I never understood the emotional attachment to a celebrity until the passing of Robin Williams in Aug 2014. I think it was the circumstances of his death that made it truly sad to me. However, it was not until the turning of 2016 and the death of one my greatest creative influences, David Bowie, that I truly understood it.
So distraught, I had to postpone the maiden post of this new blog (5 fairy tales Disney could never make movies) to write a tribute article to the legend himself. Keeping in theme with folk and fairy, I am going to breakdown some of the creatures that appeared in the cult movie Labyrinth and thanks to Ant, give you some incredible sketches to enjoy along the way.
This was a challenge.
There are some traditional characters in Labyrinth but in quite a non-traditional way!
What a strange little man. He conjures images of ‘that uncle’ who sits in the corner at family gatherings, soaks and bathes in whiskey and shouts absurdities randomly throughout the night. Almost a magical version of Father Jack, I sit waiting for the random ‘feck’ to fly out of Hoggle’s mouth but alas, no luck.
In all essence, Hoggle is a dwarf, but he seems to move away from tradition and almost mirror a Snow White feel. He seems more Grumpy than ground working, and an extreme oddity is his interaction with fairies. He kills them. I’ve never come across a story where Dwarfs concern themselves with being pest control but if there is such a tale, please share it with me! Hoggle likes to bust the winged beauties like some Arnold Schwarzenegger, looking for Fairy Sarah Connor. Instead he crosses paths with Sarah (the main character) and begins his journey of becoming a nice guy.
Final verdict: Dwarf (with creative liberties taken)
I love Ludo. If I could have him as a best friend then my life would be complete. Ludo is a little easier to place in the folklore world. After much deliberation (there was a panel and everything) I came to the conclusion that Ludo... is a troll. He looks like a troll. He sounds like a troll. He is probably a troll.
Evidence to add to this case is his affinity with rocks. Ludo sings and they come to his aid, big or small, whatever is needed, in they tumble coming to his rescue like some sentient avalanche. Look into the world of Trolls and they have a power over nature. Hear a Scandinavian story and you can come to your own conclusion that they are a little slow witted. I’m not calling Ludo slow but... if he were any slower, he’d be the new star of The Only Way Is Essex.
Final verdict: Troll
So at one point, Sarah stumbles upon the strange red coloured bird like creatures and witnesses them taking off their limbs. They want to take Sarah’s off and this is a little bit of a problem. It must be said though that they don’t seem to be too malicious in this attempt, more lacking understanding of human physiology. Quick call Nicky Morgan, someone failed their biology GCSE.
One of the stranglings even decides to pluck it’s own eyes out and swallows them like some homage to Beetlejuice (although that film came two years later).
Now these guys are very hard to find in folklore. They are a truly original creature, however, they do have a lot in common with some other folklore creatures from across the world. The Penanggalan from South East Asia is one such creature that shares a likeness. A female spirit that is essentially a head floating around, dragging it’s red entrails behind it, which light up like fireflies. It has a detached head, it has the link to fire... but the guts and stuff, not quite the thing seen chasing Jennifer Connelly through the woods. There is also the Rokurokubi from Japanese folklore. The Rokurokubi come in two forms, ones that can detach their heads or ones that can stretch their necks up. This again is very similar but no sign of looking like the wild love child of a flamingo on LSD and a crazed lustful fox.
Final verdict: Unique (but maybe a peek in Asia for inspiration?)
Like something out of Monty Python’s Holy Grail, this weird little fox-terrier is ‘one question about favourite colours’ away from being the Bridgekeeper. The fact that both these roles have knights in common is also interesting!
Didymus is brave, fearless, tenacious and oh so tiny. Aside from the usual guardian of something motif in folklore, he doesn’t really fit, but examine him closely and you can see some comparisons can be made to folk creatures.
Let’s start with the fact he is a fox.
In most cultures around the world, Foxes are cunning. This is quite a chivalrous attribute and something you would associate with a knight.
Final verdict: Fox Knight (bit obvious)
So there it is, a breakdown of some of the characters in honour of David Bowie.
And speaking of honour... Labyrinth 2? Please don’t.
Article by Blaidh Nemorlith @GreenBandDruid
Illustrations by Anthony Rollinson @antsillustrator