So, over the Labor Day weekend, Spike ran all the Star Wars movies in a marathon. And since I'd just posted about it last Monday, I thought I'd rewatch these classics...and had a revelation. So forgive me for busting out my Star Wars nerd two Mondays in a row, but I thought my revelation was pretty spiffy, even if I'm clearly not the first one to have noticed this.
But see, there's a lot of similarities between samurai and Jedi. Now, I'd already known that George Lucas's inspiration for Darth Vader's iconic was samurai armor:
Darth Vader in a manly stance.
A samurai mannequin in a manly stance.
But, other costumes have samurai influence. The daily wear robes of the Jedi is rather similar to the daily wear kimono of samurai.
Mace Windu: you know he's a beast.
I'm sure these random men are beasts, too...
Beyond costuming, you have the attitude: a samurai's sword was his greatest, most revered weapon--so was a jedi's light saber. Samurai were the elite of the elite, trained from a very young age to fight--as were Jedi. The samurai philosophy, also known as bushido, warned against fear and attachment--and how can we forget Yoda's advice to Anakin: "Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose," and "Fear leads to the Dark Side." This is similar to Uesugi's bushido text:
Those who are reluctant to give up their lives and embrace death are not true warriors.... Go to the battlefield firmly confident of victory, and you will come home with no wounds whatever. Engage in combat fully determined to die and you will be alive; wish to survive in the battle and you will surely meet death. When you leave the house determined not to see it again you will come home safely; when you have any thought of returning you will not return. You may not be in the wrong to think that the world is always subject to change, but the warrior must not entertain this way of thinking, for his fate is always determined.
Compare also the "end" of the Jedi in the Clone Wars to the end of the samurai age (visually, I have to say The Last Samurai gives a good--if not historically accurate--comparison of what I'm trying to say). In the Clone Wars, a handful of Jedi fought against their own Chancellor (later, Emperor) in a battle against robots that looked identical--and later, clones that looked identical.
Individual Jedi fought with their lightsabers against vastly more numbered robots with blasters.
At the beginning of the Edo period in Japan, Emperor Meiji abolished the samurai--although some did fight back. Emperor Meiji instituted a Western style of army--soldiers all dressed exactly alike, in uniform, with guns. Some samurai did rebel--including Satsuma, in 1877, the last true stand of the samurai. A handful of samurai faced off in their individual samurai armor with their katanas against an army of clone-like dressed soldiers fighting with guns.
Now, why am I going on and on about the similarities of the Jedi and samurai? Because it's awesome! It's awesome to pull a legend from history, add a laser to a katana, and throw it up into space. AWESOME.
There are no new stories under the sun. But what we can do is pull from history the epic heroes and battles, and create new trappings for them. The common writerly saying is to "write what you know." Did George Lucas know the Force or Jedi or lightsabers? No--he knew Japanese history, and transplanted that to...