Wampa

Haikuesday: Luke Skywalker (ESB)

Oh No! A Wampa!
Commander Skywalker is
attacked by a beast!


Hanging Upside-Down
Oh look, it’s his lightsaber…
..but just out of reach. ūüė¶


OH WAIT! USE THE FORCE!
Eyes closed and hand extended…
The saber responds.


OH NO! THE WAMPA!
Freed from the ice, Luke attacks.
Poor one-armed Wampa. ūüė¶


Hoth’s frozen tundra.
A blizzard lashes at Luke
and our hero falls.


Ben’s apparition
gives Luke a direct command:
“Go to Dagobah.”


Stuffed in a Tauntaun…
…they smell bad on the outside
and on the inside.


Floating in Bacta.
Then, a few minutes later,
kissing his sister.


The Battle of Hoth.
All-Terrain Armored Transports.
Luke leads Rogue Squadron.


“Hobbie! “I’ve been hit!”
…annnnnd once again Luke crashes
to Hoth’s snowy ground.


“All the scopes are dead.”
Luke enters Dagobah’s sky.
“I can’t see a thing.”


A swampy landing.
“Artoo, what are we doing…?”
The droid throws up mud.


“Like we’re being watched!”
A strange creature confronts Luke
and trashes his camp.


Important question:
“Why wish you become Jedi?”
“…my father, I guess.”


“We’re wasting our time!”
“Cannot teach him. No patience.”
The creature? Yoda!


Yoda on his back.
Luke begins Jedi training.
And learns of the Force.

Haiku Addendum:
Jedi training involves a
lot of cardio.


Dark, sinister cave.
“That place…strong with the dark side.”
So Luke just walks in…


Dark Confrontation –
Face-to-face with his father’s
killer: Darth Vader.


Red and Blue Collide
A dream like battle ensues.
There is no victor.


Upside-down again.
Luke lifts rocks using the Force.
But crashes again.


His X-Wing sinking.
“We’ll never get it out now!”
Yoda is annoyed.


“Luminous beings.”
“Life creates it, makes it grow.”
“You must feel the Force.”


Yoda moves Luke’s ship.
“I don’t…I don’t believe it.”
“That is why you fail.

Haiku Addendum:
I hope Luke thanked Yoda for
freeing the X-Wing.


Meanwhile, elsewhere…
Han. Leia. Asteroids. Slugs.
Darth Vader. Hunters.


Upside-down again.
This time Luke crashes after
a vision of friends.


Decision to make:
go and help his friends or to
finish his training.

Haiku Addendum:
because he is impatient,
Luke decides to leave.

Haiku Addendum:
internalizing lessons
is not Luke’s strong point.


Onto Cloud City!
Luke waltzes into a trap.
The truth awaits him.


“The Force is with you.”
The Carbon Freezing Chamber.
Luke confronts Vader.


Red and Blue Collide
Skywalker holds his own but
it won’t be enough.


Launched out a window.
Pushed back onto a platform.
An abyss below.


A deadly blade stroke.
Maimed by Vader’s blood red blade.
“There is no escape.”


“I’ll never join you!”
And now the truth is revealed…
“I am your Father.”


“That’s impossible!”
“…we can rule the galaxy
as father and son…”


Calm comes over Luke.
A decision has been made.
He lets go…and falls.


Upside-down again
Luke has nowhere else to go.
One option remains.


Calling to Leia,
Luke reaches out with the Force.
His sister responds.

Haiku Addendum:
in the next film, they will learn
that they are siblings.

Haiku Addendum:
…but pay attention and you
can figure it out. ūüėČ

Haiku Addendum:
Seriously, “Empire”
gives you the info.


Luke gets a new hand!
And Lando wears Han’s clothing.
Did Hobbie survive?


Meanwhile, on Hoth…
the one-armed Wampa adjusts
to a one-armed life. 

Luke maims the Wampa.
And Vader maims Skywalker.
Quite interesting…

This post is Part 2 of 3 in a special three-week version of Haikuesday exploring Luke Skywalker in the Original Star Wars Trilogy. Be on the lookout next Tuesday for for the final installement with haiku about Luke in Return of the Jedi!

