Elegance, nobility and sophistication; power, destruction and hatred. Just like the Force, a lightsabers power lies within the one wielding it.
The lightsaber is arguably the most iconic weapon in all of fantasy and science-fiction. Not only can it cut through almost any material in the Star Wars galaxy, but lets face it, they are just cool looking. From the detailed hilts to the awe-inspiring colored blades; whether you are a fan or someone who has only seen the movies once, its hard to argue the coolness factor that lightsabers have.
Tionne Solusar, a Jedi historian from shortly after the battle of Endor and teacher at Luke Skywalker's academy on Yavin 4, told a story about lightsabers in the Old Republic era during the book "Young Jedi Knights: Lightsabers" by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta. Tionne tells a story about a Jedi named Nomi Sunrider.
Nomi Sunrider lived during the time of the Exar Kun revolution, many years before the Treaty of Coruscant. She married a Jedi named Andur and had a daughter named Vima. During their travels, they intended on gifting Adegan crystals to Andur's Jedi Master. Unfortunately, bandits stopped them and in the altercation, Andur died.
In revenge, Nomi took up her husband's lightsaber and struck down the bandits. Fulfilling the dying wish of her husband, Nomi returned to his Jedi Master and bestowed the crystals upon him. She would then train to be a Jedi herself, but vowed never to pick up a lightsaber again.
The day did come when she had to use a lightsaber again to defend her master and daughter.
"But by this time Nomi understood the purpose and meaning of the lightsaber-and from that day forward she fought with all the power of the light side of the Force. She was never eager to use her lightsaber, but she knew it was occasionally necessary. By learning to accept this, she became a great Jedi Master and a great warrior," Tionne Solusar said.
For Tionne to reference a story so old to her period shows that the Jedi opinion on lightsabers did not falter over time. While a proper Jedi should strive not to ignite their saber, a good Jedi knows when its use is necessary.
As much as the Jedi know that their lightsabers are unavoidable, surprisingly Sith might not hold the weapons in such high regard.
In "Dark Lord: The Rise of Darth Vader" by James Luceno, Darth Vader's thoughts give us a contradictory viewpoint of lightsabers:
"The Sith grew past the use of lightsabers, Sidious had told him. But we continue to use them, if only to humiliate the Jedi."
It is unclear how long the Sith might have been holding onto this mentality. Could it extend back as far as the Old Republic era?
Komok-Da was a Sith Lord in the Old Republic era and his line of thinking seems to sync up with Darth Sidious's, even with thousands of years separating the two.
"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," Komok-Da said.
Lightsabers in the Star Wars universe started out as tethered, power pack operated weapons, otherwise known as protosabers. Using rituals, Jedi were able to take a laser beam and essentially freeze it.
"...these archaic lightsabers were barely portable; their energy requirements necessitated a flexible cable that connected a lightsabers handle to a power pack worn on a Jedi's belt." Jedi historian Tionne Solusar said.
It is the Sith who are credited with the improvement of lightsabers by introducing a power cell within the hilt itself, rather than having it tethered to an outside source. Even after advancing the technology, many Sith still preferred to use their Sith swords, which resemble a more commonplace fantasy sword.
One of the trademark trials of the Jedi to become a Knight is to construct your own lightsaber. This is evidenced in "Knights of the Old Republic when your character is required to complete the task and in the Star Wars movies.
"I see you have constructed a new lightsaber. Your skills are complete. Indeed you are powerful, as the Emperor has foreseen." Darth Vader said to Luke Skywalker.
The blade of a lightsaber is a plasma energy held within in a containment field, which allows the blade to keep its shape. While a fully functioning lightsaber is deadly to its enemies, failing to construct a lightsaber in a sufficient manner can lead to dismemberment or death for the wielder. This is one of many reasons why those powerful in the Force hold the assembly of a lightsaber in such high esteem. Over confidence in one's abilities or simple neglect is more than enough to lead to a faulty lightsaber. It can take weeks or months for a Jedi to complete their lightsaber.
Jedi must infuse the Force within the crystal before placing it in the hilt. This is one reason it can take quite some time to construct a lightsaber fully. It is also worth noting that this is why building a lightsaber works efficiently as a task.
The core components of a lightsaber are as follows:
- Inert power insulator
- Lightsaber hilt
- Lightsaber crystal
- Blade emitter
- Emitter matrix
- Pommel cap
- Diatium power cell
- Focusing lens
A lightsaber blade's color is only indicative of the focusing crystal used in the hilt. Because of the Sith's limited access to organically formed crystals, they often created synthetic crystals which is why their blades were so commonly red. Through the Force, a synthetic crystal could be made into a different color if the creator so chose.
Early Star Wars lore indicated that the color emitted from the hilt came from the Force essence of the wielder. Discredited by future literature, this lore was debunked.
In the original trilogy, we only saw three colors: red, blue, and green. Later in the prequel trilogy we saw a purple blade. However, in the video games and literature of Star Wars we see everything from yellow to silver and even black.
It is already a foregone conclusion that we will be seeing more than just the G-canon (George Lucas canon) four-standard lightsaber colors in The Old Republic video game. Yellow has already been spotted in a recently released video and if "Knights of the Old Republic" is any indication, there will be a quite a variety, perhaps even slight variations of the standard colors.
Flash tubes from Graflex cameras, circa 1940's, were the original lightsaber props in Star Wars: A New Hope. To this day, the ultimate collector still seeks out the vintage flash tubes to use in custom lightsaber creations.
During production of Star Wars: A New Hope, one of Peter Diamond's, Stunt Coordinator, assignments included choreographing the lightsaber fight between Sir Alec Guinness (Obi-Wan Kenobi) and David Prowse (Darth Vader).
"George wanted a broad sword type of fight, with a touch of Japanese behind it. But instead of becoming Samurai moves with one hand, we kept it with two hands. So all the moves were two hands," Diamond said.
Of course, with any new prop, especially one that involved smashing them together, there were some trials and tribulations.
"The first swords were bits of wood with projection material wrapped around them. The hardest things for me on the first fights; Darth Vader was a very heavy man; Obi-Wan Kenobi was a gentlemen right, who had done some fencing for in the theatre. But I had to teach them, if that was the sword [Diamond illustrates with his fingers how the blades should not connect] to stop before they touched because the blades were breaking. We broke so many blades, they just kept snapping," Diamond said.
In behind the scenes footage of Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Ewan McGregor who took on the role as the young Obi-Wan, is given a choice of what lightsaber hilt he would like to use.
"I've been waiting for this for weeks, every other morning I say, I wonder if it's today I'll get to choose," McGregor said.
Many lore debates rage between fans about lightsaber colors and whom can use what color. In the web documentary "Good to G.O." an exchange between Samuel L. Jackson (Mace Windu) and Director George Lucas gets right to the point of how Mace Windu ended up with a purple lightsaber in Episode II.
"Trying to figure out who we have to talk to about your light color, your lightsaber color," Samuel L. Jackson said.
"Oh well, good guys are green and blue and bad guys are red. That's just the way it works," George Lucas said.
"No purple lightsaber?" Samuel L. Jackson asked.
"You might get purple," George Lucas said.
"Empire of Dreams" documentary
"The Beginning" documentary
"Good to G.O." web documentary
"Young Jedi Knights: Lightsabers" by Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta