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Lucas' Inspirations for Star Wars

I’ve got a few posts going on TFN about Lucas’ inspirations (literary or otherwise) for SW, but I’m not getting much response from the crowd over there. So I thought I’d cross-post some of the juicier bits and see if you guys were interested in discussing the sources Lucas <span style=“text-decoration: line-through;”>ripped off</span> got his ideas from.

Here goes…

OK, I finally got around to properly reading Dune Messiah and Children of Dune (as opposed to just Googling the summaries ;P ). Now, I’m convinced that the plot of these two Dune sequels was a big influence on Lucas’ development of ESB and the new storylines that emerged there (Father Vader and Luke’s hidden sister).

Be ye warned, there be SPOILERS below…

Dune Messiah is about the crumbling of Paul Atreides’ empire, which he forged at the conclusion of the first book. His concubine and lover, Chani, becomes pregnant, but one of her enemies (Paul’s legal wife, the Princess Irulan) has fed her anti-contraception drugs that make the pregnancy perilous. Chani ends up dying in childbirth; Paul is devastated and feels his life is now meaningless, but, as the specially-bred Kwisatz Haderach, his ability to see the future warned him that this must happen. She leaves behind twins: one boy and one girl. Notably, however, Paul’s oracular vision had only alerted him to the birth of one child, a daughter. (Chani had been examined by medics and knew she was carrying twins, but never got the chance to inform Paul due to her accelerated rate of pregnancy.) The existence of a son takes him completely by surprise–because his son displays from birth the same prescient abilities as Paul himself, and no prescient oracle can “see” the life of another.

Paul, who has had his eyes melted out by an atomic blast in an assassination attempt, gives up his place at the head of the Atreides Empire and his status as the holy Muad’Dib, the Messiah of Arrakis. He wanders into the deep desert, apparently to die…

Children of Dune reveals that both of Paul’s children–Leto II, the boy, and Ghanima, the girl–were in fact born with the innate ability of the Kwisatz Haderach to commune with their own distant ancestors. They possess the wisdom of uncounted ages within adolescent bodies. Paul’s sister, Alia, was also born with this ability from birth, but she has failed to master it: she is now being consumed by the dominant personality of her evil grandfather, the late Baron Vladimir Harkonnen (whom she herself killed as a child).

Leto, Paul’s son, has been having prescient dreams, and he has come to realize that in the far future humanity will ultimately stagnate, leading to its own extinction, if something drastic is not done. Leto realizes that he must create an Imperial paradise, a Golden Age of peace, followed by a catastrophic time of bloody violence and chaos, in order to impart the deep-seated taboo against stagnation that will prevent humanity’s destruction. But to do this, to create this “Golden Path,” he needs to stay alive for thousands of years–and the only way to do that is to merge his body with the larval sandworms of Arrakis, creating a monstrous new hybrid lifeform that is practically immortal.

Leto also knows that Paul Atreides, his father, had realized this horrific action was the only way to save humanity. However, Paul shrank from taking that fearful, necessary step; he preferred to die in the desert, retaining his own humanity, rather than sacrifice himself for the good of the human race. Paul had come to see that prescience itself was a trap: by always knowing and shaping the future, he was doomed to an existence of mind-numbing boredom, which he craved desperately to escape.

Yet Paul is not dead. He returns, under the guise of “The Preacher,” to criticize the worship of Muad’Dib that, under his sister’s leadership, has grown stale and corrupt. In one of the climactic scenes of the novel, Paul confronts his son Leto, meeting him alone in the vast desert, urging him to desist from his course, to walk away from his terrible destiny and fashion a happy life for himself. Leto refuses his father’s temptation, and having failed to dissuade his son, Paul finally accedes to his greater wisdom.

