It is very common for movies to be based on books that are popular and loved among many. Sometimes the movie can be quite true to the books like the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Sometimes the movie is loosely based on the book like in How To Train Your Dragon and Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief. But what happens when we reverse this chronology? When a cult classic, many years later, becomes a novel.
Pan’s Labyrinth, directed and written by Academy Award-winning Guillermo del Toro, is a Spanish dark fantasy/horror movie set in 1944, Spain. Here, a young girl, Ofelia, encounters a mysterious faun creature in a mythical labyrinth nearby the mill she must call her new home. The faun reveals to Ofelia that she is the reincarnation of the lost princess Moana of the underworld, but to return to her kingdom, she must complete three tasks to prove she is worthy of returning to her kingdom.
Thirteen years after its release the film received a book co-written by Guillermo del Toro and Inkheart’s Cornelia Funke. This novel dove deeper into the world of Ofelia, including beautiful illustrations that make it feel like an ancient fairy tale.
Unlike the film, the book adaptation gives us backstory into the world created by del Toro through the form of short fairy tales. We learn the origin of how all the key elements and characters of the movie came to be. For instance, the Pale Man was a man who worked for a priest in a Catholic Church during the Spanish Inquisition who persecuted and killed all those who questioned the church. He killed his first child at age thirteen and continued to kill until one day his own eyes could bare his cruel deeds any longer and dropped out of their sockets. The dagger Ofelia was able to obtain from his chambers was given to by the Grand Inquisitor.
Everything is explained; the creation of the labyrinth, the history of the frog who poisoned the fig tree and how he came in possession of the Pale Man’s golden key, the magical book that Ofelia was given, and most importantly, we get to know faun’s backstory.
Much like the film, the novel follows the story of Ofelia, Captain Vidal, Mercedes, and the doctor. However, in the novel, we are given deep glimpses into their subconscious minds. Their hopes, dreams, fears, cruelty, and backstory. If you thought Captain Vidal was a cruel man in the movie, wait until you read in his point of view. He will send violent shivers down your spine once you get a glimpse of the cruelty that resides in his mind. Your heart will race when Ofelia is in the Pale Man’s chambers and falls into the spell that forces her to eat the two grapes — leading to the doom of two of her fairy friends. Then your heart will bleed when Ofelia makes her final stance with the Captain, protecting the only thing she has left from her mother. You will cry for Mercedes and the horrors she had to endure while under the Captain’s service.
Funke and Del Toro effortlessly linked myth with reality, showing us that children can see the cruelty and beauty of the world more truthfully despite their innocence. But most importantly that monsters exist and they surround us in all sorts of forms.
You do not need to watch the film to enjoy this book. But, you should read the book before watching the film to truly appreciate the world.