Before the Age of the Empire, the Jedi Knights were the guardians of peace in the galaxy, and their primary weapon of choice in combating injustice was the lightsaber, “an elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” When it comes to science fiction (and fantasy, for that matter), there is no better weapon than the lightsaber.
Despite having been around for almost 40 years, and having appeared in numerous films, cartoons, comics, and video games, there is still a lot we don’t know about lightsabers, other than a few basic facts. So we’ve decided to dig up some facts people (especially casual moviegoers) may not know about the ancient weapon.
But first thing’s first, some facts in this article are taken from Star Wars Legends (formerly Expanded Universe) and are, therefore, no longer considered canon. We could omit the details, but then we would be disregarding a key component of Star Wars history that Disney set aside when they acquired Lucasfilm in 2012.
With that in mind, here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Jedi Lightsabers.
15. Lightsabers were created by the dark side
There are several different lightsaber variations, but they all have the same core similarities. The thing is, thousands of years before the Jedi formed the plasma-based weapon we all know and love, there was a faction of the Je’daii Order who used weapons known as Forcesabers, the first lightsabers.
Daegen Lok, a member of the Je’daii Order, partnered with a Force Hound named Xesh, a Force-sensitive servant of the ancient Rakatan race, to create the first Forcesaber. But the only way to create such a weapon and actually use it was to channel the dark side of the Force.
Yes, what we all thought was a Jedi weapon was originally created by dark side users. And no member of the Je’daii Order could wield a Forcesaber without immediately turning to the dark side, which is why they forbade its use. Unfortunately, all of this now exists within Star Wars Legends.
14. Are lightsabers considered to be Jedi weapons?
Despite the fact that Dark Jedi, Sith, and other Force-sensitives use lightsabers too, the Jedi are the ones who’ve become synonymous with the ancient weapon. Perhaps that is because for thousands of years, the Sith were all but extinct and the Jedi were revered throughout the galaxy. Or perhaps it’s because the Jedi are the only ones who are able to construct a lightsaber without disrupting and bleeding the kyber crystal (more on this later).
No matter what the reason is, the galaxy perceives lightsabers as being a Jedi’s weapon — and so does Emperor Palpatine. In Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi, Palpatine refer’s to Luke’s green lightsaber as a Jedi weapon. For a long time, until George Lucas’ prequel trilogy, there wasn’t anything outside of the Expanded Universe that indicated the Sith’s use of lightsabers, which is interesting considering that in the EU (Legends), dark side users were the ones to invent the lightsaber.
13. Jedi used to use protosabers
Since the Jedi couldn’t use Forcesabers without turning to the dark side of the Force, they developed their own lightsaber variation known as protosabers. Another archaic weapon coming from Star Wars Legends, protosabers were the first real version of the lightsaber. However, it differs from the more conventional form we’re used to.
Like later versions of lightsabers, protosabers also required a focusing crystal, like kyber crystals. However, they were limited by their use of a power pack. See, protosabers didn’t have internal power cells that could emit the plasma blade. Therefore they required external power packs to do so — that is until the Sith developed internal power cells (the dark side really is better, huh?).
Later, one Jedi began using protosabers again, but retrofitted the lightsaber with modern technology. The modifications resulted in a retrosaber, a far more powerful variation of the protosaber. Although the retrosaber’s power pack was a disadvantage, it also allowed the user to temporarily induce a power surge, thus increasing the density of the blade.
12. Lightsabers can block Force lightning
In the original trilogy, we were always told that we didn’t know the true power of the dark side of the Force. Sure, the dark side is superficially more powerful — but how much more? We didn’t get that answer until Return of the Jedi, when the Emperor revealed his true power by nonchalantly striking Luke Skywalker with Force lightning. It was then, at that moment, that we knew the power of the dark side.
In the prequel trilogy, dark side abilities, such as Force lightning, expanded. It became clear that it was a power that wasn’t exclusive to Darth Sidious, seeing as Sidious’ apprentice, Count Dooku, learned the ability as well and attempted to use it against Yoda. While Yoda was able to deflect the lightning using the Force, other Jedi must resort to using their lightsabers to absorb the lightning, as demonstrated by Obi-Wan Kenobi (in the same fight) and Mace Windu in Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith.
11. The Empire outlawed lightsabers during the OT
When Emperor Palpatine said he wanted to destroy the Jedi, he wasn’t kidding. He not only wanted to bring down the Jedi Order but tarnish their reputation as peacekeepers throughout the galaxy (accusing them of attempting a coup). He also ordered his then-new apprentice, Darth Vader, to wipe out the remaining Jedi.
