Lightsabers are among the most iconic items in Star Wars lore and come in various colors. But what do those colors mean? With Star Wars Day this week, Return of the Jedi back in theaters, and especially with Star Wars fans customizing lightsabers for Cal Kestis in Star Wars Jedi: Survivor, we think many Star Wars fans might be thinking about what a specific lightsaber color says about a particular character. Like many things in Star Wars, that answer can be simple or complex thanks to the franchise’s shifting canon and the difference between creator George Lucas’ original vision and intent and where the expanded universe eventually took his ideas.
We’ll do our best to explain here. There’s nowhere better to start answering what lightsaber colors mean than by explaining why different colors exist.
Where do lightsabers get their color in Star Wars?
A lightsaber’s color comes from the kyber crystal within the hilt. The lightsaber’s blade takes on the color of the crystal within. A blue kyber crystal emits a blue blade, and a red crystal results in the lightsaber having the signature crimson hue of a Sith weapon.
It’s worth noting that this idea is almost entirely born from the expanded universe. Lucas did have an idea for a “kiber crystal.” It would have served a very different purpose, being an artifact of dark power similar to the One Ring from The Lord of the Rings. However, he abandoned the idea while revising early drafts of the first movie’s screenplay. The original Star Wars trilogy doesn’t mention the crystals. They also don’t appear in those films’ novelizations (where we get the first mention of the Sith) outside of one as a purely decorative lightsaber adornment.
The idea of “lightsaber crystals” first appeared in expanded universe novels 1990s, most notably Young Jedi Knights: Lightsaber, which detailed the creation of a lightsaber. Star Wars video games like Star Wars: Galaxies and Knights of the Old Republic introduced the idea of lightsaber crystals coming in various forms with differing properties to give players ways to customize and upgrade their characters.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars first identified the crystals within lightsabers as “kyber crystals.” Other sources clarified that kyber crystals were the same as the previously introduced lightsaber crystals.
What do lightsaber colors mean in Star Wars?
Star Wars canon includes many lightsaber colors, but like kyber crystals, these were not Lucas’ idea. Lucas only envisioned two lightsaber colors: blue for Jedi and red for Sith. The first variation was a practical solution to a filmmaking problem. Luke has a green lightsaber in Return of the Jedi because the blue blade wasn’t showing up against the blue sky during the fight on Jabba’s barge. That would have been it if not for Samuel L. Jackson requesting a purple lightsaber for Mace Windu in the prequel trilogy. Lucas acquiesced to Jackson’s request.
In Star Wars canon as it exists today, there aren’t broad definitions for what lightsaber colors mean outside of a few exceptions. Kyber crystals are colorless until they bond with a Jedi. The color the kyber crystal takes on reflects the Jedi’s specific connection with the Force and their place in the Jedi Order. Green generally represents a Jedi with a serene connection to the Force and who is typically wise (Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn). Blue denotes a Jedi who is a fighter, actively pursuing justice through the Force (Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker). Mace Windu’s purple lightsaber is rare, representing a balance between the other two. The Darksaber, created during the Old Republic era, is another unique lightsaber with a black blade that reacts physically to the wielder’s emotions.
Once bonded to a Jedi, the kyber crystal does not change color if the lightsaber comes into the possession of a new owner (Anakin’s lightsaber remains blue even though Luke’s lightsaber would eventually have a green blade, for example). However, the crystals can be tampered with to produce a different color than their original bonded color (Anakin does this to Ahsoka’s lightsabers, turning their green blades blue. matching his, ahead of the Siege of Mandalore).
Interestingly, the Jedi of the High Republic have much more variations in lightsaber colors compared to the almost entirely blue and green blades of those in the “Fall of the Jedi” era. The more varied colors may be due to the more individualized ways those High Republic Jedi experience their connection to the Force. For example, one hears the Force as music, while a different Jedi sees the Force as a vast ocean. If one looks for thematic cohesion, one could see the homogeneity in both lightsaber color and explanation of the Force as a symptom of the Jedi Order’s calcification, leading to their destruction as part of Darth Sidious’ grand plan for the galaxy.
Red, Yellow, White, and Orange Lightsabers
Some lightsabers do have specific meanings and origins in the Star Wars universe. The most prolific are the uniformly red lightsabers of the Sith. The red blade comes from a kyber crystal that has been “bled.” Sith apprentices had to corrupt a kyber crystal to the dark side of the Force, as the dark side had corrupted them. To do so, they would “bleed” the crystal, using the dark side to fill the kyber crystal with their rage and hate until it turned that unnatural red color.
Ahsoka Tano wields white lightsaber blades following her expulsion from the Jedi Order. Her white blades come from previously bled lightsaber crystals she purified after taking them from an Inquisitor who found and attacked her while hiding after Order 66.
Yellow blades were wielded exclusively by the Jedi Temple Guard before the Reign of the Empire. Rey’s lightsaber is the same color, perhaps symbolizing her as the new guardian of the Jedi teachings.
Orange lightsabers also exist in Star Wars canon. We don’t know much about what they may symbolize, but we do know that the villains in Ahsoka wield similar blades. Writer Dave Filoni has teased that the unusual color has a specific meaning.
Lightsaber colors in Star Wars Legends
Before Disney purchased Lucasfilm in 2012 and the Star Wars canon hard reset that followed, lightsaber colors had much more defined meanings. Those definitions largely came from their use in games like Star Wars: The Old Republic to correspond to specific character classes.
During the Old Republic era, blue lightsabers belonged to Jedi Guardians, the heroic fighters of the Jedi Order. Green blades belonged to Jedi Consulars, who were the Jedi Order’s mystics and sages. Yellow lightsabers went to Jedi Sentinels, who sought a balance between the approaches of the other two Jedi classes. Even within the Legends expanded universe, these rules fell out of practice in later years. The Sith and Dark Jedi still wielded primarily red lightsabers.
Hopefully, this history helps you choose the perfect lightsaber for your Cal Kestis. Star Wars Jedi: Survivor is on sale now.