At the end of the novel, Leto and Paul journey to Arrakeen, the capital city of Arrakis, to destroy the corrupt theocratic government of Alia, Paul’s sister. Paul knows that he will not survive the trip, but comes anyway. Leto poses as the guide to the blind Preacher. While Paul creates a diversion upon the steps of Alia’s temple, railing against her corruption, he is slain by her guards, buying Leto the time he needs to enter the palace, rescue his sister Ghanima, and confront Alia (who commits suicide). At the very end Leto becomes the new Atreides emperor, with Ghanima as his symbolic sister-wife, after the fashion of the Pharaohs of ancient Earth’s old Egypt (although, because of his sandworm-induced infertility, Leto has arranged for Ghanima to have children by another man, Prince Farad’n of House Corrino, the grandson of the Emperor Shaddam IV whom Paul deposed in the original Dune).

Whew! OK, where to begin?

We have the story of a tragic hero in Paul Atreides: someone who starts out as a heroic figure with a high destiny, but who fails to accomplish that destiny due to his own personal weakness, only to have his own son fulfill the role that he could not. That sure sounds like Anakin Skywalker to me.

Not to mention Paul’s utter devastation at the loss of his wife, and his failure to predict the existence of one of his children–he’s even maimed and disfigured just at the time his children are born! And when Leto steps up to follow Paul’s vision of how to preserve humanity, Paul tries to tempt him from his duty; the weakness of the father is pitted against the resolve of the son. Of course, Paul finally acquiesces to Leto’s wisdom, even knowingly sacrificing himself so that his son can do what must be done.

Paul wanted to escape the trap of being locked into prescience, of always knowing the future, feeling his own life stagnate. Leto, however, accepts that he must submit to the destiny of the “Golden Path” in order to free the rest of human civilization. Anakin’s failure is portrayed in much broader strokes–he became an embodiment of evil, the black-robed Darth Vader, someone who actively attacks the noble ideals he once championed–but in both cases a hero has failed of his purpose. Similarly, both Paul and Anakin try to tempt their sons from the path of duty. And both of them eventually accept their sons’ greater wisdom, sacrificing their own lives as a result.

(To say nothing of Anakin’s status as the prophesied “Chosen One” from the prequels, conceived by the will of the Force and destined to “bring balance.” Compare this to Paul’s Kwisatz Haderach status, as the end product of generations of Bene Gesserit breeding, designed to produce a super-being with powers of ancestral memory and prescience…)

There’s also the fact that the “Luke’s twin sister” plotline is obviously pulled directly from Children of Dune (but with the twist that the twin children were separated at birth). The novel came out in 1976–too late to impact the development of ANH. But Lucas definitely read it before thinking about the storyline of ESB… and I think it may have influenced his thinking about the character of Father Skywalker.

Here’s a significant quote from Children of Dune, a scene where Paul’s mother Lady Jessica is providing Bene Gesserit training to Prince Farad’n on Salusa Secundus:

“Shall we start?” [asked Farad’n.]

“It would’ve been better to begin this when you were much younger,” Jessica said. “It’ll be harder for you now, and it’ll take much longer. You’ll have to begin by learning patience, extreme patience. I pray you’ll not find it too high a price.”

Now compare this to Lucas’ early notes for ESB dialogue, where Luke speaks to his Jedi teacher Bunden Debannen (known as “Buffy,” AKA the precursor to Yoda):

Luke: Will you teach me?

Teacher: It would’ve been better to begin this when you were much younger. It’ll be harder for you now and it’ll take much longer. You’ll begin by learning -------------, extreme -------------.

Lucas’ verbatim dialogue-“borrowing” from other sources also happened in the ANH scripts: compare the first draft, where Lucas put Piter de Vries’ declaration “We’ve gained a true advantage” from the original Dune into the mouth of Governor Crispin Hoedaack of Alderaan; or even the third draft, where Luke and Ben Kenobi consider the meaning of the words “Good morning” in a conversation originally written by J.R.R. Tolkien for Bilbo and Gandalf in The Hobbit.

Interestingly, the page of ESB notes with the dialogue from Children of Dune is also the page on which Lucas wrote “He was a Mynoc, Human-computer. (Vader?)Mynoc in this context is obviously a riff on the Mentats of Dune, who are also “human-computers”: that is, people trained to use their brains for ultra-powerful logical analysis, since their society has outlawed “thinking machines.”

