I’ve talked before about whether films live up to books’ standards, but there’s one much-loved film that many people aren’t even aware is a book. Until recently I was one of them—I came to the book by accident and in reverse long after I’d fallen in love with the film.
What most surprised me about the book, when I did realise there was one to read and set about reading it stat, was how close to the film it was. Or how close the film was to it. Right down to the Fred Savage character interrupting the grandfather, asking him to ‘skip the mushy bits’.
Upon closer examination, it kind of makes sense though, as Goldman, who had a hand in the likes of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, A Bridge Too Far, and All The President’s Men, is a screenwriter well used to writing visually. The Princess Bride may be a novel, but it’s written with screen adaptation in mind.
My TPB book discovery wasn’t without confusion though, with someone telling me it was a spoof. Goldman himself inspires this thinking, with his note about how the book is an abridged version of S. Morgenstern’s tale.
So who the hell is S. Morgenstern? Well, it’s likely a reference to the abundantly named Johann Carl Simon Morgenstern who coined the term ‘bildungsroman’. What the hell is ‘bildungsroman’? It’s a fancy term for a formation novel, or one that focuses on a protagonist’s moral and psychological journey.
Confused? Yeah, me too. But it’s a clever nod and tribute to a guy who named the ‘hero’s journey’ genre that includes The Princess Bride. The brilliantly written The Princess Bride. I mean, which girl doesn’t wish she were Buttercup and lust after Westley? And which boy doesn’t wish he were Westley or Dread Pirate Roberts?
Who doesn’t remember the Cliffs of Insanity, the battle of wits with the iocaine-laced wine, the fire swamp, and the ROUSes: Rodents of Unusual Size? And who can’t quote at least a few of the incredibly famous lines from the book and film—both of which are chock full of memorable ones? There’s ‘as you wish’, ‘inconceivable’, and of course the old chestnut, ‘Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.’
The film to book reversal continued recently as, while marvelling about the discovery of the book, I discovered that some friends had neither seen the film nor read the freshly discovered book. So we held an old-school movie night at a friend’s house, with cheese and crackers, chips, and dessert and 10 of us sitting around a big-screen TV. By the end most of them were saying what I said: having come to The Princess Bride via the film, they’re now keen to read the book.