Star Wars Odyssey turns space opera into lyrical poetry
We can now count the Star Wars saga among the greatest heroic myths of our society. Star Wars stories have been told in many forms over the saga’s more than four decades – from film, television, and books to comics, audio dramas, and even Shakespearean style. With Star Wars Odyssey, the myth of a distant galaxy, very distant receives the treatment of epic poem evocative of Beowulf, that of Virgil The Enid and Homer The odyssey.
The Star Wars story comes to life in lyrical verse and meter by Jack Mitchell, epic poet, scholar of classics and associate professor of classics at Dalhousie University. With some of his favorite authors including Homer, Virgil and JRR Tolkien, the influences of classic epics and fantasy literature of these authors add even more depth to a saga that spans the entire galaxy.
The inclusion of illustrations by New Zealand artist Jessica Benhar, inspired by Greco-Roman terracotta vases, adds to the classic look of the epic poem.
Star Wars Odyssey presents the events and characters of Thief one through Return of the Jedi, paint images of Scarif’s devastating but triumphant battle and the intensity of the seconds before Luke Skywalker fires those torpedoes to destroy the Death Star to Luke’s astonishing revelation to Leia about their siblings and their father Lord Sith. It’s all written in verses so melodic and archaic that it’s easy to forget you’re reading fantastic sci-fi stories of space samurai and semi-sentient droids.
The most captivating elements of Star Wars Odyssey are the illustrative turns on planets and places and poetic twists on iconic quotes. Instead of Princess Leia saying that Obi-Wan Kenobi is her only hope, Mitchell writes Leia’s holo message, “In Obi-Wan Kenobi is my hope.”
Likewise, “May the Force be with you” becomes “the Force always stands by your side” and Han’s famous response to Leia’s “I love you” becomes more bittersweet thanks to “What I know” seconds before it is frozen in carbonite.
Perhaps the most beautiful introduction to the desert planet of Tatooine:
Little life you have, but it’s the hardest
In the midst of the absence of life; little fate
But it’s so fateful that it makes the stars move.
As with Tatooine, even the harshest and most brutal places and action-packed scenes are made peaceful and calming through Mitchell’s use of the iambic pentameter – a style made famous by William Shakespeare and John Milton. The rough and noisy scenes inside Mos Eisley’s cantina are made all the more formidable by Mitchell’s melodious verses that tell the stories of the patrons and the legends behind them.
And Boba Fett, who only appeared onscreen for a few minutes in the original trilogy, gets a grandiose and lyrical entry in Star Wars Odyssey, who describes the bounty hunter as an “iconic warrior”.
All were trembling who were watching
Your Mandalorian armor, beskar face,
Jetpack, twin pistols, rockets on the wrists,
And flamethrower, in the service of a spirit
The most cunning and an inflexible will.
While Star Wars Odyssey covers the timeline from the battle of Scarif to the redemption of Anakin Skywalker, the epic poem tells stories from the previous films and the Clone Wars. In the chapter on Dagobah, Yoda tells the heart-wrenching story of Darth Vader’s birth – training as a Jedi and Qui-Gon Jinn’s insistence that the boy could be the chosen one. Battle of Naboo and breaking the Jedi rules on falling in love. The epic poem also weaves into the legends of Darth Plagueis, his apprentice Darth Sidious, and their obsession with the dark side’s mastery over life and death.
The inclusion of key details of galactic history adds even more depth and drama to an already vast and expanding universe.
Mitchell’s poetic verse clearly shows his love for classic storytelling and Star Wars. His inspiration for craftsmanship Star Wars Odyssey, he said, was born from the enthusiastic reaction of his children to his reading of another Star Wars book.
â¦ I thought to myself, âWell, here I am actually conveying a myth, this is what I read all the time in my work. It’s actually the continuity of our culture that happens in real time, âhe said.
Thanks to Mitchell’s expertise and passion, Star Wars Odyssey isn’t just another twist in a beloved saga. In the same vein as ancient Greek and Roman storytellers, the epic poem cements the legends of Luke and Leia, the Force and lightsabers among our most treasured myths.
Star Wars Odyssey, published by Abrams Books, is available now in bookstores.
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