In the film Labyrinth Jareth, the Goblin King has the form of a healthy, handsome middle aged human male, played flawlessly by David Bowie. The rest of the Goblins are all essentially creaturelings of various make, made by Jim Henson's puppet shop. This could mean two things:

  1. Jareth is an "evolved" form of Goblin, that is either similar to or can mimic human form. [This is possible, considering he showed shape-shifting powers in the film by turning himself into an owl. Or...
  2. Jareth was once human and mortal, but "became" the Goblin King somehow. This could also be possible, as it explains why he would want a human baby; he would need a new heir to take his place.

Was any clear explanation given in-canon?

Note: I know there was a "Sequel manga" of such, but never read it, so perhaps that could spread some understanding as well.

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    He had looks, charm and singing talent. The whole package.
    – Valorum
    Oct 19, 2019 at 21:36
  • 9
    He's positively bulging with kingly abilities.
    – Valorum
    Oct 19, 2019 at 21:44
  • 1
    @Valorum you're just having All kinds of fun with this question, aren't you? ;-]
    – Russhiro
    Oct 19, 2019 at 21:53
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    No help in the film's comic novelisation; archive.org/stream/Marvel_Super_Special_40_Labyrinth/…
    – Valorum
    Oct 19, 2019 at 22:10
  • 2
    You should probably edit "played flawlessly by David Bowie." To add a paragraph break, and then "Let us take a moment to bask in his magnificence" before proceeding with the rest of the question. Just sayin'...
    – Lexible
    Oct 21, 2019 at 1:45

2 Answers 2


According to Jim Henson's Labyrinth: Coronation (major spoilers ahead if you haven't read it):

Jareth was a human child born in 18th century Venice whose father, Alfred Tyton, was an elite and mother, Maria (the brave-heart protagonist of the story) was a maid. Jareth's father had struck a deal with the Goblin King to take the throne when it was time. But when the time came, he gave up his son to them instead of himself. Maria, who had a fight shortly before walking out with baby Jareth, was attacked by the Goblins who snatched her son away. Maria, when she realized who was behind the abduction, begged the Goblin King to give him back.

The King too, like Jareth, gave her 13 hours time to go through the Labyrinth to rescue her son. After a bizarre time of facing many many difficulties, Maria managed to get her son, but also figured that this Goblin King was evil (unlike Jareth) and didn't want a replacement for himself, but a new body which he could possess and live on. Maria and gang stop him from doing so, and he expires, but the clock strikes 13, meaning Maria has been defeated. The goblins show her that the future that awaits her and her child is miserable, and apparently she won't be able to keep him anyway, because his grandfather will take him away. Maria, knowing this, still proceeds to leave with the baby.

This is all told by Jareth, now the king of Labyrinth as a form of story. Our secondary narrator of the story, Beetleglum, a goblin, adds that there was some sort of accident, when Maria tried to leave, meaning either she was trapped with Jareth in the Labyrinth, or maybe a part of her and the baby managed to leave, while a figment of them stayed back. Either way, Jareth was the child, or at least the part of the child, who was raised by Beetleglum, and Jareth says the child thanks him for that.

  • Interesting. Thank you for that, friend.
    – Russhiro
    Jun 15, 2020 at 0:18

Jareth is, according to the film's official novelisation, not a goblin. He merely rules them.

He needed something to keep him amused here. The goblins were, frankly, a bore. They were so stupid they couldn’t find their own way through the Labyrinth. They were without wisdom or wit. In the old days, when many babies had been offered to him, Jareth had been more tolerant, reckoning that soon he would certainly find one who could be trained as a worthy companion to the throne, one whose young blood would serve to refresh Jareth’s, whose high spirits would dispel the thoughts of aging that oppressed the King of the Goblins.

That being said, the goblins are themselves (potentially) children who were abducted in earlier years, so it's more than possible that Jareth was an abducted child who was mentored for the job by the previous king.

It pleased him to think of his Labyrinth as a board game; if you got too close to the winning square, you might find a snake taking you back to the start. No one had, and very few had gotten as far as this disturbing girl, who was too old to be turned into a goblin. Jareth examined her face in his crystal. Too old to be a goblin, but too young to be kept by him, damn her innocent eyes.

  • So we know he himself is not a Goblin, and was likely once human; that's fair. But How did he get his powers and throne?
    – Russhiro
    Nov 4, 2019 at 17:49
  • @Russhiro - Presumably he was mentored by the previous King and given them by magic. In the same way that he plans to make the boy his companion
    – Valorum
    Nov 4, 2019 at 18:06
  • So it's to just be assumed that the "kingship" is a title that is passed on to a worthy human successor chosen by the previous king, including all the magic and immortality that role entails? Okay, I can do that...but where and how was this tradition started? considering the mystical nature of the Labyrinth, are we to presume some human or Fey wizard "set up" this realm and the rules for kingship after subjugating the goblins?
    – Russhiro
    Nov 4, 2019 at 18:09
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    @Russhiro - Given that Jareth can manipulate time, who's to say that it's not turtles all the way down?
    – Valorum
    Nov 4, 2019 at 18:25

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