In all of sci-fi and fantasy, there are few villains as iconic and intimidating as Star Wars' Darth Vader. He is an archetypal character that borrows from many mythological legends.
George Lucas aimed to create a timeless character that echoed many of the myths and fairy tales of old. Vader is sort of catch-all villain whose essence would be fitting in multiple mythic genres— western, samurai movie, fairy tale, or yes, even an epic space opera.
From the moment he steps on the screen in A New Hope, he’s a force to be reckoned with.
After boarding a rebel vessel by explosive force with a squad of stormtroopers, Vader wastes no time crushing the captain’s throat while lifting in him in the air with one hand, taking prisoner Princess Leia and ordering a massive manhunt for the missing droids.
Audiences had never seen a villain quite like this before: was he all machine? A man with mechanical parts? Or something in-between?
Just as many of the villains of myth have an intimidating weapon, often infused with magic, Darth Vader has his red lightsaber that he uses in conjunction with The Force.
Like all lightsabers, its blade is pure plasmic energy capable of cutting through nearly everything that isn’t another lightsaber. Vader’s lightsaber blade is an intimidating crimson red, a color nearly universally adopted by the Sith and is representative of the dark side of the force: rage, impulsivity, hate, and aggression.
However, there’s much more to the history of Vader’s lightsaber than is popularly known. For fans who have only seen the movies, there is a much deeper history to be uncovered.
Here are the 20 Crazy Revelations About Darth Vader’s Lightsaber.
20 Vader Used His Anger And Hate To Turn The Crystal Red
Most Star Wars fans know the important role that kyber crystals play in the functionality of all lightsabers. These are crystals that grow in several different environments but are rare nonetheless.
The Jedi use them inside lightsabers to focus the energy into a plasma blade.
In the original Star Wars continuity, the Jedi used naturally occurring crystals and the Sith used synthetic crystals. After The Force Awakens, this has been retconned.
In the new canon, The Sith take existing kyber crystals and project their rage and hate into it using the force, turning the kyber crystal red.
Vader does this in the Marvel comic Darth Vader, Dark Lord of the Sith. As Palpatine puts it, “A red saber is no different than any other…except that it has been made to bleed. The crystal from any Jedi saber will do.”
19 Kylo Ren May Be After A Splinter Of Vader’s Kyber Crystal
Though still a rumor, there is talk that the pendant that Luke wears around his neck actually contains a splinter from the kyber crystal of Darth Vader's lightsaber.
If this is true, this means that Luke retrieved Vader's lightsaber from the Emperor’s throne room shortly before he escaped with Vader’s body.
The second part of this rumor is that Kylo Ren actually possesses the rest of Vader’s crystal and uses it in his unique lightsaber with the plasma-bladed hilt. The fact that the blade seems to have more crackling interference than most other lightsabers seem to support the theory that the crystal is somehow fractured.
In The Last Jedi, After Luke “ascends” into the afterlife, we’re not exactly sure what becomes of his pendant. If this is a true plot thread, it has yet to be revealed.
18 Anakin Continued To Use a Blue Lightsaber After He Became Vader
It’s easy to forget that Anakin actually became Darth Vader before he fell into the lava pit on Mustafar and became half-man, half-machine.
Technically, Palpatine christened him Vader as soon as he helped him dispatch with Mace Windu in Revenge of the Sith.
He actually went through with his first acts of unspeakable evil while carrying the blue lightsaber that eventually goes to Luke.
This is the same lightsaber that he uses to eliminate the remaining Jedi in the temple. It's also the same weapon he used to cut down an entire room full of younglings.
When passing down the weapon to Luke, had Obi-Wan instead said, “This is your father’s lightsaber—he used it wipe out a room full of younglings who trusted him” perhaps Luke wouldn’t have been so eager to wave it around.
17 Vader’s Lightsaber Is A Single Blade And Dual Phase
Many fans have wondered about the internal workings of Darth Vader's lightsaber. His lightsaber is in fact a single blade and dual phase.
