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Tale As Old as a Galaxy Far Away (Star Wars Blogathon #2!)

If you told me five years ago that the one fictional romantic pairing I couldn’t tolerate would become one of my favorites, and that I’d be writing scholarly articles on how they actually follow one of my favorite storytelling themes…I would’ve laughed in your face.

Yet here I am. The year is 2020, this my second post for the Everything Star Wars Blogathonand I’m welcoming you to my little corner of the Internet for an in-depth discussion about how Reylo–the romantic pairing of Rey Skywalker and Ben Solo (formerly known as Kylo Ren)–follows the time-honored motif known as “The Search for the Lost Husband”…but doesn’t follow the one known as “Death and the Maiden.”

THE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT IS DEAFENING WITH THESE TWO. (@ Pinterest, but probably originated on Tumblr)

First, one distinction and one clarification (because I am all about distinctions and clarifications):

  1. I do not want Rey to be with Kylo Ren. I want Rey to be with Ben Solo. There is a difference.  
  2. Just because you enjoy a fictional romance DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN you yourself want to live out that particular story in your own love life.

Number One is more critical to my point, but I figured I’d better mention Number Two before someone accuses me of wanting my own version of Rey Skywalker’s…ahem…tumultuous love life.

Long ago and far away, I hated the very idea of “Reylo.” Rey became one of my favorite heroines of all time as soon as I met her in The Force Awakens. I couldn’t bear the idea of her ending up with anyone who didn’t deserve her, and in my fiercely-protective, motherly opinion, Kylo Ren was as far from deserving “my Cupcake Princess” as he possibly could be.

But then I saw The Rise of Skywalker, and my mindset changed…to a certain extent. I still did not want my beloved Rey to end up with the Supreme Leader. What I did want–desperately–was for her to finally be with the man she always believed he could be: the hero he finally became in the end.

(*cries in Reylo*)

After delving into the mythological and literary influences behind Star Wars this year, I’ve realized it was only a matter of time before I fell for Rey and Ben. For one thing, I’ve always had an OTP type: “Tragic, Haunted Dude + Kind, Headstrong Girl.” Rey and Ben fit in quite nicely with the likes of Victoria and Melbourne, Beren and Luthien, the Doctor and Clara, and Clark Kent and Lois Lane.

But their story also mirrors three other favorite romances of mine: Belle and the Beast, Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, and Eros and Psyche. In their own ways, these stories all carry the redemptive themes of “The Search for the Lost Husband.”

“I have for the first time found what I can truly love: I have found you.” –Jane Eyre

According to the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Tale Type Index–a vast catalogue of the different types (and sub-types) of fairytales–“The Search for the Lost Husband” motif includes these elements, among others (which are just as fascinating for our purposes today):

  1. a man trapped under a villain/villainess’ beastly enchantment
  2. a compassionate heroine who falls in love with him (and may even marry him)
  3. her quest to find and/or rescue her lover/husband
  4. a happy ending where the heroine finally breaks the enchantment trapping her one true love

You can see lots of Beauty and the Beast parallels here, though the ancient myth of Eros and Psyche is most likely the source for all later variations. Jane Eyre is another great example. Even if Charlotte Brontë didn’t set out with this particular motif in mind, her revolutionary masterpiece features a principled heroine, a disillusioned (“beastly”) anti-hero, a reunion after a tragic but morally necessary separation, and a happy ending full of repentance and renewal.

But notice that in Beauty and the Beast, Jane Eyre and even Eros and Psychethe happy ending really only comes once the “beasts” change of their own free will. The Beast selflessly allows Belle to leave his castle. Mr. Rochester repents of his dissolute ways long before Jane returns to him. Even Eros defies his mother Aphrodite, possibly for the first time, and rushes to save his beloved Psyche.

Belle, Jane, and Psyche have a profound effect on their men; they “loosen” the enchantments and show them a way out. But the Beast, Rochester, and Eros have to take that final, irrevocable step themselves. They must forsake their own selfishness and spite before they can ever be completely free.

