Fairy Tales have naturally become known as happily ever after stories of conquering the villains no matter how evil, good always wins. Although what if a fairy tale could do more than just tell a story of good vs evil, can fantasy replace reality and help fight the true evils of the world. The director Guillermo del Toro takes these real life monsters and melds fantasy and reality in a new type of fairy tale. Evils will always exist and cause destruction, but learning to battle these monsters is the reality of life and how these true monsters and evils can be conquered. “Pan’s Labyrinth includes violence and betrayal. It juxtaposes a bitter and dark reality with the fantastical world—indeed, one with its own torments—experienced by a little girl.”
Del Toro places the harsh reality of war into a world of fantasy to help even a child build strength against the evils and monsters surrounding her, proving that happy endings take hard work through difficult tasks that are meant to discourage Ofelia the main heroine. Though she is not the only victim in this story of war and violence to fight against the evils that try to break down the good people of the world.
The real world evils that are presented by the main villain are supported by a regime presence of war and how it effects citizen life. Writer and director del Toro states that “the one thing that alchemy understands and fairy tale lore understands is that you need the vile matter for magic to flourish. You need lead to turn it into gold. You need the two things for the process. So, when people sanitize fairy tales and homogenize them, they become completely uninteresting for me
Capitan Vidal in in control of a military stand at a mill within a forest after the Spanish civil war of the 1940’s with a fascist victory left many to fight as rebels standing against an oppressive political and military force. An environment so harsh and violent that not even the obedient and innocent are safe from Capitan Vidal’s power. Food and medicine are heavily guarded and regulated to insure those who are fighting against the government do not have benefit from these resources.
A father and son are brutally executed by the Capitan for hunting in the wood at night, a murder that is justified with by more irritancy than reason by the Capitan who shifts the blame on his soldiers for not being able to take care of a simple situation. A solemn expression falls over the faces of the soldiers who now know these two men may still be alive if they would have just searched their hunting bag better to find the rabbits proving their innocents. These soldiers suffer from being place in a country still at war and are involved in a fight over borders between political beliefs suffering from monster Thesis V: The Monster Polices the Borders of the Possible. That without these borders these men could serve their country without having to be violent or promote violence. The evil that Vidal expresses through his power and control of the lives around him shows how political power can be abused and forced on to innocent civilians, he kills because he can and abuses it as a solution to his problems.
The soldiers justify serving these evils for the sake of serving their country, but the citizens trying to survive must submit to the evils, and find ways to secretly fighting to take them down. Mercedes is a house maid at the mill for Capitan Vidal but secretly a spy for the rebels. Living in the belly of the beast she stays close to the evils to help aid in trying to defeat the fascist monsters. This character perfectly encompasses the importance of keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Sadly, the mother of the main heroine of the story falls victim to Capitan Vidal’s power because she seeks safety and security after losing her husband, and is carrying Vidal’s baby in her womb. Giving birth to the Capitan’s baby would ultimately lead to her own death leaving her daughter alone and find a way to deft these monsters trying to destroy her and her strong beliefs in fantasy. “You’re getting older, and you’ll see that life isn’t like your fairy tales. The world is a cruel place. And you’ll learn that, even if it hurts”, these are the last words spoken to Ofelia by her mother, but only encourages her to hold even more tightly to her beliefs in fantasy.
The usage of fantasy as a way to escape and build courage to fight and stand against the monsters of reality is expressed with perfect fluidity by director Del Toro. The imagination of a child to fight a cruel reality of a country at war and the destruction it causes creates a new type of fairy tale that becomes more than just a story. By placing herself in a fantasy believing she is part of a royal family from a forgotten kingdom she is able to create an equal reality in order to balance her world and find strength to stand up to the evils that surround her, even though fantasy can be just as scary and haunting as reality. The manifestation of the Pale Man is visually the main fantasy monster of the story and holds symbolism to the Capitan; who is depicted as a cannibalistic monster who chooses to feed on children (the innocent) when his rules are not followed.
The hope and strength to stand up against these monsters is fueled by the evil they express and without them these heroes would have nothing to fight and stand for, good exist through evil. Thesis VII: The Monster Stands at the Threshold . . . of Becoming- explains that we create our monsters they are a part of us and without them we couldn’t achieve what we set out to do. We carry them with us in order to make ourselves stronger.
The rebels fighting against the fascist regime even though their numbers and supplies don’t come close the that of the supported military are able to distract and outsmart Capitan Vidal and his obedient soldiers. To stand up against power takes more strength and power then just gun powder and bullets its takes belief in one’s self and the support of those around you who believe in the same values. Keeping hope and fighting for what is important in life even if it means facing your fears. Ofelia: [to the giant toad] “Hello, I am Princess Moanna, and I am not afraid of you”
Identifying your monsters is half the battle of surviving life. In such a harsh environment such as civil war a child can find many ways in coping with these monsters, some kids would just shut down and give up, but Ofelia finds strength in her belief of fairy tales and her role in the world around her. Even though she is just a child she is able to stand up for what is right and keep those around her safe. Though she wasn’t able to save her mother she is able to keep her little brother safe from the evils of growing up with Capitan Vidal as his father. She may have lost her mortal life at the power of Vidal’s gun, but he is unable to escape the successful takeover of the mill by the rebels who ensure him before he is executed that his son will even know his name and the monster he had become.
“The idea in ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ was it was going to represent the church, [so] I thought it would be powerful to use the hands with stigmata and then you put eyes on it. But although I had the idea and knew how it was going to operate, when we saw it on the set with the makeup on actor Doug Jones, everybody froze and we went, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing. ”
Toro, Guillermo del. Guillermo del Toro cabinet of curiosities: my notebooks, collections, and other obsessions. Harper Design, 2013
This citation shows the importance of the Spanish fascism and how it was connected to religion. The main villain/monster of the story encompasses the evil of them both, and also is depicted as a represent monster The Pale Man
Box, Zira and Ismael Saz. “Spanish Fascism as a Political Religion (1931–1941).” Politics, Religion & Ideology, vol. 12, no. 4, Dec. 2011, pp. 371-389. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1080/21567689.2011.624408.
Connecting the realism and fantasy of a fairy tale and the importance of lesson and parallelism that can be made within the stories. How reality can be connected to fantasy in order to understand the evils and struggles we hold inside us all. The connection to morals that fairy tales hold and the labyrinth that they sometimes take to understand.
Lukasiewicz, Tracie D., and Jack Zipes. “The Parallelism of the Fantastic and the Real: Guillermo Del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth/El Laberinto Del Fauno and Neomagical Realism.” Fairy Tale Films: Visions of Ambiguity, edited by Pauline Greenhill and Sidney Eve Matrix, University Press of Colorado, 2010, pp. 60–78. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt4cgn37.8.
Citation for the actual film. Which I haven’t watch in a while an totally cried at the end!
Pan’s Labyrinth [Spanish: El laberinto del fauno]. Wr. & Dir. Guillermo del Toro. Perf. Ivana Baquero, Sergi López, Maribel Verdú, Doug Jones, Ariadna Gil, Álex Angulo. PictureHouse -Telecinco – Estudios Picasso Tequila Gang Esperanto Filmo, 2006. New Line Home Entertainment, 2007. [New Line 2-Disc Platinum Series] DVD.