The Podlings were diminutive bipeds, who were a full head shorter than Gelfling, and sported small beady eyes, wide smiles and potato-shaped heads. Their hands and feet were tridactyle, and they lacked external ears.
The Podlings were social creatures that lived in tight-knit communities. Most Podling villages lacked any real political structure. They did, however, occasionally nominate a particularly venerated elder as chief, whom they would call "The Father" and consult in times of difficulty. The Podling village of Noy was exceptional, as it had a hereditary clan-based society like the Gelfling, though gender was not a factor in deciding leadership. Their economic system was based on bartering.
Podlings were an agricultural people, whose rural lifestyle made them revel in their lack of cleanliness. Among their dishes were cheese and vegetables, katyaken-egg flans, gourd mush, dyillorkin seeds, river roots, berries, and bellow bread loaves. Typical Podling drinks included milk, juice, and intoxicating beverages. While Podlings were mostly vegetarian, they would consume Nebrie flesh if the animal died of natural causes. They were pacifists by nature, and would not kill anything other than Crystal Bats, which they dispatched with bolas. They had formed a symbiotic relationship with Pod plants, in whose seeds they made their homes. Podling architecture was entirely functional, with little in way of decoration. Their furniture and utensils were all made from wood.
Their concept of time was so deeply rooted to the immutable cycle of the seasons that they found change, and the hunger for it, to be incomprehensible. Thus, unlike the Gelfling, their way of life changed little during the rule of the Skeksis. They were, furthermore, largely ignorant of anything outside their provincial lives, knowing nothing of the urRu or the significance of the Shard of the Division. Some Podlings, however, aspired to more, with some seeking to explore and colonize new territories or become paladins.
The Podlings were skilled musicians, who used a variety of different instruments, including reed pipes and gourd drums. J. J. Llewellyn noted that the instruments appeared to be based on ideas of harmony close to those on Earth. Being a jovial race, the Podlings frequently held banquets and celebrations, even outside important events, as, according to them, song was not subject to drought.
They had a natural talent for domesticating animals, an ability stemming from their gift of Animal Soul Speaking. The Nebrie was of particular importance to them, as it was their totem animal and provided them with milk and hide. When a Nebrie died, its skin was used for making drums, and the fur around its ears and face was used to fashion clothes for young Podlings. They had also domesticated the Fizzgig, which served to guard the Podlings' plant tendrils. Podlings living in plains areas domesticated Mounders for their fur.
While the Podlings lacked a religious structure, they were superstitious, and would offer newly arrived guests leaves, twigs, roots and fruit to hold and drop on the floor, with the resulting patterns being examined for auguries. They also closely examined the behavior of their Nebries for omens.
According to Podling folklore, the Three Suns were brothers who once fought over the daughter of the moon. When she drowned herself out of grief, the three brothers would do battle every thousand trine.
- Main article: Podling language
The Podlings originated in the Endless Forest, and first made contact with the Gelfling during the Age of Harmony. They later expanded their range and lived in peace with the Gelfling for centuries, with both races knowing each other's languages. They formed a particularly close bond with the Spriton in Sami Thicket, building their homes between Gelfling habitations, working side by side in the fields and raising their young in shared nurseries.
At one point, an expedition of Podling pioneers sought to colonize land beyond the Silver Sea, but were swallowed by the Mondo Levidian, in whose intestinal tract they developed into a new race called Boblings.
After the Great Division, the shockwaves caused by the cracking of the Crystal destroyed the great Podling village of Noy, and many Podlings were displaced from their homes during the ensuing Makrak crisis. They subsequently became subjects of the Skeksis Empire, with a few of them being enslaved either as cooks or as court musicians.
Later on, the Podlings came to be seen as uncivilized and uncultured by the Gelfling, particularly the Vapra Clan, who considered them the filthiest creatures of Thra. In some areas, there was a tolerance for Podlings but it often came from a sense of pity, particularly in the eyes of the Order of Lesser Service who used the forceful cleaning of Podlings as an act of atonement.
In the chaos following the collapse of the Alliance of the Crystal, the Podling slaves in the Castle of the Crystal were initially spared from being drained of their essence by their Skeksis masters. By the end of the Garthim War and the near extinction of the Gelfling, Podlings became the main targets of Garthim raids, being taken to the Castle to be drained of their essence and turned into mindless slaves. After exposure to the rays of the Crystal, the lively Podlings became feeble, listless and obedient. Podlings still living in freedom remained ignorant of their captive counterparts' ultimate fate, but managed to protect themselves by dispatching Crystal Bats with bolas, thus preventing the Garthim from locating them.
Behind the scenes
The Podlings first appeared in Jim Henson's The Mithra Treatment, where they were portrayed as servants to the Skeksis, though subsequent revisions made them take increasingly more prominent roles in the film's plot. Initially conceived as anthropomorphic potatoes, Brian Froud's original Podling designs had multiple eyes positioned randomly on their faces, though the concept was scrapped.
Their clothes were hand sewn by costume designers Polly Smith and Ellis Flyte, who used a large amount of Indian cottons and raw silks, which were aged artificially. Flyte designed the clothing of the Podling slaves, giving it a tattered and soiled look evocative of their Skeksis masters.
The Podlings were portrayed via rod puppets, with some being mechanized for more complex actions.
In an interview with The Verge, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance's executive producer Jeffrey Addiss revealed how the performances of the Podling puppets were meant to be more comical than realistic:
[A] Podling can run in, scream, fall down, jump up, be drunk, and run out the door, and you’re having a great time. A Gelfling doing that doesn’t feel right; a Skeksis doing that doesn’t feel right. So Podlings are really fun and freeing because they’re just physical comedy.Jeffrey Addis
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