The Skeksis are a fictional species which act as the main antagonists in the 1982 fantasy film The Dark Crystal, its companion book The World of The Dark Crystal and the TokyoPop prequel Legends of the Dark Crystal. The word "Skeksis" serves as both singular and plural form for this species, with the singular being pronounced // and the plural //. They are described by concept artist Brian Froud as, "... part reptile, part predatory bird, part dragon." In the film, the Skeksis are represented by puppets engineered under the direction of Jim Henson. Jim Henson said that in the development of the Skeksis, the creators drew inspiration from the Seven Deadly Sins.
- 1 Concept and creation
- 2 Characteristics
- 3 History
- 4 List of Skeksis
- 4.1 Film
- 4.1.1 The Emperor skekSo
- 4.1.2 The Chamberlain skekSil
- 4.1.3 The Scientist skekTek
- 4.1.4 The Ritual Master (aka High Priest) skekZok
- 4.1.5 The Garthim Master (aka General) skekUng
- 4.1.6 The Gourmand skekAyuk
- 4.1.7 The Slave Master skekNa
- 4.1.8 The Treasurer skekShod
- 4.1.9 The Scroll Keeper (aka Historian) skekOk
- 4.1.10 The Ornamentalist skekEkt
- 4.2 Expanded universe
- 4.1 Film
- 5 Deaths
- 6 In popular culture
- 7 References
Concept and creation
Jim Henson was inspired to design the Skeksis by an illustrated edition of a Lewis Carrol poem showing two elegantly dressed crocodiles in a bathroom. He became intrigued with the idea of a reptilian race assuming control over a formerly splendid past society. Numerous names were proposed for the species, including Skekses, Reptus, Karackt and Skek-sis.
Henson himself commented on the difficulty of performing as a skeksis;
|“||There were days I could work 'inside' my Skeksis character, the High Priest (Ritual-Master), without noticing the weight. But if I was feeling the least bit tired or run down, it was as if a building had caved in on me.||”|
The skeksis are tall bipeds combining both avian and reptilian physical features. They all wear elaborate but threadbare robes of lace, velvet, and brocade which apparently keep the skeksis' constantly decomposing bodies intact and make them look larger and more intimidating. Their heads are beaked like a vulture's, while simultaneously sporting curved fangs. They have bloated bellies and long reptilian tails, as well as curved quills on their backs. Like their urRu counterparts, they have two pairs of arms, yet in the skeksis, only one pair is functional, the other being atrophied. Despite their frail appearance, Skeskis are powerful creatures: skekUng, during the Haakskeeka, manages to destroy a block of rock with his sword, and skekSil single-handedly smashed down a pilaster of rock on Jen.
The Skeksis are the corrupt rulers of the planet Thra, having inherited it from their benevolent UrSkek predecessors. They are the embodiments of the knowledgeable, yet unrestrained parts of the UrSkeks souls. The Skeksis culture favors repetitive flamboyance, emotional pettiness, and a wasteful attitude toward life. Though they are capable of forming alliances, they are by nature extremely paranoid toward each other.
Due to the accelerated decomposition of their bodies, the Skeksis constantly search for ways to prolong their lives at all costs. Their primary method is to expose themselves to sunlight channelled directly through the Dark Crystal, though the amount of energy replenished to them is greatly dependent on the conjunction of Thra's three suns. Another method is a form of planetary acupuncture, in which power lines laid on their castle channels the planet's energy to them, then feeds back noxious pulses, resulting in their kingdom's wasteland appearance. A third method is to directly drain the lifeforce from other life-forms by exposing them to reflected beams of the Dark Crystal. The life-force is collected in a liquid form and drunk only by the Emperor, who regains his youthful appearance. This has the effect of turning the drained victims into near-mindless husks which the Skeksis use as slaves. Originally, Gelflings were most ideal in essence extraction until they were exterminated and Podlings were used in their place, their lifeforce having a temporary effect on the drinker.
