Three forms of storytelling,
The Once And Future Jedi, by T.H. White,
Poor Mickey Mouse, he has indigestion and gout.

Cassiel C. MacAvity

. . . When George Lucas created Star Wars, he went back to the original stories about stories, the original quest for something missing, which inevitably and ultimately always leads to Bill Moyers interviewing Joseph Campbell.

---Robin Hood and King Arthur
---Dante Alighieri and his Commedia
---Poor Mickey Mouse, he has indigestion
---Mickey Mouse has gout

    When noting aspects of storytelling, of quite a few possibilities and actualities, there are three particular forms that have turned up over time.

---Yes, yes, yes, rather than only three forms, arguments can indeed be presented for some fourth, fifth, sixth, and then numerous other forms, and those additional forms would be those additional possibilities and actualities.---

In the meantime, for this paper, the main examples of these three particular forms being discussed here are: 1) Homer and the Iliad and Odyssey, 2) the King Arthur and Robin Hood stories, and 3) Dante Alighieri and his Commedia.

    Grabbing quickly from handy sources--trolling online---when one looks at the Iliad and the Odyssey, who bloody knows who Homer was or how the Iliad and the Odyssey came to be. A very likely occurrence for the creation is quite agreed upon by some group of scholars---and also quite disagreed, depending.

    There is a claim that there was someone named Homer. There is a claim that possibly at some point there were rather a number of people telling the same sorts of stories, and collectively all those people are now remembered as one person, maybe, named Homer. At any rate, of those stories, the Iliad tells stories of an event called the Trojan War, where the stories of the Odyssey occur after the war, telling of one person's rather meandering return back to Greece.

    At some point someone started telling this set of stories, and for what's being noted in this paper, the most important part is that the stories started to be told, and that they were only told, verbally, where in that original telling, no one was writing them down.

    In the Who Knows area, what Homer describes apparently took place anywhere from around 1000 BCE through about 1600 BCE, where the events described cover more or less a twenty year period. In turn, the educated wild assed guesses state that the first time these stories were written down was somewhere around 800 through 500 BCE. Even with that declaration, the current written forms may not have gotten more or less permanently set until sometime around 200 BCE, maybe.

    In that intervening period between the first telling and the first writing, there is a lot of room for a lot of verbal meandering about. As a part of that meandering, one unfortunate axiom notes that You will always have the pretentious failure---PF---among you. Certainly as one person or another told the Iliad and the Odyssey, there was going to be occasional instances of some PF somewhere demanding to hear the PF's version of the real story, with claims being made that the PF was not only capable of being involved, but that the PF was also capable of being heroic and being admired. At the same time, however, three valleys over, with a different storyteller and audience, all involved would be entirely adult, all children being of the age of a child, with no PFs, and the stories told would be in the original form. Another couple of valleys in different direction, the same, and the same original telling, no alterations, no additions, no empty posturing, just pure, proven storytelling. And in time, the PF plagued area would have the PF(s) finally turn up dead, in one way or another, where soon enough the lightweight and inconsequential would be discarded and quickly forgotten. Once that occurred, with any wandering storyteller, the story that would be told would indeed return to being the actual original story, without any of the posturing additions demanded by some idiot.

    In that intervening period between the first telling and the first writing, a number of variations would indeed have occurred in the telling, but just not really have any lasting effect on the overall form that we now know as the Iliad and the Odyssey. Over enough time, the idiots would get filtered out, the verbal forms would get settled in, the assorted details would turn up over and over and over, and then finally the first writing would then occur. And, once that first writing occurred, at that point the matter of being locked into a permanent form would have begun, where at that point any demands for some massive change would be obvious, and would immediately be noted---and remain---as a variation of the actual form, not a new part of it.

---Robin Hood and King Arthur
    With the stories of King Arthur and Robin Hood, the Arthurian stories take place more or less around 500 CE, where the Robin Hood stories take place around 1100 or 1200 CE. In both cases there are assorted arguments as to whether either person actually existed, or may have been a blend of several actually existent people, or maybe quite a few different storytellers merely started telling a bunch of stories about Some Guy.

    What is definitely noted for both sets of stories is that after awhile, a general collection of stories came into existence, where that general collection definitely started with someone telling some story or singing some song, and then a relatively short time later, the story and the songs got written down. What also applies in this instance is of more widespread literacy by the time of these sets of stories being told---as opposed to the Homeric storytelling and hardly anyone writing anything, relying instead on telling the story, and memory. For the Robin Hood and King Arthur stories, and the recording in fixed form, there wasn't the time needed for a single coherent story to settle in before the writing.