Order 66 and the Great Jedi Purge nearly eradicated the Jedi, but a few remained alive, including Yoda, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and Kanan Jarrus. That wasn’t enough, though; the Emperor didn’t just want the Jedi gone, he wanted all memory of the Jedi erased from existence. So, he outlawed the use, possession, and trade of lightsabers throughout the galaxy.
Furthermore, he had the Imperial Army seize kyber crystals from any and all known locations around the galaxy. Then, when they were done taking all the kyber crystals they needed (presumably for the Death Star), they would raze the caves, temples, and anywhere else kyber grew naturally to the ground.
10. Kyber crystals and their purpose
Kyber crystals finally made their long-awaited cinematic debut in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, though they have appeared multiple times in both The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels animated series. In the film, the purpose of the kyber crystals was to power the Death Star’s weapon, which is why the Empire had been stripping the kyber temple on Jedha of all its crystals. However, the original purpose of kyber crystals was much different than what the Empire had intended.
As Jyn Erso says to Chirrut Îmwe, the kyber crystals used to power the Jedi’s lightsabers. In order for a lightsaber to work, it needs a focusing crystal to power its plasma blade, and that’s where kyber crystals come in handy. Furthermore, the crystal is what gives the lightsaber blade its color, which entirely depends on who is creating the lightsaber. If a dark sider were to attempt to create a lightsaber by bending the kyber crystal to his or her will, the crystal would end up “bleeding” and turn red.
9. Lightsabers are created by using the Force (and can be fatal)
If only there was an instructional manual on how to create a real-life lightsaber, perhaps we’d have done it already (see: the top entry on our list). Just like in real-life, creating a lightsaber is not something that anyone can just do. In the Star Wars universe, anyone can wield a lightsaber, which has been demonstrated by both Han Solo and Finn in Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back and Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens, respectively. However, only a Force-sensitive can construct a lightsaber.
As shown in The Clone Wars story arc “Young Jedi,” Force users must use the Force to awaken the kyber crystal in order to harness its power for their lightsaber. However, if the process isn’t done properly, it can be fatal. And since kyber crystals possess a form of sentience, if the Force user were to “insult” the crystal and attempt to awaken it without the crystal’s permission, it would then “bleed” — which, again, is why the Sith always carry red-bladed lightsabers.
8. There are seven different lightsaber fighting techniques
Have you ever wondered why so many people get their right hand chopped off in Star Wars? Is it coincidence, an ongoing joke, or perhaps there’s something else at work? It’s the latter. It turns out that there are seven forms of lightsaber fighting techniques, and one of them enables the user to dismember their opponent by using a move called Cho Mai — and that’s only the beginning.
Form I (Shii-Cho) is a very basic form of combat that didn’t accommodate for lightsaber-to-lightsaber combat. Form II (Makashi) is the primary form of dueling with the Sith. Form III (Soresu) is a close-quarter technique frequently used by Kannan Jarrus from Rebels. Form IV (Ataru) is an aggressive technique with swift movements employed by both Yoda and Qui-Gon Jinn. Form V (Shien) is a common, yet skilled technique in which lightsabers are used to deflect blaster shots towards enemies. Form VI (Niman) deals with combing Force powers with the use of a double-bladed lightsaber. And, finally, Form VII (Juyo) is by far the most offensive form of lightsaber combat, and was used by Mace Windu.
We all know the Jedi use blue, green, and purple-bladed lightsabers, while the Sith use red-bladed lightsabers, but long before the fall of the Republic, the Jedi once had a black-bladed lightsaber known as the Darksaber. It was an ancient weapon that once was stolen by the Mandalorians and later passed down to Pre Vizsla.
Pre Vizsla’s ancestors passed down the Darksaber through the generations, and members of the clan used the weapon to fight and occasionally defeat Jedi. It became a symbol of Clan Vizsla and the Death Watch. If anyone could wield such a weapon (effectively), it would be Mandalorians.
After appearing several times in The Clone Wars animated series, the Darksaber reappears in the back half of Star Wars Rebels‘ third season, in the hands of Sabine Wren. It may have also been referenced in Rogue One as a codename for one of the Empire’s top secret projects.
6. Kyber Saber
Lego and Star Wars have a longstanding history with each other that spans decades, and they continued to build on that relationship with a 13-episode animated series set between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, called Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures, which premiered in June 2016.
Set during the Age of the Empire, the Freemaker Adventures follows Rowan, Kordi, and Zander Freemaker as they travel throughout the galaxy salvaging parts to create new ships. During their travels, Rowan discovered a kyber crystal that belonged to the ancient kyber Saber, a lightsaber consisting entirely of kyber crystals created by Jedi Master Baird Kantoo.
