- "This was the formal weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. More skill than simple sight was required for its use. An elegant weapon. It was a symbol as well. Anyone can use a blaster or a fusioncutter—but to use a lightsaber well was a mark of someone a cut above the ordinary."
- ―Obi-Wan Kenobi
Designed as much for elegance in combat as for ceremony, the lightsaber, also referred to as the "laser sword" by those who were unfamiliar with it, was a distinctive weapon, the very image of which was inextricably bound with the mythos of the Jedi Order and their polar opposites, the Sith. The lightsaber also became synonymous with the Jedi Order's values to uphold peace and justice throughout the galaxy. This perception endured, despite the many conflicts with lightsaber-wielding Sith and Dark Jedi.
The weapon consisted of a blade of pure plasma emitted from the hilt and suspended in a force containment field. The field contained the immense heat of the plasma, protecting the wielder, and allowed the blade to keep its shape. The hilt was almost always self-fabricated by the wielder to match his or her specific needs, preferences and style. Due to the weightlessness of plasma and the strong gyroscopic effect generated by it, lightsabers required a great deal of strength and dexterity to wield, and it was extremely difficult—and dangerous—for the untrained to attempt using. However, in the hands of an expert of the Force, the lightsaber was a weapon to be greatly respected and feared. To wield a lightsaber was to demonstrate incredible skill and confidence, as well as masterful dexterity and attunement to the Force.
The Forcesaber was a precursor created by the Rakata, which would eventually evolve into the lightsaber. They were able to channel the dark side of the force through ebon laboratory-grown crystals which would create the glowing energy blades.
The first lightsaber came into being when the precursor Je'daii Order combined advanced offworld technology with a forging ritual, learning how to "freeze" a laser beam. The earliest known functional lightsaber was the First Blade, built on Tython prior to the Force Wars by an unknown Je'daii Master known only as the Weapon Master. With the formation of the Jedi Order after the Force Wars, ceremonial weapons were an integral part of their order. For millennia afterwards, the Jedi continued to use bladed weapons like swords, as lightsabers had not yet been refined for regular use.
By the time of the Duinuogwuin Contention around 15,500 BBY, Jedi studies and researches with "frozen blaster" technology yielded success; they developed a method to generate a focused beam of energy that arced in a circumferential path back to its source, creating a controlled energy circuit and leading to the first portable high-energy blades. However, these preliminary lightsabers were highly unstable and inefficiently guzzled power from a belt-mounted power supply; they could only be used for a brief duration before overheating. As a consequence of these flaws, the first lightsabers were little more than ceremonial objects, seldom worn, and much less utilized.
- "…these archaic lightsabers were barely portable; their energy requirements necessitated a flexible cable that connected a lightsaber's handle to a power pack worn on a Jedi's belt."
- ―Tionne Solusar
The extreme lack of stability that plagued the weapons early designs were gradually corrected through the ages, and the cumbersome and rarely used siege-weapons gave way to elegant and much more commonly used lightsabers. However, while these archaic lightsabers were far more stable than their ungainly predecessors, they still suffered from energy consumption issues, still requiring the belt-worn power pack of previous generations. The power-cable tended to restrict the wielders movements in battle and prevented the usage of Force-powered and long range telekinetic saber combat. However, despite the shortcomings, the highly stable blades granted them a superior advantage in hand-to-hand combat against heavily-armored foes, and saw a great deal of use during the period of the Hundred-Year Darkness.
Sith developments and usage
- "Although lightsabers are a superior weapon, there is still nothing quite as satisfying as feeling the warm spray of blood when one cleaves through one's enemy with a real sword."
It seems the Dark Lords of the Sith Empire were ultimately responsible for the advancement of lightsabers, replacing the belt-mounted power pack with a power cell within the hilt. An internal superconductor was introduced, which transferred the returning looped energy from the negative-charged flux aperture back into an internal power cell. With this modification, the power cell would only expend power when the energy loop was broken, such as when the lightsaber cut something, solving the power supply problem. According to the Tedryn Holocron, the Sith also created the schematics for the first Double-bladed lightsabers. Wielders of these original modern lightsabers include Karness Muur, a Dark Jedi who had wielded an archaic lightsaber, but later switched to a curve-hilted modern lightsaber.. The Sith crew of the Omen were also equipped with modern lightsabers.
