Jen

Description

Adolescent male Gelfling. Three feet tall, with long, thick, dark hair. Wears clothing with urRu designs.


History

Origin

Following the Garthim War, Jen believed he was the last survivor of the Gelfling race. He was raised by the Mystics (urRu) in their valley, and taught to read, count and play music.

Young Jen with urSu the Master
Young Jen with urSu the Master

As he laid dying, urSu the Master instructed Jen to visit Aughra and retrieve the True Shard from her.

Quest

Distraught, Jen did as his master instructed and began his journey. After retrieving the True Shard from Aughra and witnessing her Observatory raided and destroyed by the Garthim, Jen met Kira and discovered that he was not the only Gelfling who had survived.

Jen identifies the True Shard
Jen identifies the True Shard

Meanwhile, skekSil the Chamberlain was exiled from the Castle after he lost to skekUng in a contest (the Trial by Stone) to succeed the Emperor. Scheming to earn back the favor of the Skeksis court, skekSil followed the Garthim as they pursued Jen and Kira on their journey. Kira sheltered Jen in the Podling village, but the village was also raided and destroyed by Garthim soldiers. Paradoxically, Jen and Kira were saved only by the intervention of the Chamberlain.

Jen and Kira fled to the “Houses of the Old Ones” and there they found the Wall of Destiny. It is only then that they truly understood the Wall of Destiny; they must take the True Shard to the Castle before the Third Great Conjunction and heal the Dark Crystal.

Jen traveling through the bowels of the Castle

SkekSil confronted Jen and Kira at the Wall of Destiny, attempting to (in his words) “make peace,” but Kira kept her wits and the pair of Gelfling fled to the Hill of the Landstriders.

Kira summoned a pair of landstriders to help them on their quest and with the landstriders’ assistance and speed, they swiftly rode to the Castle. They were then able to fight off the Garthim raiders and sneak into the Castle through the Teeth of Skreesh.

Jen, who was injured by skekSil, was revived by Fizzgig. He traveled into the bowels of the Castle, fell into a dark Garthim Pit, and eventually made his way up to the chamber holding the Dark Crystal.

Healing the Dark Crystal

Jen heals the Crystal

The Skeksis, Mystics and Gelfling all converged in the Crystal Chamber as the three suns aligned overhead in the Third Great Conjunction. The Skeksis spotted Kira and Jen, and called on the Garthim to attack. As Jen tried to escape a Garthim attack, he jumped onto the Dark Crystal and dropped the shard. Kira picked up the shard to protect it from the Skeksis and in doing so, sacrificed herself to return the shard to Jen so he could heal the Crystal. Kira was then mortally wounded by skekZok.

As the light refracted through the Crystal during the Third Great Conjunction, the Skeksis and urRu once again combined to their original form as urSkeks. The grateful urSkeks restored Kira’s life and departed for their home through the pure Crystal. And with the healing of the Crystal, so too was Thra healed. The wasteland receded and turned green and vital once again.


Production

Development

Prototypes and Build

Jen concept drawing by Brian Froud

In Kathryn Mullen’s efforts to become comfortable in her puppeteering of Kira, she requested remote control functions for Kira, rather than a cable-controlled system. Kathryn Mullen’s request for remote control functions was not totally without precedent, since the Muppets had often used radio control in limited ways. If there were any doubts about applying remote control to Jen and Kira, it was because these puppets were so naturalistic that they might present special problems. Fazakas, however, was sure Jen and Kira would benefit tremendously from remote control. “Actually, it applies well to characters of that sort,” he explained. “The cable-control system is inefficient. Because it’s an engineering system with no fulcrum, it involves a lot of work in order to create very little effect. People tend to be too strong and to use too much force for the effects they’re after. Radio-controlled servomechanisms, on the other hand, can be very expressive and subtle.” He quickly built radio controls into a pair of substitute heads and brought them to London. “They were relatively crude,” he says, “with only partial movement, but Jim and Frank were delighted. They asked me to build two robot heads with full controls for the ears, eyelids, everything. We did the work in three and a half weeks, and it turned out very well – perhaps because we had to keep things simple.”

Performance

What radio control did for Jen and Kira was to allow the performers to concentrate on acting, free of technical encumbrance. While Skeksis were followed about by a swarm of assistant operators, Kathryn Mullen and Jim Henson were unhampered on set. As Henson put Jen through his paces, Wendy Midener would sit a few yards away, with a control box – not much larger than a shoe box – in front of her. While Henson controlled the basic head and body movements, giving the performance its breadth – Midener, with a little gentle pressure on this lever or that, added inflections that brought the hero of The Dark Crystal fully to life.

Jim Henson, Wendy Midener and Brian Froud testing control on a Jen head prototype
Jim Henson, Wendy Midener and Brian Froud testing cable controls on a Jen head prototype

One of the most difficult voices to cast was Jen’s. It was agreed that this voice must be light, youthful, and innocent; but to define it beyond that was impossible. There was, to begin with, no consensus as to his exact age. The only solution was to test dozens of actors, ranging from boys in early adolescence to young men in their twenties. Eventually one of the older candidates was judged to have the appropriate voice. Although each voice had been matched as carefully as possible to the character, it was decide that a device known as a harmonizer would be used to electronically change the voices and make them seem stranger and more otherworldly. Among its various unusual functions, the device can make a voice higher or lower without altering its speed of delivery, as well as flip-flop fragments of dialogue so that they run backward.

Performers

Jim Henson Jen – Character Performer
Stephen Garlick Jen – Character Voice

See Also