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To betray is to break the circle of trust. The Skeksis came to betray all friendship, without reason, without need.

The Book of Aughra[1]
The Skeksis, also known as Lords of the Crystal or Regents of Thra, were a reptilian, bird-like race that established an Empire which ruled over Thra throughout the Age of Division. They originated during Thra's second Great Conjunction, when the Fallen urSkeks attempted to purify themselves through the heat of the three suns shining on the Crystal. Instead of being cleansed of their darker natures, each urSkek was split into two beings; Skeksis and urRu, with the Skeksis being the embodiment of the violent, materialistic side of the urSkeks.

Despite the separation, there was still a spiritual link between each Skeksis and urRu counterpart, a constant reminder that they were only halves of the same being. If either was wounded, the other felt the pain and suffered an identical injury. If one died, both died.[2][3][4]

Posing as benevolent caretakers of the Crystal, the Skeksis were in fact leeching off its power in order to prolong their lives, thus causing the spread of the Darkening. During their thousand-trine rule, the Skeksis formed the Alliance of the Crystal with the Gelflings, keeping the latter divided and subservient. Species that resisted their governance, such as the Gruenaks and Arathim, were either eradicated or evicted from their lands. When the Crystal was exhausted after a millennium of abuse, the Skeksis began to abduct Gelflings in order to drain them of their essence, which had a rejuvenating effect on them. This lead to the formation of the Gelfling resistance and the outbreak of Garthim War.

Characteristics Edit

Biology and appearance Edit

Youngskeksis

A Skeksis, during the early years of their rule.

The Skeksis had scaly, reptilian bodies, with beak-like jaws and prominent eyebrows.[5] Like their urRu counterparts, they had four arms and a tail. When they first appeared, the Skeksis were vibrant, agile and brightly coloured creatures,[4] though in the later years of their reign, their secondary arms became withered and atrophied,[2] and their bodies decayed.[5] Their bodies were founded upon deeply disordered principles, with only their heads bearing an intelligible pattern.[3] Unlike the urRu, who evaporated after they died, the Skeksis would crumble into dust, having no soul to slow down the process of decomposition.[5] They also had an acute sense of smell, being able to detect Gelflings meters away and even distinguish them based on their clan.[6] The Skeksis also had three urethra holes as shown when SkekAyuk publicly urinated on a wall.

Culture Edit

Skeksis

The Skeksis participate in The Ceremony of the Sun.

The Skeksis viewed the Great Division as a triumph, and thus had no desire to join back with the urRu.[3] The Skeksis valued power above all else, though their conception of it differed from that of their urRu counterparts. While the urRu believed that true power consisted of spiritual enlightenment, the Skeksis saw it purely as dominating others.[5] They were highly thanatophobic, as they knew that Thra would reject them once they died, and thus they became obsessed with prolonging their lives in order to avoid the torments of what lay beyond death.[7] Because of this, they had no rites to commemorate the dead, as having such would have been an acknowledgement of their own mortality.[8]

The Skeksis were also highly individualistic, each one of them valuing their own interests over the others' ones and wore distinctive outfits to differentiate themselves from their brethren, in great contrast with the collectivist urRu. Skeksis art, clothing and architecture followed the Garthic principle of repetitive flamboyance, and was riddled with symbols of aggression and longevity.[3] Disputes between Skeksis were usually solved through trials of strength,[9] though magnanimous gestures towards beaten opponents were not part of Skeksis tradition.[5] Nevertheless, the killing of another Skeksis was considered taboo, in order to maintain the illusion of their immortality.

Skeksis were also fond of feasts and banquets, where Roast Nebries, hot spices, sweet liquors and even living animals were served as food, though most of them had very poor table manners. They also had Podling musicians in the Castle for their pleasure, indicating that they enjoyed music.

Language Edit

Main article: Skeksis language

The Skeksis spoke both a high language for ritual and literary purposes, and a demotic one for everyday use.[5] The ritual language was rarely used, as it was grammatically and lexically impoverished.[3] Conversely, the demotic speech bore similarities to the Gelfling language.[5]

History Edit

The Great Division Edit

"Look inside yourselves. Do you not wish to be whole again?"
"NNNNEHHVERRR!"

Aughra attempts to reason with the Skeksis, [4]
Crystalcracks

A Skeksis cracks the Great Crystal.

