When we meet Hoggle at the beginning of the Jim Henson film Labyrinth, he appears to be a little wretch of a creature. He’s rude, he’s friendless, and he’s spraying bug spray to kill fairies. He’s embittered and cowardly. He’s working for Jareth, the Goblin King, doing his bidding. He’s willing to lie, cheat, and trick Sarah to ensure the Goblin King’s wishes are granted, his will is enforced. As time progresses, Hoggle realizes a few things. First, friendship is valuable. Second, that he wants friends. And third, he still feels worthless – and Jareth is the one keeping him feeling that way.
Hoggle is a broken, flawed creature. He is filled with doubt, anger, bitterness, and self-loathing. Hoggle is all of us, weak and imperfect (Romans 3:23). And, like us, Hoggle is being pulled in two different directions. In simple terms, he’s being pulled between darkness and light, between God and the world.
On the one side, he has Jareth. Jareth insults him, belittles him, treats him as less than human. Jareth brings Hoggle down to a lower level. Hoggle tries to please Jareth, even though Jareth doesn’t deserve it. Jareth is cruel. He steals babies in the night and treats his subjects, including Hoggle, as his slaves. Jareth treats Hoggle like the world treats us, it wants to enslave us (John 8:34). It is an undeserving master which wants our loyalty and provides nothing positive in return as it is slipping away and fading (1 John 2:15-17).
On the other side, we have Sarah. Sarah cares about Hoggle, even though he doesn’t deserve it. He tries to hurt her, he poisons her, he lies to her, he tries to trick her into going backwards away from her brother. In many ways, Hoggle appears to be Sarah’s enemy. In the end, he comes through with an act of heroics where he helps save Sara and our heroes. Afterwards this brief battle is over, Hoggle is sitting on the ground and says, “I’m not asking to be forgiven. I ain’t ashamed of myself. Jareth made me give you that peach. I don’t care what you think. I told you I was a coward. I ain’t interested in being friends.” He’s lying as we saw earlier in the film how much remorse he had for his actions toward Sara. It is then that Sara merely looks down at Hoggle on the ground and says three words he never saw coming, “I forgive you.”
After this moment, Hoggle is changed. No longer the frightened coward, Hoggle charges forth, leading our heroes as they enter the Goblin City to find Sarah’s little brother. He willingly puts his life at risk to help his friends. He’s changed. There were hints of goodness beneath Hoggle’s surface throughout the film, but it isn’t until the end when he finally lets it all out, he is defined then no longer by Jareth or the way the world around him defines him – but by something else.
We see this change when we are saved by the grace of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:17). He does this through by forgiving our transgressions against our Creator (1 John 1:9, Titus 2:14). He gives us a new heart, makes us a new creation. He changes us and it happens when He forgives us. Unlike Hoggle and Sarah, Christ wants you to acknowledge your sins. Hoggle did not outwardly. He wallowed in self-pity, but Sarah forgave him anyway. Hoggle did not deserve Sarah’s forgiveness, she did it anyway. Oh if only we were that loving and willing to forgive as Sarah.
Sarah is not a perfect heroine – she’s flawed and broken too; prone to outbursts of anger, selfish, curses to herself, and is disrespectful to her parents. But, neither are we. In some ways, it makes her forgiveness of Hoggle that much more powerful and, in the end, it frees them both.