Red is the lightsaber colour firmly connected to the Dark Side. Its symbolism is fairly straightforward. It is associated with anger, rage, and the passion of the Dark Side. Every Dark Side user wielded one (or two), which also showed the single-mindedness of evil: the emotions of a Dark Side user would eventually take them over and throw them down the dark path, where all distinctions represented by the other colours would be lost.

The Dark Side Is Unnatural

More interesting are the many explanations of how do the red lightsabers actually “work”, because red lightsaber crystals have always been considered somewhat different to all the other coloured crystals.

It has always been the idea that red crystals are not entirely natural. Much of it is owed to the idea that the lightsaber reflects the personality of its owner. Already in the old comics adaptation of Return of the Jedi, Luke’s lightsaber was portrayed to switch colour when held by Vader. This was subsequently explained to be a mistake; nonetheless, the idea reappeared later in a different form: the idea of colour-bleeding.

Vader wielding Luke’s lightsaber, which turns the “wrong” colour in Return of the Jedi graphic novel.

To Bleed Or Not To Bleed?

Colour-bleeding was first introduced in the 2016 novel “Ahsoka”. There, it was explained that the Inquisitors, fallen Jedi now tasked with hunting any surviving Jedi, poured their anger, hate and other Dark Side emotions into their lightsaber crystals, forcing them to “bleed”. This was possible because the kyber crystals were not just inanimate objects, but they were attuned to the Force, just like any living creature would be. The original coloured crystal would then change its colour into red, representing its owner’s turn to the Dark Side.

A similar story was provided in the recent comic books regarding Darth Vader’s and Kylo Ren’s lightsabers. Bleeding is in line with the Sith philosophy. Vader had to kill a Jedi, take their lightsaber and force the crystal to bleed to show that he had truly turned away from his past as Anakin Skywalker. Kylo Ren poured all his anger, frustration and pain into a crystal in such a way that it caused the crystal to crack – that is why Kylo’s blade has such strange, uneven edges.

The fact that Sith crystals had to be “bled” explained why Jedi were never shown wielding this colour. As long as one was still a Jedi, they would never cause a crystal to bleed.

Darth Sidious explaining the concept of “bleeding” a crystal to Vader in Darth Vader: Lord of the Sith comics (2017).

Synthetic Red Crystals?

But bleeding was not the only explanation of the red crystals’ uniqueness. In the pre-Disney canon, one explanation was that red crystals were not found naturally (apart from a few rare exceptions), but they were synthesised.

One of the explanations for this was that when the Sith were trying to hide their existence from the Jedi, they could not afford to go and get crystals for their lightsabers from any of the natural deposits. These were in the hands of the Jedi and if a Sith stole a crystal from somewhere, the Jedi would notice and they would become suspicious.

What is also interesting about the idea that Sith crystals were synthetic is that it fits one of Star Wars’ themes, which is “nature” versus “technology”. Even though technology is everywhere in Star Wars, it tends to be presented as evil more often than good – think the Death Star, Vader’s suit, or the droid armies of the Trade Federation. If red crystals are “unnatural”, it is yet another way to say that they are evil on some fundamental level.

However, the idea that red crystals could be found in nature still existed. One such example was the Kinrath caves on Dantooine. There, however, they were found in connection to the eggs of the Kinrath – aggressive arachnid creatures, once again implying that a red crystal would not appear under natural circumstances. Perhaps the crystals would absorb some of the Kinrath’s aggression. Or perhaps on the contrary: maybe the act of destroying Kinrath eggs in order to get to such crystals was by itself “Dark-Sided” enough, causing the crystals to develop the red colour.

More on lightsaber colours:

Lightsaber Colour Symbolism: Green

Lightsaber Colour Symbolism: Blue

Lightsaber Colour Symbolism: Yellow

Lightsaber Colour Symbolism: Purple

Lightsaber Colour Symbolism: White