Every night, Sarah Williams has a dream.
She's a princess, you see—a princess in a tower at the center of a maze. She wears jewels like a mask and dresses that glitter with the light of the stars. Her hair is spun from gold; her eyes, glowing sapphires. All who look upon her tremble with love, with longing, with awe and disbelief at the perfect, porcelain face that is paler and more beautiful than the moon's.
And the tower—her mirrors reflect the beauty of the undying flowers that adorn every surface; her walls stretch endlessly, scraping the heavens; her servants gather in grand parades on the ground below. There is no staircase up, no staircase down. But there is a window that looks across all the kingdom—and every day, this kingdom is different. The hedges shift, the ground rumbles, and the maze reforms. Each day, a new path in, a new path out. A new story to be told. Her tower, at the center of it all. Between the twilight and the dawn, between the silence and the shadow lies the princess in her ivory tower. Why should she want to leave? She has everything.
Well, all but one thing.
And that is—a prince.
Ah. But I've forgotten something. She is not quite as she seems, this princess, and you, Toby, would do well to beware.
This princess's face is like the moon, yes. And like the moon, she has certain powers—the powers of the tide, of the spin of the earth, of gravity and night. The world dances at her fingertips. She is the earth's mistress, there in her ivory tower. The labyrinth bends to her every whim; the people dance beneath her thin, pale fingers. Leaning from her window she beckons them past her, one by one—an eternal conga line. The bards' strings shriek to the wave of her hands and the men dance to her command, but none is good enough for her. The labyrinth shifts.
Strong men, pretty men, tall men; men with blunt faces and scarred hands, men who have fought battles and killed children, men who have dined with the gods, flown into the sun, shot lightning from their fingertips and populated the earth with their seed. Men who give her jewels, promise her the stars, tell her stories.
But she weaves a story of her own, that princess in her ivory tower. The labyrinth shifts again; its walls reorder and the fairy dust settles. All paths are closed.
"You will love us," they tell her at first, greed and pride lining their silver tongues.
"I can not see you from my window," she replies in a voice like the wind, fleeting and untouchable, full of lies and colder than the stars. "Come closer," she says, "so that I might love you."
"But the labyrinth!" they cry. "How will we ever get out of this labyrinth?"
"Follow my golden thread," she says, "and it will bring you to my tower. Only then will I love you."
The princess wears three faces: the face of jewels, vain and glittering, the face of the human, soft and pale, and the face of the moon, cold and distant. And beneath these three lies is her mask and the truth.
The men follow the face of jewels, the face of the human, the face of the moon. They follow her beckoning hand and her honeyed voice, for they can do nothing else. Golden string drawn from dead man to tower—each step brings them closer to the death that waits them at the center of the labyrinth. Each night it changes; each night, the corpses fade away to dust. But a few make it, and soon the tower's stones are smeared with their blood.
In her ivory tower, the princess plucks petals from the immortal flowers and makes men dance on her strings.
Again and again, they fall, fingers torn open, bodies broken like her promise on the ground below. The bones pile high around her ivory tower, a monument of death and folly and rotted flesh. And still the suitors come, bearing gifts of spices and perfumes—still she calls them forward with her liar's words and her face like the moon. They climb the mountain of bones, and when they reach the top she pushes them off, one by one—for not one of them suits her fancy. She is, after all, the moon, the most beautiful face of all, the face that has seen all faces.
She is masks upon masks, she waxes and she wanes, and like the stars she will have died long before her prince reaches her tower. So she dreams, and she drops petals, and she smiles—because so long as her light glows and they yearn for her, she cannot have died.
The dream is brief, twisting, callous, and often cruel. For the girl in the dream, she is only real so long as she is the moon. So long as she has three faces.
She moves the stars, twists time and space. She smoothes the craters from the moon and scrapes their faces from their bones; she pulls their skeletons apart, catalogues their pieces and threads them in place. Their bleached bones dance endlessly in the moonlight, pulled into a jagged, haphazard dance by her fingers and that golden string. They die because she needs these bones to sharpen her claws and fulfill her fancy; their blood stains and paints her reality. And the princess remains alone in the tower.
The bones clack in the wind, and their song is one of death.
Do you understand, Toby? Can you see her there, in that bubble? That's her dream—I've given her a taste of her dreams. All of her imagination is at her fingertips, and this is what she wants.
She thinks she wants a prince and so she paints her kingdom blue with their blood. She thinks she wants enchantment. She thinks these things, but if this prince were to look her in the eye she would throw him from her tower with a raven's feather in his heart. She wants the dream, you see, not the world.
In her dream there is a tower, there is a princess, there are corpses, and there is me.
Because, Toby, I was the sandman before I was the king. In every ivory tower you can find my reflection. She dreams, and in dreaming she is me—in prolonging the dream she prolongs me. In that moment we are one in the same.
I am the blood, the bones, and the breath. I am the skeleton grinning at night. I am what makes the story unreal.
So you may hunt for her one day. You may find her in her ivory tower smiling down upon you. Remember that I, too, am there, and that I, too, am smiling down at your golden strings.
Don't let her pull your strings, Toby.
When you come upon that barren plain with the bones laid out before your feet and the hedges rising like mountains, know that you are in my world. You are in my woods, now, and the fey do not dream so easily as that. There are wolves in the woods and they are hungry things. So run. Run when you see their yellow eyes.
The skeletons will dance as you flee, the wolves will feast on their bones, the princess (I) will drop her (my) petals, and the moon will watch over it all.
She dreams so easily. Sometimes, I think it's more real to her than you.
Authors' Note: Jareth's stories were always full of bunny rabbits and unicorns, but one day something went wrong... Review to tell us what you think it was? ...
Also Labyrinth is not ours. One of us does own a spiffy copy of a draft script in which Sarah defeats Jareth by punching him in the face...