General Grievous is one of the more maligned characters in the prequel movies, and this could be because he’s introduced in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith with little explanation. However, The Clone Wars breathed new life into Grievous as well as his obsession with the Jedi and their lightsabers, which runs deeper than expected.
Before becoming the cyborg Supreme Commander of the Droid Army, General Grievous was a flesh and blood Kaleesh warlord. He led his planet’s forces against the Yam’rii of Huk in a long and devastating war. That ongoing battle led to him hating the Galactic Republic as they backed the Yam’rii, a hatred that eventually extended to the Jedi, who were the peacekeepers of the Republic.
At an unspecified point, Grievous was involved in an accident that nearly killed him. As such, his surviving body parts were transferred into a cyborg form. His sanctuary on Vassek 3, which was found by Kit Fisto in The Clone Wars, contained a series of statues showing that his change from Kaleesh to cyborg was more gradual. It may have been a choice he made to improve himself as a warrior, though it’s more likely that this was a lie Grievous perpetuated to not appear weak to his enemies.
After his forced upgrades were complete, he began his lightsaber training at the hands of the fallen Jedi turned Sith Lord, Count Dooku. Despite the fact that Grievous showed no Force sensitivity, he became incredibly proficient with the weapon. This was due to his cyborg upgrades increasing his strength, speed, and agility to the point that he could overwhelm a Jedi in combat. Being able to wield four lightsabers at once didn’t hurt either.
One thing that didn’t change with his cyborg upgrades was his keen mind for military strategy. It’s what made him a feared Kaleesh warlord and put him in the position to command the vast droid forces. He grew to become the face of Confederacy and the Separatist Army, allowing Dooku to paint himself as a moderate to the Confederate public.
During the course of the Clone Wars, Grievous killed several Jedi in combat, collecting their lightsabers. His obsession with the weapon became so pronounced that it has spawned a series of memes depicting him skulking around and taking them in secret. While it’s easy to write this off as simply taking trophies from the battlefield, which he was indeed doing, there is another underlying possibility as to why it was such a pervasive hobby for him.
Grievous’s hatred of the Jedi was well documented. As representatives of the Republic, Grievous sought Jedi out in battle whenever possible. Obi-Wan Kenobi, in particular, vexed Grievous, though the cyborg warrior failed to kill him. The irony of his campaign against Obi-Wan was he died at the Jedi’s hands, however, it was a blaster that did the job, not a lightsaber. Grievous losing to such a clumsy, random weapon would have been greatly embarrassing to him.
In his still Kaleesh mind, Grievous believed himself to be one of the greatest warriors in the galaxy. His cyborg upgrades only deepened that belief; however, the common belief among the Republic and beyond was that the Jedi were the greatest warriors alive. This would have been a source of great frustration to Grievous and was likely the reason he took such great joy in facing the Jedi. Every Jedi he killed and every lightsaber he took proved his superiority in combat to them.
Heading up the Separatist Army was also an extension of that. Becoming the greatest fear of the residents of the Republic reinforced his personal goals and beliefs about who he was. Grievous was not a Sith and didn’t necessarily believe in the mission of the Separatists. He was in the war for personal glory and to prove to the Republic and the Jedi that he was the galaxy’s most fearsome warrior.
How much Grievous truly knew about Palpatine’s plans was never made clear. In reality, he was just another pawn in the Sith Lord’s grand design. Palpatine used Grievous’s arrogance and ego to manipulate him into a position where he essentially did all the dirty work. As much as he hated the Jedi, he also became the focus of their fight against the Separatists, distracting them even further from the Sith Lord who was sitting amongst them.
The lightsabers Grievous collected were a symbol of his victories, trophies from all the Jedi he killed. In his mind, each trophy proved that he was better with the Jedi’s own legendary weapons than they were themselves. While he’s proven to be a better warrior than several Jedi, in the end, he wasn’t even better than a blaster.
The lightsaber obsession of General Grievous has reached mythical levels in an ongoing series of memes; however, his motives are deeply personal.