Lightsaber

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"This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or as random as a blaster, but an elegant weapon for a more civilized age."   — Obi-Wan Kenobi
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Jedi activate their lightsabers in the Battle of Geonosis.
A lightsaber duel between Yoda and Count Dooku.
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A lightsaber duel between Yoda and Count Dooku.

The lightsaber is the traditional, elegant weapon of the Jedi Knights in Star Wars. It is something akin to its namesake, the sabre, however rather than a metal blade it is equipped with a blade formed from a tight loop of highly focused light, essentially a laser of immense power, able to penetrate and cut most solid materials with little or no resistance. They play a vital role in the Star Wars fictional universe and feature in the movies, games and novels.

Contents

Lightsabers in the Star Wars universe

Lightsabers were invented somewhere around 9,990 BBY. Using "frozen blaster" technology, a stream of superheated plasma is contained within a force field and projected from the weapon's hilt into the shape of a blade of pure energy. The beam destroys matter on contact, and can cut through almost anything solid, except another lightsaber blade, the material cortosis and other force fields. Also an alloy used in the Magna guard's staff called Phirk can deflect the blades.

The first Archaic Lightsabers were developed as a siege weapon. These required a separate power pack, which was often worn on the back. The power sources and components were miniaturized in the construction to create the simple weapon used in the later era. Using a lightsaber in combat takes skill, confidence and dexterity. Attunement to the Force is very helpful as well.

In the original film trilogy, lightsabers were limited to blue and green for the Jedi, while red-bladed lightsabers were associated with Dark Jedi Knights or Sith. The various expanded universe (EU) sources and the prequel films opened up the spectrum of blade colors to include many variations of blue, green and red, as well as purple, orange, silver, turquoise, pink, bronze, yellow and possibly white and gold, among others. Note, however, that the expanded universe has no definitive information relating to the color of a lighsaber and its association with Jedi or Sith positions. The reason for less of a variety of colors for lightsaber blades is revealed throughout several forms of media. The Empire destroyed the caves that housed the lightsaber crystals Jedi used to focus energy and create their blade's unique color. Synthetic crystals were created to replace the natural crystals found in caverns, typically having either a blue or green color. Sith Crystals are also of a synthetic nature, and are said to be more powerful than traditional Jedi crystals, yet make the blade less manueverable. Obi-Wan Kenobi primarily wielded a blue-bladed lightsaber, while Mace Windu famously uses a purple-bladed lightsaber, which can be seen as a consequence of its mastery in borderline-dark-side Form VII of lightsaber combat. One lightsaber in particular, created by the Jedi student Gantoris was violet with patterns of rainbow light rippling across its white core. The color of a lightsaber's blade is dependent upon the crystals used to focus it. Blue-bladed lightsabers are loosely associated with Jedi Guardians; green-bladed lightsabers are loosely associated with Jedi Consulars; yellow-bladed lightsabers are loosely associated with Jedi Sentinels; and red-bladed lightsabers are more closely associated with the Sith. However, each Jedi (or Sith) is free to choose whatever hue for their blade they wish or can aquire.

The very rare Great Lightsaber, similar to a standard lightsaber, had focusing crystals and a power supply producing a blade up to 300 centimeters in length.

The rare Dual-Phase Lightsaber is any lightsaber constructed to operate at two different blade lengths. 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.

The Electrum Lightsaber is simply a lightsaber with a hilt forged from gold-like electrum.

There are also variant lightsabers with shorter handles and blades (known as Short Lightsabers or lightdaggers) that can be wielded as offhand secondary weapons or as the primary lightsaber of a small Jedi like Yoda.

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Darth Maul with a double-bladed light saber battles Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi on Naboo

The Double-Bladed Lightsaber or Saber-Staff 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 a lot of versatility. This weapon was invented by the Dark Lord of the Sith Exar Kun nearly four thousand years before the Battle of Yavin. Kun's 'saber was notable in that he was able to carefully adjust both its length, from half a meter to one and a half meters, as well as its intensity, allowing the blades' power to vary from that of a deadly blade to an intangible, harmless beam of light. 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, Darth Bandon, Bastila Shan, Darth Maul, and Azrakel the dark warrior. Use of double-bladed lightsabers as primary weapons has been frowned upon by the Jedi because of their aggressive nature and usage. Though most Jedi double-bladed lightsabers are used for training purposes, some Jedi do specialize in their use as weapons.

