18 Things We Learned about Labyrinth from an old Script

On June 27, 1986, Jim Henson‘s Labyrinth was released in the U.S. It starred rockstar David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly, who has gone on to do Oscar-nominated work in movies like A Beautiful MindThe art was created by Brian Froud, who also did the art of The Dark Crystal and who has many books on his artwork, including The Goblins of LabyrinthThe script was written in part by Monty Python’s Terry Jones. It was directed by Star Wars‘ George Lucas. No wonder thirty years later, we’re all still talking about it.

Serious fans will know that there’s been an early script of the film knocking about the internet for years. To celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of this magical classic, here are eighteen things Anglonerd magazine learned from reading that script.

The ring Sarah gave the Wise One belonged to her mother.

Labyrinth_wisemanWe know from the Playbill clippings in Sarah’s room that she’s very attached to her mother, who is either dead or lives somewhere far away. In the early script, Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) refuses to give Hoggle the ring because it belonged to her mother. Like in the movie, she gives him some plastic jewelry instead. Toward the end of the script, when she sees Hoggle for the last time, she gives him her ring to show her love for him. However, in the final film, there is no mention of her mother giving her this ring, and Sarah spares it to the Wise One without much thought as Hoggle looks on in distress.

Interestingly, the Wise One plays a much bigger role in the early script, appearing not less than three times. While the personality of the hat remains unchanged, the Wise One himself did not deliver useless pieces of advice but instead was more like a definition machine who wound up teaching Ludo all about doors, which is what eventually got Sarah and Ludo out of the forest.

The play Sarah is reading from is written by Robin Zakar, who may actually be Jareth.

The early script was sort of a public advisory against opening the door to strangers. After Sarah’s father warns Sarah against opening the doors to strangers, she invites Jareth (David Bowie) into her house. He is posing as Robin Zakar, the playwright who wrote Meader’s Queen, the play Sarah has been rehearsing for, which was changed to the title The Labyrinth for the film. He claims he was passing through town and heard there would be a local production of his play, the first local one ever, and wanted to meet the star. Sarah tells him that although they are in rehearsal, the play has been delayed. It’s likely that there is no real Robin Zakar, considering that the world of the play is just like the real world that Jareth lives in.

The play actually has a plot.

The only words of Sarah’s play we hear in the movie is the monologue that will eventually topple Jareth’s kingdom: “Through dangers untold and heartships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the goblin city to take back the child that you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours and my kingdom as great. You have no power over me.” However, in the early script, the section that Sarah struggles to remember suggests a little more plot:

Do not be swayed by my pleasure at the sight of you, my lord. For though my father, the Duke, has promised you my hand, I cannot consent to be yours until the evil that stalks our land from highest hill to deepest dale is…

It’s cliché and has little to do with the rest of the movie, but it suggests a conflict of evil in the kingdom, a Duke father concerned about said evil, and a love interest. It’s much nicer in the film that Sarah’s passion (theatre) is the thing that can destroy her enemy.

Jareth is a proper magician with scarves and everything.

Jareth has some hack magician tricks in the film, using crystal balls and a snake that turns into a scarf, but when “Robin Zakar” shows up, he’s a proper two-bit magician. He starts doing all sorts of tricks for Toby in the living room, including the endless rainbow scarf trick and pulling a puppet goblin out of his sleeve. The more he does, the more uneasy Sarah feels about having invited him inside.

The physical threat Jareth poses on Sarah is much stronger in the original script. Rather than standing on a balcony with a monologue, Jareth is in Sarah’s house, walking around, standing very close to her. Sarah’s fear is palpable and he refuses to leave when she asks him to. Likewise, the final standoff between Sarah and Jareth uncomfortably takes place in Jareth’s bedroom.

Toby’s real name is Freddie.

The script refers to Toby as Freddie. This was changed to Toby when the casting was done, as Toby is played by Toby Froud, the son of the film’s art director Brian Froud. I met Toby once at a gallery in New York City. He now does amazing sculpture and puppet work of his own, like both of his parents. You can follow him on Twitter.

The Cleaners are actually designed to cut through the hedges in the garden maze.