Muur also appears to have been one of the Sith Lords to establish the tradition of wielding lightsabers with synthetic lightsaber crystals, which was maintained until its resurgence in 3,653 BBY. However, this tradition was disregarded by Exar Kun during his reign, as he and his followers opted instead to continue using their Jedi lightsabers in combat, though at least one follower used a lightsaber with a red crystal. However, this tradition was reestablished by the Sith acolyte Haazen and the Dark Lords Revan and Malak.
Adoption by the Jedi
- "A lightsaber is an interesting weapon. A blade unique in the history of warfare. A paradox, not unlike the Jedi who wield it: those peaceful warriors, who kill in the service of life. Have you ever noticed? The blade is round. It has no edge. But it is a lightsaber—which means it is nothing but edge. There is no part of this blade that does not cut. Curious, yes? Symbolic, one might say."
With Naga Sadow's invasion of the Republic in 5,000 BBY and the subsequent start of the Great Hyperspace War, the technological innovations pioneered by the Sith Empire were brought to the Republic and the Jedi. However, the majority of Sith forces held to the use of Sith swords, while the Jedi continued to use the protosabers, as they had not yet had time to adapt and implement these new designs. With the Sith defeat at the end of the war, modern lightsabers were adopted by the Jedi Order. By 4,800 BBY[source?] they were almost universally utilized by Jedi.
During the Great Sith War, Jedi converts who flocked to Exar Kun continued using their Jedi lightsabers, disregarding the tradition laid down by the original Sith Empire. However, other innovations entered their ranks, with Kun modifying his lightsaber into a double-bladed lightsaber, using schematics from a Sith holocron. While Exar Kun's insurrection ultimately failed, he did introduce the double-bladed lightsaber to the Jedi, and it began to see relatively widespread use during the period leading up to the Jedi Civil War.
Jedi Civil War
- "Your melee weapon is made using a cortosis weave. It's strong enough to stand up against anything, even a lightsaber."
- ―Trask Ulgo
The Jedi Civil War was a conflict started by former Jedi Revan and Malak in the aftermath of the Mandalorian Wars. During their conflict against the Mandalorians, Revan and Malak were turned to the dark side and invaded the Republic, at the head of their own Sith Empire. Revan waged war against the Republic for several years, attracting numerous rogue and Dark Jedi to his cause. When he founded his own branch of Sith, Revan observed the tradition of using red-hued blades laid out by the original Sith. Many of his followers followed suit, and red lightsabers became recognized as the mark of a darksider. Double-bladed lightsabers also saw common usage among the Dark Jedi and Sith Lords. The usage of red lightsabers continued among the surviving darksiders after the fall of Revan's Empire.
This era saw a surge in the usage of personal energy shields by armed forces, rendering blasters partly obsolete. As blaster usage experienced partial decline due to the shields, melee weapons such as swords became more common. In order to make the weapons more durable, almost all weapons of the era were created using cortosis woven into the blade, allowing them to stand up against lightsabers.
Great Galactic War
- "This challenge you will not overcome. Your lightsaber is nothing against the power of the dark side."
"That's why I always carry two."
- ―Unknown Sith and Jedi Knight Fortris Gall
In 3,681 BBY, the resurgent Sith Empire invaded the Galactic Republic. The conflict culminated in the Sacking of Coruscant in 3,653 BBY. This forced the Republic to sign the Treaty of Coruscant that led to the Cold War. During the years of these two conflicts, the Sith Empire's warriors and inquisitors almost uniformly wielded lightsabers instead of Sith swords. As with the Sith of Revan's Empire and the Empire of the Sith Triumvirate, red blades were customary for Sith to wield, solidifying the red lightsaber as emblematic of the Sith. Another typical design feature on Sith weapons was the usage of dual-blade guards. The Jedi continued to wield lightsabers, and some Jedi adopted the dual-bladed design as well.
Aftermath and Sith rebirth
- "Toward the end of the Old Republic era, Ilum was the primary source of most crystals used for lightsabers; this dramatically limited the color range, as the crystals harvested from Ilum produce only blue and green blades."
- ―Tionne Solusar
Eventually, the Republic managed to reclaim its lost territory. During this period, lightsaber usage and technology remained largely unchanged, although it should be noted that the usage of naturally formed crystals from Ilum became almost universal among Jedi, causing the variety of lightsaber colors to drop, as the vast majority of crystals that formed on Ilum took on either a blue or green hue.