They have formed creatures such as the huge, crab-like Garthim to be their enforcers and the Crystal Bats to act as their eyes and ears throughout Thra. It is stated in the Brian Froud book World of The Dark Crystal that Skek-Tek the scientist created the Garthim but every other Skeksis wishes the sole credit for creating them.
Originally, Jim Henson thought of having the Skeksis communicate through noises, though he later shot the film showing the Skeksis speaking a constructed language based on ancient Greek and Egyptian specially devised by linguist Alan Garner. The dialogue was later redubbed in English, as the original version proved unsuccessful in impressing test audiences. The original language is however present in The World of the Dark Crystal and The Dark Crystal novelization. The Skeksis' language is ill-suited to descriptions of long, complex processes as it is restricted to nouns, adjectives, and expletives. The Skeksis language is shown to have an object–verb–subject word order.
The products of a botched attempt by UrSkeks to purify their souls by using trapped sunlight from the Crystal of Truth, the Skeksis entered the world of Thra hating their UrRu counterparts and each other. Not long after the division, a fight broke out among the Skeksis, resulting in a shard of the crystal being chipped loose from the main rock and being lost. The UrRu then left the castle to the Skeksis, who began to modify the UrSkek architecture with their own grotesque designs. The Skeksis apparently considered the division a great triumph, and attempted to create a crystal of their own. The blackened rocks they created though proved ineffectual, and were reused as targets for the Haakskeekah ritual, translated as "Trial by Stone", in which the loser is stripped of his position.
According to The World of The Dark Crystal, the Skeksis were originally a vibrant and jovial race that possessed the wisdom and knowledge of the UrSkeks, yet lacking any form of restraint or contemplation. They ruled Thra for over a thousand years and apparently had good relations with the Gelfling people, inviting them to their castle and reveling with them in festivity and song. As time passed and the Skeksis morality decayed along with their bodies, they began to keep Gelflings as slaves. Desperate, the Gelflings sought counsel in prophecy, which revealed that a Gelfling would end the rule of the Skeksis by healing the Dark Crystal with the shard it once lost. When the Skeksis learned of this, their first reaction was to create multiple crystal shards in order to confuse the Gelfling's search. Later, they had the Garthim carry out the genocide of the entire Gelfling race.
By the start of the movie, only ten Skeksis survived, with skekSo's death leading to skekUng succeeding him. However, skekUng's reign was short-lived as Jen and Kira survived the massacre of their people, eventually finding each other and fulfilling the prophecy that destroyed the Skeksis and reintegrated them into the urRu to recreate the urSkeks.
List of Skeksis
The Emperor skekSo
The first Skeksis emperor, skekSo is described in The World of The Dark Crystal as having originally been an energetic ruler who enjoyed lavish festivity and sporting events which he invariably won. As he aged however, he became increasingly paranoid and spiteful, even toward his fellow Skeksis, elevating individuals to high positions only for the pleasure of seeing them fall later. Once he died, skekUng succeeded him as emperor. Prior to the actual succession, in the film's deleted scenes, skekSo's decayed remains are gathered and cremated as part of Skeksis funerary tradition. He also has an appearance in Legends of the Dark Crystal. In the film, he is voiced by Jerry Nelson and puppeteered by Jim Henson.
The Chamberlain skekSil
As Chamberlain, skekSil is second in line to the Skeksis throne, though the confrontation with skekUng in Haakskeekah (translation: Trial By Stone) not only cost him his position, but also led to his exile as a result of skekUng's first decree. As evidenced before the Emperor's death, skekSil and skekUng despised each other, with skekSil's trademark whimper always vexing SkekUng. Of all the Skeksis, skekSil is the most devious, most notably as his intentions are never fully revealed and seemingly contradictory, most notably when he forcibly bought Kira to the other Skeksis and refuses to allow them to kill her. In the film, he is voiced by Barry Dennen and puppeteered by Frank Oz.