What does that mean? Well, according to the book Star Wars Lightsabers: A Guide to Weapons Of The Force, dual phase lightsabers have more than one kyber crystal, which allows its wielder to extend or shorten the blade during combat.
Though we presumably didn’t see Vader use this feature during the movies, we could see how this might be an advantage in certain tactical situations.
Although Vader usually only fought with this weapon that was a single blade, we have no doubt that he could handle double-bladed lightsabers had the need arose.
16 It Was Actually Made Of Camera And Calculator Parts
We have to remember that George Lucas’ original Star Wars movie, A New Hope, was made at the fraction of the budget of any other Star Wars chapter. Because of this, the production designers had to get creative with a lot of their props.
The original designs for the lightsabers varied wildly, but the production eventually settled on creating a prop from several pieces of already existing technology.
For the main cylinder of the lightsaber, designers used a flash tube attachment from a British camera from the 1940s era.
The protruding ridges were glued on, they were simply black plastic sliding tracks used for cabinets, and the switch used pieces from a 1974 calculator.
The resulting prop has stood the test of time— long enough for Star Wars fans to make four decades of mythology about it.
15 He Built It After Losing His Lightsaber During An Assassination Attempt
Knowing that Vader was personally involved in purging the remaining Jedi after Order 66 was executed, a few Imperial officers who were not happy with Darth Vader’s new leadership role planned to set a trap to assassinate Vader.
They planted rumors of a Jedi who showed force powers at a bar fight, and when Vader showed up, they had anonymously hired bounty hunters to ambush him.
The bounty hunters proved no match for Vader, though they managed to destroy his short-lived lightsaber during the fight.
Vader held one of them hostage to discover who hired them and traced the order back to scheming officer corp on Coruscant.
Not knowing precisely who the officers were, Vader selected five randomly at an assembly and vanquished them by force-choking, proving that he wasn’t above collective punishment for any attempt made on his life.
14 He Stole The Crystal From A Jedi Master
On a mission from Palpatine, Vader sought to exterminate a powerful Jedi known to have survived Order 66: Jedi Master Kirak Infil’a.
When Vader sought him out on the river moon of Al’doleem, Infil’a could sense Vader arriving.
What followed was an intense fight that looked liked Vader would lose. At one point, Infil’a threw him from a cliff where, had it not been for Vader’s cybernetics, he certainly would have expired.
At the last moments, Vader turned the table on Al’doleem, using civilian guards to distract him enough to take the advantage.
In the end, Vader destroyed Infil’a, and tossed him over a dam, taking the crystal from Infil'a's lightsaber as his own.
It was this crystal that he used to pour his anger into, turning the crystal red.
13 He Used It To Help Finish The Jedi Purge
The Jedi purge was serious business. Both the Emperor and Vader knew that there were more than a handful of Jedi left after Order 66.
Some Jedi escaped the clones who had betrayed them, while other clones actually disobeyed the order. Worse, there were some Jedi who were out of reach when Order 66 was executed, and quite a few people with force-sensitivity were still scattered across the galaxy.
One such Jedi was Bol Chatak, who disobedient clones permitted to escape. She hid out on planet Murkhana in a disguise until Vader arrived to admonish the clones who had disobeyed orders.
She sprung to attack Vader and engaged in a furious battle. Though she injured his forearm, Vader used his new lightsaber to cut off her sword arm and then her head. It wouldn’t be the last Jedi that Vader dispatched so easily.
12 Its Design Is Partially Based On The One That He Lost In The Battle Of Geonosis
Before he was Vader, he was the swashbuckling Anakin who tended to leap before he looked.
Over the course of his training with Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin developed the reputation of frequently losing his lightsaber in the middle of whatever mess he had gotten himself into. In Attack of the Clones alone, he lost two of them.
Anakin lost the second lightsaber when he had his arm pinned down in the robot production assembly line on Geonosis while he unwisely attempted a mission to rescue Obi-wan from capture.
This is the model that inspired Vader’s first lightsaber. He built this one after he turned to the dark side. It was mixed with the Emperor’s second lightsaber.
Though similar, Vader’s revised version had a thicker grip and black accents.
