In the 2002 Christian Bale movie Reign of Fire, the survivors of a near-future dragon apocalypse entertain their children with tales of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. The implication in the film is that Star Wars, as a story, will outlast even the technology required to watch movies. But what kinds of stories echo through the ages of the Star Wars universe itself?
That’s the question that author George Mann (Doctor Who, Sherlock Holmes) seeks to answer in the new short story collection from Lucasfilm Press entitled Star Wars: Myths & Fables. This hard-bound edition compiles nine legends (partnered with gorgeous chapter-specific artwork by Grant Griffin) from around the galaxy– tales of seemingly familiar Jedi Knights, lost civilizations, scoundrels, and Sith Lords that would ostensibly be passed on through generations in A Galaxy Far, Far Away.
On planet Earth, I could easily see Star Wars: Myths and Legends being used as a series of bedtime stories for parents wishing to introduce their own Younglings to the concept of a Star Wars Expanded Universe. But for adult fans of the franchise, these stories mostly come across as fairly tepid morality plays. Each tale introduces a character or race (sometimes pre-established in Star Wars lore, like General Grievous, sometimes not) and then walks the reader through how hubris or pride often precedes a downfall.
The few entries that did click for me dealt with reimaginings (or possibly misinterpretations) of the mystical side of Star Wars. How would the average person in this universe perceive an encounter with the Jedi or Sith? And how would they relate those encounters to others? It seems likely that those anecdotes would become warped over time and evolve into the stuff of fantasy, and I think that’s the aspect of human nature this book most successfully conveys: our desire to tell stories, be they entirely truthful, partially embellished, or wholly fabricated.
Like 2017’s anthology tome Star Wars: From A Certain Point of View, the individual episodes in Myths & Fables aren’t necessarily canonical to the larger Star Wars mythos, but they do represent the malleable tendency of the way its canon has functioned for over four decades. Factor in unreliable narrators, exaggeration, and other hyperboles, and you start to see the bigger picture of how the enormous, almost unwieldy tapestry of ancillary Star Wars storytelling has been formed every since the first movie came out in 1977.
There are hints that the accounts contained in Star Wars: Myths & Fables refer to events or personalities we’ve seen before: one heroic figure on Tatooine sounds an awful lot like Obi-Wan Kenobi, there’s a two-part narrative about a Wanderer and a Wraith that suggest the good/evil duality of Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader, and we even spend some time in Oga’s Cantina on the planet Batuu, but this premise works best when the situations are interpreted as allegorical rather than cold, hard Star Wars fact.
The creepiest (and probably my personal favorite) of the stories is entitled “The Witch and the Wookiee,” and it sees a crew of space pirates stranded on a desolate moon in search of a place to conceal their latest haul of treasure. Lost in the swamp, they come upon the lonely home of an old woman who welcomes them in and provides them with food and shelter. Not all is what it seems, of course, and intentions are disguised on both sides of this chance meeting.
This particular yarn really showcases what I liked most about Star Wars: Myths & Fables. For a book aimed at younger audiences, it doesn’t shy away from being scary, and though its lessons are frequently on-the-nose, it delivers them in a way that may very well frighten children into behaving, lest a Krayt dragon come eat them or the mysterious Wraith dispatch them with its blazing red forearm. This is Grimm’s Fairy Tales intended for offspring of the Star Wars set, and– while I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to fans over the age of ten or so– under those auspicious parameters, it undeniably succeeds.
Star Wars: Myths & Fables is available now wherever books are sold.
Mike has been fascinated by theme parks and Disney all his life. He has worked in the entertainment journalism field since 2015, after spending a decade as a film projectionist at one of Hollywood’s most prestigious movie theaters. He resides in Burbank, California with his wife and cat.