Pan orders 3 symbolic tasks to the young cursed princess who lost immortality. A crescent on her shoulder proves the unbelievable prophecy. Fable of regressive initiation, from an abominable reality to the retreat of an idyllic fantasy, from orphan to recomposed family, from unbearable life to dreamlike death. War killed the child, her innocence, her world. A painful and sudden transition to adulthood.
Pan's 3 tasks (dreamwork analysis) :
1) First Test
A giant toad lives under the roots of the biggest tree in the forest, and made it die out. Ofelia shall toss 3 magic stones into its mouth and retrieve a golden key from its guts.
This is a test of fear domination (dark hole with bugs, disgusting monster), and transgression of parental authority (runaway, dirty fancy clothes, late to dinner). Ofelia spells it out under the tree : "you don't scare me, I'm the princess". She also says "Look at you, you're so fat, aren't you ashamed to live under there and eat bugs?". I wonder if the 3 magic balls are the pills given by the doctor to her mother, and through fantasy she allows herself to blame her mother (for her deformed pregnant belly). The key is usually a male sexual symbol, if found inside the toad's belly, maybe it's an allegory for the fecondation of her mother by Vidal, which she disagrees and secretly wishes the abortion (the toad expels out its guts and deflates). She also says at the beginning of the film that the baby is the reason her mother is sick, so all this (Vidal and the baby) takes her mother away from her. She craves to return when she was the only center of attention, before the new baby, before her father died (ideal situation she finds again in death, in the final scene).
Only that she wears the fancy dress her mother wanted Ofelia to wear for the official dinner with her step-father. She wears a "princess gown", but doesn't want to make her stepfather happy so she's drawn to disobey : her dress is all dirty (to hurt her mother) and she's late (to hurt Vidal who is maniac with punctuality). The test is a success for her fantasy mission (she earns credit), but it's disastrous in the real world (punished).
This first task is her first attempt to help cure her mother by taking out the baby (out of anger).
Ofelia cannot go on with her next task because her mother is sick. When she opens the magic book, red ink forms a bloody uterus (like a Roshach inkblot test), and fills the page with red. Like a divination, Ofelia foresees the next scene when Carmen loses blood. Maybe this traumatic experience has to do with the first menstruation of a girl (blood, entering womanhood, fecundity, association with mother's pregnancy, pain).
Pan, impatient, comes to remind her duty. Then offers a mandrake (foetus symbol) that will cure Carmen if placed under her bed, bathed in milk and fed with 2 drops of blood every day (echo of the 2 drops of drug prescribed by the doctor in real world). This vegetal foetus evokes the doppleganger substitutions in Ferrara's Body Snatcher (1993).
2) Second Test
Magic chalk that opens passages to another dimension (symbol of her desire to get out of this world). Hourglass (time symbol referring to Vidal's obsession). One of three safe (wooden, iron, silver, or something like that) to open with the golden key (reminds of the choice for the right Grail, which is not the shiniest), and find the…