I, like many other young fledglings growing up in the late 80’s and early 90’s, have a special sort of relationship with the film Labyrinth. And no, before you say anything, it’s not the relationship between viewers and David Bowie’s famed bulge. At its core, Labyrinth is a film about growing up, and while certainly applicable to boys, the film seems so much richer when viewing it from a girl’s perspective. It’s a story where a girl’s desire to dream and create isn’t diminished or looked down upon, but instead gives her power. A story where a girl can, even in the most uncertain of situations, take control and overcome a multitude of trials with her own wit and kindness (and cruelty). A story in which a girl’s budding sexuality isn’t hidden beneath layers of slut-shaming or virgin-worshiping, but is instead shown with a nuance that says “only when you’re ready.” This film shaped so much of my views as well as me as a person that it was only a matter of time before I reviewed a fic for it.
As this movie is so important to me, I honestly wondered if this day would ever come; I’m already picky as hell about fic recommendations, and with this added scrutiny, well, maybe two years into this blog isn’t so unbelievable a timeframe. However, AllTheBellsInVenice’s The Way Forward has so much of the Labyrinth in it that I would hate myself for not sharing it with the rest of my potential fellow fans.
The Way Forward takes place many years after Sarah’s return from Jareth’s Labyrinth, but Jareth is still clinging onto his memories of Sarah and the way she completely outwitted him. Yet we also come to find that Jareth is imprisoned within his Underground—that though he controls everything within his lands, he is not there of his free will; and furthermore that he doesn’t remember what crime got him into this situation in the first place. Seeking the advice of the Wise Man—the man to whom Sarah gave her ring in return for information—Jareth is only left with the same words the old man had given young Sarah so long ago: “the way forward is sometimes the way back.” However, being Jareth, upon being reminded of Sarah, he feels he must assert his power over her, or at least try one more time to make her submit to him and, with little care for her own feelings, he calls her back to his lands.
In the years she’s been gone from Jareth, Sarah has grown up in more than a physical sense: she’s practical and cunning, even worldly, and upon finding herself back in the Underground, she vows not to let Jareth have his way. However, instead of playing his game only to defeat him in the end, Sarah finds that this time, she too has magic powers that can change the very nature of the space around her. In short: Sarah is just as powerful as the Goblin King in every aspect. In fact, she may be more powerful, as he is in awe of her as much as he is frightened and angered. And while Jareth hides away in his castle, not knowing how to handle this situation, Sarah approaches him directly and fearlessly to demand answers to her questions.
The Way Forward really gets into the nitty-gritty of Sarah and Jareth’s relationship. As a vehement shipper of the two, this is especially important to me to see Sarah all grown up and dealing with feelings that she hasn’t been able to properly address. How could she? A child can’t process those feelings and as an adult having to rely on only her memories, the situation would be frustrating at best. And though I ship them, I more than appreciate that Sarah has gained—or maintained—the strength to tell Jareth no. Even though she has some sort of feelings for him, she is going to deal with them on her own terms and no other way.
However, what I like most about this fic is just how well AllTheBellsInVenice seems to understand the rules and characters in the Labyrinth. Every side character fits in perfectly and honestly, feels like they should have been there the whole time. Take this excerpt for example, from when Sarah runs into one of the many colorful goblins.
“No, stupid,” said a third, adjusting his outlandish hat. “It’s THE king’s girl, you blind?” He brought down his gnarled spear on the goat goblin’s helmet, adding yet another dent, before turning to Sarah and tugging his manky forelock. “Not seen you for centuries, love. Where’s your great friend, then? The shaggy red one, with the stone friends and that. Tore my house open, he did.”
“I haven’t seen Ludo, unfortunately,” said Sarah, perplexed by all the talk of “king’s girls,” but gratified that this goblin seemed to remember the gentle beast. “Sorry about your house, I suppose.”
“Nah, s’all right,” the hatted goblin said easily. “Lets in a bit o’ breeze, dunnit. And them sisters next door don’t half enjoy it when I run round in the altogether.”
“Oh,” Sarah said, blinking. “Well…If you haven’t seen Ludo, do you know Hoggle? Or Sir Didymus? Do you know where I can find them?”
“Rocks and knockers, king’s girl! We might well ask you where our luncheon is,” the goblin with the goat said. “Seeing as you’ve come from the castle, and all. Cook Weech always sends us pilgrims our luncheon! Come on, then. Where’s our Something Brown with Brown Gravy on Top?”
“I haven’t been to the castle,” Sarah replied, rather weakly. “And I haven’t seen anybody’s luncheon. Now what about Hoggle? Ludo? Sir Didymus? Ring any bells?”
“Naw, we only ring ’em when there’s a battle, or leftover pudding. And o’ course you’ve been to the castle,” the goblin said, watching his goat munch on his companion’s boot top. “I was at that battle meself. I stood guard over the Dragon Well, north end of the Goblin City, and it was not invaded at all. Dead useful, me.” He rattled his armor proudly.
“Besides, king’s girls always wind up at the castle, soon or late,” the hatted one added. “Don’t usually hear from ‘em after, mind.” The goblin eyed her speculatively from under his hat brim.
“Oh, for goodness sake,” said Sarah, reddening. “Where are my friends?”
“Finally, the right question,” piped up a very small goblin wearing a very large helmet. “The answer is…we don’t know! But the king surely does,” it added. “Why not go ask him, then?”
—The Way Forward, Chapter 3
The understanding of the fae’s logic and just how maddening it can be for a human in their realm is so perfectly captured that I feel like I’m back in the movie.
If you’re a fan of Labyrinth or enjoy fantasy in general, I can’t recommend this fic highly enough. It’s a bit of a read at 27k words (and climbing, as the fic is still going and has recently updated), but every word is expertly crafted and well worth the time it takes to read them. I will mention, however, that The Way Forward does contain quite a bit of smut, and I recommend you look at the tags if you have any triggers pertaining to restraint play or dom/sub undertones.
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