"You have thirteen hours in which to solve the Labyrinth, before your baby brother becomes one of us...forever."Labyrinth
— Jareth, the Goblin King
is a 1986 Jim Henson
film executive produced by George Lucas
, a musical fantasy starring David Bowie
and Jennifer Connelly
(and David Bowie's package). Sarah is an unhappy teenager, who hides from life in fantasy tales to the point of dressing up in a long flowing dress and acting bits of script
in the park. The cause of her unhappiness is her father's remarriage and the resulting half-brother, Toby (played by concept artist Brian Froud
's son Toby
), about a year old at the time of the action. One night, in a particularly big sulk, she wishes that the Goblin King (called Jareth) would come and take Toby away — which, to her horror, he immediately does. He then offers her a dream-fulfillment crystal if she'll agree to forget Toby, which she refuses. Jareth gives Sarah a chance to rescue Toby; he takes her to his realm, where she must find her way through the Labyrinth to Jareth's citadel before thirteen hours elapse. In this she is aided by various goblins and monsters whose allegiance to Jareth is highly conditional or non-existent.
An adventure game
based on film was released by LucasArts
, written by Douglas Adams
. It had some meta humor, in that it began with the player taking on the role of someone going to see the movie
, with an annoying nerd yammering on about Fridge Logic
in the film (such as why
did Sarah eat the peach?) before Jareth appears to pull the player into the Labyrinth.
Is a Spiritual Successor
to The Dark Crystal
, and was itself Spiritually Succeeded by MirrorMask
. Although a box office flop, it has since become a Cult Classic
The film is mainly
aimed at children, but has plenty to engage an adult audience — not least of all David Bowie's area
, a few fan-made drinking games
, and the many, many tropes available for hunting...
It should not be confused with Pans Labyrinth
, which is not aimed at children
, who designed much of this film, later published an art book entitled The Goblins of Labyrinth
featuring humorous biographies of the various goblins written by Terry Jones
. Many of the illustrations are concept art made for the film, with some small deviations (Sarah, for instance, is a redhead).
A four-novel English manga
sequel called Return To Labyrinth
was published by Tokyopop
over 2006-10.Archaia Entertainment
announced a graphic novel prequel detailing the backstory of Jareth in early 2012; Development Hell
kicked in on that, but in the meantime Archaia's Free Comic Book Day collections from 2012 onward have each included a story about other denizens of the Labyrinth. (They also reissued A.C.H. Smith's Novelization
of the film in 2014.)
This film provides examples of:
- A Form You Are Comfortable With: There's a reason Jareth resembles the man her mother seems to have left her father for.
- Accidental Misnaming: The only time that Jareth gets Hoggle's name right is on the occasion of the "If she ever kisses you..." threat. He's just as bad with Mayor Spittledrum's name in the manga.
- Adorable Evil Minions: Their adorableness is debatable but this trope fits the goblins quite well.
- Adult Fear: At the beginning, after Sarah wishes that the goblins would take Toby away and leaves the room, Toby stops crying and then she goes back into his room and discovers that he's gone!
- Advancing Wall of Doom: The Cleaners.
- Affably Evil: Jareth.
- Agent Peacock: Jareth.
- All Just a Dream: Lampshaded, then subverted. Twice. Possibly.
- All Musicals Are Adaptations: Averted — it draws elements from folklore and fairy tales, but is not based on any one story (though the basic premise is similar to Maurice Sendak's Outside Over There).
- Androcles' Lion: Sarah saves Ludo from some goblins and he returns the favor by becoming her companion. He later saves her twice over with his ability to call upon rocks: first when the bridge over the Bog of Eternal Stench collapses, and second when their party proves outnumbered in the goblin city.
- Animated Credits Opening: A CGI-based one, as a barn owl swoops above and around the titles.
- Arc Words: "You have no power over me!"
- "It's not fair!"
- "It's a piece of cake!" or a variation thereof. This always leads to Jareth or the Labyrinth itself increasing the difficulty level considerably. For example, when Sarah exclaims this after solving a logic puzzle in her path, the floor falls out from underneath her and drops her into an oubliette from which she only escapes thanks to Hoggle's help.
