In this question on Pan's Labyrinth: Is the "Pale Man" from Pan's Labyrinth based on any mythological character?

the accepted answer includes this quote from del Toro:

“The idea in ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ was it [the Pale Man] was going to represent the church,"

What do the other creatures / challenges represent?

  • 1
    Hello, and welcome to the SF&F Stack. You asked an interesting question. However, I would drop the second question you asked and ask it as a separate question. That makes it easier to answer and easier for you to decide which answer to accept. By the way, have you taken the tour and looked through the help center yet?
    – SQB
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 10:39
  • Ok, sounds good.
    – kutuzof
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 11:06
  • My second question was "How does the Pale Man represent the church?"
    – kutuzof
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 11:07
  • 1
    As a separate question, I mean.
    – SQB
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 11:55
  • lol, yeah I decided just to leave that as a comment for future curious readers. I'm not sure it warrants it's own question.
    – kutuzof
    Commented Sep 14, 2015 at 6:07

5 Answers 5


Guillermo Del Toro said:

Toad is rich devouring the tree - the wealth of the world - from inside and deprive others.

The mandrake root represents the baby.

The sequence of the mandrake has its roots in the medieval magic; its cry has the power to kill one who hears (the mother in the movie).

The faun (Pan) is a creature of the Greco-Roman mythology.

Pan was to rejuvenate and beautify gradually throughout the movie; it is understood that the girl is not to be influenced by appearances when a beautiful Pan makes an horrible proposal to her.

The film is based on Greco-Roman myths , legends and fairy tales. References to the book by Lewis Carroll Alice in wonderland in the film are legion:

  • the pocket watch,
  • the descent of the heroin between the roots of a tree,
  • the too small door,
  • foods that you should not eat.

If you want more the labyrinth evokes the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur.

  • How does this tie into The Pale Man representing the Church? I get that there's references there (although I didn't get as many as you). But I'm wondering if the Pale Man is the church then the others needs represent other similar ideas no? Like Science or Pantheism or stuff like that...
    – kutuzof
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 13:49
  • ok I had not understood the question in this way sorry! I hope you'll find your answer!
    – Nathou
    Commented Sep 11, 2015 at 13:58
  • The concept of never eating faerie food has its origins long, long before Lewis Carroll.
    – KRyan
    Commented Oct 16, 2017 at 21:43

With each creature they represent something in the real world, for example the pale man represents the corruption in the world like Hitler. During its time period there is a shot showing of the shoes showing previous victims of the pale man also mirror victims of the holocaust, this makes sense considering its time period.

With the Faun we see the guardians who previously or remain to raise Ofelia. An example of this would be when Ofelia’s mother. In this scene she says “Tomorrow, I’ll give you a surprise” Ofelia “A surprise” M “yes” O “A book” M “No, something much better”, later on she receives a book from the Faun as seen here. Another would be when her step-father captures the rebel and the story reaches high tensions. This corresponds with the Faun who gets angry with her about failing the test. Then there’s obvious clues like the mandrake root who represents the baby/mother condition.

Not to mention the toad who in the book describes as quote “A monstrous toad has settled in its roots and won’t let the tree thrive”. This represents greed of the rich people taking the wealth from the people.


The pale man represents the vatican.

The faun represents our broken truth.

The fairies represent instincts/gut feelings.

The frog represents greed/capitalism.

The mandrake was the baby, which would kill the mother as we all knew.

Her dad and his military goons represented the devil/the oppression.

Her mother represents women, who had no choice but to marry into higher class families to make it through patriarchy.

The rebels represented the red and black resistance to the oppression.

The underworld represents the lucid truth.

And she, as the main character, represents the fool.

  • 4
    We prefer answers that include an explanation of why they are correct (for example by including quotes to back up the claim). Otherwise, we could end up with several conflicting answer and no way of deciding which is correct.
    – Blackwood
    Commented Aug 28, 2017 at 21:18

The Pale man does not represent the Church the Pale man represents the Vidal the captain. Ironically they both sat in front of a fire and both were at the head of the table. As well both only see through power because when the pale and was seeking out Ophelia he looked through the eyes on his hands which symbolize power, the need to stay in power ,will to do anything to stay there. Its messed up a bit however hope it helps

  • 5
    This contradicts a quote from the creator, though.
    – Null
    Commented Nov 18, 2015 at 2:54
  • 1
    As I mentioned in the OP, the creator himself said the Pale man was meant to represent the church. That's what originally got me curious about what the other elements of the movie are supposed to represent.
    – kutuzof
    Commented Nov 19, 2015 at 8:51

I don't care if the creator doesn't agree with me, but Pan's Labyrinth is basically a grimmdark Narnia, with more focus on why escapism succs, as you can't decide what's worse: A Nazi with a flashlight, or one of those child devouring monsters.

As far as I'm regarded, I think the Pale Man was partially inspired by a Japanese yokai, the Tenome, who succed the bones out of its victim's body.

Storywise, I think it's more of a childhood tale monster manifesting (Ophelia is mental interpretation) or you get to see the origin of the monster in the tale (HOLY SHIT! everything was REAL interpretation).

Just as with the movie as a whole, you can't decide which one is worse.

Addendum: This formula is mostly true to the other creatures as well, they are the result of looking back at childhood tales with a grown-up mind:

  • Do you remember that fun story about a frog that exploded?
  • Fairies were certainly 20% darker in their original myths (though I have no idea regarding them)
  • Pan is an obvious one...
  • ...So is the mandrake.
  • The Pale Man, as I said before is not the church, nor a pedophile priest, you dirty atheist communists. It's just your plain old child eating monster that parents used in their psychological warfare against kids to discourage inappropriate behaviors, such as suckling your thumb.
  • Ophelia's adoptive father represents the lethality of an ordinary flashlight.
  • The whole thing about the underworld with the fair folk was shamelessly ripped-off from Irish mythology.

I mentioned two interpretations before, here they go:

Ophelia is mental:

Proposal: Ophelia is nutz, mainly due to the fact that his adoptive father is a murderous lunatic.
Evidence: Why didn't Ophelia just simply take father's luger and 420 trickshotted the Pale Man?

Everything was real:

Proposal: All those f@@#ed up stories were true, and the Pale man did in fact, slaughter a bunch of toddlers and kept their shoes for unknown reasons.
Evidence: Ophelia's mom seemed to get better after the mandrake was installed under her bed.

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