Study Guide

Pan's Labyrinth Rules and Order

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Rules and Order

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 keepers, the princess escaped.

Ofelia's past self, Princess Moanna, seems to be equally curious and disobedient. But unlike Ofelia, whose penchant for breaking the rules always pays off, Moanna's disobedience doesn't work out so well once she gets her memory erased by the blinding light and lives a life of pain. But who knows: maybe it was worth it.

CARMEN: Ofelia, greet the Captain.

VIDAL: Ofelia…[Ofelia extends her left hand for a hand shake but Vidal grabs it with his hand, gripping her firmly.] It's the other hand, Ofelia.

How dare she go for the left handshake?! This first interaction just showcases what kind of man Vidal is. Things must be done his way…or he'll have none of it. You burn his coffee of shake with the wrong hand and you'll get scolded (which we guess is better than getting shot).

OFELIA: [She begins to put the key into the center keyhole which the fairies are pointing to, then stops, removes it.] No. It's this one.

[She places it in the keyhole to the left. It turns and the little door opens, revealing a package which she reaches in. It is a small blade.]

Not only are the fairies—who are supposed to be her guides—telling her to open the wrong door, but even the picture in the Book of Crossroads showed her placing the key in the center hole.

But the question is, is this a test of disobedience or does Ophelia choose the wrong hole? What if they key opened all three and each one held a unique item? Is Ofelia's disobedience "right"? Or does it perpetuate the violence of the final task?

[Ofelia has retrieved the blade from the behind the lock and is walking back toward her room when a plate of grapes catches her eye. She looks at the lifeless Pale Man and plucks one from the vine. The fairies try to stop her but she shoos them away. She eats one and then another, unaware until the last moment that the Pale Man has awoken and is coming to add her shoes to his collection.]

This might be one of those moments that makes us want to face-palm and yell, "Why, Ofelia? Why?"

But let's not forget that the she's just gone without dinner and that both the Book of Crossroads and the fairies haven't been very trustworthy with the whole key thing. 

As for the Faun, we'd trust him as far as we could throw him. Disobeying is portrayed in such a positive light that even in this scene we have to ask if it was really an error.

VIDAL: Now I'll make you a deal. If you can count to three without st-t-tuttering, you can go…Don't look at him, look at me. Above me, there's no one. Garcès—

GARCES: Yes, Captain?

VIDAL: If I say this asshole can leave, would anybody contradict me?

GARCES: No Captain, he can leave.

VIDAL: There you have it. Count to three.

Sometimes Vidal just has to make up rules for fun. He relishes the feeling of power and control and uses these kinds of games to assert this over other people like our poor stutterer. Is Vidal a man of his word? Would he have let him go? We'll never know.

VIDAL: Why did you do it?

FERREIRO: It was the only thing I could do.

VIDAL: No, you could have obeyed me.

FERREIRO: I could have, but I did not.

VIDAL: But it would have been better for you. I do not understand. Why didn't you obey me?!

FERREIRO: To obey without thinking—just like that—well, that's something only people like you can do…Captain.

[Vidal shoots him.]

Ferreiro is the only person who stands up to Vidal and now you know why: he gets killed for it. But the Doc lays it down before he goes out. Only someone as subservient and unquestioning as Vidal could possibly do what he does. His earlier profession of choice may have been a farce. He is compelled by his father's legacy and his obsession with his name to carry out these deeds about which he does not think, only act.

FAUN: Quickly, Your Majesty, give him to me…

OFELIA: What's in your hand?

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.

This is Ofelia's ultimate decision in more than one way. Her final act is an act of disobedience. In her room she agreed to do whatever the Faun asked of her, no questions. But she just can't give over her baby brother to an angry Faun with a blade. Thankfully in her disobedience she passes the test, submitting herself to her own moral code instead of an outside authority.

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