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An Examination of the Prologue of the Star Wars Novelization

An Examination of the Prologue of the Star Wars Novelization

Prologue

I recently picked up at an antique store, an excellent conditioned paperback copy of the 1976 movie adaption to Star Wars, ghost written by Alan Dean Foster. This was one of the first (if not the first) piece of Star Wars merchandise I can remember ever owning as a kid. My brother Doug and I flipped through the photo insert pages until they were falling out of the book—so many iconic images back then were sparking our imaginations even before we saw the movie.  In fact we used these images as templates for building our own Star Wars toys in 1977; before the Kenner action figures hit stores in 1978. We built crude versions of R2-D2, C-3P0, TIE fighters and X-wings.  There is a two-page spread of a TIE fighter and X-Wing fighting over the Death Star that has stuck with me since the book’s release. Oddly enough though, I don’t recall reading the book until well after 1977, prologue pg 00 copypossibly late 1978. As a 9 year old in 1977, I think my biggest literary accomplishment then was a Hardy BoysPrologue pg 0 copy book or two. When I finally did read the book, the prologue stuck out in my mind and would continue to do so through the years and especially during the Prequel era.

 

 

 

Here is the prologue:

 prologue (sic)

 ANOTHER galaxy, another time.

     The Old Republic was the Republic of legend, greater than distance or time. No need to note where it was or whence it came, only to know that… it was the Republic.

     Once, under the wise rule of the Senate and the protection of the Jedi Knights, the Republic throve and grew. But as often happens when wealth and power pass beyond the admirable and attain the awesome, there appear those evil ones who have greed to match.

So it was with the Republic at its height. Like the greatest of trees, able to withstand any external attack, the Republic rotted from within though the danger was not visible from outside.

Aided and abetted by restless, power-hungry individuals within the government, and the massive organs of commerce, the ambitious Senator Palpatine caused himself to be elected President of the Republic. He promised to reunite the disaffected among the people and to restore the remembered glory of the Republic.

Once secure in office he declared himself Emperor, shutting himself away from the populace. Soon he was controlled by the very assistants and boot-lickers he had appointed to high office, and the cries of the people for justice did not reach his ears.

Having exterminated through treachery and deception the Jedi Knights, guardians of justice in the galaxy, the Imperial governors and bureaucrats prepared to institute a reign of terror among the disheartened worlds of the galaxy. Many used the imperial forces and the name of the increasingly isolated Emperor to further their own personal ambitions.

But a small number of systems rebelled at these new outrages. Declaring themselves opposed to the New Order they began the great battle to restore the Old Republic.

From the beginning they were vastly outnumbered by the systems held in thrall by the Emperor. In those first dark days it seemed certain the bright flame of resistance would be extinguished before it could cast the light of new truth across a galaxy of oppressed and beaten peoples…

From the First Saga

Journal of the Whills

“They were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Naturally they became heroes.”

Leia Organa of Alderaan, Senator

 So much critical information in a couple pages. For the prequel haters who ask “where did Lucas come up with this (insert ludicrous curse) backstory” the basic history behind Star Wars has been around since Day One. Dissolving the senate; Palpatine declaring himself Emperor; deceiving and destroying the Jedi, it’s all here.

post3

When I was lucky enough to watch Star Wars again in those pre-home video days, the movie was made so much clearer by this prologue. When Grand Moff Tarkin informed the Imperial officers on the Death Star that the Emperor had dissolved the Senate I could understand what that line of dialogue was referring to. As I read it as an adult, the line “Many used the imperial forces and the name of the increasingly isolated Emperor to further their own personal ambitions,” leads me to believe that Tarkin was perhaps using the Death Star for his own purposes. The only mention of the Emperor is in that conference room, maybe Tarkin doesn’t refer to him again because he has his own agenda? Certainly Admiral Motti’s assertion that the Death Star is “now the ultimate power in the universe. I suggest we use it,” reinforces the fact that maybe the emperor’s minions weren’t as loyal as assumed.

pic2

When the prequels were released many movie goers were confused by the political tone of the plot but I remember thinking, “of course this is what the prequels are about, I read it 20 years ago.”

What is also interesting about the prologue is its mention of ‘the massive organs of commerce” that aided Palpatine’s rise to power.

pic1Here we have a clear outline of what we end up watching over thirty years later in the “Clovis Arc” of the final season of The Clone Wars.

Perhaps the most intriguing bit of information provided though is a reference to the Emperor, “shutting himself away from the populace. Soon he was controlled by the very assistants and boot-lickers he had appointed to high office.” Palpatine certainly seems on top of things in Return of the Jedi as he lures the Rebellion into his trap. Is it possible that the Imperial Dignitaries we see in the final movie of the Original Trilogy wielded control over the emperor? Dignitaries screencap copyThere has always been speculation as to whether these characters were Force sensitive and one could argue that their pallid faces that we briefly see have been altered by the dark side of the force, like the Emperor’s. Maybe they were the power behind the throne?

Dignitaries all copy

After the main section of the prologue ends, there is a short sentence that sets the reader up for what lies ahead in the body of the book:

“Leia Organa of Alderaan, Senator–They were in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Naturally they became heroes.”  

Interesting that she’s referred to as a Senator rather than Princess, almost like it’s a news report sound bite, also because we are told in this story that the Senate has been dissolved yet here is Leia ruminating about our heroes obviously after the events of the book have taken place, suggesting perhaps that the Senate reconvened after the destruction of the Death Star. The original Star Wars was designed to be an all inclusive film; that is, it was designed to have a clear ending in case Lucas was unable to continue the story in sequel films. This little bit of text helps to convey that the story as we know it going into this novel has an ending. But I think there’s more to it than just that.

