When Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuted my friend was saying the shape of the lightsaber was impractical, playing on the common misconception that the cross hilt in a sword is to block sliding blades (they are not, they provide a better grip, and another vector of attack). The iconic shape was open to be ridiculed across the web never-the-less.

One year down the line, I'm guessing there probably is some (Disney) extended universe lore about his saber, maybe clarifying the reason behind the different design.

So my question is, why did Kylo Ren use a crossguard design on his lightsaber, over the more traditional and common design?

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    Related question: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/103331/… – Paulie_D Dec 12 '16 at 16:14
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    That would explain how it works, not why Kylo Ren chose that design, over the more traditional lightsabers. Was it an intimidation tactic? Did it provide a tactical advantage with adequate training like the dual lightsaber Darth Maul used? It just looked cool? Way to keep his hands warm in those cold Tatooine winters? – CyberClaw Dec 12 '16 at 16:21
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    @CyberClaw Additionally, as outlined in the three questions Paulie_D has linked, the only crystal Ren had access to was cracked, meaning that the resulting blade is not fine or predictable. The traditional design wouldn't work if you need to vent excess energy (which is conveniently vented at right angles from the crystal.) This leads more into the style of Kylo Ren being highly improvised and crude, enforcing the idea that Jedi tradition is nearly dead. – Ross Dec 12 '16 at 17:28
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    His style being about improvisation sounds like a suitable answer if you ask me, I'm guessing a better answer didn't show up in the extended universe. That said I'll counter argue he didn't have access to lightsabers by saying, Luke Skywalker trained him, what are the chances he had never seen his lightsaber? To add to that, Darth Vader, and Darth Sidious saber design were also the traditional one, so, again, by just researching he could probably reach at a more standard lightsaber. I'm more inclined to think, that's the best solution he could come up with for the crystal he found. – CyberClaw Dec 12 '16 at 17:36
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    @DVK yeah, he is not a Sith, but he looks up to one. He models himself after a Sith lord. – CyberClaw Dec 13 '16 at 9:53

The Force Awakens Visual Dictionary (Disney's fully canon work by Pablo Hidalgo) provides a canon answer to this.

The crossguard blades (called quillons) are plasma vents, helping to balance the power, because otherwise the crystal cannot contain the power of the blade,

Kylo's lightsaber is an ancient design.

The Cross-guard blades, or quillons, are tributaries of the primary blade, all spawning from a cracked kyber crystal...

An array of focusing crystals split the plasma stream into perpendicular blade energy channels


enter image description here

The stressed crystal barely contains the power of the weapon, necessitating lateral plasma vents that became crossguard quillons.


The crosscut blades emerge soon after the main blade snaps into existence, helping to balance the power of Kylo Ren's weapon.

enter image description here

As far as to why that vs. more modern design, no in-universe answer I know of, but the above keeps stressing how overpowered the lightsaber is. That seems like a good enough reason for someone like Whiny Emo Ben.

(Related: my own SciFi.SE answer)

  • @CyberClaw - I would guess, because it offers more power. – DVK Dec 13 '16 at 12:31
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    What would that entice? Because I'd guess they can all cut with the same effectiveness. – CyberClaw Dec 13 '16 at 12:54

Take a look at the cover of Revenge of the Sith. In the bottom right is Obi-wan and Anakin, locking lightsabers. That move is done in pretty much every lightsaber duel in all of the movies. Thing is, all it would take to win a fight with that move would be to keep pushing the opponents lightsaber away from you, while sliding the blade down to the hilt. For the opponent, best case scenario their hilt it slashed apart and they have to resort to force powers, worst case scenario they lose a hand. The prongs on Kylo Ren's lightsaber make doing this near impossible, so long as he rotates the blade during the lockup.

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    But the crossguard is made of metal. Even if it worked like you suggested, the guard would get chopped off because it's metal there. Also, swords never slide down the blade to the wrist. That's not the purpose of a crossguard (in real life european medieval swords). If you suck at blocking, you'll block with your cutting edge. Each sword will cut into another, and one will either break, or both will get blade damage. They'll get stuck in that spot. A correct defense gives the side of the blade, preventing damage to your blade, and pointing the other blade to slide away from your body. – CyberClaw Dec 13 '16 at 9:58
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    (cont.) In do many (real) fights (with practice weapons), I never once saw a blade slide towards the wrist. The purpose of the cross-guard, is to use as a better grip. You can put your index finger OVER the guard, which let's you control the blade better (this was my favorite grip, being one handed). You can also us the crossguard to punch at short distance, and my master's personal favorite, use it as a hook and hammer (by grabbing the sword by the tip of the blade, and hooking the armor or shield). Oh you can also use it to force a stabbing sword away from you, while it drives yours. – CyberClaw Dec 13 '16 at 10:02

Kylo Ren's lightsaber could still work. When an opponent slides there lightsaber down to the hilt of the sword, the metal may be destroyed but the lightsaber within the metal would still be there to prevent the attack. It may destroy that part of the lightsaber but there could be enough resistance to parry the attack. This may work, but handling the lightsaber would be very difficult. The risk of injuring the holder is very high so it isn't really beneficial.

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    Lightsabers and swords don't slide like that. We never see it happen in the movies, and in real life with real blades, it doesn't happen. That's not the purpose of a crossguard. If Kylo used it for that, we'd have seen it in the movie, like we see Darth Maul using both sides of his saber. Also, looking at the diagram, the vent iris seems to be in the way of the theoretical cut, meaning it'd just cut that side's vent off. – CyberClaw Dec 16 '16 at 10:03

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