Labyrinth Wiki
Jareth, the Goblin King
Character information
Years alive

c. Forever


The Goblin Kingdom






King of all goblins


Labyrinth (film)
Labyrinth (Novelization)
Labyrinth: The Storybook Based On The Movie
Labyrinth (comic)
Labyrinth: The Photo Album
As The World Falls Down (music video)
Return to Labyrinth

Jareth, the Goblin King (played by the late David Bowie) is a character in the 1986 movie Labyrinth. Jareth is the film's main antagonist, and also appears in much of the tie-in material produced to compliment the film, including its novelization. He is a main character in spin-offs to the film including Return to Labyrinth and Labyrinth: Coronation.


Jareth and Sarah looking out at the Labyrinth.

Jareth has the power to shape shift into a white barn-owl and is first seen watching Sarah in this form as she recites lines from the play The Labyrinth.

Jareth first appears in the film in his human form when he is summoned by Sarah to take her infant brother Toby away from her. Jareth attempts to make Sarah give up her brother by offering her a crystal that will reveal her dreams, only for her to refuse. Jareth transports both himself and Sarah to a hill overlooking his Labyrinth and tells her she has thirteen hours to save Toby. He then vanishes, leaving Sarah alone on the hill-top to start her journey.

He is next seen in his castle, surrounded by his drunk, clumsy goblin subjects. He rises from his throne and begins to interact with his subjects through the song Magic Dance, which he uses to express his delight at having Toby in his possession.

When Sarah falls into the Oubliette, Jareth is perturbed by the speed of her progress through the Labyrinth. He declares that he plans to send Hoggle to fetch her and take her back to the start of the Labyrinth, and laughs at the thought of hindering her progress.

Disguising himself as a blind, shabby beggar, Jareth waits for Sarah and Hoggle in the passage leading away from the Oubliette, attracting their attention with one of his crystals. He does away with his disguise as soon as they appear, asking Hoggle to explain why he appears to be helping Sarah instead of taking her back to the start of the Labyrinth as he was ordered to. Quickly losing interest in Hoggle, Jareth approaches Sarah and asks for her opinion on his Labyrinth. Her flippant response causes him to lose his patience with her, takes some of her time to save Toby away, and he sends the Cleaners after both Sarah and Hoggle as punishment.

Jareth's next significant appearance is an encounter with Hoggle, where he gives a peach to Hoggle that he orders him to give to Sarah. When asked if the peach will harm Sarah, Jareth taunts Hoggle and ridicules the idea that Sarah could consider "a repulsive little scab" such as him a friend. In parting, he tells Hoggle he will make him 'Prince of the Land of Stench' if Sarah should ever kiss him. He soon fulfils this promise, causing a trap door that leads to The Bog of Eternal Stench to open beneath both Sarah and Hoggle when Sarah kisses Hoggle in gratitude for him having saved her. Later, when Hoggle is about the drop the peach into the bog, Jareth's disembodied voice tells him "I wouldn't do that if I were you" and Hoggle returns the peach to his pocket.

David Bowie as Jareth in Labyrinth.

After Sarah eats the peach, she begins to forget why she was in the Labyrinth. Jareth is seen sitting in the window of his throne room, casting crystals out into the sky that travels towards Sarah and draw her into a dream-world.

The dream-world consists of a lavish ball, where Jareth watches Sarah from the crowd. Jareth is elusive at first, deliberately hiding from Sarah as she wanders through the ballroom, confused and disorientated. Jareth dances with a number of women, however his attention is always focused on Sarah. Eventually, he approaches her and draws her into a dance, singing the love ballad written by David Bowie, As The World Falls Down. By the sight of a clock, Sarah remembers her mission & time is running out, and she pulls herself free from Jareth and flees. Jareth watches her run from him, and is lost from sight in the crowd.

Following Sarah's entrance into the Goblin City, a guard enters Jareth's throne room to inform him that "the girl who ate the peach and forget everything" is making her way towards the castle. Visibly stunned by this news, Jareth calls out for his army to stop her and passes Toby to a goblin so he can be hidden.

