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Headscratchers: Pan's Labyrinth
  • Now, it's been about 3 years since I've seen the movie, so details are a bit fuzzy, but this part of the ending really bothered me: Just what's so bad about a little baby blood?? Now, I know that when people say that they want some of your blood— even just a little!— then that usually means that they're going to kill you and drain you of all of it. Were that the case, I could understand how this test would be a pass/fail re: becoming a princess of a magic fairy kingdom. But mystical creatures, so far as I've come to know them, are literal to absurd proportions. So, if they say "just a little blood", you could totally get away with giving them just a drop, and they'd just have to say "Well, I guess that is what I said..." and deal with it. Going with that line of reasoning, this implies that drawing even a drop of blood from a baby— even if it's to complete a series of tasks while on a mystical quest wherein all of your other tasks have been presented on the level (i.e. not secretly devised to kill you or otherwise full of trickery and underhandedness)— means you're going to die alone and no one will ever know about it, instead of being transported to a land of magic and wonder. Now that is some underhanded mystical creature shit right there. The reason this pisses me off so much is because I so totally would have given him the baby blood. I mean, Jesus, he's a baby, not a Romanov; it's not going to kill him to have a drop of blood lost. Unless causing even mild, momentary pain to another person, even with legitimate reason (magical quest! magical quest!), is enough to destroy your Innocent Little Girl status? To which I say: What Do You Mean It's Heinous? Damn mystical creatures.
    • I have not viewed the film in a long time, but I recall that look on her face. She seemed to suspect it was more than a cut.
    • It's not her's to give.
      • Remember that Ophelia is Genre Savvy, as well. The Faun could have meant "just a little blood"— but he also could have gone the other way and told her that the little bit of blood she gave was not enough. Also, I think this is a testament to her strong character— the child is only her half-brother, and his father is a vicious murderer. And it would have been very easy to blame the baby for her mother's death. But when the Faun gives her an easy proposition— causing pain (albeit momentary) to a baby in order to go into the other world— what answer does she give? "No."
    • If I'm not mistaken, though, what the Faun had said was that she needed to use the "blood of an innocent" in order to pull it off... so why not use some of her own blood? Or did disobeying the Faun earlier cause her to become non-innocent?
      • Well, if you think about it, that's exactly what happened in the end. Her own blood was spilled into the portal, and it worked, so she was the innocent in question.
    • Perhaps she had a fair awareness of the war around her that she does not fit that standard of innocent.
    • Humility? She doesn't think of herself as innocent or good enough to be able to open the portal. Maybe.
    • Also, to the original post: because hurting the innocent and helpless for your own gain is what Captain Vidal does.
    • That, and the Faun's not the most honest fairy in the movie.
    • It's been three years since I've seen the movie too, but I still remember that scene and how it looked. The thought definitely occurred to me "Well if it's just a drop..." but I felt like I was looking at two characters neither of whom believed for a moment that it was really just a drop. The Faun had been acting creepier and creepier and now was acting extra creepy. And he had a HUGE knife. I think if he'd had a needle I'd have felt quite differently.
      • Exactly. And she passed the Secret Test Of Characer because she didn't blindly do what she was told, a theme raised when the doctor was speaking to Vidal.
  • Alright, I know this has been discussed before, but it's a major wallbanger, so it should go here, too. The problem is, why the bloody hell did Ofelia eat the damn fairy food!? Ofelia is a smart girl, and reads fairy stories; shouldn't she have learned something? And if you learn anything from fairy stories, it's that You Do Not Eat The Fairy Food. It's one of those things that I learned so early I don't remember when - Do Not Go Places With Strangers. Do Not Leave Things For Other People To Trip Over. Do Not Eat The Fairy Food. They are Not Like Us, what is Theirs is Not Ours, you Do Not Mess With The Fey. It's not that they're evil, but they're not human. So how come we expect them to be like us? Anyway. Sure, she was hungry, sure she's curious, sure it's a demonstration of how not all orders are obeyed, whatever. A fairy himself told her not to, even! But noooooooooooooooooo, she just had to eat them. And so it all goes down the drain. Gee, thanks!
