In The Shape of Water, Elisa is an orphan, found near a river. She's mute, and has gill-like scars in her neck. At the end of the movie, the Amphibian Man heals her scars, and they turn to gills. Both live happily ever after.

Now, I assume Guillermo del Toro made this point purposefully cloudy, but maybe there are concise opinions or comments on the topic. Was Elisa also an amphibian girl/god?

She does not speak, is fascinated by water, and her scars get turned into gills. She looks like a human, sure, but she might have turned into a human due to her gender, or due to being out of the water for so long (which caused her gills to close up). Elisa notes during the movie how it seems like both their fates have joined them together, as if they were meant to be.

However, it is possible that the Amphibian Man does not heal, but instead transforms her scars into gills. She is just a mute lonely woman, and she was lucky to meet this creature.

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    I have also been wondering this, and I believe the movie intends for her to be a merperson raised as a human. Between her scars, being found near a river, sharing the merman's inability to speak, and the intro sequence in which we start in the ocean and transition into Elisa's apartment all support that idea. If her scars were mere scars, I don't see the point of her having them, and would be a strange detail to pay a lot of attention to. I still don't fully understand the movie thematically so I don't wan't to say anything definitive.
    – ViggyNash
    Jan 31, 2018 at 20:57
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    The Amphibian man could not survive outside water for a very long time, Elisa could. So they are probably not the same species. Mar 8, 2018 at 9:30
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    She could be a hybrid like Aquaman: one of her parents is an amphibian and the other is a human, thus she has features from both species. Mar 13, 2018 at 15:44
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    The voice-over presentation at the beginning and end suggests that the story is from the point of view of the friend. Unfortunately, he cannot know what happened under water, and he never saw them again, so the point is going to be unresolved IMO. I mean del torro might go on record, but he wasn't there so how would he know?
    – Yorik
    Mar 13, 2018 at 17:58

2 Answers 2


The details you provided indeed suggest Elisa shares similarities with the Amphibious Man, or impart, in the least, an uncertainty about her origins.

In a conversation with Joe Utichi from Deadline, Guillermo del Toro emphasized the aquatic nature of Sally Hawkins' character:

She (Sally Hawkins) had been writing her own story about a woman who didn’t know she was a mermaid. She and del Toro found the coincidence serendipitous. “It was so beautiful that we were on the same wavelength,” del Toro says. “I asked her if I could use this idea that she had scars on her neck that turned out to be gills. She allowed me to use another detail she had, which was that the character used a lot of salt to make the water in her bathtub habitable.” source

Moreover, in an interview with io9, del Toro implied that Elisa is indeed the counterpart of the Amphibious Man:

It (the Amphibious Man) is a river God. It’s not an animal. It’s a river God in the Amazon. There was never another one. There was him and Sally Hawkins put on Earth, and their entire existence they were going to each other. And they didn’t know. She was found in a river. No body knows who her parents were. She has these markings since she was a baby. source

The ambiguity of Elisa's nature was an artistic choice, however, meant to be open to interpretation. As del Toro states in the same article on io9, unlike the characters in his other films, he never fully developed the background story of both the Amphibious Man and Elisa:

There is no larger backstory.

“I write eight-page biographies for most of the characters in the movies,” del Toro said. “I give them to the actors. But my story for the creature is in the movie.”

“The creature largely remains an enigma,” he (co-author Daniel Kraus) said. “And I think Guillermo and I were fairly simpatico with that. Pretty copacetic in our ideas in that the creature be allowed to represent different things to different people.” source


Shape of water is kind of reversed "little mermaid" with "shrek".

So a girl become human (or is taken as one) and is mute (just like in the Little mermaid). Then, when she find love it turns out the beauty was in her all along and her true form is the one of "monster".

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