I love the movie Labyrinth. I saw it when I was very young. For many years I wasn’t sure if it was something that I imagined or if it was something that I had watched, like the Dark Crystal or Legend.
I have watched it many times. Each time I watch it, I notice something new and different. The movie hasn’t changed, but I have changed and that has lead me to realize many things about both myself and the movie.
Fairy tales have always been at the top of my list of things that I enjoy reading. I love how the same story will change in the details depending on which culture is doing the telling, as well as how some of the more gruesome details will be changed or omitted depending on the fragility of the intended audience.
There are many fairy tales that tell the story of a brave and cunning girl/princess who was able to best the evil foe by using her wits and the tools that were readily available to her. It is no wonder then that I fell in love with the movie Labyrinth.
However, I am no longer a child. I still love fairy tales, but I now see how some are stories that are meant to explain what proper behavior is expected of a lady, and some that show how far some people are willing to go to get what they want.
Watching Labyrinth now, I am able to see some things that I was unable to see as a child. How creepy is it that an immortal being can fall in love with a girl who has barely completed puberty? Not creepy when viewed through the lens of a fairy tale, but very creepy when viewed through a modern lens of a 30+ year old male lusting after a 15 year old girl. What makes is worse is that he is willing to (and does) kidnap her baby brother just so she will consider spending time with him.
One of the most striking things that I see watching the movie as an adult who has read many versions of many fairy tales, both classic and modern, takes place not long after Sarah enters the Labyrinth. Sarah is trying to figure out the rules of the Labyrinth, knows that there is a time limit, but is taking everything for granted. She meets a worm who is able to explain to her that her eyes do not show her everything that there is to see in the labyrinth. The worm then invites her in for tea, and to meet the missus. Sarah refuses and then rushes off to get to the castle, because there is a time limit and she knows that her path is long and will be filled with obstacles. The worm then shakes his head and points out that if she had gone in the other direction, then she would have gone “straight to the castle.”
As a kid, this makes perfect sense. The worm has no arms to point and just seems to give bad or extremely confusing directions. As a slightly older kid, it is kind of irritating that she doesn’t ask for clarification when receiving directions so she can go in the correct direction to achieve her goal. As an adult, it seems rude to turn down an invitation for tea and to meet the missus. Especially when the next meal is uncertain and all allies are needed for the trials ahead.
Fairy tales teach us the importance of being kind to those that we meet on our journeys, for it is impossible to tell whether the people we meet are a Faerie in disguise, or just another human wishing to do mischief. Most of the time, as fairy tales teach us, the people that we meet on our journeys are important because they have the information or the tools that we need to succeed in our quest.
The tale told in Labyrinth is important because Sarah learns of her own strength. She would not have learned the lessons that she learned, nor would she have made the friends that she did without going on her journey. If she had been a bit older and wiser, I think that she would have had tea with the worm, met the missus, and retrieved Toby from the castle beyond the goblin city before Toby gets hungry for dinner.