“…there must be something there that wasn’t there before.”

One can argue Ben Solo is “under a beastly enchantment” for most of his story. This does not excuse him from any responsibility whatsoever. I would never argue that. But we do know Palpatine targeted him from the time he was in his mother’s womb; he was tempted and tormented until he finally gave in to the Darkness of his own free will. Yet goodness and light never stop chasing him, hence his constant state of feeling trapped and “torn apart.”

Enter Rey, stage right: a beacon of Light if ever there was one, and the first person who sees the conflict in him and actually understands it enough to fight it well. Rey doesn’t just loosen the enchantment: she rattles it. But it doesn’t break away entirely until Ben Solo makes the decision, for himself, to turn away from the Dark and join her in the Light.

“…with the blood of a scoundrel and a princess in his veins, his defiance will shake the stars.”

Now let’s look briefly at how this compares with the “Death and the Maiden” motif. This classical trope finds its roots in another ancient myth, that of Hades and Persephone. According to Wikipedia, it primarily features “a young woman being seized by a personification of Death,” and one immensely popular variation of this tale (which I do love) would be The Phantom of the Opera. 

Rey and Ben’s story definitely features a few details of this motif. In the ancient myth, Hades kidnaps Persephone and carries her down to the Underworld in his black chariot; in The Phantom of the Opera, the Phantom takes Christine to his underground lair where he tempts her, coaxes, and intimidates her. Similarly, Kylo kidnaps Rey in The Force Awakens, carrying her aboard his black shuttle–while in The Last Jedi, he asks Rey to be his Empress aboard the Supremacy, a massive ship with lots of hellish vibes.

“This haunted face holds no horror for me now / It’s in your soul that the true distortion lies.”–The Phantom of the Opera

But here’s where “Death and the Maiden” breaks down in the Reylo story. Unlike Persephone or even Christine (until the very last moment), Rey has agency, and she uses it. She fights Kylo Ren every step of the way, yet she fights for Ben. She refuses to give in to the Darkness even when it’s most tempting and consistently appeals to Ben’s conscience. She knows he’s still in there, deep down. As a result of her influence (according to the Rise of Skywalker novelization), even he has to admit that “Rey [is] his light.” She is his true north, leading him home. He is the one who can’t resist her–not the other way around.

Which is why, once again, I believe the Reylo story is ultimately a “Search for the Lost Husband” tale. At the end of the day it’s a story of redemption and restoration, not captivity and temptation.

The hand-touch that launched…(*checks the Archive of Our Own stats*)…23,000 fanfics.

I know this is all a bit controversial, and not everyone sees it the way I do…but WOW, I had a lot of fun writing this! There are many, many podcasts and articles that articulate these things in even greater depth, but getting to explain why I became a Reylo convert (which also explains why I write happily-ever-after AU fanfic, hehehe), and how it tickles so many of my storytelling fancies has been amazing. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

And once again, Eva-Joy and Katie Hanna, THANK YOU for hosting the Everything Star Wars Blogathon!

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The Genius of John Williams {Star Wars Blogathon #1!}

Ahhh, Star Wars…my problematic yet lovable fairytale in space! It’s been part in my life for as long as I can remember. Long before I first watched the movies, I spent hours playing with my cousin’s Leia and Padmè action figures and even performed the Opening Fanfare with my piano class one year. But not until I was 20 did I see the Original Trilogy–and I enjoyed it so much, it inspired me to write my first (now trunked) novel. Then in 2015 I adopted Rey as one of my favorite heroines of all time…and in 2019, she and Ben Solo singlehandedly pulled me out of the worst writing slump I’d had in years.  

There’s so much I love about Star Wars–its unique blend of science-fiction and fantasy, its mythological elements, its characters. But as soon as Eva-Joy and Katie Hanna announced the Everything Star Wars Blogathon, I knew the first thing I wanted to write was a tribute to John Williams and his epic soundtracks.

