Destruction, chaos, violence and death along with numerous other tragedies are the results from War. The film Pan’s Labyrinth, by writer/director Guillermo Del Toro, depicts a story of hero’s quest in a time of disarray. The film is based in 1944, about a princess’ journey to return home. She came from an underworld, escaping to the real world because of her foolish curiosity. Similar to the myth of Pandora’s Box, of when someone is told not do something but does just the opposite. The princess’ entrance into the real world blinded her, and wiped her memory from her origins and who she once was.
She carried the same soul, but in a different figure which brings us to our heroine, Ofelia. The hero is presented with an expedition, and must accomplish several obstacles to complete it. In this case it is the stereotypical three obstacles and like always, the hero is rewarded upon his or her accomplishment. The rewards vary from different stories, but in Pan’s Labyrinth it is quite peculiar. Ofelia’s reward is to be reunited with her father and mother who live in an underworld. The film is set in the 1944, in a destructive feudalistic Spain as it is in a civil war.
Director Guillermo Del Toro opened the movie to several interpretations, but uses political and historical significance to symbolize each of the obstacles in Ofelia quest to return to her original world, parallel to the political battle of the Nationalists (The Guerilla Fighters) and the Republicans (Captain Vidal) throughout Spanish Civil War in stages of life, death and rebirth. Politics are a very involving role in the film and symbolize the first task Ofelia must accomplish. As her first steps in returning home, she is given three magic stones to feed to a giant toad and retrieve the key that is inside it.
This giant toad is living a decaying tree that looks very similar to a uterus. Toro must have used this correlation to symbolize the significance and similarities between the tree and uterus. The uterus represents life itself, but it is fading away; dying because of the toad’s vacancy. But more importantly, the dying tree could represent Spain in the beginning of its civil conflicts – when the nation was diminishing because of constant political struggles between Nationalists and Republicans, thus being the spark of the Spanish Civil War.
When Ofelia gives the toad magic stones, it dies and she retrieves the key, thus accomplishing her first task. Yet, when she completes it, the tree begins to recover, just as Spain did when war was decided. A chance for life is given to the nation, which would be to prevail with a new political system and form of government. Ofelia returns back to the labyrinth and gives the key to the Faun so she could begin the second task of her quest. She is given chalk, a sand clock and told to look in her given book to find the next step.
She learns the she must enter underground halls located beneath the headquarters, and use the key she claimed earlier to retrieve a dagger. Ofeila told to be cautious when she enters the halls, because of a gruesome, atrocious monster that lives in the halls. Given with a strict time limit, Orfelia must use the key she received, open the correct cabinet and obtain the dagger. Ofelia does not know of what use the dagger may become, but the director could have wanted to use the object to suggest a new threat in the Spanish Civil War. The dagger signifies death, but also potentially represents the Second Republic of Spain.
The Republic was one of the two opposing sides throughout the civil war, and received countless aid from Soviet Union, France and Spain. The new allies; assets in the republican’s effort symbolize the dagger, as it is also a key factor in Ofelia’s return. When the Republic received aid from its allies, it began to create even more tension in the civil war. The Republic began to pressure the Nationlists. In the film, similar events occurred. After Ofelias journey, the guerillas fighters; the Nationalists – began to attack and put pressure on the Republicans. But ultimately the Republic prevails in the short conflicts.
When Ofelia returns back from the underground halls, she gives the faun back the dagger, acknowledging her competence and thus beginning the third task. Ofelia’s final task is what resolves the tension and conflicts between the two combating parties. Her task is to take the newborn child that Carmen will give birth too, and bring it to the faun. He is then to prick the baby and use its blood to open a portal to Ofelia’s reality. Carmen, her mothers, gives birth but dies during her pregnancy. The baby is taken in by Ofelia and her nanny Mercedes, but abruptly taken by Vidal.
Toro created these small conflicts to symbolize the importance of the baby and how it represents Spain. An analogy of whoever the baby is being apprehended by controls the nation. In the film the baby is being taken back and forth between the two sides so there is never a settled dispute. But Ofelia drugs the Captain and steals the baby from him, running away as to the labyrinth as she is being chased by the Republicans – the Captain. Ofelia temporarily loses the Republic threat and makes it the Faun, but does not allow him to have the baby.
The faun could be interpreted as a third party pursuing to control or seize Spain, but instead Toro used the Faun to symbolize a third party and represent a neutral side of the War. Ofelia would rather sacrifice herself then have the baby be hurt in any way so the Captain claims the baby, and shoots Ofelia. Toro created this scene to display the loss of the heroine; that the hero had failed the quest. But Mercedes, signifying the Nationalists, takes the baby from Vidal and has her party execute him. Thus, a new political party prevailed, establishing a new era for Spain and rebirth of a nation.
Nevertheless, the Nationalists claimed Spain under the rule of General Francisco Franco and continued the rule for the next 36 years. Toro’s film held several political and historical symbols to create parallel situations between events in the film and the civil war. Both led to the beginning of a new age in Spanish rule. Ofelia’s sacrifice did return her home to the underworld, and Toro used political and historical significance to symbolize each of the tasks she went through to be equivalent of the two parties struggle. Ofelia returns home, and Spain is rebirthed into a new era.