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Fridge / The Book of Life

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As a Fridge subpage, all spoilers are unmarked as per policy. You Have Been Warned.

Fridge Brilliance

  • Why did Maria's father invite everyone in town to the party, save for Manolo? Because he didn't want him tempting her away from Joaquin. He probably wouldn't have been invited whether he finished the bull or not, it simply provided a convenient excuse.
  • Why would the gods base their deal on three small children....La Muerte seems fond of children in general, and it would suffice to say that Xibalba used this as extra assurance for the wager (which she is also fond of).
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  • Why is Chuy on team Manolo/Maria? Because Manolo gave Chuy to Maria when they were young. In a way, Chuy thinks of them as his parents. And therefore thinks they should be together.
  • La Muerte believes all humans are pure beings who are good at heart; Xibalba thinks that all humans are selfish and evil creatures with no redeeming traits. Why is this? Because of the realms they live and rule in. La Muerte rules a place where only the good mortals depart to after death. Xibalba, in contrast, rules a realm where the mortals who were evil in their life go to after death. Both Gods' opinions on humans stems from the departed souls that are now their citizens.
    • Except that's not how it works. La Muerte's realm is inhabited by dead people who are remembered by their loved ones, whereas Xibalba rules over a land reserved for those poor souls who have been completely forgotten.
    • So basically Xibalba is hell, while La Muerte is heaven.
      • A better comparison would be the Asphodel Fields versus Elysium. Spirits in Xibalba's realm are not punished, they just... are.
    • The basic premise of this particular idea still arguably works. In the Land of the Remembered, La Muerte sees the departed who are still remembered by the living, reinforcing the idea that humans still care about each other, even when they're separated by death itself. On the other hand, Xibalba, in the Land of the Forgotten, is surrounded by souls that have been cast into the abyss by mortal inconstancy and forgetfulness. And as time goes on, a lot more souls go from Remembered to Forgotten than the reverse, which makes the picture even bleaker.
  • Why does Mary Beth tell the kids the story of Manolo? It's because she's actually La Muerte- and by telling his story, she's ensuring that Manolo and his family and friends continue to live on in the Land of the Remembered as they won't be forgotten!
    • It also stands to a certain amount of reason that Xibalba's realm does contain evil people. "Living well is the best revenge" as the saying goes, and that means that the evil ones aren't given the satisfaction of being remembered, nor their legacy given any credence. That's why they end up in the Land of the Forgotten.
      • But isn't it the other way around? We remember the evil people a lot more because of their actions. Like Hitler. So they'd be in the land of the remembered for a much longer time due to his infamy.
      • Word of God says that the wicked don't go to the Land of the Remembered but the Land of the Cursed.
  • In the Land of the Remembered, the first spirit Manolo meets asks his name, and a slightly disoriented Manolo says "Maria Posada..." The spirit remarks that's a funny name for a guy, then notes that it doesn't appear in his book. It seems like a throwaway joke, until you realize Maria's name isn't in his book because she didn't really die.
  • During the climatic bull fight in the land of the Remembered, Xibalba seems confident that Manolo's apology song won't appease the bull. ...Only to be shocked that it worked. It seems to be a typical scenario of Evil Cannot Comprehend Good. But then, things make sense when one imagines this whole thing is symbolic of Xibalba's relationship with La Muerte. The bull represents her anger, and every time he tries to appease her with something other than a simple apology, it gets worse. It flabbergasts him to see first-hand that something as small as "I am sorry" was all he needed to make it right again.
    • It can also be what prompts Xibalba to try apologizing to La Muerte, instead of dancing around the words "I'm sorry".
  • Let's look at Manolo and Joaquin's proposals, which gives some foreshadowing that Maria would marry Manolo:
    • Joaquin: Proposes to her in a crowded area, accidentally putting some pressure on Maria. He doesn't have any physical contact with her. Joaquin then states that her father said it was okay. Insensitively meaning that she was allowed to marry because her dad approved.
    • Manolo: He proposes to her in a quiet, private place, making her more comfortable. Manolo grabs Maria's hands and kneels before her. Manolo makes sure Maria knows that she is happy.
  • Maria wasn't the only one affected by Manolo's death: Joaquin was too. The story places a huge emphasis on The Power of Friendship, and Joaquin began to change for the better after Manolo died, shown when he was willing to let Maria go because he knew marrying him wasn't what she wanted and that he absolutely refused to let his brother die a second time. It came to a head when Joaquin was willing to die to save Manolo in their fight against Chakal and even gave him the medal, which had been the source of his strength for years, to make sure he survived.
