Darth Paul is the author of this essay on a recurring theme throughout all 4 films.
Published on August 6, 2000
The Great Fall
Star Wars is known for its deep-rooted mythological and theological themes.
Several books have been written on the subject. In fact, one such book, The
Magic of Myth, was a companion to an exhibit featured at the world-renown Smithsonian
Museum. This exhibit's primary focus was on the intrinsic references to world-wide
mythology in the Star Wars universe. However, every book, article, and exhibit
I've personally read, seen, or heard has never made mention of one very obvious,
repetitive theme in each of the four Star Wars movies.
This recurring theme to which I allude is simple, yet very, very suggestive.
This is the theme of the "Great Fall." When I saw The Phantom Menace for about
the tenth time, I finally had a significant realization. In the scene where
Darth Maul is cleaved, his body falls into the dark depths below. I know. This
in and of itself is not a significant realization. However, when you compare
this climactic scene with other similar scenes in the original trilogy, a pattern
First, in The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker comes close to giving into
his fear when Darth Vader reveals the truth about Luke's father. At that moment,
when he is faced with the choice between joining Vader on the Dark Side, Luke
realizes that his only chance to escape the Dark Side is to plunge himself into
the unknown void waiting beneath him. When he safely lands, he is saved by his
sister, and he begins his journey to the Light Side.
Second, in Return of the Jedi, we witness the dark and sinister Boba Fett
(my favorite character) inadvertently jettisoned into the Great Pit of Carcoon.
This marks the great and final fall of Boba Fett into the nether regions of
a seeming hell.
Third, and again in Return of the Jedi, we witness the evil Emperor Palpatine
tossed into the abyss on the second Death Star. This is the most significant
fall of all, and it is the last one in the entire six-chapter play. It represents
the fall of evil itself.
So, what do these tremendous plunges have in common? Each time a character
falls (usually an "evil" character), it represents one of two things. Usually,
it identifies the final decent into hell for the truly evil and malignant. We
saw Darth Maul, Boba Fett, and Emperor Palpatine each take a fall. For each,
it was their last. However, we also saw Luke take a rather long fall himself.
This fall was different from the others for two main reasons: 1. He made the
decision to take fall. 2. He took the jump with the realization that if he didn't,
he might very well have taken the proverbial plunge into the blackness of the
Dark Side. After making his decision and surviving it, he had faced what was,
at that point, the most difficult and ugliest truth on his life. He had taken
his first big step toward becoming a true Jedi. This is similar to the moment
Obi-Wan faced in The Phantom Menace. After Qui-Gon was mortally wounded, Obi-Wan
was furious. He attacked Darth Maul using his aggressive feelings which were
powered by his fear of Qui-Gon dying and by his hate for Darth Maul for committing
the deed. Obi-Wan was teetering close to the Dark Side at this point, and at
that moment, he himself was nearly cast into the Great Pit. However, he managed
to cling to the side of the pit long enough to regain his composure, concentrate
on the task at hand, and launch himself from the edge of destruction to ultimately
defeat the Dark Side in two ways--he regained control of his own fear and anger
allowing him to dispatch Darth Maul.
The obvious reference to what Western theology holds as Hell is significantly
magnified when you analyze it as I have. It is hard to believe that this recurring
theme is mere happenstance. It is more likely that George Lucas specifically
scripted these scenes to strike a subconscious nerve with his audiences. These
great falls are reminiscent of the Great Fall taken by Lucifer in the literary
classic Paradise Lost. With the apparent parallels to this and many other literary
masterpieces, it is no wonder the Star Wars Saga has wedged itself into our
Mark my words... When we witness Anakin Skywalker's final descent to the Dark
Side some time in Episode 2 or 3, we will see more than the fall of his spirit.
We will see his body cast into the deepest, darkest, most frightening chasm
pictured throughout the story.