If you’re between 35-40 years old, chances are you were stricken with childhood nightmares after your parents mistakenly thought that The Dark Crystal was appropriate for young eyes. Those who grew up with the trauma have always found them fascinating, but there’s a lot more to the Skeksis that you didn’t know!
Read on to learn 10 things you probably never realized about the Skeksis. There’s a lot more to them than simply gnarled old bodies and odd cultural quirks!
10 THEY’RE TERRIFIED OF DEATH
Upon splitting from the urSkeks to become the living embodiment of their dark and violent natures, the Skeksis set about amassing as much power as they could over the world of Thra and it’s inhabitants. That same lust for power quickly evolved into a desperate push for survival.
In truth, the Skeksis are positively terrified by the prospect of death. Their evil machinations and abuse of Thra caused a backlash against the Skeksis which would prevent them from becoming a part of the planet, upon their deaths. When a Skeksis finally kicked the can, it was permanent and irreversible, with no hope for an afterlife.
9 THEY WERE ONCE BEAUTIFUL
Audiences have always seen the Skeksis in their old, gnarled and twisted forms, but they were not always so. After splitting apart during the Great Conjunction, the Skeksis emerged as agile, luminous creatures with beautiful patterns and colors that gave them an almost ethereal presence.
As time went on, and the prospect of mortality became ever more clear, the Skeksis began withering away, forcing them to prolong their life by stealing the energies of the Dark Crystal, until it finally gave out.
8 THEY WERE ONCE BENEVOLENT
Though the Skeksis are the embodiment of the urSkeks’ darker natures, they were not always as cruel as depicted in the original movie and the Netflix prequel series. Though quick to lash out in anger, the early Skeksis recognized the benefits of mutual partnership and cooperation with the races of Thra, most notably the Gelflings.
For many years, the two enjoyed a harmonious relationship, until the Skeksis’ true natures began to boil to the surface. When that happened, a series of unfortunate events culminated with the Skeksis’ draining the living essence violently from Gelfling victims, sparking a war that would inevitably spell their destruction.
7 THEY ADOPTED ROBES TO LOOK INTIMIDATING
As the Skeksis lost their beautiful colors and patterns and began to wither away, so too did their limbs become atrophied. In this state, the Skeksis lost their majestic, grandiose presence, diminishing further and further as the years went on.
To compensate, the Skeksis adorned themselves with elaborate robes consisting of perched, high necklines and thick, rich materials that beefed up their appearance and made them look more intimidating than they actually were. Though still very strong in comparison to their Gelfling submissives, they were unable to maintain their distinction without their robes.
6 THEY VOWED NEVER TO KILL EACH OTHER
The Skeksis were not above waging bloody wars upon other races they deemed to be a threat, nor would they hesitate to punish each other through a number of torturous and unpleasant methods. No Skeksis however, would kill another Skeksis, as this was considered absolutely forbidden. From a political standpoint, this made sense, as the more Skeksis within the alliance, the greater their power would be over Thra.
This rule would eventually be broken by Skeksil, the Chamberlain. In an effort to supplant SkekVar the General, who had courted favor with the Skeksis’ Emperor, the Chamberlain manipulated events that left his enemy weakened, and vulnerable to a killing blow. It was the first recorded instance since the Great Conjunction of a Skeksis killing another Skeksis, despite that earliest murder being an accident. It would prove to be the Chamberlain’s undoing, however, as SkekVar’s replacement SkekUng proved to be a far more formidable opponent!
5 THEY ARE POLITICAL MANIPULATORS
The Skeksis recognized the importance of keeping Thra’s races in subservience, and this went double for the Gelflings. This race served as their protectors, and in an effort to keep the Gelflings under tight control, the Skeksis orchestrated a series of events that introduced a class warfare system into their clan hierarchy.
By ranking the Gelfling clans in order of importance, they strengthened their political power by giving favor to a few, at the expense of the rest. This would come to a grinding halt when news got out that the Skeksis were murdering Gelflings for their essence, which would later spark the Garthim Wars.
4 THEY WERE DESIGNED EYE-FIRST
Creature creator Brian Froud listened to Jim Henson’s original idea for the Skeksis race, and took it upon himself to craft a species worthy of the film. To do so, he identified the main focal point of the Skeksis, which turned out to be the eye.
By “always starting with the eye,” Froud created a singular element and drew outwards from there, drafting the Skeksis’ faces and bodies afterward. It proved to be the correct angle to start from, and led to the eventual real-world designs.
3 THEY WERE MADE TO FRIGHTEN CHILDREN
Jim Henson made no apologies for the Skeksis’ terrifying appearance, indicating openly that he wished to frighten children. He believed that it was not healthy for children to feel safe and secure all the time, and that by introducing fear and terror, it would help them cope with life’s future adversities.
There’s no denying the impact the Skeksis had on younger viewers, especially little children. When filmed during night scenes or within dimly lit corridors, the Skeksis embody a child’s living nightmare.
2 IT TOOK SEVERAL HUMANS TO PUPPET ONE SKEKSIS
Underneath each Skeksis puppet was a human operating the head and body, while a secondary team of up to four assistants handled the complex articulations in the eyes, face, and limbs.
Such a rigorous undertaking was not easy on the puppetry crews, but the results speak for themselves.
1 THE DINNER SCENE WAS CATHARTIC
The infamous Skeksis dinner was designed to be the 1982 film’s comic relief, and it remains one of the most beloved scenes in the entire movie.
It was also the last scene to be filmed, primarily so that the puppetry crew could unleash months of pent-up frustration at having to handle each Skeksis puppet with care. Near the end of the shoot, the puppets had begun to deteriorate, which meant the crew could subject them to a number of culinary abuses without fear of damaging them. One last hurrah for these evil puppets!
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