The lightsaber is undoubtedly one of the coolest weapons in the nerd/geek universe. It’s an elegant weapon for a more civilized age, one that was at the forefront of a great many battles between the Jedi and Sith. While the two factions share similarities (and stark differences) with one another, their lightsabers are relatively the same in nature. However, there are some keen differences between the two, and since the biggest bad of them all, Darth Vader, will be making a return in Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, we thought it was time to take a look at Sith lightsabers.
But first, here are a few things to note: firstly, due to a scarcity of information about Sith (and dark side) lightsabers existing within canon, we’ve pulled some extra tidbits from Legends (formerly known as the Expanded Universe, which Disney removed from continuity shortly after their acquisition of Lucasfilm in 2012). Secondly, since aspects of the Sith tend to go hand-in-hand with the overall dark side, we’ve decided to include facts pertaining to dark side lightsabers in addition to Sith lightsabers, which means not everything in this article strictly applies to the Sith.
With that in mind, here are 15 Things You Didn’t Know About Sith Lightsabers.
15. The dark side invented the first lightsaber
Tens of thousands of years before the Galactic Empire, and thousands of years before the Galactic Republic (check out a full historical breakdown of the time period here), there was a galactic government known as the Infinite Empire. It was ruled by the ancient Rakatan race, whose Force-sensitive servants, known as Force Hounds, traveled across the galaxy searching for planets that had Force-sensitive people.
Their weapon of choice, invented by the Rakatan people, was a Forcesaber, the very first form of a lightsaber. A member of the Je’daii Order (the precursor to the Jedi Order, who practiced both the light and dark sides of the Force), Daegen Lok had a vision of a unique, plasma-emitting weapon.
He and the Force Hound Xesh created the first Forcesaber using rare crystals and alchemy, while also channeling the dark side of the Force through the blade. Interestingly, if any members of the Je’daii Order who practiced the light side used a Forcesaber, they risked immediately being corrupted by it.
14. Sith invented double-bladed lightsabers
Whatever your opinion of the prequel trilogy is, there is no denying that they introduced many new things into the Star Wars mythos (much of which was already introduced in Legends, but that’s a discussion for another time). One of the more fun aspects the prequel trilogy introduced were various forms of lightsabers, including double-bladed ones.
In Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, the scene in which the Sith apprentice Darth Maul took out his lightsaber and activated it — not just opening from one end but two — is one of the greatest scenes in the Star Wars saga. It was in that moment that Star Wars fans knew they were in for a treat.
Darth Maul was the first person to wield a double-bladed lightsaber in-universe, and Count Dooku’s apprentice, Asajj Ventress, became the second when she used one in The Clone Wars animated series, which is only fitting, since the Sith were the first to invent and use double-bladed lightsabers in Legends.
13. Sith developed the first internal power cells for protosabers
Not long after the Rakatan people introduced the first Forcesabers into the galaxy, the Knights of the succeeding Jedi Order, as well as Sith warriors, began using protosabers, one of the earliest lightsaber designs. Protosabers featured similar designs to later versions of lightsabers that Star Wars fans have come to know and love, with living crystals (known in canon as Kyber crystals) giving the weapon its power. However, unlike lightsabers, protosabers had limitations.
For instance, the main limitation is that the protosaber hilt had to be connected to an external power pack that Jedi, Dark Jedi, and Sith wore like a backpack in order to give life to the protosaber. Obviously, carrying a battery pack on your back is limiting. Therefore, the Sith developed a way to circumvent the external battery by developing internal power cells within the hilt of the protosaber, thereby giving the Sith a distinct advantage in battle. After all, all they had to do then was cut the cord of a Jedi’s protosaber in order to defeat them.
12. Sith have used both synthetic and Kyber crystals
It’s no secret that the Star Wars universe can be quite confusing, especially with so many different origins and explanations for things and people. Thanks to Disney removing the former Expanded Universe from canon, there are now multiple contradictions between what exists in Legends and what exists in canon. Sure, there may be some truth in Legends, albeit not too much. And one of those contradictions involves knowing just how exactly a Sith makes his or her own lightsaber.
For a long time, the Sith were known to use synthetic crystals (or synth-crystals), which were artificially made lightsaber crystals. While the majority of synth-crystals turn red, they may project other colors as well, such as the synth-crystal Luke Skywalker used for his second lightsaber in Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi, which turned green. But now, thanks to new canonical novels, the Sith also use Kyber crystals like their Jedi counterparts.
11. The real reason Sith have red lightsabers
Have you ever wondered why the Sith (and Dark Jedi for that matter) always tend to have red lightsabers? Is there a reason for this, besides helping the audience decipher the good guys from the villains in a fight? As it turns out, there is! For years, when the Legends stories were still considered canon, it was believed that because the Jedi control the worlds where Kyber crystals form, the Sith were forced to use synthetic lightsaber crystals, as previously mentioned.
