Lessons from the Star Wars Saga: Anyone Can Be A Hero

You don’t need to use the Force to save the galaxy.

Lessons from the Star Wars Saga is a series exploring powerful themes in Star Wars. For more than 40 years, the epic adventures in a galaxy far, far away have also been significant explorations of the human experience in our own universe.

The Resistance lay in ruins.

Its forces decimated, its heroes little more than myth and mist, and in the end quite mortal after all.

A Resistance briefing after the evacuation of D'Qar.

The evacuation of D’Qar followed swiftly by the siege of Crait may be the rebels’ most desperate of hours. And this time there’s no foolhardy dynastic warriors ready to rush to their aid, no Jedi Knights chartering a ship to answer the call. The hero they have sought appears as a mere vision, a distraction to buy time for a hasty escape of the last survivors of the cause beaten back by the might of the First Order.

If there are no heroes of old to save the day, perhaps no one even willing to respond to the distress beacon, no Jedi Order left to keep the peace, then it is up to the average galactic citizen — the children of junkers, the turncoat soldiers, the mechanics, the slaves forced to muck out the fathier pens — to rise to the challenge. These heroes, born of necessity and forged in war, will have to save themselves.

Rey sits on Jakku.

This final act in Star Wars: The Last Jedi highlights an important truth woven throughout the Skywalker saga — greatness can come from anywhere and anyone can be a hero.

All they have is hope, the legends that inspire them, and the knowledge that there can be a better life, a better galaxy, not just for themselves, but for everyone.

They choose to become heroes and they rise to the challenge proving that where you come from, and whatever you’re born into, does not dictate your worth.

Rey ignites her lightsaber.

Rey – The mystery

Beyond the strength of her raw connection to the Force, Rey bears little resemblance to the Jedi Knights anointed by the Order. Before the Clone Wars, she may have been plucked from a life of despair and trained in the Jedi Temple to become a knight of the Republic. But that Jedi Order ceased to exist long before she was born and there were no masters at the ready to help her complete her training.

Rey barters for food on Jakku.

For most of her life, Rey’s connection to the power of the Force seems to have been dormant, a second sight with abilities far beyond the scrappiness and strength that allowed her to survive in the bleak desert of Jakku, scavenging through garbage to barter for food. But even her precocious talent for wielding a lightsaber is no gift of the Force; her survival instincts and abilities with a staff have been carefully honed as she fought to live another day.

As the daughter of junk dealers, Rey is following the family business in a way, but her resemblance to her parents ends there. Surrounded by the destruction inside Snoke’s throne room, “They were nobody,” she admits. They took their daughter and tossed her aside, sold her off for drinking money, left her alone with a thug who made her scrounge to survive, failed her when she needed protecting, guidance, and love the most. Rey comes from nothing, as Kylo Ren says.

Rey helps BB-8 escape again.

Rey could have easily continued the cycle. She could have allowed her circumstances to dictate her future, and snuff out any hope she had of getting off that rock. But Rey is inherently good, compassionate, and with the Force as her ally she can accomplish great things. So when she saw the chance to do better, to return BB-8 to people who cared for the small astromech, Rey took her shot. She found her place in the galaxy as part of the Resistance, fighting for the greater good. If she had instead seen BB-8 as a payday, and was content to remain on Jakku and live out her days scavenging, worrying only about her own survival and never giving a second thought to what was happening beyond the Graveyard of Giants, it’s possible she would have never even realized her connection to the Force.

Luke Skywalker watches the suns set on Tatooine.

Like Luke Skywalker before her, a simple farm boy hungering for a larger life beyond his dismal desert existence who leaped into the cause when his family was killed, Rey found a place in the Resistance.

And like Anakin Skywalker, a human being enslaved with hidden talents more powerful than he could possibly imagine, Rey harnessed her own power by learning about the Force.

Rey surveys a map to Luke Skywalker.

But you don’t need to use the Force to save the galaxy. Rey is no one, and that is far more empowering and awe inspiring than any preordained hero.

Rey offers Finn a hand.

Finn – The renegade

Trained from an early age to serve the First Order, not unlike the clone troopers of the Republic, in his first real battle outside of a combat simulator, FN-2187 froze. He didn’t want to slaughter innocents on Jakku, and although he stood with his brothers in arms, his blaster remained unfired in the skirmish.

Finn crash lands in the desert back on Jakku.

Rather than face Captain Phasma, who considered him a bug in the system in need of an attitude adjustment through reconditioning, he did the only thing he could think of — he ran. At the outset, the soon-to-be-christened Finn wasn’t a freedom fighter with lofty plans to free the galaxy from the tyranny of the First Order; he was inspired into an act of defiance but ultimately was just trying to save his own skin. Piece by piece, he shed his stormtrooper armor, and was left without an identity.

Finn joins the fight on Crait.

He lied his way into the Resistance. He had no noble goals about fighting for the cause; he was still just trying to save himself and his new friend. But over time, something in Finn changed. Maybe it was his friendship with Rey, who shared her infectious wide-eyed excitement for the legends of the Rebel Alliance. Maybe it was his encounter with DJ and Rose, two opposing forces of selfish neutrality and selfless righteousness, and a feeling in his gut that by fighting for something greater than himself his life was worth more than the feeble existence of mere survival alone.

