Lightsabers: History, Construction, and Use

Hello sentients, and welcome back to the Sarlacc Pit. Today I will discuss lightsabers, the weapons of the Jedi and the Sith. I’ll be using information from about 90% of Star Wars canon, so once again, be prepared for spoilers!

The History of the Lightsaber

“This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. A more elegant weapon…for a more civilized age.” –Obi-Wan Kenobi, “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope”

In current canon the origin of the lightsaber has not been expanded on yet. We do know, however, that the lightsabers seen in the movies were not the original design. Early designs included the crossguard lightsaber, made famous recently by Kylo Ren, who used a crudely-fashioned saber of this kind in “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.” There was also the darksaber, a precursor to the lightsaber that had a flattened black blade. The darksaber was stolen during the sacking of the Jedi Temple during the Mandalorian Wars. The darksaber was passed down through Clan Vizsla until Darth Maul won it from Pre Vizsla during the Clone Wars Era.

Darksaber.jpeg

The Construction of a Lightsaber

As I mentioned in my post “Luke Warm Jedi,” in Heir to the Jedi, Luke is given the lightsaber of a Rodian Jedi Knight. Instead of cherishing this as a remnant of the all but extinct Jedi, Luke took it apart in order to find out more about its construction. It’s important to note here that all lightsabers were different (with few exceptions), as each lightsaber was built by each Jedi or Sith under guidance of the Force. Lightsaber hilts were mostly made of metal, however different materials such as gemstones or even very hard wood were also used. The cases were mostly just decorative and differed based on the user’s personality, but among the Sith it was common to add blades or some other type of weapon on the hilt to be used in case of lightsaber malfunction.

Parts that were always included to build a lightsaber is a power cell, an emitter shroud, an emitter matrix, and some type of activator. However, the main ingredient in a lightsaber was the all-important kyber crystal. As I mentioned in my post on the Jedi Order, a Jedi would go either as part of the Gathering ritual or with their master into a cave where these crystals grow to find a crystal as part of a trial of the Force. These crystals were what gave lightsaber blades their colors, the most common of which were blue and green. Kyber crystals could also be found in purple, yellow, and white (there are probably more colors that we will see, but so far these are it). The Sith, however, were known for their red blades, so where did these colors come from? While the Jedi used the gathering of kyber crystals as a trial for younglings, the Sith, whose focus was on strength and power in all things, instead synthesized their own kyber crystals in powerful forges. The heat of these forges caused the color of the crystals to turn red, and while the color could be changed through meditation, the blood red color fit the Sith style (note: these synthetic crystals are mostly explained in Legends canon and may not be current, but so far it seems to still fit in canon). Single-blade and crossguard lightsabers only used one kyber crystal while some lightsabers such as the double-bladed lightsaber and the lightsaber pike used multiple.

Even if someone had all of the above parts, one could not construct a lightsaber without the Force, as seen in Heir to the Jedi, when Luke Skywalker carefully took apart the Rodian’s lightsaber, but was unable to put it back together. Before constructing a lightsaber, the Jedi would meditate with their kyber crystal, letting the Force show them the design of the lightsaber. Once the Jedi gathered the necessary parts, they would have to use the Force to construct the lightsaber at a molecular level, insuring that the kyber crystal and other parts were perfectly aligned.

Interesting Lightsaber Variants

While the single-blade lightsaber was the most commonly used design for the both the Jedi and the Sith, there were numerous different designs. I will go through some of these with a picture for each design and a short description.

The Double-Bladed Lightsaber

Darth_Maul_lightsaber_reveal.png

Users: Darth Maul (“The Phantom Menace, The Clone Wars”), Asajj Ventress (“The Clone Wars,” Dark Disciple), Savage Oppress (“The Clone Wars”), and Pong Krell (“The Clone Wars”)

The double-bladed lightsaber design is interesting as it is essentially just two lightsabers in one casing. As such, it could be used as a simple single-blade lightsaber, or if the double-bladed lightsaber was cut perfectly through the middle, it can be wielded as two single-bladed lightsabers. Jedi Master Pong Krell, a four-armed besalisk, used his racial strength two expertly dual-wield two double-bladed lightsabers, which were hinged so that they could fold in the middle for easy carrying.

Double-Bladed Spinning Lightsaber

The_Inquisitor's_Lightsaber.jpg

Users: Imperial Sith Inquisitors (“Rebels”)

Ok, so I’m about to get real with you. I know a lot about lightsabers. I don’t want to brag, but I probably know more about lightsabers than an adult should. BUT: I have no idea how these worked. I do not know how the kyber crystals in the handle were able to stay aligned with the emitter matrices or how a double-bladed lightsaber could have such a small hilt, but I do not care. This was one of the coolest lightsaber designs, and as such demands a video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xf3fFPrNr6c. This is a video of every lightsaber battle featuring the Grand Inquisitor from “Star Wars Rebels.” Here you can see that the saber had 3 modes: single-blade crescent, double-blade crescent, and spinning double-blade mode in which the emitters of the lightsaber spin around the ring. With the introduction of the Seventh Sister and Fifth Brother (both Inquisitors who worked under the leadership of the Grand Inquisitor) we are led to believe that all Inquisitors use this type of lightsaber.

