We’ve had the Star Wars movies retold in Shakespearean style. Now, it’s time for the great Greek poet Homer to have a turn. Professor Jack Mitchell has taken the events of Rogue One through Return of the Jedi and retold them in the style of epic poetry of antiquity, like The Odyssey, The Aeneid, and Beowolf. The result is how Star Wars would have been told back in the 750 BCE.
You’ve likely heard how George Lucas was heavily inspired by Joseph Campbell’s research on heroic myths when creating Star Wars, and the works of Homer are arguably the most important, most influential heroic tales in Western culture. So this adaptation is extremely appropriate, and as a classics major myself, I’m pretty excited (as well as for the book’s illustrations, which are done in the style of ancient Greek pottery). The Odyssey of Star Wars will be available next week, on September 28, and you can pre-order it here. Meanwhile, however, you can read this exclusive excerpt from the book, in which Luke confronts Darth Vader on Bespin, only to learn… you know.
Along the narrow scaffolding Luke reels;
Below, the broad reactor shaft descends
Beyond the reach of sight, a yawning pit.
He staggers through a doorway: there inside
Vader awaits, whose ruthless swordsmanship,
The best in all the galaxy, is loosed
Upon the boy, remorseless, unrestrained,
His saber thrusts precise, his slashes swift,
Cutting the doorway and the rail beyond
To bits, his power the greater, Luke’s the less:
Before the towering shadow and the mask
The boy is beaten backward step by step.
Too late he recollects wise Yoda’s words
That counseled prudence, warning of the risk
Of facing Vader unprepared. He falls
Backward upon the path, his foe’s red sword
Before his throat, the chasm black below.
And there Darth Vader warned him of his doom:
“Now you are beaten. I was beaten too,
On Mustafar, by Obi-Wan’s bright blade,
Before I wore the mask. But in the dark
I won my victory; Obi-Wan I’ve slain,
Who like a fool preferred to be destroyed.
Choose not the path of such futility.
There’s no escape. From me accept your life.”
In answer, Luke, through bruised and swollen eyes,
Looks for his chance, and plucks it: with a whirl
He springs to slash the shoulder of the foe,
Who, quick recovered, with a mighty sweep
Cleaves through the jutting sensory array
Between them, and then slides the crimson blade
’Neath Luke’s, and spins his wrist: the fiery edge
Severs Luke’s hand, which with his sword is sent
Into oblivion. With a cry Luke grasps
His empty limb, retreating to the tip,
The pinnacle above the precipice,
A crushed and lonely figure, whipped by wind.
Then once again there came Darth Vader’s voice:
“You do not realise your importance, Luke.
Your power is in its infancy. Join me,
Whom you may equal, whom you may surpass;
I will complete what Obi-Wan began.
Together we may end the age of war,
Bring order to the restless galaxy.
You will not join? You do not guess the power
Of life lived far beyond the dread of death.
Let not the Jedi prejudice your soul
Against ambition, which aligns the wise
Beside the Force itself. Do I not know?
None knew the Jedi better: I was one,
Indeed I was the best. Did Obi-Wan
Not tell you of your father’s destiny?”
So Vader spoke; but Luke replied in pain:
“I know that Anakin was best, not you;
And, what is better still, that he was good.
Aye, Ben and others told me you destroyed
That prince of pilots, prince of duelists
By means of some foul trick, on Mustafar.
O father, if my dying voice can reach
To death, the hidden kingdom of the Force,
In which, perhaps, your steady soul persists,
See that I die in fighting for revenge!”
So Luke replied, but Vader laughed, and spoke:
“O son of Skywalker, you are deceived.
You father did not die on Mustafar.
Your wish is granted: he has heard your prayer.
I am your father, Anakin the Just,
Enlightened by the dark, death’s conqueror,
The Jedi’s bane, and mighty in the Force,
Whose infant son Kenobi stole away.
You doubt me? Search your feelings for the truth!”
Then Luke, like one who rises in the night
From half-forgotten visions, damp with sweat,
To find worse ruin – murder, suicide –
In his own home – Luke saw inside himself
A truth as horrible as stark, the truth
He could not face and yet could not deny.
His staring eyes shed tears of black despair,
His mouth is twisted and his face is white,
The contradiction dies inside his throat.
Excerpt from the new book The Odyssey of Star Wars: An Epic Poem by Jack Mitchell published by Abrams Image. Copyright & TM 2021 Lucasfilm Ltd. All rights reserved.
The Odyssey of Star Wars: An Epic Poem by Jack Mitchell will be released September 28; you can pre-order a copy here.