Little Magpie's Analysis

This is a copy of part of a conversation I had via e-mail with my good friend Little Magpie. We were discussing our opinions on Jareth's origin and species (if you will), and I found her concept of his character to be so intriguing and dead-on that I asked to include it on my site, linked to my own analysis. She kindly agreed, and so I give you Little Magpie's interpretation Jareth's character, in a VERY slightly edited and arranged version (with her permission).

I personally feel that Jareth isn't really a human being; I think of him as some sort of fae. Even if he isn't a goblin, he could still be a fae lord who oversees a faerie court (it's just that most of his court includes goblins, and that is why he is labelled a 'goblin' king). But, another possibility is that Sarah subconsciously wanted the goblin king to look very human and beautiful. So, there is still an off-chance he is a goblin after all.

It is open to a lot of conjecture, but, I personally think of Jareth as some sort of 'advanced' goblin that is just one of a kind (in other words, completely set aside from all the little creatures he rules over). And, to be blunt, I think the hair is a dead giveaway as to his goblin nature.

As for the eye makeup, I doubt the character actually wore eye shadow and such; I think the makeup David Bowie wore was meant to look like a difference in skin color around the eyes, so that Jareth would appear more elfin. I think I've seen a few fantasy paintings or illustrations of fae creatures (though I can't think of anything specific off-hand) that had streaks at the corners of their eyes.

Being a Wiccan, I have done studies on how magicians and witches could invoke 'spirit familiars.' A familiar is often thought of as the pet of a magician or witch (such as a cat, dog, horse, etc.), but it can also include a spiritual being that works with the witch/mage, such as a faerie or elemental.

Even though Sarah may not have been a Wiccan, her behavior in the film seemed to mirror the techniques that witches use to invoke spirit familiars.

One way to do this is to construct a 'profile' of the ideal familiar that is wanted. Also, firmly believing in something can bring it to life. So, what I am suggesting is that Sarah believed in Jareth and his world so strongly, she managed to unwittingly invoke an aspect of the astral plane with beings (especially Jareth) that were in harmony with her imagination.

Imagination can do a lot to bring things into being on the astral planes, so, even in this case, Sarah's imagination still had a lot of control over Jareth.

Even if Jareth were a type of goblin, I find he is similar to sylphs (a general term for a spiritual being associated with the air element). Traditionally, sylphs serve as familiars to witches or mages. Here are the parallels between Jareth and air devas:

1) Sylphs can control the weather. Notice how the weather became stormier when Sarah was in the park as Jareth watched her reciting her words from the book. Also, it stormed more severely when Jareth appeared to Sarah in the nursery.

2) Sylphs can shape-shift into bird form. Jareth transformed into an owl.

3) Sylphs are airy in character, and can control their element, or exhibit characteristics of it. Notice that it was often windy or breezy when Jareth was present. On the hilltop with Sarah, it was very windy, and the wind stopped when Jareth disappeared. The climactic confrontation scene was also windy.

4) Jareth could literally vanish into thin air.

5) Sylphs are delicate and ethereal in appearance, even angelic. Jareth did have a delicate beauty about him.

6) In the scene in which Hoggle was about to dump the peach into the Bog, he heard Jareth's voice and immediately looked skyward. It was as if he knew Jareth was in the air somewhere. Also, Jareth's voice was an echo.

7) Sylphs can aid in the art of scrying (divining the future through shiny objects such as mirrors or crystal balls). Jareth offered to show Sarah her dreams through crystals.

8) Sylphs develop an intense affection and devotion for the humans they serve (this is traditionally not always something sexual or romantic), and Jareth did have an intense affection for Sarah (whom he felt bound to, and, in his case, he did have a romantic interest in Sarah).

9) Sylphs teach that action follows thought. Jareth seemed to show Sarah on more than one occasion that he did everything she wanted and expected, whether she realized it or not, and that he would manifest her thoughts for her benefit or her detriment.

