There is no H in the standard western musical scale. There are only 7 notes, which we we name with the first 7 letters of the alphabet, A to G. I don’t remember where I heard it, and I don’t remember who said it, but a well known thinker once said that because of the finite number of available notes, scales and keys the world would soon run out of original music. That was a couple hundred years ago. What this thinker failed to take into account was the near infinite potential for new combinations of and variations on old themes.
There are also only a finite number of tales in the world. I don’t know how many there are, but it is a finite number. Every story you’ve ever heard, like every song you’ve ever heard, is a variation on a theme. It is an author riffing on a scale. Some people find this troubling, even disquieting. I do not. I love it. I love that I can see an author taking a well known tale, a cultural pillar, and interact with it, caressing it, re-telling it in a way that makes us perk up our ears again.
I watched El Laberinto del fauno (English title Pan’s Labyrinth) tonight, and that is exactly what Guillermo del Toro does in this wonderful film. Not only does del Toro weave his own fantastic vision in and out of an ancient tale, he weaves it in and out of The Tale. I call it The Tale because it is, I believe, the most important tale that the world has ever known. We have known this tale for as long as tales have been told (it is found in the Ba’al cycles and the OT) and in many different cultures (Persian, Greek, Hebrew, Babylonian, etc.). It is the tale of the innocent suffering servant. It is the tale of one who is prepared to sacrifice his or her own blood in order to stave off the darkness, in order to drive away the night once again. This is The Tale that strikes at the very heart of our fear and our hope. It has been told a thousand times, ten thousand times, ten thousand times ten thousand times. It is a tale that God himself once told. It is the tale, of course, of Christ. If you’d like to see this tale told again in a wildly creative, disturbing and beautiful way please watch El Laberinto del fauno. That, my friends, is how stories should be told.