Luke Skywalker (ANH)

 

Forgotten Faith: Doubting the Sacred

What Luke Skywalker accomplishes in the climactic final Act of Star Wars: A New Hope is nothing short of miraculous. Tasked with the responsibility of destroying the Empire’s planet killing Death Star, to succeed and win the day Skywalker unexpectedly gives himself over to the mystical energy field known as the Force. Doing so at the behest of the recently “deceased” Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, young Luke puts his faith in something greater than his available technology (or luck, or logic and reason), allowing the sacred and mysterious energy to guide his actions. In doing so, Skywalker not only saves the galaxy by destroying the Death Star, but also takes a giant leap of faith into a realm of wondrous possibility. As Skywalker speeds back to the Rebel base after the battle station explodes, Kenobi speaks to the young pilot from “the beyond”, reminding Luke that “the Force will be with you, always.” Luke Skywalker, farmer-turned Rebel pilot-turned galactic hero, will always have the Force as his ally.

Yet, when we once again meet Luke in The Empire Strikes Back three years after his leap of faith and heroic deed, the young man has all but forgotten the Force is with him.

After putting his faith in the Force in A New Hope, one would anticipate that when we meet Skywalker again that he will have started to more fully develop his understanding of, and connection to, the Force. This, however, is not the case, and is actually hinted at early in The Empire Strikes Back as Luke hangs upside down in the Wampa’s lair (having been ambushed and knocked unconscious by Hoth’s apex predator). His lightsaber protruding from the snow a few feet away, Luke’s initial instinct is to desperately grab for his weapon, and only concentrates on using the Force to bring the weapon to him once he recognizes the blade is out of reach.

 

Luke Wampa Cave
Luke hangs upside down in the Wampa’s lair.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Luke’s use of the Force in this instance reminds the audience of his connection to the energy field while likewise foreshadowing the lessons he will learn when he makes his way to Dagobah in the film’s second act. After all, in the Wampa’s lair we see for the very first time that one can move objects using the Force. Later in the film, this reality will be expanded, with Luke moving boulders and the ancient Jedi Master Yoda using the Force to move Luke’s X-Wing Starfighter.

The episode in the Wampa’s lair likewise foreshadows the doubt and disconnect Luke will display, with respect to the Force, when he travels to the Dagobah system to learn from Yoda. The Force is certainly with him, but at the outset of The Empire Strikes Back it is a curious afterthought, a seemingly forgotten aspect of his being. Even after bringing the lightsaber to him in the lair, the Force seems to fade away as panic sets in, Luke maiming the Wampa and anxiously fleeing the snowy cave.

At the end of A New Hope, Luke was the victorious hero who we last saw receiving a medal for destroying the dreaded Death Star. Now, only a short way into The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker stumbles out of the Wampa’s lair, his flight response fully in control. Unsurprisingly, Luke will succumb to the harsh elements on Hoth, collapsing into the snowy Tundra. Face down in the snow (see featured image above), his body surely experiencing the effects of hypothermia, it is here and now that Obi-Wan Kenobi curiously chooses to re-appear. Calling to the (freezing) young man, Kenobi appears in astral form and commands Luke to “go to the Dagobah system” where he will learn the ways of the Force from Yoda.¬†

Crashing into a Swamp

It is Luke’s journey to Dagobah that serves as the surest example of his mystical disconnect. Consider that as Luke flies his X-Wing into the planet’s atmosphere – the very same X-Wing he piloted to destroy the Death Star! – he relies entirely on the starfighter’s technology to guide him to the planet’s surface. “All the scopes are dead. I can’t see a thing…” he exclaims as he descends into the thick, dense atmosphere/fog covering the planet. The technology at his disposal fails him, and [a panicked] Luke does not call upon the Force to serve as his guide. It is no wonder he crashes into the swamp.

Luke Crashes on Dagobah
Luke stands on the nose of his X-Wing after crashing in the swamp on Dagobah.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

In turn, what makes this scenario all the more fascinating is that Dagobah is teeming with life, and as Yoda will explain to Luke, it is life which makes the Force grow. “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter,” the elderly Master will note once young Skywalker has started his rigorous Jedi training. Luke, we know from his actions in A New Hope, already has a special connection to the Force, an ability to destroy a planet killing superweapon thanks to faith alone. Never-the-less, piloting his X-Wing to Dagobah, Luke Skywalker is incapable of navigating his way to the surface of a planet glowing with the radiance of the Force.