10) Sylphs are fond of children and anything young. Jareth was very gentle with Toby. (I personally doubt he would have actually turned the child into a goblin; he really wanted Sarah. Also, taking Toby may have been another way to show Sarah that her thoughts would have consequences.)

There are likely other parallels between Jareth and air spirits, but, I find the similarities too strong to be ignored. He could still have been at the mercy of Sarah's imagination; I'm just giving a theory on what kind of being he was. Also, it isn't unlikely that Sarah had some knowledge of the occult and the various types of faerie beings.

According to some of my studies, air spirits have 'changeable energy,' and it can be gentle or intense, depending upon the human's ability to control his/her own mind. As Ted Andrews put it in his book 'Enchantment of the Faerie Realm':

"They (sylphs) have stimulating, changeable energy. It may be calm and refreshing or it may become gale-like in intensity. The ability to handle it is most determined by the ability to control one's own mind."

Since the air element rules matters such as thought and creativity, this too can tie in with Sarah's imagination and how it could have governed Jareth's personality and displays of emotion towards her.

Another avenue of interest; notice that Sarah spent a lot of time early in the movie using her imagination, even dressed up in costume, focusing on the play. She would also look into mirrors while rehearsing her lines. According to another one of Donald Tyson's books called 'How to Make and Use a Magic Mirror,' focusing the will and imagination on something with great intensity, and using a mirror to invoke a spirit is a good way to bring that spirit into being.

Here's an excerpt from that book:

"It will be necessary for you to repeat your ritual of invocation many times in order for the spirit you wish to attract to become aware that you are inviting its presence. Spirits "see" human beings only when humans create themselves and their works in the astral. When you invoke the spirit into the mirror by focusing your will and imagination upon the glass, the magic circle and other ritual forms, it is as though you and the mirror suddenly popped out of the air in the astral world."

Even if Sarah were not a witch, she still seemed to somehow, even if unwittingly, have hit upon a method similar to what was just mentioned, and managed to attract an aspect of the astral planes that parallelled to her storybook. She believed in it so much, her imagination brought forth a part of the astral planes that tied in very closely to the characters and land of the play. After all, imagination can become reality on the astral level.

Chances are that when she put firm conviction in her performance in the play as she rehearsed the lines, and focused her will upon the glass of the mirror in her bedroom and in the nursery, that she unwittingly brought to life the world she so much wanted to believe in. She may have already attracted Jareth's attention a long time before this, and he had come to watch her (in owl form) and, pardon the pun, was simply waiting in the wings for her to summon him and his minions.

But, even if Jareth were a spirit that was already in existence on the astral level, he was still at the mercy of Sarah and her imagination, for, without her will and belief in his existence, he could not have been brought out in the open. And, her thoughts and imagination dictated what he could do in her presence (even though she seemed oblivious to the fact that Jareth was acting on her impulses.)

So, either way you look at it, Jareth and his world were tied in very closely with Sarah's imagination, and Jareth's personality and emotions may have been affected by Sarah's own personality as a result.

It is possible that Jareth could be immortal (just in my opinion), because, what if Sarah wanted him to be?

If she felt she was lacking love in her life (such as from family, friends, etc.), chances are her subconscious yearned to have a male figure in her life who would love her eternally, and, even if he resembled a mortal man in his late thirties, he was essentially ageless. Think about it; a father figure who was devoted and acted on Sarah's every impulse, and, if he was ageless, despite the fact he resembled a man old enough to be her father, it might give her a false sense of security, suppressing the guilt of being adored by someone who looked older, and, best of all, if he didn't age, he would love her forever.

This would also tie in with Sarah's fear of growing up completely. She very likely was becoming aware of her burgeoning sexuality and maturity, but, a huge part of her wanted to cling to her childhood. If Jareth did not age, and if he gave Sarah certain powers, why not the power of eternal youth?

This is just another theory. I know there are many interpretations, but, this would possibly give a good explanation as to Jareth's supposed immortality.

