I hate to admit it, but I had never read The Princess Bride. I am a terrible nerd, and should be forced to hand over my membership card. No one who GMs Savage Worlds games should admit to such an atrocity, I’m sure. I have seen the movie. Many times. And I can quote large swaths of it. Isn’t that enough?
Yeah, don’t worry, I know it’s not.
I had several friends in middle school that loved the novel and thought Florin was an actual place. They would argue with me, and claim that they couldn’t wait to get their hands on the unabridged version if they could ever find one. That is the joke, though. There is no unabridged version, and there is no Florin, no Guilder. S. Morgenstern is a made up fellow, much like Daniel Handler is Lemony Snicket. I don’t wonder that our pre-teen selves were bamboozled. Especially in a time before internet was prolific. When things got heated, when they insisted that there were swathes on culture that had been taken out of the book and that obviously made those countries legit, I would stop arguing and start nodding and smiling. Whatever you want, friends, as long as I don’t have to believe it too.
I don’t know why I never picked up the book myself in those years. Maybe it was because I was too obsessed with Tolkien. His fantasies felt like histories. I dove into Middle Earth and didn’t emerge for years.
But I picked it up a few weeks ago, and this is how:
I have been trying to get myself to write more consistently. As part of that, for every 30 days I write (not necessarily in a row), I buy myself a present of a fancy book or two. I have been letting John Greene traumatize me for the past month, and enjoying every minute of it. So I thought I was going into the bookstore for hard back copies of The Fault In Our Stars, Looking For Alaska, An Abundance of Katherines, or maybe even Paper Towns (which I haven’t read yet). They were there on the shelf, and they were so pretty. But there were too many of them. I couldn’t have all four, and how would I ever decide?
The Fantasy section is right behind the Young Adult section in my bookstore. I turned, and there it was in all its blue-bound glory tucked among the Tolkien books and the George RR Martin books. The illustrated Princess Bride, hard covered, beautiful, abridged. The pages are glossy, the illustrations are gorgeous. I had never read the book, but I knew I would like it. And that my husband would like it. And that it would be something to treasure for a long time, because they don’t make editions this pretty every day. It came home with me.
It reads like the movie, only much better. The snarky comments of Goldman, the abridger, are hilarious (he’s never read the novel – he’s only had it read to him. He cut out the parts his father used to skip). The story is broader and more real than the movie, which feels like a silly but intelligent fable. The characters are real and flawed, but worth loving and the back story Goldman has sketched out for them makes them all the more lovable: Buttercup’s love of dirt and slight stupidity; Inigo Montoya’s swordsmith friend; the Zoo of Death. The jokes are just as good as the movie, too.
I can’t say I’m sorry I read the book as an adult and not as a teen. I don’t think I would have understood the footnotes, the jokes about Goldman’s inability to publish Buttercup’s Baby due to estate problems with Morgenstern, or the way he talks about the country of Florin. It would have all gone over my head. What I would have been left with is the sweet, impossible fairy tale that appears in the movie. But I would have missed the sense that I was in on this gigantic inside joke. I am glad I bought it, glad I read it, and I think everyone else should too. No, really. Everyone. Especially if you are an adult and like fantasy novels.