Monday, March 30, 2015

"As You Wish" - My journey into the literary world of The Princess Bride

Anyone who grew up in the late eighties remembers the sight of a young Fred Savage sitting in his bed as Peter Falk reading a book that promises to have "Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Revenge. Giants. Monsters. Chases. Escapes. True love. Miracles." The book called The Princess Bride, as was the movie. And, what an epic it was. Who can forget the famous line, "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die"? Or, the dangerous journey of our hero and heroine through the dreaded Fire Swamp? And, what about the priest's speech at the weeding of Humperdinck and Buttercup, "Mawwiage, mawwiage is whha bwings us togewether today"?

The Princess Bride became a cult favorite for generations. And, why not? It had a little something for everyone. The movie was based on a book written in 1973, titled The Princess Bride: S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and HighAdventure by William Goldman. Quite a mouthful! Goldman describes the book as an abridged version containing the "good parts" of Morgenstern's work.

Goldman explains that, during his childhood, his father, an immigrant to the United States from the country of Florin, read the book to him when he was ten. It wasn't until Goldman had children of his own that he came to realize that his father had only read the good bits of Morgenstern's much larger work.  In his overwhelming desire to make the Florinese masterpiece available to a broader audience, Goldman took on the task of abridging the novel, adding his own commentary on Morgenstern's work.

Being a big fan of the movie, I finally decided to give the book a read. Let me tell you, it didn't disappoint. All the great scenes were there. The climbing of the Cliffs of Insanity. The battle of wits between Vizzini and Westley. Inigo's search for the six fingered man. It is all there in it's full glory. But, there is so much more. The book contains so much great backstory for each character that you never get in the movie. It is unbelievable how much more there is in the story. Even Goldman's commentary, which I thought would simply get annoying after a while, added so much to the story.

I hadn't seen the movie in years when I started reading the book. But, as luck would have it, the night after I started the book, the movie was on television, adding to the pleasure that I received reading this book. It was great to sit down and watch the movie all over again. If you are a fan of the movie, the book is a must read. It truly does complete The Princess Bride experience.

And, I'll let you in on a few little secrets ( I shouldn't, but I will). There is no Morgenstern or country of Florin. This is part of the brilliance of the book. Goldman builds this entire mythos around this little European country, which he claims to have visited. He talks of museums being built in Westley and Buttercup's memory in Florin, and of tourists coming to see the place where Feezik the Giant scaled the Cliffs of Insanity. If you want to know how far he actually takes his fictional details, check out the comments on the book in Wikipedia.

There are few books that have given me so much joy when reading them that I would label them as an "experience". That's what this was. I didn't read the book, I experienced it.

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