Thursday, September 13, 2012

32 BBY: Episode 1 Journals: Queen Amidala, Anakin Skywalker, Darth Maul

When I began reading the Episode 1 Journals I decided to engage with them in a specific order.  I started with the Queen’s journal, followed by Anakin’s, then ended with Maul’s.  I read them in this order because I anticipated I’d enjoy the Queen’s journal the least and appreciate Maul’s journal the most. My instincts were correct.
The Queen’s journal was the dullest of them all.  Both the Queen’s Journal and Anakin’s journal followed as a first person narration of the events of The Phantom Menace.  But Maul’s journal contained some unique elements not found in the film.

Though I found the Queen’s journal the dullest there were some small aspects of the story that were interesting.  For instance, we discover that the fate of King Veruna is farming rocks in the Naboo Wasteland (pg 8), that Padme wonders if Sabe enjoys ordering her around (28), and that Padme recalls some sage advice from her grandmother Winama (43).  There was also a great little bit about her amulet:

“Then I slipped off the amulet I always wear around my neck.  My parents gave it to me when I left to take the Governorship of Theed.  It’s a stone my father found on out land.  My mother fashioned the clasp” (17).
I love it when two sources intersect.  In this case, Julianne Balman’s The Queen’s Amulet with Watson’s adaptation. This is but another example of texts influencing texts.

Anakin’s journal was much the same as the Queen’s, but there were some small jewels of interest to be found in the monotony of the narrative.  Interestingly, Watson makes reference to extra-galactic visitors to Tatooine, which I think is something that is inconsistent with the over-arching mythos of the Star Wars universe:

“A bunch of hyperspace trading routes meet here on Tatooine.  This means we get visitors not only from our galaxy, but other galaxies as well” (10).
This could be the case, but it was my understanding that the Yuzzhan Vong were the first extra-galactic visitors to Anakin’s galaxy. Someone correct my understanding here.

Also, in Anakin’s journal it is the first time there is any hint that his dreams end badly:

“But I had another secret as well.  A dark secret.  It was about the way my dreams always ended.  It was a secret that frightened me, one I could never tell” (21).
In The Phantom Menace and other adaptations we are only told Anakin’s dreams consists of either him becoming a Jedi and freeing the slaves, or Padme leading a large army into battle, but there is never any hint of anything ominous about them. I wonder what exactly Anakin sees?  Is it the near murder of his wife by his own hands, or perhaps his slaughter of the innocents in the temple?  Curious.

There was a humorous echoing of Return of the Jedi in Anakin’s journal, one which forces us to imagine Padme in a slave-Leia costume:

“I knew if I lost the race, Qui-Gon, Padme, and the others might be stuck on Tatooine for a long time. And when you were young and pretty on Tatooine, it wasn’t long before you belonged to Jabba.  To imagine Padme chained like a slave made my blood boil” (29).
It’s probably not a terrible image for the slave-Leia costumes lovers out there.

The most interesting aspect of Anakin’s journal was his mention of an ancient war-droid and the story of the first time he heard the word “Sith”:

“I was looking for something in Watto’s junk heap when I came across an old war droid.  This unit was really ancient…I was in the middle of testing the projector when the holograph burst on.  It showed some kind of ancient battle… I could hear screams and grunts and panicked shouts.  Something about the Sith this and the Sith that” (72-73).
There is a lot going on in this passage.  Firstly, I’m curious to know what sort of war droid Anakin has in front of him.  Was it a Mark 1 or Mark 2 war droid from the time of the Sith Empire in 3600 BBY, or was it something else, maybe something along the lines of Xim’s Guardian Corpsdroids?  Here lies the kernel of yet another short story: how did this ancient droid come to be in Watto’s junk heap?  Secondly, which battle is going off here?  Is it the sacking of Coruscant, or maybe something more ancient, perhaps the razing of Korriban at the hands of the Republic in 5000 BBY?  Maybe it was from one of the many battles of Ruusan circa 1000 BBY?  As it is, I found this to be the highlight of Anakin’s journal.

Like I said in my introduction, Maul’s journal was the most entertaining.  At least half of Maul’s journal contained events not found in The Phantom Menace.  His journal starts off well:

               “You may think I am evil.  I am not.  I am efficient” (1).
It is almost a universal trait that evil people don’t believe themselves to be evil, and Maul is no exception.  Actual evil people see themselves as “practical”, “pragmatic” or “reasonable”.  They see themselves as problem solvers.  Take Hitler for example: from his point of view he was simply trying to solve the problem of Germany’s troubled economy.  His “pragmatic” response was to kill Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, and a myriad of other people he felt were part of the problem and not part of the solution. In his mind he was being “pragmatic”.  Though I haven’t read Mein Kampf, I wouldn’t be surprised if somewhere within its pages one could find a line like: “What I am proposing is not evil, but simple efficiency”.  Evil people never consider themselves to be evil because to consider such a thing would mean to deeply question their worldview and strongly held convictions.  Maul would never do such a thing.