  • Also counts as a bit of subtle Fridge Heartwarming: When Manolo manages to calm the demonic bull, notice how the beast disappears into marigold flowers. To explain, when Xibalba created the bull, he was also, in a way, creating a piece of himself through the bull. And the marigolds show the bull at complete peace. Now, who else is represented by marigolds? La Muerte. In a clever, symbolic way Xibalba is showing he's only at complete peace when La Muerte is near.
    • Marigolds are also associated with La Muerte’s realm, the Land of the Remembered. By apologizing to the bull, Manolo was remembering the bulls as animals worthy of respect, something none of the Sanchez men had ever done.
  • The lack of Picadors in the movie looks like a case of Gretzky Has the Ball but Manolo's family is famous for taking insane bullfighting risks, so facing an uninjured bull would be in idiom.
  • Why does La Muerte stay with Xibalba even with his actions against mortals? Because she sees the good in everything, from humans to her rascal of a husband.
    • And why doesn't Xibalba just do the stereotypical Big Bad who's an immortal God thing and kill and/or imprison La Muerte to rule her land? Because she's La Muerte and all beings love her, even the rascally Xibalba.
  • The "killing the bull" aside, it did seem like Manolo was having fun during the bullfight. He did back-flips, flourished his fancy cape, caught the rose in his teeth, guided the bull to write Maria’s name in the sand, and just generally played his showmanship up to the hilt. Whether playing music or bullfighting, Manolo is a performer and his job is to put on a show for the audience. It's just that he'd rather it be the kind that he wants (music) than the kind his family wants (bullfighting).
  • The character designs of the soldiers of the town militia are based on the styles of several famous Spanish painters, the most surreal-looking characters being based on Picasso and Dali.
  • Before Manolo serenades María, his Mariachi buddies try their hands at singing rather…unsuitable songs. While this is most likely just the brothers being their goofy selves, Pancho mentions that they have been to four bars that night, so at least two of them were probably still pretty out of it at the time.
  • "The only blue in her design is in her eyes, because she only has eyes for Xibalba", refers to La Muerte's eternal love toward Xibalba. However, most of his color scheme includes black, green, with a twinge of purple (tore shirt under armor). However, if you look at these scenes, especially the darker ones, the blue is more visible. In a layer of brilliance, La Muerte fell in love with the parts (blue) many people can't see in the rascally God.
  • During the battle, the members of the deceased Sanchez family get their hands on the Medal of Everlasting Life, but quickly throw it away. Why? Because the medal makes the user unable to die or be harmed. They're already dead and being dead already grants them a form of invincibility, so the medal's worthless to them.
  • Why choose blatantly unfitting, modern-era songs to feature in a movie taking place in a fantastical, historical Mexico? Because it's only a story. The children don't know what the characters are really singing, so they fill it in with (modified) songs they are familiar with.
  • Why does La Muerte reveal herself from her Mary Beth disguise in front of the Detention Kids? Well, rewinding back to the beginning, La Muerte (as Mary-Beth) stated that the kids weren't like any other kids, alluding to them being the Chosen Ones of something, and are thus, granted to seeing La Muerte in person. Secondly, in a more practical reason, even if they were to tell others of witnessing La Muerte who will believe them? They're kids and people (especially adults) will reason that they have an active imagination, and they're Detention Kids making it even more unlikely that others will believe what kids who served detention would say. Lastly, she's La Muerte who loves everything and has a fondness towards children. She probably couldn't resist letting the Detention Kids know that they actually the Goddess of Death themselves.
  • One of the main themes of the story is to be yourself, and we see with Manolo and Joaquin how doing so or not doing so, respectively can lead to: La Muerte (in disguised) blessed Manolo to always remain pure and true to himself. Later on, he is now a talented bullfighter, but could never bring himself to kill the bull and sought a music career. His father is ashamed and the people of San Angel (sans the Rodriguez Brothers and Maria) ridicule him. Manolo is constantly told to be "like every other Sanchez man". However, because he didn't change himself, Manolo was able to calm the demonic bull with his singing, and help save San Angel from Chakal and his bandits. And got the respect of Xibalba. Joaquin, on the other hand, wasn't blessed by a disguised Xibalba, but given the Medal of Everlasting Life, with the desire to be exactly like his father —- to change who he really was. He becomes the town hero, beloved by all, but when the Medal (the object which he hoped to be like his dad) was stolen by Chakal, Joaquin was immediately defeated by the bandit king and nearly killed.]
  • Why is Maria so moved by Manolo's "I Want" Song, "Creep"? It wasn't just foreshadowing that Manolo and Maria would get married, but it also shows the reason why: They're birds of a feather! To explain, both were taught, especially by their fathers, on how they should act: Manolo "should" adopt A Real Man Is a Killer (or "A Real Sanchez Is A Killer Of Bulls") attitude, and that singing was not "fit for a real Sanchez"; Maria "should" learn to be a Proper Lady, one who doesn't swordfight or read. And when they both refused to do so, they were shunned in some way: Manolo was ridiculed by San Angel and his father practically disowned him. Maria was the in the center of constant gossip. In other words, Maria understands what it's like to be called a "creep" or a "weirdo" from society because of who she truly is.
