Galactic History, or Galactic Folk Tale?


FROM: Doctor Flox Beelthrak, Education Department, Corellia University

Djane Lel, Secretary of Historiography, Coruscant Teacher’s College



Your Harvest issue’s cover feature (“Heroes of the Galactic Revolution: A Twenty-Year Retrospective”), however well-intentioned in its commemoration of the anniversary of our galaxy’s liberation from the Palpatine Regime, indulged in and perpetuated many damaging and historically inaccurate popular fantasies.

However widespread the folk narrative of the Skywalker and Solo families has become in the decades since liberation, we expect more from a journal of your self-professed dedication to intellectual rigor.

The Great Sophont Theory of History has been deservedly discredited for decades; our galaxy’s very size—millions of sentient species spread across billions of worlds—should be enough to discredit any notion its history might be shaped by the decisions of a few individuals.  What steersman could seize the wheel of such a vessel?

The sad fact is, no matter how appealing tales of galactic heroism may be—and we’re fans ourselves!—history is made by movements and groups, not individuals.  To demonstrate this we need look no further than Palpatine himself.  The recent, brilliant, monograph IMPERIAL MINDS by Dr. Del Rivane of Dothek Polytechnique rather conclusively demonstrates that the Banking Clan and Corporate Sector’s drive for unified tax policy, new market access, and spacelane security, combined with the ambition of a rising human military officer class in the Late Republican period, were the main drivers of “Palpatine’s” coup and the subsequent (apparent) stability of the so-called “Imperial” government.

Palpatine was a consummate politician, this no one denies, but his political savvy can be most clearly seen in the deftness with which he walked the slack line of Late Republican politics.  The “Evil Emperor” truly has no clothes: documentary evidence reveals a brilliant and cynical man, yes, but a man nonetheless, whose high office emerged naturally from conflicts between the increasingly powerful and inherently ademocratic Republican bureaucracy on the one hand, and an overwhelmingly human military on the other.

But far more dangerous than the Palpatine-as-Evil-Genius vision, to our minds, is the popular tendency to attribute the Rebellion’s success to the, for the most part undocumented, personal heroism of a small elite group.  The Rebellion was an interstellar effort of millions.  No one doubts the importance of the Organa family’s leadership in the early Rebellion, or of Leia Organa’s personal role as an organizer of the Alderaanian diaspora after the Tarkin Incident.  But legends—folk tales, really, with no textual attribution—about Leia Organa’s personal achievements during the Rebellion at best distract from, and at worse erase, the contributions of the Alderaanian diaspora community to the war effort post-Tarkin.

And Organa is the most clearly documented of the folk heroes your Harvest issue seeks to lionize!  General Skywalker’s contributions as a pilot are legendary, of course—the Skywalker Doctrine of Snub Combat remains required reading in the Academy—but Skywalker’s military career was cut short by his increasing religious fanaticism and withdrawal from public life.  The man, a moisture farmer turned hero, is fantastic enough from a historian’s perspective; while folk tales of his association with “lost masters” of the Jedi Order, and of his personal miracles, make for pleasant campfire evenings, they drip with mythic patterning—and his purported genetic link with the Organa dynasty borders on the propagandist.  And the less said about parentage assertions with genocidal maniacs, the better.

Generals Solo and Calrissian were valuable bridge-builders between the nascent Rebellion and a community of small business owners chafing under the Planetary Governor regime, but many oral histories of the Rebellion ignore this role entirely, preferring to focus on poorly documented or entirely mythical personal achievements.  Tales of the Huttese Palace Incursion, which you, shockingly, included in your profile, are standout examples of the form.  Such an adventure would have been strategically incoherent—sending Organa in disguise to rescue Solo, Skywalker allowing himself to be captured–and the prurient asides focusing on Senator Organa’s captivity by “Jabba the Hutt,” the broadest and most speciesist caricature of a Huttese shaa%kzeh of which we are aware, are obviously intended to discredit and shame Organa.  Much of the male human galaxy, alas, remains uncomfortable with the fact that human political leadership of the Rebellion was predominantly female.  (As of course it would have been—human male elites did quite well under the Empire.)  Palace Incursion folk tales privilege the people the story isn’t actually about.