It is notable that during the reign of Kaan, Sith apprentices were provided with stock lightsabers rather than having to create their own. After the institution of the Rule of Two, this policy was reversed, and apprentices had to create their own lightsabers, although synthetic crystals were often provided. However, a notable exception to this rule was Darth Maul, who self-fabricated the four synth-crystals required for his saberstaff after several days of nonstop work. Maul considered the creation of the crystals he used as a mark of Sith superiority over Jedi.
When the Clone Wars began, Jedi lightsabers experienced a change in focus. Rather than being created as a meditative exercise, heavy-duty lightsabers built to stand up to the rigors of war became the norm. Also, the war saw the reemergence of a rare lightsaber long thought lost; the Darksaber. Stolen from the Jedi Temple by the Mandalorians several millennia prior, the weapon had been passed down the line among the warriors, eventually coming into the possession of Pre Vizsla. Vizsla wielded the weapon against Obi-Wan Kenobi in a brief duel.
Jedi Purge and reformation
- Rhinann: "The weapons of the Jedi were destroyed along with the Jedi. There are rumors that some lightsabers remain in the private collections of the extremely wealthy. But the only one that I am certain truly exists belongs to Darth Vader, and I doubt he'd part with it willingly."
- Pavan: "A crystal then. I'll build my own. It'll be more in tune with my—"
- Rhinann: "Adegan crystals, as well as Corusca, Ilum, and others, are under strict trade and commerce interdiction, per the orders of Emperor Palpatine."
- Pavan: "I'll grow one, then."
- Rhinann: "That may be possible. It will take some time, however, to assemble the necessary equipment and materials."
- ―Haninum Tyk Rhinann elaborates on the illegality of lightsabers to Jax Pavan[src]
With the Great Jedi Purge, lightsabers were outlawed. To further hinder surviving Jedi, Palpatine had many of the sites where Jedi traditionally collected lightsaber crystals razed or quarantined, and placed strict sanctions on any crystals available on the market that could be used on such, such as Corusca gems. Jedi were forced to refrain from drawing their lightsabers during this era, as openly displaying their traditional weapon would only draw attention. Ultimately, the only individuals permitted to wield lightsabers were Palpatine's own Dark side servants, such as Darth Vader or his Shadow guardsman, to name a few. As the widespread outlawing of these weapons made an already rare artifacts now almost impossible to find save in the hands of surviving Jedi, Jedi hunters would often collect the weapons as proof of kill, either turning them over to the Empire or keeping them as trophies.
Most of Palpatine's servants and disciples, such as his Hands or his Dark Side Elite, favored the simple standard lightsabers. However, other affiliates, such as the Emperor's Shadow Guard or certain members of the Royal Guard, favored more specialized weapons, such as Lightsaber pikes. One of his Hands, Lumiya, wielded a lightwhip. Imperial engineers also found a way to mass produce lightsabers, though these weapons still had to be assembled by hand. These lightsabers were created on Kamino for the Imperial saber guard and the Starkiller clones, and called for the mass importing of special crystals for them. The crystals in question were likely synthetics, due to the red coloration common to most, though the weapons supplied to most of the clones featured silver blades. Similar mass produced lightsabers were provided to the Sa Cuis clones.
When Luke Skywalker set about constructing his lightsaber, he based the design off of schematics supplied by Obi-Wan Kenobi. Notably, he was forced to use a synth-crystal for his weapon, as he lacked any knowledge of the sites where Jedi traditionally gathered crystals, most of which having been razed anyway. The resulting crystal possessed a green coloration, due to Skywalker's meditations upon it during its formation. When Skywalker's reformed Jedi Order arose, many of the original crystal sites would be reclaimed, but early apprentices would rely on synth-crystals. During Skywalker's brief apprenticeship to Palpatine, he was forced to replace the green crystal in his lightsaber with a red one, though he would quickly switch back after escaping the Sith Lord. Notably, Palpatine did not force his other disciples to wield red lightsabers, but as they were mere Dark Jedi rather than true Sith, he may have felt that the tradition did not apply. He himself wielded a trophy lightsaber with a blue coloration at this time.
Dark side resurgent
After Palpatine's final death, there remained several dark side cults and groups either formed by surviving Dark Jedi. A notable group were the Reborn. Due to the large number of Dark Jedi within the Reborn, supplied by a special cloning method that granted Force-sensitivity, Desann was forced to manufacture lightsabers for the group. This resulted in a notable innovation in lightsaber construction techniques, as beforehand lightsaber manufacturing was impossible due to the non-uniform nature of the crystals, which required painstaking, individual fine-tuning. These manufacturing processes also appeared to have been applied by the Disciples of Ragnos, a Sith cult formed by Desann's apprentice, Tavion Axmis, and surviving members of the Reborn. Also, as all the lightsabers were identical assembly line creations, they all utilized red crystals.