11 Because Of His Robotic Hands, The Grip Had To Be Thicker
Because Darth Vader is weighed down by many of his cybernetic parts, he is not as agile or fast as many other Jedi.
However, what he lacks for in speed and grace, he makes up in pure strength, experience, and unmatched skill in using the force. There’s a reason why he was never taken down by any other Jedi other than Luke.
So it makes sense that Darth Vader’s new lightsaber would have to be custom made to suit his fighting style.
Though the design is partially inspired by one of the previous lightsabers he had while he was still Anakin, the new grip is much thicker to accommodate his cybernetic hands.
Vader doesn’t need to be fast to utterly demolish any opponent in front of him.
10 Vader's Lightsaber Was Inspired By Darth Sidious’
In combination with the lightsaber that he lost on Geonosis, Vader also used the Emperor’s (Darth Sidious) lightsaber as inspiration to construct his new one.
This, however, wasn’t so much an overt choice of Vader. Rather, the Emperor offered his lightsaber to Vader as a base model that he could use while he was building it.
Vader liked the simplicity of the Emperor's weapon but didn't need all of the craftsmanship of the highly stylized design on the outer shell.
Vader adopted the basic shape of the Emperor's piece but opted for a simpler design from the previous lightsaber he lost on Geonosis.
He also preferred more ballast on the hilt, to give it more weight and width for his robotic hands.
In the end, this particular model lasted Vader until his demise.
9 Vader Tried To Impress The Emperor With Its Design
You can easily track how Anakin gets manipulated by Palpatine through the course of the prequels, and even more so throughout the animated Clone Wars.
Despite Vader being a full grown man with force abilities probably only secondary to Yoda and the Emperor himself, Vader still maintains a relationship with the Emperor as if he is a surrogate father.
Sadly, after Padmé’s passing, Vader's mind and spirit are broken and his relationship with the Emperor is what some fans would describe as dysfunctional and co-dependent at best.
As described in the novel Dark Lord, The Rise of Darth Vader, when Vader finally does build his first lightsaber, he tries to improve on the design of the Emperor’s weapon in order to impress him.
In the end, Vader’s design was just a slight variance of the weapon he lost on Geonosis.
8 Galen Marek Once Used It
Galen Marek, later known as Starkiller, was the subject of The Force Unleashed video games. He was the son of two Jedi who had escaped Order 66 to live on exile on the planet Kashyyyk.
When Vader came to destroy his Jedi parents, he decided to take on Marek as his own personal apprentice, because he saw the boy had a talent with the force.
Starkiller had an ill-fated set of missions with Vader, which led to Vader betraying him multiple times.
In one of the alternate endings of the video game, Marek overcomes Vader by impaling him with his own lightsaber.
He later blacked out after Palpatine force-threw a spaceship on top of him.
When Starkiller awoke, he had a new mechanical body being assembled and six lightsabers on his belt—one of them belonging to Darth Vader.
7 Vader Set Some Wookies On Fire With It
Even though the Wookie home-planet of Kashyyyk had been unwaveringly loyal to the Republic, when the Empire ascended, it had other plans for them.
No doubt recognizing that Wookies would make a strong and durable labor force, one of the first things that the Empire did after taking over was to completely subjugate Kashyyyk and enslave most of the Wookies therein. Many of them were sent to the spice mines of Kessel.
Vader personally assisted in the colonization and subjugation of Kashyyyk. The Wookies, being fierce warriors, put up an honorable fight.
A few Wookies had the misfortune of entering into combat with Vader directly. Because of their heavy fur coating, lightsaber attacks would sometimes set their whole bodies ablaze.
Despite their spirited defense, Kashyyyk was no match for Vader’s forces and tragically succumbed to the Empire.
6 Vader Could Channel Force Energy Into It
The idea of using the force to augment a non-powered physical weapon had been explored quite a bit in the Star Wars comics, particularly in Tales of the Jedi.
In it, some of the Jedi knights of old used the force to “power up” a simple weapon like a wooden staff to such a degree that it could actually be used to defend oneself against a lightsaber.