As for Jareth as an 'asexual' being, this is not necessarily far-fetched either. In his case, asexual doesn't mean literally neuter, it means virginal. Even though he was sexually appealing in appearance and managed to awaken such feelings in Sarah (even though it was just a subtle hint in the movie), perhaps she feared her own sexual feelings so much that she may have envisioned Jareth as being virginal, like herself. They could both be attracted to one another, but not actually act out on anything. That would be one explanation for Sarah running away from the ballroom when Jareth was getting a lot closer to her.

Some people may argue that the ballroom scene was an indication that Jareth could have had access to other people, and that he was sexually active (*laughs*), but, Jareth told Sarah from the very beginning that he would give her her dreams. That should prove that her dream ballroom was just full of people in twisted masks and costumes who were merely symbols which came to life, just as people in any dream are merely animated symbols.

Sarah and Jareth may have actually been present in the ballroom, but, that was part of his enchantment. And, it is possible for the astral plane and dreams to combine.

Besides, Jareth was bound to Sarah. He may have had women in the ballroom fawning over him, but, the whole time he had his eye on Sarah, even when he was dancing with some of these other women, and, he walked away from them at one point to dance with Sarah.

Also, when Jareth took Sarah in his arms to dance with her, he focused all of his attention on her, and women in the background were talking amongst themselves, as if they were commenting on how beautiful Sarah must have been for Jareth to be ignoring every other woman there to dance with her. Even if the people at the ball were animated symbols, it says a lot about Sarah yearning for her father figure to be making a huge fuss over her and loving her without question. Also, Sarah seemed to have a 'Cinderella' complex. She's been swept off her feet by a handsome prince, so to speak, and she wants to live happily ever after.

Hope this is interesting information for you, and I hope I posed a good argument about Jareth's immortality. He could be immortal, and still be at the mercy of Sarah's imagination. :-)

Yes, I see what you mean about the one loophole about Jareth's 'immortality.' Perhaps, and I know this may sound like a contradiction in terms, Sarah had a limited immortality factor in mind for her creation.

Jareth's immortality may have just been in Sarah's mind; he would not age, wouldn't really have a specific age (despite the fact he resembled an older man), and for a false sense of security, she would just imagine him always being in existence. However, on her whim, she could take away his immortality. She did banish him in the end, after all.

*lol* Yeah, I know, the immortality thing seems far-fetched, but, maybe this will help; a teenaged girl who doesn't want to grow up (at least, maybe not completely) may be one of those youngsters with the attitude that she could live forever if she really wanted. It's one of those things that allows one to deny drastic change in life. She obviously wasn't immortal herself, but, she wished that she could have been.

An immortal (in her own mind) spirit being that she brings to life may personify that aspect of herself that she wants to cling to. What I meant by she could take away his immortality is that she could just change him if she felt it were in her own power to do so. She decided to accept the fact that she had to mature in the end, and perhaps she was able to dispel her own sense of immortality, and therefore, Jareth's as well. Here's another excerpt from Don Tyson's book 'How to Make and Use a Magic Mirror':

"In naming a spirit you gain control over it, because the name you give it- the complete name that defines it, of which the name is only a representation- limits the nature of the spirit. By manipulating the name you can change the environment and perceptions of the spirit. By destroying the name, you can dissolve the spirit into nothingness."

That last excerpt from the book suggests to me that Sarah could have instilled certain qualities in the spirit she created, including the power to not age (immortality), and she could still banish him if she decided to.

This does not mean she didn't love him; she just ended up banishing him in the end (and, to me, her expression looked lamentable after Jareth disappeared). Or, since he reverted back to owl form in the end, maybe she didn't literally destroy him. Since the other beings of the world she created survived, maybe a part of her wanted Jareth to as well; it's just likely that she decided her own sense of 'immortality' was no longer needed, and therefore, Jareth's immortality was not needed anymore. (Am I rambling or what?!) :-)

It's a matter obviously open to conjecture, but, to put it succinctly, Sarah had that 'I don't have to age or mature, I could live forever if I wanted to,' and so her creation (Jareth) embodied those qualities. He had the appearance of someone who was mature, but his true age was indeterminate. Therefore, he symbolized being mature, but at the same time would not age any further. He had his cake and could eat it too; he was mature, but childlike. Childish would also be appropriate (just look at Sarah *lol*).