While the development of lightsaber-manufacturing techniques was a significant advancement in lightsaber technology, the Jedi, as well as most other Force-using traditions, kept to the old methods where lightsabers were self-fabricated by students in order to individualize the weapons, and test the abilities of the adept in question.
Many years later, as the Imperial Remnant recovered in strength, they also formed a new Force Order; the Imperial Knights. The Knights were noted for their self-fabricated weapons, although they all followed the same design and used white crystals in their weapons. This helped individualize their weapons but still mark them out as Imperial Knights.
Emperor Roan Fel eventually formed an alliance with the Sith, led by Darth Krayt. While the Empire and the Sith worked together, the Sith turned on the Empire and usurped the throne, causing a civil war within the Empire.
The lightsaber construction methods of the Sith differed from the Jedi and Imperial Knights in that many of their lightsabers were apparently constructed from a material similar to the Yorik coral used by the Yuuzhan Vong. They also utilized synthetic crystals, in observance of tradition.
Mechanics and specifications
- "Tell me…how does it work?"
"On the same principle as my whip…when you activate that stud on the hilt, it releases a beam of coherent energy which forms the sword blade."
- ―Den Siva and Lumiya
- "The components are fairly simple. Every lightsaber has a standard power source, the same type used in small blasters, even in glowpanels. They last a long time, though, because Jedi should rarely use their lightsabers. […] One of the other crucial pieces is a focusing crystal. The most powerful and sought-after gems are rare Kaiburr crystals. However, though lightsabers are powerful weapons, their design is so flexible that practically any kind of crystal can be used."
- ―Luke Skywalker, to his students
The typical lightsaber hilt consisted of a metal cylinder between twenty and thirty-five centimeters in length. However, the size of individuals hilts varied drastically, as the weapon was tailored to the creator's specific needs and preferences. The lightsaber mechanisms were contained within the hilt. High levels of energy generated by a high-output Diatium power cell was unleashed through a series of focusing lenses and energizers that converted the energy into plasma. The plasma was projected through a set of focusing crystals that lent the blade its properties and allowed for the adjustment of blade length and power output. The ideal number of crystals was three, though only one was required.
Once focused by the crystals, the plasma was sent through a series of field energizers and modulation circuitry within the emitter matrix that further focused it, making it into a coherent beam of energy that was projected from the emitter. The blade typically extended about a meter before being arced by the blade containment field back to a negatively charged fissure ringing the emitter, where it was channeled back to the power cell by a superconductor, completing the circuit. Below is a list of the primary parts almost all lightsabers needed to use to function properly:
- Lightsaber hilt
- Pommel cap
- Diatium power cell
- Inert power insulator
- Focusing lens
- Lightsaber crystal
- Emitter matrix
- Blade emitter
A lightsaber blade was a mass-less form that neither radiated heat nor expended energy until it came into contact with something solid. The power of the energy blade was so great that it could cut through almost anything, although the speed through which it cut depended on the density of the subject. One important note about lightsaber wounds is that they rarely bled profusely, even when a limb had been severed. This is because the energy blade cauterized the wound as it passed, and thus even a severe wound did not tend to bleed heavily.
When cutting through dense material, the immense electromagnetic field generated by the arc caused resistance rather than letting solid matter enter and interrupt the arc. This gave the blade a feeling of being solid when immersed in dense material. Rarely, some solid materials could actually pass through the electromagnetic field and short out the arc. Other electromagnetic energy fields and coherent energy were also repelled by lightsabers' arcs. These include most force fields, blaster bolts, and other lightsaber blades.
Aside from the blade of another lightsaber, there were rare materials that could withstand a lightsaber blade, but with varying degrees of success:
- Cortosis, although a rare and expensive metal, was a popular defense against lightsabers. Purified cortosis ore had the ability to momentarily "short out" a lightsaber blade, rendering it inoperable for a brief period of time before the wielder could reactivate it. Lightsabers with Mestare crystals were known to be immune to this effect. Cortosis alloy was sturdier than purified cortosis ore, but was only capable of deflecting a lightsaber blade and not deactivating it. One reason why cortosis was so expensive was the need to refine it. Pure, unrefined Cortosis ore was—for unknown reasons—dangerously ionized and anyone who touched it would be killed instantly. There were multiple methods of forging cortosis armor and weapons, each with varying effects.[source?]