- Bad Bad Acting: Sarah's moments of acting for rehearsing her play, or when she's being deliberately melodramatic ("GOBLIN KING, GOBLIN KING!") are obviously intended to be bad acting. Unfortunately, they're not really any different from the rest of Connelly's performance, leaving there to be no real line between when she's just a drama queen teenager and when she needs to get serious.
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Kicks off the entire plot.
- Bishie Sparkle: Jareth, of course.
- Bishōnen: The creator of Return to Labyrinth actually referred to Jareth as one. Too bad the comic's art beyond the cover didn't follow true to that word; there were many a disappointed fan after opening the book...
- Bizarrchitecture: The M. C. Escher stairs scene — and everything else as well. It's a magical Labyrinth that constantly shifts and readjusts itself, and most of the walls and doors are alive.
- Blond Guys Are Evil: Well, Jareth isn't exactly EVIL, but still...
- Blue and Orange Morality: The Goblin King claims to be generous with Sarah by living up to her expectations: taking Toby away at her request, being frightening when Sarah expected him to be, and setting up the entire adventure for her "benefit".
- Until you realize he's performing her play in front of her.
- Book Ends: The barn owl in flight — arriving in the beginning to observe Sarah in the park, and leaving at the end after seeing her celebrating with her friends. The significance of this is that by the end, the audience knows full well what it really is (namely, Jareth's shapeshifted form).
- Cannot Tell a Lie: A guard who always tells the truth; its counterpart always lies. The trick isn't figuring out which is which, but posing a question that would get the same answer from either.
Guard 1: Is that right?
Guard 2: I don't know; I've never understood it!
- Changed My Mind, Kid: Hoggle.
- Changeling Tale: The result of Sarah's wish.
- Chekhov's Armory: Sarah's entire bedroom. Plush Didymus, plush Ludo, the musicbox with Sarah's Pimped-Out Dress, a Jareth-looking statue, a print of that Escher drawing, it's all there. Not to mention, there's a picture of David Bowie with Sarah's actress mother in the scrap book and in the mirror, although this is not a Celebrity Paradox at work. That relates to All There in the Manual backstory: The novelization explains that this fellow is Jeremy, the fellow actor she left the family for. He gave Sarah, who found him glamourous and charming, the music box.
- Chekhov's Gun: A line she forgot from a play.
Sarah: You have no power over me.
- Circling Monologue: In their climactic confrontation, Jareth circles Sarah as he explains how "generous" he has been to her up to this point.
- Comic Book Adaptation: Marvel did one (Type 1 in that it retold the story) as a tie-in when the film hit theaters; spanning three issues, it was collected into one volume afterward.
- Coming-of-Age Story
- Conspicuous CG: The owl in the opening credits, and the chair Sarah throws through the bubble.
- Crapsaccharine World: The peach dream is bright, colorful, and full of people compared to the drab, muddy Labyrinth. Sarah is intrigued by the glamour, but made uncomfortable by how everyone seems to be drunk and fondling each other. People laugh at Sarah mercilessly after she falls for a prank, and she wanders through it dazed, self-conscious, and completely alone. It is not helped by how Jareth stalks her throughout most of the song, and how everyone is staring at her. When Sarah realizes it's a dream and breaks out, it devolves into everyone trying to grab her.
- Crystal Ball: Jareth likes to juggle these around and use them for Sinister Surveillance of Sarah as she makes her way through the labyrinth. The Nostalgia Chick made the obvious reference of David Bowie waving balls in front of her face.
- Cut His Heart Out with a Spoon: Jareth threatens to have Hoggle suspended headfirst over the Bog of Eternal Stench, if he betrays him.
- Daddy's Girl
- Dance Party Ending: One of the earlier examples of this trope.
- Deconstructor Fleet: Of the fairytale heroine genre.
- Defeat Means Friendship: Well, not defeat, but more like "battle to a draw". Still, Ludo doing so impresses Sir Didymus enough to make peace and call him a friend.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: The point of this movie. It's about the transition from childhood to adulthood, and Sarah does just that... in the presence of David Bowie. Wait, what?
- Also, the line "The excitement of David Bowie" from the trailer takes a whole new meaning now that his crotch has gone memetic.
