The Goblins are the most prominent race to inhabit the Labyrinth, and are ruled over by Jareth, the Goblin King. They feature in both the Jim Henson film Labyrinth and its manga sequel, Return to Labyrinth.
The Terry Jones and Brian Froud book The Goblins of Labyrinth is a catalogue of many of the concept drawings that served as inspiration for the goblins seen in the film. The book names each goblin depicted in Froud's illustrations, and gives them a back-story.
The goblins are a remarkably diverse race, ranging from only a few inches to several feet in height. They also have drastically different physical features, displaying a diverse range of physical characterstics. Some goblins have small eyes while others have huge, protruding ones, some have horns and wild, unkempt hair while others are completely bald. A few even have wings or a tail.
The origin of the goblins is unclear. When Jareth is outlining to Sarah what will happen to her infant brother if she fails to rescue him, he says the baby will become "one of us" if she does not reach him in time. This can be taken to mean the baby would have been turned into a goblin had Sarah lost, which in turn implies that the goblins may have once been human children themselves.
Contrary to the suggestion the goblins were once human children, Return to Labyrinth indicates that Jareth found the goblins dwelling in a swamp in a dank forest over a 1000 years prior to Sarah's wishing her brother away to him. Jareth decides to make himself the King of the goblins as he finds them amusing.
Most of the goblins are shown to be extremely stupid, to the point of idiocy. In the film they are generally used for comic effect, and are shown lounging aimlessly around Jareth's throne room, tormenting chickens and consuming alcohol. The Goblin Army appears highly incompetent, and fails to present much of a real threat to Sarah and her friends as they approach Jareth's Castle.
In Return to Labyrinth and The Goblins of Labyrinth, goblins are shown to have a variety of careers outside the military, occupying positions as cooks, shoemakers and musicians. There are goblins of higher intelligence, such as Mayor Spittledrum who is competent enough to oversee the bureaucratic management of The Goblin City.
Thousands of years ago the goblins were ruled by members of their own species. The goblins were governed by a democratic government, whose figureheads were said to be "modest, self-effacing creatures, whose only desire was to promote the happiness and well-being of their fellows." Every goblin in government had to take an Oath of Anonymity to ensure that none of the deeds they carried out were for the sake of their own glory. This oath came to be abused, as the goblins in government started assuming pseudonyms that they became extremely vain of and wished to be preserved for posterity. This abuse resulted in The Great Collapse of Good Governance in the Labyrinth, as the goblins in charge of affairs of state went to great lengths to carry out deeds that would ensure their notoriety.
The goblin society descended into anarchy, and unemployment and unruliness were widespread. At some point following the Collapse of Good Governance in the Labyrinth, Jareth assumed the role of King of the Goblins and made them subject to his whims, treating them as his slaves. Jareth re-created the Labyrinth according to his vision, hiding himself away in its center.
Jareth was an autocratic ruler, and had absolute control over the Labyrinth and all its inhabitants. He maintained control over the goblins through his superior intelligence, magic and ability to intimidate them into submission.
Dissent started to stir among the goblins following Sarah Williams' time in the Labyrinth, as in the wake of her victory Jareth's powers started to wane and he grew progressively more disinterested in affairs of state. The goblins revolted against Jareth, and threatened to remove him from power. Jareth gave the goblins a concession by appointing a general from The Goblin Army, Pajan Spittledrum, Mayor of the Goblin City.
Jareth was able to re-assert his authority for a brief time by striking a deal with the sorceress Mizumi. Mizumi created an ablation from Sarah's dreams, and after he took the girl the ablation manifested itself as back to his Kingdom Jareth found his powers returned for a time. This measure temporarily re-instated the goblins respect for Jareth, although the ablation's existence was kept a secret from everyone.
After several years, the power the ablation had restored to Jareth weakened, and he found his control over the Labyrinth failing. Jareth's deal with Mizumi had involved his giving Mizumi control over the Labyrinth and its King if he failed to make the ablation love him, and Jareth was only concerned with his own freedom. He tricked Toby Williams, the brother of Sarah, into becoming the next King of the Labyrinth and travelled to earth to seek out Sarah. Jareth
Toby was viewed with suspicion by many goblins, as there was a growing feeling amongst them that they should have a goblin ruler. Toby was also considered to be incompetent by some, due to his indecisiveness and inability to control his magic. Candlewic, a general in the Goblin Army, started to plot to remove Toby from power, secretly aligning himself with Mizumi.
Shortly after Toby's coronation, Mizumi seized control over the Labyrinth and The Goblin City. Toby was removed from power and imprisoned. The goblins attempted to rebel against Mizumi's take over, but were supressed by legions of water demons she summoned using her magic.
After coming to the realization she did not want control of The Labyrinth, Mizumi withdrew her forces and returned to her Kingdom of Moraine. Toby was briefly re-instated as King, however he managed to persuade Jareth to rule over the goblins as King once again and re-assume his responsibilites for them.
The following is a list of some of the most significant goblins whose names are known-
The most prominent organization amongst the goblins is The Goblin Army, where many of the goblins find employment. The goblin army consists of a range of forces, from foot soldiers to mounted guards. The Goblin Army is famous for its general incompetence, and its inability to protect The Goblin City from any threats that present themselves. Dozens of soldiers were deployed to prevent Sarah Williams and her companions reaching Jareth's Castle, yet were unable to keep her from her ovjective.
In terms of tactics, the army tends to attempt to overwhelm the threat at hands by deploying large numbers of soldiers to face the enemy head on. There appears to be little coordination in the tactics used by the diffirent divisions of the army, with each demonstrating unique fighting styles.
The Goblin Army answers directly to Jareth, reporting to him on how they fare in battle. Generals from the army have often sought Jareth's guidance when in the heart of battle, requesting his assistance.
Candelwic is a general in the Goblin Army. Mayor Spittledrum and Skub were both formerly employed by the military.
Most of the goblins resident in the castle are expected to wait on Jareth, polishing his boots and endeavouring to follow his commands to the best of their ability. Jareth employed a larger, somewhat intelligent goblin woman to care for the wished children when he did not have time to care for them himself.
Jareth's Castle is equipt with kitchens, which are staffed. Skub becomes the Royal Cook shortly after Jareth's abdication, replacing his deceased mother.