After a thousand trine passed since their arrival on Thra, the Fallen urSkeks created a network of mirrors around the Great Crystal with Aughra's help, intending to trap the light of the next Great Conjunction to re-enter their world and burn out the imperfections in their souls in the process.[3] In preparation for this, the urSkeks invited delegations representing all of Thra's sentient races to watch the occasion. However, one urSkek became wracked by nostalgia after hearing a member of the Gelfling delegation play an urSkek song, and allowed its darker nature to overwhelm it. Raunip exacerbated the situation by showing his distrust of the urSkeks for being outsiders who were exiled to Thra. When the Three Suns met, the dark-hearted urSkek's rage prevented the rest of the urSkeks from entering the Crystal and being cleansed. Instead of being purified, the urSkeks were divided into two separate species; the cruel Skeksis and gentle urRu.[4]

The Skeksis awoke from The Great Division filled with hate, for each other and their urRu counterparts.[3] Shortly after gaining consciousness in the Crystal Chamber, one of the Skeksis attacked and killed two urRu, thus resulting in the deaths of itself and another Skeksis. The remaining 16 Skeksis drove the urRu and the delegations out of the Castle, leaving only Aughra and her son Raunip behind. Aughra attempted to convince the Skeksis to call back the urRu, and attempt to rectify the Division. The Skeksis refused, and one of them attacked the Great Crystal, chipping off a single shard.[4]

Forming the Alliance of the Crystal Edit

When the urSkeks made us the guardians of the Great Crystal, they told us we must protect everything within the Crystal's reach. All we ask is the opportunity to fulfill that honor.

SkekVar[10]
Alliance of the Crystal

Proclamation of the Alliance of the Crystal

Some time later, a Skeksis named skekSo proclaimed himself ruler of a new Skeksis Empire and spread the lie that the urSkeks had departed Thra and left the Skeksis as guardians of the Crystal. SkekSo subsequently learned of the Makrak raids in Podling and Gelfling territory. Hoping to take advantage of the panic, skekSo offered to protect the Gelflings in exchange for weapons, effectively giving the Skeksis the tools they could later use to oppress other races. Together with elder Carn, skekSo proclaimed the formation of the Alliance of the Crystal, which remained in vigor even after the urRu resolved the Makrak crisis peacefully.[10]

skekSo's reign Edit

The next few centuries saw the expansion of the Skeksis' Empire and the consolidation of their control over the Gelflings. In order to keep their Gelfling subjects divided and subservient, the Skeksis fomented division among the once harmonious Gelfling Clans, placing the Vapra Clan in a position of supremacy and privileging it over all others.[11] To avoid having Aughra interfere in their projects, they convinced her to entrust the Crystal to them, tempting her to leave Thra and explore the stars.[6] Once Aughra isolated herself, the Skeksis began to immediately abuse the power of the Crystal, leaching off of the power it once used to keep Thra in balance, thus spreading the corruption known as the Darkening.

The Skeksis dealt ruthlessly with any race that refused to submit to them: the Gruenaks were almost exterminated,[12] while the Arathim were driven from Grot, which was then given to the ancestors of the Grottan Clan.[13] Over 600 trine after the Great Division, skekGra the Conqueror received a vision from Thra prompting him to promote urRu-Skeksis unity. The Conqueror was branded a heretic and exiled to the Circle of the Suns. It was here he met his urRu counterpart, urGoh the Wanderer and the two of them eventually found the Shard of the Division and placed it in a weapon they forged together called the Dual Glaive, with the intent of giving it to the Gelfling in order to end the Skeksis' power.[13]

Collapse of the Alliance Edit

Skeksis attack

SkekSo leading the charge during the Second Battle of Stone-in-the-Wood

A thousand trine into their rule, the Skeksis had drained the Crystal so thoroughly that it no longer granted them its energy. The scientist skekTek was ordered to find a solution and he discovered that the Crystal had the ability to extract the essence from life forms exposed to its rays. The Skeksis subsequently began to clandestinely drain their Gelfling subjects of their life force in order to create an elixir which could halt their aging.[11] SkekSo began to also secretly experiment with the Darkening, whose spread began to accelerate once the draining had begun.[14]

Keeping their true intentions a secret, they concocted an Arathim rebellion and demanded seven able-bodied Gelflings from each clan from All-Maudra Mayrin to act as volunteers in the conflict. Mayrin, having been informed of the truth by an awakened Aughra and Rian, who had witnessed the essence extraction first hand, denounced the Skeksis and was killed for her insubordination.[15] The killing prompted a rebellion among the Stonewood Clan, which the Skeksis crushed after forming an alliance with the Arathim, due to promising to return their ancestral home of Grot to them.[13] With the Alliance effectively dissolved, the Skeksis rejected the truce proposed by the new All-Maudra Seladon and dropped all pretenses of caring for the Gelfling.[16]

