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For Star Wars characters and their lightsaber colors see Lightsaber users.
For in-depth details on the fighting style of lightsabers see Lightsaber combat.
Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader duel on Mustafar in Episode III with blue lightsabers.A lightsaber is a fictional weapon that plays a large role in the movies, games and novels that constitute the Star Wars fictional universe. It is chiefly the weapon of the Jedi and Sith. Lightsabers are often referred to colloquially as "laser swords," and in the MMORPG Star Wars: Galaxies as "glowsticks."
Lightsabers are science fiction versions of their namesake, the saber, the curved metal blade replaced by a solid, glowing bar of light that resembles a tubular fluorescent light bulb, so as to create a flashier version of traditional swordfighting in the Star Wars films. Though they often behave like regular swords, they have been depicted as able to penetrate and cut through most solid materials with little or no resistance, and to deflect shots from blasters.
The lightsaber first appeared in the film Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope (1977). At first, the effect was created by having the actors hold rods covered with highly reflective tape and pointing high-intensity light in their direction. The outcome was not satisfying, so in post-production the effect was augmented through rotoscoping the rods. For episodes V and VI the use of reflective tape was abandoned and the effect was achieved by rotoscoping carbon stunt rods. For the prequel trilogy, the effect was created using computer animation. Within the fiction of Star Wars, the lightsaber "blade" is made by a very tight loop of highly focused energy.
1 Lightsabers in the Star Wars galaxy
2 Lightsaber colors
3 Lightsaber types
4 Defense against lightsabers
5 Hilt styles
6 Use and construction
6.1 Forms of lightsaber combat
6.4 Blade characteristics
6.5 Construction details
6.6 Concordance of Fealty
7 Other users
8 Lightsaber effects in the films
9 Theories on origins of the lightsaber
10 Lightsaber-like devices in other contexts
11 Lightsabers in reality
12 See also
13 External links
Lightsabers in the Star Wars galaxy
Darth Sidious ignites his red lightsaber.A lightsaber emits a blade of pure energy at a certain length. It's unclear how this energy only exists for a specific length to form a saber. One common explanation is that the emitter matrix forms a tight magnetic field which holds the energized beam in place, while creating a recharge loop back to the power cell. Thus, lightsabers only expend energy when actually cutting something (This explanation of lightsaber operation is similar to that of a Gundam beam saber). Lightsaber beams can cut through most solids, although some materials display resistance to them: other lightsaber blades, the rare mineral cortosis, force-fields of various sorts, phrik (an alloy used in Magna Guards' electrostaffs and Dark Trooper armor), alchemically-enhanced Sith Swords, and superconductors. Some of these materials stop the blade altogether, while others are simply difficult to cut. Mandalorian iron is also known to resist the effects of a lightsaber, and very dense materials, such as heavy armor, have been shown to marginally slow them down. In the New Jedi Order series, the Yuuzhan Vong Vonduun Crab armor is able to repel lightsaber cuts and stabs. Both the Vonduun Crab armor and the Vong Amphistaffs are biologically engineered and able to produce a force field. Some Force Adepts are capable of charging ordinary melee weapons with the Force, which enables the weapon to withstand a few lightsaber strikes even when made from simple wood or another substance normally vulnerable to a lightsaber's blade. One of the Witches of Dathomir was able to deflect 2 strikes from a lightsaber with a Force-charged wooden staff. However, the third strike cut through her weapon.
When the Old Republic was forming, the first lightsabers were developed as siege weapons. These required a separate power pack, which was often worn on the back, and later, a belt worn power source. The power sources and components were eventually miniaturized to fit inside the hilt and create a simple weapon used in later eras, which was adopted by the recently-formed Jedi Order in the early days of the Old Republic.
In the original film trilogy, lightsaber blades were blue, green and red.
The various Expanded Universe (EU) sources, action figures and the prequel films opened up the spectrum of blade colors to many variations of the aforementioned colors, as well as yellow, purple, orange, silver, turquoise, pink, bronze, viridian, brown, grey (and possibly white), gold, and black, among others; the full variety and extent of focusing gems, and consequently, of colors, is unknown. According to the Expanded Universe, these gems merely determine the blade color. However, in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, different gems may alter the intensity or damage type of the blade (making the blade more accurate, or more effective against droids, for example), in addition to altering its color. Though it might be worthwhile to note that in these games, separate crystals are used to perform different functions, and only one type of crystal is used to change the blade's color.
Red and bronze colors are usually associated with the Sith. Purple, turquoise, yellow, blue, and green colors are associated with the Jedi. Orange, silver, pink, white, gold, and viridian typically do not represent either side. However, the Expanded Universe establishes no direct relationship between a lightsaber's blade's color and its user's affiliation. For example, the Dark Jedi Sariss used a blue lightsaber while her erstwhile ally Yun used a yellow blade. Both are from the computer game Jedi Knight.
Usually, the reduced amount of colors present in later eras is attributed to the Empire, which destroyed the caves that housed the lightsaber crystals used to focus energy and create the blade's unique color. Synthetic crystals were created to replace the natural crystals found in caverns, typically having either a blue or green color. During the Old Republic era, Jedi kept strict traditions that kept most padawans from creating their lightsaber crystals synthetically, either within a furnace, taking a gem and restructuring it via the Force, or a combination of both.
