My grandmother introduced me to Luke Skywalker when I was nine years old. We lived in Snyder, Texas, a sun-blistered West Texas town that served as my very own Tatooine. I’ve told the story a hundred times, and I’ll happily tell it a hundred more even to the people who’ve heard it before—The story of how Nanny Joy (my grandmother) unknowingly kindled the spark of heroism in my heart for the very first time.
There has been much written about the narrowness of the minds that come from small, isolated places like Snyder, Texas, however, like most towns in the world, Snyder has a magic castle. A place where anyone can become anything, a place where boys and girls can regale themselves with the adventures of swashbuckling captains who swing on hemp ropes across a great blue wash, only to land on the enemy deck with heart-melting dash and elan, or they might prefer the the bone-crushing might of the Scandinavian shield maidens who shattered swords and crushed the bucklers of their foes. In this lofty castle, you will find a multitude of heroes; even in Scurry County, even in Snyder, Texas.
I am not being metaphorical.
Nanny Joy picked me up from school on a Friday afternoon and transported me to our particular magic castle—the Scurry County library. I remember walking through the doors with her. I remember the white and blue striped shirt she was wearing. I remember the curl of her closely cropped hair, every smiling wrinkle leaning near her sparkling eyes. I certainly cannot forget the huge, beige leather purse she carried on her shoulder.
She brought me here and said that it was our special day. A day when I could pick any movie that I wanted. There wouldn’t be any arguments from my siblings, after all, the day was special.
I’ve never been tall, but I was especially short then for a nine year old. Even now, in my mind’s-eye I see the white, tower shelves apportioned with the rectangular treasure boxes matted with the portraits of sword-wielding barbarians, starfighter pilots, and dour cowboys pinching the horizon with their squinted killing stares. EveryVHS box, every book is spell waiting to be conjured through the enchanting imagination that rests inside every human heart. I remember these big feelings, the importance of this moment in my life.
Trundling down the aisle, wide-eyed and enamored I felt a kind of first liberty within myself. I was going to decide what adventure we were going to live that afternoon.
On my left, standing taller than the rest (or at least it seems so to me now), was a navy star field bleeding into a black masked backdrop of a dark helmed knight, his face bisected by a hero clad in white immaculate, his sword stretching from pommel to the tip of the starry canopy. The title card, glowing, STAR WARS: A NEW HOPE.
There are specific moments in a persons life that when you read, watch, or listen to a particular work of art it immediately plants itself into who you are, more importantly and albeit unknowingly, it also begins to grow up in you an idea of who you want to become. When I saw that man, holding that impossible sword, I knew I wasn’t going to be the same.
Nanny took me to her house, guided me down the wood paneled hallway where many times I sat and scoured through her dusty volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica, until we came to the second door on the right. The guest room. There was a large iron-frame bed, where a white tasseled blanket regularly served as my cloak, and there was a gray television that sat atop a silver VCR.
Nanny put the tape into the VCR. The spell was cast.
It started for you the same way it started for me.
The drum roll, the flourish, the beaming lights.
The silence and the prologue.
I connected with those movies on an instinctual level. It was the early platform for my sense of right and wrong. It still informs today what I believe heroism means, what friendship requires, and that no man is beyond redemption. The journey from boyhood to manhood is encapsulated in those films, the importance of female agency is there as well, and how love can save every, single life, no matter what lies or corruption we’ve embraced.
Luke Skywalker was my childhood hero. His story ended on the silver screen before I was ever born, seeing as Return released in May 1983 and I was born in June, and ever since then, I’ve been waiting for Luke Skywalker to come back. Many people see Luke’s story as a triumph, and in a measure that is true, but what I think people miss is that Luke’s story is a tragedy. All of his youth was spent hoping that he might be able to serve in the war, to do his part in the galactic conflict—make a difference. Then the war finds him, and every moment after that, save for a few interactions with his friends, is filled with personal anguish, trial, and pain. With every growth of his wisdom, so does the depth of his sorrow increase.
Luke’s story has rarely been a happy one, and the last time we saw him in that galaxy far, far away, he was laying to rest the bones of crestfallen Anakin, the father whose final blessing was to see that his son had grown up to be everything he was supposed to be-
Since our iris out moment on the moon of Endor, I’ve been waiting to see what happened to Luke. I’ve dreamed, many times over, that things would have gone well for him. That he would have succeeded in creating a new Jedi Order and lived among stars that no longer required a war for them to be worth visiting. Evil does not rest, though. Corruption is an incurable virus that twists and pulls at the heartstrings of even fictional people. STAR WARS is an excellent vehicle for heroism because it allows us to see the black hats and the white hats, the good and the evil clearly defined. That is important in these days because a clear vision of such things is good for our hope in long-suffering times.
I’ve been waiting twenty-five years to see what happened to Luke Skywalker, waiting to see how his tragedy will finally come to a close. I hope that his story ends as it began, with Luke standing as an old man in the same fashion as he did when he was young and brash, gazing at the horizon in the light of the sunset of his life, alive and longing. To me, if there was ever a hero who deserved a happy ending, it’s the farmer boy that became that galaxy’s greatest hero.