One warm-ish, not-so-bright spring day, Sammi went in for her usual meeting with King Esa and her fellow journeyers. However, when the session began, King Esa was nowhere to be found! Getting concerned, Sammi set about to find him, when suddenly, she came across a huge maze of brambles. As she stepped up to the entrance of the maze, she suddenly heard a voice.
“Bienvenida al laberinto del fauno. Welcome to Pan’s Labyrinth. You will now embark on a journey of both history and fairy tales. Only by working through the layers of the story will you reach the understanding within.”
“But who are you?” Sammi called to the voice.
“I’ve had so many names. Old names that only the wind and the trees can pronounce. I am the mountain, the forest and the earth. I am… I am Dr. Deveny.”
“Well, alrighty then, Dr. Deveny, let’s do it!” And our heroine stepped into the maze.
The labyrinth was dense, and unlike anything Sammi had seen. Never before had history and fairy tales been so deeply woven together! It was not built of a panoply of fairy tales, as Sammi was used to, all set out and ready for interpretation; rather, the maze was made of a story built on fairy tale elements but set in Spain in 1944, the time after the Spanish Civil War. As she walked, she heard Dr. Deveny’s voice echoing around her, giving her more of a history lesson than she had gotten with all the other fairytales combined; she listened as he described the battle between the conservative Nationalists and the liberal advocates of the Republic, the Years of Hunger, the mythical symbolism of the Faun, the number 3, the Pale Man’s likeness to the Titans of Greece.
Propp’s 31 functions lined the walls, almost all represented in some form in the story. They mixed with the history of the war (“The villain makes an attempt at reconnaissance” – Captain Vidal seeks to gain more information about the soldiers in the mountains!) , and also with the spiritual journey of the main character Ofelia (“Hero is tested… preparing the way for her receiving magical agent or helper” – Ofelia takes on the three tasks!), whose various fairy tale tasks and grisly magical images (giant, slimy frog, anyone?) were splashed in haunting images at every corner Sammi turned. Sammi was rather proud to note that Ofelia had taken on three challenges, just as Sammi had.
Every once in a while, Sammi would encounter a marker, something familiar that told her she was going in the right direction: a sign comparing Ofelia’s ingenuity and activeness to the passivity of the females of many fairy tales, an archetypal symbol she recognized, a footpath outlining the Hero’s Journey and the Coming-of-Age stories. It was comforting to Sammi that, though the story of Pan’s Labyrinth was certainly different, it was not impossible to decipher.
Finally, after much hard work (and a lot of notes taken!), Sammi found the center of the maze. And there, in the middle, stood Dr. Deveny.
“Congratulations, Sammi, you successfully compared Pan’s Labyrinth to the other fairy tales you know! You are now ready to ascend to the throne to Fairy Tale Royalty! Well done on a semester well-spent!”
Sammi was thrilled. She knew she still had a bit more to go before she could be fully sworn in as Fairy Tale Royalty, but she had finally made it to where she had set out to be!
As for King Esa, she never did find him, but she was sure she would see him the next day at the Hafla he was hosting…
To be continued…