The color of a lightsaber blade depends on the crystals used to focus it. Blue-bladed lightsabers are associated with Jedi Guardians; green-bladed lightsabers are associated with Jedi Consulars; yellow-bladed lightsabers are associated with Jedi Sentinels; and red-bladed lightsabers are more closely associated with the Sith and dark Jedi. Note however, that the color of the lightsaber does not necessarily indicate the nature of the Jedi. Mace Windu's purple-colored lightsaber in the movie was colored differently because Samuel L. Jackson asked for it to be so. In the expanded universe purple, being a mix of red and blue, shows the mastery of a lightsaber form known as Vaapad or form VII and the light side of the Force which allows Windu to use his fighting style and Force powers dangerously close to the Dark Side without being tainted. It is also said that a purple crystal is a choice only the most skilled masters in lightsaber combat can make, which might also explain his unusual blade color. Usually the lightsaber crystal will call out to its chosen master during the trials to become a Jedi when the padawan travels to Ilum or Adega. This in part is why some sources claim that Jedi traditionally use Adegan crystals. In the Star Wars comics, Mace Windu, as part of his training as a padawan, was left to survive on a planet with living-mineral organisms. These natives represented tall, long faced humans with grey skin with purple gems scattered throughout their bodies. Mace Windu escapes an attack of two of these organisms by leaping a gully, but one of the mineral-men fell in and was smashed. Mace Windu stopped and concentrated with the force to painstakingly reassemble the fallen creature and over several hours saved its life. Thus Mace Windu became an ally to these mineral-men. To express thanks, the mineral-man he saved gave Mace Windu some purple crystals from its body. The purple crystals are what gives Mace Windu's lightsaber its special color.
Prior to the Battle of Ruusan, Jedi used lightsabers in a vast array of colors. Afterwards, Jedi relied on more common Ilum crystals such as blue and green. During his Knight Trials, Mace Windu braved the rock-encrusted world of Hurikane on the orders of his Jedi Master to obtain his lightsaber crystal. He encountered the planet's natives and, in a moment of panic, accidentally threw them over a cliff. Realizing his mistake, the young Padawan saved the natives. It was from this mission that Mace Windu was given the rare crystals as a gift. In the New Jedi Order era, Jedi had a wide array of colors such as orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and light blue.
The synthetic red crystals favored by the Sith can create a somewhat more powerful blade than blue or green crystals but are generally not as pure because of their artificial nature and can thus be undesirable as the focus of a lightsaber. The Sith apparently had a large supply of red crystals and also favored red as a symbol for passion. It was not uncommon for the Sith masters to supply their learners with the synthesized red crystals. However, Darth Vader, at the beginning of his Sith period, wielded a blue lightsaber, as shown in Revenge of the Sith. Likewise, Exar Kun used a blue double-bladed lightsaber in the Sith War.
Sith lightsaber crystals tend to be red because of Sith Alchemy. When making their own lightsaber crystals, the materials they use and the way they make them almost always turn out crimson. Though most Sith wield a red lightsaber, the color does not affect their decision to use the lightsaber. For example, if the blade turned yellow when first ignited, it would make no difference to the user.
Luke Skywalker constructed his lightsaber using instructions hidden in Obi-Wan Kenobi's abandoned hut on Tatooine. Instead of using natural crystals however, he synthetically created the focusing gems within a compact molecular furnace, also found inside Kenobi's home. While the intense heat of the kiln molded the base materials that Luke had placed inside, he channeled his Force energies through them, which in turn shaped and modified their internal properties. With this process, a completely functional lightsaber crystal can be created. Darth Maul was known to have created his double-bladed lightsaber in much the same way, but with one major difference. During the forming of the crystals within the furnace, the Sith focused all of his blinding rage, aggression, and malice into the gems. This leads to the belief that it may be possible to mold the alignment of the completed crystal itself through this process.
During the initial editing of Return of the Jedi, Luke's lightsaber was colored blue in a trailer. However against the desert blue sky environment, the decision was made to change it to green for a better visual effect, hence the birth of the green lightsaber. It has later been retconned to be the color of a "Jedi Consular", a Jedi who focuses on mastery of the Force rather than lightsaber combat.
The uncommon dual-phase lightsaber is any lightsaber constructed to operate at two different blade lengths. Historically, these complex blades were constructed mostly by ancient Jedi and Sith in their many heated wars; the surprise advantage of a blade which could shoot forth several feet or inches was worth the additional difficulty of constructing a lightsaber with several focusing gems and outweighed the fact that a lengthy blade was often inferior from a pure fencing perspective. Darth Vader's lightsaber is an example of this, as he has buttons on his hilt allowing him to change the blade length at will. In Dark Apprentice, with the help of the spirit of Exar Kun, Gantoris created such a lightsaber. Similarly, in Splinter of the Mind's Eye, Luke Skywalker adjusts the controls of his saber to produce a short, pencil-thin blade, which he uses to cut through the bolt of a door lock. The New Jedi Order Jedi Knight Corran Horn also used one of these; however he tended to keep the shorter blade ignited and the weapon seemed to only have two settings—standard and extended with no fine control over the lengths of either.