In the three years between the end of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker has chosen to ignore, or has simply forgotten, his connection to the Force. Or, perhaps over time he began to doubt the mysterious energy field, placing more trust in technology than on the mystical source of his power. Indeed, Luke express such doubt to Yoda – “you ask the impossible”, the young man will exclaim when given a Force-specific task – and Yoda will note that it is Luke’s doubt, his inability to believe in the possibility of the impossible, which makes him fail.

Whatever the reason for Luke’s disconnect with the Force – be it doubt, forgetfulness, ignorance, or something else entirely – from a narrative perspective it is a profound way of highlighting that even after becoming a hero one can still face incredible challenges. Luke may have relied on the Force to destroy the Death Star, but he must also face great external/internal struggle to ascend beyond a singular act of heroism to become truly heroic. In fact, The Empire Strikes Back goes to great lengths to show Luke stumbling, being knocked down, and crashing time and time again as he embarks on this new path of ascendance, towards becoming a Jedi Knight. Consider the following:

  • Luke is knocked off his Tauntaun when the Wampa attacks.
  • He falls from the ceiling of the Wampa’s lair.
  • He stumbles over a snow drift as he escapes the lair, and later falls to the ground as he walks across Hoth’s desolate tundra.
  • His Snowspeeder crashes when it is struck by a laser blast.
  • After destroying an AT-AT using his lightsaber and a thermal detonator, he unhooks his harness and falls far to the ground below.
  • Piloting his X-Wing, he crashes into the swamp on Dagobah.
  • Exiting his X-Wing, he jumps into the swampy marsh and must crawl up the muddy embankment.
  • When he is doing his first handstand during his Jedi training, moving large rocks while Yoda sits on his feet, Luke becomes distracted and falls.
  • Later, doing another handstand, suspending a number of containers and his droid R2-D2 in the air, he again becomes distracted once again.
  • As he battles Darth Vader he is knocked into the carbon-freezing chamber; he is blasted out of a window; stumbles to the ground and barely escapes Vader’s next attack; and falls, by choice, into the great abyss at the center of Cloud City after learning he is Vader’s son (presumably choosing death rather than continuing to face his father).

After falling into the abyss on Cloud City, Luke ends up literally hanging below the city on a weather vane, grasping desperately with his one hand (the other had been cut off, along with his lightsaber, by his father) for the door above him. Even here, in this desperate situation, the literal and metaphorical lowest point in his life, Luke forgets his connection to the Force, instead trying to climb to safety with his single hand. Unsurprisingly, Luke once again slips and begins to fall, this time only being saved by his legs (which catch the weather vane).¬† Just as he was hanging upside down in the Wampa’s lair at the beginning of the film, at the end of the film Luke is once again in a desperate situation hanging upside down.

Luke Weather Vane
Luke hangs upside down from a weathervane below Cloud City. Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

In a sense, this is the most appropriate metaphor for the existential situation Luke Skywalker finds himself in throughout The Empire Strikes Back – his heroic journey has quite literally been turned upside down. Where he gave himself willingly to the Force in A New Hope, placing his faith in something greater, in The Empire Strikes Back he stumbles and falls as he attempts to rekindle, and grow, in his understanding of and relationship with the Force. Eager to learn about the sacred energy field in A New Hope, Luke’s forgetfulness and doubt are why he crashes and fails in The Empire Strikes Back.

Thoughts on the (One-Armed) Wampa

My Star Warsie preferences more often than not boil down to one thing: my childhood love of the franchise. This is why, for example, I am a die-hard fan of the infamous Grand Admiral Thrawn. Since I read The Thrawn Trilogy over and over as a kid, I naturally became obsessed with the strategically gifted Chiss. And, since I watched The Empire Strikes Back (ESB) far more than the other two Original Trilogy films, the characters, places, events, and creatures from ESB stuck with me. Which leads me to the wampa.

Something¬†¬†I have always appreciated about The Empire Strikes Back is how the initial tension in the film is unexpected, coming from a natural cause – an indigenous creature. With little warning other than the agitation of Luke’s tauntaun, ¬†a wampa – Hoth’s apex predator – suddenly appears, launching itself at Luke and his mount. The last time we saw Luke, at the end of A New Hope, he was receiving a medal for heroically destroying the Death Star, but within the first few minutes of The Empire Strikes Back, our hero is incapacitated and being dragged away by a massive snow beast. Absolutely brilliant!!! ¬†The use of the wampa at the outset of ESB is a perfect reminder that the galaxy far, far away, while exotic and exciting, is also exceedingly dangerous. Not even our heroes can prepare for every eventuality and danger that may be lurking, and Luke was certainly unprepared for this ambush.

