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Sebastian Boyle is the author of this essay on Jar-Jar Binks.

Published on July 25, 2000

The Luke Skywalker of the Prequels is...

...Jar Jar Binks. Not Obi-Wan, not Anakin, not Amidala. Jar Jar Binks. The Gungan many people considered to be annoying, clumsy, even racist! But these people are taking Jar Jar at face value, which is almost as bad as being racist. Jar Jar is the hero of the prequels.

I have wrought my simple plan
If I give one hour of joy
To the boy who's half a man,
or the man who's half a boy.
- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Lost World

Over twenty five years ago, George Lucas wrote that on the draft of the movie that would start a phenomenon, the scale of which the world had never seen. Star Wars. Of course when he wrote that quote he was meaning the joy he could bring to the masses who would flock to see the movie. But the quote can show something else...

Luke is the boy who's half a man. Jar Jar is the man who's half a boy. Though it may not seem very clear at first, Jar Jar and Luke parallel each other more than any other characters. And it all comes from the Hero with a Thousand Faces...

"Fifteen years ago I set out to make a movie for a generation without a fairytale"
- George Lucas

In myths and legends, there's something called a "Hero's Journey". It consists of the steps a hero must take on the path to glory. Lucas read of this in Joseph Campbells book "The Hero with A Thousand Faces". In the original trilogy, Luke had to take this hero's journey, and he succeeds where his father failed. In Episode I, Jar Jar also takes the first steps.

In ANH, we see Luke as an innocent, wide-eyed farmboy. In TPM, we see Jar Jar as an annoying, clumsy Gungan. Though they come from very different backgrounds, and their destiny may be a little different, they are in fact very similar. Luke is called to adventure (one of the steps in the Hero's Journey) by a humble droid, who falls from space and comes to him with a message. He then finds himself in the presence of his "wise and helpful guide", Obi-Wan Kenobi. Jar Jar is called to adventure by the Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn, who also falls from space. Qui-Gon is to Jar Jar, like Obi-Wan to Luke, a wise and helpful guide.

In every hero's quest, there are threshold guardians who block the heros way to adventure. In ANH, these took on the form of sand people, who attacked Luke. Obi-Wan, his wise and helpful guide, saved Luke from them. In TPM, they're the other Gungans, who are going to punish Jar Jar. Qui-Gon, who is Jar Jar's wise and helpful guide, saves Jar Jar from them. After both these adventures, both Luke and Jar Jar turn down their guide's call to adventure (although Jar Jar's only resisted for a few seconds).

The next step in the Hero's Journey is the threshold, which every hero must cross. For Luke, the threshold was the Mos Eisley spaceport, where Luke found creatures he'd never dreamed of, faced danger, and found his future friend, Han Solo. For Jar Jar, the threshold was both the planet core and Theed, where he faced the humans the Gungans hated, avoided getting eaten by sea monsters, and found a friend in Amidala/Padme.

The labyrinth is the next adventure a hero must go through. The Death Star was the labyrinth Luke entered, where he faced danger around every corner of the battle station's many corridors and trenches. Jar Jar's labyrinth was the unknown worlds of Tatooine and Coruscant, where he too faced danger. Both manage to escape.

The hero must next engage in battle, take part in mortal combat. Luke rode his X-wing up into the starts to attack the Death Star, while Jar Jar rode a kaadu out onto the grassy plains of Naboo to face the Trade Federation's droid army. In the end, both come out the victors.

So what can we expect from Jar Jar in the future? Well, maybe an epic battle in Episode II where we'll first see the changes in him, and maybe even a confrontation between him and Anakin once Anakin starts down the dark path. Whatever happens, there'll be a transition, much like Luke's transition from the boy who wants to go to Toshi Station to pick up some power convertors, to the man who faces the greatest evil in the galaxy...

Feedback welcome

 

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