Star Wars Hero’s Journey Prof. Jenn



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Star Wars Hero’s Journey Prof. Jenn
Star Wars Episode IV was actually very consciously written as a Hero’s Journey—George Lucas consulted Joseph Campbell often, and Campbell, in later talks, referenced Star Wars as a good example of a contemporary Hero’s Journey. Since all 6 films are now complete, one can see many manifestations of the Hero’s Journey throughout.
Episode IV Stand-Alone HJ:

  • Call: Obi-Wan says: “You must come with me to Alderaan…”

  • Refusal of Call: Luke says, “Nuh-uh, I have to take care of the farm. I can’t get involved.”

  • Threshold: Mos Eisely spaceport, and the tough cantina, is Luke’s first step into the world beyond that boring old moisture farm.

  • Magical Guide: Obi-Wan, of course. But also the droids, in a certain way.

  • Trickster/Shapeshifter: Han Solo is on this quest for $$ alone: and he’s not altogether trustworthy. Or is he?

  • Belly of the Whale: The garbage compactor.

  • Trials: the events leading up to both the rescue of Leia and the destruction of the Death Star

  • Putting on the Enemy’s Skin: Han & Luke in the Stormtrooper outfits.

  • Meeting With the Goddess: Leia is the goddess—she’s a help, not a hindrance, but she also is a bit of a temptress/distraction

  • Atonement With the Father/Apotheosis: Luke puts aside the computer, destroys the Death Star, therefore becoming both a great pilot and Jedi, like his father.

  • The Ultimate Boon: Though the Empire is not completely destroyed, it’s hampered quite a bit. Luke now understands something about the ways of the Force and will use them for good (we hope!).

  • Magic Flight: well all the spaceships throughout are Magic Flight, especially the extraordinarily fast Millenium Falcon.

  • Rescue From Without: Han, who had already left with his cash reward, returns to save Luke from being blasted at the last moment.

  • Crossing the Return Threshold: Luke’s home is destroyed, but his new home honors and welcomes him in the medal ceremony.

  • Master of Two Worlds: Luke is not only a hotshot pilot and commander in the Rebel Alliance, he also can talk to echoing-voiced Obi-Wan and use the Force.


HJ: Luke as Hero (Episodes IV-VI):

  • Call: Obi-Wan says: “You must come with me to Alderaan…”

  • Refusal of Call: Luke says, “Nuh-uh, I have to take care of the farm. I can’t get involved.”

  • Threshold: Mos Eisely spaceport, and the tough cantina, is Luke’s first step into the world beyond that boring old moisture farm.

  • Magical Guide: Obi-Wan, of course. But also the droids, in a certain way. Obi-Wan is blue and glowing after he dies, so is able to advise Luke from beyond the grave. Yoda is the Jedi Master, and so is another magical guide in that he trains Luke in his new-found powers.

  • Trickster/Shapeshifter: Han Solo is on this quest for $$ alone: and he’s not altogether trustworthy. Or is he? He does end up much less a mercenary after being frozen in carbonite. A Rebel general, in fact, much to Leia’s astonished mirth: remember how she calls him ‘general’ in the rebel HQ, and is open-mouthed with astonishment to find he’s in charge of one of the most difficult and dangerous missions?

  • Failed Hero: Biggs, also Lando, and Han in a way.

  • Belly of the Whale: the cave of evil on Dagobah—Luke brings his weapons with him, much to Yoda’s chagrin.

  • Trials: there are many; everything from Luke’s first encounter in the Mos Eiseley Cantina to his final trials fighting the Emperor.

  • Meeting With the Goddess: Leia is the goddess—she’s a help, not a hindrance, but she also is a bit of a temptress/distraction, and ends up with Han not just because Lucas decided to make Luke and Leia twins, but also b/c it’s really more of a Trickster thing, to hobnob with the ladies—heroes often have too many heroic things to do. She’s also somewhat of a twin-hero as well, keeping the action going moon-side while Luke gets existential with the Emperor.