{All images retrieved from Google Images}

Thanks to the incredible “What the Force” podcast, I’ve learned quite a bit about Williams and his influence on Star Wars. Not only has he told the story through his music just as much as the writers and actors have, but he transformed modern filmmaking with his leitmotifs (recurring musical themes) and epic, sweeping scores.

I could wax eloquent on themes we all know and love, like the Opening Fanfare, “Duel of the Fates,” or Rey’s Theme. Today, however, I’m highlighting a few of the lesser-known but absolutely brilliant tracks. A few of them may still be a little more familiar, especially if you listen to a lot of Star Wars music–but I did try to think outside the box! I’ve also included links to each track so you can listen to them yourself 🙂

“Anakin’s Theme” (The Phantom Menace)

Foreshadowing in the shadows = A+ marketing

Let’s start off with a nice juicy helping of tragedy right off the bat. Anakin Skywalker is introduced as a round-faced, irrepressible little boy, the very picture of childhood innocence and resilience. His gentle, classical-sounding theme seems to reflect this…until the lilting melody descends into the forebodingly martial tune the world first heard in A New Hope: the Imperial March. It’s an appropriate touch for a prequel trilogy where, in many ways, you know exactly how things will end right at the beginning. 

“The Meadow Picnic” (The Attack of the Clones)

Me, looking at this picture: “Padme’s dress > Anakin.”

Everyone knows “Across the Stars,” Anakin Skywalker and Padmé Amidala’s haunting, beautiful love theme…but in my humble opinion, this less-familiar piece is just as magical. The middle of the track features a brighter, almost playful version of  “Across the Stars,” and while there are some darker melodies threaded into the track, it does reflect the more lighthearted side of Anakin and Padmè’s doomed romance.

“The Birth of the Twins & Padme’s Destiny” (The Revenge of the Sith)

The “NOOOOOOOOOOO” heard ’round the galaxy 😦

Similarly, everyone talks about how John Williams went all out for Obi-Wan and Anakin’s duel in the lava fields of Mustafar…but what about the absolutely heart-wrenching music during Anakin’s transformation into Darth Vader, the births of Luke and Leia, and Padmé’s death? A dark, chanting chorus rises in intensity against a feeble but stubbornly persistent Force theme, underlining the apparent triumph of Emperor Palpatine over the Chosen One. 

“Ben’s Death & TIE Fighter Attack” (A New Hope)

They were SUCH BABIES in Episode IV, GOSH. (*cries*)

I admit, it was hard finding a track for A New Hope that was distinctive, but not so famous that it’d feel like a cop-out. I suspect my difficulty arose from the simple fact that the universe, themes, and characters of Star Wars were still very much in development, and both George Lucas and John Williams were still mastering their craft. It just wasn’t as rich yet. That said, this is definitely a good track: you go from the swelling, almost melodramatic strains of Obi-Wan Kenobi’s death to the all-guns-blazing Millennium Falcon theme as it evades Imperial pursuers.

“The Duel” (The Empire Strikes Back)

(*Randy the Intern voice*) “When Darth Vader offers Luke his hand a second time, do you think he’ll take it???”

Okay, this one may be somewhat on the “more famous” side–but guys, it is just GOOD MOVIE MUSIC. “The Duel” is from the scene where Darth Vader reveals the Big Whopping Truth to Luke–the Big Whopping Truth that still sends millions if not billions of jaws crashing to the floor. The Imperial March is fantastically dark and triumphant and the brass section is having an absolute field day…until Leia and Lando swoop in with the Falcon!! And they rescue Luke!!! And the whole mood of the piece changes!!!! And it’s all just…(*chef’s kiss*)…ABSOLUTELY EPIC.  

“Leia’s News/Light of the Force” (The Return of the Jedi Original Soundtrack)

Okay, but hear me out: if Anakin became a Force Ghost and vanished, POOF, then Luke is just burning Darth Vader’s armor, right? This ain’t technically a funeral pyre…right???

