The Supporting Players
It's hard to organize Labyrinth's many characters by relevance, because they have so many
degrees of role and importance. But this is what we consider Third Tier characters, guys who have some
impact on Sarah's life or her journey in the Labyrinth.
Sarah's parents are very ordinary and have no understanding
of Sarah and her fantasy life. They're supposed to be boring enough that you empathize with Sarah for
wanting to bail on them, but they're never redeemed in the slightest, and her bad association with them
is never addressed. They're so lousy that they're part of why Labyrinth's ending
doesn't make sense. Who would ever want to go back to these people?
And no one knows why their dialog is so badly looped. They may even have dubbed voices of other actors.
We don't know Sarah's Stepmom's name. It's even missing from the novelization of the movie.
The same was true for the wicked stepmom in Cinderella, so maybe she was supposed to be an anonymous figure of
menace. We're not sure if this character was meant to be Queen Bitch or
just an average '80s stepparent that Sarah would be overly sensitive to.
(The 1980s were populated with emotionally-distant
stepparents and their stepkids who refused to call them "Mom" or "Dad.")
Stepmom is assertive and clearly dominant in the marriage, but for
a megabitch, she's not too bad. If anything, this sequence portrays Sarah as a bit spoiled and
"Robert Williams" is as interesting as that fascinating name would suggest. It's "Robert"
according to the novelization, but on the film alone, he's a nobody.
The actual dude (Christopher Malcolm) went on to steady
work as a character actor, but we don't think much of Robert the character. Who
would want this guy as a dad or boyfriend, let alone as a husband? He's so unremarkable.
We don't enjoy Sarah's Stepmom either, but at least she has moxie.
These are some of your more beastly Underground folks. We think they're a subspecies of goblin, but it's hard to
tell since they're always covered in armor. This is protection from themselves, because they're very dumb and have
weapons. We don't even know what these things are really called, because "Nipper" refers only to the weapon: a long
pole that has a naked, fetal velociraptor clinging to it. This thing can bite on command, and they use it to torment
other, loftier characters that they can't otherwise reach to harass.
In this case, it's Ludo. We assume he stepped into a foot snare, maybe a trap set by these sadistic goblins, and
they enjoy torturing the poor guy until Sarah comes along and helps him.
The Four Guards
When it comes to Labyrinth, people invariably bring up two things:
1. Jareth's Package
2. These silly characters and whether Sarah chose the correct door!
We don't know their real names, but in the book Sarah calls these guys Alph (Left) and Ralph (Right), and the guards underneath are
Jim and Tim. These are freaky conjoined cardsuit
twin muppets with heads, arms, and legs on both ends. Sarah takes these guys pretty seriously, but they whisper
to each other and get a
laugh over what to tell her. They really are double-sided, two-faced cards. Sorta cute, but we
think they're just
screwing around at Sarah's expense.
Did she choose the correct door?
Sarah is smart here and uses a double-blind proposal to get the doors to answer a question the same way. It totally
does work and makes sense if you think it through. (Apparently the writers made sure of that.)
However, there are problems with the stated confines of this riddle that sort of make the whole thing moot. Dig our analysis:
1. Sarah believes Ralph from the start.
It's Ralph (Righty) who says, "One of us always tells the truth, and one of us always lies."
And Sarah takes this as truth. There shouldn't even be a question of "which one should I believe?" -
She's already decided.
If true, this would mean that Ralph (righty) is honest, and Alph (lefty) is the liar. However...
2. It's likely that the "Always Lie/Always Truth" Statement Itself is false.
Alph says, "You can't ask us. You can only ask ONE of us." And Ralph immediately agrees with him.
He nods and says, "Mm Hm. It's in the rules!"
If one always tells the truth and the other one always lies, they shouldn't be able to agree on anything.
It suggests that truth and lies are being told randomly by both of them.
3. The Whole thing may be a lie anyway.
Why believe either door? Maybe they're both liars, or they alternate between
lies and honesty. This is Labyrinth, nothing is what it seems, and no one is obligated to give accurate
information. Being told that "One of us is honest and one of us is a liar." shouldn't be taken
as truth to begin with.
