"Having a lightsaber isn't what makes you a Jedi": Cal's journey with his saber

A lightsaber and a Jedi are synonymous, as is shown with the "The Crystal is the heart of the blade" mantra. They are connected parts of a whole. But the Jedi of the Old Republic put such emphasis on their weapons that the saber sometimes overshadowed the wielder. Cal Kestis refutes this notion. We got a beautifully personal journey with Cal’s saber, starting with what it represents to him and how he acquires it.

As many of you reading already know, Cal’s saber in Fallen Order is not his own. It was given to him by his master, Jaro Tapal. When Order 66 occurred, Cal's master, Jaro Tapal, sacrificed himself to protect his Padawan from Clone Troopers. Tapal gifts Cal his saber before his death. The saber represents Cal's memory of his master, especially in those last moments before Tapal's death. This is why the saber accurately symbolizes Cal's character at that point; broken saber, broken Padawan. Cal’s saber and emitter represent the core essence of his past with Tapal and his traumatic experience with it. We know each Jedi Knight's saber memorializes their master, whether it be through design or saber color. In this case, Cal's saber literally memorializes his master because it was his master's saber before Tapal gave it to him. For 5 years, Cal hides out on Bracca, working for the Scrapper Guild and staying under the Empire’s radar. At some point, he’s ousted as a Jedi, almost captured/killed by the Inquisitorius, and then rescued by Cere Junda and Greez Dritus. He goes on a journey with this new crew to rebuild the Jedi Order. Through this journey, he rediscovers who he is as a Jedi with his saber playing a central part in it.

While it is not wrong to view the saber as an extension of oneself, since it is an important practical and symbolic tool for a Jedi during their journey, the Jedi sometimes viewed the weapons as more important than the wielder. We see this in moments such as Obi-Wan telling Anakin “this weapon is your life.” Anakin echoes this in his thoughts where he dwells on the saber and how it’s "less of a possession than an expression of his identity" in the ROTS novelization. When Cal loses his saber during Order 66, Jaro Tapal reinforces this implicit overemphasis by saying, “Padawan, your lightsaber!” Although Cal is trying to discover who he truly is and come into his own as a Jedi, he is still in the shadow of his master and his trauma with the saber. When Cal repairs it and makes it double-bladed once again during his journey, it should symbolize to Cal that he’s remade himself as a person by fixing the saber. Nothing could be further from the truth. This temporary fix is brought to light when Cal goes to Dathomir and fails to confront his past. He faces a manifestation of his worst fears in the form of his dead master, Jaro Tapal. The dark vision assails him and crushes the saber, saying, “My blood is on your hands, apprentice. You are a failure, a weakling, a traitor. You are no Jedi!” Cal has no words to refute this claim. He screams in anguish and sees that his master’s kyber crystal is shattered, rendering the saber broken and useless.

After he departs Dathomir broken, defeated, and overcome with guilt, Cal picks himself back up with the help of Cere. He ventures to Ilum in order to construct a new saber, one built from his broken master’s saber and Cere’s old saber. But Ilum challenges him. The icy floors give way as he’s traversing the Crystal Caves and Cal plunges into frigid water. As Cal begins to freeze, his mind frozen in doubt, a hand pierces the water to pull him to safety. The hand belongs to his younger self, who says “Trust me.” That is the Force manifesting to tell Cal that he is able to trust in his past/accept it as a way to move forward if he persists and keeps going forward. But once he gets his crystal, it breaks in two, shattering any hope that Cal had since the crystal to Cal symbolized hope to move forward in his path. After learning about BD-1’s sacrifice with his memory banks, Cal regains that spark of hope, moves forward, and builds his own lightsaber: a split saber, from a combination of ingredients from his former and current master. This newly-forged saber represents Cal coming into his own as a Jedi through the aid and teachings of his masters, both current and former.

Now wiser and more sure of himself, Cal returns to Dathomir with his newly made lightsaber to face the apparition of Tapal once more. The vision of his former master asks, “You think that lightsaber proves you a Jedi?” Cal replies, “No. Facing you… Memories that have haunted me since Bracca. I won’t run from them anymore”, showing that being a Jedi is a lot more than having a saber: it’s about holding to the Jedi philosophy, confronting fear in whatever ways it may manifest, and having active trust/belief in the Force.

During the duel, Tapal says “The weapon you wield is still mine, apprentice” showing that Cal is still under his master’s shadow regarding the saber even after building his own. Cal is not a Jedi free of his master’s restraint. When the duel ends in a draw, Tapal says “Impressive. But is power the answer?” Cal responds by silently sheathing his saber. He stands in quiet, confident defiance and lets Tapal’s saber, now his own, launch its assault and pass over him. In letting it pass over him, Cal shows that his past no longer controls him. Cal becomes himself, embraces his past, and carves out his own path and destiny by honoring his master’s teachings and confronting his fear. Cal’s journey with his saber concludes when he meets Merrin, a Dathomirian Nightsister, and tells her, “All I do know is having a lightsaber isn’t what makes you a Jedi.”

Cal acknowledges the relative unimportance of a saber for a Jedi. He understands it’s not about having a lightsaber and being beholden to it and/or having it overshadow you. It’s about confronting your fears and the darkness associated with them, and actively trusting in the Force to carve out your destiny and become your own Jedi.

Applying what Yoda said in TLJ, Cal grew beyond both of his masters, their lessons to him, and discovered his own self as a Jedi, with his saber playing a central part in that journey of self-growth and discovery.

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