- Down the Rabbit Hole
- Dream Ballet: "As the World Falls Down" ("I'll place the moooon/Within your heart").
- Drill Tank: The goblins drive a variation, a sort of tank with numerous drills, straight at Sarah.
- Easily Forgiven: Hoggle confesses to Sarah that Jareth told him to give her the peach, and then says he doesn't deserve to be forgiven. She still does.
- Easter Egg: There are seven Jareth faces hidden in the scenery throughout the film.
- '80s Hair: Especially Jareth, who is all new romantic-y looking. How many anime characters copied that cut?
- The Eleven O'Clock Number: "Within You". (In-story, it's the just-short-of-thirteen o'clock number.)
- Endless Corridor: When Sarah first enters the Labyrinth, it appears to be this.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: Jareth seems to have some kind of glitter fetish.
- Everyone Comes Back Fantasy Party Ending
- Evil Brit: Jareth.
- The Evil Prince: Though he bears the title of king, Jareth acts more like a spoiled prince who'd rather be doing anything but actually ruling the goblins.
- Exact Words: "I have sworn with my life's blood, none shall pass this way without my permission!"
- Expanded Universe
- In OEL Manga form, there's Tokyopop's Return to Labyrinth, which picks up the story with a now-teenaged Toby and adult Sarah, the latter now with a Literal Split Personality.
- Archaia Entertainment's prequel will be a traditional graphic novel telling Jareth's origin story. (It won't be compatible with Return to Labyrinth, which came up with its own backstory for the character.)
- Extremely Short Timespan: Less than thirteen hours pass in the goblin world over the course of Sarah's journey — and in Sarah's world, less than six hours pass over the course of the film. (This is largely Jareth's doing, owing to his Reality Warper abilities.)
- Face Palm: Hoggle does this when Sarah says to Jareth that the labyrinth is a "piece of cake."
- The Fair Folk: Most of the goblins don't fit this trope, but it describes Jareth perfectly. Arrogance, rules lawyering, and being as unfair as possible while claiming he's being totally fair.
- Female Gaze: There's a reason the internet is more than a little bit obsessed with David Bowie's crotch.
- Better yet, it was intentional. Bowie's design was meant to look like a young girl's dream rock star.
- Five-Man Band
- Freudian Excuse and Freeze-Frame Bonus: One of the newspaper clippings has Sarah's actress mother dating in the newspaper...David Bowie? Word of God said this was intentional. It's not a Celebrity Paradox, but is related to the All There in the Manual backstory: The novelization explains that this fellow is "Jeremy", the fellow actor she left the family for. Which explains why the Goblin King looks like David Bowie — her mother effectively left her father for him!
- Furry Confusion: Sir Didymus, some sort of dog-knight, is astride a normal-looking dog.
- G-Rated Drug: The peach.
- Gentle Giant: Ludo.
- Giant Poofy Sleeves: The sleeves on Sarah's fancy dress are probably bigger than Jareth's hair.
- And that's saying something.
- Girls Love Stuffed Animals
- Gravity Screw: The Escher room is this for Sarah.
- Growing Up Sucks: Subverted, in that Sarah comes to the realization that while she cannot let childhood nostalgia and fantasy overtake her life, they are things that are important to remember and learn from "every now and again" as she enters adulthood.
- Hakuna Matata: "Chilly Down" is this crossbred with a Villain Song.
- Heel-Face Turn: Hoggle.
- Helping Hands: They were trying to help Sarah after she fell into the oubliette, but "She chose dooowwnnn!"
- The Hero's Journey: The plot actually follows this pretty clearly.
- High Collar of Doom: Two of Jareth's outfits have high collars.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Upon ending up in a garbage dump outside the Goblin City, Sarah is distracted for a while by a mock-up of her bedroom back home, leading her to believe the adventure was all just a dream. Even after the lady from the dump barges inside, she's still content to sit and idle for a while with her dolls and toys. But the facsimile is too perfect; it also included a copy of her play, which reminded her about her mission to save Toby.
- Homage: The film pays a debt to Where the Wild Things Are. To drive the point home, a copy is in Sarah's room.
