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What The White Lightsaber In Star Wars Means

Lightsabers are the single most iconic item in the Star Wars universe; their look and sound is instantly recognizable at the briefest of glances. Swords are cool enough on their own, but freaking laser swords are exponentially cooler. Envelop them in some sci-fi mysticism, and off to the races we all go, picking up any staff-like object in a home goods store and replicating our favorite Jedi slashes complete with mimicked noises. If that sounds like we're cheapening the concept, we assure you that the opposite is true — the fact that lightsabers are just cool to look at and think about is what drives our interest in digging up as much background about them as possible.

As we all know, lightsabers come in a multitude of colors, a spectrum that has grown considerably since the original blue and red variants of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. It now includes purple, yellow, orange, green, black (somehow), and most recently, white. The white lightsaber has only one canonical user, and it has its own lore accompanying it. Like all of the myriad colors of that most elegant of weapons, though, the white lightsaber isn't just a stylistic choice. Here's what the white blade means, and why it's consequential.

The white lightsaber represents the middle path

The Star Wars universe has undergone massive expansion and revision across its four-plus-decade history. The passion of fans has driven this both directly via fanfiction, and indirectly by creating a never-ending appetite for officially sanctioned backstory and information.

This may be part of the reason why Disney, upon its acquisition of Lucasfilm, decided to take virtually all expanded universe material and declare it non-canonical as a hard reset. Some of the old canon may eventually be transplanted back into the new version of canon eventually, but for now, the only canon that is material to Star Wars as a Disney property are all of the movies, certain books and comics created after the reset, the animated series Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels, Star Wars: Resistance, and the new Disney+ series The Mandalorian. The white lightsaber is included in the new canon, because it is used by a single former Jedi named Ahsoka Tano, who is a central character in Clone Wars and is featured in Rebels.

Ahsoka Tano was the first and only Padawan student to study under Anakin Skywalker during the Clone Wars. She left her learner rank after being falsely accused and eventually exonerated of a bombing at the Jedi Temple. Despite receiving an apology from the Jedi Council for the lack of faith and being offered full membership as a Jedi Knight, she no longer trusted the Jedi and struck out on her own, first assisting the Jedi in an independent capacity during the Clone Wars, then operating as an intelligence asset for the rebellion. This life on the run meant abandoning her twin lightsabers on Ilum, the traditional source of the Kyber crystals which traditionally power the weapons. 

Over the years, she felt compelled by the Force to collect seemingly random bits of metal and technological ephemera, and hoard them. This spiritual compulsion's rationale revealed itself when Tano confronted one of the Sith Inquisitors tasked with hunting those still alive after the Jedi purge. She defeated the Inquisitor in combat using only the Force, detonating the raw energy within her enemy's lightsaber — and afterwards, she commandeered his Kyber crystals to construct new lightsabers of her own, using the materials she had felt driven to scavenge.

Kyber crystals come in many forms, and from natural as well as synthetic sources, but they are all infused with the power of the Force when used to construct a lightsaber. This is the reason cited for Sith lightsabers being red — the wrathful energy Sith initiates put into their crystals is what produces the color, which has historically been a source of pride for them, reflecting their affiliation with the Dark Side. What is put in, however, can also be removed; after defeating the Inquisitor and sitting down to make her new weapons, Tano purified the Kyber crystals of the energy they'd been infused with, and added her own. 

If Tano had been an actual Jedi Knight, this likely would have resulted in her blades being one of the colors one would expect: most likely blue or green, or perhaps purple or yellow. For Tano, however, they became white, underlining her status as a Force-user: committed to the light side, but uninterested in the ethics code and priorities of the Jedi. Dave Filoni, one of the creators of Rebels, has explicitly said that the white color is meant to make clear Tano's non-affiliation with the Jedi Order.

This concept of a middle path is an exciting one going forward for the Star Wars franchise. As Lucasfilm reorganizes and expands the canon under Disney's stewardship, it may make room for a Force-sensitive hero that doesn't have to be a Jedi. This idea has been flirted with in the past (you could bring back Kyle Katarn with this rationale, Disney, you have that power), but not as a mainstream canonical concept. 

The prequel films, messy as they were plot-wise, did try to make the point to the audience that the Jedi have severe and, as it turned out, fatal faults that the Order could have afforded to address. The Last Jedi also spent a lot of time meditating on this perspective — and that, despite some internet whining to the contrary, is okay. 

The Jedi are always going to be important to Star Wars, and a source of interesting characters, but opening the universe up to the possibility of disenfranchised Force-sensitive people existing as heroes — ones that aren't destined to suffer the same fate as Anakin — is a good and realistic one. Morality, as it turns out, is not as black and white as the Jedi would have had their disciples believe.