- Phrik, was a rare metallic compound that could withstand a lightsaber blade, although unlike cortosis, Phrik did not possess the ability to cause the blade to short out. Phrik was most notably used in the construction of the electrostaffs wielded by General Grievous's MagnaGuards. Other notable uses of Phrik included elements of Palpatine's lightsaber and Dark trooper armor.
- Darkswords were an ancient type of sword made from a special material that could parry lightsabers. Unlike cortosis, this material did not possess the ability to temporarily deactivate a lightsaber blade it made contact with.
- Armorweave was a cloth said to give some resistance to lightsabers, although the protection the reinforced material afforded was limited.
- Sith alchemy was employed during the eras of the first Sith Empire to augment the properties of metals so as to counter the seemingly unstoppable lightsaber. The Sith also made use of such elements as cortosis in the forging of their Sith swords. After the original Sith Empire, the most notorious use of Sith alchemy was in the construction and reinforcement of Darth Vader's armor.
- Mandalorian iron: A metal found on the planet Mandalore—known as beskar in the Mandalorian language—Mandalorian iron could be forged into several configurations to take advantage of its exceptional lightsaber-resistant qualities. Commonly used in the creation of Mandalorian armor or weapons, the metal was also used to construct the door sealing Freedon Nadd's tomb.
- Force weapon: Weapons imbued with the power of the Force could be used to parry a lightsaber's blade without harm.
- Vong technology: Vonduun Skerr Kyrric armor proved to be lightsaber resistant, and Amphistaffs were able to clash with lightsaber blades repeatedly without sustaining damage.
- Water: All lightsabers, unless specially made, would short out when they were submerged in water, due to rapid chain reactions and the instant overpowering of water on the blade. In rain, a lightsaber would steam up, but not short out. Some Jedi, specifically those of aquatic species, designed special lightsabers that could activate underwater.
Other counteracting materials existed in the galaxy, such as various energy shields. Some animals, such as lava dragons, were possessed of natural armor that reflected the blade.[source?] Superconductive materials (e.g. ultrachrome, Quantum-crystalline armor) deflected lightsaber strikes. The skin of the Tikulini worms of Jazbina was able to withstand a lightsaber strikes. The Zillo Beasts native to Malastare also had plate-like armor resistant to lightsaber blows.
Variations and specializations
- The standard lightsaber consisted of a straight hilt approximately 20 to 30 centimeters long. As it is the standard make, it has no defining features other than details on individual hilts, as each weapon is often self-fabricated by the wielder and customized to suit their specifications.
- The only difference electrum lightsabers had compared to the standard was that their casing was built of the golden electrum metal. A purely cosmetic accessory, this feature was only allowed to high-ranking members of the Jedi Order, being a prestigious honor bestowed on masters who have demonstrated their strength and skill.
- Before the advancement in lightsaber technology after the Hundred-Year Darkness, lightsabers had significantly higher power requirements, necessitating belt-mounted power packs; these packs were connected to the hilt by a cord. While a massive advancement over the highly unstable original lightsabers, protosabers were eventually rendered obsolete by miniaturized power cells and the inclusion of the superconductor technology that allowed the energy of the blade to return to the hilt, creating an energy loop that only lost power when interrupted, such as when a lightsaber cut.
- Enthusiasts would later mimic this design using modern parts, citing aesthetics and improved cutting power as benefits of these "retrosabers".
- Also referred to as saberstaffs and Sith lightsabers, double-bladed lightsabers consisted of a single hilt that projected a blade from both ends, resulting in a deadly staff-like weapon. Most saberstaff hilts were of increased length, as they usually consisted of two separate lightsabers connected at the pommels.
- According to the Tedryn Holocron, saberstaffs were first invented by the Sith Lords of the old Sith Empire. The first recorded usage of the weapon was by the Sith Lord Exar Kun, who obtained the schematics for the weapon from a Sith holocron, using them to modify his existing Jedi lightsaber.
- The usage of double-bladed lightsabers eventually gave rise to the use of paired lightsabers. As many double-bladed lightsabers were simply two separate lightsabers joined at the pommel, this was taken advantage of and the weapons were connected with a locking mechanism rather than a solid weld, allowing the two weapons to be separated for Jar'Kai dual-blade combat. Many duelists used the paired function to surprise enemies in combat, wielding it as a saberstaff before separating the weapons. Other versions of the paired lightsaber had the weapons joined by a fiber cord instead of a locking mechanism. Those linked by the fiber cords were held by the cord and flailed about, exchanging control for unpredictability.