- Horse of a Different Color: Sir Didymus, a chivalrous, fox-like knight who rides a sheepdog called Ambrosius. This is also an example of Furry Confusion, in that we have a normal, barking and growling canine serving as mount for an anthropomorphic canine (or possibly a squirrel or skunk) who can walk and talk, but also barks and growls along with his mount on occasion.
- Hulk Speak: Ludo.
Ludo: Ludo sad!
- Humongous Mecha: Guards the gates to the Goblin City; All There in the Manual material reveals that its name is, in fact, "Humongous".
- I'm Not Afraid of You: How Sarah wins, at the end. "You have no power over me!!"
- Invasion of the Baby Snatchers: The goblins steal children
- Intangible Man: During "Within You", Jareth phases through Sarah.
- It's All Junk: The junk heap scene gives the trope its name.
- Knights and Knaves: However, it's rigged, and even though Sarah takes the right door, she ends up falling into the Oubliette. See the Trope page for Knights and Knaves for the likely reason why this sort of puzzle is often a Morton's Fork.
- LARP: Sarah's (isolated) hobby.
- Large Ham: Jareth, played by David Bowie.
Jareth: Nothing? Nothing? NOTHING, tra-la-la?
- Laugh with Me: Just before the "Magic Dance" sequence, Jareth laughs, then demands that his goblins join in. Once they do, he shuts them up for the song. Much the same happens after Sarah is trapped in the oubliette.
- Life Isn't Fair: Boy, does Sarah learn this the hard way...
- In fact, she learns it very quickly, and reminds Hoggle of the fact when she steals his jewels and he accuses her of not being fair. Touche.
- Living Labyrinth
- Lord Error-Prone: Sir Didymus.
- Losing Your Head: The Fireys.
- Lotus-Eater Machine: The ball, and the replica of her bedroom afterwards.
- Lovable Traitor: Hoggle.
- Magical Land: The Labyrinth.
- Make a Wish: All Sarah has to do is wish for her baby brother to disappear, and goblins ferry him away.
- Malevolent Mugshot
- Mind Screw: Reciting a line from a play defeats the Goblin King. Really, that's what finally stops him.note
- Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: If Jareth had settled on just giving Hoggle orders then there would have been no problem, especially since Hoggle is a dyed-in-the-wool misanthrope. However, Jareth just can't seem to stop insulting Hoggle, belittling him, physically mistreating him, and issuing dire threats (it was probably his threat to dump Hoggle into the Bog Of Eternal Stench that finally tipped the scales). The manga reveals that Jareth makes good on his threat.
- Mr. Fanservice/Perverse Sexual Lust: Pretty much everyone on the internet ever wants to get into Jareth's tights.
- Mundane Object Amazement: Sarah offers Hoggle some plastic beads as a bribe to help her, thinking he won't care much for them. Since human things like plastic don't exist in the Labyrinth, Hoggle is quite awed by them.
- Musical World Hypotheses: Alternate Universe, with a touch of All In Their Heads for "As the World Falls Down". All four song-and-dance numbers take place in the Magical Land; moreover, unlike many musicals they aren't spread out amongst the main characters — the Fireys get one and Jareth gets the other three, suggesting that singing is simply a way they communicate with others and/or amuse themselves.
- Must Make Amends: The plot of the movie follows this.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Hoggle, after giving Sarah the peach. Also Sarah herself, when she realized the goblins had listened when she wished they'd take Toby away.
- Nobody Can Die: Purposefully invoked by the filmmakers.
- There are things more significant than death at stake here: this isn't a battle of mortality, this is a battle of the spirit; a battle between going with what's easy vs attaining some form of self realization. Death is easy, being someone you can live with is harder.
- No Song for the Wicked: Completely inverted — the only characters who sing are the villain, his minions, and a menacing Wacky Wayside Tribe.
- Nothing Is Scarier: Toby begins crying absolutely uncontrollably, and Sarah says, "I wish the goblins would come and take you away— right now." And instantaneously, there is silence, and the audience (and Sarah) realize that's exactly what happened.
- Ominous Owl: Jareth's shapeshifted form is that of a barn owl.
- Only Smart People May Pass: The entire labyrinth...although it's not really judging cleverness so much as the ability to think "outside the box".
