I’ve been reading Cary Elwes’s new book about making The Princess Bride, and that got me wanting to watch the movie, and that got me wanting to read the book. Which I am, and I still love both the movie and the book, but… BUT I found out from Cary Elwes that William Goldman wrote The Princess Bride for his daughters. One wanted a story about a princess, and the other wanted a story about a bride, so he wrote them a book.
I know it was 1973, but his daughters wanted a story about a princess and/or a bride, so he wrote them a story about six men and one woman. And the woman! Buttercup has, as far as I can tell, two admirable qualities. She is beautiful–the most beautiful woman in the world–and she appears to be hard-working.
Oh, she also loves her horse. She is so dim-witted that she names her horse Horse, but she loves him.
Buttercup and Westley fall in love with one another because…they’re both pretty. And then Westley leaves and is killed and Buttercup has to marry Humperdinck, who is a sadist of the highest order. When Westley comes back, he’s more terrifying to Buttercup than the Sicilian Crowd, though they have kidnapped her. He is brutish once he rescues her–first dragging her across the countryside, then hits her and accuses her of lying. And then she falls into his embrace as soon as she knows who he is.
After that, he tells her how much he has learned to enjoy killing people since they last met. Because, you know, romantic. And then, saying she can live without love and she’d rather live than die, she goes back to the sadist.
Fortunately, the second half of the story improves greatly, though I can’t say why. Once Vizzini is dead, Inigo and Fezzik become much more likable. And Westley is tortured. And Buttercup comes to her senses about Humperdinck. Westley still says horrid things, like “Woman, you are the property of the Dread Pirate Roberts, and you will do as you are told!” (Yeah, they left that bit out of the movie, didn’t they?) And he foolishly leaves Humperdinck un-killed, but Buttercup womans up in the end, which is a good thing.
KPD pointed out that no fairy tale holds up under scrutiny, and perhaps that’s what is going on here. In fact, the story left me all a-glow, as it always does. And while I’ll never quite get past all the stuff about the fat son and frigid wife (why, William Goldman? Why?) the story just makes you feel good.