Villain Overview
Sarah, beware. I have been generous up until now. And I can be cruel.
~ Jareth to Sarah Williams.
I ask for so little. Just fear me, love me, do as I say and I will be your slave.
~ Jareth to Sarah Williams.
You have thirteen hours in which to solve the labyrinth, before your baby brother becomes one of us... forever.
~ Jareth

Jareth (also known as Jareth the Goblin King) is the powerful, villainous, and manipulative king of the Goblins and the main antagonist of the 1986 musical fantasy movie Labyrinth. Although a villain, Jareth was not necessarily a purely evil character and was more accurately amoral, seeking to please the young girl he fell in love with by granting her wish to have her baby brother "disappear". However, his method of kidnapping and plan to turn the baby into a goblin were extremely cruel and villainous, as they were the tricks and obstacles he set in play to ensure the heroes of the film would not make it to his castle in time to stop the curse that he had placed.

A mysterious and enigmatic immortal, Jareth was served loyally by many goblins but was also hated by many of the inhabitants of his world - the relationship between Jareth and the main heroine of the story is also shown to be a mix of mutual attraction and her rebarbative repulsion at his plans.

He was portrayed by the late David Bowie, who also played Emperor Maltazard in the Arthur and the Invisibles franchise and Thomas Jerome Newton in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell To Earth.  


Jareth's role in the film was a mysterious one. When the heroine of the story (Sarah Williams) becomes frustrated with her baby half-brother Toby, she wishes for the goblins to take him away (having always had a fascination with fairy-tales). To her horror, when his cries stop, she returns to the nursery to see his empty crib.

Jareth, in the form of a barn owl, then flies into the bedroom and transforms into his human form, telling Sarah he has granted her wish. Sarah is shocked and begs him to return her brother, but he states she must solve his great maze (the Labyrinth) before he shall agree to freeing her brother and that she has only 13 hours. Jareth would appear later playing with Toby whilst singing "Magic Dance". Later when catching his dwarf servant Hoggle helping Sarah, Jareth sends The Cleaners on them, but the two are able to escape. Later, Jareth confronts Hoggle and gives him an enchanted peach and orders him to give it to Sarah or he will put him in the Bog of Eternal Stench.

After eating the peach, Sarah falls unconscious and finds herself in an imaginary ballroom filled with people wearing masks. Jareth appears and sings "As The World Falls Down" to try and tempt Sarah away from her quest, but she breaks free and along with Hoggle, Ludo and Sir Didymus, manages to make it to Jareth's castle within the Goblin City in time.

However, Jareth does not let Sarah win so easily as she is faced with a difficult reality-defying maze within the castle itself and he sings "Within You". It is here he asks her to abandon her brother and stay with him - however, Sarah refuses and declares he has no power over her - causing the room to crumble away. Despite being defeated, Jareth simply turns into an owl and flies away back to his castle.

At the end of the movie, Sarah and her friends from the Labyrinth are celebrating in her room in the real world while Jareth, still in owl-form, watches from outside before he flies away into the night.

In the unofficial manga sequel, Return to Labyrinth, he continues to follow Sarah and her now teenage brother. He stalks both of them, but mostly Toby. He "grants" his wishes and always has his minions watching over him. One day, he decides to reveal himself to Toby and tries to receive praise for everything he had done for him. However, he is met with rejection like Sarah before Toby and is demanded to be left alone and give him a normal life. Later that day, when Toby is printing a report for his class, Jareth sends one of his minions to lure him into the Labyrinth. Once Toby is there, he is captured by Jareth's soldiers.

Jareth meets Toby in the castle courtyard and claims that he is "helping" Toby. He begins talking about the setup of his Labyrinth and manages to convince him to stay with him, despite his wishes to be returned home. He gives him an outfit to wear at the ball and announces that Toby is his new heir to the throne. Over the next few weeks, he teaches Toby on how to be the perfect Goblin Prince. During one of Toby's sessions, he stops by Sarah's house, hoping for recognition and possible joy from her. She does not recognize him at first, but she does remember a little of him.


Jareth presents as being proud, dangerous, manipulative, uncompromising, charismatic and mischievous. At the start of the film, he delights in tormenting Sarah and demonstrating his powers to her. As the film progresses, he displays other traits, including building anxiety as Sarah progresses quickly through his Labyrinth. By the end of the film, he is extremely desperate and overwrought to win, attempting to win Sarah over by insisting he will give her everything she wants in exchange for her love, fear, and obedience. He acts like a gang leader with his goblin subjects, expecting them to laugh at his jokes and quickly losing his patience with them - there are occasions where he outright insults the goblins themselves as a species, and they completely misunderstand him. Despite the fact, he treats his subjects poorly, they continue to serve him and obey him without question. He appears to be extremely weary and prostrate of their antics and often seems more interested in following Sarah's progress in one of his crystals than interacting with them.

In the wake of Sarah's victory, Jareth is depicted as a sore and aggravated loser, unable to accept his defeat at the hands of a young girl. He proved to be very domineering, totalitarian, and authoritative when given the opportunity, with his main goal following Sarah's defeat of him being to make her forget her own dreams and bend to his will. However, due to the fact that he let her leave in the end to follow her dreams, this proves Jareth truly does love Sarah.

Powers and Abilities

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 to spy on Sarah. 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 traveling between worlds in his owl form.

Songs Sung by Jareth

  • "Magic Dance"
  • "As The World Falls Down"
  • "Within You"


  • Jareth bears a resemblance to Jeremy, the boyfriend of Sarah's mother Linda.
  • Sting, Prince, Mick Jagger, and Michael Jackson were considered for the role of Jareth before the role went to David Bowie.
    • This was due to Henson's son requesting Bowie for the role, though at first Henson was unsure but after meeting with Bowie was convinced he was good for the role.
  • Jareth was originally going to be portrayed as a Muppet, but this was later changed for him to be played by a human actor.
  • The scenes when Jareth manipulated the crystal orbs where performed by a juggler named Michael Moschen who stood behind David Bowie and would stick his arms out from under Bowie's. Due to being positioned from behind Bowie, Moschen had to perform his tricks completely blind.


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