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.