Jareth confronts Sarah in the Escher Room of his castle, trying to disorientate her by performing gravity-defying stunts on the stairways that fill the room. He sings the song Within You to her, attempting to convey the lengths he has gone to in order to meet her wishes. Entirely focused on saving Toby, Sarah ignores him, ultimately reaching a precipice she leaps from in order to reach her brother.

When Sarah lands, she is faced with Jareth once again as he approaches her from a dark, shadowy alcove. Jareth attempts to make Sarah see what he has done to please her, most significantly taking her brother away when asked to. Sarah ignores him, and recites the words from the The Labyrinth necessary to defeat him. Jareth pleads with her, telling Sarah he is tired of 'living up' to her expectations and that she can have everything she wants if she will only love, fear and obey him. When Sarah is unresponsive, he offers her a crystal that he says contains her dreams. Sarah manages to resist the temptation, and defeats Jareth by declaring "You have no power over me." He drops the crystal in disappointment.

"What a pity...."

Jareth is last seen perched on a branch outside Sarah's window in white-owl form, watching as she celebrates with her friends. Jareth flies off as they celebrate, silhouetted against the moon.The song "Underground" plays.

Appearances In Other Media[]


Jareth's portrayal in the novelization is similar to that in the film; however, it differs in several important respects. In the novelization, several scenes are written directly from Jareth's point of view and offer insights into his view of events. He appears to be tired of his role as Goblin King, and dislikes the inanity of his subjects. It is suggested that he would like to keep Sarah with him as a companion, but is blocked from doing so, mostly because of her young age. He is more predatory in the novelization, and attempts to kiss Sarah as they dance during the dream-ballroom before she pulls away from him. Jareth does not sing in the novelization, and all the musical scenes that feature him in the film are replaced by dialogue scenes.

Music Videos:[]


In the Underground music video, David Bowie portrays a singer performing in a dingily lit, underground club. The scenes of Bowie performing are inter-cut with scenes that show him being lured into the strange world of the Labyrinth, which is represented through the use of puppets from the film and animation. The music video ends with Bowie choosing to enter the world of the Labyrinth for good, ripping off his human skin to reveal an animated self beneath.

As the World Falls Down[]

In this music video, Jareth appears to be pining after a grown-up Sarah. He is shown performing the track in an elegant room, with Hoggle as his sole companion. A portrait of Sarah hangs on the wall. At one point the portrait crashes to the ground, prompting Jareth and Hoggle to look to the door as they falsely believe there is someone on the other side. The doorway is empty, and Jareth is seen staring ahead grimly upon realizing no one was there.

Spin-off comics[]

Return to Labyrinth[]

Jareth appears as one of the main characters in Return to Labyrinth, a four-volume original manga sequel to the film created by Jake T. Forbes and published by Tokyopop between 2006 and 2010. In the manga, Jareth has been the Goblin King for 1,300 years, and is not a goblin like his subjects but had decided to rule them out of boredom. Having created the Labyrinth to isolate himself and protect his heart, Jareth is weakened by Sarah's defeat and his powers have diminished. In the series, which is set more than a decade after the events of the film, Jareth abdicates his throne, establishing the now teenaged Toby as his heir and leaving him in charge of the Labyrinth, which is in a deteriorating state. Jareth then goes to the human world to entice Sarah, with whom he is still in love, into creating a new world with him using the power of her dreams.

Labyrinth: Coronation[]

Jareth is the central character in Labyrinth: Coronation, a 12-issue comic series published between 2018 and 2019 by Archaia which relates how he became the Goblin King. Written by Simon Spurrier, the series takes place within the timeline of the events of the film, framed as a story told to baby Toby by Jareth during their off-screen time together. Beginning in 1790s Venice, the story revolves around an infant Jareth who has been stolen by the previous ruler of the Labyrinth, known as the Owl King, and follows the quest of Jareth's mother, Maria, to rescue her son.


