Beware of spoilers!
Ofelia / Princess Moanna
A little girl who knows a little magic—enough to, say, restore a statue's lost eye to it, and to recognize a fairy no matter what it looks like. Ofelia adores fairy tales and making up stories, even though her mother tells her she's too old for them. But when the Call to Adventure comes—in the form of a mysterious Faun who tells Ofelia that she is the reborn Princess Moanna, of the underworld—Ofelia will do anything to fulfill her Quest.
- Action Survivor: In the process of the movie she survives nearly getting eaten by a child-eating monster and escape with her baby brother from a household full of fascist stormtroopers with orders to kill her.
- Big Sister Instinct: Once her baby brother is born, she'd die for him.
- Break the Cutie: The whole movie is this. Her mother marries a sociopathic asshole, she's sent on a couple life-threatening quests by a scary faun, her mother dies... and then she's shot! How fun!
- Color Motif: Is constantly wearing green, to symbolize her connection with nature and life.
- Denied Food as Punishment: Setting up her ordeal with the Pale Man.
- Despair Event Horizon: After her mother's death.
- Died Happily Ever After: She gets to rejoin her father and mother at the fairy underworld.
- Died in Your Arms Tonight: After getting shot by Vidal she dies in Mercedes' arms.
- Doomed New Clothes: Her new dress of course.
- Kill the Cutie: Ends up getting shot by Vidal, but revives in/returns to the fairy underworld.
- Pimped-Out Dress: Receives two—a beautiful dark green velvet her mother makes her, and a red and gold one when she dies and returns to the Underworld.
- Reincarnate in Another World: She originally died and reincarnated as a human on Earth. In the end, she dies again but reappears in the underworld.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: The underworld, on the other hand is just right for her.
- What the Hell, Hero?: From the Faun after causing the death of two of the fairies in the box.
The Human World
Ofelia's new stepfather, a loyal Francoist enforcer, and a captain in the Civil Guard.
- Abusive Parents: He's nothing but cruel to Ofelia, and, while he is extremely attentive towards his son, it's only because he's projecting his own daddy issues onto his child. He also shoots Ofelia.
- Bad Boss: Downplayed. Vidal regards his underlings with professionalism even if he's frequently annoyed at their failure. However he has a few notable moments.
- When interrogating the hunters, he has his men restrain them. When his patience tires and he shoots the elder, he doesn't even bother warning the guardsman holding him to move. If the guardsman hadn't noticed on his own, he would have been killed with the hunter.
- When returning to find the compound under attack, Garcés hurries to inform him of the situation, and Vidal just shoves him out of the way mid-sentence.
- Big Bad: He is the leader of the Civil Guard in the area, an abusive parent to Ofelia and a cold sadist with no remorse.
- Blood Knight: Exemplified when he states to his underlings that the best way to die is in battle.
- Classic Villain: Pride and rage.
- Clock King: Downplayed, Vidal (who does have a clock motif) makes many plans, manipulating the rebels to come to him while reinforcing the countries power as well as estimating where the rebels will go and whether or not his house staff are trustworthy.
- Clocks of Control: A fascist villain who is obsessed with his watch. According to the director's commentary, his room is supposed to look like the inside of a watch.
- Control Freak: Over the course of the film, and notable rewatches, you will start to notice that when Vidal's plans go awry, he loses his shit. The more his planning is undone, the more unstable he becomes.
- The Determinator: Exemplified when he chases down Ofelia despite the pain of his facial wound and being drugged.
- Disappeared Dad: His father was killed in Morocco when Vidal was only a boy, which made him obsessed with having a son of his own. He in turn becomes one to his newborn son as Mercedes promises the baby will never know anything about him.
- Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: He is left utterly bewildered when Dr. Ferreiro chooses to Mercy Kill a captured rebel to spare him more Cold-Blooded Torture at Vidal's hands, despite knowing that Vidal would undoubtedly kill him for doing so.
