Luke Skywalker, the central figure in the Star Wars saga, is a quintessential archetypal hero for audiences to look up to.
Rian Johnson’s deconstruction of the Star Wars mythology in The Last Jedi sparked outrage when it first debuted, but the director recently said that he’s “even more proud” of the film’s polarising plot twists after a half-decade wait.
While the sequel trilogy turned Luke into a bitter hermit who renounced the fight against the dark side, his arc in the original trilogy remains the ultimate story of good triumphing over evil.
When He Saved Princess Leia
A significant step in the hero’s journey sees the hero going into “the belly of the whale.” In the original Star Wars movie, that whale is the Death Star and its belly is the detention level. Luke disguised himself as a Stormtrooper to free Princess Leia from her prison cell, then Leia had to promptly save him because he didn’t come up with an exit strategy.
Before escaping from the whale in the Falcon, the heroes had to go deeper into its belly, jumping down the garbage chute into the monster-infested sludge of the trash compactor.
When He Joined Ben Kenobi
As defined by Joseph Campbell’s work in comparative mythology, the hero’s journey begins with a “call to adventure.” Luke’s call to adventure was the message that Leia left on R2-D2’s memory drive for Ben Kenobi. True to the monomyth, Luke initially refused the call so he could return home to his aunt and uncle.
When he found that they’d been murdered by the Empire, he had no reason to stay on Tatooine and joined Kenobi for the adventure after all. The wise old Jedi told his new apprentice, “You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.”
When He Began His Jedi Training On The Millennium Falcon
After recruiting Han Solo and Chewbacca to help them liberate Princess Leia from the Empire’s custody, Luke and Obi-Wan had some downtime on the Millennium Falcon’s journey to the Death Star. Obi-Wan took this opportunity to teach Luke the basics of Force sensitivity.
There wasn’t enough time to train Luke to become a full-blown Jedi just yet, but Obi-Wan did teach Luke to harness his Force powers, which ultimately came in handy in the final battle.
When He Used The Force To Destroy The Death Star
Luke didn’t just escape from the belly of the whale; he came back in a starfighter and blew up the whale with a couple of proton torpedoes. When the first few Rebel fighter pilots failed to land a hit, the disembodied ghost of Luke’s mentor Ben Kenobi advised him to “use the Force.”
Drawing on his training from earlier in the movie, Luke used the Force to send two of his proton torpedoes down the Death Star’s thermal exhaust port to blast the station to smithereens.
When He Went To Dagobah To Train With Yoda
While he was stranded in the snowy Hoth wilderness at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, Luke was approached by the Force ghost of Ben Kenobi. Kenobi told Luke to travel to Dagobah to complete his Jedi training under the tutelage of Yoda.
Luke then spent the second act of the film in the swamps of Dagobah with Yoda on his back, passing on valuable lessons in his ear. Learning to control his abilities with more precision turned Luke into a more skillful Jedi.
When He Faced His Fears In A Shadowy Cave
The archetypal hero’s journey includes an “approach to the innermost cave” that breaks up the action and gives the hero a chance to reflect. The middle act of The Empire Strikes Back realizes this stage of Luke’s journey literally.
During his training on Dagobah, Luke went into a spooky cave and had a creepy Force vision that foreshadowed the iconic “I am your father” twist. He saw the visage of Darth Vader, briefly fought him, and then saw his own face under the mask.
When He Confronted Darth Vader In Cloud City
When he sensed that his friends were in danger, Luke jumped in his X-wing and flew to Cloud City to help them. Yoda advised him against going to Bespin, because he wasn’t ready to face Vader, but Luke had already made up his mind and couldn’t be deterred.
Luke put up as much of a fight as he could when he finally confronted Vader, but Yoda turned out to be right. Luke was hopelessly defeated by the evil Sith overlord who then revealed that he was his biological father.
When He Refused To Join His Father
When Vader had Luke backed out onto a ledge following their brutal lightsaber duel on Bespin, Vader told his estranged son, “Join me, and together, we can rule the galaxy.” Luke was faced with a crucial choice between joining Vader on the dark side and jumping down a seemingly bottomless pit to certain doom.
Despite the slim likelihood of surviving the fall, Luke didn’t hesitate to choose the latter because he couldn’t stand to turn to the dark side.
When He Saved His Friends Aboard Jabba’s Barge
After his devastating defeat at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Luke emerged as a fully fledged Jedi Knight in the opening set-piece of Return of the Jedi. Jabba the Hutt took Luke and his friends hostage and flew them out to the Sarlacc Pit to walk the plank.
At the last second, Luke gave Jabba the chance to surrender before revealing his true plan of action. R2-D2 passed him his lightsaber and he singlehandedly took down Jabba’s criminal enterprise.
When He Brought His Father Back To The Light Side
As with any hero, Luke completed his hero’s journey when he defeated the villain. But in the climactic showdown of Return of the Jedi, Luke didn’t defeat Vader using brute force; he used the power of love and compassion to bring his father back to the light side.
From the moment he was summoned to the Emperor’s throne room, Luke refused to give up his belief that there was still good in his father. Eventually, this belief inspired Anakin to renounce the dark side and make the ultimate sacrifice to kill the Emperor.
NEXT: 8 Characters From The Star Wars Original Trilogy Who Are More Important Than Luke
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