    Thus, for both the King Arthur and Robin Hood stories, there are rather a number of variations of who the main character would have been, of where the actual stories took place, and of who was involved in which story variation or not involved. On top of that, later writers themselves would take the earlier texts, may also have folded in what they themselves may have been hearing that had not yet been written down, and created additional texts which themselves added to and became part of the recorded stories of both King Arthur and Robin Hood. One even later example, written in the 20th century, is T.H. White's cycle of Arthurian stories, The Once And Future King, where White even adds the Robin Hood stories to the first book in the cycle, The Sword In The Stone.

    In the case of both Arthur and Robin, because of when the first telling and then first writing occurred, there is no sole absolutely authoritative single story with no variations. Any detailed telling has to take into account the differences from one particular source to another. Any general telling will and does do what has been occurring since that first set of writing: Don't bother telling The Correct Story, just grab random bits, and entertain people with another round of the story. At the general level there is no concern about accuracy, there is only the occurrence of getting the story told at that moment, where the next moment may have a complete different version.

    One rather interesting point that does relate to the inspiration for this paper is the 20th and now 21st century output of both DC Comics and Marvel Comics. Once Upon A Time there was The Batman, and Superman, and The Fantastic Four, and Captain America. In less than a century, all of those and more have been created, recreated, morphed, rearranged, recast, reset, all going through more variations and retellings than the entirety of the King Arthur and Robin Hood stories. Keep DC Comics and Marvel Comics in mind for later in this essay.


---Dante Alighieri and his Commedia
    Dante lived in various parts of Italy from 1265 to 1321, where in his case there are very few legendary suppositions and guesses---He quite publicly went straight into rather copious amounts of poetry, with written out literary commentary. Over time, he also got very involved in rather documented local city politics, and even that was greatly affected by the situational political and economic spasms that were washing across Italy and up and down Europe at the time.

    In his case, he certainly was concerned with the telling of stories, and in fact one of his essays is a comparison of local dialects and how those dialects sounded when spoken. At the same time, he did his own writing, so there was no possibility of accidental changes to the story, no separation between the teller of some story and the first person to write it down. In fact in Dante's case and the writing of the Commedia, he managed to arrange that there can be only what he wrote, there can be nothing else, no change, no alteration.

    The way he did that took advantage of his local Florentine dialect and also created a whole new writing form. At that time, Italian as it is spoken now didn't entirely exist, sort of, yet. What happened is that because of Dante and his Commedia, that local dialect very quickly became better known than all the other dialects of the Italian peninsula. In enough time, that dialect became, by default, Italian. How this happened is because even when Dante was still alive, what he wrote had such an impact that everyone wanted to read it, and of course it was written to be spoken, so everyone was then speaking it, and then everything spread out from there.

    The first advantage that Dante made use of is that when creating poetry and trying to get things to rhyme, well, in Italian, it's rather hard to keep everything from rhyming anyway. The second advantage that Dante created is the method he used to write over fourteen thousand lines of words: They are so arranged so that any change by an outside writer is going to be immediately obvious . . . or at least extremely difficult to arrange. First off, each line has eleven syllables. Secondly, all that rhyming then comes in, where the end of every succeeding line of those thousands of lines follows a rhyming pattern of A-B-A, B-C-B, C-D-C, D-E-D, E-F-E, F-G-F, and then on from there. Make a change in one line, and it's not going to match what came before it and what follows. Therefore, the only options when considering the Commedia are either take the entire poem as it is, or, none of it.

---Poor Mickey Mouse, he has indigestion
    In 1977, another storyteller went and told a tale. In this case, the storyteller was named George Lucas, and the particular story was a movie called Star Wars. Star Wars was an immediate and absolute success---a bit of an echo of Dante. Following the release of Star Wars in the theatres, other story tellers started getting involved. In this case they didn't need to make another movie---for one thing, there is the relatively massive cost involved. However, for just telling a story, words remain the basic tool that one can make use of. In 1976, as a part of the making of the movie, a writer named Alan Dean Foster wrote out a bunch of Lucas' notes for Star Wars, with the result being a novel of the same name. In 1978, he continued, with a followup novel called Splinter Of The Mind's Eye.

    With the movie being an absolute success, the very easy decision by all involved was to make more movies, and The Empire Strikes Back followed in 1980. In turn, the second movie had its novelization, as did the third movie, called The Return Of The Jedi. Over the next very few years there were some additional novels that were written up based on the Star Wars material, and a short lived comic book series, and then for awhile, pretty much everything died out. In 1991, another writer named Timothy Zahn wrote a book called Star Wars: Heir To The Empire, which takes place some five years after The Return Of The Jedi. Zahn's book was an absolute success, as were his later books. From there, other writers got involved, all that writing being licensed by Lucasfilm, the film production set up by George Lucas for his assorted film projects.

