One of the cool things about Star Wars is the universality of its story, especially when it concerns the Original Trilogy of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.
I mean, even though the movies were conceived by a (then) young American filmmaker named George Lucas and featured an Anglo-American cast, the characters, situations, and themes of Star Wars were drawn from various stories and myths that appear – in different iterations – in many world cultures.
This bit of storytelling magic is due to Lucas’s deep dive into the works of Joseph Campbell, a literature professor who specialized in comparative world mythologies and comparative world religions, when the young filmmaker started writing Star Wars.
The symbiotic relationship between Star Wars – which is sometimes seen just as a modern space fantasy film series rooted in old Flash Gordon serials of the ‘30s and ‘40s – and the monomyth has been remarked upon in the late Kevin Burns’ Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy (2004), but quite a few authors have cannily used transmedia storytelling to reimagine Star Wars as literary tales told in the styles of the older stories that Lucas – through the works of Joseph Campbell – used as the templates to create the original Star Wars trilogy.
To create his now-iconic characters – Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia Organa, Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Han Solo – George Lucas used Campbell’s The Hero of a Thousand Faces, a work that explains the theory of the journey of the archetypal hero shared by world mythologies.
Campbell’s concept is also known as the monomyth and explains why you’ll find many of the same themes and situations in works such as The Iliad, Beowulf, the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, and Shakespeare’s plays, especially the Bard’s histories (Richard III, Henry V) and tragedies (Othello, Macbeth, and Hamlet).
Take the works of William Shakespeare, for instance.
In this blog, I’ve reviewed all nine books in Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series, in which the author (a fan of both Shakespeare and Lucas) takes the nine films of the Skywalker Saga and retells them as Elizabethan Era stage plays, complete with soliloquies, stage direction, and dialogue written in iambic pentameter. On the surface, this sounds insane to a novice who is unfamiliar with Campbell, Shakespeare, and Lucas’s works, but it works well, as many fans of Doescher’s delightful William Shakespeare’s Star Wars saga have discovered since Quirk Books published William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope back in 2013.
And if that wasn’t enough proof that Star Wars can be retold in many styles and idioms, now comes a new book by poet Jack Mitchell, The Odyssey of Star Wars: An Epic Poem.
Published by Abrams Image on Tuesday, September 28, The Odyssey of Star Wars: An Epic Poemis exactly what it sounds like: a retelling of Luke Skywalker’s hero’s journey in the Original Trilogy in literary form. This time around, the author reimagines the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi in the style of Homer.
No, not Homer Simpson. Homer. As in the ancient Greek poet Homer who, tradition says, was the mind who created both The Iliad and The Odyssey over 2,000 years ago.
Here’s what Abrams Image has to say about The Odyssey of Star Wars:
A thrilling retelling of the Star Wars saga in the style of classic epic poetry
“I look not to myself but to the Force,
In which all things arise and fall away.”
Journey to a galaxy far, far away like never before—through lyrical verse and meter. Like the tales of Odysseus and Beowulf, the adventures of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Jyn Erso, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader, and the Emperor are fraught with legendary battles, iconic heroes, fearsome warriors, sleek ships, and dangerous monsters. Beginning with Rogue One’s rebel heist on Scarif to secure the plans to the Death Star and continuing through the climax of Return of the Jedi, author Jack Mitchell uses the ancient literary form of epic poetry to put a new spin on the Star Wars saga.
Punctuated with stunning illustrations inspired by the terracotta art of Greek antiquity, The Odyssey of Star Wars: An Epic Poem presents the greatest myth of the 20th century as it would have been told nearly 3,000 years ago. – Publisher’s Website
I saw this book announced as an upcoming new work in April, and since I enjoyed Star Wars as told by Shakespeare, I pre-ordered it as soon I read the publisher’s summary on Amazon. I figured that if someone can take Star Wars and reimagine it as 16th Century stage plays, then someone else could retell the Skywalker Saga in the style of a Homeric epic poem.
My copy was originally due for a Tuesday delivery, but the COVID-19 pandemic has, as you know, played havoc with the global supply chain. Amazon informed me late Monday that The Odyssey of Star Wars would not get here till tomorrow, but last night I received word that it will arrive today.
As I write this, my copy is marked as Out for Delivery. It should arrive before 7 PM, according to Amazon.