What is the real Star Wars? by Dr. Larry Burriss


Cultural Canon

     As what is supposed to be the last of the “Star Wars” movies, “The Rise of Skywalker” comes to the screen this week, a central, still unanswered, is, what is the real Star Wars?

     Actually, this one seemingly simple question has stumped and alienated both fans and serious scholars:  what exactly is the “Star Wars” canon? What is the official story line?
     One other entertainment product has also generated an inordinate amount of discussion, debate and, unfortunately, vitriol, “Lord of the Rings”

     In both cases the question is, “what is the true story line,” and perhaps, what did the creator intend? And given the level of technology today, another question is, “What if the creator changes the original?”
     In the case of “Star Wars,” another enduring question is, “Who shot first.” In the original, Han Solo shot Greedo first. But in later versions, the scene was re-edited so Greedo shot first, and the hero, Han Solo, was merely responding to an unprovoked attack.
     The case of “The Lord of the Rings” is more complicated, since there are two prequels, “The Hobbit,” and “The Silmarillion,” and there are some significant disconnects between the three stories.
     In his lifetime, the author, J.R.R. Tolkien, tried to harmonize the three stories, but more than 50 years and dozens of revisions later, there are still discrepancies.
     In addition, the author left thousands of pages of adjustments, stops and starts, which his literary executor and son, Christopher, has tried to weave together. Thousands of pages of these revisions and historical notes have been published, which has led to endless speculation about what the original author intended, what son Christopher has legitimately incorporated into the original canon, and how much is simply unwarranted speculation.
     A phrase I really like to apply here is, “Paralysis by analysis.” Stop over-analyzing the movies and books, which are, after all not real life, but extraordinary fiction, and just enjoy the stories.
     I’m Larry Burriss.