    • For an extra bit of heartwarming, why did Maria's Love Epiphany towards Manolo only seem to kick in after she heard him sing in the arena? Because when she left for Spain, his last words to her were a promise to sing for her when she came back home, and she had made him promise to always sing from the heart. It may not have been intentional, but Manolo pretty much fulfilled both his promises at the same time with that one song.
    • In fact, the same could be said for the way Maria felt about Joaquín. She was pretty put off by his attitude, initially, but she did begin to warm up to him when he fought off the bandits and protected the town, laughing at his cocky antics and even praising him when the intruders retreated. His ego may have still been a bit of an issue, but it makes one wonder if Joaquín's initial proposal would have been a bit more successful if he had put it off until "after" the attack to do it.
  • This post notices how Manolo's ancestors has a handicap when bullfighting that ultimately led to their death. And when Manolo had to face the demonic bull, he also has the same handicaps!
  • Also dealing with the above, during Manolo's final bullfight against the demonic bull, it starts out as many bulls at once. Then Carlos- Manolo's father and the greatest source of pressure and anxiety in his entire life- arrives. Then the bulls become one gigantic beast, focused because all- if not most- of Manolo's fears that spur on this trial can be tied to his father in some way or form.
  • The film has a running theme of toys and children: Mary-Beth has figurines of all the human characters in the story while telling the Detention Kids, and starts the tale when Joaquin, Manolo and Maria are children. During the first few minutes of the story, the kids point out that it was ridiculous for two death gods to place a bet on three children. Mary-Beth nervously agrees with them, and we later find out that she is La Muerte. Also during the film most of the characters, including Joaquin, General Posada, Carlos, treat the people in their lives like toys, taking them for granted or not seeing the many sides to their characters.
    • There's a subtle Aesop: Don't treat living human beings like toys, no matter how much power you have. If La Muerte and Xibalba hadn't made the bet, none of the characters would have suffered as much, and Joaquin could have become a true hero without the Medal of Everlasting Life, having to truly suffer in battle. Joaquin could have won over Maria if he had seen her as a person, and Carlos had a strained relationship with his son by treating him as a one-sided bullfighter. Even Manolo has some of it, play-fighting with Joaquin over Maria, but he sees every side to her character, as she does to his.
    • We also see La Muerte's version of Heroic Self-Deprecation given that Mary Beth agrees with the children. She wants them to learn from her mistakes, namely treating other human beings like toys.
  • Carlos mellows after dying to hold off Chakal and ending up in The Land of the Remembered, even cheering on Manolo when the latter calms the demonic bulls with the Apology Song. His only son died after getting mocked for not killing a bull, and when they had a fight about said refusal. Parting Words Regret was very much at hand, and Carlos on seeing his son again during the demonic bull fight got a bit of perspective.
  • Manolo's grandma said she was a beast of a bullfighter when she was younger. Considering she might be the only Sanchez able to reach old age and only died because of such a mundane cause as excess of cholesterol, she could be the most badass of all Sanchezes.
  • This post discusses the visual illustrations of the credits. For example, "Carlos picks up Manolo and drops him in a suit that is too large for him. So, big shoes to fill. Maybe not just the bullfighting thing, but being Manolo, being himself."
  • When Xibalba and La Muerte disguised themselves as townspeople and were in front of two graves that showed the contrast between the two: Xibalba's "grave" has nothing on it and is shrouded in darkness, hence the person is forgotten; La Muerte's "grave" has many decoration and candles, hence the person is remembered.
  • Manolo and Joaquin having a Wimp Fight over Maria, despite their respective combat skills, actually makes sense; The two are best friends. They'd never want to really hurt each other, not even over the woman they both loved.
  • Look at the people who ship Manolo/Maria and Maria/Joaquin:
    • Those for Manolo/Maria (Carlos, Anita, Rodriguze brothers, the Detention Kids, and La Muerte) all genuinely thought that the two would be great together.
    • Those for Maria/Joaquin (Xibalba, General Posada) only pair the two because they want to win something (Xibalba) or need something from one (General Posada wanting Joaquin to stay and protect the town).
  • At one point, Luka demands, "What is it with Mexicans and death?!" That's a pretty big generalization to make based solely on listening to this story, but Word of God has it that Luka, alone among the detention kids, is of Mexican descent. Assuming his family is in touch with their heritage, it's probably not his first exposure to the Day of the Dead, and thus not the first time he's wondered that.
  • According to Word of God there are no children that reside in the Land of The Forgotten. While this can be explained due to La Muerte's Friend to All Children status, it does make sense given that November 1 is known as Dia De Los Angelitos- a day meant to honor children and infants that passed away.