- It's also why he's unable to see the Faun at the end.
- Face Death with Dignity: Intends to go that way, but ends up subverted: upon being confronted by the rebels after killing Ofelia and knowing that he will be shot down, Vidal hands over his son to Mercedes, telling her to at least tell about the time of his death to his son so that the latter can continue on his legacy. However, Mercedes refuses by saying that the boy will never even know his father's name, right before Pedro shoots Vidal in the cheek.
- Fantasy-Forbidding Parent: More so than Carmen, he violently dismisses Ofelia's fairy tales as "mierda" (lit. shit.).
- Faux Affably Evil: Best seen with the hunters and the stuttering rebel, Vidal retains his polite and calm demeanor, even as he's breaking bones or murdering people. With the Captive, he gives him a Hope Spot and even states he'll let him go, knowing full well that the man will fail his test. His voice barely rises as he's describing some torture techniques.
- Freudian Excuse: See Disappeared Dad above, since his own father's death shook him up badly. But it doesn't excuse his depravity at all.
- Hate Sink: At the end of the day he is nothing more than a vicious, soulless monster.
- He-Man Woman Hater: Vidal is a chauvinist that underestimates women at best—Mercedes—or views them as little more than means to have an heir at worst—Carmen.
- Hero Killer: He slaughters a bunch of rebels, tortures the stuttering kid horribly and murders Dr. Ferreiro. Oh, and he kills Ofelia at the end.
- It's All About Me: Vidal is more concerned about preserving his legacy than actually caring for his child. Even in his last moments, his main concern is that the child know about his exploits.Vidal: Above me, there's no one.
- Jerkass: Downplayed. He is in no way a nice person, but he tends to fall under Faux Affably Evil and acts more dissonantly cruel rather than openly obnoxious. However, there are times where he's just rude such as when he dismisses Carmen's story about how they met as a fairy tale, or when he shoves a bleeding Garcés out of the way when the man was only trying to do his job.
- Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: If it looked like there's any shred of decency in him, it's really more about fulfilling his selfish desires.
- Kick the Dog: Vidal treats this as his daily routine.
- Knight Templar: While his mindless cruelty with the hunters can make him seem more like a Psycho for Hire, underneath that beats the heart of a proud fascist. As he states at the dinner with his superiors; he's happy to be stationed at the mill, and he wants fascism to win and destroy the "evils" of freedom and equality. He wants his son to grow up in a "new clean Spain" and he'll kill and torture all who defy the Francoist regime to see that happen.
- Know When to Fold 'Em: Knows he's beaten at the end, and calmly hands over his son to the rebels before allowing them to shoot him.
- Offing the Offspring: After Ofelia takes her brother away from him, Vidal eventually tracks down Ofelia, takes her brother back and shoots Ofelia.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: He sees Carmen as little more than means to getting his child. After killing the doctor and Carmen's health deteriorating, he orders The Medic to make sure the child is born over the life of his wife.
- Pragmatic Villainy: He was annoyed that he killed two innocent hunters he's mistaken for rebels. Only because his men didn't check on them thoroughly, thus wasting his time, and killing innocent civilians would probably incite the townspeople to support the rebels.
- The Sociopath: A psychopathic officer willing to torture and kill as many partisans as he has to to make sure fascists take power in Spain. He cares for nothing but his own power and legacy, not even blinking when he shoots his adopted daughter to keep his biological son under his thumb. The actor portraying him has even described Vidal as an evil and deranged monster who is impossible to defend.
- Spoiled Brat: One of the maids calls him one in the novelization after he came down to the kitchen to complain about his coffee being burned.
- Supernatural-Proof Father: Is unable to see the Faun.
- Torture Technician: Does it in the town's barn.
- Troubled Abuser: Haunted by his father's death and his obsession with having a child of his own.
- Unperson: Mercedes won't tell Vidal's son of his true origins or his father's name.
