It pains me to confess that I didn’t realize The Princess Bride was a book before the movie. I have always loved the movie. Not loving it is just inconceivable! So I was quite pleased the other day when I noticed it at the library and it really was the same story.
The movie follows the book so if you have seen the movie you already know the plot. But still the book has its high points, including filling in all sorts of background that help you understand what’s really going on. I enjoyed the book immensely, except the commentary by the author throughout.
When William Goldman wrote The Princess Bride he claimed he was abridging a ponderous tome of 1000 pages written by S. Morgenstern. Because he was “abridging” the story he put in all these asides about his life. I wish he hadn’t done that. I think some of those detract from the real story. He gets rather personal about his fat son and his rigid cold ex-wife, and that made me very uncomfortable. My relief was palpable when I discovered that those parts were completely made up too. I had wondered how such a great story came from such a mean critical man. (Click here for the scoop!)
The characters are not substantially different from the ones we meet in the movie. The thing that struck me the most about the book is how little involved Buttercup and Westley are in the actual plot, even though it does revolve around them more or less. Buttercup may be beautiful, but she’s an idiot for not being able to see the truth about Humperdinck. Westley is romantically intriguing, and yet he isn’t really the hero of the story, at least in my humble opinion.
I think that Fezzik and Inigo Montoya, and yes, even Humperdinck are the real reasons that I love this story. The friendship between Fezzik and Inigo is real and warm. Their rhyming game is priceless. How they use their strengths together to overcome obstacles is encouraging. Their trip through the Zoo of Death (The Zoo of Death? That’s NOT in the movie!) alone is worth reading the book. As for Humperdinck, well, he is a real villain. He is so self-absorbed that it is almost comical. Buttercup’s denouncement of him is thoroughly satisfying and so is his cowardness when confronted by Westley.
Inigo Montoya is my favorite character in the movie. He remains my favorite character in the book. His story creates a richer depth of character than Westley’s. I can’t help but root for him when he begins chanting, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” I can’t help but feel the pathos of his character when he is left without direction and friends.
I suppose that as a woman I am supposed to like Westley. After all, he is dashing and perfect, and his romanticism is off the charts with his “as you wish” as he tumbles down the gorge. I know that his ability to beat Inigo and Fezzik at their own games is supposed to help show just how exceptional he is. He’s handsome and debonaire. He’s devoted and quite boring.
The upshot of all of this is that The Princess Bride is a fun book to read. I think I’d have liked it better if I’d been forwarned that the “abridger” of the book was fictionalized.
You don’t have to worry about crude language or scenes in this book. If you haven’t read it you really should. Its fun factor is inconceivable.