Fridge Horror

  • Xibalba's snake was getting ready to bite Manolo only once before Maria intervened. Had it succeeded, Manolo probably would have been stuck in the death-like trance forever.
    • Unlikely. Maria would probably have sought some sort of cure for him, and would have been too grief-stricken to agree with marrying Joaquin. To say nothing of True Love's Kiss.
    • The trance seems to give the appearance and symptoms of human death, considering how Maria apparently had no detectable pulse while in it.
    • Or the snake was going to bite twice, but simply retreated when it bit the wrong target. Or Xibalba staged it so that Maria would take the bite for Manolo, to maximize the level of guilt Manolo would feel, and thus make death seem like a more desirable option. Either way, Xibalba needs Manolo outright dead in order to guarantee winning the bet.
  • Manolo's soul doesn't seem to reenter his body at the end. Is his corpse from earlier still lying around somewhere? Does he find it? What happens to it?
    • I assume it was buried under the tree and the three gods just magically remade it when they resurrected him.
    • It turns out that it simply disintegrated.
  • Eventually everyone who remembers the dead will die too. Everyone ends up in the Land of the Forgotten eventually.
    • At the very least the Sanchez family and the rest of our heroes will always be remembered as long as Xibalba and La Muerte keep passing on their story, which is what they were doing in the Museum.
  • When the Forgotten are blown into ash, what exactly happens to them? Are they still conscious? Could this be a case of And I Must Scream?
  • Considering how Xibalba was willing to trick Manolo into committing suicide after apparently witnessing the love of his die because of "his" actions, one wonders what the Death God did on his last wager? The one that got him exiled into ruling the Land of the Forgotten and caused a rift between him and his wife.
  • Here is a piece of Fridge Sadness. How do those in the Land of the Remembered react when they find out that members of their family have been banished to The Land of the Forgotten (which again, not only is a very gloomy place but will also end in said residents slowly deteriorating to dust)? Or, what if residents of The Remembered that never met in life become close friends and yet one day they are eternally separated for the same reason/fate?
    • Exactly how do the residents feel about this fact? Are they, while happy and partying, in constant dread for the day when they are ultimately banished to the Forgotten, or do they just quietly accept that?
    • And then, Word of God said that children are exempted from the Forgotten, most likely to remain in the Remembered for eternity with La Muerte. However, how about when they eventually have to watch as their parents and any older siblings/relatives be banished, especially knowing that they will never be able to see their family again? Wow... talk about Bittersweet Ending.
  • Even in this film's universe, there have to have been people who were truly evil to the point that their heinous actions could never (and shouldn't be in order to prevent reoccurrence) be forgotten. Does this mean that they are allowed to reside in The Land of the Remembered too?
    • As someone said above, it is highly possible that Xibalba's realm does contain evil people along with the absolute forgotten. Perhaps in these cases, evil souls will automatically be tossed into the Forgotten despite the wretched legacies left behind. Alternatively, there might be a secret section of The Remembered that acts as a high prison or maybe even a traditional Hell as opposed to the 24/7 fiesta.
      • Word of God actually touched on this subject. There are multiple worlds, and the one that houses the wicked after death is The Land of the Cursed.
  • Crosses with Adult Fear: Who was taking care of a young Joaquin after his parents died and before General Posada trained him as a soldier?
    • A line from Young Manolo implies that he has a grandmother.
  • Even with Manolo getting his happy ending, he still will have to find his father and grandmother's dead bodies (the former most likely brutally dismembered).
    • Perhaps the death gods cut Manolo some slack and simply made the bodies disintegrate just as his original body.
  • Word of God confirms that Xibalba's wings are actually burnt angel wings and that he can hardly ever use them, unless for show. So, after looking intimidating in front of Manolo and his ancestors by flying through the roof of La Muerte's castle, one question pops up: How much excruciating pain was the God under?
    • Actually it wasn't just his wings, but his entire body!.
    • Word of God also says Xibalba deserved it, meaning the God did something so bad having his skin burnt off was a just punishment. What the hell did he do?!
      • From some more information, Xibalba and his brother (who rules the Land of the Cursed and is more malicious than his brother) were once good knights who got too cocky and ended up paying for it. Pride cometh before the fall.
      • Actually, it was later revealed that the reason Xibalba went through that punishment was because it was meant for La Muerte and he took it for her! This opens all kinds of questions as into what the sugar-candy goddess used to be like.
  • Mix of this and Tear Jerker, it pretty much took Manolo committing suicide and even his own death for Carlos to finally accept his son's true calling in life. Gets worse in that if Manolo accepted Xibalba's offer not just because of Maria then that means Carlos was part of the reason.


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