Star Wars Origins - Miscellaneous Influences
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LEFT: Procession march from Triumph of the Will. RIGHT: Throne Room march from Star Wars.

Source
Idea
Notes
Norse Mythology Skywalker Loki, the Norse god of mischief, was also called Loptr, which is sometimes translated as "Skywalker"1
Old Testament Anakin The "Anakim" are a race of giants from the Old Testament1
Sanskrit Padme Padme means "lotus" in Sanskrit. From the sacred mantra of Tibetan Buddhists, "Om Mani Padme Hum" ("Oh jewel in the lotus").2
Loren Eiseley Mos Eisley Spaceport George Lucas may have named the spaceport for Loren Eiseley, a gifted naturalist who was immensely popular while Lucas was a teenager
The Nazis The Imperials Why do fascists always have the coolest uniforms?
religion and myth virgin birth of Jesus, the Buddha, Krishna, the Saoshyant, Ra, Apis, Jove, Horus, Osiris, Hercules, Dionysos, Amenkemp, Balder and Jason virgin birth of Anakin
Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" Series Idea of a sprawling, Romanesque galactic empire ruled from a planet covered entirely by a cityIn Foundation the city-planet is called "Trantor", in Star Wars "Coruscant"
Japanese TV The word "Jedi" Lucas said in an interview that he was inspired by a Jidai Geki (samurai-era soap opera) on TV during a visit to Japan
The Dam Busters
(1954)
"Attack run on the Deathstar" sequence from A New Hope The last act of A New Hope is strongly influenced by The Dam Busters, a movie about Allied flyboys who need to destroy a strategically-pivotal dam in Germany with a single bomb. Some of the camera shots and dialog are copied exactly, such as the line, "I'd say about twenty guns. Some on the surface, some on the towers."
B-17 Bomber Front canopy and gun turrets of the Millennium Falcon, front canopy of the TIE fighters Even the sound of the Millennium Falcon's engine was partially sampled from this innovative military craft from WWII
Vought F4U Corsair Unusual wing shape of the Imperial shuttles The Corsair was used by the American military during WWII
Real-life politicians Lucas probably isn't overly-impressed by Newt Gunray and Lott Dod Newt Gunray is reputedly a combination of Newt Gingrich and Ronald Reagan, while Lott Dod is a combination of Trent Lott (Senator from Mississippi) and Christopher Dodd (Senator from Connecticut)
Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will) Throneroom scene The final scene in Star Wars is borrowed from the infamous 1934 Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will, specifically a scene in which Adolf Hitler and two generals march while a vast army stands at attention3

More inspirations

1 Julie Lim's excellent Star Wars Names FAQ

2 From Fen Kortiay's essay on The Force.net

3 From Joel Frangquist's Star Wars and Triumph of the Will website. At the risk of getting too abstract, I suspect that Lucas' "Journal of the Whills" (which preceded the film in early drafts and the novel even today) was subconsciously assonant with "Triumph of the Will." I've noticed that great writers tend to get ideas from their favorite stories stuck in their heads, until one day they find a way to combine them with other ideas and create something new. For instance, it seems possible that Tolkien's Lothlórien was unconsciously sonorous with "King Lot of Lothian" (Scotland) from Le Morte D'Arthur. Star Wars was strongly influenced by the Mars books of Edgar Rice Burroughs, in which the highest military rank is "Jeddak" (Emperor). My intuition tells me that Lucas didn't want to copy Jeddak exactly, but he loved the exotic sound of it as the title of a great warrior. Then when he visited Japan and heard the word "Jidai" (from Jidai Geki, literally "period drama" - movies about Samurai), it was close enough to the sound of Jeddak that it gave him the same feeling while also being different enough to not feel like copying. The two ideas clicked into his original word Jedi. Of course there's no way I can prove this theory, but it feels true. In hindsight I realize that the point of building this website was to gain an intuitive sense of how Lucas might have put things together, and it's okay that some of my guesses are probably wrong. Studying your favorite storytellers isn't about learning to understand their focus perfectly (which is probably impossible), only well enough that you can find a model for developing your own focus.

On the off chance this digression isn't obscure enough, what was Edgar Rice Burrough's inspiration for the word "Jeddak" in the first place? It was probably a variation on his own word Jed (king), which he probably picked up from the theosophy writings of Helena Blavatsky (1831-1891). Blavatsky made a big deal of the Egyptian Djed in her ideas about Theosophy, a belief system which attempted to tie all the religions and mystic systems of the world into a single system. Egyptologists still debate about what this pillar-like structure symbolized, but... well, it was pillar-like, associated with divine fertility and strength, and often depicted piercing an Ankh, which symbolized life. In other words, the Djed is probably a god-phallus. (Fascinatingly, this means the words "Jedi" and "Usul" from Dune might both ultimately derive from the same idea. How cool is that?) In fact the Djed looks just a bit like Obi Wan Kenobi's lightsaber, and I briefly thought Lucas might have followed this same line of reasoning. After thinking it over carefully, though, I decided I'd reached the point where I was starting to see patterns which weren't really there. This told me it was time for me to stop studying Lucas and start creating my own story.

Star Wars created by George Lucas, © LucasFilm Ltd.
Star Wars: Origins © 1999-2006 by Kristen Brennan,
part of the Jitterbug Fantasia webzine.