Though I enjoyed Maul’s journal, I thought the idea of Maul keeping a journal rather silly.  I can believe the Queen and Anakin doing it.  Perhaps it would have been more immersive had Maul’s first-person narrative been in the form of a Sith holocron, following in the ancient tradition of his precursor Darth Bane.  On that note, I thought it neat that Maul made some oblique references to Darth Bane:

“But the last Sith was the smartest of all.  It was he who devised the brilliant strategy that has kept us secret for a thousand years and allowed us to grow in the shadow of the dark side” (18-19).
The holocron of Darth Maul would be neat to examine, but I’m sure the construction of such a delicate device would be a skill that is unreachable for him (considering how difficult it was for Bane).  Sidious was only interested in training Maul for combat, not in furthering his knowledge of the dark side of the Force.  It’s apparent that Sidious really did not want an apprentice, despite what he says.  Though Sidious may claim Maul was his apprentice, he really wasn’t.  Maul was simply his abused and fanatic child, which brings me to the topic of his childhood.

Maul’s upbringing was abusive and cruel, and makes me feel sympathy for him (which in turn makes him a more interesting character).  The story of the dinkos was particularly malicious, but the worst story of all was his mention of learning to cry no longer:

“A child cries when his belly is empty, when he hears a food cart rattle by his door, smells his dinner, and yet the food cart rolls on.  He does not understand that this pain makes him stronger…I soon learned not to cry” (19).
Of all the stories of Maul’s upbringing, this one made me feel the saddest for him.

Along with Maul’s recognition that crying would do him no good, he also conjectures that perhaps his parents, after losing him, may have gone searching for him:

“I was found by my Master and taken as a baby.  My parents might have looked for me” (17).
Though this scene may no longer be canonical, knowing what we known from the Nightsister trilogy from The Clone Wars (that Maul was residing on Dathomir with his brother Savage), it’s still a depressing picture to imagine.  Here we have two Iridonian parents searching for their kidnapped newborn – a beautiful child full of force potential, ripped from his parents’ loving arms.  Both of these stories broke my heart.  Was Darth Bane ever this cruel to Zannah? Truly the dark side is disgusting and profane.

Moving on in my reactions, it was Jude Watson who penned this narrative and I always enjoy Watson’s work.  Written in 2000 Watson came eerily close to describing the destruction of the Jedi temple found in Revenge of the Sith, a narrative not created until 2005:

“I strain my eyes, but the Jedi Temple is not visible from this viewpoint.  I imagine it instead.  I see a smoking ruin, a blasted shell.  The bodies of fallen Knights and Masters are littered around it.  I stand on the rubble before my Master” (11).
The only difference between Maul’s vision (Watson’s description) and the event from Revenge of the Sith is the person standing over the bodies.  How strange that it was the boy from the dessert of Tatooine that Maul ignored, not him, who was standing over the bodies of the Jedi.

Two other enjoyable scenes were the Torgorian space pirate incident, and Maul’s lightsaber duel with Sidious.  These were narratives which made the book worthwhile to read. There is also this great accidental reference to Loran Pavan (at least I think it’s an accidental reference):

“I focus on the darkness within.  I start to imagine a battle fought on a mission for my Master.  I don’t remember my opponent’s face, but I remember how he fought.  I remember how he tried to elude me in the end, and how I ran him down” (58).
It’s conceivable Maul is making reference to something else here, but it’s also possible he is making reference to the Lorn Pavan incident from Shadow Hunter.

Finally, my last bit of commentary centres upon Sidious’ comment on Maul’s demise:

“My worthy apprentice failed me in the end.  He fell into the melting pit.  I am glad, at least, that his body was consumed.  If there must be an end, it is a fitting one” (95).
The dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be un-natural.  The more I reflect on the return of Maul, the more I appreciate what Filoni has done.  I also have Wallace’s Book of the Sith sitting on my bookshelf, and I can’t wait to get to it because I think it comments on how Maul survived his fall, and how, contrary to what Sidious believes, was not “consumed”. Apparently Maul was more versed in the dark side than we thought.  Maybe he was even studying things he should not have been behind his Master’s back.  Maybe, somewhere down the line, he was planning to kill his Master, and become the true Dark Lord of Sith.  Maybe Maul deserves a second chance.

For my next post I’m going to take a look at the Star Wars Junior series.  Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.


  1. The Vong weren't the first extragalactic visitors. The SW galaxy has two satellite galaxies, Companion Besh and Companion Grek. They are nearby and not too difficult to reach, so there are a few visitors.
    I loved the Sith portion of Anakin's journal, too. It definitely made the Sith sound terrifying.
    If you found young Maul to be pitiable, just wait until you read The Wrath of Darth Maul.

  2. Very cool. I had no idea about the satellite galaxies.

    When should I engage with The Wrath of Darth Maul? I'm dreading it because the small glimpses into Maul's childhood were terrible. I think I'm rooting for him in season 5. Indeed, I think he's the most pitiable characters in Star Wars history, thus far anyway.

  3. The Wrath of Darth Maul tells his life-story up to his duel on Naboo. Many parts of it are expanded from this Journal and the short story Restraint, but it has lots of new stuff about his childhood. And those parts are terrifying and make you hate Sidious a lot more.

    The book also has very short prologue and epilogue which are short glimpses into his life just before Savage finds him. So you can decide yourself at which point you read them, after the rest of TPM stuff or when you are on Season 4 of The Clone Wars. If you want my opinion I'd say the first option, and suggest reading it and the short story End Game after Darth Plagueis.

  4. Since you plan on reading the other young reader biographies when you reach their framing stories, I would suggest the same for The Wrath of Darth Maul and read it right before the episode where he's reintroduced in TCW.