It's possible that Sarah equated eternal youth with the attitude 'I don't want to think about growing older and dying, I could live forever.' Also, it makes me think of the line in Jareth's song, 'It's only forever, not long at all.'

*lol* Maybe that right there showed that immortality was merely the state of eternal youth according to Sarah, and not literally forever. But, Jareth could have been relegated to the back of Sarah's mind. When she said, 'Every now and again, for no reason at all, I need you, all of you,' why shouldn't that apply to Jareth?

He was watching her from a distance at the end of the movie, not joining in the party. But, to me, his mere presence implies that Sarah did intend to keep him in the back of her mind, just in case she did need him again for some reason later in life.

Also, when things are created on an astral level, it is possible to sort of leave them hanging around in the astral planes. But, Jareth would still be isolated and at Sarah's mercy. Only her desire to invoke him would allow him to come out in the open.

Another thing...immortality can apply to carrying over into the afterlife. Once the physical body is no more, the afterlife is said to be eternal. Reincarnation is another matter entirely, but even that concept implies that one never really dies, but lives on (even if it is in another form).

Perhaps Sarah really did expect Jareth to always be there for her (even in the next lifetime). So, her belief in immortality need not be limited to her present life. Even so, she didn't want her present state of existence (and youth) to draw to a close.

But, either way you look at it, I think Sarah's goal was to be eternally youthful, and maybe she thought it was supposed to be a form of immortality, even if it wasn't literally. And, if she and Jareth shared abilities and traits (she said that Jareth gave her certain powers; however, she also knew that his powers were governed by her desire to let him have them, so in a way, that gives them mutual powers), Jareth could have been, in Sarah's mind at least, a form of immortal.

Time has no real meaning on the astral level (or dreams for that matter), so the concept of something eternal is not far-fetched. That is why it may be possible for Sarah to have allowed Jareth to go on existing on the astral planes through her own subconscious desire.

Also, if we must get technical, another definition of immortal is something not human. Being a form of faerie, Jareth was not mortal, so that would make him immortal. Plain and simple. :-)

Anyway, the concept of Jareth having a form of immortality is intriguing, mainly because I'm sure a lot of people would like to think that Sarah never really got rid of him. I for one would like to think that her statement that she needed everyone in the end applied to her sylph paramour. :-) Maybe if she encountered him again one day, he would have something else to teach her. After all, he did express a lot of her own personality traits and fears. If she needed to see another side of herself, he might have another lesson for her.

Another interesting point in the matter of Sarah invoking Jareth and his world by looking through mirrors. One more paragraph from Donald's book (I always love to use his information for comparisons; he's smart). Oh, and, a sigil is a type of symbol used to invoke a spirit; even if Sarah didn't use one, I felt I needed to explain what it was before I gave you this quote:

"By inscribing the sigil with the right index finger upon the surface of the mirror, by calling the spirit you seek to invoke with the name the sigil represents, and, most importantly, by holding in your mind the nature of the spirit you have conceived and used as the basis for the name and sigil, you can insure that the actual spirit which enters the mirror will correspond closely with the ideal spirit you have imagined. In fact, the actual spirit is formed upon the pattern of the ideal spirit and must correspond to it."

Editor’s note: I was reading Changeling: The Dreaming (a bit online, as I don’t have the guidebook), and it also noted that Sylphs are regal in manner and bearing, and have sharp and angular faces. I think we can all agree that Jareth possesses that physical feature! And lookie here:

“Wilder sylphs are intense and direct, like the birds of prey they resemble. They soar endlessly through the skies, looking for something to attract their interests and allow them to prove their worth.” Very accurate description of Jareth, I should think, right down to the bird of prey (in his case, the relatively non-threatening barn owl).