Other lightsaber variants include the massive lightclub wielded by the Dark Jedi Gorc, and the lightwhip, a rare and exotic weapon used by Githany, Ona Nobis, Kit Fisto, and Lady Lumiya.

History

Lightsabers are the principal weapon of the Jedi but are also used by the Sith. After the extermination of the Jedi, lightsabers became rare relics. Their use is usually restricted to the Jedi, partially because it is too dangerous for an unskilled user, but also partly because, for non-Jedi, blasters are more effective. However, lightsabers remain prized by some collectors, and some black market sales do occur.

Typically a Jedi is given his lightsaber on his first day of training. Jedi Masters emphasize that the lightsaber is a measure of progress for an apprentice as lightsaber techniques take great skill and concentration. It is considered a final test for a Jedi student to be able to construct their own lightsaber.

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
"Clone Wars Micro Series" - Cartoon Network

Training

A deviation created 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 pink in color. Training lightsabers are used in combat education in the Jedi academy of the Old Republic. While these lightsabers are intentionally nonlethal, contact with the blade is highly painful and may be fatal.

Use

See also: Lightsaber combat

In the hands of someone trained to use the Force, a lightsaber is a powerful and versatile tool. In the hands of the untrained, however, it is far more of a danger to the user, mainly because only the hilt has mass in any detectable amount, making it difficult to judge the position of the blade accurately during use. Also, the arcing of the blade back along itself generates a gyroscopic force causing instability in the hands of the untrained, easily seen in Luke Skywalker's first experience with a lightsaber in Episode IV. A lightsaber can cut through virtually anything (blast doors and enemies alike) except another lightsaber blade (because of the other force field)and other energy fields of sufficent power (Such as the reactor shields seen in Episode I). The only known exceptions to this rule are: the cortosis ore, capable of repelling or even shorting out a lightsaber blade (as shown in the novel I, Jedi and the video games Knights of the Old Republic and Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast), the metal ultrachrome a (superconductor used for ship armour hundreds of years before the Empire as shown in the novel Shatterpoint by Matthew Stover), so-called Mandalorian Iron (as shown in Tales of the Jedi: Dark Lords of the Sith comic), and certain types of energy shields, as well as the hides and shells of certain creatures, such as the taozin and Lava Dragon, which are able to diffuse or refract the weapon's energy. Cortosis ore sets up a feedback loop in the lightsaber blade assembly, which shuts it down. It is also known that the organic weapons and armors of the extra-galactic Yuuzhan Vong are able to give marginal resistance to the blade of the lightsaber. In the novel series Jedi Apprentice it is shown that a lightsaber blade will short out if it comes in contact with water, however a specially designed saber such as Kit Fisto's can be used underwater effectively.

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Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn battles Sith Apprentice Darth Maul.

Using the Force, a Jedi can use his or her lightsaber to deflect and reflect incoming energy attacks, like blaster bolts and even Force Lightning, though they are ineffective against ion beams unless finely tuned to specifically deflect them, thereby rendering them ineffective against traditional energy weapons. Lightsabers are melee weapons but can also be thrown for a ranged attack and recalled through psychokinesis, a basic Jedi skill. There are many different forms of lightsaber combat, including (but not limited to) Darth Vader's Form V, which is a combination of two other Forms, Form II and Form III. There is also the basic Way of the Sarlacc or Form I, the first one learned in Jedi training. Average in defense as well as offense, it is the most common stance. Last is the 'light' style, emphasizing quick, brutal slashing attacks, but relatively low damage.

There are also the more 'exotic' ways of wielding the lightsaber as a weapon, such as the rare double-bladed lightsaber style, as seen used by Darth Maul in Episode I: The Phantom Menace. One of the rarest styles of lightsaber use is dual-wielding them. Used briefly in Episode II: Attack of The Clones and in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith by the young Anakin Skywalker, as well as in an animated miniseries, this style incorporates blinding fast attacks and devastating sweeps, but each individual swing is weak and easily deflected. While not really unique styles, some more experienced Jedi choose to wield their lightsabers in non-conventional ways, such as backhanded or half-backhanded like Jedi Master, Adi Gallia.

