Like many people, I have viewed The Princess Bride multiple times and know many of the lines by heart. I didn’t know the film came from a book until fairly recently, so I put it on my “to be read” list. I just finished it this morning.
The film is very close to the book’s plot and characterizations because the same man, William Goldman, wrote it. There is a little more background information on Fezzik, the gentle giant, and Inigo, the master Spanish swordsman, as well as a few other situations.
The book is presented as a “good parts version” abridgment of a novel by S. Mogernstern. Goldman writes a lengthy introduction to the book explaining how he first heard it: when he was ten and recovering from pneumonia, his father read “the good parts” to him as he recovered, and young William was enthralled waiting for the next installment. Later he rediscovered the book and realized for the first time that his father had only read “the good parts” and there was much more to the story. So then he goes onto a long narrative about how he came to abridge it. Then throughout the book he steps in to explain what he cut out and why. He refers later to battles with the Morgenstern estate and why he was allowed to abridge only one chapter of the sequel, Buttercup’s Baby.
I was going to say that Goldman’s asides are interesting sometimes but can be distracting and can be easily skipped over by a reader who just wants the story. But before I started writing I looked up S. Morgenstern….only to discover there was none. Evidently the whole Morgenstern original and the legal battles and even Goldman’s son who he refers to were made up (Goldman has two daughters). My mind is still taking in this twist! Very clever! Not only because of the storytelling device, but because the voice and style between Goldman’s asides (almost a manic stream of consciousness sometimes) and “Morgenstern’s” is very different. This is probably old news for many people who have loved and researched the film long before now.
It would be hard to summarize what the story is about for those unfamiliar with it. A farmer’s daughter, Buttercup, is shamefully rude and abusive to her family’s farmhand, Westley, until she realizes and confesses that she loves him. He goes off to seek his fortune so they can be married. Then she hears that he has been killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Devastated, she knows she will never love again. When Prince Humperdink discovers her and asks her to marry him (or die), she acquiesces. But before the wedding she is kidnapped by a giant, a Spanish swordsman, and a “genius.” She is kidnapped, or rescued, from them by “the man in black” after he successfully matches swords, strength, and wits and overcomes them. Prince Humperdink, of course, comes after them…and I’ll leave the story there for those who don’t know it to discover. You could say the story is about the perseverance of true love, or the fact that all is not what it appears to be at first. A twist on classic fairy tales, what stays with the reader is the brilliant, witty dialogue and the memorable characters.
The only thing that mars the book is a little offensive language, mostly in Goldman’s asides. If I had known it was there, I don’t know that I would have read the book, even as much as I enjoyed it.