or Theocracy, and are Luke-Rey fighting to set up a Republic? (I got so totally confused by the politics in that awful mish-mash “The Force Awakens” that I can’t even wrap my mind around what they are fighting for, or against, so help me out on this one).
I guess what I’m really asking is: What do all the little references add up to? Why do they matter? Are they cheap, trying to tack a later and lesser work onto an archetypal story, or is there something deeper going on? Is it just about “good fighting evil,” or is it a particular Good that they both have in common? What’s at the heart of each story, and how do those hearts compare?
That’s what I’m curious about. And I don’t know the answer(s).
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“A Republic’ reminds me that one or another popular-scholarly book I read about the Byzantine Empire (by Sir Steven Runciman, or someone else? – I’ll have to dig it up!) noted that throughout its history ‘the Senate and People of Rome’ was/were a reality that occasionally exerted itself/themselves and removed ‘Emperors’ (even as it/they had – if rather belatedly – where Nero was concerned) – which isn’t exactly ‘the Republic’, but is still something other than ‘Divine Emperors’. That reference in the original trailer to the idea this might be going on somewhere right now, is in contrast to the ‘long ago and far away’ (or whatever the exact words on the ‘scroll’ are), which strike me as allowing this history to be typological or a ‘praeparatio Evangelica’.
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Sorina, I think that’s an intriguing question. Is “story” enough of an answer? I’m not sure.
On a character level, is fighting for freedom and survival enough? Rey seems to have this things she needs to do, a McGuffin of sorts.
What do the references add up to? Not much, but they are fun. It is the question of intertextuality: what is the end game.
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