He is not the basic stereotype for a villain. He is presents as being proud, clever, charming and deceiving. As the film progresses, he displays other traits, at some points even shows feelings toward Sarah as she progresses through his Labyrinth. By the end of the film he is desperate to win, attempting to win Sarah over by offering her everything she wants, promising to be her slave in exchange for her love, fear and obedience.

He acts like the ring leader with his goblin subjects, expecting them to laugh at his jokes and quickly losing his patience with them. Despite the fact he treats his subjects poorly, they continue to serve him and obey him without question. He appears weary of their antics, and often seems more interested in following Sarah's progress in one of his crystals than interacting with them.

Despite Jareth showing no signs of anger at Sarah's rejection in the film, the Return to Labyrinth series depicts Jareth as a sore loser in the wake of Sarah's victory, unable to accept his defeat at the hands of a young girl. He appears to be very domineering when given the opportunity, with his main goal following Sarah's defeat of him being able to make her forget her own dreams and bend to his will. However, due to the fact that he lets her leave to follow her dreams at the end of the series, this proves Jareth truly does love Sarah.


Jareth has long layered blond hair in the shape of a mullet, and his eyes appear to be different colours as the pupil of one is permanently dilated. The eye variation is genuine and was from an injury David Bowie sustained as a teen. (A schoolfellow punched him in the eye with a ringed fist during a fight over a girl.)

In an early version of the screenplay, after Sarah refuses Jareth, he drops the crystal and the handsome androgynous glamorous form of Bowie disappears and he appears as a degenerative little goblin--his true form.

His age is never given, however the novelization of the film implies that Jareth has been the Goblin King for a long time and overtly states that he is concerned by signs he is aging such as frown-lines and wrinkles. Return to Labyrinth states that Jareth was Goblin King for 1300 years, implying that he is either immortal or very long lived. This, however, is contradicted by the prequel comic series Labyrinth: Coronation, which depicts how Jareth became Goblin King in the 1700s, making him roughly 300 years old, and will continue to live forever.

Jareth's outfits.jpg


Jareth wears eight distinct costumes over the course of the film, often being seen in black boots, long, ragged cloaks, a black sparkly jacket, eye makeup, baggy shirts and contoured trousers. In most of his scenes, he wears a sickle-shaped pendant around his neck. He


Jareth is shown to have a range of magical powers. He can transform into an owl at will, and uses this form to travel to the human world, where he encounters Sarah in a park. He can manipulate crystal balls with his hands easily, and does so to impress Sarah at the start of the film. He is able to appear and disappear in his realm as he wishes, and appears to have telepathic abilities. He is also able to defy gravity, running through the Escher Room in his castle upside down.

In Return to Labyrinth, Jareth is shown to have created the Labyrinth in order to keep others from reaching him and his heart. He is said to be unable to travel to the mortal realm unless summoned, however this restriction does not prevent him travelling between worlds in his owl form. However, we don't know if this is true in the film or not, as the manga is not an official canon to the movie.



Jareth and Sarah in a publicity photo.

"Just fear me, love me, do as I say, and I will be your slave."
―Jareth pleading with Sarah.

Jareth appears to be aware of Sarah some time before she realizes he is more than a character from her play. At the start of the film, he is seen in his owl form watching Sarah as she recites lines from The Labyrinth. When he first interacts with her he is both seductive and intimidating, offering her a crystal that contains her dreams only to toss a snake at her when she refuses to take it. As Sarah travels through his Labyrinth, Jareth's interest in her intensifies as she surprises him with her fast progress. He is shown to watch her constantly, and becomes so concerned by her progress he forces Hoggle to give her an enchanted peach that traps her in a dream-state. During their climatic confrontation, Jareth begs Sarah to give into him and take up his offer of her dreams. When Sarah defeats him by reciting a speech from The Labyrinth, Jareth appears disappointed yet resigned by her victory. Jareth is last seen in the film watching Sarah in his owl form, briefly spying on her in her bedroom as she celebrates with her friends.

The nature of Jareth's relationship with Sarah in the film is ambiguous, since it is never made clear if his speech at the end of the film is a last ditch attempt to distract her or a genuine confession. However the lyrics of the song Within You, which Jareth sings to Sarah in the Escher Room, suggest that Jareth's interest in Sarah is genuine.