By using synth-crystals, their lightsabers would turn red. However, thanks to the recent canonical novel, Ahsoka, which tells the story of Anakin Skywalker’s former apprentice during the Clone Wars, we now know the real, in-universe reason for why Sith lightsabers are red. Sith and dark siders can only obtain Kyber crystals by stealing them from fallen Jedi, and — since they don’t have the same connection to the crystal the Jedi do — when they bend the crystal to their will, it effectively “bleeds” and turns red.
10. Several ancient Sith Lords used lightsaber-resistant Sith swords
It may seem like a short time from when Force-sensitives first used the original Forcesabers, then later adapted to using protosabers, before finally perfecting the weapon with internal power cells, but that would be inaccurate. It took thousands of years for the Jedi and Sith to perfect the lightsaber, and in the meantime, they used other forms of weaponry to combat their adversaries. While the Jedi mainly relied on protosabers, many Sith factions opted to use Sith swords instead.
Although similar in premise, Sith swords differed greatly from other types of melee weapons. As previously mentioned, the ancient light side Jedi (of the Je’daii Order) weren’t capable of wielding Forcesabers without turning to the dark side. Therefore, they created Force-imbued katana swords capable of withstanding Forcesabers. However, since many of the earliest dark siders (Bogan) chose not to use Forcesabers, they developed Sith swords to combat the light side’s (Ashlan) katana blades.
9. The Empire outlawed lightsabers following the Great Jedi Purge
In what was originally the final Star Wars film, Revenge of the Sith, Chancellor Palpatine executed his plan to incorporate all the Republic systems into one unifying Galactic Empire, and destroy the Jedi Order in the process. After all, the chancellor was also the infamous Sith Lord, Darth Sidious.
To do that, Palpatine directed the clone troopers to carry out Order 66, a command that had all the clones in the Grand Army betray and murder their Jedi brethren. And thanks to a bio-chip implanted in the clone troopers’ heads, which could be activated by voice command, they had virtually no control over their actions.
But it wasn’t enough to kill all the Jedi (and use Inquisitors to hunt down the surviving members), so the Emperor made it illegal to use, sell, or own a lightsaber. He even had some of the caves where Kyber crystals grow naturally razed to the ground. The only people allowed to use lightsabers during this time was Darth Vader and various other dark side users.
8. Acolytes of the Beyond tried to return Darth Vader’s lightsaber to him in death
After the fall of Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire, and long before the rise of the Knights of Ren and the First Order, there were the Acolytes of the Beyond, dark side extremists who had developed an affinity for collecting Sith artifacts. One of those artifacts was Darth Vader’s lightsaber, which was lost during the Battle of Endor.
The Acolytes of the Beyond searched for the Sith blade across the galaxy until they believed that they’d found it. After purchasing it from Ooblamon, a Kubaz junk dealer from the Taris system, the Acolytes of the Beyond attempted to destroy the lightsaber and return it its master in death — but it’s doubtful the lightsaber was actually Darth Vader’s real lightsaber.
While we wait for Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: Episode VIII to release, many questions linger in fans’ minds, such as, who exactly are the Knights of Ren? One theory suggests that they are former Acolytes of the Beyond members, and since the Acolytes love collecting Sith artifacts, it would explain how Kylo Ren came to possess Darth Vader’s helmet.
7. Darth Vader’s lightsaber has a dual-phase function
Seeing Darth Vader activate his lightsaber for the first time in the original Star Wars film, and getting ready to duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi for the first (technically second, in-universe) and final time was exhilarating, to say the least. It was the first time audiences saw the dark side’s version of the lightsaber.
The thing is, Darth Vader’s lightsaber is much more unique than many people may realize. What most people know is that Darth Vader created his red lightsaber during the early days of the Galactic Empire, not long after he lost his first lightsaber fighting Obi-Wan on Mustafar, which Obi-Wan later gives to Luke.
However, the most interesting part of Darth Vader’s lightsaber is its dual-phase function. If you’ve ever thought that Darth Vader’s lightsaber appears to be shorter or longer in some instances compared to others, that’s because it usually is shorter or longer. Dual-phase functions allow lightsaber wielders to alter the length of their blade.
6. Kylo Ren’s crossguard lightsaber
In 2014, when Lucasfilm released the first teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Wars fans around the world got their first look at Kylo Ren’s peculiar lightsaber. It was clear by the initial reactions that not everyone was on board with the new design. But contrary to popular belief, there are several reasons for why Kylo Ren uses a crossguard lightsaber.
When he built his own custom lightsaber after falling to the dark side, he used a cracked Kyber crystal, which required the use of vents to offset the blade’s heat. To compensate for the broken crystal, Kylo Ren utilized the crossguard hilt, an ancient lightsaber design he found on the planet Malachor.
Furthermore, it’s common practice among Force users to cut off an opponent’s hand. Since we’ve already seen that happen a few times in the movies, it’s beneficial for Kylo Ren (who isn’t a Sith, by the way; at least not yet) to have a lightsaber that helps prevent that type of dismemberment.
