[🎵Accessing] Hello! I’m Anika AKA Pixie and you are listening to the Endless Anakin Playlist Podcast, in which I use popular music as a frame to discuss anything and everything Star Wars and Star Wars adjacent.
This episode is inspired by the song “Lux Aeterna” composed by Clint Mansell for the film Requiem for a Dream and performed by the Kronos Quartet.
Last time, I promised something a little more light hearted, after three weeks of trauma trauma trauma. Star Wars is more of a tragedy than it appears, but still. It’s also fun. So I put up a poll. And it was actually very close, this topic only won by one vote— and anybody who voted for podracing or sex, don’t worry, I’ll get to those. I’ll get to everything, that’s the whole point of this endeavor! But, Camelot won my poll so that’s today’s topic. And it’s something that I feel I could give a TED Talk on with no preparation so that’s kind of what this is.
Arthurian overtones show up right away in the first Star Wars film, Episode IV: A New Hope. There are references to knights and wizards, quests and royalty. Luke is literally given a sword and a destiny. And Obi-Wan describes the past in an idyllic light “For over a thousand generations, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic. Before the dark times, before the Empire.” He calls the lightsaber “An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age.”
Then the prequels really tease out and cement the idea. Our characters are living in that civilized, elegant age. There’s a whole Order of Knights who are ruled by a Council of Nobles, the Masters, who sit in a circle, just like King Arthur and his Round Table. The Order live by a strict code of conduct and their dedication to the kingdom, the Republic, is only surpassed by their dedication to a higher power, the Force. They practice compassion and courtly love and consider themselves defenders not soldiers.
The temple also holds a library, and a school. A love of history and the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s sake are integral to their program. Jedi Knights train younglings and padawans as their medieval equivalent train pages and squires. They must perform a series of tasks to be promoted and they engage in diplomacy. The Jedi and the Knights are keepers of the peace who only go to battle as a last resort to preserve their morality and protect the innocent.
Yet in both stories they are nearly always at war. The dissonance between their ideals and their reality amplifies and hastens their destruction. In both cases their enemy twists truths, uses their ideals against them, and recasts heroes as villains. Their kingdom is thrown into darkness and destruction by the illicit relationship between their greatest and most noble knight and the queen. Also the Clone Wars introduce Mortis, and it is expanded to the World Between Worlds in Star Wars Rebels. That entire concept is extremely Arthurian, right down to the stained glass art. But I’m going to have a whole episode on Mortis
And then in the sequels, again, Rey is presented with a sword and a quest and required to learn the ways of the knights of old so she may conquer evil. In her final battle against Palpatine Rey becomes the perfect knight, a vessel for the past and a weapon of purity and goodness. Her crossed sabers are sword and shield and resemble the symbols of Arthurian Christianity. She is literally fighting the undead and and the unclean, in a place created by dark magic. And her name means king.
Let’s talk about the sword. The Skywalker Legacy Lightsaber has come to hold the same significance to the Skywalker Saga as Excalibur has to Arthurian legend. When Arthur pulls the sword from the stone he proves to be a true king and heir to the throne. In other accounts he receives Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake in exchange for a boon. Both of these scenes are reproduced in The Force Awakens with Rey in the Arthur role. First she is offered the sabre by Maz and later she plucks it out of the ground. While Luke, Finn, and Ben also wield Anakin’s lightsaber, it is shown to choose Rey, first through her vision on Takodana and then in the forest of Ilum when it flies to her despite the presence and power of Anakin’s grandson. After the battle on Exog ol, Rey buries the lightsaber in the sand of Tatooine which is not unlike Excalibur being returned to the Lake after Arthur’s death.
Analogues of Arthurian characters appear and recur in all three trilogies. Merlin is best represented by Yoda. He’s a hermit in the woods, a powerful wizard, has premonitions, speaks in riddles, is hundreds of years old and is everyone’s teacher. But Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Luke all also play the part of Merlin at certain points.
Anakin, Luke, and Rey all have parallels to Arthur within their origin stories. Anakin and Rey are servants. Luke and Rey are orphans. None of them know their lineage, all grow up poor, all three are found through coincidence that becomes fate. They are Chosen. They are legend. And they all wield that same magic sword.
Obi-Wan also gets to play the part of Arthur, in relation to Anakin and Padme as Lancelot and Guenevere. All stories of King Arthur and the Round Table end with Camelot’s fall, and most include the forbidden romance between Queen Guenevere and Sir Lancelot as a main precursor.
My favorite written version of Camelot is The Once and Future King, by T.H. White. It’s the basis for the musical Camelot, and the Disney film The Sword in the Stone, and is in turn an adaptation of Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Mallory. The Once and Future King includes four, or sometimes five, novellas. My favorite is the third, concerned with Lancelot, and titled “The Ill-Made Knight”. I think that is such a perfect epithet for Anakin Skywalker. The Ill-Made Knight.
White’s Lancelot is described as someone extraordinary, the type to “spend half his life torturing himself by trying to discover what was right so as to conquer his inclination towards what was wrong”. Well, that sounds like a struggle against the Dark Side to me. Like Anakin, Lance is powerful, passionate, and heroic, but also anxious and insecure. He struggles with the burden of his promise, and the depth of his feelings for the queen— and the king, too. White adds complexity to all sides of the love triangle and I’d argue Lucas does, too. They all three love each other, too much to risk acknowledging it, which, of course, dooms them and their kingdom. Dark forces work against the trio, Guenevere’s life is threatened and Lancelot battles through an army of his friends and peers to save her.