Lightsaber Pike

lightsaber pike.png

Users: Jedi Temple Guards (“The Clone Wars,” “Rebels”)

This design was very similar to the double-bladed lightsaber, however the hilt tended to be longer and the blades shorter. As far as has been seen in canon, this design was exclusively used by Jedi Temple Guards and were not personalized depending on the user. This coupled with the Guards’ uniforms and masks created a solemnity and uniformity to their presence.

Lightsaber/Blaster Hybrid

Ezra's Lightsaber

Ezra's Lightsaber 2

User: Ezra Bridger (“Rebels”)

Ok, so once again, let’s get real. I am a fan of the Jedi and lightsabers, but this thing was an abomination. No way would the Jedi Order let this thing be created, but lucky for Ezra the Jedi Order was destroyed over a decade before he even got his kyber crystal. Ezra’s lightsaber was built with a stun blaster attached to it so he could use it without notifying Imperials that he was a Jedi in training. This blaster mode was also useful as Ezra consistently failed at accurately reflecting blaster bolts back at enemies. Honestly, it’s a pretty cool design, there’s just something wrong with combining a blaster and a lightsaber.

Shoto Lightsaber

Ashoka Lightsabers.jpg

Users: Ashoka Tano (“The Clone Wars,” “Rebels”)

Usually used in coordination with a single-blade lightsaber of standard length, the shoto lightsaber was a single-blade lightsaber that was shorter than standard length, usually held in the user’s off-hand as a defensive tool. This is styled after the Samurai Daisho, in which two swords, the daito (long sword) and shoto (short sword) were used together. Yoda’s lightsaber was similar to the shoto, but I don’t consider it one as it was just short to accommodate the Jedi Master’s size.

Curved-Hilt Lightsaber

Count Dooku Lightsaber

Users: Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus (“Attack of the Clones,” “The Clone Wars,” Revenge of the Sith”), Asajj Ventress (“The Clone Wars”)

This lightsaber screams style and class to me. This is probably my favorite style of lightsaber. You may think that it’s just a standard single-blade lightsaber with a cool shape to it, but you would be wrong. Use and construction of this lightsaber signified both mastery of swordsmanship as well as a mastery of the Force, as the curved hilt require the utmost precision when aligning the crystal with the power cell and emitter matrix. Also, a little note: technically, Asajj Ventress used one curvy double-bladed lightsaber that was split into two curved-hilt lightsabers, so I included her as using both styles.

Crossguard Lightsaber

Kylo Ren Lightsaber.jpg

Users: Kylo Ren (“The Force Awakens”)

While this lightsaber is the newest style to make its way into Star Wars canon, it was an ancient design. This lightsaber had an array of focusing crystal activators to split the energy beam of the lightsaber into three blades: the main blade, and two short side vents called quillons. Emitter shrouds were built into the quillons to shield the user’s hand from the beams.

A note on Kylo Ren’s lightsaber: compared to the crossguard lightsaber that Ezra encounters in “Rebels,” the blades of Kylo Ren’s lightsaber blades are not as controlled. The lightsaber uses a cracked kyber crystal, which is most likely responsible for this phenomenon. Furthermore, inspection of the hilt shows that the design is the result of construction by an unskilled user. At the end of “The Force Awakens,” Supreme Leader Snoke says it is time to complete Kylo’s training, so perhaps we shall see a change to Ren’s saber in the future.

Lightsaber Uses

This weapon was the main weapon used in the Jedi’s war with the Sith. It worked pretty much like a sword would work, but while Force-sensitivity was not necessary for its use, the ability to perceive exactly where your blade was using Force-heightened senses and reflexes greatly improved one’s skill with the lightsaber. After the Sith were thought to have gone extinct, the Jedi continued to use lightsabers as their weapon of choice, but enemies and opponents generally used blasters. Using the Force, Jedi were able to easily deflect blaster bolts with their sabers, often able to aim the bolt back at a target, therefore gaining a ranged attack. If deflecting bolts back at their enemy did not suffice, Jedi could use the Force to throw the lightsaber and retrieve it in a boomerang-like fashion.

There were seven different forms of lightsaber fighting taught by the Jedi Order, Forms I, II, III, IV, V, VI, and VII. While each form was well defined in Legends canon, it has not certain if these forms maintain their original identities.

Lightsabers were also able to cut through most substances, making them useful in times when you need to get through a wall but there is no door, or when you want to turn one battle droid into two halves of a battle droid. Substances ligthsabers could not cut include: cortosis, beskar (the main metal found in traditional Mandalorian armor), and phrik. These were all metals that were very rare in the galaxy, and either outlawed or severely restricted by the Jedi Order.

Conclusion

So there you have it, the lightsaber. Easily one of the coolest pieces of fictional technology to exist. As with many of my earlier posts I want to mention that the current canon expanded universe is relatively new, so as more content emerges, I am sure we will see more lightsaber styles or get more information on Jedi lightsaber forms. However, Legends has a very detailed history of the lightsaber, and while it is no longer canon, is still interesting to look up.

While I have enjoyed focusing mostly on informing you all on Star Wars canon, next week I want to try to do something a little more fun. Next week will still be informational, but with a good mix of opinion as well as I make a top 10 list of characters that do not appear in live-action movies. As always, thanks for reading, and may the Force be with you!

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