    • Magically tempting food maybe? Or the fact it's a huge feast and she IS hungry. Not just 'oh growly tummy' hungry but "when the hell was the last time I had an actual meal can I even remember what that tastes like?" hungry.
    • The food is enchanted — I'm always surprised by how many people don't get that. Look at the way she suddenly turns toward the grapes and the camera does a little sweeping pan to follow her gaze, with the Universal Standard Harp of Magical Mischief playing in the soundtrack. Genre Blind yourself.
    • Actually he is right. The food is not enchanted, Del Toro Himself says in the audio commentary that she hasn't eaten anything at all since her mother grounded her, there was a scene that didn't make it to the final cut where Ofelia was offered some food but she declined because he thought it would have been very obvious to the viewer.
    • I posted this in the main page, but whether it will stay there is anyone's guess. Ofelia's acting like a character in certain fairy tales, which makes sense because she believes herself to be a fairy tale princess. In some fairy tales (but not all), the main character will fail to listen to advice, or do something they were told specifically not to do—and in the tales I can remember the reasoning is rather stupid, like not covering up the cage of a bird because it's too pretty (resulting in the bird's singing and alerting everyone in the castle that it's being stolen—admittably birds will still make SOME noise when they're covered, but not as much when they aren't!). And yes, if there is a person who is guiding the main character in their quests, they will get VERY pissed off about this. In some cases the tale ends here, but if it doesn't, the main character must do something to redeem themselves in the eyes of their quest-giver. Usually just listening to the instructions and following them to the letter is good enough, though sometimes (like in Ofelia's case) something more extreme is required. So Ofelia is just acting in accordance with the fairy-tale princess that she believes she is—and in her case, she's the kind of fairy tale character that messes up once in a while, because nobody's perfect. It took me a while to realize this, and I have read *tons* of fairy tales.
    • The second time I saw the movie, I read it as a parallel to Ofelia's mother marrying Captain Vidal, and buying into his luxury, power, and prestige, even though she has to know something of what a monster he is. She let greed overrule fear, and Ofelia did the same.
      • ETA: not that it is a bad thing to look out for not only your own welfare, but that of your young daughter, during warfare. Carmen is making a pragmatic choice (or making the best of a bad situation that wasn't much of her choosing), but I still think her decision is meant to parallel Ofelia's.
    • I think it's worth noting what happened right before she notices the grapes. The fairies direct her to the wrong door. She ignores them and she gets the dagger. In that instance disobedience turns out to be the right choice. It's not much of a stretch to imagine that she thought the fairies (and by extension the Faun) were misdirecting her when they tried to stop her eating the grapes
  • Captain Vidal barely acknowledges Ofelia's existence unless she does something wrong, but it's pretty weird that her mother, Mercedes or anybody else doesn't have problem with her just wandering around alone in the woods filled with partisans at the height of civil war.
    • It isn't, so much, that Ofelia's mother (and Mercedes) have no problem with Ofelia wandering around in the woods. It's that the only time Ofelia goes out there, she's already most of the way back before anyone realizes she might have gone to the woods. As for them stopping her...well, she manages to evade the notice of the guards around the mill, her mother is on enforced bed-rest, and Mercedes is busy organizing a dinner party on limited supplies while also funnelling supplies and information to the rebels. They do notice that she's gone and organize a quiet search for her (you can hear Ofelia's mom asking if they've found Ofelia yet, just before the dinner party scene) but they can't search the woods; that would require having Vidal send out his men - and that would make Ofelia's punishment his decision, rather than her mother's, since he had to expend effort to find her and bring her back. And Ofelia's mother is unlikely to want that to happen, since Vidal would probably do something worse than just send Ofelia to bed without dinner.
  • Why exactly is the pale man so threatening? Yeah, he looks scary, but he walks incredibly slowly, and can't use both hands at the same time without being blinded. The only way he can actually kill someone is if they deliberately go up to him, like the fairies. As far as we know, fighting him is as easy as fighting a single zombie. How did he manage to kill so many quick moving children?
