“Movie vs. Book vs. Fairytales”: A Comparative Analysis of The Princess Bride



June 29, 2011

   “As you wish,” Westley says in The Princess Bride, but what he really means is, “I love you,” (Goldman, 42). Love is a reoccurring theme in all fairytales, and in The Princess Bride, by William Goldman, it is the main theme. The Princess Bride is about a slothful milk maid and a handsome farm boy who fall in love. Westley must leave Buttercup though, when they finally declare their love for each other, because he is poor and must go to America to work, so in the future, when he comes for Buttercup, he will be able to provide for her. A few months later, Buttercup becomes devastated when she hears that Westley has been killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts, and agrees to marry Prince Humperdinck, though she declares that she will never love him or anyone else. Prince Humperdinck and Count Rugen secretly plan to kill her and blame it on the country of Guilder, so they can rule the world. They hire Vizzinni, a witty Sicilian, Inigo, a Spaniard excellent at swordplay, and Fezzik, a strong giant. Inigo is trying to find a man with six fingers who killed his father, and Fezzik is a good-hearted man with a troubling childhood. The trio kidnaps Princess Buttercup (according to the prince’s plans) on her horse ride, but they encounter a strange man dressed in black when escaping. He defeats Inigo and Fezzik, kills Vizzinni, and takes Princess Buttercup away. She pushes him off a cliff, but after realizing that the man is really her Westley (she can tell because he says, “As you wish”), she rolls down after him. Westley had been under the name of the Dread Pirate Roberts for several years and when he heard of Buttercup’s engagement, hurried back to Florin. They are followed by Prince Humperdinck and Count Rugen into the Fire Swamp where they sink in snow sand and are attacked by R.O.U.S. (rats of unusual size). As they exit the Fire Swamp, Prince Humperdinck finds them, and Princess Buttercup makes a deal that if she goes with Prince Humperdinck, then Westley would not be harmed. The deal is not true however, because Count Rugen puts Westley in the Zoo of Death and performs fatal experiments on him. During the time that Westley is locked up, Buttercup realized that she cannot live without Westley, and asks Humperdinck to find him for her. Humperdinck does not look for Westley; he instead kills him. Meanwhile, Inigo and Fezzik are in search of Westley, so that he may guide them to revenge on Count Rugen, and so that they may help him find his love. With the help of Miracle Max, a retired magician, they bring Westley back to life and go to the castle. They are too late to stop the wedding, but Inigo wins his duel with Count Rugen, and Westley saves Buttercup and defeats Humperdinck. They are riding away from the castle to safety, but then Buttercup’s horse loses a shoe, Westley loses consciousness as an aftermath from his earlier death, and Inigo bleeds more and more. Will there be a happy ending?

   In the movie, The Princess Bride, there is a happy ending. William Goldman, writer of The Princess Bride, also writes the screenplay for the film The Princess Bride. Directed by Rob Reiner in 1987, the film stars Cary Elwes (Westley), Mandy Patinkin (Inigo), Robin Wright (Buttercup), Chris Sarandon (Prince Humperdinck), Christopher Guest (Count Rugen), and André the Giant (Fezzik). The film won many awards including the Hugo Award, the Saturn Award, the People’s Choice Award, and the Young Artist’s Award, which was specially awarded to Fred Savage who played the grandson in the film. Imdb.com rates The Princess Bride 8.1 out of 10 stars. The film uses many dialogues and scenes directly, word-for-word, out of the book. It stays very close to the original plot line with the exception of a few sections, which do not drastically change the story’s tone or mystical element.

   The mystical element is just one of many elements that make up fairytales. WORK IN PROGRESS

   Analyzing The Princess Bride reveals that the movie and book share a similar plotline and almost exact dialogues, but the book shows characters’ personalities better. The movie has a greater pathos connection with the audience and is a better example of a fairytale than the book because it has a happy ending. The Princess Bride has humor in the story and has a known author, which are the biggest factors as to why some people may not consider The Princess Bride a fairytale.

   As mentioned earlier, The Princess Bride movie stays close to the storybook plotline by using many dialogues from the book, word-for-word. For example, when Buttercup and Westley are entering the Fire Swamp (in the book and movie), Buttercup says, “We’ll never survive!” Westley replies, “Nonsense! You’re only saying that because no one ever has.” William Goldman is the author of The Princess Bride and screenwriter for the film The Princess Bride. Since both works are his, and both are about the same story, he probably wanted to keep most of the dialogue the same. In the book The Princess Bride, Goldman wrote in an italicized frame story encompassing the Princess Bride story. A difference though, is that in the book, he writes the frame story about a father reading The Princess Bride to his son, whereas in the film, they show a grandpa reading the story to his grandson. Other than that difference, and a few other minute differences, the dialogue in both book and film remain faithful to one another.

   Just as the dialogue in the movie is similar to the dialogue in the book, the characters’ personalities in the book are similar to those in the movie. In the book, Westley is described as a hard-working, fast-learning, handsome young man. In the film, Westley, played by Cary Elwes, is portrayed in the same way and style. There is no distinguishable difference between the Westley from the book and the Westley from the film. Relationships between characters, however, are distinguishable. At the beginning of the film, Buttercup and Westley are shown falling in love. The whole introduction to the story is rushed compared to the book, which uses 29 pages to describe how they fell in love.  Inigo and Fezzik’s friendship is also stressed more in the book than in the movie. Mike Stone (one of the top 1000 reviewers of amazon.com) mentions in a commentary of the movie, that Rob Reiner, the director, had budget restraints, which is a contributing factor as to why parts of the movie were either missing or rushed.

   Since relationships between characters are not portrayed in the film as they are in the book, like the relationship mentioned above between Buttercup and Westley, the audience of the movie does not get to experience or understand the true depth of their love as the readers of the book do. This is a major drawback in terms of ‘pathos’, a greek rhetorical element meaning an audience’s connection to a work. When one reads a love story, there should be parts in which the reader feels warm and fuzzy, loving and caring, and most importantly connected. The realistic theme of love relates to the reader, so the reader is, “sucked into,” (in metaphoric terms) the story. This ‘pathos connection’ is what makes readers or viewers be captivated into media and fully experience the story. Both the film and book of The Princess Bride use ‘pathos’ to stimulate the audience into liking the story, but the book does a better job of using the ‘pathos’ as an intense stimulant. Overall, the book and film of The Princess Bride are similar in their plot and dialogues, but character depth and level of emotional connection with the audience vary.

    Fairytales are represented in different media. The Princess Bride is a fairytale, but the movie has more fairytale elements than the book. One of the main missing elements that the film has that the book doesn’t is its happy ending. Almost all fairytales have happy endings, but the book ends on a suspenseful note. There is no true closure, so the reader is left wallowing in his own thoughts. Since most fairytales end with the viewer feeling warm and fuzzy inside, the book of The Princess Bride leaves the reader questioning its ‘fairytale-ness.’ Both forms of The Princess Bride are fairytales, but the film has more fairytale elements than the book.

   Another commonality between fairytales, is that no one person wrote it. This adds to what differentiates The Princess Bride from other fairytales. William Goldman is, for a fact, the author of The Princess Bride wrote the story for the book and the screenplay for the movie.

Works Cited

   Reiner, Rob, dir. The Princess Bride. 20th Century Fox Vestron Pictures, 1987. DVD.

   Barnet, Sylvan, Pat Bellanca, and Marcia Stubbs. A Short Guide to College Writing. Boston, MA: Pearson Education, Inc. 2010. Print.

   Goldman, William. The Princess Bride. Orlando, FL: Harcourt Inc. 2003. Print.


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