- Villainous Valor: One of the other redeeming factors about him is that he's undeniably brave, as he leads his troops from the front against the rebels and faces the music with almost inhuman detachment.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: His father was a well-regarded war hero, and is well-loved even after his death, and Vidal feels he could never live up to him. It's also inverted as he actually wants recognition from everyone else at his father's expense.
- Wicked Stepfather: To put it very, very mildly. He's cruel, uncaring, and violent. Taken to the extreme when he actually shoots Ofelia.
- Would Hurt a Child: Would kill one, actually.
Ofelia's mother and Vidal's new wife.
- Alliterative Name: The novelization gives her last name as Cardoso.
- Broken Bird: The poor woman is quite depressed with her circumstances what with a dead husband, a Jerkass new husband, and a difficult pregnancy. Any time she tries to find joy it gets ruined or shot down. When she's yelling to Ofelia that magic isn't real, she sounds like she's at the end of her rope.
- Death by Childbirth: Because she burns down the mandrake root that was healing her, and The Medic that attends her has orders to save the baby over Carmen.
- Extreme Doormat: Her pregnancy and her need to support Ofelia makes her quite submissive to Vidal.
- Fantasy-Forbidding Parent: Though she's way more nice about it than Vidal. At least, until right before her death.
- Hoist by Her Own Petard: Played for Drama. When discovering the enchanted mandrake Ofelia put under her bed to aid her pregnancy, Carmen throws it into the fireplace and desperately yells at Ofelia that magic isn't real. Unfortunately, burning the mandrake results in her pregnancy complications returning, and she goes into labor which ends in her death.
- Action Girl: Unlike Carmen.
- Badass Boast: To Vidal when she has the upper hand on him.Mercedes: I'm not some old man! Or a wounded prisoner! Motherfucker... Don't you dare touch the girl. You won't be the first pig I've gutted!
- Better to Die than Be Killed: Mercedes preferred to take her own life than give her pursuers the satisfaction of killing her, and she's holding her knife to her throat, just before she is rescued by the rebels.
- Broken Bird: Implied. Take notice of the look in her eyes.
- Chastity Dagger: Mercedes carries such a knife. It's the same knife she uses in the kitchen, and she's shown multiple times folding it back into her dress after she's done chopping vegetables. Her knife is not only used against Vidal, as is traditional, but also to cut through ropes binding her wrists.
- The Glomp: She and her brother share some Big Damn Hugs.
- Mama Bear: Although Ofelia isn't her child, Mercedes protects her as if she were.
- The Mole: For the rebels.
- Parental Substitute: In the end she takes Vidal's baby.
- She has elements of this towards Ofelia as well.
- Pre-Mortem One-Liner: To Vidal, who wanted his son to know all about him and his father's clock.Mercedes: No. He will not even know your name.
A doctor in the service of Vidal who is also a secret member of the Republican faction (of the Spanish Civil War) and aids the rebels.
- Face Death with Dignity: Faced with certain death, Ferreiro just calmly walks away. After being shot, he takes his glasses off rather calmly before slumping to the ground.
- In the Back: Vidal shoots him from behind as he walks away.
- Mercy Kill: He euthanizes a captured rebel to spare him more of Vidal's brutal torture.
- The Mole: Like Mercedes, he pretends to loyally serve Vidal but is secretly helping the rebels.
- Nice Guy: The only kind and humane member of Vidal's staff.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: He gives a small but effective one to Captain Vidal.Dr. Ferreiro: To obey—just like that—for obedience's sake... without questioning... That is something only men like you can do, Captain.
Mercedes' brother, and leader of the Republican cell in the area.
- Big Damn Heroes: He and his rebels save Mercedes from the Captain's henchmen right when they're about to take her back to inflict Cold-Blooded Torture on her.
- Chummy Commies: Wears a pin of a red star with a hammer and sickle in it, showing his devotion to communism. He is also the unambiguously heroic leader of La Résistance.
