Lessons from the Star Wars Saga: The Simple Magic of Hope

Standing shoulder to shoulder with faith, in the darkest of times hope sustains our heroes to fight another day.

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.

Last month we explored the enduring importance of faith in the Star Wars saga, but just days away from the epic conclusion of the Skywalker saga with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, there’s another incredibly important concept to discuss: Hope.

On the face of it, faith and hope seem quite similar. But while faith allows us to trust in the unseen Force and have the utmost confidence in the people and causes we believe in, hope is its more ephemeral, still intangible, but unfailingly optimistic cousin.

Often intertwined in the raging galactic war, hope is the spark that ignites the fire, while faith in the cause sustains it.

Anakin Skywalker on Mustafar in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.

Anakin Skywalker was utterly hopeless when he turned to the dark side. Powerless to save the person he loved, completely out of control, enraged and clawing at anything that might provide solace, he lost whatever hope he once had and was consumed by the darkness.

But for his daughter, Leia Organa, hope sustained her through the darkest times. Despite the atrocities and hardships she endured — the destruction of her home planet Alderaan before her very eyes and later the loss of her son, Ben Solo, as he morphed into Kylo Ren — if her hope ever waivered, she tried not to let on. As a leader, she was keenly aware that sometimes hope was all that was left.

As Vice Admiral Holdo recalled, Leia would keep morale up among the rebel fighters serving under her with a simple reminder: “Hope is like the sun. If you only believe in it when you can see it, you’ll never make it through the night.”

Luke and Rey in The Last Jedi

Leia sent Rey on the mission to bring Luke Skywalker back from exile with hope that he alone could help rally the cause and take a stand against the First Order. In fact, the first time Luke laid eyes on Leia, it was a message of hope sent through R2-D2, a plea to Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Hope is something of a blind belief that everything will turn out for the better even when you can’t come up with any real reason to support it. Aboard the Tantive IV, Leia was about to be captured, her entire ship infiltrated by the enemy, but her hope in a successful outcome for the Rebel Alliance did not waiver.

In Supreme Leader Snoke’s quest for total domination, he understood the damage hope could do to his regime. Luke’s continued existence provided a kernel of hope to those wishing for the return of the Jedi peacekeepers, a savior with the power of the Force on his or her side, and the inhabitants of the galaxy whose hope was buoyed by the fantastical myths and legends of his exploits as a Jedi Knight.

Rey with X-wing helmet

And it was the fiery spit of hope in Rey’s eyes, despite all evidence to the contrary, that allowed her to continue to try to fight even as she watched the Resistance transports being picked off one by one by the First Order. Hope had sustained her through years of solitude in the deserts of Jakku. And it still fueled her in Snoke’s throne room where she hoped she might reach Ben Solo, whatever remained of him inside the heart of Kylo Ren, and bring an end to the turmoil.

Jyn in Rogue One

As Jyn Erso said, “Rebellions are built on hope.” Hope allows us to charge into the darkest of times headfirst, believing in the good we cannot see, hinging only on the feeling that we can emerge victorious despite seemingly insurmountable odds.

Leia and R2-D2

Hope is solace for people on the verge of losing their faith — in the mission or the leaders who deem the idea of charging into an Imperial Installation based on nothing but hope too risky. And just when your optimism begins to wane, or you fear you’re down to your last, it’s important to remember that what often seems to be our only or final hope — like Leia seeking out Obi-Wan Kenobi, or Threepio warning that the last transport from Echo Base was the only hope of survival, or even the last of the Jedi putting all of their hopes on Luke — isn’t so singular. Leia, afterall, found a new hope in Luke through her missive deployed to the sand dunes of Tatooine. And later on Hoth, the Millennium Falcon was waiting in the wings to get Leia far away from the frigid base. And now, Luke may be gone, but hope lives on in Rey and so many others.

If you can keep the idea of hope alive, you will make it through the night. And when one hope is lost, as Yoda says, there is another.

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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