Noteworthy is that Lucas at first scribbled down another, slightly longer word in place of Mynoc, and then blotted it out completely–did he write Mentat and then decide he couldn’t borrow the term so nakedly?

The Shifting Tone of Star Wars

OzoneSherrif, that's really interesting about Zahn's idea of the Emperor being elevated to power by the military elite.... sort of like if Hitler were an evil wizard. (Hitler's turn as Chancellor came about largely due to the consent of the German military and political leaders, who hoped to control him and use him as a figurehead in their efforts to undermine Weimar democracy and reestablish authoritarian rule.)

Of course, such a backstory is incompatible with the Prequels' vision of Palpatine already being Supreme Chancellor for years and years.... but of course, Lucas' two, originally conflicting, versions of the Emperor--the Nixonian bureaucrat repeatedly elected to office in violation of term limits, and the Sith sorcerer who was a dark counterpart of Ben Kenobi--fully merged only during the PT.

OT Plot Development Analyses

I applaud you for going against George's Original Vision (Luke and Leia as siblings) in your McQuarrie discussion.  I'd imagine you will get banned from Tf.n shortly.



You're more right than you know--somebody posted a map of Mongo from Flash Gordon in one of my threads and it got summarily deleted, with a warning that reposting it would get the thread locked.

Guess I'm all in for you guys now.

Multiple Lightsaber Colour Appreciation Thread!

There's also Luke's new blue lightsaber from the ROTJ trailer:

The idea from ANH was that blue sabers = good guy, red sabers = bad guy. End of story, no other colors. But then Luke's blue lightsaber was almost invisible against the desert dunes in the sail barge scene, so the blade color had to be changed during post-production.

This change allowed Lucas to get away with deleting Luke's original introduction scene, in which we see Luke finishing construction of his new lightsaber. The green-colored blade revealed during the sail barge battle is instantly obvious as a newly built saber, in a way that a second blue lightsaber would not be.

Multiple Lightsaber Colour Appreciation Thread!

Being a contrarian, I've always been intrigued by the idea from early Star Wars that all lightsaber blades were in fact the same color.

What that color is, though, varies. ;)

In Lucas' early scripts for ANH, the only color mentioned for lightsaber blades is red. In the first draft, it's even stated that the film's hero Annikin Starkiller wields a red saber: "The startled Annikin backs away in horror, then settles down and ignites his lazersword, which creates an eerie red glow."

This was carried over into the Marvel Comics adaptation of ANH, in which all sabers were colored red.

Marvel artist Howard Chaykin's ANH poster provides another good example:

The original version of the ANH sabers, meant to be an effect achieved "in-camera," attempted to depict uniformly white saber blades.

However, it looked so poor on film that rotoscoping had to be used instead. This of course led to the incorporation of different colors for "hero" and "bad guy" lightsabers, an idea derived from Ralph McQuarrie's production paintings.

(McQuarrie in fact gave Vader a blue saber and his opponent a yellow one.)

On the SW Blu-Rays, there's a short clip in one of the documentaries, showing an early effects test for the lightsabers. Footage was shot of two men "dueling," which was used to test three different blade colors: red, blue, and white. In all of the tests, both lightsaber blades are the same color.

Splinter of the Mind's Eye describes both Luke's and Darth Vader's lightsabers as blue. Luke's saber has a "powerful blue beam," and when Leia wields it we see "a slashing flare of blue light." Later on Vader is seen "swinging his saber until it was no more than a blue blur in the dank air."

This description fits well with this early publicity photo from ANH, which, due to an accident of airbrushing, gives blue sabers to both Obi-Wan and Vader:

Even as late as the ESB novelization, Vader's saber is described as "the blue flame of a just-ignited laser sword."

To close this post, I'll leave you with a Marvel 1970s treasury-size reprint of its first SW issue. The cover used one of the drawings shown above, but with different coloring, so Luke ends up with a white lightsaber.

what would happen if George Lucas had started with Episode 1?

