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sarahAs long-time readers will know, this whole Girls Underground idea started with the movie Labyrinth – my favorite movie of all time, which I’ve seen hundreds of times. As I was watching it again recently, it occurred to me to write down some of the lessons from the Story, ones that are actually quite applicable to many spiritual and magical journeys. (Note: these were one of the inspirations for the Lessons cards in the Girls Underground Story Oracle.)

 

If that is the way it is done, then that is the way you must do it.

Say your right words.

The way forward is sometimes the way back.

You can’t look where you’re going if you don’t know where you’re going.

Quite often it seems like we’re not getting anywhere, when in fact we are.

You get a lot of [false alarms] in the labyrinth, especially when you’re on the right track.

You can’t take anything for granted.

No, it isn’t [fair], but that’s the way it is.

For over a decade now, I have traced the Girls Underground archetype as it appears again and again in literature, film, television, fairytales, comic books, art and mythology. This has revealed to me not only the power of this particular story, but the power of Story in general. This is not just a metaphor – I believe Story shapes reality itself. Not surprisingly, some of my favorite movies illustrate the sacred role of Story, and I have recently noted this trend and decided to share a brief list here with you all.

labyrinth

Labyrinth – the film that started the idea for Girls Underground begins with Sarah reading from a book (probably a play) called Labyrinth, the details of which (down to the dialogue) she then enacts when the real Goblin King comes for her brother.

neverending_story

The Neverending Story – Bastian is given a special book which turns out to be more than just a simple story. As he reads it, he becomes a part of it, and must save the storybook world from annihilation.

lady_water

Lady in the Water – a creature named Story arrives from a mythical world to help a writer achieve his destiny. To save her from danger and return her home, the man caring for her must learn the fairytale from which she comes, and find the right people to act out its sacred roles.

neverwas

Neverwas – Zach’s troubled father wrote a popular children’s book with him as the protagonist when he was younger. Now grown, he finds a delusional man who believes he is a character from the book, and thinks Zach will save his kingdom. However, there is more truth to the story than Zach ever imagined.

big_fish

Big Fish – Will’s dying father has told tall tales about his life as long as he can remember. But not only is there more truth to his wild stories than Will could have believed, it is the power of the story itself that will give his father the finale he deserves.

the_fall

The Fall – a little girl named Alexandria is recuperating at a hospital when she meets a man who begins to tell her a long tale. As her imagination bleeds story into reality, the man’s ulterior motives come to light. However, Alexandria wedges herself into the story, and eventually helps heal the man’s heart.

imaginarium

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – this is perhaps only an “honorable mention,” but during a flashback it is revealed that Doctor Parnassus was once part of a group of monks who ceaselessly told the stories that kept the world moving. When the devil tries to silence them, the world can survive only if people elsewhere are also telling stories.

And some Girls Underground books and movies that emphasize The Power of Story:

  • Storybound by Melissa Burt
  • Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks
  • Unwritten by Tara Gilboy
  • The Wrinkled Crown by Anne Nesbet
  • The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
  • New Nightmare
  • Candyman
  • American Fable
  • The Dark Stranger
  • Inkheart

One of the plot points of the Girls Underground archetype is:

She interacts with people or things that are somehow connected to her ‘normal’ life at home, or briefly returns home in the middle of the journey.

While this is found in many GU stories, it is exemplified best, perhaps, by the original inspiration for the whole idea: Labyrinth. Not only does Sarah return to her own bedroom again while still on her quest (via the Junk Lady’s deception), but many of the creatures and things she encounters during her stay in the labyrinth (including the labyrinth itself) are echoes of items she has in her room: dolls, stuffed animals, posters, books, games, toys. This is illustrated wonderfully by this amazing set of animated gifs, juxtaposing the childhood object with its manifestation in the otherworld:

  
 

Sometimes I wonder about the female adversaries that exist in some Girls Underground stories – the wicked stepmothers, nasty witches, evil queens… were they once themselves the girl on the quest, only to stay too long down there in the dark and become something for other girls to fear?

We can actually see this process happen in the continuation of one of the bloodier GU stories, Hellraiser. The Comics Alliance blog reports that a new graphic novel series based on the original story and movie has provided the ultimate twist:

Last year BOOM! Studios launched a new Hellraiser series by Clive Barker that marked the influential horror writer’s return to his most famous creation after decades away. Co-written with Christopher Monfette and drawn by Leonardo Manco, the book’s first arc was a hit with fans of the storied franchise, concluding with original Hellraiser heroine Kristy Cotton replacing the iconic Pinhead character as the demonic Cenobites’ head of human soul-harvesting.

This makes sense to me, after years and years of reading these stories, and living my own strange version. The otherworld is not always a gentle place, and the Girl is always changed by her time there, after all.

(Other examples of Girl Becomes Adversary can be found in the movies In Dreams, Candyman, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark, and Gretel & Hansel, and in the book The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There.)

The Oracle


THE GIRLS UNDERGROUND STORY ORACLE - tapping into the Power of Story for guidance and insight. Learn more here.

Alice Days


Celebrate one of the primary inspirations for Girls Underground – Alice in Wonderland – with a holiday down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass! Check out the Alice Days page for party ideas, movie recommendations, and more.

Your Host

My name is Kate Winter. I am a writer, artist and ritualist living in the Pacific Northwest. I hold a degree in comparative mythology and ritual, and am the author of several books. If you have suggestions, story examples, questions, or anything else to share with me, please email me.

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