Editorial: Will the Skywalker Lightsabers Return?
The Skywalker lightsaber. For many of us, it was the first lightsaber we saw, its blue blade blazing into life with that now instantly recognizable ignition sound. Since then we’ve seen lightsabers in every color imaginable. We’ve seen double-bladed designs, lightsabers with cross-guards, spinning hilts, and more. But that first lightsaber remains the most iconic. The weapon of the Chosen One passed from generation to generation. In The Rise of Skywalker we were introduced to another Skywalker lightsaber – Leia’s lightsaber – another weapon passed from one generation to the next, until both were laid to rest in place of their former masters. But will that be their final resting place? Or will they one day be called upon to fight against the darkness once more?
To consider the future of the Skywalker lightsabers we must first look at their journey so far, and their role in the Skywalker Saga from the start of the Clone Wars to the fall of the Final Order.
“Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough”
In a humble homestead, out beyond the Dune Sea, Luke Skywalker learned the “truth” about his father. He was not a navigator on a spice freighter, but a Jedi Knight who fought alongside Obi-Wan in the Clone Wars before he was betrayed and murdered by Darth Vader. It’s the scene that introduces us to the mythology of Star Wars – the Jedi, the Force, the dark side, and, of course, the lightsaber.
With the revelation of Luke’s heritage comes a gift, his father’s lightsaber. George Lucas has spoken of the influence of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces and this scene in A New Hope is clearly Luke’s call to adventure. And, as in Campbell’s hero’s journey, Luke initially rejects the call until the murder of his aunt and uncle pushes him to leave Tatooine behind and begin his path to becoming a Jedi.
The lightsaber, as it is presented here, is a link to Luke’s heritage, to his father, but it is not suggested to be special in any way other than this personal connection for Luke. As the original trilogy progresses, Luke loses this lightsaber, this link to his father, at the same time he learns the full truth of what happened to Anakin Skywalker. In a way the loss of his father’s lightsaber is a reflection of Luke’s own lost innocence, and his later construction of his own lightsaber symbolizes his growth from that lowest point into the Jedi he will become.
In the Star Wars universe, the journey of Luke’s lost lightsaber from Bespin to Maz Kanata is still a mystery. A story, as Maz says, for another time. But for audiences in the real world the Skywalker lightsaber would next appear in the prequel trilogy.
“This weapon is your life”
Despite this quote from Obi-Wan in Attack of the Clones, the Skywalker lightsaber arrived without fanfare in Revenge of the Sith, Anakin’s new lightsaber constructed off screen after the loss of his original weapon during the Battle of Geonosis. Even as The Clone Wars allowed us to dig deeper in the saga’s mythology than ever before, the construction of this iconic weapon, and Anakin’s promotion to Jedi Knight, was not something the series touched on. Nor did it feel like it was missing. As much as the prequel era gave us a greater understanding of the Jedi and the connection between each Jedi and their lightsaber, there was never any indication that the Skywalker lightsaber was special in any way. It was just Anakin’s lightsaber.
It would later mean something to Luke because it was his father’s and his receiving and losing the weapon played their parts in his hero’s journey. But Lucas never seemed to place any special emphasis on the weapon itself. When he spoke to Mark Hamill about one day “handing Excalibur down to the next generation”, it would seem he was speaking more in a metaphorical sense than about literally passing on his father’s lightsaber. If you’d asked me then whether I thought we’d ever see the Skywalker lightsaber again I’d have said no. But the sequel trilogy would soon change that.
“That lightsaber was Luke’s. And his father’s before him. And now it calls to you”
The sequel trilogy brought back the Skywalker lightsaber in a big way. Whilst the prequel trilogy told the tragedy of Anakin’s fall, the sequels returned to the classic hero’s journey. Here the lightsaber wasn’t just a family heirloom handed down from one generation to the next, but actively called to Rey. A direct manifestation of the call to adventure. Like Luke, her first instinct was to reject it, to want to return to her old life. But in the climax of The Force Awakens, after witnessing Kylo Ren murder Han Solo and injure Finn, she reaches out with the Force and accepts it. In response the Skywalker lightsaber flies to her hand, ignoring Anakin’s fallen descendant and choosing the scavenger girl who stood in the light.
The Last Jedi then reintroduces us to a Luke Skywalker at the end of his hero’s journey. No longer the naïve farm boy or heroic Jedi Knight, this Luke is reclusive, haunted by his failings and his perceived inability to live up to his legend, withdrawing from the galaxy in an attempt to break the cycle of violence he believes the Jedi help to perpetuate. When Rey comes offering his old lightsaber, looking not for a teacher but for a savior, his instinct is to throw it away. In the hero’s journey this is the refusal of the return.
The Last Jedi balances the end of Luke’s journey with the rise of Rey’s own, with her growing abilities challenged by the temptations of the dark side and by a growing understanding of Ben Solo’s own fall. The confrontation in Snoke’s throne room presents a moment where both had a chance to turn, and the Skywalker lightsaber is physically torn between the two. A shattering that could represent both Kylo Ren’s desire to let the past die and Luke’s belief that the Jedi should end.
But Luke changed his mind. Through his training of Rey, his reunion with R2-D2, and his reconnection with Leia and Yoda (the rescue from without), Luke comes to realize his mistake in believing the Jedi should end. When Luke projects himself across the galaxy to confront Kylo Ren on Crait, he does so not with his own lightsaber, but with his father’s lightsaber, symbolically reaffirming his call to adventure with the weapon that began his hero’s journey over three decades earlier.
The journey of the lightsaber could easily have ended there. And it nearly did. We know that Colin Trevorrow planned to have Rey wielding a double bladed lightsaber in his Duel of the Fates script. After all, constructing their own lightsaber is part of a Jedi’s journey. And a new lightsaber design (that isn’t hidden until the film’s release) also means more merchandise that can be sold.
But J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio instead chose to repair the Skywalker lightsaber, and to have Rey refer to it as Luke’s rather than her own when she told Leia “I will earn your brother’s saber”. This choice was likely done for symbolic reasons, especially as we are introduced to Leia’s lightsaber later in the film.
When Luke passes Leia’s lightsaber to Rey he reveals that Leia surrendered it as she sensed the death of her son at the end of her Jedi path, but also that she knew it would be picked up again by one who would finish her journey. Whilst Leia’s lightsaber doesn’t have the history of the original Skywalker lightsaber, with this scene it becomes the second to be passed from generation to generation. Echoing Obi-Wan’s words from when he received his father’s lightsaber, he tells her that a thousand generations of Jedi now live in her as she prepares to confront Palpatine on Exegol.
The use of the lightsabers in that final confrontation can therefore be seen as heavily symbolic. The lightsaber that rejected Kylo Ren is passed freely to a redeemed Ben Solo. And, as Rey declares “I am all the Jedi”, the use of Luke and Leia’s lightsabers can be viewed as symbolic of them being with her in the Force at that moment, and of them defeating Palpatine through Rey, making his biological heir their spiritual successor.
Which brings us to the end of the Skywalker saga. Tatooine, where we were first introduced to the Skywalker lightsaber, becomes its final resting place as Luke and Leia’s lightsabers are symbolically laid to rest outside the old Lars’ homestead. Where, with the Skywalker twins watching over her, Rey declares herself a Skywalker and ignites her new lightsaber. It’s golden yellow blade fitting for a new dawn for the Jedi.
So will we see the Skywalker lightsabers again? As I said above, if you’d asked me that after the first six films, I’d have said no (old Legends tales aside). But with the sequel trilogy the Skywalker lightsaber became a more mythical object in Star Wars lore as it called to Rey through the Force, choosing the next hero of the saga. In The Rise of Skywalker, Leia’s became the second Skywalker lightsaber to be passed on to the next generation, this time with a premonition that the one who took it up would complete the Jedi journey that she had set aside.
Now that this has happened, there’s no reason to doubt that it will again. Though I suspect Lucas was talking metaphorically about Luke passing on Excalibur, the sequel trilogy made it a literal passing of Star Wars’ most iconic weapon. Whether in a continuation of the Skywalker Saga or the beginning of a brand new story, should Lucasfilm ever wish to explore the era beyond The Rise of Skywalker, should a new darkness rise, the Skywalker lightsabers can call to the next generation of heroes and set them on their own hero’s journey.