That the basics of a dual-phase lightsaber are not rare. This type of lightsaber can be achieved by any lightsaber with two or more actively used crystals in the energy loop, or it can be a property granted by a special functioning of the power cell. Its most basic manifestation within the weapon is the ability to alter the length of the beam or cutting section. Anakin Skywalker's lightsaber is dual-phase capable for example.
There are also variant lightsabers with shorter handles and blades (known as short lightsabers or lightdaggers) that can be wielded as offhand (weaker hand) secondary weapons. These are for Jedi who fight with two lightsabers for the dual-bladed lightsaber combat style Jar'Kai, which is used by Ancient Jedi Master Kavar and fallen Jedi Sora Bulq or as the primary lightsaber of a small Jedi like Yoda, Yaddle or (presumably) Even Piell. This technique was possibly inspired by the Japanese art of Hyoho Niten Ichi-ryu, Portuguese Sword-and-Dagger fighting or the Italian Florentine fighting style. It was said by Master Maruk in the book Yoda: Dark Rendezvous that those who practice dual sword wield have a tendency to rely too deeply in their swords.
Darth Maul, with a double-bladed lightsaber, battles Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi on Naboo.The double-bladed lightsaber, saberstaff, battlestaff or lightstaff, is a unique variant in which the handle is about three times the length of a standard lightsaber and has two beam emitters; one at each end. The beams can be activated and deactivated independently, allowing for much versatility. This variant was invented by the Dark Lord of the Sith Exar Kun nearly four thousand years before the Battle of Yavin. Kun was able to carefully adjust both its length, from half a meter to one and a half meters (1.5 to 5 ft), as well as its intensity, allowing the blades' power to vary from that of a deadly blade to an intangible, harmless beam of light. Despite being clumsy and awkward to wield for a real martial artist, the double-bladed lightsaber proved to be a very popular weapon among the Sith and Dark Jedi of Darth Revan's new Sith Empire. Besides Exar Kun, notable wielders of this weapon include Zez-Kai Ell, Jorak Uln, Uthar Wynn, Darth Bandon, Bastila Shan, Darth Maul, Azrakel the Dark Warrior, and possibly Jaden Korr. Despite the strength of the double-bladed lightsaber, the long size of the handle itself seems to be a weakness in battle against another lightsaber-wielding foe—it was cut in half when Darth Maul used it in the duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. One was also cut in half in the Dark Horse comic book: Star Wars: Resurrection, when the resurrected Lord Maul dueled Darth Vader for the apprenticeship of Darth Sidious. Use of double-bladed lightsabers as primary weapons has been frowned upon by the Jedi because of their aggressive Sith-like nature and usage, since the only purpose of the second blade is to increase damage. Although most use Jedi double-bladed lightsabers for training purposes, some Jedi do specialize in their use as weapons; these Jedi seem to be more susceptible to the Dark Side of the Force.
The electrum lightsaber is simply a lightsaber with a hilt forged from electrum. Mace Windu's lightsaber in Episode II and III is an example; Sidious's lightsaber is also similar. In the Jedi Order, only council members are allowed to have an electrum-covered lightsaber. It is suggested in an episode 2 DVD bonus that electrum is the element used to give Mace Windu the unique purple saber color.
Linksabers apparently have a bond between them, which allows for use similar to nunchaku. This weapon exists in a low budget fan film and as Asajj Ventress' weapon in the patch for the Xbox version of Battlefront 2.
Defense against lightsabers
Cortosis ore was used to make shields and swords that could withstand the attack of a lightsaber. In the expanded universe, it is explained in the books and comics that when a lightsaber blade comes in contact with cortosis ore, the blade malfunctions and it must be reset to be used properly. In the games Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, there are swords with cortosis ore woven into the blades to allow them to be used in combat with lightsabers. This is not contradictory to the previous explanation of cortosis ore, even though the lightsabers in the games never had to be reset after being used in a fight against a sword that had cortosis ore woven into it. Pure or nearly pure cortosis creates a feedback loop that deactivates a lightsaber blade, however, as a small part of an alloy it merely resists being cut. Cortosis is usually only used in alloy form since pure cortosis is extremely brittle and easily broken by conventional weapons. In Star Wars: Jedi Outcast, Jedi Knight Kyle Katarn fights a new type of stormtrooper, called the shadowtrooper. They have cortosis armor, and—similar to Knights of the Old Republic—a lightsaber can make contact without having to be reset.
In the Expanded Universe material it was established that the first Sith Lords used alchemically altered Sith swords, since lightsaber technology had not been developed before the original Dark Jedi were exiled. Sith swords are able to block a lightsaber blade.
In the EU novel Star Wars:Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover, beings on Haruun Kal used an unknown superconducting metal to make vibrating shields called "vibroshields". This metal cannot be cut by lightsabers but will melt if held in contact with them long enough. Mace Windu speculates that the metal was starship armor from an old crashed ship, built back when the metal was sufficient to resist low-rate turbolasers of that time.
Phrik alloy can withstand lightsabers to some degree and was used to create the weapons used by General Grevious's Magnaguards in Revenge of the Sith, as well as by the Dark Troopers featured in Dark Forces.
The Yuuzhan Vong in the New Jedi Order books use biological technology, some of which can resist a lightsaber.
