Star Wars is sometimes known as the ‘Skywalker Saga’. Recently for me, it has become something of the ‘Erso Epic’. I’ve just finished reading Rebel Rising by Beth Revis and this novel, combined with Catalyst by James Luceno and, of course, Rogue One, have changed my perspective of Star Wars forever. In particular, I have fallen for a small, hardworking family - the Ersos.
Galen Erso - a brilliant scientist with a heart of gold. He had little sympathy from me on my first watch of Rogue One. He was just another a mad scientist and distant father. Now, after reading Catalyst, I can’t hear him utter the phrase ‘my stardust’ without welling up. In a way, I think he chose the harder way out than Lyra. Whilst Lyra died fighting the Empire, Galen chose to live fighting the Empire. With his wife dead, the only person in the galaxy who had truly understood him and loved not just the brilliant scientist with the once-in-a-generation mind, but the man beneath. The shy, slightly awkward man who had such great capacity for love and trust. Not only that but his only daughter, his beloved stardust, missing, perhaps dead.
I wonder whether Galen sometimes found it easier to imagine that Jyn had died, and was at peace with her mother rather than fighting alone in a dark and brutal galaxy. At least Jyn had the luxury of hate; hating her father for seemingly abandoning her. A fire to drive her actions. Galen had nothing, just a constant, crushing despair with the knowledge that not even ending his own life would stop the wheels of the terrible Imperial war machine.
Galen worked his entire life for a cause he despised because he knew that he alone might be able to come up with a way to stop it. I do believe he would have taken his own life if he thought it would have stopped the construction of the Death Star. But he knew better, so he condemned himself to a lifetime of lies and misery, without his beloved wife and daughter, to work quietly to bring the Rebellion a hope. Yet somewhere in that hopelessness, Galen found rebellion.
She’s like no other female character we have seen in Star Wars to date. She’s not a warrior like Rey or a political genius like Padme (or a blend of the two like Leia). She’s a normal person trying to get by in the extraordinary circumstances that her family have been put in. This makes her a more relatable character to me.
She was on to Krennic pretty much the first moment she saw him. It is said in Catalyst that Krennic is an expert at reading people and that is why he is such a talented manipulator, but Lyra is a strong judge of character. She saw right through Krennic but was smart enough to know she would need to prove it to Galen and couldn’t go around flinging wild accusations at Krennic. With her just her tenacity and wits, she whisked her family away from Coruscant, delaying the construction of the Death Star for years. I constantly wonder what would have happened had she not done this - had she not seen through Krennic's lies. How many more Alderaans would there have been had the Death Star been built sooner?
Lyra also has a belief and devotion in the force. She feels connected to it even though she cannot physically see or feel it. She passes this belief on to her daughter Jyn, giving her the kyber fragment that would give Jyn so much strength in the years to come. Jyn takes after her mother in so many years, and a lot of her more positive characteristics come from Lyra. Her last words to her daughter were ‘trust the Force’. Remaining hopeful that the force would find a way. In Rebel Rising, Jyn thinks of her mother - "Her mother had believed that hope was the most important thing in the galaxy" and as we all know "Rebellions are built on hope".
This is the woman who didn’t go quietly when everyone was telling her to stand down. When her husband told her to run, when the Empire told her to give up - Lyra refused. She went down, guns blazing, defiant - she took a shot. And in her single act of defiance, she created the spark of rebellion in Galen. He knew in that moment that he too shouldn't stand aside, he shouldn't go quietly. Because sometimes, it’s about going out on your own terms - standing up to the bully and defiantly saying “you’ll never win’.
Of all the Ersos, Jyn for me has the most tragic story. She never really knew happiness apart from in small, incomplete moments. The Empire may have destroyed her parents' lives, but it did something far worse to Jyn - it never really allowed her to have a life at all. A taciturn and reluctant hero, isolated, always either running or fighting, I wonder how many Jyn Ersos there were in the galaxy when the Empire was at its mightiest. Jyn had every right to be disillusioned, to be apathetic and indifferent to 'the cause'. And yet, in the face of overwhelming oppression and tyranny, when the Empire had taken everything from her, every single thing that she had once held dear, she chose to stand up and fight.
When Jyn hit rock bottom it was her mother's bravery and ideals that kept her going. Jyn had nothing left, she had absolutely hit rock bottom and this became the foundation upon which she re-built her life. I think in that moment she realised that she had nothing left to live for, but she did have something to die for.
I find her so inspiring. I wonder what would have happened had her father not been such a prodigy, would they have spent their years happily exploring the galaxy together, as a family delighting in the wonders of the universe? I always think of the Ersos, and, at the battle of Endor when the war is over and the celebrations have started, I now think of them, that this family's sacrifices brought the Rebel Alliance to that moment. They were the foundations on which the Rebel Alliance began its final push against the Empire. Saw used to say to Jyn, 'one fighter with a sharp stick and nothing left to lose can take the day'. I think that life gave each of the Ersos a sharp stick. And they each used it in their own way to take the day.
I think I see something of myself in all of the Ersos - my geeky, awkwardness in Galen, my love for the outdoors and, something of a zest for adventure in Lyra and Jyn - the outsider, never quite fitting in her whole life, until she found her family in the Rebellion. All three of them are so inspirational, I wish I had even half of Jyn’s courage, or a fraction of Galen’s selflessness and Lyra’s optimism.
I relate to the Ersos more than I ever did to the Skywalkers. The Skywalkers are a family of heroes, they are living legends, from Anakin the Chosen One to Luke and Leia and later even Ben Solo - a powerful Jedi destined for greatness. Yet the Ersos were normal people, they didn’t have the force - they each displayed those moments of everyday heroism and bravery which have become so important to Star Wars of late. An ordinary family, swept up in extraordinary circumstances. Yet none of them became little leaves to be buffeted along in a strong current. They became rocks, undeterred by the forces being thrown at them, they each stood for something, each carved out their own destiny. Each member of this remarkable family displayed a tenacity and determination that went far beyond the call of duty. They break my heart and I adore them. I have found my place in the galaxy with them, they are my Star Wars family.