Even as a pre-teen I understood why this quote was in the book.  It let the reader know that the heroes of this story were not knights in shining armour, they weren’t heroes in the traditional sense.  They were thrust into their roles and through fate or maybe even the Force, if that crazy old wizard can be believed, they saved the day because they had to.

Luke always “looked away to the horizon” not realizing that what he really wanted was right in front of him

Naturally.

Thanks to Mike for his guest Blog, and be sure to check out his Blog Looking Away to the Horizon

 

 

 

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18 Comments

  1. Ryan Hoyt
    September 26, 2014 at 10:08 Reply

    Fantastic article, I was really surprised to read the prologue and basically view the entire political plot of the prequels. Also love the part about the Imperial dignitaries. Those guys are seriously creepy.

  2. Mike MacDonald (@MikeTarkin)
    September 26, 2014 at 21:53 Reply

    Thanks for reading, Ryan. Yeah, there’s a whole story about those guys I’d just love to hear!

  3. Aaron Harris
    September 28, 2014 at 21:57 Reply

    WOW! Great job Mike! Ive never read that prologue before and its scary how detailed it was then, for a movie series that morphed and changed so much as each one was made. This proves Lucas had more of the story in mind than a lot of people gave him credit for. Thanks for sharing!!!!

  4. Mike MacDonald (@MikeTarkin)
    September 30, 2014 at 12:48 Reply

    Thanks Aaron. I always find it interesting when Lucas makes a comment that on the surface seems like a throwaway when in fact it can be traced back to something much more detailed.

  5. Melinda
    October 1, 2014 at 08:39 Reply

    Wonderfully written, Mike! 🙂 Many a year has passed since I read the novelization of what became “A New Hope”. Thank you for reminding me of how the stage was set. 🙂

    I know there are Star Wars purists out there who believe that if something didn’t appear in the films, it just didn’t happen, it isn’t part of the Star Wars Galaxy. However, the books delve into, examine, explore so many more aspects of Star Wars, creating an even richer galaxy. Actors and actresses will create backstories for their characters to make them more believable. WRITERS DO THE SAME THING! 🙂

    I don’t know about Palpatine being controlled by others. Well, maybe in the novel, but certainly not in the films. He most definitely was in control in “Return of the Jedi”. No puppet leader was he. 😉 At least this is my opinion. For whatever it’s worth. It is interesting, however, to be reminded of how the character was set up a long time ago…

    MTFBWY 🙂

    1. Michael Ejercito
      April 22, 2017 at 17:01 Reply

      I am guessing that he used the Force to trick his advisors into thibking they were manipulating him, when it was the other wat around.

  6. Mike MacDonald (@MikeTarkin)
    November 3, 2014 at 19:23 Reply

    Thanks Melinda. I’m actually not a big reader of Star Wars books but this one just made such an impression. You make a great point about artists/writers creating backstories, certainly Lucas spent a great deal of time setting up a history for his tale.

  7. Adam
    October 23, 2015 at 06:58 Reply

    “For the prequel haters who ask “where did Lucas come up with this (insert ludicrous curse) backstory” the basic history behind Star Wars has been around since Day One.”

    – exactly my thoughts. And in fact, whilst I give the critics no credit because they don’t listen to responses such as the ones above, if course my liking of the prequels was massively influenced by my obsession to see this happen, ever since about 1979. As long as Lucas told this story without compromise (and, it transpired to be obvious by 1983, the tragedy of Darth Vader) then I was happy – however he did it. And he certainly delivered that.

  8. mithrandirolorin
    October 26, 2015 at 04:54 Reply

    This Prologue shows the complicated Politics was always part of the plan. Still the implying that the Emperor was a Puppet was clearly something thrown out by Episode V. And those other dudes being also Sith doesn’t fit the Rule of Two.

  9. ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ LP Liner Notes and the Prequels – A Guest Blog by Mike MacDonald | Coffee With Kenobi
    December 8, 2015 at 20:21 Reply

    […] a theme I started a few weeks ago in my blog post featured on Coffee With Kenobi, I’ve discovered another vintage era piece of evidence that […]

  10. Mike MoffDonald (@MikeTarkin)
    December 13, 2015 at 07:28 Reply

    Sorry for the late reply, I still don’t have the hang of notifications yet! Thanks for your thoughts.

  11. danshieldsisawesome
    February 10, 2016 at 16:18 Reply

    I had a copy, too. I read it over and over and over. In fact, I read it before I saw the movie because it took my parents FOREVERRRRRRR to take us!

  12. jimmybisk
    September 16, 2016 at 17:00 Reply

    Many thanks for posting this. I read this years ago in the copy of the novel my dad had & always remember being fascinated by it. I’d forgotten it was so detailed.

  13. Mike MacDonald (@MikeTarkin)
    September 18, 2016 at 06:32 Reply

    Thanks for reading jimmybisk. Much appreciated!

    1. jimmybisk
      September 19, 2016 at 16:02 Reply

      Thanks! What particularly fascinated me when I first read this many moons ago was that it made me think there must have been a book written before the novelisation of A New Hope. This was from a time before the internet when things like this weren’t as easy to find out.

  14. Mike MacDonald (@MikeTarkin)
    September 21, 2016 at 10:49 Reply

    It really drops the reader into the middle of the story, doesn’t it? The fact that you thought there may have been a book before this speaks to this. That’s George Lucas to at “T”-a little bit of info that fills in giant gaps.

  15. Michael H
    October 26, 2016 at 10:08 Reply

    I first read this in the novelization decades ago. Everything Mike writes make sense. I just shared it with my own now 20-year old son, of a different generation but keenly interested in SW as well.

    1. jimmybisk
      November 5, 2016 at 06:40 Reply

      Ah, Star Wars is timeless.

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