If it wasn’t for this little project of mine, I probably would’ve kept on ignoring Star Wars titles with the term “scholastic” attached to them, believing that since they’re children’s books they would most likely have nothing to offer an “academic” and “true” Star Wars fan like myself.
The Rising Force, the first book of twenty in the Jedi Apprentice series, set me straight.
The Rising Force, the first book of twenty in the Jedi Apprentice series, set me straight.
Like Jude Watson in The Legacy of the Force, Dave Wolverton does well to keep his narrative simple and easy to follow. With an intended audience of 8-13 year olds, Wolverton does well to connect the young Obi-Wan Kenobi to his readers. I enjoyed this book as an adult, and I’m sure if I had read it as a child I would have enjoyed it even more. As it is, I’m looking forward to reading all twenty titles in the series, and exploring the backstory behind the friendship and Master/Apprentice relationship of Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Since these books are only short narratives, I only have a few areas of observation I want to comment on. The areas of interest that caught my eye in The Rising Force are same sex Master and Apprentice duos, the treatment of the Jedi Corps within the context of this universe, and Obi-Wan's enlightenment.
One of the lines that jumped out at me at the start of the story was Qui-Gon’s words to Yoda about not finding a suitable apprentice. The Knight says to the Master: “There will be more boys next year. Perhaps then I will choose a Padawan” (34). What grabbed my attention here is that Qui-Gon said “boys”, as if the possibility of a female apprentice was out of the question. Which got me to thinking: is same sex pairing of Master and Apprentice the norm? This notion is immediately debunked with the pairing of Anakin and Asoka. But how often do we see a heterogeneous Master and Apprentice? I’m sure there are other male/female Master/Apprentice relationships in Star Wars history, but as of yet, from a chronological perspective, I don’t think there has been (correct me if I’m wrong).
Which brings up all sorts of other interesting questions; like, at what point does a Knight have to come to terms with his or her sexuality and how that might affect the way they choose a Padawan? Do Jedi come to terms with their sexuality? What I mean to say is this: If Qui-Gon knows he attracted to members of the opposite sex, does he then knowingly chose only male apprentices, or possibly female apprentices of a species he may not have a sexual attraction too? Is this one of the reasons why he would only consider boys as his apprentice?
Conversely, if a Jedi knows he or she is homosexual (why wouldn’t there be homosexual Jedi?), must they then consider this when choosing their new apprentice? Are Jedi even allowed to come to terms with their own sexuality, or must they simply figure it out on their own? After all, Padawans don’t remain Padawan’s forever, and at some point Masters and Apprentices will have to engage with each other as adults.
Maybe it’s important for Knights and Masters to come to a realization of their sexual leanings before they enter into a relationship which will test their own notions of attachment. Indeed, I’m sure most Master/Apprentice relationships test all Jedi. At some point a Master will lose an Apprentice, and at some point an apprentice will lose a Master. The added dimension of possible sexual attraction and love has to be considered when both embark on this mutli-year relationship.
I guess my question is this: must a Jedi Knight or Master practice prudence – in every sense of the word – when picking a Padawan? The obvious answer is ‘yes’. I also think a Master must look beyond an apprentices’ fear, or anger, or over-confidence like the way Qui-Gon was seeing Obi-Wan, and consider their own emotions first. In Qui-Gon’s defense however, one of the reasons he didn’t chose Obi-Wan as his apprentice right off the bat was because he was, indeed, considering his own emotions first.
Of course gender and sexual orientation might not be a factor at all when choosing a Padawan. Since a Jedi is supposed have their emotions in check and always be at peace, then gender or sexual orientation may play no part in this, which is the ideal. Such matters, in an ideal world – and the world Jedi strive to live in, should not concern a Jedi, as he or she mustn’t form attachments of any kind, with anyone, Padawan or Master included.
Or maybe Dave Wolverton simply wrote “boys” because he knew his intended audience would probably be predominantly boys, and I have just over-thought the matter.
Moving on to another question which was raised in the pages of this book: do they give all Agricorps Jedi lightsabers? On age 71 it says: “(Obi-Wan) made sure his lightsaber was holstered securely”. Which made me think ‘they gave him a lightsaber?!?’. I’m not sure why I was surprised by this but for some reason I was. I guess an Agricorp Jedi may need a lightsaber at some point, and it is true that the lightsaber is more than a weapon: it is a symbol of knighthood.