Hoggle: Oh don't act so smart. You don't even know what an oubliette is.
Sarah: Do you?
Hoggle: Yes. It's a place you put people... to forget about 'em!
- Other Common Music Video Concepts: This movie managed two Movie Tie-In Music Videos, both of which have Bowie as himself: "Underground" sends him into a mysterious alley where he meets seemingly half the puppet cast (no Video Full Of Film Clips here!) and "As the World Falls Down" has Hoggle bearing witness to a Love Before First Sight situation (a woman falls for Bowie via a photo, he falls for her via a painting). The latter initially went unaired when the single release was cancelled, but both videos have since been featured on career-spanning Bowie compilations.
- Our Fairies Are Different: They're a bunch of small sprites that Hoggle sprays like bugs, and they tend to bite.
- Our Goblins Are Different: In folklore, one of the main attributes of goblins is that they steal babies. Jareth looks mostly human (if he wasn't a stolen baby himself).
- Painted-On Pants: Jareth.
- Pan Up To The Sky Ending: This bookends the movie's opening credit sequence, which panned down as it followed the barn owl's flight.
- Parental Abandonment: The novelization says that Sarah's mother, an actress, walked out on the family and took up with a charming fellow actor named Jeremy. While most of this is All There in the Manual material, in the film there is a picture of the mother with a male co-star in Sarah's scrapbook, and he looks awfully like Jareth...
- Pimped-Out Dress: Sarah's ultra-puffy dream dress.
- Pint Size Powerhouse: Didymus
- Place Worse Than Death: The Bog of Eternal Stench. It not only stinks with a odor that's too horrible to describe, it curses anyone who puts so much as a foot in its waters with the same odor - forever.
- Politeness Judo: Sir Didymus won't let anybody pass his bridge without his permission. While Ludo tries to fight, and Hoggle sneaks past, Sarah simply asks him politely if she can have permission.
- Pop-Star Composer: Well, who do you think?
- The Power of Friendship: Sarah's BFG. In fact, Hoggle is so gobsmacked that she calls him a friend is enough to instigate his Heel-Face Turn.
- Putting a Hand over His Mouth: A goblin does this to himself near the beginning of the film after being told to shut up by the others.
- Race Against the Clock: Sarah must solve the Labyrinth within 13 hours.
- Reality Warper: The Labyrinth is essentially Jareth's plaything; he's capable of altering time and space at will. But he holds no power over humans who enter his realm unless they give themselves willingly.
- Rhetorical Request Blunder: When Sarah mutters to her colicky infant brother, "I wish the goblins would come and take you away. Right now," she has no idea they are listening.
- Road Sign Reversal: Sarah draws arrows on the ground to show which path she's already taken. When she's not looking, goblins flip and turn the tiles with the arrows on them, so she loses her way.
- Rummage Sale Reject: Almost a literal one with the Junk Lady.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Subverted. A goblin tries to escape the battle in the climax by going into his home, but the rocks summoned by Ludo crash into his house.
Goblin: I've had enough. I'm going to bed! *Rocks enter his home* Oh, get out of my house!
- Senior Sleep Cycle: The Wise Man falls asleep mid-sentence, much to the chagrin of his talking hat.
- Severed Head Sports: Although the heads aren't severed, the film has the fire-starters who remove their heads and use them to play something akin to volleyball. While singing. Naturally, this concerns the protagonist. She gets even more concerned when they try to remove her head.
- Amongst the books in the panning shot of Sarah's room are Where the Wild Things Are and Outside Over There by Maurice Sendak; the latter picture book (1981) is particularly significant because it's about a girl rescuing her sibling from goblins, though it's a much simpler and different tale. According to Brian Froud in the Empire retrospective, "The link between his work and ours was only noticed well into production", as the concept of goblins stealing babies is well-established folklore and the original jumping-off point for the project — but Sendak actually considered suing over the matter. That the Fireys were originally called "Wild Things" didn't help. (Henson changing that and acknowledging an artistic debt to Sendak in the end credits served to placate the author.)
- Sarah's dream is right out of "Cinderella" in more ways than one. Plus, it's the result of her consuming a bewitched fruit.
- "You remind me of the babe" is a direct reference to the ending of The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947).
