Hera Syndulla. To date, we have had the good fortune to see Hera represented in Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars Forces of Destiny, the Star Wars novels and (briefly) the Star Wars comics. We even hear her name mentioned in Rogue One. Plus her father featured in The Clone Wars and Rebels (and a literary appearance in Lords of the Sith). That is a significant degree of content across various media for the Syndulla family and I thought it was worth highlighting how central Hera now is to the saga. In terms of Hera’s characterisation each story format also serves to highlight slightly different facets to her character.
As noted above, before Hera there came her father, Cham Syndulla. In The Clone Wars series, we get an insight into what Hera’s very early formative years must have been like through the depiction of her father’s and Ryloth’s experience during the conflict. Cham is also an integral character in the Paul S Kemp novel Lords of the Sith, and we see him in Star Wars Rebels too. If there’s one thing I get enthused about in the Star Wars saga it’s the laws of historical consequence and the associated ripple effects that it depicts so well. That’s why I love depictions of family or dynastic connections, and the back-story enhances Hera’s characterization well.
The novel A New Dawn by John Jackson Miller (also the author of the acclaimed Kenobi book) for me represents the seminal and essential study of Hera (I think it actually surpasses Star Wars Rebels in terms of its insight into Hera’s character and motivations). One of the most evocative sequences in the Star Wars literary canon (both old and new) is the mysterious introduction to the shrouded Hera as she monitors the developments on the Gorse system and the machinations of the Empire through Count Vidian. While we see some of the trademark humor in the dialogue between her and Kanan in the book, it is the dark seriousness and determination in completing her assigned task that is her prime characteristic in Miller’s novel.
A New Dawn’s plot brings us to the brink of Star Wars Rebels series. Given that it was the novel format that I experienced first, as opposed to Star Wars Rebels, I always felt that I had a very solid grounding in Hera’s character traits. I felt aware of her seriousness and determination, two qualities that don’t immediately hit you as her primary characteristics when you meet her at the very beginning of Rebels. With the presumed proximity between the end of A New Dawn with the start of Star Wars Rebels the book, therefore, acts at the perfect “jumping on” point for the character of Hera. By the time of the Rebels series she is a part of the collective “Lothal rebels”. The unique dynamic she has previously established with Kanan has also very much rendered them as the surrogate “parents” of the rest of the crew upon The Ghost at this point. While the dynamic between the other characters ebbs and flows, Hera and Kanan, bonded by their joint experience on the Gorse system continue to serve as the nucleus of the crew as we head into Season 4.
What Star Wars Rebels underlines first and foremost for me is that Hera and Kanan together form an important linkage role with the rest of the Star Wars saga. Both character’s childhoods link back to The Clone Wars era (Hera in the turmoil on Ryloth, Kanan/Caleb in the aftermath of Order 66) and subsequent events relating to the fall of the Republic. Both have had their life course dramatically altered by those events. Their role in events, which is yet to be concluded in storytelling terms, is based in the cell activity of the Rebel Alliance, and so they are active participants in the events that triggered the eventual fall of the Empire and thus, the establishment of the New Republic. So they are of an age that makes them extremely important to the entire saga with roots buried in The Clone Wars era, but with an influence on key events that cascade right through to the era of The Force Awakens.
A final note I’ll touch upon what is sometimes treated as the poor relation of the Star Wars media universe, the comics. Although there is only minor coverage of Hera within this medium at the time of writing, her appearances serve to underpin the dynamic with Kanan, coming as they do within the Kanan title. Hera along with the other guests on The Ghost, appear at intervals to reinforce plot points in the backdrop to Kanan/Caleb Dume’s story. The artistry of Hera’s depiction by Larraz and the representation of her generally has an accord with her Rebels depiction.
I think Hera is a beautiful case study in the richness that can be drawn out from a character where the variety of formats within the Star Wars narrative universe can be employed to present a rounded, and detailed character review. So the question we are left with is would a fully realized cinematic representation of Hera compliment this further?
One of the questions I and other fans are always asking is who we would like to see shown in the films from the animated series (The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels). At this point in time, I so equate Hera with her on-screen depiction in Rebels that I would actually have a sense of trepidation about a live action version. Those reservations are also underpinned by the fact that Vanessa Marshall’s voice work on the character is so considerable that it would be hard to experience anyone else assuming the role.
On balance therefore maybe my preference is simply for Hera’s adopted family member, and childhood companion Chopper to continue to represent The Ghost in any other future films…
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