Hannah’s Novel Notions: The Princess Bride by William Goldman


There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind that like The Princess Bride, and the kind who don’t. I belong to the first group and, as far as I’m concerned, everyone who’s part of the second group can go jump off the Cliffs of Insanity.

Now, as much as I love the movie, this post is not about the movie. It’s about the book: The Princess Bride:  S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, abridged by William Goldman.

This title, however, is slightly misleading.

The Princess Bride is not an abridged novel.

The Princess Bride was not written by S. Morgenstern.

The Princess Bride was authored by William Goldman, the supposed abridger.

Yep. And the title is just the beginning of the mind twisting that goes on when you pick this book up. It becomes difficult to tell what is actually part of the real  author’s life, who the real author really is, what parts are actually made up but pretending to be real, or what parts are actually real but pretending to be made up.

I’m telling you all of this so that you can be prepared. If you continued reading, know that you are about to enter into a fifth dimension, a dimension between science and superstition…a dimension of imagination.

Sorry. Sometimes I just can’t help myself. Moving on:

Bill’s favorite book as a child was one that he had never actually read. It wasn’t even a book he owned. The Princess Bride: a novel his father, an immigrant from Floren, labored to read aloud in its English translation.

On his son’s tenth birthday, Bill wants to give The Princess Bride to his son, hoping to bond over it like he had many years ago with his own father. After searching high and low, he buys a copy off of a grumpy old bookkeeper who will only sell him both the English and Florinese translation. He gives the English version to his son, excited to talk to him about it after he reads it.

His son hates the book.

Inconceivable! Bill doesn’t understand how this is possible until he opens The Princess Bride to find it to be a completely different novel from the one his father had read to him. This version is full of Florinese history, Prince Humperdinck’s ancestry, and the rules of court etiquette.

It’s then that Bill decides to abridge The Princess Bride and tell the story the way that his father had read to him: with all the history cut out, leaving room for “the good parts.” From here, we are plunged into the story of the princess bride and the adventures surrounding her.

A story full of the good parts. Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. Twuu wuv. Giants. Beautifulest ladies. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Passion. Miracles.

And, of course, Inigo Montoya.

If I ever get the opportunity to do this to a name tag, my life will be complete.

Inigo Montoya, Spaniard and master of fencing, is probably my favorite character. Sure, he used to be a drunk. But he’s cleaned that up since he started working for a very corrupt and underhanded Sicilian. He’s impatient, but he takes the time to befriend a very dull and slow-thinking giant named Fezzik. Inigo only really has one goal: to find and kill the six-fingered man who murdered his father. And, before he kills this man, he wants to look him in the eye and say: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.”

What’s not to like about a guy like that?

In fact, Inigo’s awesomeness makes up for the two characters in this book that I don’t enjoy: Westley and Buttercup. As far as female characters go, Buttercup ranks below even Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, which is saying a lot because I really, really do not like Jane Foster. As irritating as Jane is, Buttercup is much worse. She’s annoying, childish, not very bright, with just enough bravery to keep me from wishing she had died a very painful death. I still wish she had died, just not painfully. And Westley mainly bugs me because of his association with Buttercup.

But, all in all, that doesn’t matter very much since the rest of the book was written in a hilarious, and often touching, tone. Throughout the entire story, Bill (whose full name is William Goldman, in case you haven’t put that together yet) inserts his thoughts into the story, telling us how brilliant this book is. His book, masquerading as S. Morgenstern’s book.

In fact, it gets to the point where you start believing that S. Morgenstern, a famous writer from Floren, did actually write the book.

Except that’s not possible because, you know, Floren isn’t a real country. It took me a while to realize that. What? Geography has never been my strong point.

When Bill first talked about his father immigrating from Floren, I just shrugged and thought, “Yeah, sure he did.” Because that’s just the way this book is written. It’s crazy, full of R.O.U.S’s, old men who sell chocolate-coated miracle pills, fire swamps, six-fingered nobles, and gentle giants who like to rhyme. But never do you think, “This is stupid. Of course that couldn’t happen.” In fact, I lived ten years of my life believing that iocane powder was real.

And that, my friends, is what makes a good story.

One more interesting fact, and then I’ll shut up: William Goldman wrote the screenplay for The Princess Bride. He also wrote the screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Yep. You can start freaking out now.

Snappy dialogue, fun characters, and oddly touching story-lines are Goldman’s specialty, so if you’re a fan of his movies, check out The Princess Bride. And if you’re not a fan, then all I can think to say is that you must be mostly dead and should go visit a doctor.

Don’t forget to leave a comment below and tell me what you think of Goldman’s work. I challenge you to fit in as many Princess Bride references as possible.


Hannah Heath – bookworm and aspiring author