- As Sir Didymus rides through the Goblin City to rejoin his allies, he cries "Hi-ho Silver, away!"
- Slouch of Villainy: Jareth's preferred way of "sitting" in his throne.
- Smooch of Victory: Sarah gives Hoggle one after he helps her escape the Fireys — not knowing that Jareth had warned him that if she ever did that, he'd make good on his threat of the Bog of Eternal Stench...
- The So-Called Coward: Hoggle.
- Speak of the Devil: "I wish the goblins would take you away - right now! ...Toby?"
- Spiritual Successor: The second of a Spiritual Trilogy; see the main description.
- Stalker with a Crush: Jareth for Sarah.
- Starring Special Effects: The vast majority of the inhabitants of the Labyrinth are these, after all.
- Steampunk: The mecha at the Goblin City's gates.
- Surrounded by Idiots: "Well, laugh!" No wonder Jareth fancies Sarah, he's probably desperate for a conversation with someone with a IQ above one digit.
- Take Our Word for It: For obvious reasons, the odor of the Bog of Eternal Stench. In fact, when Sarah asks if all it does is smell, Hoggle says, "Believe me, that's enough." And judging by the look on Sarah's face when she finally sees the place, he's right.
- Talent Double: Used for the contact juggling, which Bowie himself was unable to do. Thankfully. (In other words, someone else is playing with Bowie's balls!)
- Tempting Fate: Never say the Labyrinth is "a piece of cake." Especially to Jareth's face. You will swiftly regret it.
- This Is Gonna Suck: The look on Jareth's face when Sarah finally remembers her line and stands up to him is priceless. It's less Oh, Crap, and more sad disappointment.
- This Is Something She's Got To Do Herself: Once Sarah and her friends reach the castle, she tells them she has to face Jareth alone, "Because that's the way it's done." And that IS the way it is in the forgotten script for her play...
Sir Didymus: Well if that is the way it is done, then that is the way you must do it.
- Troll Bridge: Sir Didymus' bridge.
- Unlimited Wardrobe: Jareth has several costume changes as the film progresses.
- Villainous Cheekbones: Jareth, of course.
- Villainous Crush: Currently provides the page quote.
- Villain Song: This film is pretty much Villain Songs — The Movie! (Well, seriously, when someone like David Bowie is playing the villain, he's obviously going to have quite a few of them.)
- Villain Love Song: "As the World Falls Down".
- Visual Innuendo: Jareth playing with his crystal balls while wearing skin-tight leggings.
- Voluntary Shapeshifting: Jareth.
- When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Or thirteen (goblin time being what it is) Toby will become one of them if Sarah doesn't solve the Labyrinth by then. The ballroom dance sequence climaxes just as the clock strikes twelve, as per the Cinderella motif. When she defeats Jareth, it's just as the clock strikes thirteen; when Sarah and Toby are returned to their world, it's midnight there.
- In a subversion, Jareth actually spins the hands on his clock forward after Sarah works up the nerve to boast that the Labyrinth is a piece of cake.
- Wicked Stepmother: The stepmother invokes this, saying Sarah insists on treating her like one.
- World Building: As is normal when Jim Henson and Brian Froud work together, with no small assist by Terry Jones; the tie-in book The Goblins of Labyrinth (written by Jones and featuring Froud's concept art) goes into hugely goofy detail about their society and folklore.
- Yandere: Jareth certainly has his moments...
- Yellow Brick Road: Although she is of course running around (and often getting lost) in a deadly maze, Sarah has only one goal: to find Toby in the center of the labyrinth and every step she takes is to try to get her further towards that goal.
- You Keep Using That Word: When Sarah tells Jareth the Labyrinth is "a piece of cake", he proceeds to magically reduce her remaining time to solve it.
Sarah: That's not fair!
- You Remind Me of X: "You remind me of the babe..."
- Your Mind Makes It Real: Heavily implied; after all, Jareth even outright states that he was everything Sarah wanted him to be — which is why when she realizes that she's the one in control, not Jareth, he instantly loses all power.
"Thank goodness, all those David Bowie crotch jokes are over!" "Hey, look at that bulge..." "SHUT UP!!!"