No two lightsabers are alike. Each has a different design on their hilts and various blade colors to pick from. They are completely the choice of the user who builds it. The original trilogy did not have lightsaber construction, as they were only given the colors blue and red for the audience to know who is striking. The most depth they had was Obi-Wan’s line, that the lightsaber is “An elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” Luke’s new lightsaber in Return of the Jedi was green because the blue sky of Tatooine blended with the blue blade too much. Hence the opening to having more color variations in future canon material like purple, orange, yellow, etc. It is the prequel trilogy that first gives the depth to the lightsabers. In Attack of the Clones, it is again Obi-Wan who says to Anakin, “This weapon is your life,” establishing the symbolic connection between the identity of the owner to the saber.
The Clone Wars series continues this theme with various scenes like when Anakin reiterates Obi-Wan’s above words and gives Padme his lightsaber as a romantic gesture. And when Ahsoka’s lightsabers were stolen and she learns the responsibility of owning a weapon. And finally, when the group of Jedi students go on a fieldtrip to find their crystals and build their first lightsabers. The episode arc with the students is particularly revealing in that to find their crystals, they are put through trials that test their individual issues. Overcoming individual challenges makes the achievement of the crystals quite personal. The building of the hilt also feels very personalized since they are choosing their own pieces. With the established connection of the lightsaber and identity, there is a link between the characters of Anakin, Luke, and Ahsoka that can be found from the Clone Wars season 7 final episodes all the way to Return of the Jedi.
Anakin is characterized as caring deeply for his friends and being highly protective of them, but to the point of possessiveness. This can be traced back to the loss of his mother. His behavior thereafter is a form of correcting his self-perceived error of not being there to save her. The Clone Wars does something interesting by giving him a student, by canon terminology, a padawan, called Ahsoka Tano. This is done on purpose under the guise of a mistaken assignment by Yoda who had already noticed Anakin’s inability to let go of his attachments. While I think the Jedi made an error in prohibiting attachments altogether, I do agree that Anakin’s possessive and controlling behavior to those he loves is unhealthy. Letting go is definitely a lesson he needed.
Naturally, Anakin and Ahsoka develop a deep bond that is quite sibling-like. Ahsoka even later goes on to describe him as an older brother figure. Throughout her trials and struggles, Anakin is shown to have anxiety about letting Ahsoka take care of her issues on her own. Just when he appears to be improving and allowing Ahsoka to go on her own missions, she gets framed for a terrorist bombing of the Jedi temple. This culminates in Ahsoka leaving the Jedi Order after the council banned her and refused to defend her in court. It is in this arc when she loses her green lightsabers. This event pushes Anakin’s progress backward. He falls back into his possessive nature as well as reinforcing his resentment toward the Jedi. Without his lone efforts to prove Ahsoka’s innocence, she would have been executed. Ahsoka rejected the Jedi Order, not Anakin himself, but he does not see it that way. While Anakin is not angry at Ahsoka for leaving, he does take it as a personal rejection even though Ahsoka made it clear that “this isn’t about you.”
In the final season, Anakin returns Ahsoka her old lightsabers, but with a twist. He tweaked them so their blades would glow blue instead of their usual green. The series creator Dave Filoni has confirmed that Anakin tampering with the color is a sign of his well-intentioned protective – but controlling – nature, even affecting the individuality of those he loves. In Filoni’s own words, “Him changing the color could also be seen as him exerting control or being too protective” (quote from Clone Wars Download). This could specifically be due to how rejected he felt at her leaving, so it’s his way of reminding her that he is there for her. After Order 66, Ahsoka leaves her remaining lightsaber in the wreckage to make it appear that she was killed, but it is also symbolic of leaving her last remnant of Anakin. In the last scene of the series, Darth Vader finds the lightsaber and ignites the blue blade. There are many interpretations of this scene, but I like to think that this is yet another reminder of his failure to protect a loved one. As far as he knows, Ahsoka is dead and the lightsabers with his mark of protection failed her. It gives Vader yet another reason to dissociate from his true name, Anakin Skywalker.
Luke Skywalker in A New Hope has a serious case of hero worship toward his, as far as he knows, dead father, Anakin. This is initiated by Obi-Wan when he reveals to Luke that Anakin was not the navigator of a spice freighter, but in fact a Jedi knight who fought in the Clone Wars. Then comes the lie that Darth Vader murdered Anakin. Once the empire attacks and brutally murders Luke’s aunt and uncle, he is ready to join the rebellion. In The Empire Strikes Back, when Yoda asks Luke why he wants to be a Jedi, he answers, “Mostly because of my father, I guess.” His identity is based on projecting onto his father’s image of heroism. This is visually represented by using Anakin’s former lightsaber instead of building his own. That is, until his confrontation with Vader when his lightsaber wielding hand is cut off and the harsh truth about his father’s true fate is revealed. This moment completely shatters Luke’s identity and is the perfect moment for him to lose the last remaining relic of Anakin’s more heroic days.
With a gap of an entire year between Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, Luke has time to process this information and form an identity of his own. A deleted scene of the latter film shows Luke finalizing construction of his own green lightsaber. The rest of the film shows a considerably more mature Luke Skywalker. Gone is the impulsive young man whose identity was solely based on tales of his father’s heroism in the Clone Wars. He displays patience and a calm demeanor that far more reflects his long-passed mother, Padme. He surrenders himself to turn his father good, not out of impulse, but out of the deep belief that Vader is capable of goodness. Given the time gap, between the previous film and this one, he has had time to dwell on this and defy Yoda and Obi-Wan’s insistence on him to kill Vader. While it is true that the green blade was done for visual purposes at the time, Luke building a new lightsaber, regardless of color change, is symbolic of his massive character development.
