Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun by Guillermo del Toro & Cornelia Funke
Much ado has been made about the difference between being a nerd, and a geek, but for me the distinction I felt was that a nerd is someone who is fascinated with brainy pursuits, and a geek is someone who fetishizes marginalized entertainment. At 48 years of age, I can recall a time before our entire culture was obsessed with comic book superheroes, and openly championing these things would get your ass kicked, but I was one of those kids who LOVED the things I loved, and was willing to suffer the slings & arrows proudly. All movie tie-ins & geeky merch didn’t amount to a whole lot until Star Wars came along, and kicked off what we see now, but I remember the sublime thrill of discovering trading cards for that cool movie, a read-along comic book record, or maybe a Colorforms playset for that thing I loved. Those treasures often offered another escape from reality back into a waking dream that made this awkward boy feel less alien.
Now that I’m older, the items I have dotted about my compound are evidence that I am still compelled to seek out those concrete tokens of my geeky pursuits, but certainly less so. It’s never been easier to outfit yourself with all the accoutrements of whatever thing you’re into, in order to make that thing more real.
Isn’t that the point?
To consume the work of someone else’s imagination, and somehow insert yourself into it, however you might for another” bite of the apple”?
Del Toro’s 2006 film Pan’s Labyrinth was absolutely that fix for this fantasy junkie, and I couldn’t wait to get my paws on this book.They knew a standard novelization wouldn’t do, and created a terrific tribute from the gorgeous dust jacket to the exquisite illustrations within that put you right back in this movie I’ve watched more than a couple times.
This story is more than just a dark fairy tale to me, because it weaves this story, swerving from the harsh reality of fascist Franco-era Spain, to a vibrant alternative just under the surface of this world, in such a way that suspends your disbelief. The protagonist Ofelia is a little girl beset on all sides by monsters, and as in the movie, you are on the edge of your seat at all times through each of her trials & tribulations to its conclusion.
Making each portion of this story impossibly richer than the movie is the narrative that keeps delving into the past for clues to the present question of a missing fey princess, and will she return to her home, or be lost forever. Each clue revealed continues to allow the reader an exclusive peek into how this haunting tale is tied together, and had me falling in love with it all over again.
At a time when we’re all facing a dire period of austerity, this tale of sacrifice is more than just an escape. It reminds us sharply that no matter how hopeless things can seem, we will endure, and I’m grateful to have this companion to a beloved movie to help drive that point home. Precious few are my fetishes that provide that for sure.