Once the Gelfling resistance was proclaimed, the Skeksis attempted to crush the uprising during the Second Battle of Stone-in-the-Wood, but were forced to retreat after the Arathim turned on them and the resistance fighters received reinforcements from the Gelfling clans. The defeat was a huge blow to Skeksis morale, as it resulted in the first Skeksis deaths since the Great Division and also lead to the resistance finding the lost Shard of the Division. The loss prompted the Skeksis to counterattack with their newly created army of Garthim.[7]

After discovering a prophecy that told of how the Gelflings would bring about the downfall of the Skeksis Empire, skekSo ordered the total extermination of the Gelfling race, thus starting the Garthim War, which resulted in the deaths of all but two Gelflings, Jen and Kira.

Rise of skekUng Edit

The Great Conjunction comes. Now, we will live forever.

SkekZok, [2]
SkekUng Victory

SkekUng has skekSil stripped and banished.

By the time skekSo died, only nine Skeksis remained, and bickering over a successor began almost immediately. As well as skekSo's former faction consisting of skekSil, skekEkt and skekOk, two other alliances were formed; that of the Garthim Master skekUng, which included the Scientist skekTek and the Slave Master skekNa, and that of the Ritual Master skekZok, which included the Gourmand skekAyuk and the Treasurer skekShod. SkekZok abstained from the ensuing Trial by Stone, which ended with the triumph of skekUng and the banishment of skekSil.[5]

Reunification

The Skeksis merge with the urRu.

SkekUng's coronation was interrupted when the Skeksis were summoned to the Crystal Chamber, and saw an image of Jen climbing Aughra's high hill in search of the lost shard. The Garthim were dispatched, but the Gelfling escaped, and a further survey of the surrounding area with Crystal Bats revealed the existence of Kira, another survivor. SkekSil managed to regain his position after capturing Kira, though she escaped, causing the death of skekTek in the process. The remaining eight Skeksis converged at the Crystal Chamber, awaiting the third Great Conjunction which would grant them perpetual life. There, they encountered Jen and Kira dangerously close to the Crystal. Despite summoning the Garthim, and managing to kill Kira, the Skeksis were helpless as Jen healed the Dark Crystal. In the ensuing panic, the urRu entered the Castle and merged with the Skeksis.[5]

LegacyEdit

Skeksis relics

Skeksis relics kept in the Castle during the Age of Power

During the Age of Power, the Skeksis' artifacts within the Castle were gathered in skekTek's former laboratory and kept as reminders of their misrule. The religious leader of the new Gelfling Nation, the Crystalline Eminence, decreed that their return could be prevented by giving material offerings to the Crystal.[17]

Other relics, found scattered throughout Thra, would be taken by crime lords and used to subjugate impoverished cities, in particular Dagger Root, whose self-proclaimed ruler, Trunk, tortured those who defied him by keeping them in Skeksis-forged chains which made them develop an obsessive Skeksis-like avarice.[18]

ReturnEdit

Will of the Crystal that the next Age of Thra is Age of Skeksis!

SkekUng, [19]
The Power of the Dark Crystal -3 2 (cropped)

Return of the Skeksis

100 trine after their defeat, the eight surviving Skeksis were returned to existence, alongside their urRu counterparts, after the Fireling Thurma took a Shard from the Crystal in a misguided quest to restore her homeland's dying Mother Sun. The Skeksis, who spoke of having been "imprisoned" these 100 trine, immediately ostracised skekSil, who was blamed for their past failure, but were detained before they could do any real damage.[20] When confronted by the Crystalline Eminence, the Skeksis challenged him to gaze into the Crystal's light,[21] and was compelled to release them.[22]

The Skeksis proceeded to ransack the Castle and drain the essence from any servant unable to escape them. They attempted to seize Aughra and Kira, but the two barricaded themselves in the Castle's upper towers.[23] When Jen returned to the Castle riding atop Bohrtog, the Skeksis summoned the Crystal Bats to attack him, causing him to fall.[24] Before they could kill him, Kira intervened with a troop of archers and carried him to safety. Frustrated by their lack of progress in breaching the barricades, skekUng consumed the Crystalline Eminence's essence and used his newfound strength to bare-handedly batter down the fortifications leading to Jen and Kira's chambers.[25] He and the other Skeksis were prevented from killing them by the urRu, who summoned a premature Great Conjunction which shattered the Castle, thereby separating the Skeksis from their intended victims.[26] After Thurma returned, she restored the Crystal and the Skeksis were once again merged with the urRu.[19]

