Nothing makes elementary school students giggle like the word “love.” One of my goals with my Star Wars club was to help them understand the concept of philia or love of friends. I wanted them to know that it’s ok to “love” a friend, and Luke, Han and Leia are a perfect example.
For the sake of argument, let’s take out the romance between Han and Leia and focus just on their existence as part of the trio. Each of them brings something important to the mix that makes them an unbeatable force when they are united. Luke is very spiritual and concerned with the bigger picture. He is the keeper of the faith, the believer that good must win for evil to be destroyed. Thinking big, however, will not get the job done. In order to achieve their ultimate goal, they need Leia’s more grounded brain, filled with practicality and common sense. The two of them alone are not strong enough to accomplish the task at hand so they must have that extra pair of hands, the follower who can do what needs to be done as long as somebody will tell him what to do. Enter Han Solo.
Their fellowship does not always come off without a hitch, and therein lies much of the humor in the movies. Han doesn’t always want to do what they tell him to do, causing them no end of frustration. Luke is prone to go off on his own with his eyes on the greater good right when Leia could use for him to hang around and help with her plans. She even says he has a power she doesn’t have and doesn’t understand. Han believes in Luke but mostly just considers him a kid who needs to have his butt saved by the more worldly older brother figure, and he has a little bit of a problem when “her worshipfulness” tries to direct him somewhere he doesn’t want to go.
When all is said and done, however, the fact is that these three people love each other in the most philia sort of way. They come together as antagonists, but learn to respect each other’s gifts and recognize their power as a unit. There is a softness underlying their interactions that speaks without words: any one of them would give his/her life to protect the others. Han, Luke and Leia show us, and my kids, that the bonds of friendship can run very, very deep and to love someone doesn’t always mean romance.