Whatever it was, he made the choice to rise up and join the cause. When he joined the fight on Crait, he was ready to sacrifice himself to give the Resistance a fighting chance.

Han Solo saves Luke in A New Hope

Like the rogue Han Solo before him, who claimed to only be in it for himself but couldn’t stand to leave his friends in the lurch, Finn found his path to the cause through his loyalty to an individual who had shown him kindness.

And like Wedge Antilles, who was excited to join the Empire but ultimately defected, disillusioned with Imperial methods and rising in the ranks of the Rebellion to become one of the Empire’s most formidable opponents in battle, Finn turned away from the First Order and forged a new path that led to something greater than himself.

Finn makes his escape in The Force Awakens.

Finn was raised to kill, but no one could force him to fulfill that training and his choice to save himself started him on the journey to becoming a hero.

Rose Tico in The Last Jedi.

Rose – The mechanic

When the First Order brought devastation to their home world, an impoverished mining colony, Rose Tico and her sister Paige joined the Resistance to fight back. While her sister served as a gunner before she was killed during the evacuation of D’Qar, Rose preferred a quieter yet no less important role keeping the Resistance fleet running. Using her mechanical know-how to create new machines and keep even the ricketiest fleet of vehicles operational, Rose was an essential cog in the machine of the Resistance at a time when their resources were depleted and their future looked bleak.

Rose and Finn talk in The Last Jedi.

Beyond her talents with machinery and technology, Rose’s gumption to fight for what she love, and face down even the heroes of the Resistance when they appeared to be mere cowards made her heroic. Standing up to someone you admire takes far more bravery than someone you consider an enemy, and Rose proved that when she caught Finn about to jettison an escape pod and unflinchingly performed her duty, stunning him with the jolt of her electro-shock prod, loading him unceremoniously onto a cart, and taking him to the brig as an apparent traitor and deserter. Sure, at first she was dazzled by meeting one of the storied heroes in the flesh. But she believed in the cause above all else and took her duty seriously.

Her selfless actions, however, are all the more noble and evocative of her heroism on the front lines because she was in mourning for her sister. It would be understandable if in her grief the rest of the world faded away, and she was left weeping and focused on her singular pain. Even when she’d lost the most important person she had left, through the tears, Rose proved she would do what was right. That’s a hero, no Force sensitivity required.

Hera places her hands on Ezra's arms as they speak while Kanan and Captain Rex appear in the background in Star Wars Rebels.

Like Hera Syndulla before her, who formed a small rebel cell and eventually went on to become a leader for the Rebel Alliance, fighting even in the face of great personal loss, Rose never lost sight of what was right and the importance of every single person in the cause banding together to play their part.

And like Jyn Erso, a reluctant rogue born of tragedy, Rose was willing to sacrifice herself without the promise of glory or having her name recalled with those considered heroes of the Resistance.

Rose and Finn in The Last Jedi.

Rose’s work may not be glamorous, but it is essential. Without Rose and people like her behind the scenes, regular people willing to stand up for what they believe is right, the Resistance would surely crumble.

There is another…

Across the galaxy, there are many heroes of countless origins. Wicket and the Ewoks on the forest moon of Endor surmounted great odds, using primitive tools to fight off their attackers. Jar Jar and the Gungans defended their home on Naboo from a swarm of battle droids, sometimes unwittingly emerging victorious. L3-37 built herself up to crusade to free her fellow droids on Kessel and beyond.

Temiri in The Last Jedi.

They are seemingly unremarkable, like Temiri, who helped Rose and Finn with their daring fathier escape from Canto Bight. But you can already see the spark of rebellion igniting in this gifted boy.

He may be downtrodden, living a life where he’s treated no better than the animal he shares a stable with, and given little chance of escaping his fate. A chance meeting with the Resistance — likely sacrificing his own safety to ensure the escape of the rebels and the abused race fathiers — is not enough to turn him into a hero himself. But he carries the symbol of the Resistance on his finger, an alliance with the Force in his bones, and he is inspired by the legend of Luke Skywalker, a larger-than-life hero who was once just a lonely farm boy on a dusty desert planet as far from the bright center of the universe as you can get.

Leia, Poe, and C-3PO look out the window of a Rebel transport vehicle in The Last Jedi.

The Resistance lay in ruins. But like the Rebel Alliance before it, as long as there is hope in the galaxy, it will never truly die. It can be rebuilt, rising from the ashes, with the strength of the ordinary and average fighting to achieve the extraordinary, working together to accomplish something greater than any one hero, with or without the Force, can achieve alone.

Associate Editor Kristin Baver is a writer and all-around sci-fi nerd who always has just one more question in an inexhaustible list of curiosities. Sometimes she blurts out “It’s a trap!” even when it’s not. Do you know a fan who’s most impressive? Hop on Twitter and tell @KristinBaver all about them.

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