In the latest episode of Mark Hamill’s Pop Culture Quest, a collector presents Hamill with his original lightsaber prop from Return of the Jedi. He also goes on to explain how the blade rotated and had a reflective material to give the lightsaber its special effect. It is also revealed that Alec Guinness used the same lightsaber prop in Episode IV: A New Hope. This got me thinking about lightsabers and how they fit into Star Wars lore and how the filmmakers created the most iconic symbol of Star Wars.
What is a Lightsaber?
In Star Wars lore, lightsabers are an energy melee weapons wielded by force users. They consist of a metal hilt that uses a force-attuned crystal and emitter to create the concentrated beam of plasma. When a Jedi chose a crystal they would attune it to the force and the lightsaber then becomes an extension of themselves and their connection to the force. Non-force users could use a lightsaber, as seen by Han Solo in Empire Strikes Back; but it was very difficult to control. Because of the amount of energy produced and the gyroscopic effect of the beam a wielder had to have great skill to use it in combat. This is also why force users wielded lightsabers as weapons; they can use their power to stabilize the lightsaber and use it properly in combination with specific fighting forms.
Although single bladed lightsabers were the most common, Jedi and Sith have been seen wielding duel lightsabers and double bladed lightsabers. There is also a shorter bladed lightsaber called a Shoto that had a shorter hilt and blade than a regular lightsaber. This single bladed weapon was good for rapid attacks and relied on agility to deflect both blaster fire and attacks from other duelists. Shoto lightsabers were common during the Jedi Civil War and used primarily by Dark Jedi in Darth Revan’s Empire. They were commonly used along with a full sized lightsaber but the best duelists could use two Shotos. Some notable Shoto users were Jedi master Kavar and Yuthura Ban from the Jedi Civil War era, and the Sith Lord Freedon Nadd. From the late Republic era, both Jedi Master Yoda and Ahsoka Tano wielded Shoto lightsabers.
Another form of lightsaber seen more often in the Old Republic, though rare, was the double-bladed lightsaber, also known as a saber staff. First invented by the Dark
Lords of the Old Sith Empire these weapons consisted of a single lightsaber mechanism and two emitters placed on opposite sides of the hilt. Because of the complexity of this design, it became common to just connect two lightsabers together, so instead of one lightsaber mechanism, it became two. It still resulted in a lengthen hilt and required skill to handle. The purpose of a double-bladed lightsaber was to create rapid attacks with minimal movement but was also good as defensive weapons. Not many force users wielded a saber staff because it did require specialized training just to avoid injuring oneself.
Most saber staff wielders have been Sith as it was a more aggressive weapon. However, some Jedi were known to have mastered the double-bladed lightsaber, most notably Bastile Shan during the Jedi Civil War and her descendant Satele Shan during the Cold War. It is also the weapon of the Jedi Shadow and Sith Assassin in the game Star Wars: The Old republic. In the same game Kira Carsen, the Jedi Knight’s companion also wielded a double-bladed lightsaber. Among the Sith, famous wielders were Exar Kun and Darth Maul. Players can also wield a double-bladed lightsaber in the Knights of the Old Republic games. Short lightsabers are also a choice in that game. The TV series Star Wars Rebels has the Inquisitors wielding double-bladed lightsabers that have a spinning mechanism.
Duel wielding, known as the Jar’kai style, is a choice for force users and normally consists of either two regular lightsabers or a regular and Shoto. Both Asajj Ventress and Ashoka Tano were famous dual wielders. Though Asajj Ventress was able to connect her lightsabers together to form a saber staff. In Star Wars: The Old Republic both the Sith Marauder and Jedi Sentinel wield duel sabers. Although some Jedi were known to consistently use Jar’kai, we have seen Jedi or Sith occasionally take up a second lightsaber during fights. An example is when Anakin takes up a second blade during his duel with Count Dooku.
Although both Jedi and Sith chose a specific type of lightsaber to wield or whether they go with single or dual sabers the one thing that marks an individual is the color blade they wield.
The main part of a lightsaber that produces the beam and color is the crystal. In legends, lightsabers used a variety of naturally occurring colored crystals found on Ilum and Dantooine. In the new canon, lightsabers use Kyber crystals found on Lothal and Ilum. Jedi use natural Kyber crystals while Sith tend to use synthetic crystals, which had more powerful blades because of the dark side of the force. However, in both legends and canon, Sith primarily used synthetic crystals and they always produced a red blade. Not all Sith or dark Jedi used these synthetic crystals, they also wielded blades made with natural crystals of many colors. However, for the lore and movies to separate between the two orders, light Jedi are mostly seen with green and blue lightsabers while Sith have red lightsabers.
Unfortunately, synthetic crystals if improperly made can become flawed and unstable. Kylo Ren used a cracked synthetic Kyber crystal in his lightsaber that required exhaust ports to release the excess energy or it would explode upon activation. This is why Kylo Ren’s lightsaber has the cross guard. However, the crossguard lightsaber is also an ancient design. Ezra found a green
lightsaber from the site of an ancient battle on Malachor.
According to the new canon, Kyber crystals are colorless and the color is given to the Jedi padawan when a connection is formed. This was explained in the Clone Wars series as the “gathering”. In the game Knights of the Old Republic when training on Dantooine you are given a color crystal depending on the class you choose. Normally Jedi usually find their crystals on their own as part of their trials. Jedi could also add other crystals to enhance the properties of the blade. For the most part, each lightsaber has a color determined by its wielder and the force bond forged with the crystal.
Lightsabers usually came in blue, green, purple, red, or yellow. There are also colors like white and even black seen in the games and TV series. Best explained in Knights of the Old Republic the blue crystals represent Jedi Guardians. These Jedi dedicate their training to mastering the skills of the lightsaber and combat to keep the peace and defeat evil. A green crystal denoted a Jedi Consular who focuses on creating balance and diplomacy. Yellow was for Jedi Sentinels who used skills and abilities beyond lightsaber combat to pursue justice. As for the other crystals, Sith and sometimes Jedi used Purple and Sith and Dark Jedi wielded the red blades, which stood for aggression and the dark side.
In lore, Mace Windu wielded a purple blade because he received a violet crystal on the planet Hurikane. The purple lightsaber could also represent the user’s use of both the light and dark side of the force, as Revan was seen wielding a purple saber. Revan was a light Jedi before falling to the dark side and then was redeemed back to the light. In reality, Samuel Jackson said he wanted one to stand out from the rest of the Jedi.
Within the games there are many different colors to choose including the black crystal from Force Unleashed found on a Death Star level. It’s hard to get but is probably the best lightsaber crystal I have wielded in any game. White crystals also exist and in Rebels Ahsoka Tano was seen with two white bladed lightsabers.
In the games Knights of the Old Republic and The Old Republic most of the lightsaber hilts found are dropped as loot or given as mission rewards. The first lightsaber the Jedi classes get is personally built as part of their trials. Sith always get theirs from an ancient tomb on Korriban for passing the final trial in their class. Crystals can be found, constructed, or in SWTOR bought from the cartel market. These come in many different shades from orange to pink-purple, or even color variations with black. Most common colors are the yellow, green, blue, and red with different shade variations. Hilts have a variety of styles as well. In Knights of the Fallen Empire and Knights of the Eternal Throne, the Zakuulan Knights have lightsabers on long pole hilts.