Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City…
If you’re an ’80s kid (or wish you were), you know these words as well as you can quote that entire castle scene or sing “Magic Dance” at karaoke. Several decades after it was first released in theaters, Labyrinth continues to cast its spell on generation after generation. Jareth tees and movie collectibles can be seen at every comic, fantasy and sci-fi con in the known universe.
There have been some truly astounding cosplays, including a Junk Lady eerily close to the real thing, teddy bear and all. Weddings with a Sarah bride and a Jareth groom, wig and all, are not unheard of. There is even a line of perfumes based on the film.
So what exactly is it that makes Labyrinth so magical? Maybe it’s the artistry. Maybe it’s the music. Maybe it’s the depth and breadth of Jim Henson’s wondrous imagination. Maybe it’s just David Bowie in spandex. Wherever its wizardry lies, this otherworldly tale of a lonely teenage girl who makes the wrong wish and finds herself lost in the Goblin King’s labyrinth has had power over legions of fans since 1986.
From fairy bites to alternate uses for lipstick, here’s everything we’ve learned from watching Jareth and Sarah’s saga at least a hundred-and-something times.
Jim Henson has a darker side.
On the heels of The Dark Crystal, whose vulture-faced Skeksis obsessed over achieving mind control, Labyrinth was Jim Henson and Brian Froud’s second foray into the shadows of Muppetry. While we loved Kermit and Fozzie, the sinister twist of Labyrinth had us bewitched.
Books can be more magical than you think.
In her bedsheet-meets-medieval-princess dress and flower crown, reading from her copy of The Labyrinth, Sarah has no idea those melodramatic words will be déjà vu by the end of the night. Lesson learned: lose yourself in a book long enough, and you just might end up in the book.
Watch out for owls at your window.
Sure, they’re cute and even majestic, but start getting suspicious of a barn owl that keeps flapping against your window—and don’t, by any circumstances, let it in. You never know if it’s going to transfigure into a full-fledged Goblin King sometime during your next few blinks.
Think before you wish out loud.
It’s understandable that if you’re an angsty teenager stuck at home babysitting your screeching baby brother, you’re going to wish Toby could disappear. Just don’t actually say that you want him to be spirited away to Jareth’s castle. Speak the words and you could summon the goblins.
Things worse than your evil stepmother do exist.
Your stepmother might make you scowl when she snaps at you to watch the baby as she and your dad head out for dinner. After facing wicked sorcery, a treacherous maze, an oubliette, a goblin brigade and several near-death experiences, you might not think she’s so bad.
Be suspicious of crystal balls.
At least be leery if you see one in the Goblin King’s gloved hand, because the next moment it could be anything from a poisonous peach to a gruesome-looking contraption that will chase you and shred you to confetti if you don’t bolt out of its way as fast as humanly possible.
There is only one way to do a killer smoky eye.
While it hasn’t ever been featured in any trendy magazines, the most epic smoky eye in the known universe belongs to Jareth. From the extreme wing of black liner to the white contouring, it just screams fierce.
Who cares if beauty editors would recoil in horror?
If you think it’s a cakewalk, it’s probably impossible.
Sure, a neverending puzzle of epic proportions is no big deal to solve—until you land in it. Now imagine that the moment you turn your back, the thing rearranges itself. Again. And again. And again and again and again until suddenly, you realize you’d rather be changing Toby’s diaper.
Don’t slaughter anyone’s name more than once.
It’s not Hedgewart. It’s not Hogwart. It’s not Higgle. It’s Hoggle.
If you’re not going to bother taking few seconds to commit your ornery new labyrinth guide’s name to memory, don’t expect any favors. Maybe he wouldn’t have been tempted into aiding and abetting Jareth if you did.
Fairies can bite and monsters can hug.
Think fairies are all sugar and sparkle dust? There was a reason Hoggle was spraying them with some sort of bug repellant—they have a nasty bite. On the other hand, the gargantuan Ludo, who could easily pass for Bigfoot’s third cousin, is gentle as an especially hairy manatee.
Nonsensical things can make so much sense.
Getting invited to tea (and to meet the missus) by a blue worm in a scarf? Nothing out of the ordinary. Walking through walls to maneuver your way through the labyrinth? Not an issue. The looming threat of your kid brother morphing into a goblin at the stroke of midnight? It’s real.
Whatever you’re told, do the opposite.
The labyrinth is just as upside-down as it is convoluted. If someone tells you to go “this way”, go “that way”, precisely because you should never go “that way”. If you turn “that way”, you’ll head straight to the Goblin City, which is where you were going in the first place. Got that?
Always keep a lipstick in your pocket.
It’s not just for touch-ups—that tube of pigmented wax can really come in handy if you’re trying to find your way through a massive maze. The only problem? Keep looking over your shoulder, or tiny goblin-things will turn around the arrows you marked so you end up even more lost.
