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For almost 4 years after his training in the ways of the Force with Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker had kept with him the lightsaber that once belonged to his father; then, Luke first meets Yoda in the swamps of Dagobah. While Luke was setting up a temporary camp, the sudden, unexpected appearance of a small creature caused him to draw his blaster.

I ask: why was Luke, after having directly experienced/felt the power of the Force, more likely to reach for his blaster than his lightsaber to deal with an apparent threat?

Luke, R2 and Yoda sit in the makeshift camp in the Dagobah swamps; Luke raises his blaster at the potential threat of Yoda

I just found this wallpaper with a more clear picture of the scene dealt with in my question.

Wallpaper picture of The Empire Strikes Back

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  • 54
    He's been using a blaster a lot longer than a lightsaber; don't underestimate the power of familiarity with a weapon.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jun 2 at 14:54
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    Also the lightsaber is a melee weapon, a blaster has a longer range.
    – Paulie_D
    Jun 2 at 14:57
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    STRANGE VOICE: Feel like what? [Luke jumps out of his skin. Artoo screeches in terror. The young warrior grabs for his lightsaber as he spins around, looking for the speaker. Mysteriously standing right in front of Luke is a strange, bluish creature, not more than two feet tall. The wizened little thing is dressed in rags. It motions toward Luke's sword.] LUKE: (looking at the creature) Like we're being watched! CREATURE: Away with your weapon! I mean you no harm. [After some hesitation, Luke puts away his weapon, although he really doesn't understand why.]
    – Valorum
    Jun 2 at 16:29
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    In the original script, ↑↑↑ Luke goes for his blaster earlier in the scene and then reholsters it. When Yoda turns up, he pulls his lightsaber but I'm guessing the aim was to save the reveal of the Jedi weapon for later in the film.
    – Valorum
    Jun 2 at 16:30
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    The new canon novelisation is even less use. It retcons the events of the film; "You leap to your feet and spin at the same time, hands raised in self-defense. Half a meter from you sits one of the strangest creatures you have ever seen. He’s bluish-green, with long ears and bulging eyes. Your hand creeps slowly toward your lightsaber. “Who are you?” you demand.
    – Valorum
    Jun 2 at 16:38
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As originally scripted, Luke did pull out his lightsaber.

Nervously, he looks around at the foreboding jungle.

Luke: Still... there's something familiar about this place. I feel like... I don't know...

Strange Voice: Feel like what?

Luke jumps out of his skin. Artoo screeches in terror. The young warrior grabs for his lightsaber as he spins around, looking for the speaker. Mysteriously standing right in front of Luke is a strange, bluish creature, not more than two feet tall. The wizened little thing is dressed in rags. It motions toward Luke's sword.

Luke: (looking at the creature) Like we're being watched!

Creature: Away with your weapon! I mean you no harm.

So, my guess is this got changed as they were filming it for out-of-universe reasons rather than in-universe ones. One reason might be framing around the Yoda puppet: in order to get Luke, R2, and Yoda in that image you posted, Luke has to be squatting. If he pulled out a sword from that position, it'd look ridiculous.

Another possible answer is they were concerned that the blue lightsaber effect would disappear into the blue background of Dagobah. This is famously why Luke's lightsaber color was changed to green in Return of the Jedi, so it could be visible in the outdoor shots aboard Jabba's skiff.

