Storytelling, Mythologization, and the Hero’s Journey of Star Wars


Any number of tarot bboks and resources will inform you that the progression of the Major Arcana is intended to be a depiction of the “Hero’s Journey,” a theme of historical epic poetry and storytelling throughout the ages. Homer’s stories of Odysseus’s travels are probably the epitome of the Hero’s Journey, though Odysseus’s virtuousness is based on values and ethics prevalent in his own day. Values and ethics had their own prescription in the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and seemed to change drastically with the advent of the Reformation.


We haven’t abandoned the trope of the Hero’s Journey in modern times; we’ve simply updated it with our own values and ethics. The hero’s Journey, I would argue, is still changing today. But in the 1970s, a man named George Lucas was inspired to write his own version of the Hero’s Journey…and that particular tale became known as Star Wars. As a capitalist empire in its own right, I would venture to say that the Star Wars franchise has achieved complete success as an exemplar of a modern-day capitalist-meritocratic tale, while fashioning itself as a modern-day morality play. George Lucas would seem to admit as much in his interview with Bill Moyers (below).


Luke Skywalker and one of his mentors, Yoda. Photo credit: AP/ Lucas Enterprises, LTD.


I think it is intersting to note that despite the story being placed in the distant future, the virtues, values, and ethics of the second half of the 20th century are injected into the tale. If history is any indicator, it would be prudent to theorize that those values and ethics are certain to change in the real future. We like to think of our world—and our values—as being impervious to the annals and trials of time…that there is a core, impermeable baseline of humanity to which we can retreat at times of epic challenge. But when we step back to take a bigger picture, and if we have learned anything from history, we must humbly admit that our core values are subject to change and are as fleeting as anything else in our world…


In honor of the latest empirical Star Wars venture campaign, and in consideration of the ever-modulating version of the Hero’s Journey, presented below are two videos for your entertainment. (It appears that because of copyright content, it might be necessary to click through to YouTube in order to view the second video—an interview between George Lucas and Bill Moyers. Lucas’s personal reflections are worth the “jump,” however…)







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