“All across the galaxy, there are tales waiting to be heard and stories longing to be told.”
“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” never held so much meaning.
“Star Wars: Myths & Fables” is a new in-universe canon book written by George Mann and illustrated by Grant Griffin, which tells nine short stories from around the galaxy. Like any good yarn, these stories all contain some element of truth combined with a decent amount of embellishment, making for either a good bedtime story or when roasting marshmallows around the campfire.
What it amounts to is a wonderful collection of speculative fiction set in the Star Wars universe, stories that have been inspired by in-universe mythos and passed down through cultural storytelling traditions. Did these events actually take place? Or are they merely entertainment for adults and children alike, spun from overly clever minstrels?
From the publisher…
A stunning collection of untold fables, myths, and folklore from the edge of the galaxy. Beautifully illustrated, this unique treasury of in-world space tales takes readers to the far reaches of the Star Wars universe...including to the remote Outer Rim world of Batuu from Galaxy's Edge.
Like most tales, fables, legends, and myths, the details change over time as cold facts give way to elaborate fiction, mostly to suit the needs of the audience, big or small. And what remains, years and even decades later, may scarcely resemble the original events at all, but at the heart of them, remains the original lesson.
As the book’s introduction states, not all the tales are meant to be cautionary in nature but rather tell us more about ourselves and the universe in general. Some, like “Vengeful Waves”, are age-old warnings straight from the pages of the Bible and speak to the temptation and greed we see in all creatures from time to time. That story is most definitely a cautionary tale of man vs. nature, while others such as “The Wanderer”, seem to focus on appreciating what life has to offer and not take for granted the kindness of strangers.
In reality, each story has multiple admonitions, some more obvious than others, but what George Mann does quite effectively, is wrap interesting enough parables around them as to not feel your being simply taught a lesson. This type of theological storytelling gives them an older and more pleasing aesthetic, but with the modern approach of today’s fantasy/sci-fi themes. More directly, it's a near perfect combination of two literal brands used to quite effectively construct a narrative.
And if this style feels homespun to you, a little of the familiar mixed with a little of the unfamiliar, that is because they are pulling from many of the same stimuluses that helped George Lucas conceive the original film.
And like Star Wars, the follies committed and the wrath incurred by some of the people who committed sinful inflictions on either fellow man/woman, alien, or nature itself, are not slight. In all cases but one really, they get what they deserve because they can’t get past their own sense of self-worth.
But there’s a sense of ambiguity when you read through some of the stories, such as that you could equate them to a Rorschach painting, and derive from them what you will. And some of the characters whether named or unnamed, will immediately set off a few bells in your head. Are they who you think they are? Is that who I think it is? While some may be vague and unclear, others not so much, and Mann makes its abundantly clear who they represent.
In “The Dark Wraith”, the people of Solace go to the non-literal well once too often, and when they’ve exhausted their three get-out-of-jail-free cards, a “Dark Wraith” shows up and cleanses the city of sin. Now, the “Dark Wraith” is clearly meant to be Darth Vader, even the illustration indicates as much, and the town’s people represent some interpretation of the Rebels at some point in their existence. This is more or less explicitly spelled out in the quote below…
“Such is the risk of rebellion, for the Darth Wraith lies in wait to be summoned, ready to punish all who are deserving”
So, Mann has taken a Rebel cell being destroyed by Vader and turned it into a fantastical tale not unlike the city of Argos being visited by Hades himself. But is it based on anything real? Probably at some point in the timeline this event, or some version of it, took place. And you could see this tale of comeuppance, where this "Dark Wraith" delivers his coupe de grace, be used by either side to deter future uprisings.
Likewise, the very first story and the books cover, “The Knight & the Dragon” features a very clear, although unnamed, Obi-Wan Kenobi during his respite on Tatooine. And “The Droid with a Heart” tells the tale of Separatist leader, General Grievous, although again, never by name. These accounts are so closely based on genuine circumstances and characters, it makes them entirely plausible, but Mann cleverly dresses them up and doesn't sacrifice embellishment in his depiction. Basically, he takes some element of truth and has a ton of fun stretching the boundaries.
Others though, like “The Witch and the Wookiee”, demand a little more of our imaginations, but still challenge our perceptions of what’s probable. In that story some pirates run into trouble on the moon of Jhas Krill when they are looking for a place to hide some loot. Specifically, they meet an old woman named Shelish and her Wookiee companion Owacchi, who at first offers them a place to sleep and some food, but the greedy pirates have other ideas. While the ending steers away from the Brothers Grimm classic, you’ll be reminded of Hansel and Gretel for sure.
