House Made of Dawn

Hope you enjoy this exploration of The Mortis Trilogy from the animated television series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and its connection to N. Scott Momaday's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel House Made of Dawn

Special Thanks to Doctor Carla Verderame, Peter Fey, Phil Congleton, and our faithful listeners!


  1. I'm not at all familiar with the book, but I will seek it out now. Whether it was an influence or not (the posted images suggest it must have been!), it certainly helps make a little more sense of The Mortis Trilogy.

    At first listen the albino on black horse might seem a bit heavy-handed but I look forward to reading House Made of Dawn. Great episode!

  2. Let me triangulate a bit. Going along with the dagger thing, their seems to be a pattern with evil and daggers. What's with the dagger, anyhow? In The Lion, the Witch, and the WARDROBE, the White Witch kills Aslan on the Stone Table with a dagger. The Wardrobe can also be considered Mortis, really. You enter the world when you least expect it (It's clear that the Wardrobe and Mortis pull you in for their own reasons.) And, Just like Skywalker, Kenobi, and Asoka returning from Mortis in the exact place and time, the kids return to Earth? from the Wardrobe even after years have gone by in Narnia, at the same place, age, etc.... like nothing really happened. The Professor in LWW explains that time is a little "different" in Narnia.

    Just a few thoughts. Enjoyed the Podcast, Chris.

  3. PBF and Gaetan - Thank you both for your comments. I like how this episode brought up The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, especially since most of Lewis' work deals with his faith and, of course, the struggle between good and evil. Since your post, I've stumbled across an email response from Judy, a new listener, and how this episode brought to mind James Joyce's Portrait of An Artist as A Young Man. With permission, I'm posting Judy's comment:

    "Chris, while I thought that I could listen to this while doing my house cleaning, I became challenged by this eternal battle between good and evil. Be it black or white, or gray. I must confess that my knowledge of any Lucas Star Wars episodes boils down to seeing the first movie in high school in 1977 and remembering only the special effects and the heart throb quality of Luke. That being said, my science fiction interest equals that of Algebra. But here I have been inspired by comparing different works of art.
    I was able to relate to the plot in House Made of Dawn much more than that of Star Wars. The theory that good and evil must co-exist or disrupt the balance of the universe is also explored in James Joyce's Portrait of An Artist as A Young Man. When Joyce's alter-ego Stephen contemplates leaving the Catholic Church, much to his mother's dismay, he is internally conflicted about good, his mother's love, and evil, his desire to go his own way, follow his intellectual desires and dissapointing his mother. He compares the correspondence of birds to things of the intellect and of how the creatures of the air have their knowledge and know their times and seasons because they, unlike man, are in the order of their life and have not perverted that order by reason. He gazes upward to the sky as humans have done since the dawn of time. The birds in flight provoked a sense of fear of the unknown. "A fear of the unknown moved in the heart of his weariness, a fear of symbols and portents of the hawklike man whose name he bore soring out of captivity." Stephen wonders, 'symbol or departure or of loneliness?'
    He calls it 'folly,' but it was for this folly that he was about to leave the house in which he was born and the order of life out of which he had come. When Joyce's mother lay dying, he was the only one of his brothers and sisters who would not kneel and pray at her bedside. When Joyce died a priest tried to convince his widow, Nora, that a mass would be proper. Nora replied, "I could not do that to him." Joyce's choice to leave the church and his mother is often compared to his leaving his 'mother-land' Ireland and living his life in exile.
    All three literary works are examples of the eterna 'good vs evil' conflict. I find it facinating that I turned to Joyce. Perhaps it is because I finished 'Portrait' this morning. Chris, you have allowed the listener to apply his or her own beliefs to create a moral theme of their own lives. Well Done!"

    Thanks, Judy!

  4. Here is another emailed comment, from our lovely "legalese" voiceover artist, Paula:

    "I have always loved the fullness and simplicity of Indian spirituality. It touches upon every aspect of life ... no matter how delicately small or overbearingly immense. It always felt easy to connect with. Somehow serene. Listening to your DSW edition of Momaday's "House Made of Dawn" and the parallels of Taylor's "The Mortis Trilogy" I couldn't help but feel as if both writers had taken that spirituality and skewed it a bit -- well more than a bit -- toward the dark side ... which, of course, is Evil. And, yes, for every positive there must be that negative kin nearby. But the ebonied gyrations of each tale took more than just a casual glance in order to compare the two. You took what could
    have been, for most people, an arduous task of finding the connections and then made those comparisons seem to come with little effort from your knowledge and love of all things Star Wars. Momaday's story is obviously a powerful one and I could feel that power coming through your narrative as you went about sharing your examination of the two tales side by side. I generally read a book and watch a movie without much more thought than, "Oh, I want to be entertained." You, on the other hand, my
    friend, see an exciting opportunity to compare, evaulate and autopsy that book/film, especially if there is a possible connection to your beloved Star Wars and master George Lucas. Your mind works in ways I can't even imagine but that is what draws your listeners back for each revealing audio episode of Digging Star Wars. Thank you."

