Time and again the influence of the Campbellian hero’s journey on the story of Star Wars has been discussed and analyzed. One of the most important parts of this journey is meeting the mentor. The mentor is critical because said individual is who helps the hero along the journey, from the next step through the threshold and beyond.
Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda are obvious mentors in the galaxy. The wisdom and guidance they provide Luke leads him to eventually re-establishing the light from out of the depths of the Empire. But they are far from the only ones to step into the mentor role. Some of these mentors are all too often looked right over.
Let’s take a look at a few.
1- Princess Leia.
Leia is a mentor in just about every sense of the word. Out of universe, somewhere in the real world, she inspired a generation of young women to stand up for themselves and have confidence in their own capabilities.
Looking simply at the story of Star Wars, Leia is a mentor far more in deed than in word. Despite literally seeing her planet blow up in her face, Leia comforts Luke in his time of need after Ben’s death, and then goes on to be a leader in the destruction of the Death Star. She may not have pulled the trigger on the proton torpedo, but she definitely was there being a strong force to motivate and inspire the troops.
This is seemingly just who Leia is. While we will learn more in the upcoming novel, Leia: Princess of Alderaan, we can surmise from what we have seen from her and what we know of Bail Organa that Leia was brought up to stand up for the voiceless and be strong in times of great trial. She does this by leading the Rebellion not with “go get ‘em speeches,” but with strength and perseverance unmatched in the galaxy.
Every family should have a mother, and for the Ghost crew that is Hera. As ferociously as she flies, she protects those she loves.
What makes this even more substantial is that she comes from a, shall we say, troubled family background. Her own father, Cham Syndulla, has basically pushed his daughter away in order to focus on the Free Ryloth movement. Moreover, she lost her mother, which means that daddy dearest was the only family she had left.
And he abandoned her. We see those scars start to bleed when she has to return to the company of her father. It would have been easy for her to abandon everything and pour all of her being into the Rebellion in the same fashion her father did with Free Ryloth, or on the flip side forget fighting back completely in order to fulfill the need for family that had always been missing. However, like any great leader, she stands at the front and leads by example by creating both a family of her own (in the Ghost crew) while also being a major player in creating and sustaining the Rebellion.
By simply looking at the Ghost crew, one can see that her mentorship has paid off. For one, Ezra would not have even joined the team save for Hera guiding Kanan to accept his Jedi heritage and take up the mantel again for the galaxy’s well being. Further, we learned in season three about the depths of pain residing in Sabine, particularly with regards to her mother. So when the chips were down, Hera stepped in and provided that maternal relationship a young girl needs. Eventually this would lead to a reconciliation between Sabine and her real mother, for the benefit of Mandalore.
In times of darkness, the most important thing is to have a glimmer of light, a spark, that will eventually banish the darkness all together. Hera is that light.
3- Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader
The young Skywalker was idealistic and hopeful. He believed that the Jedi were there simply to make wrongs right and provide strength for the galaxy. Such is the attitude of a boy from Tatooine’s back sand planet taken to Coruscant and it’s eroding Jedi Order.
Anakin grows to become brash and headstrong, but believes that what he does is right, even despite the pushback and rolled eyes he gets from the Council. That same Council is the one that tried to rein him in by giving him a padawan and therefore making him a mentor.
This brash and headstrong mentality does not fade away in the presence of Ahsoka Tano. It actually rubs off on “Snips,” directing her growth as both a person and a Jedi. It is that same “do what is right when it’s right, no questions asked” mentality that leads her down the steps of the Jedi Temple on that fateful day when she walked away from the Order. It is that same mentality that gives her the strength to become the first Fulcrum of the flourishing Rebellion.
Equally as important, though, is the second lesson that Anakin taught Ahsoka: love your friends, and protect them with everything you have. Skywalker did this throughout the Clone War, whether chasing down R2-D2 against the will of Obi-Wan, or trying to acquit Ahsoka when she was accused of treason. Ahsoka takes this lesson into the Rebellion, which becomes far more about the people than anything else. The Freemaker Adventures, despite being a Lego production, says it perfectly via the main character of Rowan: “What’s the point of saving the galaxy if the ones you love are not in it?”
As we all know, Anakin’s attachment took him down a dark path. Part of that is due to the fact that he had little support from the Jedi above him with regards to his feelings. The same was not true for Ahsoka. Anakin encouraged her, if not in word certainly in action, to love and support those close to her. The perfect example is when she walks away from the Order and Anakin tells Ahsoka that he understands more than she could ever understand.
Amazingly, and oft undervalued, is how Anakin mentored Luke when he donned the black mask. In Return of the Jedi, Luke is slashing down with great anger towards his father, coming closer than he ever thought imaginable to being Palpatine’s minion. When he slices Vader’s hand to see wires and sparks instead of flesh and bone, he looks down at his own gloved hand, suddenly realizing that the path he is on will lead him down the dark path Yoda warned about.
He sees the darkness that is within himself. Darth Vader is his example, or mentor, of what can happen when you give into that darkness. It is this example that leads him, in the same manner it led Ahsoka down those steps, to throw away his lightsaber. It may be that same darkness that led him to leave the galaxy after Kylo Ren’s betrayal.
And now the weight falls on Luke to be the mentor. The Last Jedi will be an interesting expose on mentorship in Star Wars, and should provide some meaningful insight into how both mentor and mentee are shaped by the experience.