Written by Abigail Maughan
The Dark Crystal (1982)
BEST KNOWN ROLE
Gelfling hero and animal whisperer
WHO IS KIRA?
Kira is one of the two heroes of Jim Henson’s all-puppet fantasy film The Dark Crystal. She is of the last of the Gelfling species, massacred when the vicious Skeksis took over the planet Thra. A prophecy foretold that a Gelfling would put an end to the dark times. Kira and her pet creature Fizzgig join fellow Gelfling Jen on a quest to heal the mythical Dark Crystal and end the Skeksis’ reign before the planet’s three suns meet.
Kira stumbles across Jen in the forest after he has narrowly escaped an attack by the Skeksis’ Garthim on Aughra’s observatory, taking the missing shard of the Dark Crystal with him. Both are stunned at finding another member of their species, each thinking themselves to be the last. She and Jen share their memories with each other in a session of “dreamfasting.” Kira’s memories reveal that, as a child, her mother hid her from the Garthim sent to capture and kill Gelflings. From then, Kira was adopted by a cheerful clan of creatures called Podlings, who taught her how to live in the forest and communicate with plants and animals, which she demonstrates early on with Fizzgig and a mud-dwelling creature called a nebry.
Kira takes Jen to her village by boat, on which they share a duet with her voice and his flute. Along the way, unbeknownst to them, a crystal bat, a spy of the Skeksis, spots them despite Kira taking it out of the sky. At the Podling village, the Podlings throw a musical celebration while Jen tells Kira about his mission. Suddenly, Garthim attack to capture Podlings for enslavement at the Skeksis’ castle. The Gelflings escape the raid, and Kira heals Jen’s wounded arm with moss, assuaging his guilt by telling him this happens all the time and the attack wasn’t due to him being there.
The two then find the ruins of a Gelfling temple, where the prophecy and their role in it are clarified for them, and they have a run-in with the Chamberlain Skeksis. The urgency of the Crystal’s restoration is made even more apparent to them, so Kira volunteers to go with Jen. She summons a pair of lanky-limbed landstriders to transport them to the Skeksis.
Approaching the castle, Kira launches an ill-planned mission to rescue some Podling prisoners, which not only fails, but results in the death of the landstriders. Cornered by Garthim at a cliff’s edge, Kira saves herself, Jen, and Fizzgig by using her wings, biologically exclusive to female Gelflings, to glide them safely to the bottom of the cliff. There, they find a tunnel leading into the castle.
There, the Gelflings encounter the Chamberlain again. Jen is crushed beneath falling rocks and Kira is taken prisoner. She is about to have her life essence and mind drained by the Skeksis Scientist using the power of the Dark Crystal, but, with prompting from Jen and the captive Aughra, she overcomes it and commands the animal prisoners to take down the Scientist and help her escape.
Kira, severely weakened, and Jen reunite at the Dark Crystal’s chamber just before the suns line up, where the Skeksis have begun the ceremony celebrating their eternal rule. Jen leaps to the top of the Crystal but drops the shard down below. Fizzgig and Kira prevent the Skeksis from reaching it, and Kira tosses it back up to him just before a Skeksis stabs her. Jen puts the shard back in place, and cradles Kira’s body as the castle crumbles around him, the Mystics arrive, and they combine with the Skeksis to become the UrSkek. The prophecy fulfilled, the Crystal purified, and the evil eradicated, the UrSkek resurrect Kira and leave the two with the instructions to rebuild the world. The eternally in-progress sequel Power of the Dark Crystal was said to be set years into the reign of Jen and Kira as the rulers of Thra.
WHY DOES THRA NEED KIRA?
Kira knows more about Gelfling, Skeksis, and Podling culture than Jen does, also her nature expertise comes in handy more than a few times. Kira’s connections the various wild things of Thra give more opportunities for the viewers to appreciate the vast and complicated world created for this movie.
More importantly, without Kira’s help, Jen could never have been able to heal the Crystal. He wouldn’t have made it to the castle in time for the Great Conjunction without her landstriders, and if she hadn’t been there and brave enough to retrieve the shard for him, he and the rest of the planet would have been out of luck, ruled by the Skeksis forever.