    • They were paralyzed by fear? He is made of Nightmare Fuel.
    • Also add in the fact that the only way out of that room is to go all the way back, climb on a chair, and draw another portal. It's very easy ti become cornered in that room. You also have to take into account, these are simple, stupid children. Not some Genre Savvy adventurer.
  • There was one thing that bugged this Troper when watching Ofelia's escape-from-the-Pale-Man scene. Why, exactly, did she have to get up on a chair and draw a trapdoor in the ceiling? Wouldn't it have been much easier- and, more importantly, much faster- to simply draw another one on the wall?
    • Because then it'll be harder for the Pale Man to catch her.
    • Ofelia does try to draw a door onto the wall again, but unlike her bedroom, the wall is too rough for the chalk. There's even a brief shot of half of the stick breaking off onto the floor. She looks around, panicking, but settles on the ceiling, which apparently isn't covered in the same rough texture as the walls.
  • Everything about the "other" world seems to scream faeries, but throughout it is referred to as the Underworld. Do they mean Underworld as in, it's underground, but essentially Fairyland, or am I missing something crucial about Spanish mythology? Otherwise it sounds like Ofelia's apparent birth parents are the King and Queen of the Land of the Dead.
    • Might be a case of a mistranslation; in the original Spanish film, the other world is referred to as "Reino Subterráneo", which literally translates to "Underground Kingdom", hence no relation to the Land of the Dead. They probably translated it as "Underworld" to make it sound more fairy tale-ish.
    • In Celtic mythology, fairies usually live underground, often inside ancient burial mounds. Also, especially later myths blur the difference between fairies and the spirits of the dead, and do associate their homes with one another. Whether or not this movie makes the association is a matter of speculation.
    • About the Spanish mythology: there are several different mythologies, but I can say that the ones in the north have a lot of common points (somethings also shared with Portuguese mythology). Fairyland is underground with the realm of the dead. The world is called Mourama in Portuguese mythology, and Alén (lit. "The Beyond") in Galician mythology; in the last one castros and old tombs (or rock formations, actually) are entries to this world. Mouras (think the Sidhe from Irish mythology)are the inhabitants of this world and the name 'moura' is thought to mean 'dead'.
  • Anybody else wonder what would have happened if Ofelia had simply taken the grapes home and eaten them later? She certainly didn't have to eat them right then.
    • Imagine you've recently gone an entire day without eating. Now imagine there's a banquet of the most delicious, mouth-watering food you've ever seen in your life, all of which is probably enchanted to be irresistible. Would you be able to wait?
    • She'd likely still wake up the Pale Man anyway. I think stealing from the table would be enough.
  • How did so many kids get to be eaten by The Pale Man? It seems like a fairly isolated place without any normal doors or windows. Did the kids just wander into his house/lair or has the Faun been sending kids over every few years?
    • Nobody said the Pale Man stayed in his lair, and supernatural beings possess ways of getting from one place to another that don't involve doors.
      • Right. The wall drawings of the Pale Man eating children didn't seem to be set in his lair.
  • If Captain Vidal resents having a stepdaughter so much, why didn't he marry a childless woman? He could just as easily get his son that way.
    • He probably wanted to make sure that she was able to bear a child. Also, you probably wouldn't want to marry a man like him, unless you are a single mother during...a not very friendly time period, having a high-rank militar would secure her some stability to raise her daughter. And more than resent, it's more like not caring for her. He has a reputation to maintain and he will get angry if she does something to threaten that, but besides that, he doesn't seem to care all that much for her in both senses.
    • He seemed indifferent to her until he found her with Mercedes.
    • Personally I always thought the Captain married Ofelia's mom because he had to marry her — a one-week affair suddenly got serious when Ofelia's mom revealed she was pregnant, and Vidal decided it was better to start building his legacy now rather than wait 'til the end of the war.
  • Okay, I need to ask: what the FUCK was Ofelia's mother thinking when she married Vidal?! I understand the need for security, but how does marrying the psychotic member of a fascist government grant you that? It just puts a big target on the back of your head, especially when you have to move to a possibly hostile spot in the middle of nowhere!