As well as there being a variety of lightsaber blade colours, there are also many different styles for the hilt. A Jedi must fashion his own saber, so there is no uniform look to the hilt. Many apprentices will model their lightsabers in a style similar to their master's as a sign of respect. Many Jedi will make their own hilt out of various machined or found parts, such as the case of Corran Horn building a lightsaber out of a wrecked speeder bike handle in I, Jedi.
Use and construction
Forms of lightsaber combat
See also: The seven forms of lightsaber combat
Lightsaber forms are characteristic styles of lightsaber use in battle. Unlike real-world martial arts forms, which are primarily training routines, lightsaber forms are more akin to different theories and methods of fencing. There are seven named forms described so far:
Jedi Master Yoda, to overcome his small size, was well versed in all seven forms of lightsaber combat.Form I Shii-Cho - The basic and most simplistic form, first form taught to younglings. Known users are Stass Allie and Kit Fisto.
Form II Makashi - Most advantageous in lightsaber against lightsaber dueling. Elegant, effective and deadly. Few Jedi use it because of the relative rarity of this type of combat. Known users are: Count Dooku/Darth Tyranus, Exar Kun, Ki Adi Mundi and Shaak Ti.
Form III Soresu - Form which strongly emphasizes on defense and blaster fire deflection. Used by Jedi beset by multiple blaster-wielding opponents to defend themselves from incoming fire. Known users are: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Barriss Offee, and Luminara Unduli.
Form IV Ataru - Acrobatic form, emphasizing agility. Relatively aggressive and tends to open defense. Known users are: Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn, Aayla Secura and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Form V Shien / Djem So- Takes some of the defensive powers from Form III and channels them to offensive powers. Form V users can use the lightsaber to deflect blaster bolts back at attackers. Known users are: Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Kyle Katarn, Plo Koon, Saesee Tiin, Agen Kolar, and possibly Cin Drallig.
Form VI Niman - Diplomatic form, used by many Jedi in the period when Chancellor Palpatine was in power. Very well rounded, but does not excel anywhere. Note that all Jedi who practiced Niman in the Battle of Geonosis were killed. Often used as a basis for dual lightsaber styles. Known user is Coleman Trebor.
Form VII Juyo / Vaapad - Named after the multi tailed, lightning fast Vaapad of Sarapin. It is the hardest to learn and most dangerous form, overwhelming and unpredictable. Closely associated with the dark side. Known users are: Mace Windu, Depa Billaba, Sora Bulq, Darth Maul, Quinlan Vos (incomplete training), Darth Sidious and General Grievous (not pure Vaapad, but an approximation borne of adjustment to Mace Windu).
The seven forms are introduced by Attack of the Clones: The Visual Dictionary and Star Wars Insider #62. The names of these forms are from the computer/video game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, and was further developed through Expanded Universe comic books and novels.
It is reasonable that the Jedi and the Sith have developed other combat styles besides the seven classic forms.
According to Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords, there are 11 forms but a Jedi/Sith can only learn 7 of them. This is likely referring to the "Force forms" that you can learn in the game as well.
Lightsabers are the principal weapon of the Jedi but are also used by the Sith. Their use is usually restricted to the Jedi. The reasons are it is too dangerous for an unskilled user; for non-Jedi, blasters are more effective; and lightsabers cannot be constructed by someone who is not Force sensitive. However, lightsabers remain prized by some collectors, and some black market sales do occur.
It is said that corrupted and Dark Jedi brought the technology of the lightsaber to the Sith. And the Sith, seeing the capabilities of such a weapon, adopted their own practices and traditions concerning the weapon.
Lightsaber technology was developed over thousands of years. The first lightsaber models, used thousands of years BBY, had to be connected to an external power source since a power source small enough to fit in a saber's hilt had not yet been discovered. Power sources often consisted of a power pack worn on the back and connected to the lightsaber's hilt by a power cord. The technology was vastly improved as smaller lighter power sources were discovered and implemented.
Typically, Jedi are given lightsabers on the first day of training. Jedi Masters emphasize that the lightsaber is a measure of progress for an apprentice because lightsaber techniques take great skill and concentration. It is considered a final test for a Jedi padawan to be able to construct his own lightsaber. According to a Star Wars novel, the construction takes place in a cave on Ilum. The padawan goes in by himself and only comes back out when he has made a lightsaber (though in the Clone Wars micro-series, the padawan and master go into the caves).
The crystal is the heart of the blade.
The heart is the crystal of the Jedi.
The Jedi is the crystal of the Force.
The Force is the blade of the heart.
All are intertwined:
The crystal, The blade, The Jedi.
You are one.
- Speech made during lightsaber construction ceremony
Star Wars: Clone Wars - Cartoon Network
When younglings begin their training at the Academy, they are issued safe lightsabers that cannot cut in order to learn their basic use. After a youngling has been chosen to train under a master, he or she must construct his or her first lightsaber. Padawans usually base their lightsaber designs on their masters' lightsabers; Obi-Wan Kenobi constructed his lightsaber from The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones with similarities to that of Qui-Gon Jinn and his friend Quinlan Vos. Luke Skywalker's lightsaber from A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back was the same lightsaber his father used in Revenge of the Sith. It was taken away from Anakin Skywalker and given to Luke by Obi-Wan Kenobi, whereas Luke's lightsaber from Return of the Jedi closely resembles that of Obi-Wan Kenobi. Jedi will use this design to construct their lightsabers until they are given the rank of Master, when they will construct their own unique lightsaber. Sometimes, the Masters would keep the lightsaber they created before they became Jedi Masters. Like Luke Skywalker's green lightsaber, he created his saber when he was still in the rank of a Jedi Padawan/Knight. He still kept the saber through the EU. It depends if the individual wants to keep the lightsaber.