- The Glomp: He and his sister share a few Big Damn Hugs.
- Hero of Another Story: While the movie focuses on Ofelia, there's fighting going around and he's in the middle of it.
- Rebel Leader: Commands the local resistance fighters.
- Scarf of Asskicking: He wears a blue scarf in the film.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Defied Trope. He refuses to give up the fight even when Dr. Ferreiro encourages him to, although after that talk he at least urges Mercedes not to risk her life with him.Dr. Ferreiro: You must take care of Mercedes. If you love her, take her away. This is a lost cause.Pedro: I'm staying, doctor. That's it.
Garcés & Serrano
- Double Tap: Garcés can be seen performing it on the rebels they've shot in the battle, much like the rest of the guardsmen in the movie.
- Co-Dragons: To Vidal.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Downplayed, they have stone faces in war and executing prisoners, but look shocked by Vidal's brutality against the hunters. Serrano also can't look when Vidal executes a prisoner with a throat wound.
- Fat and Skinny: Downplayed, Garcés is slimmer and while Serrano isn't fat, he's certainly more broad than Garcés.
- Kick the Dog: Garcés gloats when he has Mercedes at his mercy, seconds before his death.
- Lean and Mean: Garcés, thinner, shorter and meaner than Serrano.
- Perpetual Frowner: Serrano usually has a dour expression.
- Pet the Dog:
- In the opening scene, Serrano stops the car at Ofelia's request when Carmen feels sick, and asks Carmen if she's okay.
- When Dr. Ferreiro euthanizes the torture victim, Serrano has his back turned (despite Vidal having ordered him to watch the doctor), suggesting that he's letting him do it.
- Punch-Clock Villain: Serrano comes off as this compared to Garcés, who takes more pleasure in his actions.
- Smug Snake: Garcés especially in his final scene.
- There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Garcés is shot repeatedly by the rebels. Though multiple gunshots aren't uncommon in the film as most combatants make sure to shoot their victims more than once to ensure death.
- Those Two Guys: Up until the end they don't get much differentiation in terms of personality until they chase down Mercedes.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Serrano makes it back to the base before the rebels attack, presumably he was killed in the firefight, but we don't know.
- Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: When Garcés sees Mercedes making her escape, his first idea is to pull a pistol and try to shoot her but he's interrupted by Vidal who demands she be taken alive.
An ancient creature, he has been waiting in the Labyrinth for the reincarnated princess to return.
- The Beastmaster: The novelization says he uses bats, rabbits and ravens as messengers as well as his fairies.
- Berserk Button: He really doesn't like it when rules are broken, especially when it results in the loss of his fairies.
- Evil Redhead: Subverted in the end when he looks young again with red hair, revealed to be a good guy after all.
- Fauns and Satyrs: He's a Faun.
- I Have Many Names: Claims to have had many names over the years.
- I Know Your True Name: The novelization says he controls his fairies this way.
- Invisible to Normals: When Vidal walks in on him and Ofelia talking, Vidal just sees her talking to herself.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He can be downright scary, but he really does want the princess to return.
- Plant Person/Planimal: He seems to be made from rotting wood.
- Punch-Clock Hero: Word of God says the Faun doesn't care if Ofelia gets home or not.
- Rapid Aging: Inverted; he becomes visibly younger as the film progresses. When we first meet him, he moves as if his joints are stiff; by the film's end, his movement is quite normal.
- Shadow Walker: The novelization explains his teleportation by having him melt into shadows.
- Swiss Army Tears: According to the novelization, he feeds the fairies his tears to help them remember the missing princess.
- Time Abyss: He's so old, his true names can only be pronounced by "the wind and the trees."
- True Neutral: Word of God says that he's neither good or evil. He just does his job to observe and shepherd Ofelia while not particularly caring if she lives or dies.
- The Unpronounceable: Claims to have had names that only the wind and the trees can pronounce.
