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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. Such a pity.
~ 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.  


When the heroine 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 assumes his human form, to tell Sarah he has granted her wish. When Sarah begs him to return her brother, Jareth tells her to travel his great maze (the Labyrinth) within 13 hours, to recover him. Jareth appears later playing with Toby whilst singing "Magic Dance". When catching his dwarf servant Hoggle helping Sarah, Jareth sets the Labyrinth's mechanical Cleaners on them, but the two 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, among them, sings "As The World Falls Down" to tempt Sarah away from her quest, but she breaks free and along with Hoggle, and two other sidekicks called Ludo and Sir Didymus, continues to Jareth's castle at the Goblin City.

There, she is faced with a difficult reality-defying maze within the castle itself, while Jareth sings "Within You", and asks her to abandon her brother and stay with him .Sarah refuses and declares he has no power over her; whereupon she and Toby return to her room, while Jareth 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 teenaged brother, to whom he "grants" his wishes and always has his minions watching over him. One day, he decides to reveal himself to Toby and receive praise for everything he had done for him. However, he is met with rejection. 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 convinces him to stay, and announces Toby is his new heir to the throne. Over the next few weeks, he teaches Toby to be the perfect Goblin Prince. During one of Toby's sessions, he stops by Sarah's house. She does not recognize him at first, but she does remember a little of him.

Ultimately, Jareth is persuaded to reclaim his Kingship and send Toby home to the human world.


Jareth is presented as 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 anxiety as Sarah progresses quickly through his Labyrinth. By the end of the film, he is extremely desperate to win. 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. Although he treats his subjects poorly, they continue to serve and obey him without question. He claims to be extremely weary of their antics and often seems more interested in following Sarah's progress.

Jareth accepts defeat gracefully in the film and shows no resentment towards Sarah, merely returning her to her world and turning into an owl and flying away. However, in the Return to Labyrinth series, Jareth is depicted as a sore loser in the wake of Sarah's victory, proving to be very domineering, totalitarian, and authoritative when given the opportunity. However, his affection for her inclines him to be merciful, and take no further action against her.

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 short Jareth can pretty much be considered all-powerful within his home dimension, in the mortal world he is a little more restrained but it seems the only true weaknesses Jareth has is that he can not back out of a deal once made.

Also as a fay he exists free from mortal concepts of time or conventional harm, thus is for all-intents completely immortal.

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 himself, he 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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