Best Fairy Tale Movies: Labyrinth
From recent theatrical releases, such as Into the Woods, to required reading lists for students, fairy tales are prominent contributors to popular culture and academia. Some parents may contemplate the lessons taught by fairy tales, while others fear the films may be too scary for their youngsters. We are sharing the Best Fairy Tale Movies series with the intention of addressing both of these considerations as well as broadening the fairy tale genre to include animated classics, live action adventures, and modern interpretations. So, delve into these on-screen stories to experience lessons in love, loss, and life and, perhaps, to find your new favorite film.
Jim Henson, most widely associated with his famous Muppets, created the puppets for and directed the cult fantasy Labyrinth. Following in the footsteps of classic fairy tales, Labyrinth features magic and mysticism, the struggle between good and evil, and mythological creatures. Each of these entities serve to teach the protagonist, Sarah, the vital moral, to be careful what you wish for.
Released: June, 27, 1986
Director: Jim Henson
Run time: 101 minutes
Full disclosure: Several fictional creatures throughout the film, such as hairless, rodent-like puppets, could be scary to young children. Goblins are featured throughout the film and the Goblin King, David Bowie, throws a snake at the leading lady. In addition, a machine with blades and spikes hurls its way toward Sarah and “certain death” is often suggested but nothing too graphic occurs on screen.
Is Labyrinth educational?
At each turn of the labyrinth, either a new piece of educational wisdom is granted or a life lesson unfolds.
When Sarah is expected to babysit her baby brother, he cries until Sarah wishes for the Goblin King to take him away. Jareth (the Goblin King) complies and Sarah immediately regrets her wish. This scene teaches us that words are powerful, life can change in an instant, and to be careful of what we wish for.
In an effort to rescue her brother before he is turned into a goblin, Sarah must navigate a seemingly impossible labyrinth. She is faced with challenging riddles, deceitful companions, and scary monsters. When Sarah first enters the labyrinth, a worm warns her not to go “that way. Never go that way!” She instead goes in the opposite direction and, when she is out of earshot, the worm declares, “If she had kept going down that way, she would’ve gone straight to that castle!” This is a great time to pause the movie and discuss how different people can have different goals. Additionally, this scene stresses the importance of communication and ensuring that we have all of the information that we need to make informed decisions.
Sarah’s relationship with Hoggle teaches viewers of all ages to be selective when choosing their friends. While Hoggle proves to be a helpful friend by the end of the film, his mischievous actions, influenced by Jareth, illustrate the importance of being wary of recent acquaintances.
When Jareth demands Sarah turn back “before it is too late,” Sarah perseveres by continuing toward the castle. Perseverance is an admirable trait that helps paint Sarah as a role model as she strives to overcome obstacles.
Labyrinth iterates the moral taught throughout The Princess Bride (and commonly experienced in everyday life) that life isn’t fair. “That’s not fair!” Sarah huffs. Without missing a beat, Jareth retorts, “You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is?”
Sarah’s journey suggests trying a new approach, when one is failing to advance toward their goal:
Sarah: “There aren’t any turns or openings. It just goes on and on!”
Worm: “It’s full of openings. Just you ain’t seeing them.”
The worm is encouraging when Sarah feels as though she is not make progress, suggesting that Sarah slow down, and look at her objective from a different angle. Shortly after her interaction with the worm, Sarah is advised that ” Sometimes it seems we are not getting anywhere, when in fact, we are,” which also echos the importance of perseverance.
When Sarah reaches two doors, one of which leads to the castle, the four guards require her to solve a riddle. Sarah’s explanation behind her answer to the riddle exemplifies the value in thinking logically rather than just guessing, in the hopes of finding a solution.
Will my family like Labyrinth?
Available to watch instantly on Netflix, Labyrinth is easily accessible and packed with musical talent (I hope you like David Bowie), humor, and whimsy. If your children are easily spooked by puppets however, (especially ones who can disconnect and juggle their body parts) it might be best to hold off for a few years before viewing as a family.
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Sarah Mills is a contributing writer for Learning Liftoff. She mentored and instructed kindergarten through high school-aged students throughout her college years and eventually went on to live and work in Yosemite National Park for a stint. Reading, writing, adventuring, and anything Harry Potter are some of Sarah’s favorite go-to activities.