Construction details

The lightsaber is made up of a short polished metallic cylindrical tube (usually around 30 centimetres) that emits a beam of pure anti-proton that acts as a sword blade. All lightsabers contain some common basic components

  • A handgrip
  • An activation stud plate, button, switch, or internal Force-activated mechanism
  • A safety or "dead-man's" switch
  • An emitter matrix
  • A primary crystal (which gives the blade its hue)
  • A lens assembly (focusing crystals)
  • A blade-length adjuster (only on Dual-Phase Lightsabers)
  • A power cell
  • An Energy Gate
  • A power conduit
  • A recharge socket
  • 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, as 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 might have re-used the crystals of their old lightsabers. Shadows of the Empire has Luke Skywalker using a synthetic crystal in his lightsaber construction. Luke built a lightsaber with a green blade, implying that the Sith intentionally construct their crystals to produce a red blade. Green blades can also be created from Corusca Gems from the gaseous planet of Yavin 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 prefered to synthetic, as there have been instances of synthetic crystals failing at unfortunate times, as happened to Corran Horn in I, Jedi.

The Dual-Phase Lightsaber used crystals that handle differing power level requirements. These are wired to the diatium power cell, which acts like an energy source for the lightsaber. The hilt of this lightsaber rotates in such a way that it aligns the crystals, which doubles the length of the lightsaber and changes the color. Users of this lightsaber type include Anakin Skywalker, Micah Giiett, Gantoris, and Corran Horn.

A Double-Bladed Lightsaber or Lightstaff is essentially two lightsabers in a single oversized hilt. It is a very difficult weapon to handle, but extremely dangerous in the hands of a master. Notable users of double-bladed lightsabers are the Sith Lord Exar Kun and Sith Apprentice Darth Maul. Kun's lightsaber was both double-bladed and dual-phase.

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 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 only lose power when they come in contact with other objects, and thus can last nearly indefinitely.

In reality anti-protons are negatively charged so, the shaft should be negatively-charged and they should be attracted back using a positively-charged, high-energy flux aperture.

The typical design of the hilt is generally a straight tube. Count Dooku however, preferred a curved hilt, better suited for a dueling style similar to fencing.

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Mace_Windu's_lightsaber_from_Attack_of_the_Clones.jpg
Mace Windu's lightsaber during the Clone Wars

Also, according to the EU 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 unheard-of energy efficiency. This efficiency is what allows the blades to remain lit and active for long periods of time. The only real energy drain is when the blade comes into contact with something.

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Mace Windu's lightsaber from The Phantom Menace

Sometimes certain events necessitated 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, such as with Mace Windu and his lightsaber after the Battle of Naboo. It is, however, an unrevealed occurrence that made him build a new lightsaber in the ten-year period between The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones.

In addition, in Knights of the Old Republic, the sabers can be improved with the installation of certain crystals, lens, emitters and power cells.


Concordance of Fealty

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Concordance_of_Fealty-_A_Jedi_Tradition.jpg


"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." --Master 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.

Lightsaber effects in the movies

The original film prop hilts were constructed from old camera-flash cylinders. 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.

In the original trilogy, the 'glow' effect was hand-drawn animation superimposed on the film, using the prop as a guide. In the later 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 saber on board the Millennium Falcon in episode IV 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.

However the props cause in some circumstances a goof: they cast their shadow on floor, while the energy 'blade' shouldn't.

Creators of fan films have used various techniques for creating the coveted "lightsaber effect," most of which involve programs such as Adobe After Effects, Adobe Photoshop, MainVision, The GIMP, or Blender.

The characteristic sound was, of course, 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.

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 (http://masterreplicas.com/customer/starwars/starwars_product_list.php?cid=9) of the original film props, complete with motion-sensitive sound effects, and colored blade. Reproducing the beam of pure energy boasted by the originals still seems to be some time off, however.

Jedi and Sith of renown and their lightsabers

Old Republic Era

Prequel Trilogy Era

Original Trilogy Era

New Republic Era

  • Kyle Katarn: Single-bladed green; single-bladed yellow; single-bladed blue; single-bladed green
  • Kyp Durron: Single-bladed purple; single-bladed red-purple; single-bladed purple
  • Mara Jade Skywalker: Single-bladed purple; single-bladed blue
  • Jacen Solo: Single-bladed green
  • Jaina Solo: Single-bladed purple
  • Anakin Solo: Single-bladed purple
  • Corran Horn: Single-bladed silver; single-bladed silver; single-bladed dual-phase silver/purple