4. Where do the doors actually Lead to?
"One leads to the center of the Labyrinth, the other to Certain Death." One of the *Lower Guards* (Tim or Jim) says this,
but it's never stated whether these Lower Guards are honest. No information is given about them,
so who knows if this claim is accurate. The doors could go anywhere,
to random fates.
5. 'Truth' and 'Lie' depend on knowledge.
Alph and Ralph don't seem to be omniscient. They can only "lie" or tell the "truth" based on what they think is
fact. Maybe they haven't checked behind those doors lately, and something has changed since. Maybe Jareth made some
changes. (He loves Sarah and probably wouldn't let her go to "Certain Death," but do Alph and Ralph know that?)
And who knows if the trapdoor that drops her into the Helping Hands
was actually part of the original destination? Maybe Alph and Ralph didn't even know it was there. Even for someone
who "always tells the truth," that information is limited to his own knowledge.
The Helping Hands
Do you need a hand??? Let me give you a hand !!
The Labyrinth has hands. Many, many hands that live in a column
above the Oubliette. Hoggle says that the Labyrinth has many oubliettes, so maybe there are more Helping Hands, too.
It's a mystery how these hands work, and if they've been disconnected somehow from other body parts. Maybe there are
"Helping Feet" somewhere. Helping Knees? Helping Torsos.
The Helping Hands are helpful. They grab you so that you don't fall down the column, which is pretty high and
would really hurt you. Then they even cater to your choice of "Up or Down," so this is some of the best treatment
that the Labyrinth offers. They're so helpful that they're
proud of it, and you can actually
*offend* them by suggesting otherwise. As Sarah does when she yells "Help!!" and some of the hands take it personally:
"What do you mean 'Help'? We are helping."
The Wise Man
Life's confusing. Sometimes you're a narcoleptic muppet living in a giant hedge maze above a Goblin King's
Oubliette, and you have a
dismembered half-bird living on top of your head and constantly mouthing off. It's no better for the bird; he's
stuck with you - has no say in anything that happens and doesn't even have wings to fly away. At first blush
he seems like the
smarter of this pair, as the "Wise Man" just spouts Taoist rhetoric:
"Sometimes the way forward is actually the way back."
You're still supposed to pay for it. Sarah gives him some jewelry, but it seems like he didn't help at all - even Hoggle
in the novelization, the Wise Man's advice actually works! Sarah and Hoggle have been walking "forward" in the hedge maze, but they
end up going in circles and coming to the same place (the pottery they climbed out of) over and over. So they
turn around and deliberately try going backward, and this straightens them out. That's good stuff that should have
been included in the film.
Instead, the Wise Man's advice is never explained, and comes off as nonsense.
The Door Knockers
These guys are fantastic! They look like the real thing, metal come to life. Especially their eyes, which have
carved-out lil pupils that roll around all cute like they're actually thinking about stuff. Big kudos to the creative
staff here. We'd love to have one
of these as a pet or something. They're also nice guys (much more accomodating than the last two doors!), just
regular folks doing their thing in the Labyrinth. One of them has a ring that goes through his ears, so he can't hear.
The other one has to hold the ring in his mouth and he doesn't like it, but we wonder why he doesn't just open his mouth and
drop it ?
This is also one of Ludo's cutest scenes where he plays with the ring and bites it. Awww...
The Bog of Eternal Stench
This isn't an actor, but it deserves mention as a supporting player somehow. Really, can you imagine Labyrinth without
the Bog? It just wouldn't work. How would Jareth threaten anyone?
Where would treasonous goblins be submerged? Whatever would we use as a broad, child-friendly comedic premise??
Within the Labyrinth are a few self-contained, semi-natural "habitats," and the Bog is one of these. It has trees and
is like a swamp, but it's also chemically active. It steams and bubbles and even makes noise. This could be some
magical enchantment, or maybe it's volcanic or nuclear/HazMat activity.
The Bog's stench is indescribable. Even Sarah says that she's never smelled anything like it, so it's probably a
mixture of horrors.
