Study Guide

Pan's Labyrinth Immortality

Immortality

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.

This is a classic tale straight out of every mythology ever: a supernatural being giving up their life of happiness to indulge in the human world of pain and suffering. What's different about this take is that the human experience isn't glorified. There's nothing to suggest that Moanna's ascent was worth the pain. In fact, it sounds like going to the surface was just a big mistake.

OFELIA: A long, long time ago in a grey sad country there was a magic rose that made whoever plucked it immortal. But no one would dare go near it because its thorns were full of mortal poison. So amongst the men tales of pain and death were told in hushed voices. But there was no talk of eternal life for men fear pain more than they want immortality. So every day the rose wilted, unable to bequeath its gift to anyone. Alone and forgotten at the top of that mountain…forgotten until the end of time.

The story of the rose is an inverse of Moanna's journey from a life without pain to an awful mortality. The men must go through pain and death to reach immortality. Hmm, not unlike Ofelia's journey back into the Underground Realm.

NARRATOR: When the forest was young it was full of creatures filled with magic and wonder. At the heart of this forest stood a colossal fig tree. The Forest Folk slept in its shadow. But now the tree is dying. Its branches are dry, its trunk old and twisted. A monstrous toad has settled in its roots and won't let it thrive.

Ofelia's tasks aren't just about returning her to an immortal state, she's also helping the natural world like this ancient fig tree and the Faun. But why does it seem like immortality is always guarded by something horrible? We'd take deadly rose poison any day; we're not going near that enormously gross frog.

CAPITAN: The men in his battalion said that when General Vidal died he smashed his watch on a rock so that his son would know the exact hour and minute of his death. So he would know how a brave man dies.

VIDAL: Nonsense, he didn't own a watch.

For better or for worse (okay, definitely for worse) Vidal's highly respected father has trapped his son in a memory of himself, freezing time so that his legacy could live on through his son. Vidal tries to deny it…but we know he's as obsessed with the watch as he is with his own legacy.

PRIEST [at Carmen's funeral]: Because when we open our arms the earth takes in only a hollow and senseless shell. Far away now is the soul in its eternal glory. Because it is in pain that we find the meaning of life, and the state of grace that we lose when we are born.

Ofelia, in her most intense moment of pain, finally returns to her original state of grace where pain and lies are no more. The body over which Mercedes weeps is no more Ofelia than the clothes on her body. She has reversed the process of her birth but only accomplished it through a sacrifice of herself.

VIDAL: My son—tell him about his father…about the time his father died. Tell him—

MERCEDES: No. He won't even know your name.

Vidal wants to try and preserve his legacy—which is also the legacy of his father— through his son. But he's denied this. His violent power is useless. He murdered Ofelia but she will outlive him in memory.

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