story of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and
Return of the Jedi has had such an influence on our
culture that it prompted Joseph Campbell, one of the
most original and influential thinkers of our time, to hail
the trilogy as a masterpiece of "creative mythology" - a work
of art that gives new depth and dimension to our sense of self
and our sense of place in the universe.
millions of viewers, the Star
epic presents a special vision that incorporates the
wisdom and symbols of age-old myths in dynamic new ways that
speak uniquely and unforgettably to our modern-day quest for
hundreds of illustrations, Star Wars: The Magic of Myth
presents the relationship between the creation of the movie
trilogy and the mythic structure on which it is based. Here
is a rich, detailed, and fascinating account of how characters,
costumes, and settings were modeled on some of the most powerful
imagery from the realms of history, myth, and the imagination.
elements from Greek mythology to Flash Gordon, Star Wars is
not only entertainment in its grandest form but, like all great
myths, a limitless source of imagery, insight, and universal
Joseph Campbell and other scholars have noted, there
is a certain typical hero sequence of actions that can be found
in most myths. First, the hero must separate from the ordinary
world of her life up to the point at which the story begins;
then, in the new world through which the journey takes place,
the hero must undergo a series of trials and must overcome many
obstacles in order to achieve an initiation into ways of being
hitherto unknown; finally, the hero returns to share what she
has learned with others.
story pattern can be found throughout classical mythology. Campbell
himself cites the examples of Jason--who left the cave in which
he was brought up in order to search for the Golden Fleece and
then returned with his prize to recapture his homeland--and
Prometheus, who traveled to Mount Olympus, stole fire from the
gods, and brought it back to earth. The knights of King Arthur's
Round Table set off to seek the Holy Grail, and the great figures
of every major religion have each gone on a "vision quest,"
from Moses' journey to the mountain, to Jesus' time in the desert,
Mohammed's meditations in the mountain cave, and Buddha's search
for enlightenment that ended under the bodhi tree.
these last examples show, the journey is often not just a physical
adventure that takes the hero from one place to another but
it is also a spiritual one, as the hero moves from ignorance
and innocence to experience and enlightenment. This is one reason
why the middle leg of the journey is called "initiation"; as
in the initiation rites of primitive cultures, the hero must
give up the "childhood" that innocence and dependence represent
and "come back as a responsible adult."
a psychological sense, then, this is a voyage of self-discovery,
an expedition whose true destination is the realm within each
of us, where we must find our own unique center with all its
strengths and weaknesses.
from Star Wars: The Magic of Myth
Mary Henderson. ®, , and © 1997 by Lucasfilm Ltd.
by permission of Bantam Books,
a division of the Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc.