The moment Darth Vader first turned on his crimson lightsaber is one Star Wars fans will never forget. Already treated to Luke’s blue one earlier in the movie, they were no doubt impressed by the sheer contrast of the blazing red blade. Evil was certainly up to take its stand against good.
But there is more to Darth Vader’s red lightsaber than its powerful prowess in battle. Like everything else in Star Wars, it comes with its own intriguing backstory. And since it is the iconic saber of a dangerous Sith Lord, we can expect the story to be a tragic one filled with pain and hate.
But before going into the story, it is first important to note the meaning of a red-bladed lightsaber.
Darth Vader’s Lightsaber Color Meaning
Red. The color of evil in the Star Wars universe. It is the color of darkness, fear, anger, and grief.
According to canon, the kyber crystals in Sith Lords’ lightsabers weren’t originally red. Naturally-occurring kyber crystals came in blue, green, and sometimes yellow and purple.
However, when members of the Dark Side acquired these natural crystals, they poured all of their anger and fear into them. Absorbing these negative emotions caused the crystals to bleed. As they bled, they turned the sinister red associated with Dark Side.
Darth Vader, as a prominent member of the Sith, underwent this same process of lightsaber-creation.
The Story of Darth Vader’s Lightsaber
In this battle, the lightsaber Anakin used was his original blue one. However, the next time he appears he wields the red one Darth Vader is associated with. So what happened in between? How did he get his red saber?
According to the comic series that has now become a part of Canon, Darth Vader was assigned by Palpatine to create his own Sith lightsaber. Having lost his original blue one on Mustafar, he didn’t have a model to use.
His challenge was to hunt down a Jedi and take his saber. This was a problem, since most of the Jedi who survived Order 66 were in hiding.
Eventually, Vader located a Jedi called Kirak Infil’a. Defeating this Jedi in battle, Vader took his lightsaber for his own.
The next thing Vader had to do was to bend the kyber crystal inside the lightsaber to his own will. He began pouring all the hate, rage, and fear he felt into the crystal.
What Vader might not have expected was that the kyber crystal would fight back. Since these crystals have their own life and feelings, Kirak’s resisted the Dark Side. A battle ensued between Vader and the crystal.
At one point, the lost Anakin resurfaced and realized all he had done. He was so horrified that he sought the Emperor out and killed with. With grief and guilt, he then sought out Obi-Wan Kenobi to apologize and return to the Light.
However, this was only an illusion. It was only the kyber crystal’s last stance against Vader, trying to bring him back to the Light.
With fierce determination, Vader fought the crystal’s appeal to the Light in him. Images of Padme, Obi-Wan, and his previous life flashed before him. He let himself sink deeply into his grief, rage, fear, and hate.
With all these Dark Side emotions pouring into it, the crystal could take no more. It began to bleed. Its once-bright Jedi color turned a sinister red.
Vader then returned to Coruscant. In the presence of the Emperor, he ignited his new red lightsaber. From that point onwards, he became a true Sith Lord.
The Design of Darth Vader’s Lightsaber
There is more to Darth Vader’s lightsaber than its haunting crimson blade. Its hilt is also a work of art that has a hint of a story behind it.
Although Vader’s first red lightsaber used Kirak’s original hilt, he soon built a new one using the same crystal. Some time after Vader turned Kirak’s lightsaber red, he was ambushed. His lightsaber was damaged, and nothing was left but the crystal.
Vader used this crystal to fashion a new lightsaber for himself. Its design was intricate and specific, an intimate saber with pieces of Vader’s history and needs to be interwoven into it.
The design of the hilt was inspired by other lightsabers. The first inspiration was Anakin’s old lightsaber. He used this lightsaber in the battle of Geonosis.
It could be that Vader built his new lightsaber to partially resemble his old one because he liked the design. Or it could be a little memory of Anakin still left behind inside him.
Other parts of the hilt, however, resembled the Emperor’s lightsaber. This is because of the Emperor’s strong influence over Darth Vader.
When Vader lost Padme and all of his hopes, he began to lean on the Emperor as a fatherly figure. To impress him, he fashioned his new lightsaber to be a modification of the Emperor’s.
However, the hilt of Vader’s saber was also made to make up for his loss of mobility. Because of what happened on Mustafar, Vader was only half-human. The rest of him was a machine fit into a restricting and heavy black suit.
Moving around was hard for Vader to do. He could no longer take the flying leaps he used to specialize in as a Jedi. His metallic hands needed a saber that wouldn’t slip out of them.
What he fashioned, then, was a lightsaber hilt that was thicker than most. This thick hilt made it easier for his robotic hands to grasp.
Also, he fashioned black ridges around the hilt. These further ensured that Vader never lost his hold on the saber.
As we can see, Vader’s lightsaber is truly unique. It is a combination of his tragic history, the undercurrent of emotions that run through him, and his specific needs in combat.