That Indiana Jones-esque ball of swinging knives lurching down the underground corridor has always posed a problem for me. What use is it? They are meant to clean, judging by their name, but actually they seem to be more destructive. It turns out that what the cleaners are actually meant to do is keep the garden maze hedges trimmed. This makes much more sense, as the hedges cannot get overgrown for fear of losing the path. However, the entire underground scene was non-existent in the early script, and therefore the Cleaners got moved underground once that section of the movie was added. They went from having a practical use to just being a weapon.

Wait, you said the entire underground scene wasn’t in the early script? Although the Helping Hands and the Oubliette were a late addition to the story, the False Alarms actually were in the early script, but they were at the beginning of the Labyrinth, before Sarah meets the worm. Likewise, the scene where Jareth was disguised as a peddler and the scene where Jareth gives Sarah thirteen hours in which to solve the Labyrinth was combined into one scene early on into Sarah’s journey. As such, Jareth never cheats by taking away any time from her. He simply gives her a watch with thirteen hours on it and leaves. Yes, she has a watch! She doesn’t have to rely on misc. clocks she finds around the maze. Early script Jareth was much nicer and played by the rules.

Jareth is not the barn owl.

At least not in the original script. He is clearly seen with the owl in multiple scenes, as he sends it out to be his spy. In the movie, however, we do see a show of the owl transforming into David Bowie in the window of Toby’s bedroom, so we can only assume that he is the owl in the film version.

The forest is actually a necessary part of the Labyrinth.

I don’t know about you, but I always assumed that Sarah had taken a wrong turn somewhere that led her into the forest where she meets the Fireys. Kind of like the junkyard. In fact, the early script is much more straightforward about the different layers of the Labyrinth. Right up front, Hoggle explains that there’s the stone maze, the garden maze, and the forest levels to get through before you approach the castle.

Behind the door with the ring in his ears is a pool.

Labyrinth_door1Ever wondered what would have happened if Sarah would have chosen the door with the ring in his ears rather than the ring in his mouth? Wonder no more! In the early script, Sarah goes through the door with the ring in his mouth while Hoggle goes through the door with the ring in his ears. Ludo is left where he is, which is where he encounters the Wise One. Behind door number two, the door Ludo says is the “bad door,” Hoggle falls into a pool. He can’t swim and struggles to get out. He’s only rescued by agreeing to Jareth’s offer to betray Sarah by giving her the peach.

This is likely the origin of the Bog of Eternal Stench concept, which does not exist in the early script at all. Sir Didymous and his bridge are simply located in another part of the forest, and the rocks that Ludo calls fill up a treacherous ravine rather than a smelly river.


This is the only scene in the early script where Sarah must choose between doors. The Alph and Ralph scene with the famous riddle was added later, which is why there’s more of an emphasis here on one door being good and one door being bad, as there was later with the Alph and Ralph doors.

Ludo fell through the ground for the same reason Sarah can walk through walls.

It was always a bit weird that Ludo fell through the forest floor and into the Bog of Eternal Stench for no apparent reason, wasn’t it? The best I could guess is that he was being punished for helping Sarah. However, in the early script, Hoggle is the one who falls through the floor and it has nothing to do with moral judgment or an attempted assignation but simply that some of the areas of the floors only look like floor, in the same way that the wall that the worm told Sarah to walk through only looks like a wall.

The Labyrinth contains a portrait gallery, just like the Neverending Story.

This is what you can consider a deleted scene. Sarah finds herself in a portrait gallery looking at paintings of the Labyrinth and the different adventures she’s been having. It’s just like The Neverending Story (which came out two years prior) scene where the picture of G’mork turns out to actually be G’mork and he leaps out of the wall to kill Atreyu. Here, Jareth is hiding behind the portrait of himself, looking out through his eyes. Luckily, he doesn’t leap out at Sarah. Instead, Sarah sees Hoggle moving inside one of the paintings, waving at her to get her attention. Next thing she knows, she’s falling through the painting and is reunited with Hoggle in the Labyrinth.

Toby is already turning into a goblin!

What you don’t see in the movie is that as Sarah’s time runs lower and lower, Toby is turning more and more into a goblin. Not only is he smashing up the place and abusing the goblins, much to Jareth’s approval, but he’s also grown goblin feet! You can’t see it in the film because of his footies, but let’s assume it’s there. Oddly, this never comes up again, so we can only guess his feet were restored once Sarah rescued him.