    After that, the Star Wars storytelling expanded out in all directions. One set of stories continued forwards to tell what happened after the movies, another set went backwards to tell what happened before the movies, a third set went sideways, to tell of occurrences in parallel to the movies and during the time of the movies. In fact, the result of all this assorted new story telling is indeed known as the Expanded Universe, and includes everything from the movies to assorted novels, games, character dolls, video games, comic books, more novels, even more novels.

    Almost finally--note that almost---one result of all this expansion is being able to walk into a current bookstore and easily find an entire wall of shelves carrying nothing but Star Wars books. All of this material being Lucas based, all licensed by Lucas in some form or fashion, all expanding and expanding and expanding. There is an extremely addicted fan base out there, they buy everything that turns up that is linked to Star Wars, and they even create their own material in all sorts of forms, from original stories to original costumes.

    And finally so far, in 2012 Lucasfilm was bought by The Walt Disney Company. Very quickly, what was noted at that time was the further expansion possibilities as the size and noted creative history of Disney was linked with the great masses of material already created through the Lucas related licensing.

    And then we all get to the time of a rodent quite suffering upset situational intestines and aching joints.

    In 2014, Disney then announced that just about all of the Lucasfilm licensed and already existent material was thereafter declared as being merely some passing rumor and utterly not related to Star Wars whatsoever. From that point, whatever new stuff that Disney produced and stated to be Star Wars was going to be The Star Wars Material, and There Is And Has Been No Other Material Ever, you Will Genuflect Now, that's a good audience member . . . . .

    Unfortunately for Disney, when it comes to the Star Wars material, Mickey Mouse is not Dante and doesn't get to proclaim that this was decided where what is willed must be. Unlike the Commedia, that varied mass of Star Wars material is not a unified item that was already in a completely locked down form when it was created. By the time that Disney came along, Lucasfilm had already popped open the toy box---when properly licensed---, invited everyone to come and play, and oh boy did they.

    Unfortunately for Disney, what also does not exist is the situation of Homer after nearly a millennia of telling the same story, repeating the same story, flushing out any and all assorted variations that assorted PFs would have tried to add in, and only at such a point of stability does Disney get to sweep in to be the new storyteller.

    Unfortunately for Disney, they've got the wrong literary model, and that quite unsuccessful attempt is where everything keeps falling apart.

    Now, exactly as with DC Comics and Marvel Comics, Disney does indeed have the complete, absolute legal right to make such a declaration that Things Will Change, and Everyone Will Just Move Forward. The catch with Disney is that in the case of Marvel and DC, the 1200 pound superhero in the conversation is how those companies have treated their previous materiel: All that previous material remains still valid and still current and is still being worked with.

    In a number of occurrences, there are entire varieties of storyline where This instance of The Batman meets up with That instance of The Batman---yes, two completely different people, both equally called and being The Batman---. What happens from there is that one of the several also extant versions of the Flash is working with the pair of The Batman, where the Flash makes use of a magic treadmill----Yes, you just encountered a citation of a magic treadmill.

    Yes, in fact, at some point, go ahead and do a search for a gizmo called The Cosmic Treadmill.

    In the meantime, the comics companies have noticed that instead of the situation of Dante, and instead of the situation of Homer, what they have created for themselves is the situation of the King Arthur and Robin Hood stories, and the comics companies have absolutely run with that situation. Let Me Repeat: The comics companies have created a situation of ambiguity and equanimity where they have accepted and are entirely comfortable with the entire situation. Of course, as an an additional difference between Disney and the comics companies, Disney can have a relatively easy production schedule of Some Large Thing that comes out Every Few Years. Quite by contrast, the comics companies are cursed and also blessed with the much different production schedule of still having to crank out a new issue pretty much every month.

    Exactly the same as the comics companies, quite instead of Dante or Homer, what Disney has to deal with is indeed King Arthur and Robin Hood all over again . . . . The sorcerer's apprentice can wave his wand all he wants, but the marching brooms have already been bringing in entire Los Angeles basin swimming pools of water that have already sloshed all across the stage that poor Mickey is trying to be the sole occupant of. On top of that, the Mickey Mouse attempt at new material to be the Disney Heir To Their Empire is just not up to what has already been created through the Lucasfilm licensing.

