It seems that I am making a habit of not reading book-to-movie adaptations, but rather the other way round, where books were specifically written AFTER their other-media-format successor became popular. Admittedly, it has been a long time since I watched the Pan’s Labyrinth movie, but to me, it makes sense to want to expand on the story a little bit.
To start with, let’s show you the trailer and then I will also talk about the plot a little bit. Usually, I don’t add my own summary in my review, because mostly Goodreads takes care of that and then I just use it in my graphic, but this time I found it too ambiguous. So, here is the trailer for the movie for starters (from a time when trailers still had overly dramatic voice-overs):
As stated in the brief summary above, the book follows the tale of the film, which is about a young girl by the name of Ofelia, whose mother remarried a cruel officer after the father died during the war. They move to a cold and cursed abandoned mill in the Spanish mountains, where rebels are trying to fight for their cause. Things get truly interesting when Ofelia, a girl who is mainly interested in books and still grieving her father, finds a fairy that leads her on dangerous adventures with the promise of becoming the Princess of the Underground world. This truly follows the film quite faithfully, sometimes word for word in terms of dialogue, but it also adds immensely to the world building by including short stories about objects and past events that happened at the very place the people are now.
Ofelia didn’t remind her mother that for her, there was nothing better than a book. Her mother wouldn’t understand. She didn’t make books her shelter or allow them to take her to another world. She could only see this world, and then, Ofelia thought, only sometimes. It was part of her mother’s sadness to be earthbound. Books could have told her so much about this world and about places far away, about animals and plants, about the stars! They could be the windows and doors, paper wings to help her fly away. Maybe her mother had just forgotten how to fly. Ir maybe she’d never learned.
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.
When I was younger, I gobbled up Cornelia Funke’s books like they were magic itself and could take me to foreign places. The Inkworld trilogy and the Thief Lord are still among my all time favourite books, however, I had never read her stories in English before. So, I don’t know how much of it all was Guillermo del Toro and how much of it was her. Either way, they managed to recreate the darkness and fantastic visuals from the movie with simple language and added background story and thoughts.
He abruptly dropped his hand, summoning the mask of confidence that had become his second face, merciless, determined. Death is a lover to be feared and there was only one way to overcome that fear – by being her executioner.
Death sighed. She was used to men begging for another few years or months, sometimes even hours. There was always something unfinished, something undone, unlived. Mortals don’t understand life is not a book you close only after you read the last page. There is no last page in the Book of Life, for thelast one is always the first page of another story.
One thing I am not sure about is the claim that this book is made for readers of all ages. The first chapter/the prologue is literally about a young girl dying by stepping into the world and forgetting who she was before. As I’ve also mentioned a couple times now, it’s quite a dark story and the happy end is debatable (as is tradition with old folklore, if you ask me). So, I could see a child who is dealing with matters such as death and grief themselves to maybe find solace in this book, but I wouldn’t give it to someone who was never exposed to it or gets easily frightened. Just like I definitely wouldn’t show the movie to a kid.
A groan echoed through the floor, the moaning of a hungry bloodstained mouth, and when she stepped back, she felt the Pale Man pushing against the floorboards. The worst fears are always underneath us, hidden, shaking the ground we wish to be firm and safe.
Fazit: 4/5 stars! I really enjoyed this, although I am not sure if it will stay with me forever.
Have you read Pan’s Labyrinth? Have you watched the movie? Let’s chat!