Star Wars, at its core, is a fantasy story set in space, and what is a good fantasy saga without a magical weapon or sword? From King Arthur’s Excalibur to Frodo’s Sting, a magical sword is an integral part of a fantasy story. The creation and duels fought with these swords are what makes fantasy stories thrilling, exciting and hopeful. In Lucasfilms’ Star Wars, the lightsabers were the weapons that aided our beloved heroes (and villains) on their journeys of self-discovery and war.
These mythical energy swords were weapons that were individual to their makers. Their storied histories were also deeply rooted in the most ancient aspects of the galaxy far, far away.
To truly understand the cultural impact and role of lightsabers in the Star Wars universe, here is the low down on their purpose, creation, symbolism and what they mean to our favourite characters.
The Purpose of the Lightsaber
“An elegant weapon for a more civilised age”. “Not as random or clumsy as a blaster”- these were the words Obi-Wan Kenobi used to explain the lightsaber. Lightsabers are good for defence, protection and combat, with their blades being able to deflect blaster bolts and cut through almost anything.
In the Star Wars universe, the intended purpose of the lightsaber was to bring an end to conflicts. It was designed to injure no more than its wielder’s intended target, and the strikes from the lightsaber came with no collateral damage (unless an unintended target is accidentally hit).
In situations where death was deemed necessary, the lightsaber’s blade was designed to offer a quick death. These were the rules the Jedi held themselves to. Jedis, like Bell Zettifar, even felt that the lightsaber’s design was to give an enemy a chance to surrender, seeing as how its trademark hum and glow made the weapon easy to hear and spot.
However, the Sith see things differently as they did choose to use their lightsabers in ways that brought suffering and pain. They channelled the dark side of the force and wielded their lightsabers as a symbol of the dark side.
How Lightsabers are Made
As learned in the Star Wars animated series, The Clone Wars, the crafting of lightsabers start with a ceremony known as the “gathering”. During this ceremony, Jedi Younglings (young Jedis in training) are taken by a Jedi mentor to the planet of Ilum, where each youngling is given a set amount of time to harvest a kyber crystal (rare naturally-growing crystals connected to the Force) for powering their lightsaber.
After successfully harvesting the crystal in the allotted time, the youngling passes the gathering and proceeds to assemble their own lightsaber with the other components (hilts) that they’ve individually chosen. Once assembled, the youngling must then awaken their kyber crystal by focusing the Force to activate their lightsaber.
The Symbolism of the Lightsaber
While the Sith are known for their red-bladed lightsaber, the Jedi Knights have several other lightsaber colours. In the Star Wars universe, a lightsaber’s colour is determined by the kyber crystal and its wielder’s relationship with the Force. Each lightsaber colour also symbolises something different and below is a brief breakdown of the meaning behind each colour.
Blue – bravery, justice, serenity and truth.
Green – nature, growth, harmony, cooperation.
Purple – wisdom, royalty, nobility, moral ambiguity.
Yellow – piousness, hope, goodness, power of the sun.
Red – fear, anger, determination, strength.
Orange – resourcefulness, ambition, creativity.
White/Silver – peace, serenity, purity.
Black (Darksaber) – leadership.
For many lightsaber wielders in the Star Wars universe, lightsaber combat is the preferred fighting method, and over the course of the millennia, the many lightsaber combat styles were refined into seven “classic” forms that serve as the standard for lightsaber duelling. These seven fighting forms include; Shii-Cho, Makashi, Soresu, Ataru, Shien & Djem So, Niman, and Juyo (or Vaapad). During combat, lightsabers are mostly held with both hands.
Lightsabers were also an integral part of several Jedi rituals, like the knighting ceremonies of the Jedi Order. During this ceremony, a Jedi Padawan would have their braid ritualistically severed by the presiding Jedi Master. If a Jedi falls in battle, the Kyber crystal will also be collected from their lightsaber and added to the Kyber Arch in the Jedi temple, which is a site for meditation.
Other Practical Applications
Apart from being excellent weapons for defence and protection, lightsabers have other practical applications, such as being able to cut almost all materials, their glowing blades being used as a light source when necessary, and their generated heat is used to evaporate some liquids.
Whether you call them laser swords or energy swords, the lightsaber, without a doubt, plays one of the most culturally significant and important roles in the Star Wars universe. Their creation, power, purpose and symbolism only add to how truly iconic they are.