So apparently this track isn’t on the new remastered soundtracks, and I’m not sure why???? But this is the music from two different scenes: when Leia merrily assures Han that Luke is her brother and not a love interest (thus making certain memories of The Empire Strikes Back a bit icky for the rest of us), and when Luke burns Darth Vader’s armor. This track, in my opinion, features the most intensely emotional rendition of the Force theme–which is very appropriate for Anakin’s redemptive end.  

“The Abduction” (The Force Awakens)

Lemme kill the vibe by reminding the world that Daisy Ridley was trying *not* to burst into a fit of giggles here…

I dithered back and forth between this one or “Kylo Ren Arrives at the Battle”–but I finally chose “The Abduction” because, according to musician and Star Wars enthusiast Felicia Wisniewski, Williams likely “quotes” Tchaikovsky’s famous Romeo and Juliet Overture in the moment when Han spots Kylo carrying Rey into his ship. Since Williams is so heavily influenced by classical music, it wouldn’t shock me at all if he did this on purpose. I also love the strained, desperate version of Rey’s theme at the end of this track…and the way it ends on an unresolved note.      

“The Spark” (The Last Jedi)

The greatest Work-From-Home moment of all time.

The Last Jedi is one of the richest, most emotional of the Star Wars soundtracks, and “The Spark” is a great example of this. As Luke Skywalker (apparently) arrives on Crait to help Leia and the Resistance, the track starts off with a somber version of the Force theme…then transitions into Luke and Leia’s gentle theme…then slips into Han and Leia’s love theme as Luke gives her the Falcon‘s golden dice. (*cries softly*) And then, rather abruptly, the music rallies and intensifies, growing aggressive and defiant as Luke walks out alone to give Kylo Ren the finest slap-down the galaxy has ever seen.

“Parents” & Coming Together” (The Rise of Skywalker “For Your Consideration” Soundtrack)

Me: (*watches this scene a million times over the past ten months and still squeals every time*)

I chose two for The Rise of Skywalker and I will not apologize, because these two tracks go together like, well, “two halves of the same protagonist.” (*wink*) You won’t find them on the official soundtrack, but the reason is delightfully obvious: The Rise of Skywalker soundtrack came out before the film, and if we’d heard a heroic version of Kylo Ren’s theme followed by a romantic, twinkly Force Theme before we saw the movie, we would’ve been spoiled. But you can listen to “Parents” and “Coming Together” on the nearly-complete soundtrack submitted for the score’s Oscar nomination! These glorious pieces of music are, of course, from Rey and Ben’s final Force connection…the scene that left me, an anti-Reylo for four straight years, slack-jawed and starry-eyed.


And thus concludes my first post for the Everything Star Wars Blogathon! I hope you enjoy listening to these musical selections–and I’d love to hear your thoughts/favorite tracks, as well. Be sure to check Eva-Joy and Katie Hanna‘s sites for links to other blogs participating in this event–and stay tuned for my second post on Saturday where I nerd out over the classical and mythical connections to Reylo, the OTP that launched a thousand fanfics.

Oh yes indeedy, it’s gonna be fun 😉 

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My Second Sunshine Blogger Award!

Many thanks to Eva-Joy for bestowing upon me my second Sunshine Blogger Award! I’ve always found these are a lovely way to show appreciation in the blogging world…and a great way to update one’s blog when one’s schedule resembles a juggling act 😉  

I just need to make a few housekeeping notes before delving into Eva-Joy’s questions…

  1. To any new readers who stumbled upon this blog after my semi-viral tweet this past weekend (heehee), HELLO! Please feel free to visit my About page, browse my ever-growing selection of movie, book, television, and music reviews, and converse in the comments section. You are most welcome here!
  2. The October edition of The Wordsmithery goes out to all subscribers THIS coming Wednesday! The Wordsmithery is my monthly newsletter, full of recommended articles, inspiring quotes, mini-reviews, and liturgical resources–and you still have 48 hours to sign up for October’s package!
  3. I won’t have an update next Monday (the 12th)…because I’m sharing two articles later that week for Eva-Joy and Katie Hanna’s Everything Star Wars Blogathon! One article will be about the soundtracks, while the other will be a more scholarly treatise on how the story of Rey and Ben Solo parallels certain pieces of classical literature. 
  4. After the Blogathon I’m also taking two weeks off. I’ll be working the early voting polls in my area for ten days and won’t have the opportunity to blog–but I’ll be back the first Monday of November with something beautiful to counteract the madness of the election, I promise.

