Flashback Fridays: Is this a kissing book? . . .

You’re the most beautiful girl in the kingdom, and you’re to wed the handsome prince.  But all is not as happily ever after as it seems.  The prince in question is darkly plotting awful deeds, and you, his fiance have given your love to another who was lost and never returned.  What happens next is the stuff of legends.  Swashbuckling, giants, villains, miracle and yes, even kissing.

Do you remember:

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s classic tale of true love and high adventure by William Goldman (Ballantine, c1973)

While the book itself may not be common reading fare, the movie was probably a staple of every child who grew up in the 1980s.  It’s a story that lovingly turns fairytale tropes and traditions upside down and cockeyed  while still fully diving into the spirit and adventure of a great epic fairy tale.  This is the “good parts” version of storytelling, according to William Goldman.  Our narrator cuts out all the added scene setting and padding and gets right down to the events we all want to hear about.

The story tells us of a beautiful girl named Buttercup.  She falls in love with the farm boy Westley, but when Westley goes off to seek his fortune, his ship is attacked by pirates, and it’s assumed her love is lost forever.  Prince Humperdink declares that as the most beautiful woman in the kingdom, the lovely Buttercup will be his bride.  And Buttercup agrees, although she doesn’t love him.  When Buttercup is kidnapped by a trio of hired villains, a mysterious Man in Black rescues her using his astonishing skills and cunning.    What happens next?  Well lets just say even death cannot stop true love . . . it can only delay it a little while.

This is one of the rare book/movie combo where the movie is nearly as good as the book–and follows the book closely enough that readers will recognize their favorite scenes and lines.  And it’s the kind of thing that will delight adults as much as kids.  Goldman doesn’t mock fairytales, he clearly loves them and creates his own highly original, incredibly funny and exciting tale of adventure.  The reason I decided on this Flashback post?  I happened to get the opportunity to meet Cary Elwes at  BEA 2014.  For those who may not know, that’s the fellow who played The Man in Black for the movie all those years ago–and he’s still quite a charming fellow!  Elwes was there signing excerpts of his new book: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride (Expected publication October 2014). It made me reflect on how much I love the story, and how much the images from the movie and the book have influenced me and remain vivid in my mind nearly three decades later.

Swordfights.  They’re some of the best stuff out of swashbuckling adventure.  When I think of swordfights in stories, the one between Inigo and the Man in Black always comes to mind  and it remains one of my three favorite movie swordfights.  (The other two?  Errol Flynn’s epic sword fight against Basil Rathbone in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) and Danny Kaye’s hysterical duel with Basil Rathbone in The Court Jester (1955). ) Villains!  Prince Humperdink is the villain you love to hate–and what a wonderful name to saddle him with!  Count Rugin, the six-fingered man makes for the more frightening villain, a sadist with a delight in making our heroes suffer.  In another story I’d complain about two dimensional villains, but here they fit the framework beautifully.  Heroes!  Dashing, charming incredibly talented heroes and those who dust off their characters and find their own heroic light within.   This is a book about stories, about the celebration of things we love in stories and the ultimate happily ever after.

Goldman apparently came up with the title for this story when he asked his daughters what he should write a story about.   One said “a princess” and one said “a bride” and the rest is  just simply epic. Admittedly, Buttercup herself is a little bit of a disappointment to read and identify with.  She’s pretty much the damsel in distress  and doesn’t get into the kick butt action of the thing.  It’s probably why I always identified with Inigo rather than Buttercup.  The amazing swordsman, gifted with a blade, but bent on revenge–and of course that marvelous line “ello, my name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father.  Prepare to die.”  Inigo’s honestly got the darkest plot arc  to follow in the story, struggling with his own demons and setting himself against his father’s killer.  But he was always the character I loved to watch or read about–he was flawed but fascinating, and that’s probably what sold me.

I look forward to sharing this book and movie with my kids when they’re older.  And maybe then we’ll go storm some castles together!

 For more fan adventures you may want to check out The Official Princess Bride website.

Are you a fan?  Whose your favorite character?  Comments welcome!


And yep, it is a kissing book!

About Stephanie Whelan

I'm a children's librarian with a life-long love of all things science fiction and fantasy.

Posted on June 3, 2014, in Flashback Fridays, General Posts and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Have fun storming that castle.

    Personally, I read the book because someone told me I had to because it was so much better than the movie. Sorry, but it isn’t. There was one good scene that was better in the book (the proposal from Humperdink to Buttercup), but the rest of the book was uneven and slow while the movie trimmed things down to be much better.

    Now I really feel the need to watch the movie again.

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