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Star Wars and the hero myth

Read about how the film Star Wars follows a pattern found in myths to practise and improve your reading skills.

Do the preparation task first. Then read the text and do the exercises.

Reading text

Critics of the 2015 film Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens have called the film unoriginal and predictable because the story so closely mirrors the very first Star Wars film in 1977. But, in fact, both films follow a structure that pre-dates all Hollywood films, that of the 'hero myth'. That's because director George Lucas based Star Wars on the ideas in Joseph Campbell's 1949 book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Later editions of Campbell's book even featured Star Wars' hero Luke Skywalker on the front cover.

In his book, Campbell analyses myths from all over the world to describe the 'monomyth' – a pattern that you can see in myths from every culture. In short, a hero sets off from home on a journey, where he overcomes obstacles and defeats enemies to return with a prize. It's a tale that has been told for thousands of years, from the Ancient Greeks with The Odyssey to JK Rowling's Harry Potter books.

George Lucas was one of the early film directors to directly base his story on the 17 stages of the hero's journey. Typically the hero starts the story living an ordinary life, but something happens that calls them to an adventure that changes everything. At the beginning of Star Wars, Luke lives an ordinary life with his aunt and uncle, repairing robots. When he finds Princess Leia's message to Obi-Wan Kenobi inside the robot R2D2, it is 'the call to adventure' that starts the hero on his journey.

According to Campbell, the hero at first refuses the call to adventure, but a mentor appears who helps them and they decide to 'cross the threshold' and travel into the 'special world' where the adventure happens. The next stage consists of passing tests, fighting enemies and meeting friends as the hero prepares to face their biggest challenge. For Luke the mentor is, of course, Obi-Wan, the friends are Han Solo and the robots R2D2 and C3PO and the enemy is Darth Vader inside the special world of the Death Star.

Next, the hero overcomes obstacles on the way to facing their greatest challenge. There often comes a moment when they face death or loss and that experience gives them the strength to finally defeat the enemy. Luke loses his mentor when he sees Darth Vader kill Obi-Wan, which helps him find the strength he needs later on. When heroes succeed, they return from the special world, changed by their experiences forever. Luke's change comes when he remembers Obi-Wan saying, 'Use the force', and he uses it to help him aim his laser into the heart of the Death Star. Luke takes his first steps to becoming a Jedi, and the hero myth restarts in The Return of the Jedi, except this time his mentor is Yoda.



Nivel de idioma

Upper intermediate: B2


Can I say Scarlet O'Hara? She was living an ordinary life which was stopped by the war. During those difficult years she was overcoming obstacles and defeating enemies to survive and get what she wanted. In the movie "Gone with the wind" we see this heroine becomes stronger and better person who never gives up.

My favorite hero story is about a big man who now is sleeping inside a big cold tomb in our capital city. His life is a myth with many features following the structure in this reading text.
First, he had an ordinary life when he was young in later 19th and earlier 20th century before he decided 'cross the threshold'. He lived in a poor agricultural place in the central VN. His father was a teacher, and he had to moved with his family to some places so as his father could keep teaching. On the move, he learned a lot of things both on classes and real lives that helped him realized how poor our country was and the reason were colonism.
When he was 21 years old, he decided making an adventure on a vessel. He worked as a dishwasher to earn money for living food and tickets. On the adventure, he had chances to know many places in the world, such as USA, England, Spain..., and the last destination of the vessel was France. After France, he moved to some more places such as Russia and China before come back to VN.
On his adventure, he had a lot of obstacles, especially in France and china. In France, he used to took a hot brick to warm him up under harsh cold winter. In china, he used to stay in many prisons for a long time which actually trained him becoming a good soldier, a loyal student and a poetic writer. In fact, he used to be a 'small' captain of chinese army before coming back to VN.
Furthermore, together with obstacles he also met his masters on places he toured on. In Russia, he found Lenin who he learned a lot of comic theories. In china, he practiced theories under 'mao' monitoring. By the time of practicing, he called friends from his mother land crossing borders to chinese, and he taught them the theories. The faithful moment came when he together with his friends decided to set up a group there.
In 1941 he closed his travelling around the world when came back our country and finished his success. His big challenges were western army and an old dynasty. With help from 'outside nations', he soon got more people join to his group and generous 'gadget' sponsors.
He and his group succeed at last, in 1975. Our country turned into a special world which changed by him and his fellows' experiences forever - a communist country.

I know who you're taking about, HC was such a dreamer with fairy-tale aims :) Although the place were he used to reside is now worsening, isn't it?

I totally can't stand science fiction movies ;)


One of my favourite hero film is Indiana Jones.

I completelely argeeee withs you Juonfran366!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I like also big hero spiderman.