The Scientist skekTek
The creator of the Garthim and the science behind essence extraction, the other Skeksis fear him out of ignorance of his work. His fascination with anatomy was very great he went as far as amputating his right arm and leg, replacing them with mechanical constructs. He also replaced his jugular vein with a transparent external tube, in order to monitor his own circulation. He is a personal nemesis of Aughra, who was once a colleague of his when he was an UrSkek. While attempting to drain the female gelfling Kira of her essence, she managed to rally all the laboratory animals tortured by skekTek to break loose and attack him, resulting with him losing his footing and falling down the crystal shaft towards the magma below. He also has an appearance in Legends of the Dark Crystal. In the film, he is portrayed by Steve Whitmire.
The Ritual Master (aka High Priest) skekZok
An arrogant high priest, skekZok fancied himself as skekSo's closest adviser, and sought to control the other Skeksis through false prophecies and apparitions, only to bitterly discover they distrusted his divinations and practised their own. skekZok spearheads the various rituals the Skeksis practice such as the "Ceremony of the Sun", and sees their laws as absolute, thus he is the most eager to kill off the Gelfing race quickly. Though a contender of the throne after skekSo's death, skekZok sides himself with skekUng, who becomes the next emperor. Though he assists in the search for the surviving Gelflings with his crystal bats, he is nonetheless distrusted and feared by skekUng. When skekSil arrived with Kira, he was annoyed at skekUng's commands to drain Kira of essence before actually killing her. Ironically, it was the failure of the Skeksis to kill Kira immediately (as was suggested by skekZok) that marked the Skeksis' downfall. He is voiced by Jerry Nelson and puppeteered by Jim Henson.
The Garthim Master (aka General) skekUng
Formerly the commander of the brutish Garthim, skekUng was physically the strongest of the skeksis after skekSo. He had a bitter rivalry with the chamberlain skekSil, which culminated in a successful duel for supremacy after the death of skekSo, becoming the new emperor of the Skeksis. Though the other Skeksis admire his ferocity, his constant blundering in the capture of the surviving Gelflings fails to evoke the desired respect of his subjects. He is suspicious of skekZok's loyalty, and is constantly fearing a challenge to his authority. He is voiced by Michael Kilgarriff and puppeteered by Dave Goelz.
The Gourmand skekAyuk
The court gourmet expert, skekAyuk creates a different menu for each feast. His personal favorites are hot spices, sweet liqueurs, and rich cream sauces. Yet in spite of all this, the Skeksis' spiritual disjointment makes them leave each banquet still raging with hunger. He is voiced by Thick Wilson and puppeteered by Louise Gold.
The Slave Master skekNa
The supervisor and disciplinarian of the pod slaves, he is described in The World of the Dark Crystal as "purely and openly evil from the beginning" and in The Dark Crystal novelization as having "no imagination and no nobility at all". He has an eyepatch and a hook for one hand. He dubiously claims to have an ear for music, and takes it upon himself to select specific slaves for skekTek to experiment upon. Along with skekTek, he is a strong supporter of skekUng, and at one point was considered for promotion to the rank of patriarch for his loyalty. He is voiced by David Buck and puppeteered by Mike Quinn.
The Treasurer skekShod
Administratively skekSil's subordinate, skekShod is incapable of acknowledging anyone's presence unless offered some gift. Due to his limited vocabulary and excessive material desires, bribery is the only way he knows to gain what he wants. He frequently bribes the other Skeksis into temporarily loaning him their personal possessions. Along with skekOk, he is a supporter of skekZok. He is voiced by Charles Collingwood and puppeteered by Tim Rose.
The Scroll Keeper (aka Historian) skekOk
The Scroll Keeper not only is the finest featured and smallest of the Skeksis, but also the most dishonest as he constantly rewrites the Skeksis' history to suit his allegiances and propaganda needs. His loyalty is to skekZok. He is voiced by John Baddeley.
The Ornamentalist skekEkt
Despite possessing a genuine gift as a designer, skekEkt is nonetheless described in The World of the Dark Crystal as an extremely vain and callous character who would gladly cause the death of countless animals for the sake of fabricating one cloak. According to skekSil's thoughts in The Dark Crystal novelization, skekEkt's uncharismatic depravity was considered excessive, even by the standards of the Skeksis, to the point where it would never command their obedience. He has the responsibility of giving the final say in the selection of experimental Pod slaves modified by skekTek for ritual choruses. The most feminine of the Skeksis by far, he is frequently seen to be screaming dramatically and being very flamboyant, easily mistaken for female. Along with skekAyuk, he is a supporter of skekSil. He is voiced by Brian Muehl.
