Star Wars has always been a dash of this and a sprinkle of that, all layered together with historical allusions and master storytelling. Amongst all these things, as integral to the Star Wars lore as Flash Gordon, Seven Samurai, and World War II dogfights is Joseph Campbell’s take on the hero’s journey.
The hero’s journey is comprised of roughly 8-12 steps that lead to said hero coming to a sense of resolution and/or self-actualization. Luke Skywalker is the most referenced hero’s journey of the saga, but similar paths can be identified for Anakin/Darth Vader, Han Solo, and even Princess/General Leia. Anakin’s Padawan, Ahsoka Tano, also goes on a hero’s journey throughout Clone Wars and Rebels, and it is an integral journey not just for Ahsoka, but for the entire galaxy.
Anytime one is digging into a hero’s journey it is important to keep in mind that said journey is not a straight line nor a perfect circle, as many graphic representations would have one believe. Hero’s can fall back, trip up at certain steps, and even find themselves repeating steps over again. The steps of a hero’s journey are like the tide: they follow a similar pattern, but there is an ebb and flow to them. Depending on who you’re talking to, the particular steps for a particular character may be interpreted differently, but the nonetheless are all there in one way or another. As far as Lady Tano is concerned…
The Call to Adventure, Supernatural Aid, Mentor, and Crossing the Threshold.
The call to adventure is where the hero gets roped into the larger story. For Luke Skywalker it is Leia’s message.For Ahsoka, the call to adventure comes in the form of her being assigned to Anakin Skywalker as a Padawan. Anakin, being the “Chosen One,” is not just Ahsoka’s mentor, he is also a sort of supernatural aid. His Force ability is beyond that of many Jedi, allowing for Ahsoka to learn from someone who will always be just a cut above her. That combined with her own Force abilities is a recipe for a strong-willed, capable hero.
The Clone Wars film is also Ahsoka’s crossing the threshold moment. This stage is the point of no return for the hero. He/she is locked in and is going on this journey. The cantina scene, which has been replicated numerous times but never as successfully, is important for far more than its plethora of aliens. This is the point where Luke becomes part of the larger narrative. Likewise, Ahsoka crosses the threshold by going on her first mission with Anakin. Their dynamic push/pull relationship is set up, and Tano is no longer a student of the Temple or the Jedi precepts as much as she is a disciple of Anakin. There is no turning back now. It is time for…
Challenges and Temptations
Honestly, you could throw a dart at the Clone Wars and find challenges and temptations Ahsoka had to work through. For the sake of ease and brevity, we will consider our dart to have landed on the Ryloth arc, the first major and possibly most critical challenge for Ahsoka.
Ryloth is the first time Ahsoka leads her own mission, as Anakin trusts the troops under his command to be lead by Ahsoka so that he can complete a separate part of the mission. Ahsoka returns the favor by falling flat on her face. Most of the clones under her command die for an unsuccessful endeavor that actually leaves the Republic in a worst place than when the tragedy at Ryloth began.
As the leader of the mission, Ahsoka found herself tempted to prove to her master that she understood his teachings. But instead of truly taking in examples of Anakin’s leadership and utilizing them to strengthen her own skills, she basically did a really bad Anakin interpretation. When that leads to most of her troops being decimated, the young Padawan finds it quite a challenge to trust herself again as a leader. However, a proper hero must not just face challenges and temptations, she must overcome those challenges and temptations to become a better person and hero. When Ahsoka steps out to lead again, she is more prepared than she was the first time, has overcome her own self-doubt, and is an integral part of saving Ryloth from utter decimation. This lesson bleeds over to the rest of the war, where we see Ahsoka leading, failing, learning, overcoming, and adapting. Naboo, Ilum, and Onderon are just a few such moments.
Still, some things must get worse before they get better…
Abyss (death and rebirth)
The death and rebirth phase can be literal, metaphorical, or both. Anakin’s death and rebirth comes in the form of being Darth Vader. Luke’s is the death of his innocence when he finds out that Vader is his father. In other myths, the hero will literally die and be brought back to life.
Ahsoka Tano, interestingly, has both a literal and metaphorical death. On Mortis, Ahsoka is killed after being manipulated to the dark side by Son. In her dying moments, Daughter gives her life force to Ahsoka, allowing Ahsoka to literally come back to life. She is reborn, but she is not the same person. She now has the energy of Daughter running through her veins, and we are meant to understand that Ahsoka is not just Anakin’s Padawan anymore. She is a vital piece in the galactic puzzle, as we will see during her…
With the story of #CloneWarsSaved unavailable until 2019, we may not know Ahsoka’s complete transformation stage for some time. However, considering the parts of canon that are available to us, it becomes clear that the time between her walking away from the Order and returning to the galactic stage as Fulcrum is Ahsoka’s transformation.
Walking away from the Jedi meant Ahsoka had to transform and follow a new path. Post Order 66, she believed that she could and should just sit on the sidelines, using her non-Force related skills to help others. However, over the course of Ahsoka, E.K. Johnston, Ahsoka realizes that she is not one who can just sit on the sidelines. Even though she is not a Jedi, she learns that her purpose is to help others. All the while, there is still the shadow looming over her like a black cloud…
During this phase, the hero must reconcile with another, most often the father or father figure. Luke saving Anakin from Darth Vader is the clearest and simplest exploration of this step. However, sometimes the father can be someone who steps in for the absence of a biological father, or simply someone the hero looks up to as a mentor or helper.
For Ahsoka, the father figure is Anakin. It can be argued that Anakin and Ahsoka’s relationship is more like that of a brother and sister rather than a father and daughter, but it does not change the fact that Ahsoka believes herself to have failed Anakin by walking away. After Order 66, she believes Anakin is dead, only to tragically learn the truth.
“I won’t leave you. Not this time.” Failure. It must be made clear, however, that this failure is in leaving Anakin, not the Jedi. She rightfully declares on Malachor that she is not a Jedi. She is Anakin’s friend, though. In him becoming Vader, she feels a sense of great loss for which she must atone.
With the happenings of “World Between Worlds,” the particular chronology of events is a somewhat in flux. What we do know for sure is that Ahsoka stays in the Sith temple, not just to battle Vader. She remains there, as far as we know, for the entirety of the war. In doing so, she keeps the light in the darkness flickering. Thanks to her rebirth via Daughter, Ahsoka is a powerful conduit in the light. Not being the one who can truly save Anakin, she keeps the flame alive through the dark times until Luke can step up to the plate. With the light returned, and balance achieved, Ahsoka is able to…
In a brilliant bit of foreshadowing, Luke Skywalker, as he sells his speeder and follows Obi-Wan on his “damn fool idealistic crusade,” promises that he is “never going coming back to this planet (Tatooine) again.” That, of course, is the err of a young man blinded by idealism and not realizing what it would truly take to become a hero. It is not just facing your future, but confronting your path.
Ahsoka, however, has faced her path in her duel with Vader and consequential isolation on Malachor. All of that time was a the slow burn leading to the final moment of Rebels, where Ahsoka returns to the galactic stage, freed from her duty as the singular keeper of the light and ready to lead Sabine, possibly on the young Mandalorian’s own hero’s journey…