Farewell, Goblin King 

by Thea Kinyon Boodhoo

As the world falls down…1

A single line of an old song haunted me as I woke up, two Jareth, the Goblin Kingmornings in a row. Images of nonsensical staircases swirled behind my lids, accompanied by an unmistakeable feeling that I had lost something.

He was Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, the Man Who Fell to Earth, and for my entire generation, he was and will always be The Goblin King: the most glamorous and universally adored movie villain of all time.

The tale of The Labyrinth is classic faerie: a young woman, angry at her infant brother, wishes the Goblin King would take him away, and David Bowie, all leather and hairspray, happily obliges. The young woman, played by Jennifer Connolley, immediately regrets her curse when she realizes the Goblin King is real, and she enters his world to rescue her brother back from him. Like any proper land of the fae, it is filled with monsters, riddles, dangers and strange new friends who cannot always be trusted. I will not go on since this is not a movie review – although I wish it was.

I had recurring dreams about David Bowie in my late teens. Not sexy ones, but I still remember them, because I spent so long trying to understand them.

He is at Safeway, out front at the kind of table where Girl Scouts sell cookies or activists hand out communist literature. I walk up to the table. I think we talk.


I have a long walk to a class I am taking, and it is the first session. The sidewalk is overgrown and crumbling the way sidewalks get at the edges of small towns. The classroom is in a small building on a gravel lot, and inside the classroom, at the front of the class, stands David Bowie: amiable, confident, as approachable as someone I have always known.

There was a third, but it has slipped away.

At this point in my life, I had read a bit about Bowie’s life. He was born David Robert Jones2 to a family plagued with various forms of mental illness3. His great fear in early life was succumbing to something that must have felt like a family curse. He felt other from the beginning.

Instead of conforming, instead of letting fear force him into banality, he became David Bowie. A name with a weapon.

I was afraid, too, of what I might inherit. I had these dreams in ad school, as I reached for the kind of life no one in my family had. My goals of success in a competitive, lucrative, creative industry seemed impossible. They were utterly alien to the world of communes and struggling artists I grew up in.

David BowieI saw him. On the Reality tour, in San Jose. The seats were te
rrible but I knew it might be my only chance. I savored every movement he made across the stage, every lilting lyric of Life on Mars, every sad doomed denizen of Five Years. You didn’t even know you were in this song. But I won’t go on – this isn’t a music review. Although I wish it was.

At 20 I asked myself what the dreams meant. It was obvious as soon as I connected them: he was trying to teach me something. He was my guide into the special, demented land of the creative industry – or maybe he was my guide out of the differently demented land that I was leaving. Like the Goblin King, he both listened and called to me, voice full of smoke and moonlight, as I stumbled between realms.

He was something different to you, probably. He was a million things.

And, he will never be forgotten.


1 Labyrinth – As The World Falls Down (David Bowie) – YouTube. Retrieved February 22, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VppuD1St8Ec.

2 http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/magazinemonitor/2007/01/how_to_say_bowie.shtml

3 http://mindhacks.com/2016/01/13/where-are-we-now-david-bowie-and-psychosis/

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