When you really think about it, “Legends of the Dark Crystal” is a rather sad tale, isn’t it?
First of all, there’s the fact that the Skeksis Collector, the story’s central villain and the one most responsible for setting the whole mess in motion in the first place, ends the story still alive and unpunished for his deeds. He’s still the Emperor’s most trusted follower, still secretly stealing the Emperor’s essence behind his back, still in a position to one day possibly boot the Emperor off his throne altogether, and we have absolutely no idea how he reacted when he learned that Lahr was no longer his spy. A total “Karma Houdini”, in other words. (This is made at least slightly better, however, by the fact that the Collector is no longer present by the time of the movie, meaning that something must have happened at some point in the next 200 years or so to kill him off, leaving the Emperor still in charge and the Chamberlain with the last laugh.)
Then, of course, there’s the realization that, despite the Gelflings’ apparent triumph at the end of this story, the Great Extermination is STILL COMING, and that when it does, the Skeksis are going to retaliate and retaliate HARD against the Gelflings for defying them, and that the latter will be driven to the brink of EXTINCTION. It’s like watching Episodes 1 and 2 of “Star Wars” that Episode 3 is still to come and when it does, Anakin will become Darth Vader and help bring an end to both the Republic and the Jedi.
Finally, there’s the implication that the Extermination might not have even happened had the Gelflings voted to run from the Garthim instead of staying to fight them. And it all has to do with the very prophecy of “When single shines the triple sun”, the one that the Gelflings of the Great Gathering made but the Gelflings of the time of “Legends” seem to have forgotten altogether. It’s the one that says a Gelfling will be the one to repair the Crystal and combine the Skeksis and Mystics back into Urskeks. The one that the Skeksis, by contrast, never forgot—but simply had no reason to take seriously because the Gelflings never got violent and therefore never gave the Skeksis that reason. That is, until the events of Volume One—until the Gelflings start killing Garthim. Suddenly, the Skeksis are faced with Gelflings who ARE violent, who know how to kill, who can fight back effectively if pushed too far, who can even take the initiative and go on the attack—who are a credible threat in every possible means. This is the Skeksis’s worst possible nightmare. Up until this point, they’ve considered themselves the undisputed masters of Thra, unopposed and unchallenged, utterly secure in their reign, with an utterly concrete and stable empire. Now, however, they’re faced with what they see as the very likely possibility that, unless action is taken, the Gelflings might do this again, and might even go on to decide that they don’t want the Skeksis there push them around at all, and that it’s time to go ahead and fulfill the prophecy in order to take the Skeksis out of the picture PERMANENTLY. To a race like the Skeksis, who seem to have a pathological need to avoid old age and death, who have drained the very surface of Thra dry and stolen the essence of who knows how many Gelflings in the name of fulfilling that need, this is the greatest possible worst-case scenario. It’s one they’re absolutely terrified by. This is the one fate that they can’t let happen to them if they want to survive. They can’t take even slightest chance that it could happen. So they decide, “it’s them or us. Either they go or we go.” The Gelflings have to die so that the prophecy will not come to pass. And that means ALL of them. Not a single one can be spared or allowed to escape, for if even one single Gelfling remains, they might still try and carry out the prophecy, and that would be the whole nightmare over again. So the Skeksis wait. They build up their Garthim hordes again and train them to kill Gelflings instead of capturing them. They watch as the Gelflings gather together in one spot and build a city to house all of their people. And when the time is right (who knows how many years later), they launch an attack on the Gelfling city intended to destroy them utterly. And this time, unfortunately, the Skeksis win. The Gelflings are massacred and their city burned. And the Skeksis walk away, thinking that they’ve dealt with the problem, that no Gelfling survived, that the prophecy has been brought to nothing, and that when the next Great Conjunction comes around, they will not cease to exist, but will instead be made immortal. (They of course don’t know about Jen and Kira.) And the sad thing is, this very likely wouldn’t have happened if the “Legends” Gelflings had voted to simply abandon their and just tried to run from Garthim instead of putting up a fight. True, they probably would have had some of their people to the Garthim, but many of them would have still likely have survived, and in the long run they would have both themselves and their neighbors safe due simply to the fact that Skeksis would still considered them harmless, cowardly (but useful) creatures, and would therefore have still had a reason to keep some of them around as the source of future essence for the Emperor. (And the numbers of the Gelflings still alive at the time of the Great Conjunction would been a good deal greater than just TWO.) But instead, they chose to wage a war (while lacking a crucial piece of information) against an enemy who true nature they underestimated. And their descendants pay a terrible price for it. True, the movie proves that, in the long run, good triumphs over and everything turns out all right in the end. But I’m not convinced it was worth it for the Gelflings in the short run. Does anyone else agree?