But what’s heavily inferred but never confirmed, is that Shelish is most likely a Dathomirian witch or even a Nightsister if you prefer. Is she Mother Talzin? Jhas Krill has a very similar landscape to Dathomir but is located in a different sector; also I don’t recall Talzin ever befriending a Wookiee. But these are fables and myths after all, and underneath each one lays some element of truth.
Other stories reminded me of tales such as Sodom and Gomorrah and the resulting fury bestowed upon its people, and if the stories have a common thread, it’s that the seven deadly sins provided a roadmap to destruction. But not all nine are Biblical, with most taking on a more even and contemporary approach, especially if you’re comparing them to those more ancient times.
Expect a lot of Greek Mythology and Arthurian legends as you’ll read about tales of the bogeyman, plagues, and creatures from below, who are all ready to lay waste to anyone who doesn’t follow the rules. Oddly enough, the biggest enemy of most of the malefactors isn’t a monster at all, at least not in the literal sense, but rather hubris. Most of these tales warn us to steer clear of the seven deadly sins, greed being the biggest culprit, but it’s chutzpah that expedites their ultimate destruction.
Not as advertised as Delilah Dawson's upcoming "Black Spire" and Zoraida Córdova's now available "A Crash of Fate", it also connects to the larger Galaxy’s Edge media project, with two of the stories taking place on Batuu. The second one, and final of the book, is called “Chasing Ghosts” and is a story within a story and will scratch your Lando Calrissian itch.
And “The Black Spire” has the makings of a long form story all unto itself but in this case is lessened by too quick an ending. But it does provide a valuable fact about Black Spire Outpost, especially a nice little detail pertaining to Córdova’s “A Crash of Fate”
In this story we get the retelling of the misadventures and heroics of a young girl named Anya, who lived at the Black Spire Outpost some time ago. It’s here we learn the name of the wish tree we know from “A Crash of Fate” where Julen Rakab tied a piece of his sister’s fabric to the tree, hoping his best friend Izzy would return. Anya does something similar and we learn that the locals call the tree the “Trilon Wishing Tree”. Very cool.
Do you need to read either one of these stories to know what’s going on with Galaxy’s Edge? Not at all, but they are a lot of fun to read and because this is a canon book expect other little interesting Easter eggs spread throughout such as this one. The "Gaze of Stone" which takes a look at the Sith "Rule of Two", has a couple of eyebrow raisers in it and brings to mind other more well known master and apprentice relationships.
As I mentioned, the books illustrations were drawn by artist Grant Griffin, and this is one aspect of the book that achieves a perfect score. The actual physical book itself is a beautiful hardcover edition with each story getting its own image to go along with it, “Anya” from “The Black Spire” is my runaway favorite and the books most lingering, which is saying something after you’ve seen “The Black Wraith” The front cover, which is the accompanying image for “The Knight & the Dragon” tale, is probably the nicest front cover of the year aside from maybe the “Master & Apprentice” Chicago variant cover which was illustrated by Jama Jurabaev.
The images capture the fairy tale and fantasy motif perfectly but of course contain just enough Star Wars flare to remind you you’re never too far away from that galaxy. It’s very Star Wars, it’s very Disney, and it’s remarkable stuff that somehow reminds you of something aged without feeling anachronistic.
MY hope in the end is this would turn into a reoccurring series and George Mann gets a shot at more, like something akin to a Patricia A. McKillip. Because if this book has a negative, it’s that there’s a bit of a redundancy quality to the collection, and that’s besides the fact that we visit the same two planets, on two different occasions. The overall lessons vary little from tale to tale so the two or three stories that really go in a different direction stand-out accordingly and are the books finest.
But regardless of my nitpicking, Mann is more than up to the task, and like I said, I’d love to see him get more opportunities to share more myths and fables! I mean, honestly, who the heck doesn’t want to read more about Obi-Wan Kenobi doing battle with Krayt dragons?
Hard to say which one of these tales is my favorite, right now I’m leaning towards “The Droid with a Heart” I’m a big fan of droids, especially concerning the issue of sentience. There’s something poetic, romantic, and even human about the conclusion of that particular story that I think is just fantastic.
But really, they are all fun to read, and because they leave room for interpretation and are anthology in nature, it's a book you can revisit at any time. If nothing else I recommend it for the unique storytelling and the wonderful illustrations, those alone are worth the price.
Until next time...MTFBWY.
"Star Wars: Myths & Fables" is published by Disney-Lucasfilm Press and is available now!
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