Wampa 2
The wampa attacks, knocking Luke off of his tauntaun.

Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

But the¬†wampa deserves a lot of credit. Luke may have been caught unaware, but so was¬†his tauntaun, which doesn’t see or smell the predator¬†until it’s already too late.¬†Sneaking up on Luke is one thing but the tauntaun is a different matter. Remember, the tauntaun is¬†native to the ice planet, and are natural prey for wampas. Certainly these snowlizards have evolved¬†defensive mechanisms such as their sense of smell to warn ¬†them of danger, especially¬†important since the wampa’s pristine, white coat camouflages it in the snow.¬†The fact that the tauntaun is caught unaware is proof that the wampa is not to be trifled with, a clear testament to the keen hunting skills of these monstrous beasts.¬†

I can imagine the wampa¬†stalking the tauntaun, and the strange¬†“thing” on top of it,¬†with incredible stealth, moving closer and closer to its prey. As it moves closer, the wampa observes the body language of the tauntaun and listens the sounds it’s making,¬†gauging whether the snowlizard is aware of impending danger.¬†Realizing that its prey¬†has not caught wind of danger, the wampa sets itself up for a strike, attacking while the¬†tauntaun and the “thing” idle¬†on the open tundra.¬†The ambush complete, the wampa drags the spoils of its victory through the snow, back to its cave.

The Wampa Cave

Wampa
The Wampa hears Luke and moves towards him.

Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

When we see Luke again, after being dragged away, he is hanging upside down inside the cave the wampa calls home. At the same time, off in the distance, we can also hear the wampa and the tauntaun, the former letting out a bloodcurdling howl while the latter cries out in terror and pain. But¬†we don’t just hear the wampa, we also see it feasting, ripping into the limb of (I presume) Luke’s still living tauntaun. Disturbing but pretty cool, especially since we see blood and drool dripping down its pristine white fur. Plus, watching¬†the wampa eat – which was not added until the Special Edition of ESB was released in the 90s – also provides¬†perspective, allowing us to witness¬†how massive and deadly this creature truly is. When the wampa becomes aware that its other captured prey is attempting to escape, and it begins moving to intervene,¬†this new perspective on the wampas size should make us thankful that Luke has his father’s old lightsaber. Or let me say it like this: I’m not entirely sure a blaster would have helped Luke survive.

Yet, survive the encounter Luke does. Freeing himself in the nick of time, Luke is able to awkwardly wield the lightsaber and slice off the wampa’s right arm, causing it to let out a cry of pain and agony. Honestly, I have always felt a feeling of remorse for the wampa in that moment. Its capture of Luke was nothing personal, just survival,¬†a matter of securing a meal. The wampa would hardly starve if it allowed Luke to escape, but why WOULD it let him escape? When it attacks Luke the second time, it certainly isn’t thinking this “thing” will fight back – does anything, other than another wampa, ever fight back? Of course not, but in this case its prey happens to do just that, and as a result the wampa suffers.

Wampa in Pain
The wampa cries out in pain after it is wounded.

Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

It’s easy to forget that as Luke flees the cave, scrambling his way into the windswept¬†tundra of Hoth, the now one-armed wampa remains behind. At that point, the wampa simply falls out of our minds as the events of the film unfold. However, I can’t help but¬†wonder what happened to it after Luke fled, and I bet I’m not the only one. To be fair, the Expanded Universe novel¬†Darksaber, set many years after ESB, involves Luke heading back to Hoth where he re-encounters the wampa¬†he maimed years before. I won’t go into all the details about this particular meeting, but will say that I never really cared for Darksaber. Still, you should check out the book if you’re curious about Luke’s (non-canonical) second run-in with the beast.

Of course, I do think it reasonable to believe the wampa survived its vicious wound. Chances are it would have needed to change its hunting techniques, but I think our one-armed friend could handle the task. Granted, if the wound did cause its eventual downfall, it would probably be due to a run in with another wampa or perhaps poachers. Still, until I find out otherwise, until some new and official story establishes the death of the one-armed wampa, I’m just gonna keep believing¬†it’s still out there, roaming the cold, windswept plains of Hoth.


This post is part of the Star Wars ComLINKS series. Check out more Star Wars ComLINKS over at Anakin and His Angel.

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