It had recently occurred to me that my children had never had the privilege of viewing The Princess Bride. Along with Star Wars, The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies and has played a huge role in my life. For instance, early on in our relationship, among the many things my wife and I connected over was the novel for The Princess Bride. We would later dance to the theme song from the movie at our wedding. That is all good and well, but you may be asking what any of this has to do with Star Wars. Good question. I decided that my children needed to see this movie. So we had a movie night. The kids loved it, and I enjoyed experiencing it through their eyes. There was one other thing that caught my attention on this viewing: how the movie handled the concept of revenge. In some ways, it was different and yet very similar to the lessons on revenge taught by Star Wars.
“My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die.”
-Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
In The Princess Bride, the concept of revenge is explored through the story of Inigo Montoya. Twenty years prior to the events of the movie, a six-fingered man killed his father, a master swordsmith, over a sword that he had commissioned but for which did not want to pay the agreed upon price. A young Inigo swore to seek revenge for his father on the spot and spent twenty years training and chasing down his father’s killer. In the end, he finally found the six-fingered man, and revenge was his.
“I killed them. I killed them all. They’re dead. Every single one of them. And not just the men, but the women and the children too. They’re like animals, and I slaughtered them like animals. I hate them!”
-Anakin Skywalker, Attack of the Clones
Compare that to what happened to Anakin Skywalker. His life was full of revenge. When his mother was killed by Tusken Raiders, he wasted no time exacting his revenge by decimating every living soul in the Tusken village. Count Dooku took Anakin’s arm in combat on Geonosis, and in revenge, Anakin took his head at the Battle of Coruscant. This was after being pressed to end a disarmed Dooku’s life by Chancellor Palpatine with the consolation that a desire for revenge was entirely natural. When Padme, the love his life died, one might say that Anakin got revenge then too. On himself. Revenge was a constant in his life, and part of his journey down the dark side of the Force.
So, it would seem that these two movies arrived at different conclusions. Inigo lived happily ever after and moved on with his life. Anakin’s quest for revenge consumed him. Completely different outcomes, right? Not quite when you examine their journeys.
“It is very strange. I have been in the revenge business so long, now that it is over, I don’t know what to do with the rest of my life.”
-Inigo Montoya, The Princess Bride
True, Inigo had his revenge, and in so doing, put his own soul at ease. However, he admits to Westley, the main protagonist of the film, that once he has had his revenge, he doesn’t know what to do with his life. In other words, his life has lost purpose and meaning. He is empty. He pursued revenge for twenty years, and beyond the fleeting satisfaction of avenging his father’s death, he has nothing else to show for it (which might be debatable when you consider he has become a master swordsman). Also, don’t forget, his quest for revenge took a personal toll. Along the way, Vizzini, the Sicilian, criminal mastermind, once recovered him from a life of drinking and aimlessness. Much like Anakin, Inigo’s quest for revenge consumed him.
“Now go, my son, leave me.”
“No, you’re coming with me. I’ll not leave you here. I’ve got to save you.”
“You already have, Luke. You were right.
You were right about me. Tell your sister you were right.”
–Anakin Skywalker and Luke Skywalker, Return of the Jedi
Take another look at Anakin, and his alter ego, Darth Vader. Like many other things in life, the Force is a magnifying glass. As with Inigo, Anakin was on a quest for revenge against himself and the galaxy at large, but the consequences of that quest were magnified because of the Force. Yoda cautioned that once you started down the dark side, forever will it control your destiny. While events did not entirely bear that out, the dark side of the Force did take hold with Anakin and made his pursuit of revenge a dark and disastrous experience. Despite this, Anakin was redeemed by Luke when he decided to give up his pursuit of revenge and embrace the light again.
While Inigo became a master swordsman, and Anakin became one of the two most powerful beings in the galaxy, their quest for revenge was by no means a positive experience overall. Both realized the futility of their quest in the end. For Inigo, that was after he had his revenge. He was left with nothing (although Westley did present an enticing possibility). Anakin’s quest cost him his life and the galaxy a great deal more. Therefore, the message is largely the same: revenge is a hollow, empty pursuit that will not make one whole. This is not a new theme and has been covered in numerous places in classic literature. Some of my favorite examples are The Count of Monte Cristo and Moby Dick. Even The Bible has a thing or two to say about revenge. While it might be motivation of countless summer popcorn flicks, revenge is not a concept to be taken lightly. Inigo and Anakin’s experience demonstrate why.
Now, I just need to think about the connection between “You killed my father, prepare to die” and “I am your father.” That is the subject for another blog, another day.Powered by Sidelines