In the hit video game The Force Unleashed, Starkiller was able to pour force energy into his lightsaber, giving it the ability to project a force push or blast force lightning at an opponent.
Vader similarly channeled the force into his lightsaber to defend against Starkillers force enhanced attacks.
5 It Caused Luke’s Lightsaber To End Up In The Hands Of Rey
A lot is going on in the first battle between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back.
Luke, having no idea Darth Vader is his father, comes at him aggressively. Luke also doesn’t know that the weapon he’s using to fight Vader was the one Vader lost on Mustafar.
However, the most ironic thing is that after Vader slices off Luke’s saber hand, making him lose the weapon, he inadvertently causes the lightsaber to eventually find its way back to Rey in The Force Awakens.
Rey, of course, will use that very same lightsaber to fight Vader’s grandson, Kylo Ren.
It’s never spelled out clearly exactly how Maz Kanata eventually obtained it, but we trust that this will be addressed at some point. This lightsaber just can’t seem to get away from the Skywalkers.
4 The Original Design Depicted It With A Jewel-Studded Hilt
A lot of fans wouldn’t recognize many of the original production designs from Star Wars.
For example, after weeks of redesigns, the Millennium Falcon was finally inspired by a hamburger with an olive next to it. Luke Skywalker’s character was originally conceptualized as a girl.
Similarly, the lightsabers had quite the journey as well. Darth Vader’s lightsaber was specifically envisioned to be a jewel-encrusted cylinder.
As time passed, Lucas opted for a simpler design, no doubt influenced by his production designers who had a more practical approach to cobbling together items from several “found” pieces of equipment.
The final designs were effective, as they were real metal items and looked like sleek and durable functioning machines.
3 One of Vader’s Moves Was To Remove The Opponent’s Weapon, Arm, Or Hand
One of the best ways to disarm an opponent when fighting with a lightsaber is to literally disarm him-- as in remove his arm his arm or hand from his body.
Some fans think that Vader actually picked this idea up in training when he worked with Obi-wan Kenobi.
It was one of Obi-wan’s signature moves to do this in battle. Annakin himself was a victim of involuntary arm removal in Attack of the Clones when Count Dooku easily sliced off his left arm.
So it’s no surprise that Vader uses this maneuver more than a few times, like with Bol Chatak, or against his own son, Luke Skywalker.
It turns out this is actually an ancient Jedi lightsaber combat maneuver known as “cho sun” – literally, the art of removing the entire sword-arm.
2 Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Lightsaber Belonged To Darth Vader
Yes, it's a technicality, but for a few short hours, Darth Vader owned Obi-Wan Kenobi's lightsaber, too. After Obi-Wan confronted him for the final time and made his epic sacrifice to save Luke, Obi-Wan’s form disintegrated into the ether leaving only his cloak and lightsaber behind.
We never saw exactly what he did with Obi-Wan’s lightsaber. Presumably, he retrieved it as a trophy or a memento and kept it somewhere in his quarters.
Vader had no idea his space station was about to blow up, so there’s no reason he thought it wouldn’t be safe. But technically, it was Vader’s lightsaber now.
If the Kenobi/Vader lightsaber somehow survived the destruction of the Death Star, that means that it’s still floating in orbit somewhere around Yavin.
We’re sure some writer of the new canon will eventually make a story about it.
1 He Managed To Hold On To It For 25 Years Until Luke Cut Off His Hand
If you calculate that Darth Vader built his lightsaber shortly after Order 66, that means it happens around 19 years before the Battle of Yavin.
Darth Vader loses the lightsaber when Luke cuts off his hand in Return of the Jedi, roughly four years after the Battle of Yavin.
This means that he held on to this lightsaber for about 25 years. As Anakin, it seemed like he could barely hold on to a lightsaber for more than a few months, much to the chagrin of his master back then, Obi-wan Kenobi.
It is ironic that Vader finally masters the adult art of “holding on to his stuff” only after he turned to the dark side. In a weird way, Obi-wan would have been proud.
Can you think of any other interesting facts about Darth Vader's lightsaber? Sound off in the comments!