Monday, August 31, 2015

Star Wars - Not your simple Morality Play

Joseph Campbell, the author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, described the hero's journey and how it can be found in virtually all the great myths of the myriad cultures on this planet.

Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers sat down and worked on five episodes of The Power of Myth where they discuss, among other things, the virtues of the epic space fantasy film, Star Wars.

George Lucas has often credited Campbell for helping inspire the Star Wars franchise, saying Campbell "exposed me to cosmic questions and mysteries" and those questions led to the creation of one of the most successful film franchises in history.

The Hero's Journey in Star Wars is outlined at Star Wars' Origins:

  • I. Departure
  • The Call to Adventure - Princess Leia's message
  • Refusal of the Call - Luke has to help with the harvest
  • Supernatural Aid - Obi-Wan rescues Luke from the sandpeople
  • Crossing the first Threshold - Escaping Tatooine
  • The Belly of the Whale - trash compactor
  • II. Initiation
  • The road of trials - lightsaber practice
  • Meeting with the goddess - meets Princess Leia
  • Temptation away from true path - Luke is tempted by the Dark Side
  • Atonement with Father - Darth and Luke reconcile
  • Apotheosis (becoming god like) - Luke becomes a Jedi
  • Ultimate Boon - Death Star destroyed
  • III. Return
  •  Refusal of the Return - Luke wants to stay and avenge Obi-Wan
  • The Magic Flight - Millennium Falcon
  • Rescue from Without - Han save Luke from Darth
  • Crossing the Return Threshold - Millennium Falcon destroys pursuing TIE fighters
  • Master of the Two Worlds - Victory ceremony
  • Freedom to Live - Rebellion is victorious over empire

Once you see the whole story outlined, it's easy to understand how many of our classic myths and fairy tales follow this journey. What stories, movies, and books can you outline using this model?


  1. Using this model I believe you can outline mostly any adventure story involving the coming of age with a hero. For example, I believe The Lightning Thief would easily fit in this outline, "Call to Adventure" being Grover coming to recruit Percy to camp Half-Blood, "Refusal to Call" Percy wants to stay at home and protect his mother from his drunk and abusive step-father, and "Supernatural Aid" Lucas gives Percy shoes his father, Hermes, gave to him for a faster getaway. In my time reading and consuming different mediums for entertainment I had realized a sort of trend or pattern with adventure narratives, however I'd never know that there was an outline for them as well. I want to do further research on the subject, and I'm very interested in reading< "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" now. I'll be sure to keep this outline in mind the next time I pick up a good book, or movie.

  2. Another story that i have seen that uses an model similar to the one represented above is the story of the "The Hobbit" by J.R.R Tolkien which is a written novel of a departure, initiation and return. It starts with the idea that Bilbo Baggins, an young hobbit of the shire is invited along the journey to the Misty Mountains as a burglar by Gandalf the Grey. The departure begins here, and as for the initiation begins through out the adventure to the Misty Mountains as Bilbo is challenged through series of events from developing courage, helping the dwarves, earning trust from the dwarves, and his ability to handle the ring. Eventually they achieve their goal of reaching the Misty Mountains which starts the return which involves defeating Smaug but the beginning of Sauron which up-rises in Mordor as the Hobbit ends.

  3. I took mythology as my English class in my senior year of high school, and we actually did the Star Wars hero journey as our final assignment of the year. It did help me understand how Star Wars is not just a science fiction movie franchise but an actual space opera that is related to real mythology stories. We also did the hero’s journey of the Odyssey before Star Wars and laying out each step of Odysseus’s journey gets you more involved in the story like how the main outline of the story is his encounters with other creatures and gods and goddesses. Outlining the main character’s obstacles gives the reader a clear understand of how they ended their journey or story the way the author intended it to be.

  4. Star wars can definitely be related to "The Karate Kid" because Luke is learning to become a master of an art that takes a lot from within. The ways of the Jedi and Karate both take much focus and inner strength. Luke and Daniel both take on intensive training to achieve victory over an enemy that torments them and others. In both movies there are evil leaders or the main antagonist that try to beat the main character or hero, but come up short to the underdog.