The Clone Wars finale, however, gives that color change a new context. As much as Darth Vader would like to think that he shed himself of Anakin’s personality, their flaws remain the same. Just like he didn’t allow Ahsoka to keep her chosen lightsaber color disregarding her individuality (and just like he blamed Obi Wan for Padme disagreeing with his choices as a Sith), he takes Luke to Palpatine to be turned like he was. Vader’s admiration of Luke’s new lightsaber and by extension, his new identity, is overshadowed by the belief that it must be used in service to the dark side of the Force. He sees Luke’s newfound individuality and overlooks it completely for his own agenda. He even projects his own turn from good to evil onto Luke. In the throne room scene, when Vader is trying to taunt Luke out of hiding, he says a subtle, but significant line, “Give yourself to the dark side. It is the only way you can save your friends.” Vader is directly paralleling his master’s tactics onto his son. In Revenge of the Sith, Palpatine successfully persuaded Anakin that the dark side of the force is the only way to save Padme.
Meanwhile the Star Wars: Rebels series reveals that Ahsoka has built new lightsabers with the blades being white as a symbol of her in-between status of not being a Jedi, nor a Sith. During her confrontation with Vader in the season 2 finale of Rebels, he confronts her new identity. When he claims to have “destroyed” Anakin Skywalker, Ahsoka says that she will avenge him. Vader reminds her that “Revenge is not the Jedi way,” and she retorts, “I am no Jedi.” This conversation echoes his denial and sadness of Ahsoka leaving him and the Jedi. He still attempts to be her teacher even as he is ready to kill her in cold blood. It is a sign that he has never fully gotten over the fact that he did not complete her training and is in denial that she could have ever found any identity between Jedi and Sith. To acknowledge her new identity is to acknowledge his mistake in believing the Sith path was the only other option for him when it was not. Ahsoka is a living symbol of this and her new lightsabers reflect her neutral choice – this is possibly one of the reasons he wanted to kill her.
As a side note, it is worthy to mention that Vader himself has his own red lightsaber because he lost his previous one in the fight with Obi-Wan on Mustafar. Aside for the obvious symbolism that he has moved on from being Anakin Skywalker, it is interesting that all the Sith use red lightsabers. With the metaphor of the lightsaber being one’s life and identity, it is reasonable to deduce that the Sith do not encourage individuality. While the hilt designs are still unique, it is usually the blade color to catch the eye first. For the Sith to have a uniform color while the Jedi allow for variation speaks a lot about their hypocrisy. Palpatine calls the Jedi way of using the Force “dogmatic” in the prequels, yet the Sith do not use it for any other goal than the pursuit of power. The uniform red lightsaber is a sign that one has submitted themselves to only that goal.
Anakin messing with Ahsoka’s lightsabers because he thinks blue is “better” than her choice parallels with his observation of Luke’s new lightsaber. In Luke’s new saber and abilities, he only saw a potential Sith and ignored the Jedi his son had become. However, Luke managed to do what Ahsoka could not. Vader could not see Ahsoka as anything more than a Jedi because he taught her, so from his possessive point of view, she can’t be anything else. (Being anything else would mean that he did not have to become a Sith.) That’s why her last words to him, “I won’t leave you, not this time” are ineffective. She is still a product of Anakin’s mistakes and he does not acknowledge how far she’s come on her own. Luke calls himself a Jedi while at the same time violating the Jedi Code by refusing to kill his father for the greater good. Vader sees this and it is possible he is reminded of his own rebelliousness as a Jedi. But instead of pretending to adhere to the Code like Anakin did, Luke openly denounces it and becomes a new kind of Jedi. Vader sees the choice he could have made in Luke without the painful reminder of failure that Ahsoka represents to him.
Luke forced Vader to see him as a person who can make his own choices. Until then, Vader / Anakin had always had a problem with seeing other people as capable of making their own decisions. He believes that only he can make the right choices for those he loves because of his fear of losing them. The way he intrudes on Ahsoka’s lightsaber colors visually represents this. Meanwhile, in Return of the Jedi, Luke tosses his lightsaber – his life, metaphorically – aside choosing pacifism instead of having to kill either Vader and / or the Emperor as he declares himself a Jedi. It is possible that through Luke’s subversive choices, Vader realized that there are other options than to remain subservient to Palpatine. That maybe the Sith path wasn’t what could have saved Padme but was what caused her death. Once Palpatine began to attack a defenseless Luke, Vader probably had to acknowledge this truth.
When looking at lightsabers as a metaphor for identity – especially in the case of Ahsoka and Luke – Anakin’s controlling tendencies stand out to an even more interesting degree. His alteration of Ahsoka’s lightsabers in Clone Wars and his disregard for her non-Jedi status in Rebels is indicative of a continuous problem. A problem that even reaches Luke, except that with his son, there is no painful history to taint their relationship. Still, in Return of the Jedi, Luke has to constantly assert to Vader that he is a Jedi and will not be turned from this path. Since Vader decided long ago that the Jedi way is worthless, he sees Luke’s green lightsaber as a testament to his power instead of respecting that he chose that very path. Although one has to wonder, at the ignition of Luke’s green blade, if Vader’s thoughts strayed to that of his former padawan. Perhaps it stung a little that the way he changed Ahsoka’s colors from green to blue as a form of affection, Luke found his individuality in a saber that did not even resemble Anakin’s. The lightsaber as a symbol of identity becomes reinforced with the recent addition of the final season of Clone Wars. Thus, the Anakin-Ahsoka-Luke connection comes full circle through the metaphor of lightsabers.