The new Star Wars left us with a lot of questions. What made Kylo Ren turn to the Dark Side? Where did Supreme Leader Snoke come from? Where is Jar Jar Binks? (Kidding.) We can go on and on. But the question I want answered most is how Maz Kanata, who we meet on the planet Takodana, got her little alien hands on Luke’s lightsaber.
The whereabouts of Luke’s lightsaber has been on the minds of Star Wars fans ever since his hand was chopped off on Bespin. (You know the scene; it’s when Vader tells Luke he’s his father.) Yet suddenly the lightsaber just reappears. Did Luke himself seek it out and give it to Kanata for safe keeping when he went into hiding? Or did she come across it by happenstance?
We’re going to deal with Luke’s lightsaber as it appeared in the Star Wars movies, not the expanded universe. Note that minor spoilers follow below.
In The Force Awakens, as Han, Finn and Rey are trying to figure a way to transport BB-8 to the Resistance, they travel to Maz Kanata’s cantina on Takodana. It’s during this meeting that Rey is mysteriously drawn to Luke’s lightsaber, which just so happened to be sitting in Maz Kanata’s basement. After Rey touches it, she’s hit with a mysterious vision—she sees a brief glimpse of her past, a look at the Knights of Ren, and a whisper about her “first steps” toward the Force. When she comes to, we get a quiet moment between her and Maz about the lightsaber’s strong connection to Rey, but right as we’re going to learn how the weapon actually got there, the First Order arrives and ruins the moment.
Maz says tells Rey (and the audience) the story will be saved another day, referring to the lightsaber’s path. A frustrating answer, with no actual payoff.
Let’s back up for a second. Before we can figure out where Luke’s lightsaber has been, let’s explore where it was. (And then we can figure out where it is, and where it might be going.)
According to Wookieepedia, Luke’s lightsaber is actually Anakin Skywalker’s lightsaber—actually it was his second in the larger Star Wars cannon. It was specifically designed to facilitate Skywalker’s practice of Form V lightsaber combat. The hilt included a ridged hand grip and a heavily shrouded blade emitter. “The beveled emitter was designed to designate separate facets of the blade for either offensive or defensive purposes.”
In the prequel trilogy, we don’t see Anakin get this second lightsaber. We’re to assume he somehow found the time to build one after his first is destroyed in Attack of the Clones; long story short, he just kind of has one in Revenge of the Sith, which he uses to kill a class of Younglings! Soon after this traumatic event, Anakin duels with Obi-Wan, and the Sith Lord is defeated. Obi-Wan winds up taking the lightsaber for himself as some sort of battle souvenir, a morbid reminder that he was forced to kill his apprentice. (Or at least tried to.)
It is this key duel that kicks off the lightsaber’s long and complex journey.
Luke’s lightsaber goes on a perilous journey
Following his duel with Anakin, Obi-Wan transports the lightsaber to Tattooine, where it remains in his possession for the following nineteen years. Then, his path crosses with Anakin’s son, Luke Skywalker, after which Luke is presented with the weapon.
“Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn’t allow it,” Obi-Wan explains. “He feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damn fool idealistic crusade like your father did.”
“What is it?” Luke asks.
“Your father’s lightsaber,” Obi-Wan answers. “This is the weapon of a Jedi Knight. Not as clumsy or random as a blaster. An elegant weapon, for a more civilized age.”
After receiving the gift, Luke uses the weapon during his Jedi training, most famously aboard the Millennium Falcon, where he practices Form I velocities. Luke advances remarkably fast, but after Obi-Wan is killed at end of A New Hope, Luke is left to train himself, where he continues to advance in the ways of the Force.
In Empire Strikes Back, Luke wields the lightsaber to escape a Wampa, cut open a hatch on the bottom of an imperial walker, and then to further his training under Yoda on Dagobah.
But following the capture of Han Solo, Chewie and Leia on Bespin, Luke decides to cut his training short and rescue his friends. This is where he and Vader finally cross paths and engage in their first lightsaber duel.
The fight eventually takes them to Bespin’s central air shaft, where Vader’s skill in the Force proves no match for Luke, whose hand is severed. This is the moment the weapon is lost—seemingly forever—until it finally pops up in Maz’s basement.
So, how did it get there? (And where is Luke’s severed hand?) Clearly someone found it after it fell down a mine shaft. Again, we’re not sure if Maz comes into possession of it by way of a third-party, or if she came across it herself. Judging by her seemingly reclusive nature, my guess is someone she knows found it, and she’s held onto it after realizing its importance.
Again, this post only deals with the movies, not the Expanded Universe. That said, in the Expanded Universe, a maintenance drone wound up recovering the lightsaber in a lower air shaft, where it was then deposited in Smelting Core D. Darth Vader eventually got his hands on it, and it was later given to a clone of Luke, who was killed by Mara Jade. Seeing what she did, Luke Skywalker gave the lightsaber to Jade as a gift. Later, the weapon was retired in a Jedi temple.
It gets destroyed, but for how long?
When Rey recoils in horror after her visions, she retreats into a nearby forest, leaving Luke’s lightsaber behind. As she disappears, the First Order arrives, and the saber winds up in the hands of Finn. He wields it for a good portion of the film, not really aware of its power, but surprisingly adept during a few duels; at one point, he even plunges it through a Stormtrooper.
Finn continues to carry Luke’s lightsaber for the remainder of The Force Awakens, until a climactic duel between him and Kylo Ren on the First Order’s Starkiller base. Although Finn puts up a good fight, he proves no match for Kylo’s Force power, and winds up getting wounded. Rey then takes the lightsaber, where she overpowers Kylo with her developing Force powers.
Following their victory, a map to Luke Skywalker’s location is revealed to be on Ahch-To, so Rey and Chewie travel to see the Jedi Master. It’s there that Rey finds Luke and silently presents him with his father’s long-lost lightsaber, almost imploring him to act. Which he does, just not in the way audiences would expect.
When presented with the lightsaber, Luke has a stern, contemplative look on his face, as if he is ready to say something profound. Instead, he grabs the lightsaber from Rey and throws it over his shoulder, like a supersticious person would a handful of salt.
From there, Rey hangs onto the weapon as she attempts to convince Luke to train her. He eventually does, but in doing so, Rey learns a dark secret about Luke and Kylo Ren’s past. Convinced that Kylo can be redeemed, Rey leaves Ahch-To with Luke’s lightsaber and navigates to the ship that carries Kylo and Snoke.
After Kylo turns on Snoke, him and Rey defeat Snoke’s guards. Kylo then reveals his fantasies of ruling the galaxy, urging Rey to sit by his side. Rey refuses, and the two use their Force powers to fight for possession of Luke’s lightsaber, splitting it in two.
Next to the droids, Luke’s lightsaber has been one of the franchise’s biggest constants, surviving multiple battles, a trip down an air shaft, and a journey to Maz Kanata’s basement. Now that it’s been destroyed, it’s up to Rey what to do next. She can either repair it or make a brand new one. But considering how legendary Luke’s lightsaber is in Star Wars, my guess is we’ll see it back in action by Episode IX.