Jeremy hopes the Force is with him as he pursues a forensics career in the swamps of Louisiana.
Lightsabers in Star Wars
One of the most symbolic features of Star Wars are its mystical laser swords called lightsabers. Portable, able to cut through almost anything, and capable of deflecting blaster bolts, these tools are the weapon of choice for Jedi and Sith.
But did you know the weapons come in several varieties? Not just different colors, but different lengths, sizes, angles, and more—here are the many styles of lightsabers in Star Wars!
First up, we have the most commonly seen standard lightsaber. My unfortunate parents probably had to shell out hundreds of dollars to keep buying me plastic versions of these; mine kept breaking after being struck against anything (and anyone) in range.
Anyway, each of these feature a hilt roughly 26 centimeters long, and a blade that extends for about a meter. Green and blue are the colors chosen by most Jedi, though some prefer purple or yellow. Red tends to be favored by the Sith, made by corrupting the sword's crystals using negative emotions.
We see many characters wield these weapons, including Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, and Qui-Gon Jinn. Even Han Solo gets to briefly borrow one, near the beginning of Episode 5.
Sometimes called saberstaffs, double-bladed lightsabers feature two blades coming out of separate ends of an extended hilt. Often, these sabers are simply two standard lightsabers joined at the pommel, allowing them to be separated.
A sudden change from a saberstaff to two individual weapons often surprises an opponent and allows for openings in their defense. Saberstaffs also aid in taking on multiple foes at once; we see Darth Maul use his weapon to defend against a pair of Jedi in Episode 1.
Speaking of Jedi, some of them prefer this type of saber, including Bastila Shan (a character from popular video game Knights Of The Old Republic), though it's considered difficult to master.
3. Curved Hilt
These lightsabers demonstrate how a simple design change can alter the effectiveness of the weapon. Curved hilts allow sabers to better fit into palms, and their angled blades help feint against opponents. Typically used by Sith, they produce crimson blades.
We see Count Dooku battle Jedi with this weapon in Episodes 2 and 3. Though not seen in the films, Dooku trains an apprentice, Asajj Ventress, and bestows her with a pair of curved swords.
Shotos are lightsabers with reduced hilt and blade length. Some feature a metal guard to parry attacks. While their tinier blades may seem a disadvantage (and they are in some aspects), the sword weighs less than regular sabers, making it easier to brandish and carry.
Additionally, the hilt's smaller size provides a harder target, so it's difficult to destroy the blade. Many lightsaber wielders use shotos in their non-dominant hand, but some naturally prefer the shorter weapon. In the Legends timeline, Luke sometimes wields one, citing it as a fine counter to lightwhips.
We see Yoda acrobatically fight with his shoto in Episodes 2 and 3.
Lightwhips are several meters in length and flexible, allowing for more random and ranged attacks than lightsabers. However, they have trouble defending against blows, many proclaim their energy to be weaker than standard sabers, and shotos prove extra effective against them. For these reasons, lightwhips are rarely seen; none of the current films feature them.
Dark Lady Lumiya from the Star Wars Expanded Universe utilizes a lightwhip; look for her in the Legacy of the Force novels.
Wielded by the imposing Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, and The Rise of Skywalker, a cross-saber features two slits which vent extra energy out, effectively creating two small blades. These vented energy beams can cut through opponents, especially when the regular blade is locked with another.
Evidently Kylo betrayed his teacher before learning how to properly construct a blade, hence the need to release the surplus power. The small fluctuations in the energy remind me of the unstable lightsaber available to Starkiller in video game The Force Unleashed, even if it's probably not where the filmmakers got the idea.
These archaic weapons were the original lightsabers. With limited technology, they had to be powered by packs strapped to their wearers, making them more unwieldy than modern sabers.
However, a few Jedi during the Clone Wars updated the design to form the improved "retrosaber". While it still requires the user carry a power pack attached to the hilt, the weapon can produce short energy surges that increase its power beyond a regular lightsaber.
Created by Mandalorian warriors, the Darksaber has a curved blade and unique black color, easily distinguishing it from other weapons. Only one exists, and between both timelines, it's been used by many characters, including Darth Maul, Pre Vizsla, and Sabine Wren.
Despite a shorter blade length than most sabers, the Darksaber's unique crystal responds to its wielder's feelings, creating electrical surges from emotional responses. Like the Elder Wand from Harry Potter, the weapon is passed between users only if someone could defeat its current bearer.
9. Lightsaber Pistol/Lightsaber Rifle
Even trained Jedi still rely on ranged weapons at times—it's how Obi-Wan defeats General Grievous, after all. But rather than having to carry both weapons, Ezra Bridger cleverly combined the two into a saber pistol. It can only shoot weak stun bolts, but it gives Ezra a ranged options and fits the Jedi philosophy of non-lethal force. More than that, it lets Ezra fight without revealing his Jedi training, helping him hide from the Empire.
We've also seen Jedi Jocasta Nu use a lightsaber rifle, a gun that channels a lightsaber's energy into deadly ranged bursts, but can only fire a few shots at a time.
If protosabers are the original lightsabers, Forcesabers are the weapons that inspired them, created by the ancient Rakatan race. They function similarly to lightsabers, but creating one requires a complex mixture of synthetic crystals and dark side energy.
This controversial engineering divided the ancient Je'daii (precursors to Jedi), with many citing it as what caused the order to split into dark and light side practitioners.
Unique Lightsabers in Star Wars
In addition to today's weapons, we've seen other blades with unique cosmetic weapons. Each saber has a different hilt, and some are unique-colored, like Mace Windu's purple blade or Rey's yellow lightsaber.
Swordsmen are also distinguished by which lightsaber style they favor, but for now, as we eagerly await more weapons from the galaxy far far away, vote for your favorite and I'll see you at our next Star Wars review!
Questions & Answers
Question: In Star Wars, do the lightsaber colors have meanings?
Answer: Sort of. Green traditionally goes to Consulars, who focus more on Force abilities, while blue is for Guardians, who emphasize battle prowess. However, these are generalized ideas, not set-in-stone rules.
Additionally, the red lightsabers Sith wield are often crafted using synthetic crystals, opposing the natural crystals Jedi use. Controversy remains over which type offers a more powerful beam.
Question: What about the Darksaber? Isn't that a type?
Answer: Good catch. As interesting as the black-bladed Darksaber was, it seems to be one-of-a-kind, not really a "type" of lightsaber. Still, it's a cool weapon that responds to its wielder's emotional state.
Like the Elder Wand from Harry Potter, the Darksaber is known for being passed down only after its former owner is killed in battle, a fittingly blood-stained legacy for such a savage device.
Question: Do you have a lightsaber like Darth Vader's lightsaber?
Answer: My parents probably had to shell out hundreds of dollars for those extendable plastic lightsaber toys during my youth; I'm sure there was a Vader one in there somewhere!
While we're on the subject, take a close look at Vader's saber compared to his original blue lightsaber, and you see the similar design. It seems that Vader adjusted his weapon preferences without straying too far from his roots.
Question: What other famous Star Wars characters wielded the lightwhip?
Answer: Not sure they count as "famous", but Githany, a Sith Lord who lived in Darth Bane's era, wielded one. The Nightsister Silri also used a lightwhip, but is more famous for her pet rancor named Cuddles. I wish I were kidding.
© 2015 Jeremy Gill