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    Nice! I can think of another out-of-universe reason to make this switch. As I understand it, they were still using physical props for the lightsaber blades in Empire (just not reflective-coated like they were in the first movie), partly to make sure the "blade" was rotoscoped into the correct place. It would be hard for Hamill to swing a 1m dowel from his waist to in front of him without hitting something, and switching from the hilt prop to the dowel prop mid-scene would likely result in a disconcerting jump like was seen in the previous movie when Obi-wan turned his off.
    – DavidW
    Jun 2 at 16:58
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    Yoda's speech also got more yodatastic between scripting and shooting: the scripted "away with your weapon" is merely a little archaic, whereas the film film has "away put your weapon" Jun 3 at 10:46
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    "Bluish"? Now don't tell me Yoda was supposed to be blue.
    – MaxD
    Jun 3 at 10:58
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    A superb answer. Building on the key second-last paragraph here. Don't forget, when you film a movie, shoot a scene, you "do what you want". They may have tried a few different things and "just liked" that. One aesthetic point: when someone pulls out a lightsaber, it is A BIG MOMENT, it takes over the whole scene and is really dramatic. This scene is all about the surprise of the audience seeing the amazing Yoda for the first time. (Remember that!) continuing...
    – Fattie
    Jun 3 at 14:56
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    ... it would be absolutely impossible to "know the answer" to this question unless one literally had Mr Lucas to talk to (and, indeed, he remembered every detail of his own thinking and others during the shooting of that scene) but for me, it really makes sense to low-key the weapon since that moment is about something else. one more point, don't forget that later, Yoda 'discovers' the lightsaber and it becomes a talking point, that would be blown if the lightsaber was revealed at this point.
    – Fattie
    Jun 3 at 14:58
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During Empire, Luke simply seems to be more comfortable with a blaster than with his lightsaber. He also draws it earlier on Dagobah when R2 has been pulled underwater and later when sneaking around Cloud City.

He was already able to use a blaster by the time of A New Hope (see this comprehensive answer on another question) and he's received no formal lightsaber training since Obi-Wan's death.

With that in mind, it makes sense that he would instinctively reach for his preferred weapon when already tense and surprised by Yoda, regardless of any tactical considerations.

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    Not only has he "received no formal lightsaber training since Obi-Wan's death", but that training only lasted a few hours.
    – DrSheldon
    Jun 3 at 3:38
  • I agree that at that point, Luke has had very little lightsaber training, so using a blaster seems perfectly reasonable, if not expected. However, by the time Luke leaves Dagobah, he's still had very little lightsaber training (at least what was shown to film audiences)...
    – jamesdlin
    Jun 3 at 7:48
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    I know that if I had some attunement to this 'force' and was given a saber... that thing would be out and on pretty much every waking moment. Yoda's training would have to start with 'fixing' all of the bad habits I'd taught myself at that point.... argh, take this you pirate, arrrrrrrr "cuts off tree limb"
    – CGCampbell
    Jun 3 at 12:52
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    @jamesdlin: Also consider what Luke knows about the outcomes of lightsaber battles at that point. (1) Here is the weapon your dad had when he was killed. (2) The Jedi used them, and now most of them are dead. (3) He watches Obi-Wan die while using one. Not exactly inspiring.
    – DrSheldon
    Jun 3 at 13:07
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Blasters are more recognizable

Possibly debatable, since he has no idea what the residents of Dagobah might be familiar with, but with the Jedi being largely unknown, a combatant doesn't immediately know the threat of a lightsaber, particularly if it's not ignited, but they know the threat of a gun, so they're more likely to back off.

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    I dunno about that argument; a dumb animal is much more likely to back off from a bright glowy buzzing thing being waved in their face than a little hunk of metal. (Appropriate story-id reference)
    – DavidW
    Jun 2 at 16:37
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    @DavidW Luke only draws a weapon after hearing someone speak, so he's immediately aware that he's dealing with an intelligent being and not a dumb animal. Jun 3 at 13:12
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The obvious answer is because a lightsaber though very powerful, does not have nearly as much range as a blaster and if the intruder was far away the lightsaber wouldn't really be able to take it out if far enough.

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  • But as a Jedi he's not supposed to attack people and the lightsaber is a better defensive weapon, so tactical considerations aren't likely to be the reason. This seems quite speculative; can you provide any evidence that he intentionally chose the blaster?
    – DavidW
    Jun 3 at 20:37
  • So even if the Jedi is about to die, then he can still not pull out and attack?
    – The shape
    Jun 3 at 20:42
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    @DavidW At this point in the movies he's had relatively limited jedi training and likely doesn't know or understand the jedi philosophy against aggression
    – Kevin
    Jun 3 at 20:45
  • that is tru tho
    – The shape
    Jun 3 at 20:46
  • @DavidW He learned that part later in his training with Yoda. Sorry, but his precognition is nowhere near that level at the time. Aug 16 at 10:36

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