Decoding the Skeksis language
Posted: 20 July 2013 01:29 AM   [ Ignore ]  
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Now, I know the Skeksis language (Skexish) did not appear on the theatrical cut, but considering it was incorporated in the original version and the novelisation (both of which I think were closer to Henson’s true vision), I think it’s worth an analysis of its own. Please note that the language is not mere gibberish; a lot of work went into it in order to make it plausible.


Here’s a quick list of words/phrases from the novelisation;

(funeral ritual)
Kekkon, Kekkon, Yazakaide, Akura, Kasdaw.
Hokkvatta skaun Kherron
Kekkon, Kekkon, Yazakaide, Akura, Teedkhug!
Haakhaon!


(trial by stone)
Haakskeekah! (“Trial by Stone”)
Pih Tabrokh! (Ritual-Master tells Chamberlain to start the fight)
Haakskeekah, Khrokon! Haakskeekah! Haakskeekah!
Khrokon, Khrokon!
(emperor)


(the capture of Aughra)
Ekdideothone. (Garthim-Master tells the Garthim to release the captive)
Katakontidzeh! (Aughra calls the Skeksis stupid fools)
Howtee oo mee kelffinks (“This is no gelfling!”)
Katakontidzeh tekka! (Aughra curses the Garthim)
“I’ll settle your aspects semisquare and quincunx.” (Aughra speaks to the
Skeksis)
Svaleros ho Kelffinks (Ritual-Master talks about how dangerous gelflings are
to Skeksis)
Kataftheeressthou. (Ritual-Master says the gelflings must be killed)
Poostitoc? (Garthim-Master asks Aughra where the gelflings are)
Porroh klet! (“Gelfling gone!”)
Aukhra na Rakhash! (Garthim-Master orders Aughra to the Chamber of Life)
Kakofrontez! (enigmatic taunt from Aughra)
Kelffinks makhun kim. (Ritual-Master orders the Crystal bats to find the
gelflings)


(the capture of Kira)
Kelffinks Krakweekah! (Ritual-Master says the gelfling must die)
Kelffink na Rakhash! (Garthim-Master orders Kira to the Chamber of Life)
Kelffink cho tenkha. Vo olk Kelffink ulls? (Garthim-Master asks where the
other gelfling is)


(the great conjunction)
Khavekh, Khavekh, Khavekh, Orkhasstim. (Ritual-Master commences the formal
ceremony)
Teen Kelffinkim! (Garthim-Master orders the Garthim to get the gelflings)
Klakk smaithh Skwee Kreh! (Ritual-Master sees the shard dropped on the floor)
Gif (give)


Definite translations:
Haakskeekah - Trial by Stone
Khrokon - Emperor
Kelffink - gelfling
Katakontidzeh - stupid; fool
Aukhra - Aughra
Rakhash - Chamber of Life
Gif - give

 

So far, I’ve noticed that the Skexish word for Gelfling has several variations:

* Kelffink
* Kelffinks
* Kelffinkim

I’m quite certain that Kellfinkim is the plural form, as the suffix -im appears in the Hebrew language (equivalent to the English -s and -es), and the word Garthim is apparently a plural as well. As for Kelffinks, I’m not so sure about.

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Posted: 20 August 2013 05:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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I recently contacted A.C.H. Smith, hoping that he would provide me with his notes on how to write Skexish. Although he was unable to help, the information he gave was most interesting;

I’m sorry, but I’m unable to offer you the help you’re looking for.  All my papers of those times, including the stacks of think-papers that Henson supplied for my work, are archived at the Harry Ransom Center at UT in Austin

You could try asking Alan Garner.  He created the Skeksis language, which they intended to use in the film, but later they changed their mind and dropped it.  Finding it in the scripts I was using, I seized on it for my novelisation, especially pleased because it bore comparison with Orghast, a language Ted Hughes invented for a theatre production Peter Brook produced in Iran.  They took me to Iran (in 1971) to write a book about their work, and I had become very interested in the linguistic aspects of it, as I expect you would be.  The book is titled Orghast at Persepolis.

Buon coraggio with the project.  It’s an interesting one they’ve come up with.  I’d almost be tempted myself, but am in the middle of writing a big play, so shan’t be in competition with you.

Yours,

Anthony Smith

 

So, at the risk of sounding pathetically pleading, if anyone from Austin would be so kind as to grab hold of those notes, I’d love you forever!

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Posted: 20 August 2013 11:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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Hmmm ... these notes are archived at the Harry Ransom Center at UT in Austin, right? Perhaps what you could do is contact the center by Internet and give them your request to view these notes. Perhaps A.C.H. Smith could write them a letter on your behalf to view these, or have copies mailed or digitally sent over to you depending on how many of them there are and what A.C.H. Smith’s rights are on that material after working with the Henson Company and signing them over to the Center.


I know some places will only photocopy or scan a certain percentage of those notes and they might need permissions to do even that much. Also, they will cost a fee of some kind depending on how they might copy them: if they would. But it is definitely worth looking into if you want that background for the language. Also, you could see if the Center allows for inter-library or archival loans: allowing you to view the material in the nearest archive or library near you, but that is probably less than likely and the copies might be closer to what you might want. These are all possibilities that you should look into and ask them in an email or letter.


Or you can just take what you have learned and “wing it” or focus less on the language and more on their internal monologues and how they would speak with each other: which I assume the readers would see as English for clarity’s sake and not to mention that if the Skeksis interact with anyone else they would be using a different language altogether that the readers would understand.


Also, remember that Smith’s writing is not necessarily “required reading” for this contest, though I understand why any little bit of extra background information might help in the formation and creation process.


But that is just my input. I hope it helps you.

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Posted: 20 August 2013 12:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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Hvala vam MaKir. It had never occurred to me to contact the Harry Ransom Center simply because I don’t live in the US, never mind Austin. I hope their fees aren’t too exhorbitant, and that the formalities and procedures aren’t too complicated.

I could try ‘winging it’, as I do know someone who knows Ancient Greek (one of the languages Skexish is based on, depending who you ask).

I myself am something of a language buff, and am a huge fan of the original workprint and the Smith novelisation precisely for the linguistic aspects involved. It interests me to the point that I’ve even tried contacting Alan Garner, though I can only get through to him via the webmaster of his unofficial fan club.

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Posted: 20 August 2013 12:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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SkekSam, you lose nothing in trying either way. I hope it works out for you.

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Posted: 18 September 2013 12:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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skekKot - 18 September 2013 12:01 PM

Scene: Aughra brought before the Skeksis
GENERAL: “K’luh Kelffinnkhh” (This is not a Gelfing)
GENERAL: “Shhka Kelffinnkhh?” (You captured the Gelfling?)
HIGH PRIEST: “Kelffinnkh K’nim. Krahkwhee!” (Gelfling is          
                dangerous. Must kill it. Where is the Gelfling?”
*note The High Priest was speaking to Aughra
HIGH PRIEST: “Kelffinkkh Krakwhee!” (Kill Gelfling!)
HIGH PRIEST: “Klakk smaithhh Skwee Kreh! (Grab that Shard!)


I have the following observations to make:


1) It would appear that the affix K’ is the Skeksis equivalent of the verb to be, at least in the third person singular.


2) -luh is a negation.


3) Kelffinkkh Krakwhee can be heard in the workprint version of the scene, though it is shouted to the Crystal Bats. Perhaps it also means “find the Gelfling.”

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