As Anakin is both Arthur and Lancelot, Padme is both Guenevere and Elaine. Or Elaines, as there are two in Lancelot’s story. Elaine of Astolat who also known as the Lady of Shallot, and Elaine of Corbenic, or Corbin, the daughter of King Pelles. Both Elaines love Lancelot to an unhealthy degree and die of a broken heart. Padme’s funeral dress, often likened to Shakespeare’s Ophelia, at least by me, also references Elaine of Astolat, who is laid in a small boat after her death, surrounded by flowers, and floated to Camelot. Playing on their like names, White gives Elaine of Corbin the same funeral scene. This has been depicted by a wide swath of artists as well as in poetry, play, and music. Padme’s Meadow Picnic dress similarly draws clear parallels to paintings of Guenevere and Arthurian romance. I’ve written about it as part of my ongoing Padme Fashion Project, an analysis of her costuming, and I’ll include a link in the show notes.
Lancelot and Elaine (of Corbin) have a child together, Galahad, who is the pure knight that Lancelot always strived to be. Galahad succeeds in the quest for the Holy Grail, which cements him as the most virtuous of knights, the one who best embodies Arthurian ideals like courage, honesty, gentleness, chivalry, and faith. Like Galahad, Luke achieves the greatness his father gives up for love of a woman. According to legend, Galahad never dies but ascends to heaven, which is reminiscent of Jedis becoming one with the Force, particularly Luke.
Mordred is the traditional villain in Arthurian legend, though there are old accounts and new retellings that cast him in a more heroic light. He is most often portrayed as Arthur’s bastard son with his half-sister Morgause though sometimes he is a nephew or even Guenevere’s brother. In any case Mordred takes advantage of the illicit relationship between Lancelot and Guenevere and the war that ensues to seize the throne for himself. Ultimately, Mordred is killed by Arthur but not before fatally wounding the king.
Ben Solo is a somewhat sympathetic take on Mordred. He is a descendant but not heir. He kills his father and goes to war with his family. Like Luke, Arthur attempted to kill a young Mordred when he had a vision of the boy being his, and more importantly his Kingdom’s, downfall due to his blood connection to Darkness. Mordred turns to villainy when he learns the truth of his parentage and is prophesied to destroy the kingdom. Mordred, like Ben, chooses to become the monster that is presented as his destiny.
I would cast Ahsoka as Gareth, who served as Lancelot’s page until he was knighted. Gareth is described as the most honorable of knights. He was killed by Lancelot in the rescue of Guenevere, which set in motion the final war and the fall of Camelot. Lancelot did not recognize Gareth in the battle and mourned him deeply. Ahsoka also shares story beats with the mystical parts of Arthurian legend. Merlin, Nimue, Morgan Le Fey. She disappears into her own legend and acts as a guide for Ezra in Rebels and Grogu in The Mandalorian.
Finn shares the most with Percival. Like Gareth and Galahad, Percival is described as one of the most pure knights and achieves a measure of greatness. In earlier tellings it was Percival, not Galahad, who achieved the Holy Grail. Unlike most Knights of the Round Table, he has humble beginnings, and is considered naive. Both Finn’s and Percival’s stories are a bit muddled. But they share an innate goodness and loyalty.
Star Wars is not Camelot in space. But the references in production design, costume, dialogue, and character beats are intentional. They share an aesthetic of myth and magic, honor and nobility, light and dark. I’ve said often there are no new stories, just old stories told in new ways. Star Wars and Arthurian Legend and adaptations thereof are cyclical by design. And so is this song.
“Lux Aeterna” is the leitmotif of Requiem for a Dream, a psychological drama about drug addiction. The title is taken from a text in the Requiem or Funeral Mass of the Roman Catholic Church. It’s Latin and translates to “eternal light”. An orchestral version of the song accompanied the trailer for the second Lord of the Rings film, The Two Towers, and it’s since gained wide popularity outside the context of either film. The theme has been used in trailers for numerous media from NCIS to the Assassin’s Creed video game and advertisements to sell cameras. Sports teams and figure skaters have used the the song and it even made an appearance on So You Think You Can Dance. In other words, it fits many stories. The music is eerie, poignant, repetitive, and has become shorthand for drama; and it shares all of that with the likes of both King Arthur and Anakin Skywalker.
Follow my playlists on YouTube and Spotify and after the episode, the song I’ve discussed will immediately play. Links can be found at anakin.me. That’s A-N-A-K-I-N-dot-M-E. Please follow, like, subscribe and tell all of your friends to do the same. [🎵Accessing] See you next time and may the Force be with you. [ 🎵]
My single “Robots Don’t Cry” is now available on iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and more. To celebrate the release, I commissioned the artist Dani Balanqa, who you can find at balangawa, b-a-l-a-n-g-a-w-a, on instagram, to create a series of ten artworks featuring droids and their best friends. Today’s droid is the star of the sequels, BB-8, with Poe Dameron.
The relationship between Poe and BB is one of the sweetest and purest in all of Star Wars. Their affection for each other leaps off the screen in every scene. Moreover, BB bonds with Finn and with Rey, too, making more of an argument for their trio than the whole rest of the films did. BB is present when Rey’s journey begins, on Jakku and again on Takodana, and when we last see her in the final frame of The Rise of Skywalker. But it’s Poe who BB shares the closest friendship with.
Enjoy the art, and please, give “Robots Don’t Cry” a listen.
Endless Anakin is a Manic Pixie Dust production. Song: “Robots Don’t Cry”, Anika Dane
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