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Don't Be Afraid of the Dork

Covered in dog hair, Obsessed with books, Wondering what it's all about. I suspect the answer is ice cream and the ocean.

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


Narrated By: N/A

Original Publication Year: 1973

Genre(s): Fantasy

Series: N/A

Awards: None


Like many others, I love the movie version of The Princess Bride. I have a huge soft spot in my heart for Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin as a result and I’m one of those annoying folks who can quote large sections of the movie. So I approached reading it’s literary source with excitement and trepidation. How would it measure up to the film?


First, the easy part. The film very closely follows the fairy tale portion of the novel. Even much of the dialogue remains the same, probably as a result of William Goldman writing the script and playing a major role in its production. There are a few minor changes (the book has a Zoo of Death!) but it reads much like a script of the movie. If you are unfamiliar with the movie or the book, it presents a basic fairy tale romance but with many quirky twists and an absurdist and unique humor. In this world, pirates are good guys; princes are bad guys but true love and happily ever after are still the end point even if the road that gets you to the end point is littered with R.O.U.Ss (rodents of unusual size) and a giant who loves rhymes. It is presented as if the story being told is actually an abridgement of an existing “history” written by an S. Morgenstern.


Beyond this initial evaluation things get a little more complicated. The movie is framed by the device that the fairy tale is being read by a crusty grandpa to his sick baseball- obsessed grandson. This device exists and is expanded in the book. In fact, half of the book could be said to be a, perhaps partially fictionalized, memoir of the author. It’s rather rambling and written as the author directly addressing the audience. I found these parts a little jarring and at times pretty self-indulgent but not un-enjoyable. Probably why the narrative part of the book worked so well as a movie was because it was basically novella length while the rest of the book not present in the movie is filled with asides and stories of the author’s childhood and life as a script writer.


Overall, the reading experience was good but perhaps… uninspiring. If you’ve seen the movie the book will add little. The structure and framing is interesting but didn’t really elevate the book above a light and funny romantic fantasy.


So now for that eternal question - Which did you like better?  The book or the movie?  (For me I have to say it was the movie which doesn't happen too often!)