I Rewatched Labyrinth As An Adult & It Left Me With One Haunting Question
This ‘80s cult classic may have been darker than you realized.
David Bowie may have been one of the greatest rock stars of his (or any) generation, but to me, he will always be, first and foremost, Jareth the Goblin King, a character from Jim Henson’s 1986 fantasy film, Labyrinth. Obviously, as I got older, I came to appreciate the full range of Bowie’s musical talents beyond just the movie’s soundtrack — which still slaps, by the way. Yet the film served as my first introduction to the musician and, as such, will forever hold a special place in my heart. But, like with so many flicks I once loved as a kid, it had been a while since I’d last seen it. So, I thought I’d remedy that by rewatching Labyrinth as an adult, and while I still find it to be utterly entertaining, it did leave me with one haunting question — a thought that had never come across my mind during my many, many, many viewings as a kid.
For those of you unfamiliar with the film’s premise, it centers around a teenage girl named Sarah (played by Jennifer Connelly), who wishes, in a moment of frustration, that her baby brother, Toby, would get taken away by the Goblin King — not realizing her wish would actually be granted. Desperate to take it back, the Goblin King agrees to give her 13 hours to solve his magical labyrinth and find her brother. But if she fails, Toby will become one of his goblin minions forever. (No pressure or anything!)
As a child, I just accepted the stipulations at face value and didn’t really think about it beyond that. But during my latest viewing, I found myself growing more and more curious about the Goblin King’s backstory. How did he become the Goblin King in the first place? What does he do when he’s not capturing tiny babies and playing psychological mind games on teen girls? What exactly is his motivation for all of this? Sadly, viewers never come to know much about the character apart from his interesting wardrobe choices and surprising ballroom dance skills.
Practically speaking, there probably just wasn’t enough time to fit too many details about the Goblin King’s origins into the film, but it was still just fun to think about. That is until one very frightening thought entered my mind, and — not to be overly dramatic or anything — basically changed the way I view the entire movie.
As his title clearly indicates, Jareth’s main purpose is to rule over all of the goblins that reside within his labyrinth. That means that the goblins play a crucial part in what makes him so powerful. If there were no goblins, he would be king of nothing. That thought struck me as rather interesting and made me start questioning how this man got his hands on so many goblins in the first place. Then it hit me: Is it possible that Toby isn’t the first little baby the Goblin King has kidnapped? What if this has happened many, many times before? Is it possible that all of his goblin minions were once tiny babies?
Now that the thought has entered my mind, it’s impossible not to think about it. It would help to explain why Jareth is the ruler over all of them and why he’s so desperate for Sarah to fail in her mission. If his labyrinth is no longer challenging enough, then his army could start to diminish over time. The concept makes sense and reminds me of Ursula’s setup in The Little Mermaid. All the merpeople who failed to complete the terms of their contracts instantly got turned into those tiny sea creatures trapped in her cave. She had quite the collection going until Ariel came along. Perhaps the Goblin King had a similar arrangement.
The truth is, we’ll most likely never know the answer to this one way or another, which is probably for the best. But I know I’ll never be able to look at that “Magic Dance” scene the same way ever again.