A deviation by the Jedi Order from standard lightsabers, the training lightsabers helped train apprentices in the use of a standard lightsaber. Training lightsabers are similar to a standard lightsaber. However, the power is greatly diminished and the size is reduced, the latter being similar to Yoda's lightsaber. Training sabers are usually white in color. Training lightsabers are used in combat education in the Jedi Academy of the Old Republic. While these lightsabers are intended to be non-lethal, contact with the blade is highly painful and can be fatal.
The standard blade for a human or human-sized wielder appears to be one meter (3 ft) long or slightly longer, with a diameter of approximately 20-25 millimeters (3/4 in). However, these numbers may vary depending on the wielder's own size and preferences.
The blade is completely round, thus more akin to a rod than a blade, and capable of instantly burning human flesh into a carbonized mass and melting high density alloys within seconds. The weapon is noted for instantly cauterizing wounds, thus eliminating bleeding after a lightsaber wound; however in some cases in the Expanded Universe, a limited amount of blood flow does occur. The blade does not radiate any heat and only uses energy when it cuts through something. A lightsaber that is merely on uses none of its energy since the power core recharges itself, but consistent use occasionally requires a recharge or replacement of the power core.
Lightsabers work in the rain but let off steam when doing so, as seen by Obi-Wan Kenobi's use of his lightsaber in the rain on Kamino in Attack of the Clones. Lightsabers can be modified to work underwater, even though regular lightsabers will deactivate when in contact with water. In the Clone Wars TV show, Kit Fisto's lightsaber was specially altered to work underwater. Also, in the comic book adaptation of the novel Splinter of the Mind's Eye, Luke Skywalker dives into an underground lake and uses his lightsaber to cut free floating plants to make a raft. It may well have been built with this ability when initially constructed by Anakin Skywalker.
The cutting area of a lightsaber is supposedly only a few micrometres wide, with all of the rest supposedly being coronal discharge, as is illustrated in "Dark Force Rising", when Grand Admiral Thrawn tells his crew to examine some of their casualties for microscopic cuts.
The lightsaber is made up of a short polished metallic cylindrical tube that emits an energy beam that acts as a sword blade. All lightsabers contain some common basic components:
An activation stud plate, button, switch, or internal Force-activated mechanism
A safety or dead man's switch
An emitter matrix
A primary focusing crystal (which gives the blade its hue, Adegan/Ilum crystals are most commonly used)
Up to two secondary crystals which produce different effects
A lens assembly (focusing crystals)
A blade-length adjuster (only on dual-phase lightsabers with at least two crystals)
A miniature power cell (for the most part, unlimited in power; requires little recharging)
An energy gate
A power conduit
A recharge socket (recharges the power cell when the lightsaber is off)
Cycling field energizers
A belt ring (optional)
Lightsabers are powered from the control studs by a circuits channel and focusing crystal found only in nature on the planet Ilum. Before 1,000 BBY, the Jedi also used crystals from the planet Ruusan. This appears to be a matter of tradition rather than necessity since there are many examples of crystals from elsewhere in the galaxy being used effectively in lightsabers, particularly with the revival of Jedi Order after the downfall of the Empire. Since the Jedi control the supply of suitable crystals, the Sith use synthetic crystals that generate a red blade. Some of the early Sith had other blade colors, but as fallen Jedi they may have re-used the crystals of their old lightsabers. Shadows of the Empire has Luke Skywalker using a synthetic crystal in his lightsaber construction. Green blades can also be created from corusca gems from the gaseous planet of Yavin (Jacen Solo used a corusca gem for his lightsaber) or any green-hued crystal capable of withstanding the strains of having so much power flow through them. This is true of other hues, as well. Natural crystals are usually preferred to synthetic, since there have been instances of synthetic crystals failing at unfortunate times, as happened to Corran Horn in I, Jedi.
When the activator is pushed, internal power cells create photoelectric energy and the blade is focused from the crystal. A tight beam of anti-protons appears on command, which is focused through one, two, or three multi-faceted crystals. The activation button energizes the weapon forming a positively charged shaft of coherent packets of anti-proton energy about a meter (3 ft) long. The anti-protons are attracted back to the saber hilt by a negatively charged, high-energy flux aperture. The anti-proton packets are recycled to create the glowing blade by a power cell superconductor. The saber hums and scintillates with a distinct sound and has a shimmering blade. The entire functioning processes are completely contained and self-regenerative. Lightsabers lose little power when they come in contact with other objects, and thus can last almost indefinitely.
The typical design of the hilt is generally a straight tube. Count Dooku however, preferred a curved hilt, better suited for his Makashi dueling style (similar to fencing).
