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Defining Moments: “Let’s Ride.”

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Willow’s characters must come together to beat adversity.

“Defining Moments” is a continuing series exploring key scenes or sequences from Lucasfilm’s many productions. It examines storytelling craft, behind-the-scenes insights, and cultural legacies from each selection. Revisit an old favorite or discover something brand new…

Production: Willow (1988)

Over the course of his journey to return the infant Elora Danan to her people, the farmer Willow Ufgood must overcome great adversity. Time and again, when he thinks he’s at last accomplished his task, circumstances demand he continue. He tries to give the child to the untrustworthy Madmartigan; he tries to explain to the fairy Cherlindra that he’s not up to the challenge; and even when he finally reaches the city of Tir Asleen—Elora’s presumed home—the castle is deserted.

When Tir Asleen comes under attack, Willow again is out of his element. He manages to evade fiendish Trolls, a monstrous Eborsisk, and fierce warriors. All the while, he keeps Elora Danan safe, but still, to no avail. The imposing General Kael storms in, takes the child, and rides away to the evil castle at Nockmaar.

In despair, Willow goes to Madmartigan and their enemy-turned-friend, Sorsha. Overcome with exhaustion and grief for Elora, he tries to explain that he couldn’t save her, no matter how hard he tried. This adventure has thrown everything at him, but the loss of his charge has finally broken his spirit. He might even give up in the face of impossible odds. Madmartigan and Sorsha seem at a loss for words, never having seen the committed young famer in this kind of state.

But before Willow’s despair is able to consume him, Madmartigan speaks up. “Willow, can you ride?” His face covered with blood and tears, the Nelwyn looks up. The once cynical and cantankerous Madmartigan is entirely sincere. Taking Willow by the arms, he says calmy, “Let’s ride.”

The sometime rogue isn’t one for approbation or reassurances. With a new challenge before them, Madmartigan acts like Willow, and steps up to the task at hand. This is all Willow needs to find his courage and continue to the adventure’s last stage. Having spent much of their journey at odds with each other, these unlikely heroes are now trusting friends.

An echo of this intimate moment can be found in a new adventure as Willow and his young companions reach the edge of the Shattered Sea. Looking over a precipice that seems to lead nowhere, the grown-up Elora Danan begins to despair. Reaching this point was supposed to be the solution. They’re meant to rescue Airk here, whom she presumes to love. Over a harrowing journey of her own, Elora has repeatedly been forced to reassess her sense of self and her capabilities as a sorcerer. But now it seems as if her efforts had been all for naught.

In this moment it’s Kit, Madmartigan and Sorsha’s daughter, who speaks up. Following her own style, she takes a more didactic route, telling Elora, “You’re afraid. So am I. But you know what, my fear—it doesn’t get to decide. It doesn’t get to define. I’m not giving it the power. I’m giving it to you.” Taking each other’s arms, the pair soon fall over the precipice, a leap of faith into the unknown.

Like Madmartigan and Willow years before, Kit and Elora had a rocky start to their friendship. Each preoccupied with their own priorities, both failed to recognize the other’s value. But near journey’s end, they learn to trust each other. We become our truest selves in our dedication to others. All of these characters help each other to discover themselves, and in these two moments, Madmartigan and Kit encourage their friends to hang tough.

In Lucasfilm stories, people must come together to achieve the impossible. No matter how strong or courageous our heroes may be, sometimes they may need to ask for help. Few things can truly be accomplished alone.

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