Kantoo separated the kyber Saber into pieces and spread the crystals throughout the galaxy. Years later, Rowan searched for and found all the crystals, but unfortunately, the Sith agent Naare managed to obtain all the crystals and restore the saber for herself. Not long after, the Freemakers managed to steal the saber and destroy it for good by throwing it into the volcanoes on Mustafar.
5. George Lucas considered lightsabers to be a symbol of honor for the Jedi
When Obi-Wan gave Luke his father’s lightsaber, he briefly explained who the Jedi were as well as their purpose in the galaxy, telling him that for “over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights were guardians of peace and justice in the Old Republic.” George Lucas always saw Star Wars as being a romantic fantasy akin to the tales of King Arthur, one filled with “chivalry and honor.” So he needed the perfect weapon for his galactic peacekeepers to use.
Lucas wanted a weapon that could represent the Jedi’s honor as well as their position above everything else in the galaxy — and the only weapon that was appropriate enough was a lightsaber. An elegant weapon for a more civilized age. “It was a symbol of a more simpler time, a time before the Empire had taken over, a time when honor ruled. So it was more of a symbol than it was an actual weapon in the movie,” Lucas said.
4. Lightsabers initially required two hands to fight
George Lucas had a specific vision for Star Wars when he made the original film, and part of that vision was that lightsabers would have to feel heavy. According to Mark Hamill, Lucas was “adamant that these things were really, really heavy, that we couldn’t take a hand off. We always had to have two — like Excalibur.” Lucas said the reason for that was because lightsabers were “very powerful” and had “a lot of energy in them.”
Still, as time went on, and as Luke became more proficient in sword fighting (or lightsaber dueling), they started to move away from two-handed forms to a mix between two and one-handed forms. Then, when it came time to film the prequels, Lucas said that since the Jedi were well-trained (in comparison to Luke), they made the lightsaber duels much “faster, sophisticated, and aggressive.” He says that, in a way, the fights became “much more ferocious” than in the original trilogy.
3. Why Luke’s lightsaber is green in Return of the Jedi
After getting his right-hand dismembered and subsequently losing his father’s lightsaber during his fight with Darth Vader on Bespin, Luke managed to construct a new lightsaber in the year between The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Along with a new hilt (based on the schematics Luke found in Obi-Wan Kenobi’s home), the lightsaber emitted a green-colored blade. Until that point, no one knew there would (or could) be another lightsaber color besides the traditional blue and red.
The thing is, George Lucas had every intention of keeping Luke’s lightsaber blue; the initial marketing materials even showed Luke with a blue-colored blade. But while filming the desert scenes at the Sarlaac Pit, they noticed that the blue lightsaber blended in with the sky and, thus, became difficult to see. Therefore, Lucasfilm opted to change the blade’s color to green so that it could stand out. Because of that decision, we now have multiple lightsaber colors. Speaking of which…
2. Why Mace Windu’s lightsaber is purple in the prequel trilogy
Everyone knows who Samuel L. Jackson is, and since he’s one of the few actors to appear in both Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (some of the most successful films of the last few decades), he’s probably not someone people would easily forget. But that’s not what Jackson thought when he requested a different color lightsaber.
We know that lightsabers typically come in blue and green for Jedi and red for Dark Jedi (or Sith), which is why people were surprised to see Jackson’s Mace Windu sporting a purple-bladed lightsaber during the Battle of Geonosis in Star Wars: Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
It turns out, though, that the reasoning behind the odd color choice was as simple as it is amusing. “We had this big arena, this fight scene with all these Jedi and they’re fightin’ or whatever. And I was like, well s—, I wanna be able to find myself in this big ol’ scene,” Jackson said. “So I said to George, ‘You think maybe I can get a purple lightsaber?'”
1. We’re still trying to make one in real life
While humans have been able to create things first seen in Star Trek decades ago, we’re still trying to construct a few devices from Star Wars, namely the lightsaber. Sure, there have a been a few amateur attempts at creating alternative variations of lightsabers over the years, but nothing substantial has sprung up yet. The science community has made several attempts, but the thing is, there are multiple obstacles they first need to overcome.
Firstly, we’d run into the same problem the ancient Jedi had of requiring an external battery pack to power the blade. Secondly, there is the issue of limiting the length of the blade. In Star Wars, the blade stops short after about three feet, but with real-life technology, the blade would be endless. As it stands now, duels wouldn’t be possible either, since the opposing blades would just pass through each other. There’a also the conundrum of how to keep the lightsaber hilt cool enough so as to not overheat. Perhaps the necessary technology exists only in a galaxy far, far away?
What other fun facts do you know about Jedi lightsabers? Let us know in the comments.