According to the novel I, Jedi, there were myths at one point that the lightsaber was powered by the Jedi's connection to the Force. However, records preserved by Corran Horn's grandfather Rostek Horn indicate that the Force is only used at the end of construction. Once all the pieces are assembled, the Jedi uses the Force to meld them on a molecular or lower level, permitting extreme energy efficiency. This efficiency is what allows the blades to remain lit and active for long periods of time.
Sometimes certain events necessitate a change in a Jedi's preferred weapon. A Jedi would modify the lightsaber or construct a new one to suit the demands of the situation at hand. As seen in Knights of the Old Republic, the sabers can be improved with the installation of certain crystals, lens, emitters and power cells and sometimes a Krayt Dragon Pearl
Spoiler warning: Plot and/or ending details follow.
In the New Jedi Order series, Anakin Solo rebuilds his lightsaber using a Yuuzhan Vong crystalline lifeform known as a lambent that he personally attuned, meaning, he tuned it to respond to conscious will. With the lambent emplaced as the primary focusing medium of the lightsaber, Anakin was finally able to marginally detect the presence of the otherwise Force-dead Vong. Though not as effective as true Force-sense, this "Vongsense" was still sufficient to do combat with the Vong who, until then, were able to meet Jedi on a level playing field since they were "absent" from the Force.
Spoilers end here.
Concordance of Fealty
"Master Eeth Koth, I have something to return to you. It is a product of your own hands, which you once entrusted to mine. In returning this lightsaber, I return your trust." — Mace Windu
The Jedi tradition of entrusting one's lightsaber to a fellow member of the order is called the Concordance of Fealty. This exchange represents a bond between companions of the Force and imparts a sense of support in battle. A Jedi is graced by such a gesture from a respected friend.
The real-world explanation for this development was to solve a problem. For Episode I, publicity information and images showed Samuel L. Jackson's Mace Windu with a different lightsaber than the one he had in the film itself. As Star Wars fans are notorious about spotting discrepancies like this, a back-story, or retcon, was created.
Windu's real lightsaber has the initials "BMF" indented in the hilt as a reference to the film Pulp Fiction. This was removed in all replicas, however, since it was just for the actor's benefit and was only included in his personal prop.
Towards the end of the Battle of Naboo in Phantom Menace, after Qui-Gonn Jinn's death, Obi-Wan is holding on to a port on the interior of a melting pit, his lightsaber having fallen down it. In order to defeat the almost-victorious Darth Maul above, he jumps up and pulls Qui-Gonn's lightsaber (which he had noticed lying on the floor) to him using the Force and used it to slay Darth Maul. It is unknown about the rules concerning the Concordance of Fealty with deceased Jedi.
It is possible, however, that the Jedi are willing to share their blades should they be used to save another's life. An example is during Episode II, when Anakin and Obi-Wan are handed lightsabers to defend themselves in the Battle of Geonosis.
Although the lightsaber was used primarily by the Jedi and Sith Force users, several non-Force users were known to have used a lightsaber:
In the Star Wars: Droids animated series, Thall Joben once used a green lightsaber, as he explained to his droid C-3PO that he once did some work for someone who owned a speeder, but they left the speeder with him and never reclaimed it; the lightsaber was one of the things left in the speeder by the person. It is unknown if this customer of Thall's was actually a Jedi or was simply someone who discovered a deceased Jedi or a Sith and took the lightsaber from them. Most likely, it was the latter, as most Jedi and Sith do not simply forget their lightsabers. (One can safely assume this customer would not have "killed" a Jedi/Sith, as detection most surely would have precluded such an event!)
In The Empire Strikes Back, Han Solo used Luke Skywalker's (formerly Anakin Skywalker's) lightsaber after he rescued Luke from a snowstorm on Hoth. Solo used the lightsaber to slice open the body of a dead Tauntaun, whose insides he then used to keep Luke warm while he constructed a proper shelter for the both of them.
Mara Jade's lightsaber was also used by Han to chop down Killiks shortly before the Swarm War. When he briefly lost it, Tarfang, an Ewok smuggler, viciously wielded the lightsaber to dice up Killiks to great effect.
Anja Gallandro, daughter of the deceased bounty hunter Gallandro, wielded an acid-yellow lightsaber of particularly ancient make in service to the Black Sun figure known as Czethros.
Darca Nyl, an ex-mercenary, used the green lightsaber of a dead Jedi during his pursuit of Lycan. Though he rarely used it in battle, it often gave him the advantage of being able to pass for a true Jedi. It was destroyed along with Lycan in a trap laid by Darca in a Force-sensitive cave on Molavar.
Suvam Tan the eccentric Rodian inventor was such a mechanical genius that he managed to construct his own lightsaber from scratch despite not having any Force sensitivity. It is unknown whether or not Suvam was actually able to use his lightsaber, though.
General Grievous is probably the most famous non-Force-sensitive user of lightsabers. He used lightsabers during the Clone Wars, all of which were taken from Jedi he had either killed or defeated in battle, except for Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas' lightsaber, which was a gift from Count Dooku.
Boba Fett has been shown wielding a lightsaber in the Expanded Universe.
Jaden Korr was able to construct a lightsaber without prior instruction in the Force, though it is never said how.
In the Tapani Sector of the Galaxy, a subculture of saber rakes developed who fought duels with a lightsaber-like weapon called a lightfoil.