The box the snake comes out of is Sarah’s music box.

In the film, it’s such a fast shot, you’ll probably miss it, but do you remember the dream ballroom that Sarah winds up in when she’s eaten the peach? There’s a little box that one of the dancers opens, and a snake jumps out. This is meant to be Sarah’s music box. Perhaps it suggests that the things she owns are not worth anything, as later emphasized in the junkyard. Or perhaps it’s a warning that the things she idolizes, like becoming a pretty princess, is actually evil inside. The setting is the same way–pretty on the outside, decomposing underneath. The script says that the ballroom must look like it was made at the last minute to look faux-glamorous, but Sarah can see beneath that’s it’s just a decorated junky room. You do get this sense in the movie as well, but with the budget, it actually just looks like the set designers didn’t have enough money to do more than hang cellophane all over the walls to make it look majestic.

Sarah does actually want to be with Jareth.

Here’s a strange realization: Jareth explains that what the peach and the dream bubbles do is give you what you truly desire. So this means that what Sarah really wants is Jareth, as the dream bubble took her to him. It’s a shallow desire, which she eventually shakes free of in preference to the mission of finding her baby half-brother instead. In the script, there’s no inclusion of amnesia with the peach, so it’s not that she’s confused when she enters the dream bubble. She still has her wits about her. At the end of the script, when Jareth is trying to convince Sarah to come be his queen, he reminds her that he knows what she really wants because he saw her dream bubble. Creepy!

The Junk Lady is Jareth.

Now, we can assume that most of the creatures in the labyrinth have been instructed to nudge Sarah in the wrong directions. Even the innocent-seeming worm could have been one of these creatures. However, we don’t know for certain which creatures are those creatures and which characters are actually Jareth in disguise. We know Jareth likes disguises because he dressed up as the peddler and as Robin Zakar. Only in the script do we see for certain that Jareth is inside the puppet of the Junk Lady, who was trying to lead Sarah astray.

A neat little addition: In the film, the junkyard scene suggests that if Sarah stays here in her room, she will become like the junk lady because she is piling all of Sarah’s belongings on Sarah’s back, in the same way that the Junk Lady is wearing all of her possessions on her back. In the early script, Sarah actually sees herself in the mirror, old and decrepid, saying the things that the Junk Lady is saying, which suggests that she will become like the Junk Lady or perhaps even that the Junk Lady is the future version of herself. Of course, it’s all a trick because the Junk Lady is Jareth anyway.

Hoggle’s reason for coming to the castle is to get his reward, not to help Sarah.

After betraying Sarah by giving her the peach, Hoggle becomes depressed. Instead of sitting at a campfire like in the movie, Hoggle retreats to the pub (and runs into the Wise One again) where he spends all of his jewels, including the plastic one Sarah gave him, on alcohol. Thinking that Sarah is lost forever in dreamland, Hoggle sulks to the castle to collect his reward. It’s here where he sees Sarah in jeopardy—on the other side of a big pit, rather than being attacked by a giant robot, which was a later addition to the story—and jumps in to help.

Jareth is a goblin!

Sarah’s defeat of Jareth is much different in the original script. As I said earlier, his physical threat to her is much stronger, so she counters this by punching him in the face! Rather than her words defeating the goblin king, it is violence. She cuts him down by calling him a goblin, which seems to be the thing that reverts his figure to its true form. We see Jareth turn into an actual goblin. He squeaks, “Why does everything always have to happen to me?!” which is an echo of what Sarah’s been complaining throughout the whole script—an early version of the film’s “It’s not fair!”

The whole thing was definitely a dream.

The film ends with some ambiguity. Sarah defeats the goblin king and winds up in her foyer, with the owl flapping around. She returns to her room where she reunites with her friends from the Labyrinth. Was it her imagination or was it real? In the original script, there’s really no doubt that the whole thing was a dream. She wakes up on the floor and we see where she’d hit her head. The world has returned to normal: there is no barn owl, there are no friends from the Labyrinth. She gives Toby her bear Lancelot and puts him to bed. The End.


Jaime Pond is the editor of Anglonerd. She lives and works in NYC. Follow her on Twitter.

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