Welcome to the conclusion of Star Wars Week! I hope you enjoy today’s piece.
Ever since I heard this song for the first time, I’ve always wanted to do something for it. It’s just so beautiful and so sad. Besides, it’s traditional Irish–and that has me pretty much sold in the first place. And when I heard the lyrics, it just screamed Obi-Wan. Think about it. The line about “his father’s sword,” the part where the minstrel says he will never abandon his country… there were a thousand associations with Obi-Wan.
And then, there’s the way he walks. Except for Qui-Gon, he’s the only character in the prequels who ever seems to move with both purpose and grace. Anakin might be graceful, but not with the same understated elegance, and he sometimes vacillates aimlessly, unlike Obi-Wan, who chooses a spot and stays put, and if he moves, makes a statement with it. In The Phantom Menace, Obi-Wan moves with a sort of lethal, dangerous, almost tight-coiled, tightly controlled energy, but it almost looks as if he’s dancing to a strain of music that no one else (except, perhaps, Qui-Gon) can hear. In Attack of the Clones, the high-strung energy has dissipated somewhat, and with things smoothed out, it’s even more apparent. In my opinion, the coolest warriors are the ones who (like Legolas) look like they’re dancing in the middle of the fight. (Yes, Anakin fans and Obi-Wan bashers, the prissy-talking, annoying, sanctimonious plot device in the corner is actually a character and a warrior in his own right.)
For the record, I do not own this song. I did not write the original; I only added a few extra verses.
On with the show!
The Minstrel Boy
Jedi Master Dooku paced slowly along the Temple halls, each step a measured beat. Light suffused and overflowed in the hallowed precincts.
There was a soft murmur and chatter of voices ahead and behind, all around; it was a festival day for the Jedi, the celebration of the healing of the Vonlauren Schism, but despite the fete, even the young ones knew better than to break decorum in the Temple halls.
One clear voice suddenly rose above all the rest, distant, but pure, ringing, a boy’s voice, still high and sweet, not yet the man’s tenor it might become. There was a resonant lilt to it that startled Dooku almost as much as the realization that a Youngling, or perhaps a junior Padawan, was singing in the Temple.
“The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death you’ll find him;
His father’s sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him.”
Dooku almost hurried on, curiosity piqued about the singer. Few boys that he knew of ever sang in public, deeming it below their dignity, or even degrading, to do so.
The singer’s voice was entrancing, enchanting, speaking of something that somehow, Dooku knew he had lost. He wasn’t even sure what it was. The voice was full of promise, potential. It was as if, with every breath, it was changing the future.
He rounded a corner and beheld a group of Younglings and Padawans, with a scattering of Knights and even a few Masters thrown in, gathered around a Padawan perhaps fourteen years old. The Padawan was singing, unaware of the greater crowd around him, to the audience in front, which was entirely Younglings. He was of medium height, not especially tall but with a sturdy build, coppery-gold hair crowning a youthful but mature face. Blue-gray eyes shone with fervor.
“’Land of Song!’ cried the warrior bard,
‘Though all the world betrays thee,
One sword, at least, thy rights shall guard,
One faithful harp shall praise thee!’”
The singer’s eyes sparkled and his cheeks flushed, the very picture of youthful enthusiasm. He raised his right hand in the air, as if rallying an invisible host. He was thoroughly caught-up in the song. Yet, his Force-signature blossomed with a hard-edged luminance, burned with a radiant pure-white fire. Dooku’s lip curled slightly in a faint smile. So, this was Qui-Gon’s Padawan? Poor lad, he probably hero-worshipped the great Master Jinn. Dooku had seen it before. The boy probably thought Qui-Gon could do no wrong.
The sentiments of the song, though… Dooku’s brow furrowed. The boy would go down on a burning ship. He had seen such fierce loyalty before, and it would sooner or later destroy the child…
Dooku walked slowly away. He had business to attend to, and the bright vignette was soon forgotten.
The minstrel boy to the war is gone,
In the ranks of death you’ll find him;
His father’s sword he hath girded on,
And his wild harp slung behind him.
Side by side, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn fought the monster before them. A kick knocked Obi-Wan off the catwalk; he fell several stories and was forced to leap back up and run to catch up to the battle ahead.
A laser gate slammed shut, hissing to existence before him. Obi-Wan watched, trapped, unable to interfere, as the red lightsaber ran his mentor through. “No!” he screamed, the sound torn from him. As Qui-Gon toppled to the ground, the monster whirled around to face the bereft Padawan.
The moment the gates retracted, he was attacking the Sith with a fierce vigor, but his anger and pain made him reckless. The Sith hurled him off the precipice with a blasting, unrefined Force-push; Obi-Wan could not help but fleetingly think that if he had wanted the Sith dead, he could have returned it, only with a little more precision, and broken the Zabrack’s neck. But he did want the Sith dead… didn’t he?