Lightsaber effects in the films
The original film prop hilts were constructed from old camera-flash battery packs. The 'switched-on' sword props were designed with the intention of creating an 'in-camera' glowing effect. The 'blade' was three-sided and coated with a retroreflector array -- the same sort used for highway signs. A lamp was positioned to the side of the taking camera and reflected towards the subject through 45-degree angled glass so that the sword would appear to glow from the camera's point-of-view. A motor in the hilt caused the blade to spin so that a reflective surface was always presented directly to the camera. This also created the familiar 'flickering' effect. Ultimately, this process yielded unsatisfactory results and animation was employed to enhance the brightness of the sabers. It was at this point that the artistic decision was made to assign different colors to the blades.
For The Empire Strikes Back, the lightsaber-blade props were simple white rods and the glow effect was achieved entirely through animation (a special kind of animation called rotoscoping in which animation is drawn over live footage to maintain precision).
For Return of the Jedi and the later movies, the hilts were custom machined from aluminum. In place of the glowing blade, carbon rods were used as blade reference during fight scenes. In the first two prequel films, they upgraded to resin "stunt" handles and aluminum tubes. For the final film of the Star Wars saga, Revenge of the Sith, the aluminum was replaced by a carbon-fiber blend specifically manufactured for the production. These props had to be reinforced, because during the early stages of these props' use, they would often snap from the impact when the actors used them to film combat sequences. The filming of one lightsaber sequence, such as the final Obi-wan/Anakin duel on Mustafar in Revenge of the Sith, could take several months because each actor had to memorize a complex sequence of 1000+ moves and execute them perfectly.
In the prequel movies, the blades were created digitally. Many have commented that the lightsabers in the DVD release look worse than the original - blaming the advanced remastering algorithm used to prepare the films for a digital release. Luke's lightsaber on board the Millennium Falcon in A New Hope was for most of the scene not colored at all and remained white; however, in a true special effects gaffe, in a short shot where it was colored it was green rather than the bluish color it had earlier in the movie.
It is interesting to note that there is poor lighting throughout the Star Wars saga in regard to the light the sabers themselves cast. More often than not, the only time light is cast across a face as the saber comes towards it is when that face is of a digital character, such as Yoda in Episodes II and III. Usually when a saber passes by a human figure there is very little glow cast across the figure or face. One major exception to this is in Attack of the Clones. During the Dooku/Skywalker fight, the actors shot close-ups while holding, essentially, neon tubes colored appropriately for their blades. This was not done to contradict anything previously stated, but was done for purely dramatic effect.
Creators of fan films have used various techniques for creating the coveted "lightsaber effect," most of which involve programs such as AlamDV, Adobe After Effects, Adobe Photoshop, MainVision, The GIMP,LSmaker,crimsonfx(for Mac), or Blender.
The characteristic sound is added later by the sound effects team, but Ewan McGregor mouthed his own lightsaber noises before being asked to "leave it to the professionals" when filming The Phantom Menace. Liam Neeson and Hayden Christensen did the same. The characteristic lightsaber sound is a combination of a film projector's light and interference caused by a television on an unshielded audio cable.
When the prequel trilogy began filming, George Lucas said that all Jedi would have blue, green, or similarly-colored lightsaber blades, not only to differentiate themselves from the Sith, but also to give them their own visual identity. Whenever there were flashes of blaster fire or explosions around, the color of a Jedi's lightsaber would shine through.
Arguably one of the most lusted-after props in film history, various toy replicas have been released, ranging from essentially a flashlight with a plastic tube attached, to accurate copies of the original film props, complete with motion-sensitive sound effects and colored blade. Toy lightsabers are consistently the best-selling of all Star Wars related merchandise. However, it appears the beam of pure energy boasted by the original lightsabers will still be the stuff of fiction for some time to come.
Theories on origins of the lightsaber
Here are a few of the best theories for the origin of the lightsaber:
Kaldar, Planet of Antares by Edmond Hamilton, 1933 (Weird Tales magazine, reprinted in paperback 1965): Allen Varney suggests that Lucas may have been inspired by this passage: "The sword seemed at first glance a simple long rapier of metal. But he found that when his grip tightened on the hilt it pressed a catch which released a terrific force stored in the hilt into the blade, making it shine with light. When anything was touched by this shining blade, he found, the force of the blade annihilated it instantly. He learned that the weapon was called a lightsword..." It seems likely that Lucas was at least familiar with Hamilton's work, since Lucas hired Hamilton's wife Leigh Brackett to write the first draft of The Empire Strikes Back.
Gather, Darkness! by Fritz Leiber, 1943: this story concerns two warring groups of priests, who wear hooded brown and black robes. Each carry "Rods of Wrath," short metal hilts from which spring a blade-like terminated beam of violet light, which can cut through just about anything. There are no "sword duels," however. Another weapon casts a "writhing, electric beam of blue light." The casting down of the statue of the Emperor at the end of the special edition of Jedi might be an echo of the casting down of the statue of the evil pope at the end of Leiber's book.
Nightwings by Robert Silverberg, 1968: includes a sword (or knife?) with a blade of light that snaps on and off: "'Give me your blade!' I handed it to him, and he seized the handle and pressed the stud that brought forth the cool, keen beam of light." This Hugo-award-winning book also contains the line "He looked more machine than man..."
