The Jedi are a sagely band of warrior-knights in George Lucas’ Star Wars films. Imbued with a high concentration of ‘the force,’ a bio-mystical power permeating all existence, Jedi’s work to liberate their galaxy from an oppressive empire and more generally, to keep the the force in balance.
In much of the Star Wars films, the empire is ruled by an evil emperor and his No. 1 minion, a Sith Lord. The most famous Sith Lord is Darth Vader, who himself is a fallen Jedi.
Jedi Masters normally belong to a Jedi Council. And at death a Jedi becomes immortal and honored, not unlike the ancient Greek heroes who, through their outstanding valor, escape the bonds of the shadowy underworld to enjoy eternal life on the blessed isles.
As with the religious sinner, a fallen Jedi, even a Sith Lord, may be redeemed by a significant act of kindness or self-sacrifice. Darth Vader, for instance, realizes that, without help, his son Luke Skywalker would perish. At a critical moment when Luke is about to be destroyed by the evil emperor, Darth’s humanity is rediscovered and he turns to fight the emperor. This guarantees Luke’s survival at the cost of Darth’s physical but spiritually redemptive death.
Also similar to most ancient myths, the Star Wars films exhibit subtle variants. For instance, in the original release of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, the redeemed Darth Vader appears in spirit form, played by actor Sebastian Shaw. But due to the popularity of Hayden Christensen’s subsequent portrayal of a youthful Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader’s name before he became a Sith Lord), in a 2004 DVD release of the film Shaw was replaced by Christensen as the resurrected Vader. And over the years, other scenes have been altered, added or expanded upon due to artistic choice and also the enhanced technologies which became available.¹
The word Jedi was added to The Shorter Oxford Dictionary in 2002.
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