Actually, we already know pretty well what a 70s version of TPM would've been like... because Lucas wrote the script for it in 1974.

The first draft of ANH has a story structure that's basically TPM in embryo--two Jedi Knights have to sneak a princess off her home planet due to an invasion. It's very different in the details--the invading enemy is the Galactic Empire and the Jedi are hunted outlaws--but it would provide the nucleus of TPM when Lucas returned to it decades later.

The second draft of ANH featured a radical reworking of the story (changing from an escape movie to a rescue movie, as Lucas himself noted) and it was the second draft's plot structure (if not the character relationships) that survived into the final film.

Of course, this first draft has some absolutely terrible dialogue and a completely unbelievable love story... suggesting that, if this script had been filmed, it would've been rather like getting the prequels 20 years early. Fortunately for us, the Lucas of 1974 knew that it wasn't ready for prime time.

Incidentally, before he wrote the first draft, Lucas's notes show that he had a somewhat different idea in mind for his Journal of the Whills concept. In this version there were two major galactic powers, the Galactic Empire and the Alliance of Independent Systems, as well as various small non-aligned worlds--it was essentially a Galactic Cold War. The peaceful desert planet of Aquilae (later to become Naboo) was invaded by an evil "Border System," secretly aided by the Empire. Two Jedi, Mace Windy and his apprentice CJ Thorpe, would be dispatched by the Alliance to protect Luke Skywalker, heir to the throne of Aquilae. By the time Lucas actually wrote the first draft, of course, this whole political situation had been rewritten--and, influenced by The Hidden Fortress, Prince Luke became Princess Leia.

OT Plot Development Analyses

Thanks for the welcome, guys. I'm glad you like this stuff--I really ought to have posted here first, it seems! :D

I do find it amusing how much Lucas borrowed from Dune over the years. The first draft of ANH, of course, was virtually a Dune clone... but he was still cribbing from it just as hard when developing ESB. Thus in his early notes we get ideas like the Emperor being hidden in a "cold, macabre, gray steel box" like a Guild Navigator; or the twin children, one boy and one girl, of Paul Atreides Anakin Skywalker; or the notion of Mentat "Mynoc" human-computers; not to mention the idea of Ovan Marekal's monopolistic Spacing Transport Guild.

I've learned a lot about the history of SW over the years... I really ought to turn my musings into a blog, I suppose. That would be a good project for the future.

OT Plot Development Analyses

Hey guys! I've been trying to start up some OT plot development analysis at the TFN forums, but it's becoming clear that very few people are interested. So I thought I'd try starting up a discussion here.

There's way too much text to port over so I'll just leave these links here:

TSHOSW: Leigh Brackett and Lucas' filmic style for SW

Discussion of the Leigh Brackett script and the development of the Emperor as a character. (Apparently there was an idea where he was going to be in a giant tank like the Guild Navigators from Dune...)

ANH Pre-Production Art (McQuarrie/Mollo/Tavoularis)

Analysis of Ralph McQuarrie's art plus that of John Mollo, costume designer on ANH.

Visual Design of the ANH First Draft

Some attempts to visualize the very first draft script of ANH.

Let me know if you guys like these discussions at all or want to see more of this sort of analysis...

Complete Comparison of Special Edition Visual Changes

Hey guys, newbie here with an interest in the preservation of the SW OT. Great work throughout this thread--I'm amazed at the number of small tweaks made even before the SEs of 1997!

I have one question about a particular change in ANH, though.

It seems to me (viewing the 2004 version of ANH on an HDTV) that Leia's hologram recording was changed twice, once in 1997 (when the blue tint was added) and again in 2004. Specifically, it seems the hologram's vertical scanlines got a LOT fatter in the 2004 version, whereas the 1997 Leia hologram (judging by pictures you guys have posted) had very thin, very hard-to-see vertical scanlines.

Am I just hallucinating? I'd love to have somebody verify this for me--I don't yet have all the digital copies of the various releases. Thank you!