This brings me to my next point of discussion, and that of the Jedi Service Corps. What dismayed me in the pages of The Rising Force was the manner in which the Service Corps was viewed by younglings in the temple. On Wookeipedia it says: “many within the lower ranks of the Order saw assignment to the Corps as a demarcation” (wookieepedia on Agricultural Corps), and even Dan Wallace, in his end notes to his book the Jedi Path, muses as to how those who ended up in the Service Corps might be viewed by their contemporaries: “Not every student becomes a Padawan. Those that aren't selected by a Master for apprenticeship usually join the Jedi Service Corps. For a student, I imagine that this would be a huge disappointment. And that, consequently, Padawans, Knights, and Masters would inevitably think less of their comrades in the Service Corps. They'd deny it of course, and the best among them would keep it well-hidden. But the Jedi have ranks, and ranks hold power, and I can't imagine a scenario under which the Service Corps Jedi aren't treated as the outsiders of the elite.” Which lead me to ask the question: do the Master's themselves nurture within the culture of the Jedi temple a distain for those how are not picked as Padawan learners?
In the comment field of Dan’s blog people began to discuss this notion, with one reader by the name of Justin commenting: “Finally, my comment: I enjoyed your expansion of the Jedi Service Corps in the book. This is an aspect of the Jedi which has always been ill-defined and in need of exploration. You gave a dignity to them that had been lacking in the past and I disagree with your idea that they would be looked on as failures or outcasts. Perhaps haughty Jedi like Dooku or Anakin share that view, but I should like to believe that a religion (for lack of a better word) that views all life as sacred and worthy of protection and nurturing would hold its farmers and healers (possibly even child rearers) in the highest regard. Perhaps it is our conflict-centric view of the Star Wars galaxy that places the martial Jedi on the highest pedestal. Couldn't you imagine some conflict-weary Jedi wishing he or she could give up the life of negotiating (aggressive or otherwise) and retire to a life of tranquility on a farm planet somewhere? I'd love to see a story about an initiate that really WANTS to be selected for the Service Corps, but is chosen for what is (in his or her young mind) a life of drudgery policing the galaxy.”
I think what I most liked about Justin’s comment was his reference to our own “conflict-centric view” of “martial Jedi” being held in the highest regard. I think I asked this question myself in my post on The Battle of Bothawui, where Jedi Master Belth Allusis will always be remembered for his heroic sacrifice against the Sith, but I also asked about the Jedi that are not warriors. How will they be remembered? Are there statues erected in their honour? Does anyone in the Jedi Order praise Jedi X from the agricorps, and their use of the Force which saved a planet from starvation?
With all this being said however, I still think Dave Wolverton got it right. What 10-13-year-old Jedi youngling wants to be in the Jedi Service Corps? And what 10-13 year old boy or girls wants to read a story about some farmer Jedi? I know if I were Obi-Wan I’d probably be feeling the exact same emotions he is, and that is why I enjoyed this book. If I were 13 again, I’d defiantly want to be a Jedi Knight, and not some farmer who couldn’t cut it at the trials. However, with a little more wisdom behind me now, maybe the agricorps isn’t so bad. As I said to Dan: “I always think to myself: If the Star Wars universe were real, where would I end up? I think I would probably end up in the Jedi Corps, as the idea of combat completely frightens me. I'd rather be on some lush world growing wheat, or teaching young Padawans not picked by a Master how much good they can do for the universe through their Force powers and an active role in social justice.”
I think we need to respect the Jedi Service Corps a little more, and if there are indeed Jedi who would “think less of their comrades in the Service Corps” then it is those Jedi who need to re-evaluate for themselves what it means to be a Jedi.
My penultimate reaction to The Rising Force concerns Obi-Wan’s movement from youngling to Knight, for I think he skipped past the Padawan stage with this one moment of realization. After being rejected by Qui-Gon as an apprentice for the third or possibly fourth time, Obi-Wan finally gets it. He turns to his friend and he says: “I feel strange Si Treemba. It’s as if a burden has been lifted from me. Perhaps I could be a good farmer. And to be good… to be a good person is more important that being a Jedi” (123). It is here Obi-wan becomes a true Jedi Knight, for it is here he defeated his ego, his pride, and his desire – in every negative connotation for the word. His desire to be a Knight lead him to anger, fear, and aggression. When he accepted his fate, all those negative feelings faded away, and when he no longer passionately desired Knight-hood, then is when he truly earned it.
Finally, it was Obi-Wan’s final words to Qui-Gon in this story which took my breath away. When speaking of the Force and how it finally flowed through him unhindered, Obi-Wan said: “For years I thought myself unworthy of it (The Force). But it was not until I recognized my own unworthiness that the power began to fill me” (169). I had this moment myself a few years back. Just simply replace the words ‘The Force’ with ‘God’s Love’. I, like everyone else in this world, is unworthy of God’s Love. But he still gives us his love freely – we simply have to believe it, and then feel it.
For my next post I’m going to engage with the second book in the Jedi Apprentice series – The Dark Rival. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.