Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

I'd never actually read The Princess Bride. I'd seen the film a few times, but never read the book on which it was based.

Until I picked it up to read it fairly recently I thought the book was in fact an adaptation of the film, not the other way around. It may have been William Goldman's name that convinced me of this. Goldman has had a great career in Hollywood, he's written a number of books that have been made into films and also been involved with other big box office successes.

You start to get the impression that it's a huge joke just from looking at the cover. The copy I read is advertised as William Goldman's Hot Fairytale Classic. The book is summed up at the back in this way: 'What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince in the world - and he turns out to be a son of a bitch?'

Goldman's introduction has to be read. In most cases to things like this you can skip the introduction, not The Princess Bride. William Goldman talks about how he encountered classic Florinese fairytale The Princess Bride by M. Morgenstern when his Florinese immigrant father read it to him, but didn't find out until years later when he gave a copy of the book to his son that his father had left out a lot of the original to make it more interesting for him. The joke is that there is and never has been any such place as Florin, William Goldman did not have a son (he had two daughters), and there is no such book in the world as The Princess Bride by M. Morgenstern. Goldman goes on to say that a lot of the Morgenstern version was dry satire on the European aristocracy, so he cut a lot out to produce his abridged version.

He manages to skillfully continue this conceit through most of the book, in fact the chapters that aligned more with the film than the fictional fairytale, were the least successful for me. William Goldman's italicised and parenthetical interludes were actually reminiscent of Terry Pratchett's footnotes. There was a lot of Pratchett in Goldman, or should that be the other way around.

If you've only ever seen the film The Princess Bride then you're doing yourself a great disservice if you don't read the book on which it was based. You'll come away with a totally different view of the cult classic and probably an enhanced, enriched experience.


  1. Ahhh I love this book!! I like the film, but adore the book so much more :) Inconceivable!

  2. "Mawwidge. Mawwidge is what bwings us togevvah... todahy. Wuv, twoo wuv. That bwessed awwangement. That dweam wiffin a... dweam."

    And I could go on, but you have experienced actually watching the film with me...

    I love this book (and the film!) And you get so much more out of the book than you do a film. I remember the first time i read it (not long after seeing the film for the first time), I was confused for the first part of the book, thinking that it was really an adaptation of a longer book.

    The use of parantheses was lots of fun as well - taxes was before everything, except for stew... which is extra funny if you've ever read DWJ's Tough Guide to Fantasyland, becuase stew is the universal meal in ALL fantasy novels...

    In short, read the book, watch the film - they're both great!

  3. The Princess Bride was THE movie of my childhood. Like, I still play Marco Polo in the grocery story but using the rhyming lines from the "any body got a peanut?" scene.

    yet I've never read the book. . . a tragedy that needs to be fixed! Thanks for the great review!

  4. I was blown away by this and how different it was to the book. Redhead to paraphrase the book: it is in-con-ceivable that you have not yet read it!
    I wouldn't be surprised if DWJ got some of her material for the Tough Guide from Goldman's ahead of it's time treatment of the traditional fairy tale.