Many people have seen the movie, but much fewer have read the book. “The Princess Bride” (1973) by William Goldman is everything that the movie is and more. Although lengthy, it is worth the read. Goldman claims that his book is the abridgement of “The Princess Bride” by S. Morgenstern which his father read to him as a child. That book does not exist, but Goldman’s claim of his version of “The Princess Bride” having only the good bits is definitely true. That claim helps Goldman tell the story with a narrative twist on the classic style of the novel.
The story follows Buttercup, a young woman who lives on a farm. She spends her days riding her horse and bossing around the farm boy, Westley. Westley always replies with the classic line, “As you wish,” which Buttercup comes to realize means “I love you.” Buttercup and Westley fall in love. “The Princess Bride” is mostly a love story after all. Westley leaves to go find a fortune so that he can marry the beautiful Buttercup, but while he is at sea his ship is attacked by pirates. Buttercup hears that the Dread Pirate Roberts, famous for killing everyone on board of the ships he attacks, attacked the ship that Westley was on. Buttercup assumes he is dead and falls into deep despair, vowing to never love again.
Enter Prince Humperdink. Prince Humperdink is determined to marry the most beautiful woman in the kingdom of Florin, and Buttercup meets these criteria. Buttercup reluctantly agrees to marry him but tells him that she will never love him. Buttercup is out riding in the woods just before their wedding when she encounters three criminals. Vizzini, head criminal and mastermind, and his two men, Fezzik and Inigo Montoya, kidnap Buttercup and haul her aboard their ship where they set off for the Cliffs of Insanity. Much to Vizzini’s surprise, they are followed across the sea by another ship.
More insanity follows. Vizzini, Inigo Montoya, Fezzik, and Buttercup head up the cliffs. They are followed by the man in black who was on the ship that followed them. Vizzini decides to leave Inigo Montoya to deal with the man in black and sets off. Here, the reader is given what is not given in the movie, a back story on Inigo Montoya. Yes, a six-fingered man killed his father (“My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die.”) but the real story is also told in the book. This is where the book far surpasses the movie. When the man in black defeats Inigo Montoya, Vizzini is even more surprised and leaves Fezzik to deal with him. This man in black defeats him as well and then battles Vizzini in a game of wits, which he unsurprisingly wins. By this point, Prince Humperdink and his entourage are in pursuit. The man in black flees with an angry Buttercup. More action follows, but revealing anymore would spoil the whole book.
Although the movie incorporates many parts of the book, it also leaves much out. The book has a little bit of everything. There are some good guys and there are a lot of bad guys. There are beautiful women and charming men. There are some escapes and a couple of captures. There is swordplay, true love, hatred, revenge, monsters, lies, death, and even a couple of miracles. It is well-written, and although on the predictable side, especially after seeing the movie, it is well worth the read.