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A Comparative Essay: Parzival & Pans Labyrinth

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Between Parzival & Pans Labyrinth

Pan's labyrinth and Parzival, two radical interpretations of the classic journey tale. One; an old epic following the brave knight Parzival. The other a modern fairytale with a gothic twist, the tale of a girl trying to return to her rightful world. Both very different yet also very similar. They are both journeys, journeys for destiny, for love, for the unknown. Both men, Wolfram Von Eschenbach (Author) and Guillermo Del Toro (Director), have taken the classic journey made it their own. Populated it with their characters, filled it with their imagination. They are both trying to say; this is our journey, the way we see it, the way we have chosen to imagine it, the way we have created it.

Eschenbach's interpretation begins with our protagonist Parzival. He has been raised in the woods with almost no knowledge of the outside world, by his mother Herzeloyde. One day he meets three Knights and decides to leave home and seek out knighthood. His mother is distraught and dies soon after his departure. Parzival then sets off on his quest. He travels straight to Arthur's Court and asks to be knighted. Arthur recognises Parzival's potential and does in fact knight him. Parzival then travels onwards and is taught the ways of the knights from Gurnemanz and is advised to never be too curious, which does not serve Parzival well, because instead of asking Anfortas (the Grail King) what ails him, he keeps to himself and misses the opportunity to become Grail King. Parzival then meets and falls in love with the beautiful Condwiramurs and wins her hand by saving her Kingdom which is under siege. Parzival returns to the Court of King Arthur and is greatly celebrated. But is then accused by Cundrie, messenger of the grail, of losing his honour and she curses him. Parzival flees and spends five years wandering aimlessly, suffering humiliation from god. He stays with a holy man for fourteen days and here he learns the meaning of life and the true meaning of the Grail. He is also told that his mother was sister of the Grail King. Parzival then battles another knight only to discover it is his half-brother Feirefiz. Feirefiz and Parzival travel to Arthur's court, where Cundrie reappears, proclaiming that Parzival's name has appeared on the Grail and he is now Grail King. Parzival and Feirefiz quest to the Grail Castle where Parzival is reunited with his wife Condwiramurs and he takes his place as the Grail King.

In Del Toro's adaption, we follow Ofelia, a child of about ten who has just moved to her step-father's estate with her mother. Her step-father, Captain Vidal is a horribly cruel man and a fascist leader. One night, Ofelia is visited by a fairy, who asks Ofelia to follow her. She leads Ofelia to a labyrinth where she is greeted by a Faun named Pan who tells Ofelia she is Princess Moanna of the Underworld and that if she wishes to return to her world she must complete three tasks to prove she has not become a mortal. Ofelia is happy to oblige. She carries out the first task immediately by retrieving a golden key from the belly of a toad and is ready to carry out the second until her mother, already sick with her unborn child, grows worse. Ofelia is visited in the night by Pan who pushes her to complete the second task, he tells her that where she is going there is to be a feast and she is not to eat anything. Ofelia ignorantly does, which means she fails. Pan tells her she can never return to her world and that she is to remain mortal forever. Ofelia is distraught. Her mother, Carmen, then passes away in child birth and Ofelia is left with nothing. Pan returns one night to offer Ofelia another chance and she gladly agrees. Pan tells her to fetch her brother and meet him in the Labyrinth. Ofelia does this only to discover she must spill her brother's blood in order to open the portal. She refuses to do so. This results in her being shot by her step-father, who had followed her to the labyrinth. But in the end, the blood spilt from her veins opens the portal and even though she has died in reality. Her spirit returns to the Underworld where she is reunited with her mother, her baby brother and her father, the King.


In both works, Love is greatly explored. Eschenbach and Del Toro have taken one of the most famous themes and have used it in two entirely different ways. Eschenbach decided to use the love of a woman. It is Parzival's love for Condwiramurs that is conveyed. Though it may not be the foremost theme in the novel, it is a great one as Parzival encounters many women but never feels real love until he lays eyes on the Queen Condwiramurs, evident in the passage "But the dazzling beauty of Condwiramurs set her apart from the challenge of those I name now. Her bright lustre quite vanquished that of Jeschute, Enite and Cunneware de Lalant. There was no denying that Condwiramurs excelled all others: she was possessed beyond all question of le beau corps or as we say 'a fair person'." For her, he goes into the thick of battle, (for her land is under siege) wielding a sword for the first time, ready to defeat anyone for her and he succeeds. He is celebrated amongst her people and they are married. Though soon after their matrimony, Parzival asks his leave and from there, does not see Condwiramurs until five years later. Eschenbach, by choosing a handsome young knight as his protagonist and setting it in a era when jousting for a woman's hand and having a beautiful wife was all very desired, it only makes sense that he uses the theme of love as Parzival loving a woman, instead of making it a love of family or friends, such as shown in Pan's Labyrinth. Director, Guillermo Del Toro has taken a different approach to the theme of 'Love'. By having his main character as young girl not even past puberty, making her have a love interest would be unrealistic. He instead decides to use a much purer, more innocent love. A family love, a love for a mother and for a sibling. Ofelia does love her mother, as any daughter would, but in the beginning you can see that Ofelia dismisses her mother and is more fascinated by her fairytales than what is going on around her. But as her mother's state worsens, you can see Ofelia's love become more apparent. She believes that if she can successfully complete the tasks than she could save her mother. After failing the second task, Ofelia visits her mother's room one night and whispers; "Little brother, if you can hear me, things out here aren't too good. But soon you'll have to come out. You've



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