The battle was lost. But not the war, perhaps…
Obi-Wan focused on the unconscious memory of the past few minutes. That was it! Qui-Gon’s lightsaber! That was what he had forgotten!
He focused, re-centering himself, then leaped into the air. The lightsaber leaped to his hand. He struck down the ancient enemy. He hesitated for a moment, then ran to Qui-Gon’s side. He already knew the truth, though to see it was to send a cold weight slamming into his stomach.
Qui-Gon was dying.
At the funeral, though his face was warmed by the flames, his heart was cold, colder than it had ever been in his life. Then a boy whispered, “What will happen to me now?” And though Obi-Wan knew that things would never be the same, a tiny thread of music started, welling up from deep within, and somehow he knew things would be right again.
The battle hard rent brothers apart
And the nightmare long sware a harsh fire,
Yet still the faithful singer’s heart
Endured past its failing, weak attire.
The Clone Wars had begun. The great game that Sidious had planned for years was finally in motion. Dooku felt as though his own place, though still hollow, was not quite so meaningless.
And it gave the former Padawan of his former Padawan a chance to shine. It seemed that it was in Kenobi’s nature to bring hope, to continue no matter the circumstances.
For though the war was cold and long
Each battle blow had fallen
Fated in the dawn of song
The Minstrel fought on, song calling.
It seemed that each victory only led to another battle, but Obi-Wan went on. He had little choice, but even if he had, he would have gone on all the same. He brought hope where he could, healed those who would be healed and closed the eyes of those who could not.
Not even despair would chill his blood
And not even fear ever stayed him;
But in the end, it was not the foe
But his own side betrayed him.
Not even despair could stop Kenobi, Dooku mused. The younger man was startlingly stubborn, though he should have only expected that from any student of Qui-Gon’s.
Dooku wished that he could lead the boy away from his own destruction.
At Kenobi’s side, Skywalker was always there. Dooku could already see the potential star-cross of the pair. Skywalker was bright, talented, but too quick and wild. The boy was going to break Kenobi’s heart one day.
And on shores of fire at last the flood
Of flame and dark descended
Yet still he stood and against the tide
He ne’er let the song be ended.
“You were my brother, Anakin! It was said that you would… destroy the Sith… not join them! Bring balance to the Force, not leave it in darkness!”
Disbelief. Pain. Confusion. Denial. Horror.
“I hate you!”
“You were my brother, Anakin. I loved you.”
Obi-Wan couldn’t watch any more. But then… Padme! he remembered, and stumbled back up the hill.
And the golden thread of music went on, unnoticed.
The Minstrel fell! But the foeman’s steel
Could not bring that proud soul under;
The harp he lov’d ne’er spoke again,
For he rent its chords asunder
The melody was loud and strong when Obi-Wan confronted Vader again.
And said “No chains shall sully thee,
Thou soul of love and brav’ry!
Thy songs were made for the pure and free
They shall never sound in slavery!”
He smiled at Vader, laughing in the Force. The joke was on Anakin. After all, Anakin didn’t understand that death was not the end.
Though the Minstrel fell and the cause was lost
Yet others rose to fight it;
And in his wake the storm uptossed
The vic’try claimed, requited.
“No!” Luke cried. The first moments after Obi-Wan’s passing, there was outward silence. But inwardly, Luke became aware of a golden strain of music. Then Obi-Wan spoke up. “Run, Luke!” And Luke obeyed.
On Hoth, they were hard-pressed, but they did not despair. On Bespin and Dagobah, they were sidetracked for a while, but soon found their way again; direction, and purpose. On Tatooine, they fought for one of their own. And on Endor, they conquered.
Called by the silent chords of hope
And brought to life by sacrifice
The ranks of those who bore on that torch
The harp’s unspoken song reprise.
As they celebrated that night on Endor and the news that Palpatine was dead and the Empire finished rocked the galaxy, Luke felt the melody that he had known all his life but had only become aware of recently deepen into harmony as his father, Obi-Wan, and Yoda appeared. They were there. They were not gone, and they never would be.
The Minstrel Boy will return we pray
When we hear the news we all will cheer it,
The minstrel boy will return one day,
Torn perhaps in body, not in spirit.
As long as those who remained true would remember.
Then may he play on his harp in peace,
In a world such as heaven intended,
For all the bitterness of man must cease,
And ev’ry battle must be ended.
There was peace, and the melody was true and strong.
And all was right.
Minor Blooper of the Day: Anyone notice how, in The Two Towers movie, when Pippin is about to get stomped on by the horse his hands seem to be free, but a moment later he has to cut his bonds? Weird. Oh, and Bonus Blooper! As Eomer mounts his horse saying, “Seek your friends, but do not trust to hope; it has forsaken these lands,” his sword is actually sliding out of its scabbard, which can be clearly seen in the movie!