That’s the burning question Star Wars fans want to know and the quest the gets the ball rolling (literally) in The Force Awakens. The Jedi Master is AWOL and the galaxy means to find him. But before we get to the big reveal, if you saw the movie, did you catch the two nods to ancient Ireland? If you haven’t seen the movie yet – spoiler alert! One reference is a small thing but a rather interesting faux pas. The other has huge plot potential, although I doubt the writers will take advantage of it. Know what I’m talking about?
Here’s the first nod to Ireland: when the writers selected the name Finn for stormtrooper FN-2187, who’s turned from the dark side to help the good guys, either actor John Boyega wasn’t cast at that point, or they wanted to give Irish geeks a chuckle. Finn is an extremely ancient Irish name, derived from the Celtic god Vindos, and means “fair, bright white, light-hued.” Actor John Boyega obviously doesn’t fit this description, but perhaps the name is in reference to the stormtrooper uniform or the fact that the character turns from the dark side to the light. There also might be some interesting social commentary going on there, but that topic is for someone else’s blog.
Finn mac Cumaill is the most famous person – the legendary hero of the Finn Cycle – to bear this name. Other finn- names from iron-age Ireland include Finnabair (“white ghost, sprite”), Finnbarr (“fair-haired”), Finnchad (“fair battler”), Finncháem (“fair, beautiful”), Finnchnes (“fair-skinned”), Finnchú (“fair-hound”), Finnétan (“fair brow”), Finnguala (“fair shouldered”), Finnat (“fair, blonde lady”), Finnsech (“fair lady, blonde girl), and Fintan (“the white ancient” or “the white fire”). (Ó Corráin & Maguire, 1981, pp. 100-104).
Since pilot Poe Dameron comes up with the nick-name Finn from the stormtrooper’s serial number, which is in turn a reference to the cell Princess Leia was locked up in in Star Wars: Episode IV, Finn=white is probably just a big coincidence. Still, it’s interesting.
But what’s more interesting is where Luke Skywalker is found…on Skellig Michael, a remote island off the coast of County Kerry. If you’re from Ireland, been to Ireland, or know anything about Ireland, you recognize the steep lonely crag immediately. As soon as the steps and clochans (beehive huts) showed up on screen, I knew where we were. There’s no other place like it in the world AND it’s the first place a hermit would go! The island is famous for the monastery founded there as early as the sixth century AD. You can read more about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skellig_Michael.
For Luke’s dramatic appearance, the panoramic view from the island was undoubtedly green-screened with more islands added for an otherworldly, almost Avatarish landscape. Skellig Michel is quite a lonely place.
The island will feature in Star Wars: Episode VIII, but sadly it won’t be the real thing. Instead, we’ll see Mark Hamill on a soundstage. Shooting on the island came to a grinding halt to protect migrating birds. Of course, being a Star Wars fan since age ten, I would love it if the writers brought Earth into the Star Wars universe and made Luke really be on Skellig Michael. Better yet…sixth-century Skellig Michael! He looks like he belongs there.
May the craic be with you!
Ó Corráin, D. & Maguire, F. (1981). Gaelic personal names. Dublin: The Academy Press.