Historically Based Theories on Episode VII

Star Wars and the Middle Ages

The New Sith Character Displays a Lightsaber with a Crossguard

The Empire has fallen. The Emperor has been overthrown. The military remains, weakened, scattered, but still standing in many places. With no strong central leadership to maintain control, a power vacuum develops that pits military warlords against local governors vying to exert authority over the territory they control. This is the beginning of an “age of darkness” that lasts for five hundred years until another more powerful emperor emerges who unifies the warring factions into a new, expansive empire.

This isn’t Star Wars; it’s the story of the European Middle Ages. But from what we’ve learned from the first official images from The Force Awakens, along with rumors from the set, this period of history may have influenced the continuing story of the struggle between The Light and The Dark in that galaxy far, far away.

The Galactic Senate.

We know that the first two trilogies were greatly inspired by historic events, and that there are numerous parallels to the rise and fall of the Roman Empire: a republic that becomes an empire with the blessings of the Senate that yields its authority to a powerful emperor; brutal military expansionism; governors maintaining control over far-flung territories; entertainment for the masses that involve life and death in the arena, whether through harrowing races or gladiatorial combat; and it goes on. With the history of Rome playing such an inspirational role in the development of the Star Wars saga, a logical progression would find the period of the Middle Ages influencing the next chapters of the story.

This, of course, is purely conjecture, but it’s easy for fans to indulge in conjecture. As history teachers who have taught the historical connections to Star Wars for nearly twenty years, we like to base our assumptions on our exploration of those historic themes. This notion of a medieval influence is based mainly on the premise of continuing a timeline that involves the rise and fall of Rome, coupled with a few rumors and images that are floating around. POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD…

Stormtroopers in full armor.

If we work from the assumption (rumors) that there is a character (Adam Driver, perhaps) who is a wealthy nobleman obsessed with finding Sith relics, protected by chrome-plated guards sporting armor with neck guards, and who sports a broadsword-inspired lightsaber, well, there are several medieval connections there.

During the High Middle Ages, local lords maintained armies of well-armed knights (in “shining armor”) and participated in pilgrimages to holy sites where significant relics resided. What if this lord made such visits to sites sacred to the Sith, seeking knowledge and power contained within these relics that would give him an advantage in the struggles for control of the galaxy that have raged since Palpatine’s death. What if one such site contained an object of great power that could make its wielder virtually invincible, such as Arthur’s Excalibur or Thor’s Mjolnir (both stories that emerge from the Middle Ages).

Arthur takes Excalibur from the Lady of the Lake.

The search for relics of great power is found throughout history, the most well-known of which would be the medieval quest of the Holy Grail. In more recent times, it was Heinrich Himmler’s Ahnenerbe institute that sought artifacts of mystical power during Nazi expeditions that attempted to prove the superiority of the Aryan race.

Quests for sacred artifacts were also part of the medieval Crusades as European noblemen led their personal armies into the East while seeking to conquer the Holy Land. What if our TFA nobleman is on a similar quest. What if the “awakening” of the dark side and the light is about to lead to a catastrophic crusade, with one side seeking conquest and the other seeking to defend itself from attack.

Of course, these ideas are probably a million miles off base, but if someone who reads this is inspired to learn more about the lasting effects of the Middle Ages upon history and culture, then we’ve achieved our goal to inspire learning through the platform of Star Wars. May the Force be with You!

First posted on: December 23, 2014 by Wes Dodgens