The film's novelization includes scenes from Jareth's perspective, one of which indicates that Jareth would have liked to keep Sarah as a companion but is powerless to do so due to her youth. The ballroom scene in the novelization is more overtly sensual than the one in the film, and has Jareth attempt to kiss Sarah at the conclusion of their dance. As is the case in the film, it is not clear whether Jareth is consciously participating in Sarah's dream or if the whole scene is a product of Sarah's imagination.

In Return to Labyrinth, Jareth is shown to have desired Sarah ever since he first encountered her when she wished Toby to him. He was dramatically weakened by her defeat of him, and began to lose control of the Labyrinth. Out of both a need to have his powers restored to him and the desire he feels for Sarah, he has the sorceress Mizumi create Moppet for him. Moppet is an ablation, formed of the optimistic, fanciful dreams Sarah discarded when she found them too painful to retain in the wake of her rejection from Julliard School. Jareth attempts to compel Moppet to love him, providing her with a beautiful room and a wardrobe of luxurious dresses. She is largely unresponsive and after 'many years' he abandons her, re-focusing his attentions on Sarah herself and planning how to reach her. Jareth abdicates and makes Toby the ruler of the Goblin Kingdom, leaving him free to travel to Sarah. Jareth tricks Sarah into attending a theatre performance that triggers the return of her memories of him and the Labyrinth, and afterwards convinces her to return to his realm so they can construct a new world together. While they are both together in this state, Jareth repeatedly squashes Sarah's doubts in order to keep her with him. When their new world is virtually complete, Jareth asks Sarah to dance with him and tells her that 'you ensnared my heart and left me broken' and that he will not allow her to leave as she belongs to him. Jareth's obsession with Sarah is shown to make him disregard all other things and he shows little interest in the fate of his crumbling Labyrinth, his sole concern the preservation of the world they have formed together. Jareth eventually agrees to help Sarah save the Labyrinth, but only if she will fulfil his wish and kiss him.

Throughout Return to Labyrinth, Jareth demonstrates an over-riding need to dominate Sarah. Devastated by her rejection and defeat of him, he becomes pre-occupied with making her bend to his will. However at the end of series he accepts that Sarah needs to take her own path, and allows her to return to her own world.



When Toby is a baby Jareth is very indulgent with him, and enjoys looking after him while he is briefly in his possession. He re-names Toby Jareth at one point and comments that he 'has my eyes'. Jareth entertains Toby by dancing with him and singing, and clearly finds him amusing.

Return to Labyrinth has Jareth serve as Toby's self-appointed guardian angel throughout the latter's childhood, and Jareth provides him with the material possessions his parents refused to buy him. Jareth lures Toby into the Labyrinth by having one of his goblins steal his homework, and appoints Toby his successor so he is free to travel to the mortal realm to find Sarah. As the series develops Jareth is shown to become steadily more scornful of Toby, and is unimpressed by Toby's choices as Goblin King.


Jareth treats his goblins with great disrespect, exploiting their stupidity and need for a master to turn them into his slaves. He takes their presence for granted, and the goblins readily accept their mistreatment.

Behind The Scenes[]

Jim Henson directing David Bowie on the set of Labyrinth.

The character was significantly different in an early version of the script produced by Terry Jones and Laura Phillips.[1] In the early script, Jareth first arrives at Sarah's house in the guise of Robin Zakar, the playwright who wrote the play Meander's Queen which Sarah is shown reading from at the start of the script. He spirits Toby (known in the early script as Freddie) away to his castle, and does not present Sarah with any sort of ultimatum until she has already made some headway through the Labyrinth with Hoggle. Jareth is shown spying on Sarah through the cut-out eyes of his own portrait in a gallery and is generally far more sinister than he is in the finished film, telling Hoggle that what he does to Sarah is inevitable and only for him to know. In the ballroom scene Jareth refers to Sarah as 'my Queen' and attempts to kiss her, a detail that is retained in the film's novelization. The end scene of the script has Sarah land in a 'magnificent huge' bed and Jareth directly proposition her to be his Queen. Sarah defeats Jareth by refusing his advances, and watches as he shrinks, transforming into a powerless, snivelling Goblin.

