Jun. 29th, 2015

annissamazing: Ten's red Chucks (Default)
Here is the promised list of Labyrinth fanfic recommendations. Those of you familiar with the fandom probably won't be surprised by anything here, but to the best of my knowledge, only one of you is already active in that fandom.

I feel as if I need to explain why I enjoyed these fics so much, so I'd like to do that by starting by discussing what I took from the movie. I'm 30 years late to this fandom, so I'm likely not introducing anything new, but I lectured my brothers on this subject when I was in Spokane last month and it would be fun to share those thoughts again. ;)

I always thought that Sarah's mother had died at some point before the story began because that always seems to be the way of fairy tales. The mother dies and the heroine gets an evil stepmother who forces the heroine out into the big, bad world. It took me a while before I accepted that Sarah's mother had simply split from Sarah's father. I also had never noticed that the man in the pictures on Sarah’s mirror is David Bowie as Sarah’s mother’s boyfriend, Jeremy, which lends an even weirder twist to the Goblin King’s persona in the movie.

Going back to mothers, I always thought that it was a nice twist that Irene, Sarah's stepmother, isn't actually evil. She wants Sarah to go out with boys and friends and be a teenager. She even mentions that Sarah treats her like an evil stepmother no matter what she does, which both hangs a lampshade on and subverts the evil stepmother trope. In fic, Irene is frequently portrayed as the evil stepmother, likely because she is irritated in the one scene in which she appears. However, I don’t buy that she’s awful because her irritation makes sense. She was going out and Sarah was over an hour late getting home. She seems more exasperated than angry to me.

At the beginning of the movie, Sarah is stuck in this state of arrested development. She's bratty, self-centered, and seems to resent Toby for usurping her place as the child of the family. At one point, she takes Toby's striped hat and puts it on her head, and, surprisingly, it fits. Justin and I, whenever we watch it, always comment on how odd she is at the beginning. Justin and I tend to be fairly odd ourselves, but even we would be wary around a girl like Sarah reciting a book in the park with her dog.

Labyrinth is, no surprise, a coming of age story. As Sarah travels through the labyrinth, she gains adult traits such as friendship (represented by Hoggle), courage (Sir Didymus), and mercy (Ludo). Hoggle is, in my opinion, the most interesting of these three. He represents friendship, but he betrays Sarah. This is even foreshadowed by the face sewn into the back of his vest when we first see him. He is literally two-faced. However, he also redeems himself by helping Sarah get through the Goblin City. I think this was especially interesting because I remember doing mean things to "friends" (and having mean things done to me by those same people) when I was between the ages of 10 and 13, before I truly learned what it was to be a friend. I think this makes Hoggle an especially apt character to represent friendship because it also includes learning how to be loyal to your friends. Sir Didymus is willing to do anything for Sarah. He is courageous to a fault. He's the kind of friend who would offer to go beat up your ex because he upset you, though it should be noted that he's scattered enough that he'd never actually go through with it. Ludo is, in my opinion, the most difficult one to pin down, but I think he represents mercy because he is intimidating and Sarah had no real way to know he wouldn't turn on her when she helped him. However, by helping him, she gains a powerful ally.

There is a simple and obvious reason why Jareth is the only character in the movie not portrayed by a muppet. He represents eros. One of the things I really appreciate about the movie is Jareth is done up like a female sex fantasy rather than a male power fantasy, like we typically see in movies. Let me explain a moment: I read a comic ages and ages ago about the differences between a female sex fantasy and a male power fantasy. You can read it here. Basically, it shows a comic drawing Batman as a female sex fantasy. He's lean with large eyes and full lips. I see this in the way David Bowie is costumed for the role of Jareth. He's already a lean dude and his eye makeup is done to make his eyes appear larger and the gloss on his lips makes them appear fuller. The hair is pure 80s rock star, and I read somewhere that it was chosen because whoever made that decision thought that's what a teenage girl would think a rock star's hair would look like.

At the end of the movie, Sarah returns to her home with the newly rescued Toby. She has grown and is now willing to surrender the role of child and move into adulthood. This is illustrated when Sarah willingly gives Toby her beloved stuffed teddy, Lancelot, and puts away many of the toys and photos that she's been keeping in her room. However, Sarah retains her belief in magic and her love of fantasy. Because of her journey through the labyrinth, Sarah has earned the right to call on the adult personality traits that she has gained. She calls to them immediately and says she needs them all the time. They come to her and they all party down because being an adult is fun. However, one of them stays outside. Jareth watches from the window.

I've read some people rail against this as a rejection of female sexuality, but I completely disagree. Sarah hasn't rejected sexuality, she has rejected being controlled by it. She retains the right and the ability to call on him and, someday, she will... when she's ready. Because for everything she's learned in the labyrinth, she also knows that sex is not a cure for childishness.

I find when I read fic, I tend to go for stories that stray pretty far from my own interpretation of the movie. I like my Jareth evil, and if he’s not evil, I like for him to at least have some teeth. I think that's one of the beautiful things about this fandom. Jareth is an intriguing character, but there's not actually a lot of character there to deal with. We’re told he’s king of the Goblins, he’s got a filthy castle, he doesn’t seem particularly happy to be there, and he may or may not be in love with Sarah. Things are mostly hinted at, which gives an author a ton of leeway to play.

Below I've listed my recommendations. These are not stories that are "ok," or ones where I finished and thought, "That was pretty good." These are stories that, when I finished, made me sigh and feel sad that I was done or affected me so deeply that I thought of them for weeks after. At least one of them haunted me. I'll explain below. There is one WIP listed, but I will not recommend an abandoned fic, no matter how good it is.

The links go to either fanfiction.net or AO3 and all are het. Most contain explicit sex. Beware the warnings (like I said, I like my Jareth evil).

