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Fridge Brilliance

  • When Captain Vidal is introduced there is a very subtle character-revealing clue. He greets Ofelia and her mother with "Bienvenidos," the Spanish word for "Welcome" for both all-male and mixed-gender company. He's including his unborn child, which he presumes to be male, hinting at how he sees his wife simply as the vessel for a male heir.
  • Pan's Labyrinth is even more brilliant to anyone who has any understanding of folklore: The Faun leads Ofelia on her quest to return to the moon, but in the folklore of that part of the world, the moon is the location of the land of the virtuous dead. So all along Ofelia's quest to escape to the moon is a quest to die nobly enough to earn her place there.
    • It's even more poignant when you realize that Ofelia's only real choices in the film are between dying virtuously or dying miserably. The option of living never appears in the Crapsack World era of Spain post-Spanish civil war.
  • Everyone says that Ofelia holds the Idiot Ball when she eats the food set out at the Pale Man's table. How hard is it to resist the food that belongs to Mr. Nightmare Fuel when you know darn well the consequence of eating food of the Underworld! But... is Ofelia really that much more oblivious than her mother? Her mother who marries Captain Vidal, allows herself to be dominated by him body and soul, and must know how cruel he is, but is blinded by the wealth, comfort, and prestige that he offers. "Look at the beautiful clothes your father gave to us!"
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    • As del Toro stated himself in the DVD commentary, she hasn't eaten in what, a day? Two? Or maybe it was just skipping 2 meals (I forget his exact words.) Either way, she hasn't eaten in a long time. Hunger makes you do crazy things.
      • Maybe it's just my take, but the movie also seems to imply there's something magical about the food that draws her to it, suggesting that it wasn't entirely her decision to do so. Which actually potentially tracks with this parallel, given some of the questions that have been raised regarding Carmen's true level of agency.
    • I've always wondered, how much choice did Ofelia's mother have in the matter? I haven't watched the movie in some time, but as I recall, Vidal first pursued her. I imagine it would be dangerous for a single, unmarried woman with a daughter living alone in Fascist Spain to spurn the advances of a sadistic, high-ranking official? Perhaps this is treading into WMG territory. In that sense, it would make sense for Carmen to attempt to warm Ofelia to Captain Vidal, knowing that he could literally hold the power of life or death over them.
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    • In a way, the juxtaposition of the Pale Man's table with the scene of frightened townspeople lining up to take the only food they could probably get, rations doled out by the Fascists, has some significance. Ofelia's mother is not to blame for seeking a way out of a dangerous situation and possible destitution; monsters manipulating hungry people with the promise of being well-provided for is hardly rare.
      • Not to mention, while I want to believe the OP didn't mean it, their words come off as victim-blamey and rather... Offensive in regards to Domestic Abuse. Put yourself in Carmen's shoes — a single mother who's in an incredibly disadvantaged situation (war, destitution, illness, etc.) is surely going to openly rebel against a brute like Vidal, who could easily hurt her. (Not likely kill her, since he needs to have a son and heir badly.) And yet the OP says Carmen "allows herself to be dominated in mind and soul" and "is blinded by his wealth, prestige and comfort"? Uh, nope, things aren't that easy — Carmen was trying to cope with her and Ofelia's damn harsh situation, and definitely couldn't "fight back." One thing is a "weak female character" who has next to no agency/motivations/etc., and another is a "powerless female character" who is in a terrible situation and either cannot strike back or hasn't found out how... like Carmen. (Ofelia does her best to handle self more actively, even if trying to retrieve her brother gets her shot to death — but then Mercedes finishes the job. Magnificently.)
      • The OP is not blaming Ofelia's mother for anything, but simply noting the parallels between her and Ofelia's situations. Both are in a no-win scenario where the answer might seem obvious to we comfortably disconnected viewers, but is less clearcut to the characters involved.
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  • Adding to the above, Ophelia's second trial might have had a deeper meaning: it's meant to test if she's too mortal to resist human concepts, like hunger. An immortal underworld princess would have no trouble getting in and out like that. But a human girl? It's a surprise she got out of there at all, if not for a little ingenuity.
  • A little symbolism during the scene where Carmen is giving birth. While they await the baby's arrival, you can see Ofelia and the Captain seated side by side, yet in separate chairs. This subtly represents how the two are disconnected from each other.