Lightsaber-like weapons in other contexts

  • In Larry Niven's Known Space series of books, "variable-swords" are mentioned. The variable-sword uses a monomolecular filament, reinforced by a stasis field that makes it perfectly rigid and able to cut through virtually any material (except another stasis field, and thus the blade of another variable-sword), which is capable of being wound and unwound from the handle in a way similar to a variable-length lightsaber.
  • In the Gundam series, beam sabre and numerous variant (beam shield, beam katana, beam axe and etc.) are all main melee weapons of mobile suits. Sometimes these sabres can also be shooting beams. In essence, this is achieved by contained energized particles (in UC Gundam, minovsky particles, the same type used for mega particle cannon) in an energy field (in UC Gundam the I-field, the same field used to block beam attacks). Thus, this came to be the other reason why beam sabres cannot slash another beam sabres, as the beam had essentially hit an anti-beam field.
  • In the Tenchi Muyo! series, the main protagonist, Tenchi Masaki, comes into possession of the Tenchi-ken ('Sword Tenchi' in the English language version), a sword hilt with an extendable energy blade.
  • In Deus Ex, the main character, as well as many Men in Black, may use a light-saber like weapon called the Dragon's Tooth.
  • In System Shock, the main character can use a light-saber like weapon called a laser rapier.
  • Capcom's Mega Man X videogame series character Zero wields a lightsaber-like sword called the 'Beam/Z Saber'.
  • Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. videogame series contains, as an item/weapon, a 'Beam Sword', which also resembles a lightsaber. The 'Beam Sword' had a lightsaber like sound until it was changed for fear of legal action against Nintendo.
  • The eponymous hero of the Ulysses 31 animated series wields a combined laser pistol / energy sword (handy for switching between hand-to-hand and ranged combat when battling multiple foes!)
  • In Halo 2, the player wields a lightsaber known as a Plasma Energy Sword which was used only by Covenant Elites in Halo: Combat Evolved.
  • In the game Silent Hill 3, one of the bonus weapons that Heather can find is called a "Beam Saber", essentially a lightsaber with a yellow-green blade.
  • In The Guardian Legend, the main character (known only as the "Guardian of Earth") can obtain a light-saber-style powerup (referred to as a "saber-laser") that can remain active as long as there are plenty of power chips available to feed it. Later on in the game, a double-bladed version of this same power-up (known as a "cutter-laser") is available.
  • In the 1980's cartoon Thundarr the Barbarian, Thundarr wields the 'fabulous Sunsword'.
  • In the game Phantasy Star Online, players can find and wield 'Photon Swords' that come in different colors, similar to lightsabers. They use green, blue, pink, red and yellow swords and players can find different varieties of such weapons in different sizes. Double-ended lightsabers are in the game as well. Just about every weapon in the game contains a lightsaber glow somewhere on it, usually at the blade area for melee weapons.
  • In the game Final Fantasy VI a weapon named "Atma Weapon" may be obtained. It is a blue glowing sword that grows in strength as the wielder grows in strength. In the Hindu epic Bhagavad-Gita, the word "atma" or "atman" refers to soul or one's spirit. A townsperson in the game mentions that the weapon changes depending on the spirit of its wielder. This has led a number of players to conjecture that the Atma Weapon is energy-based, like the lightsaber.
  • In the science fiction role-playing game, Alternity, published by TSR, one of the most powerful melee weapons available is the star sword. This weapon creates a magnetic field in the shape of a sword and fills it with white-hot plasma.
  • In Spy Kids, when Juny was getting gadgets to get ready to go save their mom and dad, Juny grabbed a small lightsaber type thing. It was like a lightsaber pocket-knife
  • In the video game Ico, a lightsaber is hidden as a secret item and is the most powerful weapon available.
  • In the Star Wars parody Spaceballs there are two Rings of the Schwartz which can emit a lightsaber-like blade.
  • In an episode of Batman Beyond, a villian named Payback used a lightsaber-like whip as a weapon, which was actually a sculpting tool.
  • In The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (movie) the knife they use to cut toast with is similar to a small light saber.
  • In the Margaret Weis Star of the Guardians series those of the "Blood Royal" are capable of wielding the "bloodsword" which has a silver handle from which a long blue blade of energy emerges.
  • In the video game Xenosaga, the E.S. Simeon, a boss in the game, uses an attack called "Beam Saber", which looks and sounds like a lightsaber.

External links

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