Milestones 3 and 4: In which the movie as most of us know it takes place, but way better
The Princess Bride is an “ensemble” film, peopled with supporting characters, but none truly “starring.” Yes, Buttercup and Westley’s love story is the central focus of the film, but it serves to tether the fine character performances to the script, rather than to dominate the action. The calculus of the book is quite different, however, and with fewer time-oriented constraints Goldman fleshed out some of the movie’s most colorful characters. This is why the best part of the book for me has definitely been the development of Inigo and Fezzik.
Inigo and Fezzik’s terrifying trip through the Zoo of Death was the best part of the book that didn’t make it into the movie. As they descend toward Westley, every level is booby-trapped with a menagerie of monstrous creature encounters, each of which tests a different skill. Fezzik and Inigo must prod each other through the levels, bickering and rhyming as they go.
Fezzik got up and lumbered after him, saying, “Inigo, listen, I made a mistake before, you didn’t lie to me, you tricked me, and father always said tricking was fine, so I’m not mad at you anymore, and is that all right with you? It’s all right with me.”
They turned the knob on the door at the bottom of the black stairs and stepped onto the fourth level.
Inigo looked at him. “You mean you’ll forgive me completely for saving your life if I completely forgive you for saving mine?”
“You’re my friend, my only one.”
“Pathetic, that’s what we are,” Inigo said.
After the Zoo of Death, the book was almost entirely familiar to those who had seen the movie: Miracle Max; the holocaust cloak; Buttercup’s unwelcome wedding; Inigo’s revenge on the evil Rugen; Westley’s outwitting of the slimy Humperdinck; and Fezzik’s rescue with four white horses. Only in the book, even Buttercup helps with the rescue, using her unwanted royal status to get the four past the brute squad.
Milestone 5: In which we almost get a love scene, and Fezzik is possessed
I have no idea what to make of the “first chapter” of Buttercup’s Baby. Here are the highlights of my inner rant while reading this section:
What the heck does Stephen King have to do with anything? Thank goodness Westley and Buttercup finally seem a bit "interested" in one another! Is Goldman really stuck on the sequel? One thing that the Introduction made clear was Goldman’s fondness for Andre the Giant who played Fezzik. I find it easy to believe that he planned a larger role for him in a sequel. But channeling some ancient midwife to perform Caesareans in caves? Stephen King playing Florinese kingmaker?
I could not wrap my head around it. Too much Goldman, not enough Baby. No wonder the second book has never been finished.
Did I like the book? Yes, very much. The only problem for me was its familiarity. I am not one to re-read books, although I can watch beloved movies over and over again. And I’ve seen the movie so many times, know so much of the dialog by heart in fact, that the book just held very few surprises. Still, I’m glad I read it, just to get to know Fezzik and Inigo better. As for the sequel, if this is where it’s headed, I’d suggest Goldman give up: his magnum opus is complete.
Many thanks to Chris at chrisbookarama for hosting this readalong. It was a pleasure reading everyone’s comments!