This essay is from paraquem
Published on October 7, 2001
George Lucas & Carlos Castaneda in a Galaxy Far, Far Away
Fortuitous meetings in the Star Wars saga
A predominant theme in the Star Wars saga is that of the heroes encounter with someone who at first appears either bedraggled or foolish - who turns out to be anything but that, and becomes in fact an important character. In this, there are clear parallels to Castaneda?s initial encounter with Don Juan (more on that in a bit). This idea is not specific to Castaneda or Lucas of course (as the quote from Lucas, below, demonstrates), but the parallel is worth showing.
"I wanted Yoda to be the traditional kind of character you find in fairy tales and mythology. And that character is usually a frog or a wizened old man on the side of the road. The hero is going down the road and meets this poor insignificant person. The goal or the lesson is for the hero to learn to respect everybody and to pay attention to the poorest person because that?s where the key to his success will be. I wanted Yoda to be perceived at first as a funny critter, not as the most powerful of all the Jedi. I wanted him to be the exact opposite of what you might expect, since the Jedi is based on a philosophical idea rather than a physical idea" (Annotated Screenplays, page 167).
In addition to Yoda, this idea also applies to our original introduction to Obi-Wan in "A New Hope", and to Jar Jar Binks in "The Phantom Menace" (more on Jar Jar later). One interesting parallel between Castaneda & Lucas on this subject is to be found in the Annotated Screenplays, and although it doesn?t show up in the film, it demonstrates that Lucas was influenced by Castaneda?s description of his initial encounter with Don Juan.
Luke & Ben?s encounter (as originally conceived) reads very differently from the one which we were to see on screen. Luke is not aware when meeting Ben that he is, in fact, the man he is looking for. He tries to give himself an air of credibility by announcing that he is "Officer Luke Starkiller". When Ben eventually lets on who he is, Luke admits to his real status, adding that he is the son of Annakin Starkiller, to which Ben responds that he knew all along who Luke was. A key line pops up here when Luke says, "You saw through me?" to which Ben replies, "You could put it that way" (see the Annotated Screenplays for the exact content of the above paragraph, page 33). An interesting footnote to this is that we are also told of an early Lucas concept of having Jedi warriors let out a shrieking scream each time they attack - this idea can be found all over the place in Castaneda (minus the attacking part) - a sorcerers ability to mimic is a great tool, and shrieks and screams are commonplace in their arsenal.
To clarify the comparison of these initial encounters we need look no further than Castaneda?s "The Teachings Of Don Juan". At the outset, Castaneda recounts for us the circumstances leading up to his fortuitous encounter with Don Juan. He was on one of many fact-finding excursions in the South-West of America, collecting information on medicinal plants (this being relevant to his anthropological studies), when his friend and guide on this particular excursion pointed out a seemingly old grey-haired man, whom he said was very knowledgeable about plants (and especially peyote). Castaneda was introduced to the old man and subsequently left alone with him. The comparisons between this meeting and those in the Star Wars saga become self-evident when we learn of Castaneda?s efforts in engaging the man?s assistance. Just as Luke originally misrepresents himself to Ben, so Castaneda tries to sell Don Juan on the lie that he himself is already knowledgeable about plants, and that it would be advantageous for Don Juan to talk with him. Unlike the Luke/Ben or the Luke/Yoda scenario, in Castaneda?s story there is no immediate clarification or admission of deception. Instead, Don Juan gives Castaneda a strange look, which he feels compelled to avoid, before saying goodbye and leaving. In that strange look resides what has really happened - Don Juan has used a sorcerer?s trick to hook Castaneda. In Castaneda?s own words-
"I was annoyed at talking nonsense to him, and at being seen through by those remarkable eyes."
The parallel is clear - in the Castaneda/Don Juan meeting, he is aware of "being seen through" while in the early Luke/Ben meeting Luke exclaims, "you saw through me?" Noteworthy, also is that both Obi-Wan & Don Juan betray a little of their strange powers in this initial encounter.