Three fairies that are friends with the Faun.
- Back from the Dead: The two that were eaten by the Pale Man show up in the end.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Green, blue, and red.
- Face Palm: When Ofelia eats from the Pale Man's banquet.
- Fairy Companion: To the Faun, and later Ofelia.
- Forgetful Jones: The novelization says that fairies tend to be forgetful creatures.
- Our Fairies Are Different: They first appear as stick insects, but transform after Ofelia shows them what they're "supposed" to look like.
- The Unintelligible: The fairies speak through insect like chattering, but the Faun knows what they're saying. Especially when the surviving fairy told him how Ofelia disobeyed him.
The Pale Man
A child-eating monster, whose lair Ofelia enters at the Faun's instruction to get a precious dagger. The Pale Man sits frozen at the head of a banquet table, his eyes sitting on a plate in front of him. He springs to life when Ofelia disregards the Faun's warning and eats the forbidden food.
- Allegorical Character: According to del Toro, the Pale Man represents the Catholic Church, which was highly complicit in Spanish fascism at the time the movie takes place.
- All There in the Manual: The Bonus Comics on the DVD reveal he was once a being of excess banished to that room, and unable to eat the food before him, turning into the emaciated being Ofelia encounters. He believed that the dagger was the only thing that could harm him but in reality it was all that was keeping him alive, and when Ofelia left, he collapsed in on himself and disappeared.
- Child Eater: Frescoes on the ceiling of his lair depict him killing and devouring young children. His lair also contains heaps of shoes from the children he consumed. Despite this preference he doesn't mind the taste of fairies, either.
- Eats Babies: His eating of children, even toddlers, shows him to be a creature of frightening evil.
- Eyes Do Not Belong There: His eyes fit into his palms.
- Eyeless Face: His eye sockets are on his palms, and his face is eyeless with only two holes for nostrils and no lips.
- The Fair Folk: A supernatural being who preys upon humans, but is also bound by magical rules and has a magical weakness.
- Food Chains: Ofelia was told not to eat any food of his table. He wakes up when she takes some fruit.
- Formerly Fat: He's designed to look like a fat man who lost a huge amount of weight. Now he has flaps of excess skin hanging off his bony frame.
- Humanoid Abomination: Even if he was human at one point, he certainly isn't now, having been so horrible that The Fair Folk had him imprisoned.
- Lean and Mean: An emaciated creature that eats children (when he can get any, that is).
- Light Is Not Good: A pale creature that lives in a church-like golden room, and yet eats children. To quote del Toro: "The Pale Man represents all institutional evil feeding on the helpless. It's not accidental that he is a) Pale b) a Man."
- I'm a Humanitarian: He likes to eat human children, even though he used to be a human himself.
- Sibling Murder: The novelization says his first human victim was his brother.
- The Speechless: He never speaks a word and only screams.
- Was Once a Man: The novelization says he used to be human.
King & Queen of the Underworld
- Badass Beard: The king sports one of these.
- Big Good: Of the Underworld.
- Dimension Lord: Ruling the Underworld.
- Light Is Good: Their throne room is brightly lit.
- Hair of Gold: The Queen has an unearthly shade of blonde hair, as opposed to the dark hair Carmen has in the normal world.
- Time Abyss: They're content to wait until the end of time for their daughter to come home.
A plant "that dreamed of being human." The Faun gives it to Ofelia in order to help cure her mom.
- Blood Magic: Requires two drops of blood from Ofelia everyday.
- Kill It with Fire: Carmen throws it into the fireplace when Vidal discovers it under her bed. It doesn't end well for her.
- Plant Person: It resembles a root shaped like a human baby.
- Synchronization: After being placed in a bowl of milk by Ofelia, it begins to simulate Carmen's movements (i.e. tossing and turning when she does the same in bed.) This is probably why Carmen begins to go into pained labor when the Mandrake is burned.