The David Bowie Labyrinth Mystery We Still Can’t Figure Out

By Zack Zagranis | Published

labyrinth goblins

The movie Labyrinth is a whimsical fantasy film that marks the only collaboration between George Lucas and Jim Henson before the latter passed away. It’s also really freakin’ weird. Talking worms, dogs riding dogs—the movie is a fever dream full of puppets and tight white pants. The oddest part of Labyrinth, though, might be the goblins or, rather, where they come from.

The Goblin King

In Labyrinth, David Bowie plays Jareth the Goblin King. Right off the bat, the name is a bit misleading because Jareth isn’t a goblin at all. Rather, he’s a human who appears to rule over an army of assorted goblins.

Jareth rules over tall goblins, short goblins, and goblins with different accents and physical features. It would be fair to say that Labyrinth‘s goblins come in all shapes and sizes, much like humans. Remember that because we’ll be coming back to it.

Is This How Goblin Recruitment Works?

labyrinth goblins

In the seminal ’80s fantasy classic, Jareth kidnaps Sarah’s (Jennifer Connelly) baby brother Toby and then gives her 13 hours to get through a complicated labyrinth for a chance to save him.

If she fails to reach The Goblin King’s castle at the center of the labyrinth in time, Jareth will turn Toby into a goblin, forced to live in the labyrinth forever and serve him. If she does make it, he won’t.

Sounds like a standard fantasy plot, right? The brave knight (Sarah) must make it to the castle and save the princess (Toby) from the evil wizard (Jareth). The question is, does Jareth have to go through this rigamarole every time he needs a new goblin?

The Goblin King Is Not Very Efficient

The movie never suggests that goblins mate and procreate like other creatures. That leaves the viewer to draw their own conclusions about goblin production. Since abducting a child and turning it into a goblin is the only method discussed in Labyrinth, why wouldn’t we assume that’s where all of the movie’s goblins come from?

If that’s the case, and there’s nothing to indicate otherwise, it’s a very inefficient way to grow an army. Every time Jareth wants a new goblin, he has to leave his castle, travel to the real world, kidnap a baby, reveal himself to the baby’s guardian, and then give them 13 hours to stop him, along with a brief explanation on how to do so. It sounds tiring.

Jareth And Sarah

Ok, but maybe Labyrinth was an exception, and Jareth doesn’t usually get his goblins that way. Maybe they’re still all abducted kids, but Jareth usually just swoops in, nabs a baby, and then transforms them lickety-split. Considering how much he flirts with Sarah, Jareth could have given her a sporting chance to stop him just because he enjoyed playing with her.

But if that were the case, why does he try and stop her from succeeding every chance he gets? Why give someone a chance to save their sibling and then try and sabotage them at every opportunity? If he wanted Sarah to fail why not just leave her where she is instead of even leading her to the Labyrinth in the first place?

Weeks Just For One Goblin

labyrinth goblins

Maybe he doesn’t have a choice? Maybe he’s cursed to give each child’s guardian a chance to save them. Lots of fantasy worlds have weird rules to their magic, maybe the world of Labyrinth is no different.

If that’s the case then we return to our initial statement. It’s a horribly inefficient way to run an army. Just imagine a big battle like the one at the end of Labyrinth, where Jareth loses a number of goblins all at once. To replenish his ranks, Jareth has to go out and kidnap each baby, one at a time, give each guardian 13 hours to stop him, and so on and so forth.

It would take a week just to recruit a handful of new soldiers—and that’s only if Jareth is successful each time. What if most of the guardians are as resourceful as Sarah? It could take The Goblin King weeks to produce one lousy goblin.

Jareth Could Use Some Constructive Criticism

But wait, it gets worse. At the beginning of Labyrinth, when the goblins are waiting patiently to snatch Toby, they mention how they have to wait until Sarah actually asks for her brother to be taken. So now it’s not even as simple as just kidnaping any random baby. Jareth and his crew have to wait around for people to actually request someone take their child.

Look, all we’re saying is that we know Jareth calls himself The Goblin King, but maybe he should really consider opening up his ranks to other creatures. Otherwise, all it would take is one losing battle to keep him occupied with tedious legwork for weeks, possibly years. How is it that no one else has ever brought up how ridiculous Labyrinth’s goblin-creating method is?

Oh, that’s right. Bowie’s tight white pants. Don’t worry–they used to distract us, too.