And that’s it! Without further ado, here is the Sunshine Blogger Award Tag!

THE RULES:

1. Thank the blogger who nominated you in the blog post and link back to their blog. (Done.)
2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.
3. Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
4. List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog. 

What’s the latest you’ve ever stayed up? Earlier this year while struggling with insomnia, I tossed and turned one night till at least 1 AM. I’m pretty sure I stayed up a little later than that, though. So glad I’m not suffering from that anymore! 

Are you right- or left-handed? Right-handed!

What’s the best movie you’ve watched this year? Well, I haven’t seen too many new movies since all the theaters have been closed. But if I had to pick one movie out of all the ones I’ve watched (or re-watched) in 2020, the most impactful, well-crafted, and meaningful one would probably be A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhoodwith Paterson and Little Women right on its heels.  

What’s the best book you’ve read this year? This is much easier to answer, haha. Circe by Madeline Miller is the best book I’ve read this year (so far). I practically inhaled it this past spring, and I’m still thinking about it.

Do you prefer Christmas or your birthday? Oh, Christmas, without question. Birthdays are fun, but I still don’t know what to do or say or be whenever people sing “Happy Birthday” to me. Christmas, on the other hand, is sacred and beautiful and joyous. The foodstuffs aren’t too bad, either 😉 

Do you keep a journal or a diary? I keep a prayer/devotional journal, but not an actual diary.

Neutrals or pastels? Neutrals. You can mix and match more easily. 

What’s your favorite letter of the alphabet? I love this question, haha. It would have to be “E” for me. I love names that begin with “E.”

What’s your favorite life hack? If you’re out of baking powder (and we cannot find baking powder to save our lives right now), just do this: for every 1 teaspoon of baking powder you need, use 1/2 teaspoon of cream of tartar, and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. The results will be ever-so-slightly different, but it does work. 

What was the last thing you bought? A candlestick holder! 

What’s your middle name? I actually don’t have a middle name! It was once a source of great woe: there’s nothing like the collective horror of middle-schoolers when, after swapping all their awesome middle names, they find out you are the only one with a single name. BUT in my old age I have come to love my name. After all, I basically share it with the Virgin Mary and her cousin Elizabeth. How could I ever complain about that?

MY QUESTIONS:

  1. If you could fight a sea serpent with one favorite fictional character, which would it be?
  2. What is your favorite Disney movie?
  3. Do you prefer poetry or prose? (Bonus: which do you prefer writing?)
  4. Do you prefer Greek, Roman, Celtic, Norse, Chinese, or some other type of mythology?
  5. What are your thoughts on spaghetti?
  6. Favorite song at this moment in time?
  7. What is the best thing that’s happened to you so far in 2020? (#2020Positivity, y’all)
  8. Do you collect anything?
  9. Les Miserables or The Phantom of the Opera? (This is like Star Wars vs. Star Trek for me, haha.) 
  10. Best painter of all time, in your humble opinion?
  11. Which three fictional characters do you relate to the most?

AWARDEES:

Here’s what I’m gonna do: because many of my frequent commenters don’t have blogs (but have been pockets of sunshine on this blog all the same), I’m going to open these questions to ALL of you! Just answer them in the comments section and have fun! OR, if you do have a blog and want to use these questions as a jump-start for a new post, feel free to do that, too.

I eagerly await your responses 🙂 

{Header image by Justin Casey on Unsplash}