According to director Jim Henson, Jareth was originally envisioned as another creature in the same vein as his Goblin subjects. Henson said, "The Goblin King was originally planned to be another creature, until it occurred to us to make it an actor. While we were considering various and sundry actors, we thought to make Jareth a music person, someone who could change the film's whole musical style." [2]

Michael Jackson and Sting were both considered for the part; however, David Bowie was eventually cast in the role after a series of meetings with Henson convinced him to sign on to the project. According to Bowie himself, "Jim gave me the script, which I found very amusing. It's by Terry Jones, of Monty Python, and it has that kind of slightly inane insanity running through it. When I read the script and saw that Jim wanted to put music to it, it just felt as though it could be a really nice, funny thing to do." [3]

Bowie with his stunt double, Nick Gillard.

In an interview with Ecran Fantastique, Henson explained his decision to choose Bowie for the role. "I wanted to put two characters of flesh and bone in the middle of all these artificial creatures," Henson told the magazine "And David Bowie embodies a certain maturity, with his sexuality, his disturbing aspect, all sorts of things that characterize the adult world." [4]

Conceptual designer Brian Froud felt that Bowie was perfect for the role, describing how his "protean persona" made him well-fitted to the role of Jareth. Froud described Jareth as "Sarah's inner fantasy, a character made up of her dreams and nightmares... He is seen, through her eyes, as part dangerous goblin, part glamorous rock star." Summing up his view of the character, Froud states that "Jareth needed to be a mercurial figure who would continually throw Sarah off balance emotionally." [5]

Bowie gave thought to his character's back-story, stating that "One feels that he's rather reluctantly inherited the position of being Goblin King, as though he would really like to be - I don't know - down in Soho or something."[6] Bowie explained that he considered Jareth to be "At best, a romantic, but at worst he’s a spoilt child, vain and temperamental." Commenting on his character's relationship with Sarah, Bowie stated that Jareth is "completely smitten" by her, going on to explain that she is "pretty strong willed and pure and, psychologically I guess, the Virgin Mary figure that some guys seem to yearn for." [7]

Although he enjoyed the shoot for the most part Bowie found certain aspects of the role challenging, in particular interacting with the puppet characters proved difficult. According to Henson, "His first couple of scenes were with Hoggle, and David kept wanting to look off the stage to where the voice was coming from." [8] Additionally the scenes that featured Jareth contact juggling required many takes to perfect, as the actual juggling was performed by professional juggler Michael Moschen who had to kneel behind Bowie and perform blind.[9]

A photo of Bowie, Connelly and Henson during shooting.

Bowie enjoyed working with co-star Jennifer Connelly, saying that "Apart from being quite beautiful, she's a really good actress. And she's a pleasure to work with. One forgets that she's just fourteen years old." [10] He also admired Henson's work ethic, remarking that "Jim is undoubtedly the most unflappable guy I’ve ever encountered in any profession! I just can’t believe his capacity for work."[7]

In a 1987 interview with Kay Rush, Bowie stated that the film was "fun to do" although it wasn't his favourite experience of acting. He also remarked that "Jim had a lot of ideas going in that movie, I think maybe one too many."[11]

Photo Gallery[]


  2. Pirani, Adam. Starlog Magazine. "Part Two: Into the Labyrinth with Jim Henson." August 1986
  3. [1]
  4. Schlockoff, Alain. Ecran Fantastique. "Jim Henson Interview." Feb 1987
  5. Froud, Brian. The Goblins of Labyrinths. Abrams. 2006.
  6. Inside the Labyrinth - a documentary on the making of Labyrinth
  7. 7.0 7.1 Movieline. "David Bowie Interview." June 13 1986.
  8. Pegg, Nicholas. The Complete David Bowie. Reynolds and Hearn. 2002. Page 469.
  9. Inside the Labyrinth
  10. Inside the Labyrinth

External links[]