Analysis of "Pan's Labyrinth" by Guillermo del Toro

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The Labyrinth Mythology: A Historical Background

The Labyrinth mythology has a long history. The typical descriptions of its existence found on rocks can be dated back to the ancient times notably between 10,500 and 4,800 BCE. Labyrinth’s history remains significant in regions including Nevada, Cornwall, Lancashire, and Spain. One of the Labyrinths that is most famous and recognized by the historians is the ancient Cretan Labyrinth. It is believed that King Minos ordered Daedalus the prominent craftsman to build the Labyrinth as the den for the monstrous Minotaur. This paper aims to analyze the myth that is alluded to in the film “Pan’s Labyrinth” by Guillermo DelToro (2006). The analysis focuses on comparing how the myth is used in each case, the agenda of the original storytellers, finding out whether or not the creator of the contemporary work also has an agenda or a lesson to convey, and establishing how the contemporary agenda differs from the story’s original purpose.

Inspiration from an Ancient Myth

In examining the myth upon which DelToro got the inspiration to write, direct, and produce the film “Pan’s Labyrinth,” it is apparent that the movie director was inspired by a mythical story of an ancient woman. The ancient story features a pregnant woman who had come to Spain and had to live in a mansion where her husband had been employed to always work for the mansion’s owner by renovating the rooms, restoring the home’s furniture, and ensured that everything within the home was well conditioned. The woman after giving birth to her firstborn who was a male, she later fell in love with a faun in the labyrinth. The woman and the faun made love and in order to cross over to the faun’s magical kingdom, the woman was asked by the faun to sacrifice her first born. It was only blood that could be used to open the gates. The woman having loved the faun and really wanted to be with the love of her life agreed to sacrifice her son whose blood was then used to open the magical gates. As such, DelToro tells this story through the eyes of Ofelia while connecting it to the real world situation that Spain under the leadership Franco the fascist.

Relevance of Mythical Creatures

In relation to the ancient times of King Minos, the wife had spent with a bull and given birth to Minotaur. The creature was monstrous as it was half bull half human. The Minotaur had developed an appetite for human’s flesh and blood and had preyed on the seven youths and seven maidens who had come to visit the kingdom. The same idea connotes people’s perception of the fauns which are believed to be half goat half human. In the same way, the monstrous Minotaur had killed the visiting youths; the faun had fed on the blood of the woman’s firstborn who was sacrificed in order to let open the imaginary gates of the faun’s kingdom. Similarly, DelToro draws lessons from these to mythical creatures to create his own form of Faun in addition to the pale man with the eyes in the hands. The objective is to use these two monstrous creatures to depict the themes of isolation, human fantasy for freedom during the war, the desire for civil obedience, and the impacts of disobedience. The writer’s main concern was to express the fear of horror, suffering, and dangers that children faced during and post the Spanish Civil War.

The Agenda of Storytellers

The agenda of the original storyteller was to inform the target audience of the effects of the adultery and prohibited love relationships. For instance, different cultural practices have various ways of punishing the adulterous men and women in the society. For instance, becoming intimate with one’s wife or husband was prohibited in the ancient societies. Therefore, people were warned and were informed of the consequences including being considered an outcast in the society or facing the death penalty. The consequences had in directed consequences on the innocent children who were then forced to grow up on their own. Children growing up on their own without parental guidance consequently resulted in having people within the society with undesired character traits and unproductive to the society.

The Contemporary Agenda

In comparison, the DelToro not only has an agenda in his contemporary movie but also has lessons to inform his target audience of. The author’s lesson to the general public is that when nations get into civic wars or rather when families are experiencing constant conflicts and disputes; it is always the children who suffer. From the movie, it is noted that Ofelia was not at ease like any other child to see her mother pregnant and bedridden. She found a medication which she then placed under her mother’s bed and was excited that her mother’s condition had improved. Unfortunately, her monstrous stepfather who has both the traits of the Minotaur, the faun and villain pale man threw the medication away. Consequently, her mother miscarried lost the child, and finally succumbed to death. The girl is therefore disturbed by the images of the conflict between the stepfather and mother. Moreover, she cannot bear the trauma she is experiencing in having to cope with her mother’s death.

Independent Interpretation

The second agenda is not to impose on the audience his opinions, perceptions, and feelings about civic wars and conflicting families. Rather the viewers have the opportunity to think critically and rationally in determining whether or not the contents of the film are fantasies and typical of the current realities. For instance, when DelToro was interviewing in one of the platforms and was asked about his views on whether Ofelia was in a fantasy world or in a real world, he said that:

“Yes, of course. And it’s intimate. If the movie works as a piece of storytelling, as a piece of artistic creation, it should tell something different to everyone. It should be a matter of personal discussion. Now objectively, the way I structured it, there are three clues in the movie that tell you where I stand. I stand in that it’s real. The most important clues are the flower at the end and the fact that there’s no way other than the chalk door to get from the attic to the Captain’s office” (Rosson 1).

On one hand, an inference from the movie from a personal perspective would be that the fairy tales, the magical periods, as well as the monsters are all in the imagination and fantasy world of Ofelia. Personal views concur with Del Toro in his view of narrating the mythic ancient woman’s story through the eyes of the heroine girl child Ofelia. On the other hand, the viewers have the opportunity to employ their reasoning capability and ability to employ their logical thinking abilities and their general intellectual capacities to decipher the movie’s agenda other than relying on the author’s opinions. However, DelToro presents to the audience certain cues that help them in unraveling the contents of the movie.


Delving further into the contents of both the original story and the contemporary movie, it is inferred that while the former was meant to educate the members of a particular society on certain behaviors that were detrimental to the existence and progress of the people in a society, the latter educates the entire world not only on the cultural norms but also the realities of life and circumstantial phenomenon that affects relatively everyone in the world. For instance, adultery was prohibited and was only punishable by death as depicted by the woman who had to sacrifice her son in that particular society? Civic wars, as well as family problems such as conflicts, are real-life situations that an individual gets exposed in one or another in a lifetime.


In summary, a film can be an important way of informing the target viewers of certain stories that existed before. The authors of various movies in one way or another often get inspired by past stories, lessons learned from past events and generally borrowing ideas from different fields of knowledge that are exhibited in other genres of movies. As such, DelToro perfectly retold a story that existed before through incorporating several ideas borrowed from different sources that he found to be inspiring as well as his personal institution, the experience he has acquired in the film industry, and his expertise as a film producer.


DelToro Guillermo. Pan’s Labyrinth. (2006)

Rosson Loren. Pan’s Labyrinth:Real or Imagined? 2017. Access on 25/04/2018 from

November 24, 2023

Art Literature Science


Greek Mythology

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Myths Mythology

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Expertise Mythology
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