Study Guide

Pan's Labyrinth Ofelia (Ivana Baquero)

Ofelia (Ivana Baquero)

Pretty, Pretty, Princess

The main thing for us mere mortals to remember about Ofelia is who she really is: a reincarnation of Moanna, the princess of the Underground Realm.

Yeah, that's Your Highness Ofelia to you. We personally think she should have a whole string of titles, Daenerys Targaryn-style. In fact, we'll call her Princess Ofelia, Moanna of The Underground Realm, First of Her Name, the Muddy, Killer of Giant Frogs, Eater of Forbidden Grapes, Thief of Disgusting Eyeless Men's Knives, and Best Big Sister of Baby Bros.

Hmm. Or maybe we'll just call her Ofelia.

In any case, this film contains a story-within-a-story of how Moanna became Ofelia. It's actually the first story we hear in the film:

NARRATOR: Long ago in the Underground Realm where there are no lies or pain there lived a princess who dreamt of the human world. She dreamt of blue skies, the soft breeze, and sunshine. One day, eluding her captors, the princess escaped. Once outside the brightness blinded her and erased her memory. She forgot who she was and where she came from. Her body suffered cold, sickness, and pain. Eventually she died. Her father the King always knew that the Princess would return, perhaps in another body, in another place, at another time.

Yup. It's definitely not a feel-good story. But at least it ends happily: her father, sure of her return, will wait for her to draw his last breath.

But it's also probably a story that exists within the confines of Ofelia's adorable head. Ofelia's a put-upon little kid: her dad's dead, her mom's having an insanely tough pregnancy, her step-dad is as evil as any step-parent in a fairy tale, and a her home is war-torn.

As her story unfolds (and gets more and more harrowing), the fairy tale of Princess Moanna gets more elaborate. It moves from fairly simple tasks—kill a nasty toad, get muddy—to more dangerous obstacles. And this is no accident. One reading of this film states that, as Ofelia's life gets harder and harder to take, she needs to compensate with telling herself a fanciful tale about her identity.

And we'll hand it to this pobrecita: she comes up with a kick-butt alter-ego. Ofelia's a girl with some serious imagination.

Curiosity Killed The Cat

But her imagination is still rooted in her reality. It's apparent that both Ofelia and Moanna's journeys are bound by a common thread: curiosity.

After all, it was Moanna's desire to see the blue sky and feel the soft breeze that lead her to creep up the stairs past her keepers and up to the surface. (She was probably seriously Vitamin D deficient from staying underground for so long.)

Likewise, Ofelia's curiosity leads her to the supernatural realm through the eye of the statue and following the fairy into the labyrinth. She even decides to go ahead and trust the Faun, which means she must be really curious…or just utterly impervious to the inherent sketchiness of weird half-men, half-goats.

A Journey of Innocence

So why would Ofelia want to create such an elaborate, curiosity-filled alternate world? Well, it ain't because she's happy in the one she's living in currently. Forget Alexander and his famous Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Ofelia is having a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Life.

Any story dealing with a young protagonist struggling against the evil adult world and entering into a land of magic is easy to write off as a classic coming-of-age tale. It's all laid out for us: girl is innocent but is forced to deal with adult concerns which are mirrored by her harrowing tasks in an alternate reality…i.e., a metaphor for growing up.

But the journey that Ofelia is embarking on is a little bit different. For one thing, it's super uterine. (You can head over to our Symbols section to read more on the uterine imagery in Pan's Labyrinth.)

Ofelia's a kid who's witnessed firsthand the horrors of childbirth: the sickness and the blood and eventual death. Her story isn't a journey towards an acceptance of these things—instead, it's a journey away from them, into a Neverland of sorts where she can eternally be a princess without having to ever be a queen.

Think about Ofelia as she crawls into the crevice of the fig tree (yeah: fig—those leaves that famously cover up genitalia) and eventually finds herself on the patterned floor of the warmly lit underground realm throne room. She's essentially crawling back into the womb. Hers is not a journey of growing up; it's a journey of maintaining innocence, even at the cost of leaving the world altogether.

Protecting The Innocent…Even As She Protects Her Innocence

But this isn't, by any means, portrayed as taking the easy way out.

Because not only is Ofelia protecting her own innocence by retreating into a fairy tale world, but she's also protecting innocent others—especially her baby bro.

Check it out:

FAUN: The portal will only open if we shed the blood of an innocent. A pinprick, that's all; just a drop of blood. It's the last task! Hurry! [Ofelia hesitates.] You promised to do it so give me the boy. I want to leave this place, I can't wait any longer!

OFELIA: No. My brother stays with me.

FAUN: You would give up your sacred rights for this brat?

OFELIA: Yes, I would.

FAUN: You will give up your throne for him? He who has caused you such misery, such humiliation?

OFELIA: I will.

Yeah; Ofelia's being super-hero levels of awesome…even within the realm of her fantasy life. After all, she, like the Faun, wants to "leave this place." But she doesn't want to harm anyone. She wants to keep what remains of her family together. She doesn't get swayed by the emotions of shame, ambition, or anger.

In other words, she stays 100% childlike and innocent. And by keeping herself pure of heart (and keeping her baby brother out of the stab-happy clutches of the Faun) she ultimately gets her one-way ticket back to princess-hood.

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