    When George Lucas created Star Wars, he went back to the original stories about stories, the original quest for something missing, which inevitably and ultimately always leads to Bill Moyers interviewing Joseph Campbell. In 2015, and absolutely as a contrast, Disney brought out a movie which was quite entirely only generally reminiscent of being Star Wars all over again. In this case, and instead of being an exercise in storytelling, the procedure used by Disney was rather simple: First, roll the initial scroll of text to show that this is a Star Wars movie. Next, continue with waving about on screen an ongoing stream of assorted icons and characters from the original movies. Finally, once the supply of characters and icons has run out, roll the closing credits.

    One result of that Disney focus on The Shiny Things instead of actual storytelling creativity comes from an online movie review series called Cinemasins. The Cinemasins process is to dig through a movie and call out every instance of something being clearly broken or just not making sense. Of Disney's Mickey Mouse attempt to follow George Lucas into the theatres, the primary Cinemasins review was succinct. When reviewing that "movie", following the "discovery" of yet another Great Icon, Cinemasins made the proclamation that Artifacts from the original trilogy are more easily found than pop-up ads on a porn site. In turn, for the benefit of the Disney accountants, the result was a complete financial success---according to Wiki, the movie cost $306 million, and brought in just over $2 billion.

    Of course, because that attempt at a Star Wars movie was a complete flop as an example of story telling, Mickey Mouse had to come up with something else before continuing on with a next movie. Judging From The Results---note the disclaimer there---the solution was to test out a new idea in a new movie, and then take the results of that to the next formal Grand Release of a further movie. The two part new idea that someone at Disney apparently came up with was first to go back to story bits which Lucas and his staff had already done---in this case the creation of the Death Star from before the first Star Wars movie. With that Lucas based background framework---again, looking at the results---what Disney did for the second step was to take a team of video game designers, and tell them to make a video game outline based on the creation of the Death Star. Only once the game was designed, only then did the trivial bits like dialogue and film script format get tossed in so that something could go before the cinematic cameras and computers. That result went onto the screens in 2016 and it also was a financial success, costing $200 million and bringing in a little over $1 billion.

    In December of 2017, Disney released a movie that is best described as The Latest Junkheap. Another popular and accurate name is The Last Straw. Again, judging from the results, TLJ was quite obviously merely assembled by a team of videogame designers. Once again they were handed a collection of playing pieces and told to go make some game that involves solving complicated game puzzles while shooting lasers, or something like that.

    As an example of storytelling, TLJ. Is. Really. Really. Really. Really. Really. Bad.

    As examples of shoddy storytelling and quite easily without revealing any plot details, three points of the utter lack of or even attempt at quality equally easily come to mind. In fact, being able to cite the three issues so readily is itself an example of the scale of the fiasco. Of the following, all names and labels have been removed for anyone who has not seen the movie. At the same time they will easily be recognizable to someone who has already seen the movie.

    1) A command is given of Send in the bombers. With that command, several large spacecraft go into operation with the intent of going to another spacecraft and dropping the bombs. Because all of this is occurring in space, in free fall, there is no up, down, or sideways in the area that all the spaceships are operating. At this point in the movie, there is a planet nearby, but all of the spaceships are very obviously merely maneuvering near the planet much more than being over the planet. Inside the bombers, one sees that the delivery system is totally standard for an atmospheric airplane that drops bombs: The procedure is to get the plane to be over a target, to be above the target, open the hatch at the bottom of the plane to let the bombs fall out, let the bombs fall down through the air to---waitaminnit. When one is off in space, with no gravity, how do bombs fall down when there is no down? There is indeed gravity inside the ship so that crew members can and do run around, but once the bombs are dropped from the bottom of the ship, there is no gravity to keep pulling the bombs somewhere. And this scene is deemed to be a major point in the Mickey Mouse movie.

    2) Someone on a planet notices that something Needs To Be Done Over Thataway, hops into the nearest vehicle, and races off at a rather high rate of speed. From a very general memory of the amount of landscape that one sees going by, a guess at speed might easily be 60 miles an hour, 120 miles an hour, where the vehicle goes off thataway for quite a few minutes and therefore does cover rather a bit of distance. Once the vehicle gets to a particular location, the vehicle crashes, and the driver gets out. Very few minutes later, again, very few minutes later, A) the driver turns up back at the starting point. B) Not only has the driver apparently been walking all that distance, and has already returned in so short a time, but the driver found something of interest and has been dragging that something across the ground, so the driver hasn't even been managing an enthusiastic jog of some sort to allow covering all that distance in so short a time. C) Oh, by the way, during that time that the driver was off racing about, a whole new battle started up at the starting point. Therefore, the driver didn't only walk back the entire distance back to the starting point, the driver achieved that quite casual walk in the middle of a quite lethal barrage of blaster fire.

