The are few weapons in science fiction cooler than the lightsaber. A sword made of plasma that can cut through almost anything and makes a cool sound when you swing it around is probably the best thing Star Wars has ever given the imagination of kids all over the world. We’ve all grabbed flashlights or toy lightsabers and acted out pivotal fights from the movies or made up fights of our own. But behind all that cool factor is a fascinating history of the weapon that defines the Star Wars universe.
Since most everything not shown in the movies is now considered “Legends,” much of the information about lightsabers is now non-canon, instead coming from the former Expanded Universe. Still, as the canonical universe fills out, there's a good chance that Lucasfilm and Disney will cull some of the background of lightsabers from the EU. There’s a lot of interesting history to the weapon and how it evolved over time.
With that in mind, here are 10 Things You Need To Know About Lightsabers.
*** WARNING: There may be SPOILERS about Star Wars: The Force Awakens***
10 They were initially created by the dark side
Long before there were ever the lightsabers that we know and love, there were the precursors to lightsabers known as “forcesabers”. Forcesabers, rather than being controlled beams of plasma, were concentrated beams of dark Force power that were focused through crystals set in metal handles. They were initially created by "Force Hounds," who worked in service of the Rakatan Infinite Empire.
Due to their ties to the Dark Side of the Force, many on the Light Side were very reluctant to use them, even more so since a forcesaber's tie to the Dark Side was to strong that a user of the Light Side of the Force could be turned to the Dark Side simply by picking up a forcesaber.
9 There are more than just swords
Though we’re used to seeing the standard lightsaber that’s shaped and used much like a regular sword, lightsaber technology has been modified in many ways, both by Light and Dark users of the Force. One of the more exotic and rare variations of the lightsaber included the “lightwhip,” made by strands of emitters coming from the handle rather than a single emitter in the handle.
Though unpredictable and able to attack from a distance, the lightwhip wasn’t a great defensive weapon. Other variations include “lightclubs,” which were extra large sabers made for races of sentient beings for whom a normal saber wouldn’t work, and "saberpikes," which were long handled sabers with short blades used more like spears. Turns out Kylo Ren wasn’t the first to have an unusual lightsaber.
8 The first lightsabers required battery packs
After forcesabers fell out of use, early lightsabers, or protosabers, began to appear. Initially highly unwieldy and bulky, the protosabers would often overheat and required a belt mounted battery pack to sustain their very inefficient energy use. Due to this, the first lightsabers were used much less for combat and much more for ceremony.
After various refinements and technological improvements, protosabers were able to be effective combat weapons, though still needed a belt mounted battery pack. Again, the Sith would move lightsaber technology and usage forward as they would be the ones to solve the problem of a saber’s energy usage by creating an efficient power cell that could be placed within the handle.
7 A lightsaber can cut through almost anything
Given that it is a controlled form of plasma, a lightsaber can cut through just about anything, given enough time to cut and enough force behind the swing. However, there a few things that it can’t cut through, which enemies of lightsaber users use to their advantage.
One such material is Mandalorian iron, which the Mandalorian bounty hunters like Jango and Boba Fett make their armor out of. Two of the other highly used materials are cortosis, which can actually short circuit lightsabers, but is toxic to the touch and is refined to make armor. Phrik is another saber resistant metal like cortosis, but one that has no other effect on lightsabers.
6 Amphibious races had a challenge with lightsabers
Though there aren’t many things they can’t cut through, one thing that can stop a lightsaber is water. Just a little water won’t hurt the weapon much, as the rain would just make a saber steam and sizzle.
It takes being submerged in water to destroy a lightsaber, as the water causes the blade to short out due to rapid chain reactions and the overpowering nature of the water on the blade. Because of this, Jedi of amphibious alien races have to use specially designed and modified lightsabers if they want to be able to use their weapons anywhere but on land.
5 Not only Force users can use lightsabers
While we generally only see Force users wield a lightsaber on the big screen, and it’s believed by many non-Force users in the Star Wars universe that only Force users can wield lightsabers, anyone can actually use a lightsaber, as tested out by Finn in The Force Awakens.
Though the weapons are mostly associated with users of the Force, especially the Jedi and Sith, one does not have to actually be a Force user to effectively use a lightsaber, though it definitely helps to have Force powers and Jedi or Sith training. "Saberfoils," cheaply constructed lightsabers, were even used among certain nobles in the galaxy as a method of dueling.
4 A saber’s color depends on its crystal
We’re used to seeing Jedi with green or blue blades and Sith with red, but a lightsaber can be just about any color and it all depends on the crystal that is used. Jedi often used naturally occurring crystals found in places like Ilum or Dantooine to color their lightsabers. While most of the crystals they used were green or blue, other colors like purple. orange, yellow, and even black were also used by the Jedi, though not as often.
Sith favored synthetic red crystals as they were stronger when imbued with Dark Side energy and, as such, Sith almost entirely have red bladed lightsabers. Other things, like gems, glass, small machinery, or even the remains of loved ones, could also act in the place of a crystal in a lightsaber, sometimes giving the saber different attributes even beyond color.
3 There are seven classic forms of lightsaber combat
There are the seven classic forms of Jedi combat, as recognized before the Clones Wars.
Shii-Cho, or "the Way of the Sarlacc," which is the most ancient style and largely based on actual swordfighting techniques; Makashi, or "The Way of the Ysalamiri," which was a form used by most experienced duelist and was developed as a style to combat Shii-Cho; Soresu, or "The Way of the Mynock," a very defensive style which was developed to counter blaster wielding opponents; Ataru, or "The Way of the Hawk-Bat," an aggressive, powerful style that used the Force to imbue the user with heightened strength and agility, and was a style commonly used by Yoda; Shien/Djem So, "The Way of the Krayt Dragon," was style created by masters of Soresu who desired a more offensive style and combined elements of Soresu and Makashi; Niman, or "The Way of the Rancor," was a style that combined aspects of the previous five styles and was a bit of “jack of all trades” style, balanced but not particularly strong in one area; and Juyo/Vaapad, or "The Way of the Vornskr," was described as the most vicious form of lightsaber combat, incredibly hard to master, but incredibly powerful if mastered. Mace Windu was one of the best known users of this style.
2 Palpatine outlawed lightsabers
In an attempt to keep the Jedi from returning, Emperor Palpatine not only made it illegal to own a lightsaber, but also razed many sites where the Jedi gathered natural crystals and placed strict sanctions and bans on the crystals and gems that could be used in lightsabers. The Sith that served him had special licenses for their sabers.
The ban on lightsabers not made it hard for any Jedi still alive at the time to operate as simply drawing their weapon would draw a large amount of attention, but also because it took an already uncommon artifact and made it virtually impossible to find.
1 The Darksaber was an ancient lightsaber that actually looked like a sword
The Darksaber was an ancient lightsaber that was possessed by an early incarnation of the Jedi Order. It was unique among lightsabers in that, rather than looking like a controlled beam, it was shaped almost exactly like a traditional sword. The Darksaber sported a thin, almost flat blade that was curved and came to a point much like a regular sword. The blade was deep black, seeming to draw in surrounding light and color and leaving a white aura around the edge of the blade.
The blade would be stolen by the Mandalorians during a period of upheaval among the Jedi and would remain in their culture for millennia, acting as a symbol of leadership for those that possessed it.
Any other facts we should know about lightsabers? Let us know in the comments!