urRu

Description

Slow-moving, peaceful, ponderous creatures with six limbs (four arms, two legs), hunched backs and long necks. Each Mystic wears a unique coat or robe worked with spiral patterns.


List of urRu

urAc the Scribe

History

Origin

The urRu, the peaceful, passive counterparts to the Skeksis, came into existence when the light of the Crystal of Truth shined upon the urSkeks during the Second Great Conjunction and divided the urSkeks into two beings. While the Skeksis were rapacious, whimsical and cruel, the urRu, dubbed the "Mystics" by the Gelfling, were creative and healing creatures. Each was linked to a Skeksis opposite; whatever fate one suffered, the other suffered the same. Immediately after the urSkeks split, confused fighting erupted and two Skeksis (and therefore two urRu) were murdered.

After the division, it was the Mystics who took on the sorrows of the world. Although they had inherited the mystical wisdom of the urSkeks, they were powerless to use it outside their own valley, since the division robbed them of their ability to act.

urUtt the Weaver

Valley of the Mystics

After the Skeksis settled into their roles as Lords of the Dark Crystal, the Mystics slowly made their way to a nearby valley to contemplate their fate. They used their magic to speak to the stones of the valley, etching spirals on them that formed an impenetrable ward, which the Skeksis and their maleficence could not penetrate.

Valley of the Stones

In the Valley of the Stones, they taught and interacted with Gelfling. When the Skeksis eliminated all the Gelfling but two (Jen and Kira), it was the urRu who fostered Jen. And it was urSu the Master who sent Jen on his quest to heal the crystal. Their hopes for redemption rested on Jen.

Artifacts

Dream spirals of an urRu coat

The pattern underlying the elaborate dream spirals of the urRu coats had significant meaning. First, the geomantic pattern known as the Tree of Life was obtained through the process of dream-etching; it clearly underlies the design of all coats. Second, meticulous work with the technique of phase matching showed that the apparently random abrasions on urRu prayer sticks were, in fact, a form of Ogham script, which, when taken as a whole, provided a description of and guide to the Tree of Life.

The tree consisted of seven aspects of the life of the spirit (in a hexagon with one central member) placed over a macrocosm of four elements of the physical world (an inverted triangle, again with a central member). The urRu lived in the coats and through the pattern of their coats; as their souls ascended the Tree of Life, their bodies were wrapped in the emblems of its branches.

The death blanket of the urRu, laid over the bodies of the dying, its blend of somber and vivid colors and the rigid geometrical patterns, symbolized the end of life and constrained the wanderings of the departed soul. It is the only urRu artifact that bears no spirals, for its wearer’s dreams are beyond control. The Great Conjunction symbol lies at its heart and three conjunctions guard the corners.


Production

Development

Concept Design

urRu concept drawing by Brian Froud

An endless stream of drawings, sketches, and designs poured from Brian Froud’s drawing board to inform the arcane cosmography of The Dark Crystal. Included were not only studies of all the characters – both major and minor (and including many that would never reach the screen) – but also representations of astrological charts, Mystic hieroglyphs, crystalline rock formations, symbolic weaving and knotwork, priestly garments, sand paintings, elaborately carved walking sticks and totems, alchemical symbols, floor plans, murals, styles of stonework, cave interiors, exotic species of fauna, and countless other details.

Prototypes and Build

urRu prototype rig

Mystics would be operated by performers working in extremely uncomfortable crouched positions. In these instances, mime skills would be called on more than those of puppetry, but many of the considerations remained the same. Harnesses had to be devised so that the weight of the assembly could be properly distributed and so that movement could be transmitted in the most effective and convincing manner. Both Garthim and Mystics were equipped with extra “limbs” (limbs that could not be treated as natural extensions of the performer’s own limbs), and ways had to be devised of rigging them to move believably in concert with other parts of the body. Within these characters the performers were bent over into such awkward positions – backs and legs aching beneath the weight of the costumes – that it would have been impossible for a Mystic to move at anything other than the studied, wearisome gait that was required. For certain scenes, special, two-man Mystic rigs had to be built to enable one person to operate the head while another manipulated the body.

It was one thing, for example, to have a working Mystic prototype, but by the start date, ten Mystics would be needed, each carefully differentiated from the others in keeping with its assigned role. Brian Froud had lavished a deal of time and effort on defining each Mystic down to the smallest detail; now physical substance had to be given to his work. The lines etched by time on each Mystic’s features needed to be realized as a living runic maze.

Brian Froud concept drawing showing detailing on Mystic faces

Costumes

The magic garment worn by each Mystic – half coat, half horse blanket – had to be carefully individualized. Colors, fabrics, decorations – all had symbolic functions. For urSol the Chanter, a coat of padded and ruched velour was decorated with motifs representing musical tones. The garment of urUtt the Weaver, on the other hand, was twisted and knotted from strands of raw fiber, while urNol the Herbalist was provided with a dark leather-like coat embellished with concentric figurations. Then each garment had to be artificially aged so that it would seem as ancient as the Mystics themselves.

Performers

Brian Muehl urSu the Master & urZah the Ritual Guardian
Jean-Pierre Amiel urUtt the Weaver
Hugh Spight urAmaj the Cook
Robbie Barnett urYod the Numerologist
Swee Lim urNol the Herbalist
Simon Williamson urSol the Chanter
Hus Levant urAc the Scribe
Toby Philpott urTih the Alchemist
Dave Greenaway & Richard Slaughter urIm the Healer

See Also