The Plot (Magill's Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy Literature)
The novel begins with an explanation of how the narrator came to abridge the book. His father had read The Princess Bride, by S. Morgenstern, to him when he had pneumonia as a child. Remembering the story fondly, the narrator was shocked that his own son hated it until he realized that his father had skipped the boring passages when reading it to him. The narrator edited the book, leaving only “the good parts” and adding comments in red type throughout. This process resulted in The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure, the “Good Parts” Version, Abridged.
In this abridged form of an imaginary book, when Buttercup is eighteen years old (and not yet the most beautiful woman in the world), she suddenly notices the stable hand Westley, who has always responded to her orders with “As you wish.” They declare their love, and he leaves to earn his fortune. Buttercup soon learns that he has been killed by pirates and vows never to love again.
Evil Prince Humperdinck of Florin needs a wife and proposes to Buttercup because she is beautiful. Given a choice between marriage and death, Buttercup chooses marriage. Once the wedding is announced, she is kidnapped by men hired by the prince to kill her on the Florin/Guilder border. Humperdinck plans to blame the murder on Guilder, giving him a reason to invade that kingdom. The kidnappers, however, are followed by a man wearing a...
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Form and Content (Masterplots II: Juvenile & Young Adult Literature Series, Supplement)
Buttercup, a beautiful milkmaid, falls in love with Westley, a farm boy, who sails away to seek his fortune. She sinks into grief when she hears that he has been captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never leaves survivors. When Humperdinck, the prince of Florin—who cares only for hunting but demands a good-looking bride to bear his children—orders Buttercup to marry him, she refuses, claiming that she will never love again. Because Humperdinck does not seek love and the alternative is death, however, they become engaged.
Before the wedding, Buttercup is kidnapped by Vizzini, Inigo Montoya, and Fezzik, whom Humperdinck has paid to kill her and leave evidence that will incriminate the country of Guilder, Florin’s enemy, so that Humperdinck can declare war. Fezzik is a powerful giant, and Inigo is the best swordsman in the world, having spent twenty years becoming a master fencer in order to find and kill the six-fingered nobleman who murdered his father. They are pursued, however, by a man in black, who follows them up the Cliffs of Insanity and then bests Inigo in a swordfight, Fezzik in a wrestling match, and Vizzini in a battle of wits.
Buttercup is now in the power of the man in black, who insults her faithlessness and greed. When she pushes him down a ravine, she discovers that it is Westley, who was merely testing her love for him.
Humperdinck and the evil Count Rugen are hunting them, so Buttercup and Westley flee...
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Techniques / Literary Precedents
The roots of the fairy tale stretch back to a time before literature, when storytelling was essentially an oral form. The theme of The Princess Bride is a common one in fairy tales: the lover of a beautiful woman must show his courage and valor to save her from a fate worse than death.
Unlike most fairy tales, however, The Princess Bride has a distinctly modern tone. It contains modern sarcasm and the narrative is frequently interrupted by the secondary narrator, Goldman, who muses on the story as merely fairy tale and establishes a distance between reader and story. This distancing is an apology of sorts for the violence and the absurdity of a story that often lampoons traditional fairy tale conventions.
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The Silent Gondoliers (1983) is another example of Goldman's attempt to adapt traditional genres to modern form. The Princess Bride appropriates the form of the fairy tale, while The Silent Gondoliers is in the shorter, more compact form of a fable. Both works succeed as vehicles through which Goldman (in the voice of the fictitious S. Morgenstern) can satirize both the literary forms themselves and the modern values that are so humorously contrasted with the expected traditional values of fairy tales or fables.
The central character is Luigi, a gondolier with a "goony smile." S. Morgenstern, the narrator, translates the Italian word as "goony" since no other is quite right in English, or so Morgenstern claims. Luigi's father is a gondolier. Even as a child, Luigi sneaks out to practice his steering in the Grand Canal late at night while the city of Venice sleeps. Often near dawn, young Luigi takes a shortcut home through SPLAT Corner. Years later when he goes to Gondolier's school, a cruel teacher, John the Bastard, who is almost an archetypal figure in this work, prematurely forces Luigi to steer a gondola through SPLAT corner. Luigi successfully maneuvers the boat through, thus exemplifying the competent student, who bests a cruel teacher who is determined to maintain the upper hand.
As in all fables, plot supercedes characterization, and theme supercedes plot. The reader gains little insight into the emotions or...
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Act II Communications Presentations of Nelson Entertainment released a film version of The Princess Bride in 1987. Goldman wrote the screenplay, and consequently it is very close to the novel. The film was produced by Norman Lear and directed by Rob Reiner.
Fred Savage starred as the boy — the young Goldman in the novel — to whom the story was read by his grandfather played by Peter Falk. (The grandfather role was changed from the novel. In it, young Goldman's father read the story.) Westley was played by Cary Elwes and Buttercup by Robin Wright. The film has a small cult following.
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