Name: The Garthim
From: The Dark Crystal (1982)
Classification: Black Shelled Beetle Monster of the Movies
In 1982 Jim Henson and Frank Oz created one of the most ambitious and beautiful movies ever created, The Dark Crystal. Henson and Oz teamed up with artist Brain Froud to craft the world of Thra and all of its inhabitants. In a world so distinct and fantastical the need to create a creature so vile and unnerving to accompany the equally evil and grotesque Skeksis feels like it could have been a challenge. It’s said that Henson’s direction to Froud was to “make something really scary”. I think Froud was successful.
The Garthim (or Beetles as I called them as a kid) were created from the memories of ancient sea life from the original planet of the urSkek by the Skeksis scientist, SkekTek and SkekUng the Garthim Master . The Garthim were created after a prophecy revealed that a Gelfling would reverse the Great Division, returning both Skeksis and urRu to their original form of the urSkek. After their creation, the Garthim almost hunted the Gelflings to extinction.
These mindless and violent creatures reacted only to the orders they were given by SkekTek and SkekUng. When not needed these large, black-carapaced, beetle-like monsters would sit dorment and be nothing more than a statue. But when they did surge to life they were strong enough to smash through stone and could scurry with enough speed on their many tentacle-like legs to capture Pod People with powerful crab claws.
In the Dark Crystal, the duality theme carried over to the Garthim as their only natural enemy was the Landstriders (or Stilt Walkers as I called them as a child). Wherein the Garthim were dark, strong, and thuggish the Landstriders were bright, graceful, and almost ethereal in nature. In one of the sadder parts of the film we see a battle between the two warring creatures.
The Garthim is a monster from my childhood that will remain with me forever. Not for the simple fact that is was scary, but for how much it was a beautiful balance of imagination, engineering, and puppeteering. Everything from it’s glistening black shell to its almost locust like clicking sounds populate the crowded landscape of my nostalgia.