Background information Edit

Behind the scenes Edit

Creation Edit

Leonard B. Lubin (1975)

Leonard B. Lubin's illustration for the 1975 edition of Lewis Carroll's The Pig-Tale

The Skeksis were the first creatures of The Dark Crystal to have been conceived by Jim Henson,[27] who had been inspired after seeing an image of crocodiles living in a castle in an illustrated edition of Lewis Carroll's The Pig-Tale in 1975.[28] He became fascinated by the idea of reptiles wearing elegant clothes and having sophisticated conversations during "gruesome cocktail parties".[29][30]

The precursors of the Skeksis appeared in The Mithra Treatment, where they were identified as the "Reptus group". The Reptus would have assumed control over the Mithra region twenty years prior to the events of the story in a coup against the Eunaze (the prototypes of the Gelflings), who were weakened by generations of easy living. Henson described the Reptus as a totalitarian society, whose members are "sunken in character, depraved, corrupt and vicious, and cruel to one another". They would have lived in a citadel which they never left, spending their lives showing off and controlling the world's mineral resources through an army of shelled warriors, for whom cannibalism is a common penalty for failure.[31] Henson described the Reptus further in the following terms:

Overbearing and brutal, the Reptus possess uncontrollable tempers. Their banquets are outrageously noisy - they are always voracious and animal-like. The Reptus gratify their desires in excess; luxuriating in strange and degenerate gatherings, inhaling extraordinary narcotic vapors, attentively listening to music that is both pounding and convulsive. [...] Conversationally, the Reptus beings are erratic. A discussion marked by icy, courtly courtesy and ruthless civility might suddenly and violently change into a savage and screaming outburst.

Jim Henson[31]

Henson wrote that their ugliness is in contrast with their elegant robes, characterized by silk, brocade and lace, and that all their power is concentrated in a physical object, probably made of magnetite.[31] During the Northeastern United States blizzard of 1978, when Henson was snowed in for 72 hours in a hotel, he began to elaborate on the Reptus. He renamed them "Skeksis" and modified their connection to the Bada (the wizards of Thra, later renamed urRu), from being simple oppressors to the latter to being separate branches of the same creature.[32] He further added that the Skeksis, being incomplete creatures, are incapable of reproducing themselves, and attempt to create more members of their kind by experimenting on various animal carcasses. This new draft, entitled The Crystal, was further modified by Frank Oz, who included the rivalry between the two pretenders to the throne (named "Mal" and "Mongra").[33]

When the first screenplay had been written, screenwriter David Odell elaborated further on the Skeksis' society, giving each one a title or profession.[34] The word "Skeksis" was originally meant to be a plural, with "Skesis" as singular, but the idea was dropped early on.[35]

Design Edit

Screen Shot 2019-08-27 at 4.32.06 PM

Early Skeksis design by Brian Froud. This particular design would later be used for skekGra the Conqueror in Age of Resistance.

In visualising the Skeksis, Henson had in mind the seven deadly sins, though as there were ten Skeksis, some sins were invented or used twice, and some not used at all such as Lust or Sloth.[36] Initially, Brian Froud designed the Skeksis with deep sea fish in mind,[37] but later redesigned them as "part reptile, part predatory bird, part dragon", with a focus on giving them a "penetrating stare".[36] In order to better allude to the connection between the Skeksis and urRu, the two species were given the same shape, but with more angular features for the former.[28] Each Skeksis was conceived with the idea that each one had a defined role, so it was decided to clothe each Skeksis in multicoloured robes to reflect their personalities and thoughts.[37] Froud's idea was for the robes to make the Skeksis look like a mix of a character from a Jacobean tragedy, Dorian Gray and Miss Havisham.[38]

Construction and shooting Edit

Steve Whitmire

Steve Whitmire performing skekTek the Scientist.

