Baze Malbus, Bo staff, Canterbury Tales, Chirrut Imwe, Cluny, Dauntless, Friar Tuck, Friars, Geoffery Chaucer, Guardians of the Whills, Howard Pyle, Jahng Bong, Jedha, Little John, monastery, monks, N.C. Wyeth, Nijedha, quarter-staff, religion, Robin Hood, Rogue One, Scarif, Star Destroyer, Star Wars, stormtroopers, Tae Kwon-Do, Temple of the Kyber, the Force, The Force Awakens, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, Thomas Hughes, Tom Brown's Schooldays
Welcome, dear readers, as always.
Today, for the first time in some time, we are not visiting Middle-earth. Instead, we are visiting our earth, as well as another planet or two.
Recently, we saw Rogue One,
which, in our opinion, was a bit more coherent than The Force Awakens, but which still—again, our opinion—like Force, had too many players and too many planets. For us, this has always been the danger of fantasy fiction, when plot overwhelms character, as—and aren’t we opinionated in this posting?—in the Harry Potter series.
The first volume was a pleasant twist on the traditional school story, a genre which dates at least as far back as Tom Brown’s Schooldays (1857).
by Thomas Hughes.
We thought that that first book had a number of potentially interesting characters—Hermione, the Weasley twins, Snape, Hagrid—but, as the books piled up and the plot became more complex and more and more characters appeared, there was less and less, it seemed to us, of those interesting original figures. And many of the characters who were there, seemed much sketchier.
In the case of Rogue One, we thought that two of the most interesting were the two Guardians of the Whills, rather like monks
and Baze Malbus.
These two had been attached to the Temple of the Kyber in the city of Nijedha on the desert moon Jedha.
The Empire has arrived, however (hard to miss the Star Destroyer Dauntless in this picture, isn’t it?), to seize all of the kyber crystals on Jedha (used originally to power Jedi light sabers) to fuel the superlaser on the new terror weapon, the Death Star.
In the process, the two monks have been driven from the Temple, which has been pillaged, and now appear to be living on the street. Chirrut believes in the Force, while Baze seems to believe in his very large gun. Chirrut, who is blind, first shows his skills in an amazing scene where, surrounded by stormtroopers, he makes short work of them with his fighting staff, which resembles the Jahng Bong or Bo Staff used in Tae Kwon-do, among other Eastern weapons and martial arts.
As everyone who has seen Rogue One (and, by now, many who haven’t, we’d guess) knows, the two don’t survive the attack on Scarif
and this made us wish we had seen more of them, not only in this movie (perhaps them ejected from the Temple—which wouldn’t have been easy!), but in another Star Wars story, in which they were the main characters. So many questions: how did they meet? Why does the one believe so fervently in the Force and the other does not? What did they do before Nijedha? Were they always monks? If not, how did they become so? How and where did they train?
Seeing fighting with that Bo Staff immediately prompted us to think of much earlier figures with a similar weapon: Robin Hood, who fights, on a log over a stream, his soon-to-be-lieutenant, Little John, with quarter-staves.
This is an illustration by N.C. Wyeth from the 1917 Robin Hood,
but there is an earlier edition of the stories of Robin Hood by Wyeth’s teacher, Howard Pyle, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (1883).
And here is a version of the aftermath of that scene on the log with Little John.
Robin has another encounter with water and a fighter when he meets a friar beside a stream. A monk is a man who enters a religious community called a monastery and spends his life working (and praying) within its walls.
Western medieval Europe was full of monasteries, like this, at Cluny, in France.
Friars, on the other hand, traveled within their appointed district, called a “province”. Here is a friar from an early (beginning of the 15th century) illustrated version of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
Because friars were much less strictly governed, they gained a folk reputation as tricksters and high-livers, and the trickster shows through when Robin Hood forces a friar (he will become Robin’s friend, Friar Tuck) to carry him across a stream—and the friar dumps him before proving that he’s also an expert swordsman. Here’s an illustration from the 1883 Pyle version.
As we thought about it, by combining Little John’s skill with the quarterstaff with Friar Tuck’s wits and courage and holy orders, we could see a possible inspiration for Chirrut Imwe.
If you know the old Robin Hood stories and you’re seen Rogue One, what do you think?
Thanks, as ever, for reading.