I always felt that these two movies are in a way closely related to each other, both examining the same topic if from very different angles. And they do have a lot in common, with both Henson and Craven maturity shows as danger in their respective dream worlds.
Both worlds are controlled by a ‘Dream Master’, but that master is in the end himself controlled by the dreamer who can grant him power or take it away, so both Sarah, crossing the Labyrinth of adolescence, and Nancy, fighting her parents sins, learn in the end.
The pivotal exchange between Sarah and the Goblin King, would not sound amiss in A Nightmare on Elm Street:
Sarah: “Generous? What have you done that was generous?”
Everything that you wanted, I have done. You asked the child to be taken, I took him. You cowered before me, I was frightening. I altered time. I have turned the world upside down, and I have done it all for you. I am exhausted from living up to your expectations, is that not generous?
I ask for so little, just let me rule you and you can have everything that you want ”
That is the truth of their nature, both Jareth’s and Freddy’s.
Like true Kings they have no power over us ‘cept for that which we are willing to grant them.
And so it’s no coincidence that Nancy’s final confrontation mirrors in a way Sarah’s from years ago:
Nancy: “I know you’re there Freddy.”
Freddy: “You think you was gonna get away from me?”
Nancy: “I know you too well now Freddy (…) It’s too late Krueger. I know the secret now. This is just a dream, you’re not alive (…) I take back every bit of energy I gave you.”
But it is only in Labyrinth that we find the key to understand what happens at the end of A Nightmare on Elm Street:
Sir Lancelot/Hoggle: “And remember, fair maiden, should you need us (…) for any reason at all…”
Sarah: “I don’t know why, but every now and again in my life for no reason at all I need you. All of you.”
Sarah accepted that life is not always fair and that we need our little escapes, our day-dreams, even though they will change and some of them we will have to let go eventually, we will always dream to the very end. And with this realisation she restitutes the Goblin King to old power, restores his land and reign. But as she has matured, as she has learned to take responsibility for her own actions and to endure life’s seeming unfairness he doesn’t sway any power over her anymore. Nancy on the other hand, makes a foolish demand when she sets out to gain control over her own life again:
Nancy: “I want my mother and friends again.”
While her ordeals may have been teaching her to fight, she didn’t not gain maturity, she refuses to accept the irrevocable nature of death, taking another futile escape, and thus she restores Freddy’s power, gives him power over her again…
We may not be controlled by our dreams.
We may not be the rightful bearers of our parents sins.
But they do affect us no less.