The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern’s Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure by William Goldman

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I didn’t love this book as much as I expected to, but I liked it enough. Buttercup never seemed to be more than a damsel in distress, and her relationship with Westley didn’t always seem healthy. She was much less interesting than the side characters. My favorite characters by far were Inigo and Fezzik. Especially Fezzik. He’s very loveable. The over-the-top exaggeration of things like Buttercup’s beauty and Inigo’s fencing skill is a key part of the story’s style, but can get a little grating.

It’s hard to ignore the movie in reacting to this book. The main thing that the movie cuts away is the metafictional aspect where Goldman tells about his process of adapting “Morgenstern’s” text, summarizing the boring parts he cut out and his legal battles with the author’s estate. These passages are cute and funny in a wry way and were obviously impossible to transfer to film, but I don’t think the story loses much without them, especially since the movie retains the “bedtime story” frame, which allows for metafictional observations too. Those metafictional comments are probably the most original and unique parts of the novel/film.

I think the film adaptation of The Princess Bride makes a better film than the novel is a novel. Which makes sense, because Goldman is more famous for screenwriting than fiction. But it also makes me wonder if I’d have felt differently about the book if I’d read it first instead. The best scenes and lines from the book are in the movie, so they were kind of spoiled for me in reading, but the same effect doesn’t seem to happen in reverse. When you’re watching a movie and you’ve read the book, you know what’s coming but you’re still interested to see how it happens and what it looks like. This experience reinforces my conviction that it’s important to read the book before watching the movie adaptation.

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One thought on “The Princess Bride

  1. The one exception I’d make to that rule is The English Patient — as a teen, I saw the movie first, fell in love with it, and immediately read the book. I’ve been rereading that book for years. I didn’t think the movie spoiled the novel at all. I love them both. And some people watch Gone with the Wind before seeing the movie (I wasn’t one, but I know friends who have done this) — and they fall in love with the book. I think, with really dense, complex novels, they will always be infinitely richer than the films — but more simple books, like this one — don’t offer much more than the movie version can offer. I read The Princess Bride in high school, and found it boring. I think I watched part of the movie once my senior year, and turned it off. I’m so glad to read your review, which is not a fangirl mania essay. This story just doesn’t click with me.

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