Guard shoto (also referred to as "lightsaber tonfa")
- A variation on the standard short shoto lightsabers, guard shotos featured an elongated hilt with a secondary handle built angling 90 degrees out from the main hilt. They were built to be carried by the second handle, with the blade parallel to the forearm, allowing the weapon to be easily used for blocks. Due to the defensive nature of the weapon, it was recommended that the casing be machined out of lightsaber-resistant phrik alloy.
- An extremely rare variant only seen in the hands of skilled duelists, crossguard lightsabers, also known as forked lightsabers, featured a specialized hilt which emitted two blades. One blade was the standard lightsaber blade, but the second was a significantly shorter and thinner blade projected by a secondary emitter next to the main at an angle. The secondary blade was used as a guard to protect the hand, and on occasion to catch attacks between it and the main blade.
- Curved-hilt lightsabers were of a design which featured a hilt with a built in curve. This was usually done to allow the hilt to fit better into the palm, facilitating the use of one-handed fighting styles such as Makashi, or to provide variable blade angle to confuse opponents.
- Built to cater to specific fighting styles, long-handle lightsabers featured a lengthened handle that provided the duelist with more surface area to place his hands, and providing more leverage for attacks. The length of long-handled lightsabers varied considerably, with some examples, such as the weapon of Warb Null simply being double the length of standard hilts, and others, such as Darth Nihl's weapon, being staffs with a lightsaber blade on the end.
- Resembling pole-arms in many respects, lightsaber pikes featured extremely long handles, up to two meters long, with a somewhat shorter and thicker lightsaber blade. The handle was machined from phrik alloy to prevent it from being cut in two, as the purpose of the weapon was to provide increased range in close combat.
- The sabercane was a simple variation on the standard; a lightsaber concealed as the head of a cane. In combat, the handle would be detached from the body of the cane and wielded normally. Tera Sinube wielded such a weapon, as did the Sith acolyte Haazen.
War Dragon rider's saber
- At some point between the start of the Clone Wars and the rise of the Galactic Empire, a warrior mounted on an Ubese Thorn-Back War Dragon wielded a modified lightsaber with two hilts and three separate blades, one on each end and one connecting the weapon's two handles together.
New Jedi Order hilts
- By 14 ABY, Jedi Praxeum students could choose from a selection of pre-made hilt models, including Adept, Adjudicator, Arbiter, Avenger, Champion, Consul, Defender, Firebrand, Guardian, Praetor, Retaliator, Sentinel, Vanquisher and Vindicator.
- Training lightsabers were essentially regular lightsaber, only engineered with a permanent low-power setting, rather than the adjustable setting featured on standard weapons. As their name indicates, training lightsabers were used for instructional purposes, teaching initiates how to wield a lightsaber. Due to their permanent low-power setting, training lightsabers were extremely limited in the type of damage they could cause, the most severe injuries being burns and serious bruises. In fact, the weapon was so weak that an individual could physically grab the blade and suffer no injury besides the burns and bruises.
- While most lightsabers featured a built-in length adjust, dual-phase lightsabers allowed for rapid transitions between two sets of preset lengths. The dual-phase lightsaber was originally conceived early in history, being used for the purpose of lightsaber dueling. The most common usage at the time would be to switch between a standard length and one of increased length as a surprise tactic during lightsaber duels. In more contemporary times, however, it is more common to have the secondary length be shorter for precision cutting.
- Essentially, a shoto was a short lightsaber. Featuring a shortened blade length and diminuative handle, it was basically a miniaturized lightsaber. Shoto's were usually used as the secondary weapon in dual-blade combat, as their smaller blade length resulted in a less intensive gyroscopic effect, making the weapon easier to handle. Shotos were also used a primary weapons by some duelists, most who did so being of diminuative size, making a full sized lightsaber impractical, though this is not always the case. Examples of this would be duelists such as Vandar Tokare, Picaroon C. Boodle or Yoda.
- Other duelists known to have wielded shoto's in combat include Kavar, Sora Bulq, Luke Skywalker, Ahsoka Tano, and many others.
- Essentially the opposite of the shoto, lightclubs were massively oversized lightsabers that projected overlong blades. They were almost universally wielded by individuals of overlarge stature to accommodate their size. An example of such a being is the mutated Gamorrean Dark Jedi; Gorc.