    • Vidal most likely one day barked "I want you to be my wife", not asking but as an actual order. You don't say no to a man like Vidal when he is in a position of power that allows him to do anything he pleases without consequences.
      • Hm, that would make sense. But this raises a question: What's Ofelia's mother's social status anyway? They don't seem to be overly rich(especially for a colonel's wife) and she seems a little simple, humble-origins type. How did she and Vidal even meet, and what made him so interested in her(Though the theories above my answer this particular question)? And at any rate, if that's how it happened, then she seems to be suffering from some Stockholm Syndrome, cause she seems to almost deify the man? Is she completely ignorant or in denial about his nature? Or is she putting on a mask to try and keep her daughter's innocence, and is in fact as much a prisoner as the poor rebels he brings to the shed?
      • She says at the dinner party that they met in her previous husband's shop after his death. Cameron is a fairly pretty woman and we see her while she's pregnant in the film so Vidal may have taken a fancy to her. He might have been a very different man away from his soldiers. And someone above suggested it was a short affair and that she got pregnant, necessitating a marriage. She may have also not have had much interest in him but married for financial security anyway. Running your husband's business and trying to raise your daughter alone would have been too hard for Cameron so marriage to a high ranking military official seemed like a good idea at the time.
      • He wanted a son. really bad. He was probably whoring all over the country for it. She got pregnant first.
  • Ok, back on the Real World, what the hell was so important about that sawmill? I couldn't see any reason why it was so incredibly important that there be soldiers there, or even that it was under any kind of direct threat at all until the very end. And if it IS, in fact, a military objective that must be defended at any cost, why does Vidal have his wife and soon to be son living with him in what is, for sake of this specific argument, a war zone? Any why does he host dinner parties there? I get that Vidal is supremely arrogant, is he also supremely stupid, or is there some context I'm missing here?
  • Why didn't Mercedes poison Vidal's food or kill him in his sleep to passively take him out ? I know it makes the story simple but I find it irritating that she doesn't do much other than plot against him indirectly. She obviously wants him for dead but even when she gets the chance to do some serious damage, she only wounds him on the shoulders rather than going for his vital organs.
    • Because she wanted to help the rebels in the wood. She was smuggling supplies to them and trying to help them. There is also a big difference between simply not liking Vidal and wanting to outright murder him. If she murders him then she's a fugitive or there's also a risk of her being caught if she decides to stay. She only attacks him directly when her life is in danger. And she doesn't seem to be able to kill him properly. She just doesn't seem to have it in her. She could have also assumed the wounds would kill him - it's just that Vidal is that much of a Determinator. She may also have been waiting for the rebels to have a guaranteed chance of victory before siding with them. Also on a superficial level - a warm bed, guaranteed food and a roof over your head is more attractive than camping in the woods at the mercy of whoever's smuggling goods to you.
  • Now this regards Carmen. The opening narration speaks of princess Moanna escaping from the fairy realm, dying, and being reborn elsewhere. Carmen dies during the course of this movie, of course, when she burns the mandrake root. We see her once again at the film's end, once Ofelia has re-entered the fairy realm, sitting at the throne next to Ofelia's true father, the king. Now are we to assume that Carmen is the fairy queen, having escaped, died, and returned to the underworld in the same manner as Ofelia?
    • Actually that is not the same character, just the same actress. The movie plays a lot with imagery, so I guess they used the same actress for both mother characters, to evoke a symbolic similarity, in that she loses her “normal” mother and “normal” life, but regains her “real” mother and ”real” life.
    • A Form You Are Comfortable With? The fairies in the film transform from their insect-like appearance to the traditional looking fairies in Ofelia's storybook. Perhaps the other fairies can do that too. Alternately Ofelia may just be seeing the fairy queen as her human mother. We could also assume that the king resembles her human father. It also provides a happier ending for the audience to see that Ofelia is reunited with her mother - rather than using a different actress and having the audience go "who the hell is this?"

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