Vernestra Rwoh’s lightsaber in Star Wars: The High Republic seems harmless, but the modifications made to her sword raise profound questions.
WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Justina Ireland’s Star Wars: The High Republic: A Test of Courage, on sale now.
In Star Wars: The High Republic: A Test of Courage, the first youth novel in the Star Wars: the high republic subseries, Vernestra Rwoh has a secret: she has modified her lightsaber. With a twist of the front ring of the lightsaber, you can transform your sword into a whip. While this mod may seem innocuous, there are hints that Vernestra’s lightsaber might symbolize more indecision within her than she’d like to admit.
Vernestra’s modification of her lightsaber and her ability with the light whip indicate that she is a Jedi prodigy. He passed the tests at fifteen and embarked on his first solo mission at sixteen. Initially, he is tasked with protecting Avon Starros, the technologically brilliant daughter of a Republic senator, along with J-6, a bodyguard droid repurposed as a protocol droid. After Nihil sabotaged her ship on her way to the Starlight Beacon, Vernestra also takes responsibility for the safety of Imri Cantaros, a Jedi Padawan, and Honesty Weft, the son of an ambassador from Dalna. His lightsaber’s light whip mode doesn’t become necessary until the group lands their escape shuttle on a moon with a jungle-like forest. While the light whip may be one of the most deadly forms of the lightsaber, she uses her light whip primarily in practical matters rather than in combat.
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Before the beginning of the novel, Vernestra adds the light whip mode to her lightsaber after receiving a push from the Force to transform her lightsaber into “something strange”. Complete modifications in a single night without consulting anything but the Force. Vernestra claims that she is confident that the changes to her lightsaber are what the Force wants from her, but her actions contradict that confidence. Most importantly, Vernestra is keeping her new lightsaber mode a secret from everyone.
In a interview with Nerdist.com, revealed author Justina Ireland, “Vernestra is deeply conventional for being a Jedi. She does not question the wisdom of the Force and, by extension, of the Order.” However, her modifications to her lightsaber show a different side to Vernestra, one that she is not ready to recognize. Ireland goes on to state that Vernestra “feels a bit of conflict over its weapon, and at some point it may have to reconcile the manageability of such a weapon with the expectations of the order.” While her lightsaber represents her strong connection to the force and her technical prowess, she also fears that her light whip will be judged by the other Jedi because it goes beyond the conventions that Vernestra holds so dear.
Vernestra believes that the force guided her to create these modifications in anticipation of Nihil’s attack, but she still has some doubts. After pondering modifying his lightsaber, he begins to worry that learning about the mods could lead Imri astray. His fears of Imri falling to the dark side are not only tied to his lightsaber. Imri is also grieving over the loss of his Jedi Master, Douglas, and his empathic abilities make it difficult for him to control his feelings and his indecision. Even so, the fact that she sees her lightsaber’s light whip mode as a possible dark side temptation seems significant, especially since, on the surface at least, the form and function of a lightsaber seem not. have inherent links to good or bad actions. Other Jedi in the Order use unconventional weapons, so Vernestra’s unorthodox sword is not entirely out of place.
The true unspoken reason why Vernestra views her lightsaber as a potential temptation becomes apparent after she reveals the light whip mode to her small group. While Imri at first appears not to judge the weapon, he still immediately connects the light whip to another group – the Nightsisters of Dathomir. The Nightsisters, while not Sith, use the dark side of the Force in their magic, but neither Imri nor Vernestra acknowledge that the Nightsisters believe in a balance of power rather than simply embracing the dark side. Vernestra, instead, counters Imri’s observation with evidence that Jedi of the past also used Lightwhips as weapons. She tries to frame her modification as following the traditions of the Jedi, but does not reconcile this tradition with her decision to keep the light whip a secret.
Overall, Vernestra’s lightsaber could simply be the will of the Force guiding her on her way. The Nightsisters can simply be an Easter egg or a red herring. Still, Justina Ireland creates enough subtle mystery about Vernestra’s lightsaber modifications to assume that the Force might have been preparing Vernestra for a future judgment. Although Vernestra is not yet ready to fully rebel against the conventions, her lightsaber portends that she may begin to question the Jedi Order in the future.
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