Far Out Space Nuts, children's Saturday morning television series 1975-1976: Chuck McCann, who played Barney, said that Lucas was working on the same film lot in the early '70s, and wandered into the studio cafeteria one day to see the Space Nuts cast sitting around having lunch wearing various alien costumes - he believes that was the influence for the Cantina scene.1 McCann further suggests that the lightsaber was inspired by the "laser sword" from the Space Nuts episode Tower of Tagot. Lightsabers were called "laser swords" in the first draft of Lucas' script and several concept paintings.
Lightsabers were probably also influenced by the magic swords from The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien which were inspired by Surtur, the king of the fire giants from Norse mythology. Surtur set Ragnarok (the twilight of the gods) in motion by lighting the world on fire with his flaming sword. The idea of a flaming sword is at least as old as the Book of Genesis: after Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, a magic flaming sword guarded the entrance to prevent them from returning.
The major inspiration for the lightsaber might have been Foundation by Isaac Asimov. Lucas has acknowledged that Foundation's city-planet Trantor was the inspiration for his own city-planet, Coruscant, and Lucas has a consistent pattern of drawing repeatedly from the same sources. Lucas might have caught the first spark which bloomed into the lightsaber from Asimov's offhand mention of "a penknife with a force-field blade" (that snapped on and off). It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to then imagine a sword with a force-field blade. However, a more likely inspiration is the force-blade from Asimov's "Lucky Starr" described as "The most vicious weapon in the Galaxy. Outwardly, it was merely a short shaft of stainless steel that was a little thicker than the haft of a knife but which could still be held nicely in the palm. Within it was a tiny motor that could generate an invisible nine-inch-long, razor-thin force-field that could cut through anything composed of ordinary matter. Armor was of no use against it, and since it could slice through bone as easily as through flesh, its stab was almost invariably fatal."
In the documentary "Empire of Dreams", George Lucas stated that the origin of the lightsaber stemmed from his desire to place swordfights similar to those in The Adventures of Robin Hood in the Star Wars films. The laser property was inspired simply by the need to make it futuristic (metal swords would feel out of place in futuristic setting that relied on lasers for its firearms).
Lightsaber-like devices in other contexts
For a list of lightsaber like weapons, see List of energy blades.
The word Lightsaber has become a type of Genericized trademark for any energy-bladed sword or similar weapons, even if they're not identified as such in other universes.
As well, a laser-eye surgery device tried using the name, but was countered by a lawsuit from Lucas.
Lightsabers in reality
Lightsabers, made of immaterial beams of light, collide whereas they should pass right through one another without a sound. Moreover, laser beams propagate in a straight line as long as they do not meet an obstacle, therefore scientifically correct lightsaber blades would cut right though a starship's hull. This would mean that dueling with lightsabers would be like dueling with flashlights, because the blades would pass right through each other and continue to travel until they hit an object, not reflecting back onto themselves.
Instead of a laser-based device, the most believable design for a lightsaber-like device would use plasma confined by a magnetic field. Plasma is a super-heated gas and is also the 4th state of matter, the color and luminosity of which varies depending on the temperature and composition. Plasma could be ionized by a particle beam from a compact particle accelerator; at relativistic energies, the beam would produce its own blue glow along its axis due to Cherenkov radiation.
Keeping a gas in the plasma-state requires considerable energy: 40 kW are necessary for a 4 inch (10 cm) saber at 18,000 °F (10 000 °C). It would be difficult to fit the required generator into the saber's hilt. To control and increase the length of the blade, the plasma would need to be confined within a magnetic field. Although this design would behave like a lightsaber from the Star Wars movies, it is considered foolhardy to confine plasma magnetically. A handful of magnets would disrupt the confinement field, and plasma would spill onto the saber's wielder. Furthermore, the magnetic field would prevent the plasma from performing any cutting action as it would always be shielded from whatever the blade struck by the magnetic field.
In order to make a semi-solid beam of energy which could interact with both matter and energy would require containing a quasar and quantum singularity inside the hilt. The gravitational field would pull all the quasar's expelled plasma back moments after the quasar releases them. The speed of the returning plasma would form a chainsaw effect allowing it to cut through the matter with ease, while still being stopped by an opposing beam. A modulated gravity field would bounce allow for the reflection of energy beams. So far, no known substance exists which is able to contain a quantum singularity.
Lightsaber entry in the Star Wars Databank
Lightsaber on Wookieepedia: The Star Wars Wiki
Bob Brown's How They Work Bob Brown's analysis of the movie canon's evidence of lightsaber operation.
How Lightsabers Work a tongue-in-cheek article on Howstuffworks.com
MacSaber.com Apple Mac Saber Lightsaber
Parks Sabers Authentic looking movie Lightsabers.
Lightsaber: Darth Vader on the MPP Microflash
Luukesabers: Galactic Lightsaber Reference Archive
Lucas' Light Saber Battle, (26 July 2001, E! Online) George Lucas suing Minrad Inc. over copyright of Light Saber name on their laser medical equipment
Master Replicas-a site for collectors specializing in making different props from the Star Wars movies, and the only site selling licensed replicas.
"Origins of the lightsaber." -(Theories on the origin of this sword.)
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Categories: Jedi religion | Star Wars weapons | Fictional swords | Science fiction weapons
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