Nothing is scarier than an ominously ticking clock.
When every tick of the second hand means that the baby brother who you were supposed to be putting to bed will eternally belong to Jareth, suddenly the ticks start to sound like thuds. Throw in Jareth fast-forwarding the time by several hours and you’re hyperventilating.
Walls have ears…and eyes, and horns, and hooves…
Whenever you think Jareth can’t see you, his fiendishly grinning face materializes. He also has that crystal ball and many sets of eyes—and other appendages—in a swarm of goblin spies. So if you think you’ve outsmarted them, chances are you’ll fall into an oubliette seconds later.
Your plastic bracelet is someone else’s gem.
You know what they say about dwarves and jewels—so it should come as no surprise when one gets mesmerized by the piece of plastic junk you fished out from the 99-cent bin last summer. At least Hoggle thinks “plastic” is a precious stone, so go ahead and use it to bargain with him.
There are some things you should take literally.
When you’re falling into the dark unknown and getting groped by things you can’t even see until your eyes adjust, believe them when they say they’re helping hands. Because they actually are huge talking hands that are passing you downward so you don’t shatter your skull.
Glitter makes everything prettier, even certain death.
Ever notice how everything glitters in the labyrinth? From the rocks to the dirt floor to the oubliette (the pit in the ground where victims are abandoned and forgotten). So if you are going to die a slow and agonizing death in the shadows, at least your skeleton will sparkle.
Not everyone’s head is screwed on right.
When a furry orange creature with bulging eyes suddenly springs out of the bushes and starts singing at you, it’s obvious he’s not all there. Multiply that by five of them either plucking out their eyeballs or unscrewing their heads and playing soccer, and you know it’s not just you.
If it smells wrong, run.
The Bog of Eternal stench really is eternal. Meaning, if you fall in, even chlorine won’t save you. So don’t wait till you find yourself facing a cesspool of green sludge that not only bubbles, but belches. You’re best off running in the other direction (even if you doget lost again).
Don’t eat anything that looks too perfect.
In this world, if a peach looks a little too much like an artist’s rendering, it’s probably genetically modified. In the world of the labyrinth, if it looks too perfect, it was conjured by Jareth to kill more time so he can have a better chance at turning your little brother into a goblin prince.
You’ll end up like this if you don’t do your spring cleaning.
Keep accumulating old chairs, broken baskets, cracked vases, a tarnished teapot, ratty teddy bears, random kitchen utensils and all other manner of miscellaneous junk, and you may eventually look in the mirror to see a cobweb-covered goblin with a serious hunchback staring back at you.
Ballgowns and puffy shirts should have never gone out of style.
When was the last time you saw a billowy pirate shirt strutting down the sidewalk (crystal ball and devilish grin optional)? How about a frothy confection of a dress that’s half ballgown, half disco ball? We only wish we could do prom all over again and show up like this.
Spandex was and always will be in.
When David Bowie wears something, it instantly turns magical. That includes leggings so tight they might cut off your circulation. But the fact remains that David Bowie wore it. So no matter what #fashion is #trending on Instagram this month, spandex is pretty much immortal.
Inanimate objects are worth talking to.
You might think twice about talking to something that isn’t supposed to talk, but in the labyrinth, if it has a face, it’s worth striking up a conversation with. So if you’re stuck with a door that won’t budge and have no idea how to open it, just ask the knocker.
Your knight in shining armor isn’t who you think.
When you think of a stereotypical white knight, the last thing that comes to mind is a fox terrier dressed like he just came out of the Renaissance Faire, riding your dog and calling him Ambrosius. If he’s brave enough to cross the Bog of Eternal Stench, he’s a keeper.
It helps to have something enormous and hairy on your side.
No matter how gentle a giant Ludo might be, the fact still remains that just looking at him scares the living daylights out of most goblins. Never mind that not many daggers or spears can get past all that fur. Bonus: his echoing baritone can move SUV-size boulders to crush your enemy.
Your friends don’t have to be mainstream. Or human.
Whether or not you call a grouchy dwarf or a horned furball your friends, normalcy is so overrated. So what if you hang out with someone who thinks he lives in the 16th century or can’t keep his head attached? At least they’ll throw a party in your room when you call them.
You will never get Magic Dance out of your head.
Or Underground. Or As the World Falls Down. Or Within You. Or the whole supernaturally brilliant soundtrack. You’ll keep asking what kind of magic spell to use and swear to move the stars for no one. Once again, proof that anything David Bowie touches has godlike status.
Not even the Goblin King has power over you.
He’s powerful. He’s imposing. He’s got your brother hostage, an entire goblin army at his disposal, and knows exactly how to intimidate you—but not even Jareth can lock you in his dungeon if you don’t let him. “You have no power over me” may be the most potent words ever.