  • Putting on the Enemy’s Skin: Han & Luke in the Stormtrooper outfits. But more so the recurring images of Luke being in danger of becoming Darth Vader: the fight between them, the hand-slicing parallel, the Emperor offering Luke the choice to become Vader…having the Father be a major villain as well puts an interesting twist on this stage.

  • Nadir/Crucifixion&Dismemberment: Luke loses a hand, and is on his way to becoming a machine like his father.

  • Atonement With the Father: Luke and Vader share a big atonement moment together just before Vader dies.

  • Apotheosis: The moment Luke makes his peace with Dad, he is a true Jedi. We know this by the blue-and-glowing congratulatory party at the end in the Ewok forest.

  • Ultimate Boon: to continue the Jedi tradition, or start it over, really. Han and Leia get true love, and who doesn’t like that? 

  • Magic Flight: the shuttle down to the funeral pyre.

  • Rescue From Without: Actually, I was thinking the Ewoks really save the day in the battle on Endor. They are an unexpected, primitive and earthy, turn to the battle.

  • Crossing the Return Threshold: Luke walks into the celebratory party and is now…

  • Master of Two Worlds: …as a Jedi, leader, and complete man.


But then, is the complete story really about Luke? (If you haven’t seen all 6 films, beware: SPOILER ALERT!)

HJ: Anakin as Hero (Episodes I-VI):

  • Call to Adventure: Anakin is won as a prize by the strange Jedi—his life changes when he leaves the slave’s life and becomes an apprentice.

  • Refusal of Call: well it is hard to leave your Mom and go into the unknown with a bunch of strange magic-users, even if they do hang out with a cute girl…

  • Magical Guide: Both Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon are magical guides.

  • Crossing the First Threshold: Anakin must leave his childhood home.

  • Belly of the Whale: When teenaged Anakin takes revenge on his mother’s death by slaughtering the Sandpeople, he is plunged into darkness.

  • Road of Trials: there are plenty—all the events from his initial struggle for freedom to his concealed love for Padme to his Empiric exploits and the search for his son.

  • Meeting the Goddess: this happens way back in the Call: he asks Padme if she is an angel. His love for her and his mother is what spurs most of his action throughout.

  • Putting on the Enemy’s Skin: Anakin half-consciously becomes the Emperor’s new apprentice and does many terrible deeds in the name of power and to preserve his love for Padme. He not only put on the skin of the Sith, but becomes one fully.

  • Nadir/Crucifixion/Dismemberment: Anakin is literally dismembered in the lava after having fought Obi-Wan. His mechanical body resurrects him into Darth Vader.

  • Atonement With the Father: Anakin’s father figure has been the Emperor for some time, and when he is shown the choice between letting him torture his son and destroying him himself, he chooses to save his son. So not only does he finally destroy his “father”s evil influence, but becomes at-one with his own fatherhood in acknowledging his Jedi son.

  • Apotheosis: Anakin as Vader destroys the Emperor, thus becoming the savior of the world and a blue-and-glowing Jedi ghost as well.

  • The Ultimate Boon: By sacrificing himself in destroying the Emperor, Anakin finds ultimate redemption, and gives freedom to the galaxy. Without his self-sacrifice, the Empire would still thrive.

  • Magic Flight/Rescue From Without: Luke makes sure he gives his father a decent burial: he flies him down to the forested moon and gives him a funeral pyre.

  • Master of Two Worlds: Now we’re all blue and glowing and enlightened. Yay!


NOTE: Anakin Skywalker is the classic Savior figure: the virgin birth, half-divine influence. He is also a Tragic Hero: his demise is his pride (hubris), though ultimately he redeems himself with self-sacrifice. Luke Skywalker is the classical Hero drawn with a spaceship: Arthurian, he has a half-divine/unknown father, becomes a Knight after trials, resists temptation, saves the known world…


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