Wednesday, February 23, 2011

44 BBY: Jedi Apprentice: The Defenders of the Dead

“The hatred is bred in their bones. Now they fight over meters of territory, or to avenge a wrong that happened a hundred years before” - Qui-Gon Jinn to Obi-Wan Kenobi on the planet Melida/Daan.

In 1977 my father, mother, and two sisters immigrated from Belfast Northern Ireland to Canada. A few months later I was born.
In 1993, at the age of 16, I travelled to Belfast on my own to meet my many uncles, aunts, and cousins for the first time.

Belfast was an angry place.

It was the first time in my life a fully armed solider eyed me suspiciously, a tank loaded with bombs and guns rolled by me, and our car was searched for explosives before we entered a parking garage. To a 16 year-old kid from Canadian suburbia this was surreal.

There was no end to the stories. The skirmishes fought on the Falls and Shankill road, how this one was orphaned or this one was widowed. History was replayed and remembered time and again. Angry and bitter – but can I blame them? One day, I was told, one day Ireland will be united into a glorious Republic. But until that day the anger will be held on to. These are the stories of freedom fighters. These are the stories of terrorists.

When I came home I thanked my parents for getting us out of there. Canada was a peaceful place and though I was awestruck by the beauty and history of Ireland I was glad to be home.
In 2005 I, along with my father and sister, travelled back to Belfast to bury my father’s father. Belfast had changed – for the better I must say. The peace was made and everyone wanted to keep it– but the anger was still there: tacit, alive, and dormant under the pavement of the city.

Belfast is my Melida/Daan, and I could identify with the words of Qui-Gon.

When Obi-Wan abandoned his quest for Knight-hood and left his Master dumbstruck and broken-hearted, I got it.

Even at 16 I admit I entertained notions of become an underground soldier; fighting with the IRA for the freedom of an island which was under the thumb of a tyrannical government. It’s a romantic notion to a foolish and naïve boy. Unlike Obi-Wan however, I only entertained these rash notions. Obi-wan actually followed his foolishness to its logical end. A brave and stupid act all at once.

Though I understood why Obi-Wan left his Jedi training, I still feel Watson could have done more to make it his abandonment of the Jedi order more believable. Though it was not directly stated, I wondered if the ‘real’ reason Obi-Wan turned his back on Qui-Gon was because of Cerasi. Did he have feelings for her? Were these feelings stronger than the feelings he had for his fellow youth who were bent on fighting for peace? Young love is powerful and makes us all do silly things – like turn our backs on our parents, or in Obi-Wan’s case, turn on his Master. Watson did not make this the driving force behind his betrayal of his Jedi vows, and I think if she had incorporated this element into her story it would have made his turn more believable. As it is, Obi-Wan’s raising of his saber against his Master was shocking and blasphemous, and a great cliff-hanger to the next book.

What I found to be the most interesting part of the story was the way Watson described the Force as it surrounded Qui-Gon, ready to deflect any blows from his apprentice: “The Force swirled around him, but it was a disturbed Force, neither dark nor light” (137). I wonder if this reference here is the first we have in Star Wars lore which indirectly refers to the idea of Gray Jedi. Published in December of 1999, Defenders of the Dead came out approximately four years before the Knights of the Old Republic video game, where, I think, (and I could be mistaken here) the notion of Gray Jedi begins to come to the fore of Star Wars discussion.

But more importantly Watson’s description of the Force in this instance further expands, and perhaps complicates, our understanding of this ‘thing’ we call ‘The Force’. If we are to understand how Qui-Gon used the force in this instance I think we need to know if he was he pulling on a third dimension of the Force – one that is neither light nor dark. It seems that he was which brings about all kinds of other questions and thoughts concerning the most important element of Star Wars.

What exactly is this ‘disturbed Force’, and how did Qui-Gon mange to use it? Hopefully this gets flushed out in greater detail.

For my next post I’m going to move on to book number 6 of the Jedi Apprentice series, The Uncertain Path. Until then my friends, may the Force be with you.

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