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13 Facts About LABYRINTH
by Karma Waltonen

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1. This classic movie from 1986 is riddled with references to mythology (e.g. the genesis story), folktales (the frog prince), art (M.C. Escher), etc. If you haven't seen the movie since you were a kid, you haven't seen it all!

2. One such reference is found in the song "Magic Dance," which begins, "You remind me of the babe?" "What babe?" "The babe with the power . . ." This dialogue, with "man" instead of "babe" is found in the Cary Grant film THE BACHELOR AND THE BOBBY-SOXER (1947). Grant's film features a teenager who decides her love interest is a much older man. The girl must grow out of her childish affection for him. Similarly, Sarah in LABYRINTH must deal with her the problematic attraction to the Goblin King and grow out of her childish attachment to her toys.

3. The foundational myth that LABYRINTH builds upon is an old world story about foundlings. While "foundling" can mean any abandoned child, in myth, a foundling is when a human woman's baby is taken by a supernatural other or replaced with a supernatural baby. Fairies (Fae) were known to steal human babies, replacing ours with their own.

4. Many
of the names used in this film are also references to other works and stories. For example, Sarah's dog, Merlin, is also Sir Didymus's steed, Ambrosius. This doubling is reflected in the fact that the name of the wizard in Lady Mary Stewart's tale of King Arthur is "Merlin Ambrosius."

5. Much of this playing with myth and culture is due to the influence of Terry Jones, one of the writers of the film. Jones, whom you may know from MONTY PYTHON, also has a degree in Medieval History. His work on Knights in particular is evident in the crafting of Sir Didymus's character.

6. The labyrinth in the film is actually a maze. Traditionally, labyrinths are not puzzles; they are circular paths used for ritual and meditation. In labyrinths, there are no dead ends. However, Jareth's maze is called a labyrinth because of the reference to the old board game of the same name. You can see the game in Sarah's room.

7. Speaking of things you can see in Sarah's room, basically everything in the film is foreshadowed by a careful glance at the objects she holds dear—every important character, including the Goblin King, is shown in
some form in her room. You can also see games, puzzles, traps, and Escher-esque stairs depicted in the opening bedroom scan.

8. There are other treats for those who watch carefully. The split sculpture, which I would proudly display in my home, looks like a pile of rocks, until a certain camera angle shows the stones to come together to form the Goblin King's face. The film has several other "hidden" faces as well.

9. This was the last movie directed by Jim Henson. His son, Brian, voiced Hoggle.

10. The last film by Jim Henson contained the beginning of the CGI revolution (which severely hampered puppetry in film forever after). The owl in the main titles is the first attempt at a realistic animal in a feature.

11. Sarah answers the puzzle correctly. Sarah has to learn a lot of lessons on her journey—one is simple logic. She is presented with a classic puzzle of two doors—one leading to certain doom. Each door is guarded by a similar figure—one always tells the truth and one always lies. The person on the quest can only ask one question.

Sarah figures out exactly what to do—to ask guard A what guard B
would say. She also goes through exactly the right door. She then falls into the floor because she is foolish enough to say, "it's a piece of cake"; those words are always punished in the labyrinth.

12. Although David Bowie looked really cool playing with those crystal balls, it wasn't David Bowie. Michael Moschen was crouching down behind Bowie in all of those scenes, with his arms acting as Bowie's. He was unable to see what he was doing, but he did it perfectly.

13. The Goblin clock has thirteen hours. This is fitting, as Sarah has entered a mystical realm—13 is a mystical number. It is the number of Jesus's closest group (including Jesus), of a witches' coven, and of a rugby league team. Although our Western zodiac and solar calendar consists of twelve divisions, there are thirteen in the lunar calendar. Now that Sarah has grown up, both mentally and physically, she will be reminded of this number each year as she has to get her birth control from the pharmacy thirteen times.

Perhaps the first time she forgets about the mystical number thirteen, there will be another baby to offer up to the Goblin King . . .

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Mike Thomas
Apr 27, 2011 10:48 PM
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You put a lot of work in the column, Karma. makes me want to dig out my copy and watch it again!

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Comedies with Dr. Karma
Every other Wednesday

Dr. Karma discusses all things comic, from the classics to what may become classics. Laugh with, but not at, her, please.

Other Columns
Other columns by Karma Waltonen:

Goodbye -- Dr. Karma

The Dictator and Dark Shadows

Pirates and Whedon Movies: In Theatres Now!

A Touch of Cult

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Karma Waltonen
Dr. Karma is a silly, nerdy know-it-all, but in a good way. She brings all her overeducation to discuss that which truly matters: comedy. As some famous guy once said: “And if I laugh at any mortal thing, ‘tis that I may not weep.” Or something like that.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Karma Waltonen by clicking here.

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