By now, it’s an open secret that George Lucas was always tweaking Star Wars lore and changing things as he went along. Normally, we think of these tweaks in terms of the various characters and major storylines Lucas changed (such as suddenly making Leia Luke’s sister), but it turns out there was one bit of lore that was dropped almost right away. In old interviews, George Lucas and Mark Hamill admitted that lightsabers were supposed to be as heavy as real swords and originally always required two hands to hold.
Lightsabers Require Two Hands
This strange rule came as a surprise to the Star Wars actors, including Mark Hamill. When he and David Prowse practiced their moves for that first major duel in The Empire Strikes Back, they worked out some very complex choreography that often involved holding their lightsaber in one hand. When they brought George Lucas in to show off their new moves, though, he told them that lightsabers were so heavy that they would always require two hands to hold.
George Lucas Explained A Lightsaber Is Very Heavy
In 2014, Mark Hamill provided even more granular info on a Star Wars lightsaber feature, claiming that Lucas imagined lightsabers to weigh between 40 and 50 pounds. He said that holding one of these famous laser swords was supposed to be like holding the mythological sword Excalibur; hence, Lucas insisted on the actors using two hands to hold the blade. Hamill’s confusion mirrors our own: real swords weigh so much because they are long pieces of heavy metal, so why would a lightsaber be so heavy when the blade is made of energy rather than metal?
Han’s Trouble Getting It Up
At the time, Star Wars guru George Lucas thought the answer was that the lightsabers “have a lot of energy in them,” and this was meant to explain why the hilt was difficult to use: because of the sheer amount of power coursing through it, lightsabers were so difficult to handle that it mimicked them being very heavy. Incidentally, this is meant to explain why Han Solo had difficulty using Luke’s lightsaber to open up the dead Tauntaun. The smuggler was understandably surprised to discover that his young friend’s laser sword was insanely difficult to pick up and use.
The Rule was Changed
By now, Star Wars fans are likely yelling at us because we’ve all seen Jedi wielding lightsabers one-handed. In fact, early on in Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker is doing just that while battling aboard Jabba the Hut’s sail barge. Why was it suddenly okay to use only one hand to wield this elegant weapon?
The New Rule Of Cool
The short answer is that Lucas eventually downplayed his own rule, which allowed Luke to look like a more skilled fighter and allowed the Jedi of the prequels to engage in wildly choreographed battles. Some of those battles were so over-the-top that, honestly, we kind of wish they still had to follow this old, forgotten rule made by Lucas.
The Darksaber Reflects Lucas’s Original Rule
Strangely enough, this strange Star Wars rule has made a kind of stealth comeback in the Disney era of the franchise. In Star Wars Rebels, Sabine Wren expresses surprise at how heavy the Darksaber feels, and Kanan explains that this is because “energy constantly flows through the crystal” and “You’re not fighting with a simple blade so much as you are directing a current of power.” This idea was echoed in The Book of Boba Fett, which portrayed the Darksaber as heavy to hold.
A Two-Handed Sword Is Kind Of Cool
Somehow, we feel this old Star Wars rule will continue to go out the window in favor of the “rule of cool” when directors or showrunners want to give us a particularly acrobatic lightsaber battle. Still, it’s neat to know that the Darksaber continues a Star Wars tradition so old that it was mostly forgotten before many fans were born. If only all lightsabers were still this hard to handle, maybe Luke Skywalker wouldn’t have had such an easy time tossing his old one away in The Last Jedi.