- Lightwhips were exotic variations on the typical lightsaber that saw only rare usage. Like a lightsaber, it emitted a coherent beam of energy, but instead of a straight meter-long blade, it was several meters in length and flexible. Most lightwhips were produced by emitters extended from the hilt. The energy field was then created around the solid emitters. Wielded in a whip-like manner, they were used to attack opponents at a range and provide an element of unpredictability in combat. However, they were significantly weaker than standard lightsabers, and their blades were ineffective defensively. Lightwhip wielders include Githany, Lumiya, Silri.
- Lightfoils were small and elegant energy swords based upon lightsabers. They were popular among certain nobles of the Tapani sector, especially those that called themselves "saber rakes". Lightfoils were weaker than authentic lightsabers due to the poor quality focusing crystals used in their manufacture and the relatively low level of craftsmanship compared to Jedi artisans. They did not require any connection to the Force to create, and were fully usable by non-Force sensitives.
- While most lightsabers shorted out when the blade touches water, this blade was made to operate underwater due to two crystals employed in a bifurcating cyclical-ignition pulse. Generally only Jedi from aquatic races would go to the trouble of constructing a waterproof saber, as only they had the mobility to use it effectively underwater. However, there were several other non-aquatic lightsaber-wielders who modified their weapons, so they were functional underwater.
- This ancient lightsaber had a unique black blade that was flattened and came to a point like a traditional sword, rather than the rounded beam of more standard lightsabers.
Usage and application
- "These weapons are not playthings. A lightsaber is a dangerous and destructive instrument, a powerful blade that can strike down an opponent—or a friend, if you're not careful."
- ―Luke Skywalker to his students
Lightsaber combat was the preferred fighting method used by lightsaber wielders, many of the forms and styles being designed to compensate for the gyroscopic effect inherent in lightsabers, and take advantage of the Force-sensitivity common in most wielders. The different styles of lightsaber dueling were initially based on ancient sword-fighting techniques. Throughout the millennia, these many combat styles were refined into the seven "classic" forms that serve as the standard, and numerous other fighting methods that call for advanced levels of skill. Lightsaber combat was difficult to master for a number of reasons, one of them being that all of the weight a lightsaber had was in its hilt, and the gyroscopic effect caused resistance to changes in motion, or built up momentum so quickly than an untrained wielder could lose control of the weapon.
- Knighting ceremony
Lightsabers were an integral part of the knighting ceremonies of the Jedi Order. During the ceremony, a Padawan would have his or her Padawan braid ritualistically severed by the presiding Jedi Master. This event would often be witnessed by a number of fellow Jedi, who would stand in a circle around the Padawan with their lightsabers ignited.
Only three Sith "knighting" ceremonies are known; a lightsaber was only used during one of these. During the ceremony, Galen Marek was made to kneel before his master, while Darth Vader simply lowered his lightsaber next to both sides of Marek's head, formally declaring the Force Adept his apprentice.
- Concordance of Fealty
The Concordance of Fealty was a Jedi tradition of entrusting one's lightsaber to a fellow Order member. This exchange represented a serious, even sacred bond—the establishment of a reciprocal, master-less learning relationship.
Behind the scenes
The usage of the lightsaber was originally inspired by many of the serials that George Lucas watched and enjoyed as a child, which featured many characters wielding swords. When he began conceiving Star Wars, he wished to include swords, creating the "lightsaber" to allow them to better mesh with the futuristic setting.
In the early incarnations of the Star Wars storyline, lightsabers were not exclusive to the Jedi and other Force-users, but were in fact very mundane. Early concept art depicts lightsabers being wielded by Rebel and Imperial soldiers alike. George Lucas later limited the lightsabers to exclusively the Jedi in order to make them feel more unique, and heighten the mystique of the Jedi. Also, in early drafts of the script, lightsabers were referred to as "lazerswords."
Crystals first appear in Star Wars simply as an embedded decoration on the hilt in the A New Hope novelization. Aside from this single instance, there are no crystals mentioned in any of the movies or their novelizations.
Prop design and effectsDuring the original trilogy's filming, the Anakin/Luke lightsaber was made from a Graflex camera side-attach flash, while the Vader lightsaber was made from a Micro Precision Products flash attachment. The handle grips were made of rubber windshield wipers, and D-rings were attached to the bottoms of the units so that they could be worn on belts. The Obi-Wan lightsaber was the most complex hilt at the time. It was assembled from parts of an Armitage Shanks Starlite model Handwheel, Browning ANM2 machine gun booster, WWI No.3 Mk.1 British Rifle Grenade and a Rolls-Royce Derwent Mk.8/Mk.9 Jet Engine Balance Pipe.