The Lady and the Knight by Jack Hawksmoor

Sarah's made a great life for herself, but Jareth has a problem. Will Sarah help him? What will it cost her if she does?"

I absolutely adore the characterization of Sarah in this fic. She’s strong, smart, and resourceful and the story is pretty damn epic.

A Forfeit of Dreams by KL Morgan

"How much do you know about legends?" the man asked abruptly.

Brian shrugged. "There's lots. They involve magic."

"No, they involve fear."

This may have been the first Labyrinth fic I read. It's certainly one that appears on most rec lists. I think I liked it so well because when I read any parts that contained Jareth, I could picture him clearly. As someone who is fairly faceblind, I rarely experience this. Usually, characters (and friends and family, etc) are blobby placeholders with either fair or dark hair. The characterization is so well done that I could picture him down to the easy, almost lazy mannerisms. Guys, at the risk of sounding like Stefon, this fic has everything: old friends, wonderful new OCs, an interesting plot, romance and misunderstanding, a kick-ass villain, and a dream sequence set in 18th Century Venice.

Her Kingdom as Great by Marblegrove

What's said is said, and Sarah said, “My Will is as Strong as Yours and my Kingdom as Great.” And then, of course, she lied.

Sarah was kind of a pain in the ass in the movie, but I love her because she grows. This fic builds on that growth and we get to see Sarah come into her own. The creation and growth of her kingdom are wonderful.

Ten Thousand Cuts by Nagia

Sarah stands quietly at his side, skin cold as his, her breath as slow as his, and yet he senses the tension that thrums through her. She's strung herself tight. She is, Jareth realizes with a sort of dim horror, listening. And she's listening closely.

Like Her Kingdom as Great, this is about Sarah coming into her power, but this has a delightful dark twist to it that stayed with me for weeks after I read it.

Say Your Right Words by Scattered Logic

When dealing with Jareth, you should never take anything for granted...

At first, this seemed like kind of a fun, silly fic with a meta twist, but it quickly becomes fairly dark and then at the very end becomes extremely dark. If I caught what the author did at the end the first time I read through, I didn’t remember it until I read it a second time.

A Carnival of Dreams by PaintedGlass

He's held control of her dreams for so long; it can only be a matter of time before he comes to claim her.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have started reading Labyrinth fanfic at roughly the same time PaintedGlass started posting stories to the fandom. It has been incredibly fun to get the updates for her fics as they've been posted. This was still a WIP when I composed this entry and I had to go back and edit my comments on it. All three of this author's stories are exercises in smut, but they're incredibly well-written, and even the “PWP” has a decent plot. This fic is fun and sexy with a bit of angst thrown in for good measure.

I Wish You Would by PaintedGlass

She wished her brother away, once, but now the wishes are only for her.

This is one of the most fun fics I've read. The situation is ridiculous, and yet, for this fandom, easily believable. I read the second chapter during a particularly dull accounting presentation at a departmental retreat a couple months ago and I nearly jumped out of my chair and shouted, "HOLY HOT DIGGITY DAMN!" when I got to the end. I left a review that said pretty much the same thing. I particularly like how the first chapter sets up the scenario. Sarah is older and the Goblin King has maintained a non-romantic relationship with her. But a careless wish on Sarah's parts puts them in a tricky situation. This fic is currently a WIP and comments from PaintedGlass lead me to believe there are still a few chapters to go, but she updates fairly regularly (usually once every week or two).

Beltane Night by Tara1189

The eve of Sarah’s twenty-first birthday falls on the night of Beltane… a night when the borders between the physical and magical world become blurred, and a certain Goblin King reappears with an offer to renew, and won’t be taking no for an answer…

I’ll be going pretty dark for the rest of these recommendations. This fic is the reason it’s taken me so long to put this post up. I suck at bookmarking stories I like and it’s taken me weeks of retracing my steps to find this. In the end, I found it by getting out of bed at 11:30 last night and doing the most ridiculous Google search in history, putting everything I could remember about this fic into the search bar. It was the first link in the results, so I didn’t do too badly, eh?

Eulogy by JRGodwin

Ghosts aren't movie monsters. They're the holes in our lives where people used to be. – Toby

This fic, and its prequel, Elegy are correctly categorized as horror, but the tag “nightmare fuel” also applies. At the end of the movie, when Sarah declares that Jareth has no power over her, she catches the crystal and it bursts in her hand. In this story told solely from Toby's point of view, JRGodwin asks what would have happened if the act of catching the crystal was Sarah forfeiting her win. I love what JRGodwin has done with the character of Toby. He's realistically drawn and fully fleshed out. You want him to be happy, which makes the ending all the more unsettling.

Elegy by JRGodwin

Sarah lost to the Goblin King and disappeared. A prequel to Eulogy.

Though this is a prequel, it is best to read this after Eulogy. I recommend this fic with reservations because it is both non-con and underage. However, I still recommend it because it is not intended to be titillating; it's intended as a plea to change the way we view these abusive relationships. They’re not romantic, they’re horrifying and frequently end in tragedy. This fic haunted me for weeks. JRGodwin states this fic is not for the faint of heart and she ain’t kidding.

Erlkönig by Subtillior

Sarah takes Toby to a concert of art song. It is the darkest evening of the year. Words have power. Songs can be magic. And undying love can be more terrible than beautiful.

I saved the best for last. This is easily my favorite fic. Again, this is rightly classified as horror, not romance, and if you’re willing to let it, it will fuck with your head. The writing is evocative and beautiful. I heard someone describe it as "poetry," and they're right. I'm not a good enough writer to describe why I love this so much, so I won't. This link goes to fanfiction.net because the version on AO3 is missing the epilogue.

And there we have it, my Labyrinth recommendations. Let me know if you read any and what you think of them.


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