Star Wars is full of many relatable tropes, such as religion, mythology, and of course, politics. So much so, Star Wars has transcended time, literally. Due to this, the films and other mediums of Star Wars have touched so many of us from all over the globe. We relate to Star Wars like no other film to date, and its timeless message of hope is ongoing. Even when it appears all is lost, Star Wars finds a way to reel us back in. Hope, it’s baked in.
As hope lingers throughout Star Wars, even when we can’t see it, we know it’s there. Same could be said about the feeling of despair and losing one’s way. After all, that’s part of the Hero’s Journey, self-doubt and questioning your faith. Even in real life, we doubt ourselves at times, and sometimes we, too, can sway from the path of righteousness. Just like Luke, Anakin, and Rey, a time will come when we have to choose between what is right and what is easy. But, if we, like our heroes, are already doubting ourselves or have begun to lose faith, that choice may be made in haste. If so, can that choice ever be rectified? Or, does one have to face a trial by ordeal? In other words, purify. Better yet, as Kylo Ren so eloquently puts it, save our souls.
Saving one’s soul or redemption is a continuous thread in Star Wars. After all, that is the entire basis for Anakin Skywalker’s arc over the first six films. In addition to that, there are many moments within the saga where we see purifying of faith, the soul, or to pardon the accused. Especially in Rian Johnson’s installment to the Skywalker Saga, The Last Jedi. His use of fire could be indicative of what is known as Trial by Ordeal or Fire Walking.
Throughout our history, many religions and cultures have used fire to prove one’s innocence or guilt. The accused of a crime or falsehood would be forced to face a trial by ordeal and walk through fire. So, if the accused came through unharmed, they were innocent. If they burned, they were believed to have lost their faith and were found guilty. Interesting concept if you take Revenge of the Sith into consideration. Specifically the interactions on Mustafar between the newly dubbed Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Obi-Wan does in fact state that Anakin is lost and ultimately, parishes within the flames while Obi-Wan Kenobi walks away with tattered and ashen robes.
Now fast forward to The Last Jedi, and we see many uses of fire to cleanse, purge, or purify throughout the film. Yoda’s Force Ghost burns the sacred tree that harbors the ancient Jedi Texts. Unbeknownst to Luke, Rey has the books, but that doesn’t dismiss the importance of Yoda’s actions. In a way, Yoda was letting Luke know that he, himself, lost his faith too. Yoda, like so many Jedi of the past, were guilty of hubris.
So, this last act was to reiterate to Luke that the Force should never be used for attack, but for knowledge, and defense. Remember the cave? Yoda tells Luke, “your weapons, you will not need them.” After thirty or so years it finally sinks in, well, better late than never, right? Which brings me to the events on Crait, and Luke’s final stand or Trial by Ordeal. Granted, Luke isn’t physically present, but his presence is felt by all who are there. Namely, his twin sister Leia, and of course, her son, Kylo Ren.
That impact hits hard for Kylo Ren the moment Luke, his uncle walks through the fires that separate the First Order from the Resistance. Yes, the legendary Master Skywalker fire walks into the blaster bolts ordered by Kylo Ren, and it is then the tide of guilt turns from Luke to Kylo Ren to bear. Luke emerges from the flames unscathed, renewing his vows to the Force, and proving his innocence. With a flick of the wrist, Luke dusts off the salts of Crait from his robes, and the pain, the anguish on Kylo’s face mimics Luke, his uncle, on the eve of their confrontation, and that of his grandfather before him, the night his allegiance within the Force had changed.
All in all, I’m not saying that this is what George Lucas or Rian Johnson intended the use of fire in Star Wars to represent. It’s just an observation and a connective idea I had that I thought was worthy of exploration. That said, my question still stands. Does fire purify the lost (or accused) in Star Wars? For me, it’s a romantic notion, but it certainly fits in with everything else we’ve seen in the galaxy far, far away.
Until next time, May the Force be with You!