The lightsaber effects during the original trilogy started out in a very complicated manner. During the filming of Episode IV, the blade was made of a three-sided rod covered with reflective material. The rod was then rapidly spun by a compact motor in the hilt, reflecting the lights on set and creating an in-camera glowing effect. However, these props were highly limited; they were cumbersome and fragile, often breaking during fight scenes. Also, the glowing effect was not absolute, as whenever the blade moved out of the light or pointed at the camera, the glow disappeared and the actual spinning rod could be seen. In order to partially compensate for this, the blade was rotoscoped and an animated glow was added by tracing onto a blown-up copy of the frame with pen and colored ink, one frame at a time. It was at this phase that blades were given colors, as the props were simple white blades.During the filming of Episode V, it was decided creating an in-camera glowing effect was more trouble than it was worth, so the spinning rods were swapped for carbon rods. While these new blades were less cumbersome than before, they were still very fragile and frequently broke. However, they continued to be used for Episode VI.
When filming began for The Phantom Menace, the new lightsaber blades were steel and aluminum rods, which were highly durable, but frequently bent and flexed, requiring constant replacement. Despite this, these rods still saw usage during the filming of Episode II, as they had no alternative at the time. However, for the filming of Episode III, the blades were replaced by carbon fiber rods laminated with glass and plastic. These new props were highly durable and didn't flex, though due to this, they were extremely hard, often causing bruising and leaving scars. While lightsaber effects were still done by rotoscoping for the prequels, they were done digitally, rather than by hand.
Lightsabers depicted in the first two released films, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, had blades that were colored either blue (for the Jedi) or red (for the Sith). This color difference was a decision during post-production when the lightsaber blades were being rotoscoped, as the original blades were simply white. In Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker's newly-constructed lightsaber was colored blue during the initial editing of the film, and appears so in both an early movie trailer and the official theatrical posters, but in the final film, it was ultimately colored green in order to better stand out against the blue sky of Tatooine in outdoor scenes. It also appeared as green in re-release posters.
Green would become another standard blade color for Jedi lightsabers in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Mace Windu's amethyst-bladed lightsaber, as first seen in Attack of the Clones, was a personal request from actor Samuel L. Jackson as a way to make his character stand out among other Jedi. Jackson's favorite color is purple and he frequently requests the characters he plays to use an item of the color.
Various blade colors appear in the Expanded Universe and in other Star Wars products. The original Kenner figure of Luke Skywalker in his Tatooine costume from Star Wars was released with a yellow-bladed lightsaber. A multitude of other colors have since been used, including orange, silver, cyan, viridian, gold, bronze, and even black.
While the usage of lightsabers was originally inspired by the rapiers featured in the old serials George Lucas enjoyed, the final choreography in Episode IV looked nothing like rapier fencing. As Jedi and their Sith counterparts were heavily inspired by samurai, the fighting styles utilized were based more on kendo. The slower, more strength-oriented moves of kendo used in the duel also helped mesh with George Lucas' concept that it was a battle between what were essentially two old men.
During the filming of The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas began ramping up the speed of the lightsaber duels, making them "faster and more intense," the idea being that Luke Skywalker was becoming increasingly proficient with the lightsaber. Also, rather than utilize David Prowse, the actor within the Darth Vader costume, for the duels, they instead had professional swordsman Bob Anderson perform the fights, due to Prowse's tendency to repeatedly break the fragile prop blades. Anderson continued to serve as Prowse's fighting double during the filming of Return of the Jedi.
When filming began for the prequel trilogy, the new stunt coordinator Nick Gillard ramped up the speed and agility the Jedi characters demonstrated in lightsaber duels, the idea being that the prequel trilogy took place when the Jedi Order was in "full flower," at least in terms of combat techniques. Gillard was careful to avoid giving the fight scenes a choreographed look, drawing upon his extensive knowledge of martial arts to create the moves.
The end result was a very fast-paced style of fighting, which Gillard described as being like a chess game between grand masters, with every move being a check. This style of choreography was continued on throughout the prequel trilogy.
Notes and references
- Lightsaber on Wikipedia
- Lightsaber/Legends on Star Wars: The Old Republic Wiki
- Lightsaber/Legends on CWA Wiki
- Lightsaber/Legends on SWG Wiki