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Historical (and Literary) Influences on Star Wars, by Todd Proa

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The lasting influence that Star Wars has had on modern film, media and popular culture is undeniable. Yet Star Wars itself was influenced by plenty of factors, historical and literary. Listed here, Todd Proa discusses where some of these come from.

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Historical (and Literary) Influences on Star Wars, by Todd Proa

  1. 1. Historical (and Literary) Influences On Star Wars By Todd Proa
  2. 2. Father-Son Myths • There are stories throughout Indo-European mythology where a father and son fight each other in battle.! • In the medieval German epic “Hildebrandslied”, two champions meet each other on the field of battle, when the older one realizes the younger one is his son.! • In Irish mythology, the hero Cu Chulainn is forced to fight his son Conlai in battle, and ends up killing him.
  3. 3. • The “mythic hero” is a concept coined by scholar Joseph Campbell, which appears throughout mythology: somebody (often raised by foster parents) is called to adventure, finds a supernatural mentor and then goes out to face trials before returning home! • George Lucas drew heavily on the concept for creating Luke Skywalker. Mythic Hero
  4. 4. Nazi Germany • Both the Nazis and the Galactic Empire employ “stormtroopers”.! • In the Star Wars prequels, the rise of Palpatine from chancellor to emperor is strongly reminiscent of Hitler’s own rise to power.
  5. 5. Richard Nixon • George Lucas was originally inspired to create Star Wars in reaction to Nixon’s presidency, and how democracies can get turned into dictatorships.
  6. 6. Vietnam War • Star Wars was released not long after the Vietnam War, when an underdog nation defeated a major world power. ! • George Lucas admitted that the Ewoks, a technologically primitive force that defeats a powerful opponent, was inspired by the Viet Cong.
  7. 7. Ancient Rome • Rome, much like the Galactic Empire, was a republic before becoming an empire.! • Many Star Wars characters, such as Valorum and Palpatine, have Latin names.! • The planet Naboo from the Star Wars prequels was inspired by Imperial Rome.
  8. 8. Knights Templar • Jedi Knights were inspired by a combination of Samurai, Shaolin monks and the monastic military orders of medieval Europe, specifically the Knights Templar.! • The Templars were austere, morally pure and shunned materialistic goods (on paper, at least).
  9. 9. Cold War • Star Wars was conceived at the height of the Cold War, when the threat of nuclear annihilation was on everybody’s mind.! • This relationship is a two-way street; Reagan’s proposed Strategic Defense Initiative was named after Star Wars.

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