  • With Vidal's parallels to the Pale Man, both Ofelia and Carmen get stuck in similar situations; they both exorcise their free will to make a questionable choice (marrying Vidal, eating from the Pale Man's feast), but the choice was born out of necessity (wanting a better life for her and her children, going without food for at least 24 hours). And both girls do so based on the enticing nature of what both antagonists offer them (food, clothes, riches compared to delicious food).
  • I think everyone's forgetting something: the... baby root thing that the Faun gives Ofelia to cure her mother (the thing that's put in milk and has to be given blood everyday.) Both Vidal and Ofelia's mother could see and touch it.
    • But only Ofelia could see it move and hear its pained screams during the fireplace scene. It may have just looked like a root or plant to them, and only Ofelia could see it as a living creature.
    • Mandrakes are real plants that grow in Europe. It is also a nightshade and very poisonous and widely used in magic rituals.
    • So... How does a small girl get a hold of a whole mandrake in a remote outpost during a civil war? Ebay?
      • It was given to her by a magical faun.
      • Take a look at the plants they're chopping up in the kitchen. They're mandrake roots - confirmed by Del Toro himself in the DVD commentary. In the absence of anything better, they were digging up mandrakes and eating them, so Ofelia getting hold of a mandrake root is perfectly mundane.
      • Mandrake root is very poisonous, and not remotely edible. Small amounts have hallucinogenic effects, larger doses kill.
      • So is it possible Mercedes and co. were cooking up something they shouldn't have been? Women staffed in the kitchen might be in a position to poison their employers.
  • When the narrator talks, notice that the story refers to the heroine as "The Princess." There's the detail that the narrator never says The Princess and Ofelia were the same person. Taking that into account, it makes more sense that "Ofelia" had to "die" so "The Princess" could return home. Ofelia is a human name from human parents, after all.
  • When Ofelia asks the Faun why she ought to trust him, his reassurances aren't all that convincing. This may have been intentional. If she had trusted him, the Secret Test of Character might not have been applicable.
  • The Faun's final test to kill her brother and open the door, which is in reality the Secret Test of Character, is hinted at by Dr. Ferraro's dialogue during his CMOA. "Because to obey orders just like that, for the sake of obeying... That is something that only people like you do, Captain."
  • Captain Vidal has been haunted all his life by his father's death, thanks to the memento of the latter's broken watch. This must be why he wants a son so badly- he can be the father to his boy that his own father had never been. This still makes him a monster: he has a very credible and very human backstory, but he is still willing to commit many acts of evil during the course of the movie.
    • Not to mention, this human backstory makes him scarier — it means that anyone can potentially turn out to be like him, if the right circumstances ever took place.
  • A lot of what happens to Mercedes mirrors Ofelia's trials. Ofelia stealing the key from the toad's belly mirrors Mercedes stealing the key to the storehouse from Vidal so she can get what she needs stealthily. Mercedes wanting to take Ofelia away mirrors Ofelia wanting to take her brother away. In the end, Mercedes is left holding Ofelia's brother. What if everything Ofelia goes through is just Mercedes telling the baby a bedtime story? She would be immortalizing the girl she loved so much by putting her into other well-loved stories.
    • The last part was most likely Jossed: See the link above. Nothing says Mercedes wouldn't tell the little brother awesome stories of his Plucky Girl of an older sister, though.

Fridge Horror

  • Just what would Vidal have done if his child had turned out to be a girl?
    • Given the line to the doctor about saving the "son" if it comes down to a choice between the mother and child, I don't think he would have had her killed, but probably would have handed her off to a nanny (probably Mercedes) with the intention of shipping her to a boarding school (preferably overseas) when she was old enough. He then would have remarried as soon as possible to try again at getting a son. Also, I get the feeling he would have no problem cheating on his wife but would want his son to be "legitimate."
    • Vidal isn't stupid enough to do things For the Evulz. He seemed content to just ignore Ofelia until she tried to run away with Mercedes, so I doubt he'd just kill off any daughters he had for the crime of not being male.
  • According to legend, the screams of a mandrake root will bring death to anyone who hears it. Ophelia and Carmen were in earshot of the mandrake root's death throes (the latter having chucked it into a fire), and they very likely died over the course of the film.
  • Franco would live until 1975. Given that Pedro and Mercedes are part of democratic partisans and the plot is set in 1944, what kind of life will they'll lead in the next decades?

For Fridge Logic entries, see Pan's Labyrinth.


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