Tokyo Pop came with 2 of originally 3 planned volumes called "Legends of the Dark Crystal", which took place 200 years before the events of the film.
The General skekVar
A loyal military leader, skekVar is nonetheless distrusted by skekSo, who under the influence of skekLach, believes the general is seeking to appropriate the throne.
The Collector skekLach
The collector of gelfling prisoners, skekLach secretly tries to undermine skekSo's authority by withholding gelfling essence for himself, whilst convincing the emperor that the shortage is due to skekVar. He blackmails skekTek into remaining silent. He has a mechanised arm and a scarred face.
In Volume 2, two new Skeksis are shown in the Grand Banquet; skekCru the Mariner and skekEer the Spy-Master, standing next to skekVar the General as the Collector is praised by the rest of the court.
- skekSo expires in his deathbed at the beginning, leaving something he was in the middle of saying unsaid for lack of breath. He then progressively implodes piece by piece, starting with his beak, and crumbles into dust.
- As Kira cries out some kind of magical command to the creatures in the lab that evidently has the effect of invigorating and enraging them, they topple skekTek into the fiery pit beneath the Dark Crystal, where he is instantly incinerated.
In popular culture
Skeksis have made several appearances in other media, including television and video games.
- In South Park season 10 episode 7, episode entitled "Tsst", Ms. Cartman is enlisting the help of the TV nanny show, Nanny 911. During the opening of the show, several of the nannies of are shown and the last one to be shown is "Nanny Skexis."
- A homage to the Skeksis show up in the MMORPG World of Warcraft as the race called the Arakkoa, living in a place called, "Skettis".
- On their 2005 album Alien, Canadian metal band Strapping Young Lad included a song called "Skeksis". The song has melodic similarities with the film's main theme song. The band's frontman Devin Townsend later used the Dark Crystal theme's melody again during the song Gato off his 2009 album Ki.
- Mike Ski, lead vocalist for Erie, PA hardcore band Brother's Keeper, fashioned his unique vocal style after the Skeksis voices.
- The Halosians, a species inspired by the Skeksis, appear in an episode of Farscape, a production also using Jim Henson's special FX company. Crichton actually refers to these creatures as Skeksis in both the third series episode "Thanks for Sharing" and the issue of the Farscape comic "The Virus".
- Skeksis "at the rave" are referenced in the Scissor Sisters song "Return to Oz". Gary Kurtz was a producer for both The Dark Crystal and Return to Oz.
- In August 2013, Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab - a company that produces body and household blends with a dark, romantic Gothic tone - debuted the first of their licensed The Dark Crystal perfumes. The debut included four Skeksis blends: Ung the Garthim-Master, SkekNa the Slave-Master, SkekTek the Scientist and SkekZok the Ritual-Master.
- Skeksis is a techno hit produced by British DJ Alan Fitzpatrick in 2012.
- David Odell (writer), Frank Oz and Jim Henson (directors) (1983). The Dark Crystal (DVD). Tristar.
- The Book of Habidabad - Of the Nature of Skeksis
- The Book of Habidabad - Production Notes
- The Book of Habidabad - Interesting Facts
- Smith, A.C.H & Odell, David (1982). The Dark Crystal. p. 186. ISBN 0-03-062436-3.
- As shown by the Chamberlain SkekSil when he was stripped
- Froud, Brian (1982). The World of the Dark Crystal. p. 132. ISBN 0-8109-4579-7.
- The Book of Habidabad - The Director's Cut
- The Book of Habidabad - The Language of the Skeksis
- Kessel, Barbara Randall & Arnohld, Heidi (2007). Legends of the Dark Crystal Volume 1: The Garthim Wars. p. 192. ISBN 1-59816-701-4.