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Villain Overview
How about a little wager?
~ Xibalba to La Muerte.

Xibalba is the anti-hero of the 2014 computer-animated film The Book of Life. He is the dark, ruthless and manipulative ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, who enters the plot upon making a wager with his estranged wife and fellow deity La Muerte.

He was voiced by Ron Perlman, who is best known for playing The Lich in Adventure Time, Dieter Reinhardt in Blade II, Mr. Lancer in Danny Phantom, Nino, Nicola in Bunraku, Warhok in Kim Possible, the High Mage in the 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon series, Fire Lord Sozin, Sheriff Collie Entragian, the Stabbington Brothers, in Tangled, Reman Viceroy Vkruk in Star Trek: Nemesis, and numerous incarnations of Deathstroke (most notably Slade in Teen Titans).

Personality

Contrasting the lively colored and adorned La Muerte, Xibalba carries a grim and darker appearance befitting his role as the ruler of the Land of the Forgotten. True to the Day of the Dead iconography, Xibalba resembles a skeleton with wings and a crown. This connects with the origin of his name as the underworld of K'iche Maya mythology, roughly translated as "the land of fear". It also highlights his more blasphemous and sinister qualities, such as his determination to win his wager between himself and La Muerte through underhanded and manipulative methods. Xibalba understands humans as petty, assuming that María would be won over by Joaquín's use of the Medal. One condition of the wager noted that he loved to mess with the lives of mortals, as seen when he blows out the memorial candles and attempts to take the life of an old man. He also does not take lightly to anyone who challenges him, as seen with Manolo's angry and acrimonious declaration that he will expose him to La Muerte. This prompts Xibalba to respond that no one who talks to him in such a manner survives.

History

Xibalba is established as the tyrannical ruler of the Land of the Forgotten, a duty he has grown to hate due to the dreary conditions, especially contrasted with the festive nature of his former lover's domain, the Land of the Remembered. Prior to the events of the film, Xibalba had made a bet wherein he cheated, resulting in not only his ruling state, but also his estranged relationship with La Muerte, with whom he seeks to reconcile.

Determined to escape his role, Xibalba proposes another wager with La Muerte, this time concerning a budding love triangle between two friends, Manolo and Joaquín, and their mutual female friend, María. Xibalba bets that the latter will marry María in the future, with the condition that he shall rule The Land of the Remembered if he wins. So as to ensure a chance at victory, he, in the form of an old beggar, provides Joaquín with the Medal of Everlasting Life, which grants its wearer functional immortality by making them unable to be harmed or killed.

Years later, Manolo and Joaquín both unsuccessfully attempt to woo María when she returns to San Angel. Although, Manolo manages to make a heartfelt connection with her. Determined to not lose the wager, Xibalba summons a two-headed snake and sends it to bite Maria, putting her into a coma-like state, until she would conveniently reawaken once she was with Joaquín. With this, Xibalba, in the same old beggar form as before, takes advantage of Manolo's grief-stricken belief that Maria is dead to manipulate him into accepting his "help" to find María. He has the two-headed snake bite Manolo twice, which does kill him. With Manolo dead and María set to wed Joaquín to ensure the protection of their village, Xibalba declares a victory on the wager. When Manolo goes forth to find La Muerte so that he may find María anywhere, Xibalba is sitting in her stead, where he confesses to Manolo about the wager he made with La Muerte and the first bite that only put Maria into a deep sleep before she was awakened by Joaquin (with the usage of the Medal). It was then Manolo realized that Xibalba cheated on the wager and gets very furious at him for it.

Manolo angrily swears to head over to the Land of the Forgotten to find La Muerte and expose Xibalba to her for his cheating, but Xibalba brushes this off as he heads off to oversee Maria and Joaquin's wedding. In the meantime, the notorious bandit Chakal (who previously had the Medal of Everlasting Life until Xibalba stole it back) is alerted to its presence on Joaquín and declares that his forces will take the village on the Day of the Dead.

Seeing Manolo triumph in the wager, Xibalba is completely speechless and initially upset over his defeat, but decides to accept it and grants Manolo a return to life as promised, so that he may help defeat Chakal and be reunited with María. Seeing both the living and deceased reunited to take down Chakal and his forces, Xibalba abandons his cheating ways and successfully reconciles with La Muerte.

During the frame story, a museum tour guide named Mary Beth guides a group of children to the eponymous Book of Life to tell them the story along with an elderly security guard. In the end of the film, Mary Beth and the security guard are eventually revealed to be La Muerte and Xibalba in disguises, and as the children leave in their bus, La Muerte and Xibalba show out their true forms to share a tender moment with each other.

Trivia

  • In Mayan mythology, "Xibalba" is the abode of the Mayan death gods. Xibalba was also mentioned in the 2000 DreamWorks animated film The Road to El Dorado.
  • Xibalba was thought to be the main antagonist of the film, but Chakal took that role for himself, as he had bigger plans than anyone else and was possibly more dangerous than him. Xibalba was surely considered as such because he had a lot more scenes than Chakal.
  • Xibalba looks somewhat similar to Discord from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.
  • His real age is unknown, but the actor providing his voice was around 64 years old at the time.

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