From a technical standpoint, the Skeksis were the most complex creatures of the film, with the head alone consisting of numerous mechanical components.[39] Most of the work in constructing the Skeksis puppets was done by sculptor Lyle Conway, who had previously worked on doll making and commercials with stop-motion animation.[40] The Skeksis puppets were two and a half times taller than the Gelfling ones,[41] and each one was operated by a main puppeteer who handled head and body movements, and a team of four assistants responsible for facial and eye movements through cables hidden beneath the robes. The puppeteer would hide beneath the robes with an arm extended into the Skeksis' neck and head and a harness placed around the puppeteers hips.[42] As there was little visibility in the suits, each one was fitted with a closed circuit monitor which allowed the puppeteer to see what was happening outside.[43] The hand movements, based on those of Dick Smith, who had lost a finger a decade earlier,[41] were done through flexible rods operated by a hand-held trigger device which flexed each finger.[42] In long shots, where the Skeksis were shown walking, they were portrayed by actors with dwarfism.[44]

Under the supervision of costume designer Sarah Bradpiece, the Skeksis' robes were conceived as reflecting their status as supreme, but decadent beings. Bradpiece fabricated the robes with expensive silks, velvet, lace, brocade, furs and exotic feathers.[45] Some of the Skeksis' jewels were made with melted plastic toy soldiers.[46] Once sewn together, the suits were torn and stained with paint and fake dirt.[45]

The banquet scene was the last to be filmed, and the puppeteers used it as an opportunity to let off steam after months of shooting: while at first the Skeksis puppets were treated with velvet gloves, in this scene they were freely dirtied with rancid noodles and drenched in water, as the latex skin was at that point already crumbling.[47]

Reception Edit

Halosian

The Halosians of Farscape were based on the Skeksis as a homage to Jim Henson[48]

Empire described the Skeksis as among the best realized creatures of The Dark Crystal, stating that they stopped the film from losing itself in "sappy moralism" and that they invited an inquiry on the "avaricious nature of evil."[49] Total Film placed the Skeksis in first place on its list of the 30 greatest creations of Jim Henson, calling them his most iconic and terrifying creations, as well as being "almost too real".[50] Syfy lauded the Skeksis as characters who were "an unfairly overlooked entry in the pantheon of great genre movie villains", citing how they maintained the ugliness and brutality of villains from old fairy tales.[51] David Elsey, a special effects artist for the science fiction series Farscape, paid homage to Jim Henson in the episode Out of Their Minds, modelling the Halosian race on the Skeksis.[48]

The portrayal of the Skeksis in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance has been generally well received among critics. Samantha Nelson of The Verge wrote that the Skeksis compensate for the lack of distinct qualities in the series' heroes,[52] while Collider described them as "delightfully macabre and grotesque".[53]

Interpretations Edit

Cheryl Henson stated that the Skeksis and Mystics represented two aspects of the entertainment industry for her father, with the Mystics being the creative side and the Skeksis personifying the stressful financial part.[54]

Peter T. Chattaway, writing on Patheos from a Christian perspective, proposed that the Skeksis represent the physical realm as shown by their greed for both food and power, in contrast to the spiritual Mystics.[55]

Professor Sidney Dobrin, while characterizing the Skeksis as the "epitome of evil", opined that they represent environmental destruction, in contrast to the Mystics who personify environmental harmony, citing how the former abuse the world and torture its inhabitants.[56]

Roxanne Hard of the University of Alberta viewed the Skeksis as the personifications of power, as conceived by Michel Foucault in his work Society Must Be Defended, where he proposed that power was first and foremost based on the imposition of force. Harde notes how the Skeksis seem to revel in the violent acquisition of Thra's resources, and that the intrigues of the Chamberlain reveal how much the species celebrates political maneuvering for its own sake.[57]

Gideon Haberkorn of the University of Mainz noted how the Skeksis' decadence, abuse of science and enslavement of more primitive races are essentially a parody of civilization, in contrast to the Mystics who embody the "noble savage".[58]

Mat Auryn, writing on Patheos from a Kabbalistic perspective, noted how the original 10 Skeksis were evocative of the 10 Qliphoth on the Tree of Life, the dark opposites of the 10 holy Sefira evoked by the Mystics. He also noted similarities between the Skeksis and the Mesopotamian Apkallu, deities sometimes portrayed as bird-headed who watch over the Tree of Life, much as the Skeksis do with the Crystal.[59]

Gallery Edit

Instagram images Edit

References Edit

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  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Henson, J. & Oz, F. (dir.); Henson, J., Kurtz, G. & Lazer, D. (prod.); Henson, J. & Odell, D. (writ.) (December 17, 1982). The Dark Crystal (Motion picture). New York City, NY: Jim Henson Productions.
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