Though I did compare the story of the film Labyrinth to be more akin to the likes of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland there are also many comparisons to be had in the likes of The Wizard of Oz as well. Most notably in the companions that Sarah gains in her quest to rescue her baby brother Toby from Jareth the Goblin King. In the case of Ludo, and in fact many of the creatures and denizens of the Labyrinth, his in-story origins are something unique whence compared to the likes of the original Wizard of Oz film.
In that film, there are no if ands or buts as to which character in Oz is based on someone that Dorothy knows back in Kansas. They even make a blatant example of this in Elphaba—er, I mean, the Wicked Witch of the West as Dorothy is being carried off by the tornado. For Sarah and her adventures in the Labyrinth however, there’s actually a false clue given as to how Sarah “dreams him up” in the form of the book Where the Wild Things Are that the camera goes past on a brief tour through her room.
The real clue however sits on a shelf next to her door that we only briefly see, a little hand-stitched doll that is exactly like Ludo. There is also another, far more subtler clue towards the origins of his name that frankly, I’m surprised that anyone actually managed to notice let alone take note of. On the shelf above the doll there are a few board games, one bearing the name of Ludo, a game that is more popularly recognized in America as Sorry or Trouble.
Not going to go into any psychological examinations about that as it’s been several years since last I played either game and beyond merely a name, I doubt there was further thought beyond that towards the creation of Ludo.
In the world of the Labyrinth, or the Underground as it is often sung in many a song by the Goblin King himself, Ludo is one of the rarest of exceptions in his species known as a Night-Troll. Though not explicitly stated in the film itself, one can rightfully assume that is the name of Ludo’s race as there is another Night-Troll, named Septimus, which is featured in the book The Goblins of Labyrinth by Brian Froud and Terry Jones. Of course, far from the cuddly beast that is Ludo, Septimus is well and truly deserving of the name Night-Troll but that’s neither here nor there…
Ludo is the dictionary definition of not judging a book by its cover for though he does appear as quite the beast, he has a heart of gold and is actually quite tame, resorting to violence only when there is no other choice. In point of fact, that is precisely how Sarah comes across him, finding him hogtied and dangling in the air and being tormented by a group of goblin guards. Though initially afraid by Ludo’s enraged and pained howls, Sarah actually came to his aid rather than run away in fear as the dwarf Hoggle had done even going so far as to say that nothing is as it appears, especially in the Labyrinth.
Quite obviously, Ludo is very strong and has shown this quite easily in his ability to literally tear a rock wall of a goblin house open like a door and shut it behind him. He is also… not terribly smart insomuch that, like many beasts in many a tale of fantasy and wonder, he is intelligent enough to speak in simple terms and can come up with some surprisingly well thought out plans but conversations between him and his friends are somewhat limited.
Then again, considering that his best friends are rocks, that’s not all that surprising. I don’t mean that as an insult either, Ludo is well and truly a friend to rocks and they will come rolling to his aid should he call for him. At first glance, this doesn’t seem like too much of a big threat considering the first time he demonstrated this, it was to call some small stones for Sarah to throw at his tormentors when they first met. The second time was to call up rocks and get them to float—yes freaking float—in the Bog of Eternal Stench to save Sarah from falling in and to create a new, and far more stable, bridge.
The last and most epic time however was when Ludo summoned the rocks once more to aid him and his friends as they traversed through the Goblin City whilst the entire population of goblins was out in arms after them. Boulders of all shapes and size laid siege to the city and more than one small group of goblins could say what it is like to be a bowling pin.
If Ludo represents anything in Sarah I would say that he represents her kindness, her wanting to have friends and to be close to people but unknowingly pushing them away by how she acts and behaves towards them. Sarah’s adventure through the Labyrinth was not just for the reclamation of her brother but her stepping away from the line dividing children and adults. She had to learn to grow up and to put away childish things but as she did so, she first sees Ludo in her mirror wishing her a fond goodbye followed shortly by the rest of her friends. They tell her that, should she need them that they’ll be there for her.
Sarah then said something that I would never have expected given the adventure she had undergone and the revelation that she had. That she did need them. Every now and again, she would need them and with a cheer they and a few others of the Labyrinth arrived in celebration in her room. That… is a lesson that really got to me as a kid, knowing that I would grow up and fearing that I would eventually have to leave behind childish things.
Labyrinth was the first, and thus far, only film I have ever seen about growing up that shows that while a child may grow up and put away that which is precious to them from their days of youth, even an adult may revisit those halcyon days once more and remember just what it is like to be a kid once more.