After reading the description of sylphs that Little Magpie gave me, I decided to go out and see if I could find further similarities to Jareth and those particular air spirits. What I uncovered simply boggles the mind. I will emphasize any aspect of sylphs that seem to me as particularly Jarethian, and comment in parentheses. Read on:

“Sylphs are beings of wide-open spaces and the air. They are responsible for the myths of "angels", the winged protecters of the Garden of Eden. Their attitudes embody the extremes of nature, mercurial and intense. Most of all, they defend the high peaks and wilderness mountains that are their home. (Jareth was highly territorial.) Sylphs hold their word of honor to be inviolate, and once sworn to protect something, they will defend it to (or even past) their death.

“They are the highest type of fairy to be found anywhere. They are perfect in human feature and form. An opalescent mist, gorgeous to behold, surrounds them. They look like human beings enveloped in this shining matter. They are easier to communicate with. Many of them are superior to an average human being in understanding.

This next paragraph is, I admit, freely copied off of a site belonging to one Donald Tyson, who is very knowledgeable about mythology and the supernatural, and has a large site on those subjects that I suggest you go read. I found his description fascinating, and my jaw literally dropped while reading the paragraph, it was eerie. I wonder if any of the Labyrinth creators had previous knowledge of sylphs...they had a nearly cookie-cutter specimen on the drawing-room board. I do disagree with the statement, "Dealing with Sylphs is seldom an intimate or emotional experience," but then again since Jareth is a reflection of Sarah's highly emotional teenage mind, perhaps he is different (because clearly they did have a very emotional interaction). Read on:

“Sylphs are active, energetic, quick of movement and of speech, subtle, clever, intelligent, persuasive, but at times mocking and superficial. They are light complexioned, with light brown or dark blond hair, usually. Their eyes tend to be blue or grey. They may come in either male or female form, but have a slight preference for the male body. They usually appear in bodies that are only partially formed and transparent, but when they assume human shape they are thin, not muscular, with long arms and legs, deep chests, usually short hair. Their touch feels very human and normal. Their faces tend to be angular. They can be beautiful, but are not so sensual as Undines, and by nature are more aloof and detached. Sylphs are helpful when trying to accomplish matters that involve the intellect or products of the intellect, such as works of art, letters, books, ideas, religious dogmas, political manifestos, or the persuasion of others through ideas. There is little danger in evoking Sylphs, but they have a mild contempt for human beings and will lie very convincingly when it suits their purposes. Be vigilant against deception when dealing with them.

“Sylphs are most often employed in searching out occult knowledge by magicians. These spirits have access not only to the libraries that physically exist, but also those that were destroyed in past ages but continue to survive in the astral realm, and also to libraries of an inhuman type that never had a material existence in our world. Dealing with Sylphs is seldom an intimate or emotional experience, as can be the case when dealing with Gnomes or Undines. Sylphs are emotionally detached from human desires and motives. It is easy to love an Undine, or feel fondness for a Gnome, but difficult to interact with a Sylph.” (I don’t particularly agree with that last statement, but whatever.)

The next paragraph I got off of a site called SpiritWeb, which seems to be mainly new-age mumbo jumbo, but did have a nice couple paragraphs devoted to sylphs that expanded on the original ideas.

“The sylphs are the air spirits. Their element has the highest vibratory rate of the four (beside earth, fire, water). They live hundreds of years, often reaching one thousand and never seeming to get old.” (Editor’s note: There’s a theory floating around that Jareth is immortal and ageless. I personally don’t buy it--he was created by Sarah, and is therefore actually younger than she is, so to speak--but since it’s a theory connected to the sylphs, I’ll mention it for posterity.) “They are said to live on the tops of mountains. The leader of the sylphs is a being called Paralda who is said to dwell on the highest mountain of Earth.” (Whatever.)

“Sylphs often assume human form but only for short periods of time. They vary in size from being as large as a human to being much smaller. They are volatile and changeable. The winds are their particular vehicle. They work through the gases and ethers of the Earth and are kindly toward humans. They are usually seen with wings, looking like cherubs or fairies. Because of their connection to air, which is associated with the mental aspect, one of their functions is to help humans receive inspiration. The sylphs are drawn to those who use their minds, particularly those on creative arts.”