Aughra

Description

Wizened, three-and-a-half feet tall, ram-horned, three-eyed, ornery, capricious, and maternal. Aughra has one working detachable eye and two blind eyes. She is the embodiment of Thra, similar to a nature god. Aughra is inscrutable and gruff.


History

Origin

Old enough to know the world that existed before the race of Gelfling came to be, Aughra remembered life on Thra before the Mystics and Skeksis evolved their separate codes.

“Of the race of Aughra, I, Aughra, am alone, the first and last. Born from the need for rocks and trees for an eye to see the world. The wind blew and the blind trees sang and roots twisted in the dark rocks and the roots sang and the rocks cracked and I was Aughra. This is my song. The rocks will me to be their eye; the roots willed me to be their eye. Blind rocks that felt the heartbeat of the World; blind trees swaying in the breathing of the wind made to view for them all the shapes of the World. Slowly, slowly the roots split the rock and I was free. The First Age of Aughra was of innocence and it was long. Then it was Aughra and the race of the Gelfling who shared the World. The Gelfling sang and danced for the joy of their lives, and I was part of their joy.
- Aughra”

In the time that Thra was a place of peace and harmony, Aughra had a son – Raunip. Though all of Thra already looked to Aughra as a mother figure, becoming a true mother changed Aughra’s world entirely. She sensed the coming Great Conjunction that would bring immense change. She waited for the suns to align; for the Great Conjunction to occur.

The urSkeks found Aughra on the mountaintop, burned by the light of their arrival. They healed her burns and restored sight to one of her eyes. She exchanged knowledge with the urSkeks — she gave them knowledge of Thra, and in return they gave her knowledge of the stars. The urSkeks built the Castle of the Crystal, and TekTih built Aughra an Observatory and Orrery for her to study the stars for signs of the next Great Conjunction. Aughra learned that the urSkeks, exiled from their home, had a Crystal on their home world. They traveled through to the Crystal on Thra.

Aughra and Jen in Observatory
Aughra and Jen in the Observatory
“On the day I gave one eye to see the splendor of the Three Suns, a new joy came to the World. I lay on the mountain above the Crystal and saw the Three Suns move close together. I lay under rocks with one eye open to the light, and for one moment and forever I saw the Eye of the Three Suns shining down upon me. Then from that light my eye darkened, and in that moment of light the urSkeks opened the door in the Crystal and entered our World. The pain of my lost eye was joined once to the joy I had in the urSkeks, but bitter, sour, poisoned rock is that joy to me now.
- Aughra”

Aughra was also present at the Second Great Conjunction and witnessed the division of the urSkeks into Skeksis and urRu. After the division, she learned from both the urRu and Skeksis. The urRu migrated to the valley, and Aughra witnessed the Skeksis crack the crystal. As time passed the Skeksis went mad and Aughra retired to her observatory, rarely seen.

As he lay dying, urSu the Master instructed Jen to visit Aughra and retrieve the True Shard from her. Jen began his quest to find the home of Aughra. As he wandered looking for her, she captured him. She did not know any Gelfling had survived the Garthim War. After Jen shared that he was sent by urSu and was looking for a crystal shard, she released him and led him to her Observatory. There she explained the coming Great Conjunction, and told Jen that he needs to use the shard to heal the Crystal. She provided him with all of the crystal shards in her possession, one of which is the True Shard. Aughra could not tell him which to choose; Jen had to determine the correct one.

Suddenly, Garthim broke into the Observatory, captured Aughra, and then destroyed the Observatory. The Garthim took her to the Castle of the Crystal, presented her to the Skeksis, and then imprisoned her in the Chamber of Life. From her imprisonment, Aughra watched Kira as she was drained of her essence, and told her to fight back by calling to the creatures. The creatures in the castle helped free Kira and Aughra.

Garthim destroy the Observatory
Garthim destroy the Observatory

Aughra witnessed the healing of the Crystal and the recombining of the urRu and Skeksis into the urSkeks, and declared: “What was sundered and undone shall be whole, the two made one.”


Production

Development

A few characters came together relatively easily. Aughra, for example, existed only as a head when a video test was called for at short notice. A body was quickly assembled from three bean bags and a hastily sewn costume, all mounted on a modified Skeksis harness. So the essence of her body movement was established from the start; modifications were made, however, in her design and assembly. Sculptor Lyle Conway was key in the development of Aughra, as well as the entire Skeksis character group.

Storyboard of Aughra
Storyboard of Aughra
Concept art of Aughra by Brian Froud
Concept art of Aughra by Brian Froud

The eyes, as Brian Froud recognized, would be crucial to the success of the characters that were being developed. Static taxidermists’ eyes, no matter how realistic, would not suffice for Jen, Kira, Aughra or any of the characters who would inhabit the world of The Dark Crystal. They needed eyes that blinked and swiveled as naturally as those of any human performer. This presented two challenges that no puppet builder had ever faced before. Precisely the right kind of glass (or plastic) eyes had to be found, and mechanisms to control them on cue had to be devised. The search for glass eyes took months. The problem was not in finding a number of skilled manufacturers of artificial eyes willing to help the Henson people; it was simply that these companies were not equipped to produce eyes of the shape that was needed. Sherry Amott reports that every conceivable source, not excluding Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, was canvassed before the appropriate eyes were found. Eventually, the supplier turned out to be an English firm that handcrafted the eyes to Henson’s specifications.

Performance

Frank Oz, who initially wanted to concentrate on directing, finally relented and took on the performance of Aughra.

After the first voice auditions were recorded, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, and Gary Kurtz listened to them and made a short list. From this list, selected performers were invited back to make a second test, this time working in synch with a scene from the film. Almost at once, difficulties arose. It was found, for example, that the Chamberlain, as performed by Frank Oz, spoke so quickly that it was a considerable problem for an actor to stay in synch while remaining in character. It became very important to select actors whose natural voices were close to what was needed. To be avoided at all costs were “forced” voices or voices that sounded too cartoon-like. What was required were actors who were capable of “breathing life” into the puppets that would appear on screen.

For Aughra, three possible candidates quickly emerged, and this selection was narrowed down to two and then one. The final choice was made partly because the actress selected had more dubbing experience. When she came to work on the actual looping, however, it was found that she had to “reach” too far to stay in character and it was decided to replace her with the actress who had been her closest rival.

Performers

Frank Oz Aughra – Character Performer
Billie Whitelaw Aughra – Character Voice

See Also