We think the Bog could be a natural, sulfur-swamp formation that the Underground residents have then converted to an
Open Sewer. The Labyrinth may have
a waste management
department that's run by goblins (poorly), so the Bog could be a dump site for septic waste and drainoff from the
Goblin City. It could even include rotting, dead Goblins and dead pets, depending on whether goblins are mortal and
how they treat their dead and whether they have a Pet Cemetery.
But even the Bog and its stench find redemption in this movie, because Sir Didymus is an actual Bog-dweller and doesn't
the odor. Or he's learned to like it and even find it "sweet" and "fragrant." So it turns out that smell is in the
nose of the beholder.
Funny thing about the Bog is Brian Froud's observation that it became a bit stenchy for real. The Bog had to
"sit" for filming, with all the
water, props, and material in it (some organic?). After ripening for several days, apparently the Bog was not so fresh.
If we had the Goblin King's jurisdiction, our first order of royal business would be extermination of the Firey species
from the face of the Underground. Instantaneous genocide would be ideal, but failing that we'd outfit
hunting parties Labyrinth-wide, and bounty every Firey head they could deliver.
We love "Labyrinth," but it does have problems. People criticize the writing and the character interactions, the
confusion about what the story is really trying to say, and of course the ending. But all of those things are
excusable, because they can (and do) happen in any movie.
The Fireys are the *only* problem that isn't excusable. This sequence starts
up as an editing seizure, it goes nowhere, accomplishes nothing, and is so damn annoying that it
brings the whole movie to a stop. And even worse than the actual content (excruciating as that is) is its burglary
on the rest of the film, a whopping
3:45 that should have been
used for script and character development. (More Jareth and Sarah interaction, a better beginning with a more coherent crossover from the
real world into the Labyrinth, etc.)
The only question remaining is how to actually kill these things. They don't seem to have a centralized blood supply or
nervous system, as they can survive being dismembered. They also seem to be fireproof. It may take a piecemeal approach,
shredding them to bits. Perhaps an appointment with The Cleaners is in order.
The Junk Lady
One of the stranger sequences in Labyrinth, and the kind of thing that makes no sense when you watch this movie as
a kid. We remember seeing this at Age 9 and being all WTF? Why is the room fake? Why does it fall apart? How come
she thinks this is really her room, but she accepts this strange goblin lady as part of it? What is this movie
trying to inform our spongey, impressionable young minds ??
Even for adults, this is subject to interpretation, and it's too 'deep' to play friendly with the rest of the script.
Prior to this, Sarah doesn't spend any energy or script time on introspection, so it's jarring for us to suddenly
have to deal with this complex, psychological commentary.
This is why the Junk Lady is partly to blame for the unevenness of "Labyrinth" as a film. We're not in the right state of mind, because
the Junk Lady is the first (and only?) goblin-thingie that Sarah
encounters that deliberately raises personal issues like this. And after the earlier madness of the Fireys (something
just as extreme, but totally meaningless) the audience is probably not on board to process what's happening.
We don't know exactly what the Junk Lady represents, but she's a cautionary tale about not owning too much
crap. It's not good to end up like this, bogged down with all your stuff because you just can't let go.
(You don't want
to be a Hoarder and end up on that show.)
Most of the goblins are stupid, and the Underground probably doesn't offer higher education in Industrial Arts or
Electrical Engineering, but someone has managed to build this very sophisticated assault robot. It guards the
gate to the Goblin City, though we're not sure why the city needs protection (from whom?), and badly enough to
warrant an established defense of this magnitude. Maybe goblins are just a combative lot and have plenty of spare time to work on this
Anyway. This robot is full of sound and fury, but easily dispatched. A single goblin works the controls, and
Hoggle shows up just in time to jump in there and save the day. Then he does a face-plant from about twenty feet in
the air (!) but is apparently fine.
This was like a *real* robot that they constructed for this movie, very huge and impressive. To a point. Actually
we've always found this guy to be anticlimactic, because he's not alive. There's something more involving about
facing an organic challenge that has consciousness. At the end of the day, this is just machinery. But
this could be a guy thing, something that the boys in the audience dig. The whole sequence in the Goblin City is
boy-friendly and maybe works as a counterweight to the girly content.
Go On To...
Go Back To...
Our Labyrinth Homepage
©2011 The Labyrinth Pages
c/o Champion Valley