Folk tale and myth are, of course, valid and vital components of sophont cognition.  As the galaxy grows increasingly galactic, myths help limited sophonts perform practical ‘fast clumping and processing’ (Kaaffa the Hutt, Rational Typing in Mythic Decision Making, Nar Shaddaa Press, 1129aad.88q.pear).  But the proper study of history unpacks myths.  In Calrissian and Solo, we see a disenfranchised entrepreneurial element rising to resist a bureaucratic regime.  In Organa, we see survivors of genocide fighting back.  In Skywalker, galactic cultural institutions, the “old country religion” as it were, stands against a secularist order.  In Ackbar, we read the Mon Calamari decision to break with Late Republican / Imperial rule and become, in Ackbar’s noted phrase, “the arsenal of freedom.”  Myths help us act; history helps us understand.

In our roles as educators, we’ve come to expect that provincially educated frosh will arrive steeped in folk narrative.  It’s our job to teach them better.  They learn slowly, but they do learn.


We did not expect to have to undergo the same process with your newspaper.


Dr. F. Beelthrak

Dr. Djane Lel


Yes, I did write a fixfic based on the “Wait—all the stories are true?” line from the new Star Wars trailer.

I’m not sorry.

ALSO.  I have a new Bookburners episode out today!  “Now and Then” is about Grace, Shanghai, and layers of historical monstrosity.  I think it’s really good.  Enjoy!

18 Responses to “Galactic History, or Galactic Folk Tale?”

  1. Ricardo Alves Junqueira Penteado

    The best part is, I can easily see this being taught in class somewhere.

    The second best part is, if I ever go back to GMing Star Wars, I’ll begin the campaign with this lecture.

    • max

      Excellent! Do so with my compliments.

      I’m always in favor of Star Wars GMing. The most exciting thing about TFA, to my mind, is that if it’s good, it’ll open up another few decades of story for gamerunning. (I love the EU, but players don’t know it like they know the OT.)

      • Ricardo Alves Junqueira Penteado


        I used to GM a lot based on my version of the EU (basically I edited out things like the flying force-user bunnies and created my own political scenario for the New Republic, with three factions: the Imperial Remain, the New Empire and the Republic), but stopped a little after getting addicted to Dark Heresy and Rogue Trader.

        Personally, I like what Disney has being doing with their “New EU” so far. There’s a big chance I’ll go back to GMing it if they don’t midi chlorian the new movies!

        And thanks for the copyright waiver there! ^^

        If I ever use it I’ll come back here to tell you how it goes!

  2. BSD

    It’s everything I hoped and more.

  3. Sigrid

    Oh, very well done. *applauds*

  4. Ouranosaurus

    Dear Editor,

    I must take issue with your letter by Doctors Beelthrak and Lel in your last issue. Dr. Beelthrak’s excellent lectures have of course steered many of us away from the Great Sophont Theory and into a wider understanding of galactic history. I myself matriculated from good ol’ Corellia U (Go Fighting Rancors!) and was fortunate to sit in on a few of the doctor’s lectures.

    However, the good doctor’s theories of the economic causes of the Galactic Rebellion are hopelessly outdated…

    [17 pages of insufferable trade theory/nitpicking redacted by Secretary Droid G-479]

    …and in conclusion, I hope that in future you will be more mindful of typos, like those I listed above.

    Yrs. in the Force,

    Cmdr. Hek Uskin (ret.)

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  6. Jennifer Cole

    I don’t know what frightens me more: (a) that I agree (b) that I understand any of it in the first place (c) that I care …. so much.

  7. Far McKon

    Dr. F. Beelthrak & Dr. Djane Lel

    I too am disappointed with the coverage in TRADE ROUTES. However I am also astounded that after years of economic research, you did not see fit to mention the underlying economic grounds for the dissolution of the republic, and the growth of The Empire, and it’s collapse.

    As Spanks and Bargles wrote in their tome ‘Galactic Capital, on the creation of the wealths of planets’, the inherent contradiction in capitalism drove the destruction of the Republic. To deny the class and economics driven dynamics of the Emperi-zation is render oneself as blind as a Sarlacc. Which is incidentally, a great analogy for our modern galactic trade system, as it is constantly gobbling everything it can gasp, and creating a barren desert in it’s ravenous reach.

    “Trade and politics are forever the moons orbiting the planet economics. Yet who looks to the sun they all circle, called ‘the needs of the many’? ” – Bargles.

    Dr. Bartelscap Hazelhopf (M.S, BrGH, PrC)

  8. Ingrid

    You, sir, are my hero (non-mythic).

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  10. jh3141

    I’d love to read this, but I do most of my personal internet browsing from my phone these days, and when I zoom in far enough to read the text, your author bio – which is fixed in position and therefore always on screen wherever I scroll to – takes up more than 3/4 of my screen, making it hard to read anything else. Can you remove the “position: fixed” setting from the bio for the sake of those of us with small screens?

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