Pan's Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun

Pan's Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun

Guillermo Del Toro


For Alfonso Fuentes and his men, who saved my house, my trees, my donkeys, my memories, and my notebooks from the Woolsey Fire


For K, the solution to all the riddles, the way out of the Labyrinth



It is said that long, long ago, there lived a princess in an underground realm, where neither lies nor pain exist, who dreamt of the human world. Princess Moanna dreamt of a perfect blue sky and an infinite sea of clouds; she dreamt of the sun and the grass and the taste of rain. . . . So, one day the princess escaped her guards and came to our world. Soon the sun erased all her memories and she forgot who she was or where she came from. She wandered the earth, suffering cold, sickness, and pain. And finally, she died.

Her father, the king, would not give up searching for her. For he knew Moanna’s spirit to be immortal and hoped that it one day would come back to him.

In another body, at another time. Perhaps in another place.

He would wait.

Down to his last breath.

Until the end of time.


The Forest and the Fairy

There once was a forest in the north of Spain, so old that it could tell stories long past and forgotten by men. The trees anchored so deeply in the moss-covered soil they laced the bones of the dead with their roots while their branches reached for the stars.

So many things lost, the leaves were murmuring as three black cars came driving down the unpaved road that cut through fern and moss.

But all things lost can be found again, the trees whispered.

It was the year 1944 and the girl sitting in one of the cars, next to her pregnant mother, didn’t understand what the trees whispered. Her name was Ofelia and she knew everything about the pain of loss, although she was only thirteen years old. Her father had died just a year ago and Ofelia missed him so terribly that at times her heart felt like an empty box with nothing but the echo of her pain in it. She often wondered whether her mother felt the same, but she couldn’t find the answer in her pale face.

“As white as snow, as red as blood, as black as coal,” Ofelia’s father used to say when he looked at her mother, his voice soft with tenderness. “You look so much like her, Ofelia.” Lost.

They had been driving for hours, farther and farther away from everything Ofelia knew, deeper and deeper into this never-ending forest, to meet the man her mother had chosen to be Ofelia’s new father. Ofelia called him the Wolf, and she didn’t want to think about him. But even the trees seemed to whisper his name.

The only piece of home Ofelia had been able to take with her were some of her books. She closed her fingers firmly around the one on her lap, caressing the cover. When she opened the book, the white pages were so bright against the shadows that filled the forest and the words they offered granted shelter and comfort. The letters were like footprints in the snow, a wide white landscape untouched by pain, unharmed by memories too dark to keep, too sweet to let go of.

“Why did you bring all these books, Ofelia? We’ll be in the country!” The car ride had paled her mother’s face even more. The car ride and the baby she was carrying. She grabbed the book from Ofelia’s hands and all the comforting words fell silent.

“You are too old for fairy tales, Ofelia! You need to start looking at the world!”

Her mother’s voice was like a broken bell. Ofelia couldn’t remember her ever sounding like that when her father was still alive.

“Oh, we’ll be late!” Her mother sighed, pressing her handkerchief to her lips. “He will not like that.”

He . . .

She moaned and Ofelia leaned forward to grab the driver’s shoulder.

“Stop!” she called. “Stop the car. Don’t you see? My mother is sick.”

The driver throttled the engine with a grunt. Wolves—that’s what they were, these soldiers accompanying them. Man-eating wolves. Her mother said fairy tales didn’t have anything to do with the world, but Ofelia knew better. They had taught her everything about it.

She climbed out of the car while her mother stumbled to the side of the road and vomited into the ferns. They grew as densely between the trees as an ocean of feathery fronds, from which gray-barked trunks emerged like creatures reaching up from a sunken world below.

The two other cars had stopped as well and the forest was swarming with gray uniforms. The trees didn’t like them. Ofelia could sense it. Serrano, the commanding officer, came to check on her mother. He was a tall, bulky man who talked too loudly and wore his uniform like a theater costume. Her mother asked him for water in her broken-bell voice, and Ofelia walked a little way down the unpaved road.

Water, the trees whispered. Earth. Sun.

The fern fronds brushed Ofelia’s dress like green fingers, and she lowered her gaze when she stepped on a stone. It was gray like the soldiers’ uniforms, placed in the middle of the road as if someone had lost it there. Her mother was once again vomiting behind her. Why does it make women sick to bring children into the world?

Ofelia bent down and closed her fingers around the stone. Time had covered it in moss, but when Ofelia brushed it off, she saw it was flat and smooth and that someone had carved an eye on it.

A human eye.

Ofelia looked around.

All she could see were three withered stone columns, almost invisible among the high ferns. The gray rock from which they were carved was covered with strange concentric patterns and the central column had an ancient corroded stone face gazing out into the forest. Ofelia couldn’t resist. She stepped off the road and walked toward it, although her shoes were wet with dew after just a few steps and thistles clung to her dress.

The face was missing an eye. Just like a puzzle missing a piece—waiting to be solved.

Ofelia gripped the eye-stone and stepped closer.

Underneath the nose chiseled with straight lines into the gray surface, a gaping mouth showed withered teeth. Ofelia stumbled back, when between them a winged body as thin as a twig stirred, pointing its long, quivering tentacles at her. Insect legs emerged from the mouth and the creature, bigger than Ofelia’s hand, hastily scuttled up the column. Once it reached the top, it raised its spindly front legs and started gesturing at her. It made Ofelia smile. It seemed like such a long time since she’d last smiled. Her lips weren’t used to it anymore.

“Who are you?” she whispered.

The creature waved its front legs once more and uttered a few melodic clicking sounds. Maybe it was a cricket. Did crickets look like this? Or was it a dragonfly? Ofelia wasn’t sure. She had been raised in a city, between walls built from stones that had neither eyes nor faces. Nor gaping mouths.


The creature spread its wings. Ofelia followed it with her eyes as it flew away. Her mother was standing just a few steps down the road, Officer Serrano by her side.

“Look at your shoes!” her mother chided with that soft resignation her voice held so often now.

Ofelia looked down. Her damp shoes were covered with mud, but she still felt the smile on her lips.

“I think I saw a Fairy!” she said. Yes. That’s what the creature was. Ofelia was sure.

But her mother wouldn’t listen. Her name was Carmen Cardoso, she was thirty-two years old and already a widow and she didn’t remember how it felt to look at anything without despising it, without being afraid of it. All she saw was a world that took what she loved and ground it to dust between its teeth. So as Carmen Cardoso loved her daughter, loved her very much, she had married again. This world was ruled by men—her child didn’t understand that yet—and only a man would be able to keep them both safe. Ofelia’s mother didn’t know it, but she also believed in a fairy tale. Carmen Cardoso believed the most dangerous tale of all: the one of the prince who would save her.

The winged creature that had been waiting for Ofelia in the column’s gaping mouth knew all of this. She knew many things, but she was not a Fairy—at least not in the sense we like to think of them. Only her master knew her true name, for in the Magic Kingdom to know a name was to own the being that carried it.

From the branch of a fir tree, she watched Ofelia and her mother get back into the car to continue their journey. She’d waited for this girl for a long time: this girl who had lost so much and would have to lose so much more to find what was rightfully hers. It wouldn’t be easy to help her, but that was the task her master had given her, and he didn’t take it lightly when his orders weren’t followed. Oh no, he didn’t.

Deeper and deeper into the forest the cars drove, with the girl and the mother and the unborn child. And the creature Ofelia had named a Fairy spread her insect wings, folded her six spindly legs, and followed the caravan.


All the Shapes Evil Takes
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