    3) Someone is on a planet, hears something overhead, and looks up. The camera also looks up, showing a growing number of objects that are popping into view at what looks like an altitude of maybe ten thousand feet, twenty thousand feet, and certainly no higher than that. The next shot is right in the middle of the arriving ships, and appears to be at least four hundred miles over the planet. There is a very prominent curve to the planet, almost so that the planet looks like a large ball, so the point of view is definitely far more than merely a couple of miles. As more and more spaceships also pop into view, there is a definite contrast with a second set of spaceships that had already been over the planet at that same general altitude. At the same time, the original ships are not being seen from the ground even as the arriving ships are indeed being seen, where as noted, both ships are at the same height or distance from the planet. Either none of the ships could be visible from the ground, or all of them have to be visible from the ground. In the same manner, if any ships are visible from the ground, all of those ships can not be so high that a planet looks like a ball instead of a curved table---Here on Earth, try looking up at the International Space Station during daylight, where it is nearly three hundred miles up and still low enough to have the Earth look like a rather curved table more than a planet. And this situation is also deemed to be a major point in the Mickey Mouse movie.

    And as noted, so far, this is only The Latest Junkheap. While TLJ was being unloaded at everyone, Disney also threatened that several other "movies" were also on the way.

    By The Way, doing really good military storytelling is extremely doable and there is no need to build everything as a video game---and especially even with all the philosophy tossed in, the Star Wars stories are indeed military stories. Very simply, go find Robert Frezza, and his trilogy of A Small Colonial War, Fire in a Faraway Place, and Cain's Land.

---Mickey Mouse has gout
    So. Disney having to deal with the Star Wars stories being just like the King Arthur and Robin Hood legends is a situation that will remain.

    Quite certainly, if the Mickey Mouse accountants wish to keep collecting really good revenue from video game licensing, nothing needs to change, at least for the near future. The Latest Junkheap is truly, utterly, absolutely ghastly, and it, too, is a financial success. TLJ apparently cost about $200 million to make and as of this typing has already racked up over $800 million at the box office. Remember, from the corporation point of view, all those video game bits and pieces are also an ongoing financial success, and people will keep signing up to play games long after a really ineptly assembled "movie" has left the theatres . . . . except that the really good video game revenue is first based on having and continuing to have really good storytelling.

    So far, Disney hasn't been learning how to tell stories using the Star Wars material, and hasn't yet learned to keep making use of all that material that has already been created. A two part note to the bean counters: 1) Because the material already exists, there is no need to hire people to create new stuff. 2) There already is an extremely rabid audience in place for all that material that already exists, therefore the introductory marketing costs are already taken care of. On an other hand, Disney is a Very Large Corporation, therefore it maneuvers Very Slowly. If a large oil tanker at full speed takes several miles just to change course, imagine how much effort is needed just to get the Death Star to make a turn.

    In the meantime, for Disney's problem with storytelling, there is a solution, even if that solution seems to be taking, oh, all the time that it took from the first telling of a king named Arthur up through the writing of The Once And Future King. In fact, relatively just recently, someone other than Mickey Mouse launched another cinematic complete fiasco based on the King Arthur stories rather than Star Wars, but nobody is the least bit concerned with how well stories about King Arthur will keep doing.

    Disney was never given enough time to have the Star Wars stories become settled in place as with the Homeric stories. Disney never had the opportunity to lock everything down the way that Dante locked down the Commedia.

    The collective solution that Disney can make use of is to remember the basic lessons of how to tell stories. Remember the basic example of the King Arthur and Robin Hood stories. Do let the video game makers go off and make video games somewhere else, and particularly only have them make their games after the actual and genuine storytelling and creative process has occurred. Let TLJ be the absolute fiasco that it is---even if it is a financial success!!---and instead of something like TLJ, do go ahead and work with the existing material and the makers of the existing material and just go and make new stories.

    When George Lucas created Star Wars, he went back to the original stories about stories, the original quest for something missing, which inevitably and ultimately always leads to Bill Moyers interviewing Joseph Campbell.

    Hey, Mickey;

    While you've got your aching feet up on a pillow, y'just might want to dust off a Joseph Campbell interview or two, just might want to do a bit of background reading and actually learn what real storytelling is all about . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .


© Cassiel C. MacAvity