Book Adaptations: Why You NEED to Read “The Princess Bride”

Screenshot from “The Princess Bride” 1987. From left to right, Mandy Patinkin (Inigo), Wallace Shawn (Vizzini), and Andre the Giant (Fezzik). Copyright of Act III Communications.

Hey! Hallie here!

I think it’s safe to say that “The Princess Bride” has shaped most of quarantine so far. Early on we got short, silly, videos of famous actors acting out different scenes from the comfort of their own homes. We have the promise of these scenes all coming together on Quibi soon. (Does anyone even use Quibi though?) Also, as I’m typing this, a virtual script reading of the original movie, starring most of the original cast, is underway in support of the Wisconsin Democrats. I love “The Princess Bride” and I never miss an opportunity to re-watch the movie, especially now when I have a lot of free time on my hands. But recently I came to a shocking realization. There are people who don’t even know “The Princess Bride” was based off of a book. A REALLY good book. So if you haven’t read the book, or didn’t even know the book was a thing, here’s some reasons why you should pick it up right now.

The Same Writer: The late William Goldman is the genius writer responsible for both the original book and the screenplay of the movie. For that reason you won’t miss anything you love from the movie when you read the book. It’s all there, plus more witty dialogue and absolutely hilarious descriptions that you miss when watching the movie. Did you ever think it was weird that at the end of “The Princess Bride” the grandfather reads about all the kisses ranked most passionate? Well that’s because, in the book, there’s a ranking for EVERYTHING. It’s a gimmick that gets so ridiculous you can’t help but laugh. That is just one of many examples of the amazing writing style you miss when you don’t read the book.

The Other Storyline: This is probably the most surprising to people who first open “The Princess Bride”. No, I’m not talking about some small sub-plot. I’m talking about a completely different storyline that runs adjacent to the story of Buttercup, Westley, and Prince Humperdinck. The movie hints at this storyline with the sick boy lying in bed while the grandfather reads “The Princess Bride” to him. In the book however, there’s so much more to it. Your first hint that something is different is that Goldman’s name isn’t the only one on the book. The name of S. Morgenstern appears on every book, with the promise of an abridged version done by William Goldman inside. Does that mean S. Morgenstern is the author? No. S. Morgenstern is a fictitious author, and inside the book you’ll find several introductions and side notes written by William Goldman as a fictitious version of himself. He has several stories to share, including his retelling of how he was introduced to “The Princess Bride”, his father read the book to him while he was sick, and the story of how he tried to get his son obsessed with the book only to realize that chapter two was filled with historical familial records. He even details his own trip to the Cliffs of Insanity. While these are very much fake events, some events read truer, like his time on the movie set that he added into later editions of the book. There are small notes from William Goldman throughout the entire book, and they’re gleefully enjoyable whether true or not.

Character Backstories: In the movie the most complete character backstory we get is Westley’s. Part of this is because his time among pirates and the way he became the Dread Pirate Roberts is explained by Westley himself in the fire swamp. Our other three main characters, Buttercup, Inigo, and Fezzik, all get more backstory in the book. The beginning of the book shows Buttercup’s life, her parents, and the moment that Count Rugen, the six-fingered man, discovered her. The event even ends with her embarrassing first confession of love to Westley. After Westley leaves and she hears news of his death, it doesn’t leave Buttercup’s depression up to the reader to imagine. The book follows Buttercup through every emotion as she loves and loses Westley, and it adds something interesting to her character. As for Inigo and Fezzik, the book actually pauses before each of their fights with Westley to talk about their childhoods. You learn so much more about Inigo’s father and Fezzik’s rough entrance into the world of professional fighting. There’s so much more to learn about the characters, and the book definitely provides answers to questions you may have asked yourself after the movie.

Fezzik: My favorite character in “The Princess Bride” movie has always been Inigo. So when I finished the book and realized Fezzik was my favorite character, I was kind of surprised. Fezzik is great in both versions, don’t get me wrong, but Fezzik is also a largely silent character. That’s where the book has leverage over the movie. The pieces of the book told from Fezzik’s point of view give you insight into his mind. Not only is he more intelligent than Vizzini gives him credit for, he’s also the voice of reason between himself and Inigo. Inigo is quick to go off the rails when something doesn’t go his way, while Fezzik remains calm and collected most of the time. It’s upsetting to discover this adorable character has been holding back his intelligence because he’s been told his entire life that his size is his only feature worth noticing. The movie made me like Fezzik, but the book made me love him, and I think everyone should take the chance to fall in love with this character. (Fun fact: Fezzik was William Goldman’s favorite character as well.)

“Buttercup’s Baby”: “Buttercup’s Baby” was the supposed sequel to “The Princess Bride”. William Goldman expressed both disinterest in writing the full sequel, and then, later on, hinted that he might have written some of it. Given his reputation for joking around, and his untimely death, we’ll never know how serious he was about this sequel. Regardless, the first few chapters of the sequel can be found in the back of the book. It gives you a little bit of insight into what the characters might have been doing at the end of the story, plus even more Fezzik. Also, naturally, some action and chaos. It’s not exactly the happiest of stories, it ends on a cliffhanger, but there’s also a few hilarious and interesting pieces of information given about “Buttercup’s Baby” early on in the book. All I’ll say is there’s a giant bird and a whole lot of William Goldman’s fictional trip to Florin.

And there you have it! Hopefully I’ve convinced you to pick up the book next time you’re in a “The Princess Bride” mood. Which is always. You should always be in the mood for “The Princess Bride”. Let’s be honest, you’ve already watched the movie a million times. Who hasn’t? So go read the book now. You won’t regret it, I promise! Also, when you finish, be sure to give a silent thanks to William Goldman. Not only did he write this amazing story, he also spent YEARS fighting to maintain the rights to it so that he could get the movie made exactly the way he knew it deserved to be made. I think we can all agree it payed off.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

One thought on “Book Adaptations: Why You NEED to Read “The Princess Bride”

  1. I have loved “The Princess Bride” ever since I first watched the film, and your passion for the story and its characters is infectious. So much appreciation for Fezzik, yes!! I keep toying with the idea of reading the book every time I see a heartfelt review like this, so maybe this is a sign that I should finally give in and look for a copy. I think this may be the first time I have heard about William Goldman adding in nods to the movie in later editions, so I will have to keep that in mind during my search. I loved reading your thoughts and the fun facts you sorted out into sections in this review! It was all really insightful and it makes me smile knowing this book (and its film) is so loved!

    Liked by 1 person

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