In 1986, Jim Henson’s Labyrinth arrived in cinemas, bringing an imaginative story and wonderful characters to the big screen. The movie told the story of a young girl called Sarah and her journey of self-discovery, as she travelled through a mysterious labyrinth.
In the film, Sarah enters the labyrinth in search of her baby brother Toby, who has been kidnapped by Jareth the Goblin King. Toby is locked away in a castle, and it is up to Sarah to rescue him, making her way through a magnificent maze in the process.
A short way into her journey, Sarah is presented with two pathways, hidden behind two doors. Each door is guarded by gatekeepers, who tell Sarah that one of the doors “leads to the castle at the centre of the labyrinth, and the other one leads to certain death.”
When Sarah enquires which door will take her to the castle, she is told she can only ask one of the gatekeepers a question. However, she must understand that one of the gatekeepers tells the truth, and one always lies.
In order for Sarah to progress, she has to pass through one of the doors. But to do this she must come up with exactly the right question to determine which is the correct door.
Sarah pauses for thought, then addresses one of the gatekeepers. Referring to the opposing door, she asks the question: “Would he tell me that this door leads to the castle?”
The gatekeeper responds with a simple “yes”, leading Sarah to conclude “the other door leads to the castle, and this door leads to certain death.”
But how does Sarah know that she is correct in her assessment?
Well, let’s break it down.
In the movie, the two doors are coloured red and blue, so for the purpose of this explanation, I am going to refer to the gatekeepers as Red and Blue.
Sarah poses her question to Red. She effectively asks him: Would Blue tell me if your door leads to the castle?
Red says that Blue would tell her which door was correct and this leads her to pick Blue’s door. And here is the reason why.
If Red tells the truth
If Red is the gatekeeper who tells the truth, then this makes Blue the liar. If Blue is the liar, and he were to tell Sarah that Red’s door is the correct pathway, then he would be misleading her and in reality it would be his own door that provides the path.
If Red is the liar
If Red is the gatekeeper who lies, then this makes Blue the truth teller. If Blue tells the truth, then he would not tell Sarah that Red’s door is correct – he would confirm that his own door is the correct pathway.
Once again, this makes Blue the correct door.
In this scenario, and any scenario like this, so long as you ask the same question that Sarah asks, then the solution is always to go with the opposing door.
Thank you for stopping by It’s A Stampede! to read this post about Labyrinth. I hope I have solved a problem which has perplexed you since 1986.
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