Star Wars as we know it was inspired by a book.
That’s correct! George Lucas, creator of the mega-billion dollar Star Wars franchise, got his idea from a book. You know what a book is right? It’s a bunch of papers with typed words sandwiched between a front and back cover, held together with a binding.
In this case, the book is Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. It seems George Lucas while attending the University of Southern California’s (USC) film school, became fascinated with the work of Joseph Campbell and his Power Of Myth.
The myths and legends of the world all have a hero or heroine that personifies the specific personality traits that define what makes a hero. Creating the hero archetype and the hero’s journey.
Campbell combined his human experiences with his scholarly knowledge and published a novel titled Hero’s Journey and another titled The Hero with a Thousand Faces. These novels elaborate and lay out the formula for a hero and his journey.
This concept pricked the interests of a young man called George Lucas. Campbell’s ideas and themes eventually went on to become the inspiration for Star Wars.
Luke Skywalker was born
Before reading Campbell’s books, George Lucas had a wide encompassing script with hundreds of characters and numerous side stories, and was having difficulties focusing his ideas into one complete story.
Lucas took Campbell’s hero archetype formula and applied it to his story. The first step in the formula is the hero’s journey. There has to be a hero, so Lucas narrowed the storyline to just one character: Luke Skywalker.
Lucas made Skywalker the center of the story, with all of the supporting storylines being connected to Skywalker or leading back to him.
All world myths start with a call to adventure
The hero begins his journey with a ‘call to adventure’. Luke Skywalker received his ‘call to adventure’ when reviewing Princess Leia’s video tape. The first step according to Joseph Campbell’s formula.
George Lucas took that to heart with his entire Star Wars franchise. Each film begins with the hero or heroine getting that lure towards adventure.
George Lucas was able to take Joseph Campbell’s philosophy and translate it into a story. A story that began in 1977, and continues today, over 40 years later.
The Hero’s Journey
The Power of Myth is more than just how all the world myths are related. It is also the story of man. The call to adventure is the beginning of the Hero’s Journey. In Star Wars, the hero is Luke Skywalker.
We watched as Luke Skywalker began his journey as a young idealist on a farm. We watched as he matured dealing with life and death situations, and at any time he could have strayed off the path of light and follow his father whom he learned was Darth Vader (gasp), the ultimate villain.
It was the choices he made through his life, both good and bad, that forged the person he would become. A Jedi Warrior.
This is a sci-fi fairytale.
The hero’s journey is the journey we all take. We are the heroes or heroines of our lives. The choices and decisions that we each make are ours, both good and bad. Those decisions will forge the people we will eventually become. We decide.
That’s why Star Wars endures. Star Wars is about us.
You can watch George Lucas honouring Joseph Campbell for the influence he had on Star Wars in this video.
If you enjoyed this funky little article, check out our list of the five most successful film adaptations of sci-fi and fantasy books.