5. Inquisitors also steal Kyber crystals from former Jedi
As previously mentioned, Sith and dark side Force users aren’t able to obtain naturally grown Kyber crystals for their lightsabers on their own, which is why they have resorted to stealing the crystals from fallen Jedi (and other Force-sensitives). And by bending the crystals to their will, they unintentionally alter the crystal’s color to red.
But the thing is, the Sith aren’t the only people in the Star Wars galaxy who employ this method of creating lightsabers. Inquisitors — members of the Inquisitorius, an order of Force-sensitive agents who operate under the command of the Emperor and the Galactic Empire — also steal their Kyber crystals from fallen Jedi.
Interestingly, their sole purpose within the Galactic Empire is to hunt down and eliminate the surviving Jedi throughout the galaxy. Therefore, by killing the remaining Jedi, they obtain the crystals necessary to create their own lightsabers, which have been known to have unique designs (like the helicopter blades).
4. Inquisitor lightsabers spin to compensate for their weaker abilities
As previously stated, the Sith were the first Force users to invent and utilize a double-bladed lightsaber, something they continued to do throughout the canonical Star Wars saga. But the double-bladed lightsabers weren’t limited to just the Sith master and apprentice; the Inquisitorius used them as well, albeit with some modifications.
If the Inquisitorius’ sole mission was to hunt down and destroy the surviving members of the Jedi Order, then they would either need to have a strong connection to the Force, or a super strong weapon to defeat their opponents. Since they weren’t technically Sith for a reason, they employed the latter strategy.
Inquisitors used double-bladed spinning lightsabers to compensate for their weaker abilities, many of which they learned from Darth Vader, as well as old records from the Jedi Order. The lightsabers were effective, for their ability to spin allowed them to overwhelm their opponents in battle, such as Ezra Bridger, who almost lost his hand fighting an Inquisitor.
3. Does Darth Sidious consider a lightsaber to be a Jedi’s weapon?
By having lightsabers outlawed following the Great Jedi Purge, one could say that the Emperor hated lightsabers as much as he hated the Jedi — and that wouldn’t be definitively inaccurate. Although the Emperor literally had a lightsaber hidden up his sleeve, one of special design, he seldom used it. Throughout all the movies, we only saw him use it twice: once fighting while Mace Windu, and another fighting Yoda. In fact, he’s remembered for his power to channel lightning more so than his skills with the coolest weapon in sci-fi.
Unlike the Inquisitors, who relied heavily on their lightsabers, perhaps the Emperor’s connection to the dark side of the Force was so strong that he no longer needed to use a lightsaber in order to defeat his opponents. Another possible reason for why the Emperor rare used a lightsaber is because he generally considers them to be a Jedi’s weapon, which is evident in Return of the Jedi when the Emperor told Luke to thrown down his “Jedi weapon.”
2. All the different Sith/dark side lightsaber hilts
Setting aside the mystery of Palpatine’s preferences, lightsabers are the weapon of choice for Force users, especially the Jedi and Sith. But a lightsaber cannot exist without a hilt, the all-encompassing casing of all the lightsaber parts. It should come as no surprise to longtime and even casual Star Wars fans that there are numerous variations of lightsaber hilts out there. Some have traditional hilts, whereas others have curved hilts, and some even resemble medieval swords, like Kylo Ren’s aforementioned crossguard lightsaber.
While the Legends universe contains several different variations that we may never see in-universe, there are plenty of canonical lightsaber hilts to peruse through. Some of the most notable hilts are Count Dooku’s curved lightsaber hilt, the Inquisitors’ double-bladed spinning lightsabers, and Maul’s cane-disguised hilt (the one he used years after fighting Obi-Wan Kenobi). Of all these hilts, perhaps the most interesting is Darth Sidious’ lightsaber, which uses the rare Electrum metal for its hilt. His utilization of such a weapon indicates that he has truly mastered the ways of the Force — just in case there were any non-believers out there.
1. Sith lightsabers can break through a Jedi’s lightsaber
As we’ve said, Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm and their subsequent removal of the Expanded Universe (Legends) from continuity introduced a great many changes to the Star Wars canon. One of the biggest changes was the Sith going from using synthetic lightsaber crystals to stealing Kyber crystals from fallen Jedi (which, again, is what gives their blades the red color).
However, when they used synth-crystals, their lightsabers were arguably more powerful than their Jedi counterparts. Because of that, Sith lightsabers had the rare ability to actually break through a Jedi’s lightsaber blade. Breaking through a lightsaber’s hilt is one thing, but it was thought to be virtually impossible to break the lightsaber beam itself.
While we haven’t seen something like this happen in canon yet, it has happened before in Legends. Sure, it may sound like using synth-crystals would give the Sith an advantage in combat, but the fact is, the crystals were notoriously unreliable. That is, in part, why Kylo Ren’s lightsaber appears more than a bit unstable on screen.
Do you know of any other fun facts about Sith lightsabers? Sound off in the comments.
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