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Star Wars as a nature myth - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Star Wars as a nature myth
Okay, HP folks. Gotta go back to my roots for awhile--I was chatting with the good people at a_p_'s site earlier, and we got a little philosophical about Star Wars and its literary relations. I've approached this before, but never written it out all the way.

I think that the SW saga, like the story of Demeter and Persephone, can be read as a nature myth.

And if Edith Hamilton told it, it might look like this
(Edith Hamilton's book, Mythology, was the first collection of myths I had. Or well, that my mother had. I stole it from her when I left home and she bought me a new one for my birthday to con me into giving it back.)

And so the sun god loved a human girl, and came to her in a wind, and she conceived and bore a son called Anakin. As he grew up in humble circumstances, he excelled at all sports and games, and was known throughout his village.

It happened that Padmé, who was also Amidala, daughter of the earth and the waters, was exiled from her home, and in the company of her champions, arrived in Anakin's village. Challenged to capture the fire to return her to her home (and return equilibrium to the powers of nature), Anakin raced and won, and won the hand of the young queen and demi-goddess. But there were still more trials ahead for them.

As Anakin entered the realm of the gods and goddesses, he was put to the test by Palpatine, the Adversary of Light and master of the underworld, who undermined his training and tempted him with powers he should not wield. As this came to a crisis point, when Anakin was reunited with Padmé, his mother was captured by demons, and he descended to the underworld to rescue her. Though his teacher, Obi-Wan, had warned him about the temptations of the underworld, before he is able to escape, he loses part of his soul. The demi-goddess Padmé is able to bring him back up from the underworld once, but as a part of him remained there, eventually, he would have to join it.

(Plot speculation.) At last, the Adversary Palpatine separated Anakin from Padmé, and, revealing himself, cast Anakin through the fire into the underworld, binding him in chains and sealing him in stone and enslaving his power. The sun god, in wrath, turned his back on all but one world.

(Back to canon.) Padmé gave birth to twins, Luke, the Compassionate, and Leia, the Just. Unable to rescue Anakin herself, she entrusted her soul to them, particularly to Luke, who grew to the sun as his father had, and entered the realm of the gods when he reached manhood.

He was tested against the monster Death Star, used by the enslavement of his father's power, and prevailed. Learning the truth about his parentage, he also descended into the underworld, leaving a piece of himself there. But he chose to go back, understanding his destiny. He called upon the soul of Padmé and released Anakin from his bondage, whereupon the sun shone again, and the galaxy began to bear fruit.

I didn't cast it that way just to be pretentious, although being pretentious also has its undeniable charms. I also wanted to take the story down to its elemental, mythic level, and I think that, although it is most obviously a morality play, it also follows the pattern of a seasonal nature myth.

The Classic trilogy opens in the dead of winter, the height of the Empire. The Rebellion on Yavin is seen holding on to a summer spirit which the Death Star tries to crush, and Tatooine is of course always hot and sunny (but barren and totally seasonless), but for the most part, although the movie is in color, we see in black and white and gray. Drab green is about as colorful as things get in the Empire. The galaxy lies dormant under an icy heel. By the beginning of ESB, even the rebels are snowbound.

Luke goes to a watery world--a dark, nighttime version of the swamps which gave (will give?) aid to his mother on Naboo. He descends briefly into the underworld and gets a piece of information that changes everything, then returns to the world of the sky (Cloud City), where he learns its meaning--he has encounted mother and father, water and air. He returns to the seasonless Tatooine and there undergoes a transformation (Leia, meanwhile, brings her lover back from the dead, the first spring symbol). They then proceed to the forested world of Endor, which is invaded by only a small part of winter, which they must destroy. Endor is covered with spring greens, and features the first babies we see in the saga--another spring symbol. Leia takes her hair down, a freeing of the feminine. And Luke goes off to rescue Anakin and redeem the galaxy in so doing.

When Anakin makes his sacrifice, he frees himself, and the power that has been held captive, and he comes up from the underworld. The accoutrements of war--the X-wings, stormtrooper helmets, etc--have been co-opted to create a celebration. (Swords, more or less, beaten into plowshares.) Spirits hover on the railing over a green and misty world--a primeval beginning.

Which brings us to TPM. We don't see "the beginning of the galaxy," but when we encounter Naboo, it is fresh and lush, a high and fertile summer with its young girl-queen/demigoddess as its symbol. The threats seem far off and unreal--phantoms. (And don't insult the title The Phantom Menace around me... I think it's the most inspired title of the lot!) And they fight with, essentially, phantoms, leaving the real power not only still present, but more powerful than he was before. By AotC, the color scheme has changed--there is more brown, more rust color... autumn is in the air. The romance comes to fullness here, in the waning days of summer, and as autumn closes to winter, the twins will be born of summer as the hope for spring to return. I'm expecting a lot of reds and oranges and other autumnal/sunset colors in Ep3, and will be quite disappointed if they aren't there.

In short, the story can be read as a representation of the cyclical seasons, in which the sun is born, grows bright, and dies, bringing waste to the earth and water, then is reborn to shine again.

Just a thought.

4 comments or Leave a comment
marionravenwood From: marionravenwood Date: June 16th, 2004 01:03 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I love this sort of thing. Thank you.

Do you have Star Wars: the Power of Myth? (Not the Joseph Campbell, although of course the two are related.)
ladyelaine From: ladyelaine Date: June 16th, 2004 06:02 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm a mythology nut, as well as a Star Wars freak, and you've just given me ideas to chew on for the next few years. Thanks!

Oh, and if the lava-pit thing holds true, then there should be plenty of reds/oranges in Ep. 3.
matril From: matril Date: June 16th, 2004 07:35 am (UTC) (Link)
Wondering way of telling it - now I want to run and watch all the movies straight through. :) I think the most interesting thing about all this is that George Lucas probably doesn't deliberately put every single one of these details in his work, but they appear anyway because they're inherent in its mythological nature. (I suppose I'm referring to some sort of collective unconsciousness, though that's not really the phrase I would use to describe it - I don't agree with all of Jung's theories). Anyway, SW has such a wonderful universal quality that can be translated so nicely into traditional myth. And I like your lovely version of it.
(Deleted comment)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 16th, 2004 05:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: SF Roots

Nah. SW is pure myth--that stuff is just window dressing.
4 comments or Leave a comment