• Joe Pace

Favorite Fictional Characters, #132: Aughra


Concept art for Nick Fury in Avengers XXVI

The Dark Crystal is a trippy visit to the darker and more epic places in the souls of Jim Henson and Frank Oz, and anyone who watched it before the age of 10, as I did, is unlikely ever to forget it. It is lovingly crafted fantasy with an androgynous elfin protagonist and populated (as you would expect) by wondrous creatures of all shapes and sizes. TheSkeksis are terrifyingly decadent, the urRu solemnly staid, and the pod people passively smurfy. The lead characters of Jen and Kira are relatively forgettable, uninspiring souls, fey hobbits. Enough with the Yanni pipes already. Still, the movie is visually sumptuous and the plot, while straightforward, has a satisfying conclusion.

The fun character in this melange of fever-dream puppetry is Aughra, the reclusive ancient witch woman with her fabulous moving model of the universe (an orrery, for those who like words) and collection of magical artifacts. Aughra is listed in the final credits as a "Keeper of Secrets", and her origin and true nature are certainly among the secrets kept from the audience. She is cantankerous, stubborn, gruff, and when the Skeksis send their hulking Garthim warriors to break into her sanctum to seize the Gelflings, she is indignant rather than afraid, even during her subsequent imprisonment. We get the sense that Aughra has been around for a long time, and this isn't her first Great Conjunction. In fact, a deeper exploration of her back story reveals that observing an earlier Great Conjunction was what cost her one of her removable eyes.

If Aughra is reminiscent of Yoda, that's no coincidence, as Frank Oz was the puppeteer behind both wizened old sages. She even shares a fluid relationship with syntax with the green Jedi master, and a proclivity for unhelpful axiomatic pronouncements. " The Great Conjunction is the end of the world! Or the beginning. Hm! End, begin, all the same. Big change. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad." She's not on screen for very long, but she's always my favorite part of a movie I've always enjoyed.

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