    Thanks, Paula, for listening and your comments. I'm happy that you emailed your thoughts and asked for it to be posted.

    That said: I understand on previous episodes some listeners had difficulty posting. I recently changed the settings on my blog to make it easier to post, so please do not hesitate to try and post again. And, failing that, feel free to email your comments to me as Judy and Paula did at

  5. I'll have to take your word on the themes of the novel. I can't even promise that I'll read it- but you encapsulated well, I think, and gave me some understanding insofar as you see it relating to the Mortis Trilogy.
    I'd suggest that while Christianity sees good and evil as opposed to one another, evil in balance is certainly necessary. I went to a Catholic high school and college, and I was taught that evil is necessary to highlight and elevate good, and to provide us humans the opportunity to use our free will. So good is always to be striven for, but evil is a necessary- well, evil. It's not too far off from the Native American idea that good and evil supplement each other. Another good episode- thanks for the depth of the analysis.

  6. When I first watched "A New Hope" and listened to how Obi-Wan Kenobi described the Force to Luke, I was reminded of the nature of magic in the "Harry Potter" series; that is, it's a neutral force that can be used for both good and evil, depending on who uses it. So I think Star Wars presents a perfect opportunity to explore the natures of good and evil.

    Looking at Anakin and Abel's actions from a Christian perspective (keeping in mind that I have yet to read "House of Dawn" or watch "The Mortis Trilogy"), I think that the notion of balancing good and evil is examined not just in whether or not the characters "destroy" evil, but also in how they go about destroying it. In both examples, Anakin and Abel defeat their enemies when said enemies have been caught off-guard. Thus, these good characters use tactics that their evil counterparts would have used if the situation had been reversed. They fight fire with fire. The stories imply that they need to perform evil actions in order to defeat the villains. In stark contrast, you mentioned how the good daughter chooses to sacrifice herself in order to save her father. She does not choose to annihilate her evil brother; instead, she embodies true goodness by not sinking to his level.

    This was a great episode and I thought you did an excellent job comparing "House of Dawn" and "The Mortis Trilogy": not only through the use of common themes, but also similar characters, plot elements, and appearances. The concept of "black, white, and grey" is a universal one, but these two stories definitely appear to examine it in similar ways!

  7. This is an excellent addition to the DSW Blog. What I have found interesting in this one and the last one with Josh is the explanation of how detailed Lucas has gone into telling the missing stories that weren't covered in the movies. My knowledge is limited when it comes to the Clone Wars plot-arc and now I want to see it. I also am very interested in the Chronicles of Narnia saga as well and I hope to get around to reading House Made of Dawn. Great work Chris. You not only stimulated the conversation and discussion, but you also opened new windows to other works. Nice!

  8. I'm absolutely dying to read this book now, though I'm already haunted by the idea of this albino. Thanks!

  9. A few more posts than most certainly deserve a reply…

    Joshjani – Like Obi-Wan Kenobi explained, a lot depends upon “a certain point of view”. I’ve noticed in most of the works of various Native American writers in my course that the Church was often vilified. As a practicing Catholic, I tried hard not to simply get infuriated by the portrayal of “bad priests” or Catholics, but understand why they are being portrayed in a negative light. I imagine many Native Americans outside the writers we studied in class used to ponder the same thing about the violent and noble savage portrayal of indigenous peoples in the classic Western books, films, TV shows and whatnot.

    Lauren – Interesting observation about the “fight fire with fire.” Often, I believe it’s hard for Americans of any faith to accept sacrifice without immediate victory. To quote a line from a Hal Hartley film: “The problem with Americans is that they always want a tragedy with a happy ending. “ The daughter’s sacrifice is noble and disconcerting since in saving her father, she has jeopardized the balance of the Force (good/evil). What makes Christian Taylor’s writing so eloquent is that the Father likewise sacrifices himself and, in the process, destroys evil (as Anakin “runs through” the Son).

    pcongleton –Yes, it’s nice when examining two works of art spider web out and begin to encompass many works of art. It’s the true beauty of interactive media such as this.

    bbb – Certainly a worthwhile read and keep in mind, I gave you only a brief synopsis of the demise of the Albino, Momaday’s mastery of bluntness and word choice paint even more haunting scene.

  10. I want to thank all those who listened in to this episode and especially those who posted comments. I wound up getting an "A" from my instructor on both this episode and an "A" overall for the class - thanks to your help! The Season One Finale episode has been recorded and I'm slowing editing it at night. Please stay tuned for it! Again, many thanks!!


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