Maz Kanata told Han Solo that how she came to posses the famous Skywalker family lightsaber was a story for “another time.” And because the journey of that saber — from Luke Skywalker’s severed hand to Maz’s castle — was originally going to be in The Force Awakens, there’s every reason to believe we’ll still be given the rest of the details in a future Star Wars film.
While providing a glimpse into the fates of Luke and Leia, The Force Awakens arguably posed more new questions than it did answer old ones. With the just-released special Blu-ray version of the movie out this week, director J.J. Abrams has revealed all sorts of alternate directions the film could have taken. One interesting tidbit from Abrams is the absolute confirmation that he did at one point plan to show the entire journey of Luke’s saber from Cloud City to Maz. This heavily implies there is something in the gap between the hand-slicing in the Darth Vader confrontation and Rey touching the lightsaber three decades later.
But what happened during that time? It’s possible, of course, that the in-canon answer is “nothing at all,” though that seems unlikely. Between Maz’s tease in the film and Abrams’s tease IRL, there must be some piece of this story which could still play a major role in Episode VIII.
For example, the in-canon Star Wars novel Aftermath introduces the “Acolytes of the Beyond” a group who were collecting a bunch of Darth Vader-related artifacts. Considering this lightsaber originally belonged to Darth Vader, it stands to reason that the Acolytes of the Beyond could have started their collection with this lightsaber. Figuring out how they fished the lightsaber (and the hand) out of the gaseous clouds of the planet Bespin seems pretty tricky though.
Either way, because this lightsaber was imbued with so much history, it would make sense that it took on more significance while it wasn’t in use. Newer (and official) Star Wars canon has made a slightly bigger deal about lightsabers and their crystals these days. From the origins of Ahsoka’s sabers in Rebels, to the notion that a major deposit of kyber crystals will appear in Rogue One, plot connections to lightsabers seem more relevant than ever.
What’s interesting here is that the pursuit of the original non-canon “Kaiburr” crystal was a big part of the Alan Dean Foster Star Wars novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye and even was in early drafts of The Empire Strikes Back.
In current canon, prior to The Force Awakens, a Star Wars movie never showed an object calling out to a person similar to how this saber called to Rey. So, it seems likely that something happened to this lightsaber — or the crystal inside it — to give it the significance and magical properties it now possesses.