Star Wars, Fathers, and the Beauty of Fairy Stories

[NOTE: There is a Force Awakens spoiler below.]

In “The Ethics of Elfland,” G. K. Chesterton says:

My first and last philosophy, that which I believe in with unbroken certainty, I learnt in the nursery. I generally learnt it from a nurse; that is, from the solemn and star-appointed priestess at once of democracy and tradition. The things I believed most then, the things I believe most now, are the things called fairy tales. They seem to me to be the entirely reasonable things.

He goes on to explain:

But I deal here with what ethic and philosophy come from being fed on fairy tales. If I were describing them in detail I could note many noble and healthy principles that arise from them. There is the chivalrous lesson of “Jack the Giant Killer”; that giants should be killed because they are gigantic. It is a manly mutiny against pride as such. For the rebel is older than all the kingdoms, and the Jacobin has more tradition than the Jacobite. There is the lesson of “Cinderella,” which is the same as that of the Magnificat– EXALTAVIT HUMILES. There is the great lesson of “Beauty and the Beast”; that a thing must be loved BEFORE it is loveable. There is the terrible allegory of the “Sleeping Beauty,” which tells how the human creature was blessed with all birthday gifts, yet cursed with death; and how death also may perhaps be softened to a sleep. But I am not concerned with any of the separate statutes of elfland, but with the whole spirit of its law, which I learnt before I could speak, and shall retain when I cannot write. I am concerned with a certain way of looking at life, which was created in me by the fairy tales, but has since been meekly ratified by the mere facts.

I couldn’t agree more, which is why I have a love/hate relationship with Star Wars. The original trilogy had all the charm, beauty, and truth of a fairy tale in space. No doubt there was a bit of Buddhist flavor in Mr. Lucas’s first tales, but at the heart they were classic tales of good and evil and the redemptive power of love and self sacrifice.

Then came those cinematic atrocities, Episodes I-III. They have garnered their share of criticism for bad writing, bad acting, and bad decisions (Jar Jar),  but what made them so detestable to me was the move away from the truly human tales (the fairy tale) to a dark embodiment of Lucas’s materialistic, atheistic Buddhist worldview. I could write a series of posts explaining this point…but I won’t.

Rather, I want to turn with gratitude to the makers of Episode VII for their return to the classic fairy tale in space with the depth of truth it conveys. Specifically, one beautifully true moment which this latest chapter captures surpasses anything of lasting value from the original trilogy. By some miracle J.J. Abrams and Disney have colluded to show the world one of the greatest realities the world can ever know…it has shown us what a father’s love looks like. Might I add that my hat is off to Mr. Ford for one of the most powerfully acted moments ever in the galaxy far away.

When Han Solo calls out Ben’s name (his real name carrying with it his true identity) and walks out to meet his unmoving son on the bridge with weapon holstered and hands open…when he tells him to remove his mask (again refusing to accept his evil  facade)…my heart broke for the beauty of the moment. I knew what was coming, but Ben’s actions were of little consequent. The profound truth we were witnessing on screen, the embodiment of a loving father calling his son to his true self…not judgmentally or defensively or oppressively but lovingly…will prove to be one of the most significant events of this latest trilogy, God willing.

And what an incredible picture of love. That moment, the final instant when Ben’s saber has pierced the heart of his father, Han’s hand goes tenderly to the cheek of his son. In his eyes there is no shock, no fear, no hatred, no desire for revenge–simply one last powerful appeal of love.  This is a father worthy of a fairy tale, and in that moment of fatherly love perhaps, just maybe, the world has caught through the lens of her favorite modern myth a glimpse, a reflection, a shadow of the love of the One true Father.

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