Mark Reads ‘The Princess Bride’: Four / Five (Part I)

In the fourth and (part of) the fifth chapter of The Princess Bride, Buttercup’s presentation to the kingdom of Florin goes awry when she is kidnapped, and my god, I already adore this book with all of my heart. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Princess Bride.


There’s a part of me that’s glad Goldman abridged the original text just for the sake of my own patience, and then there’s a part of me that wishes I could have read what he wrote. It made me think about the fact that there are people who read my reviews and don’t read the actual book I’m talking about. Which is really awesome, by the way! I know a whole group of folks who couldn’t get into The Lord of the Rings and enjoyed learning about what was in the book through the lens of… me, I guess? That’s a strange sentence to type. And look, I do the same thing, too! I stopped watching Glee right after the episode “Grilled Cheesus,” and even at that point, I’d missed a handful of episodes along the way. You know what I do now? I find out what’s going on through my Tumblr dash. I SWEAR. I follow a good number of folks who write about the show every week, post GIF’s and caps, and are lovely because of their witty, insightful commentary. I have not seen a single episode of the show in a year and a half, and I’m totally okay with that. I think it’s wonderful that this happens!

So I suppose that’s why I ultimately don’t mind why this is an abridged version of Morgenstern’s story. I don’t know that I really want to read seventy-two pages of Buttercup training to be a princess. Perhaps I’d like it, but I feel like that’s satire enough, just mentioning the length of the section. God, Morgenstern’s a genius, though. It’s like he wanted to troll every single person who decided to read his book. This is an admirable life goal to have.

“What with one thing and another, three years passed.”

I just love this sentence forever.


Let’s return to the story! I love just how ridiculous Morgenstern portrays the ceremony by which Buttercup is revealed to the world. First of all, it’s just strange that no one saw her to begin with, and it’s even more bizarre that this whole process leading up to the announcement took three years. Of course, Buttercup is aware of just how absurd this is, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

I know it’s impossible that they have anything to do with another because of time, but I couldn’t help but think of Sansa Stark when Buttercup came down from the balcony to be among the people of Florin. Without going into Sansa’s role in A Song of Ice and Fire (since I don’t want to spoil anyone for FLAWLESSNESS), I’m touched that even though Buttercup is going along with this ridiculous procession, she still has a heavy dose of humility within her. As she puts it:

She had studied hard to do things royally, and she wanted very much to succeed…

Despite that this is meant to be a garish display, she’s still willing to keep herself human. Even if she’s not in love with her soon-to-be husband, that doesn’t mean she can’t be a good queen. It doesn’t mean she has to be awful at her job. In a way, I could see how it would make her happy to succeed at this. She’s learning to play the game. (Seriously, oh my god, can we just have a comment thread to spill our Sansa feels about this very narrative in A Song of Ice and Fire? THANKS.)

However, she doesn’t get a chance to do this because KIDNAPPING. I am so genuinely ecstatic about moving into the main plot of this story because these characters. Westley and Fezzik and Inigo and Vizzini and OH MY GOD I JUST LOVE THIS SO MUCH. It’s here that I also realize just what a brilliant adaptation of the novel The Princess Bride film is. To be fair, Goldman worked on that, too, so he found a way to make his commentary exist in the film version as well. The joy, though, is that S. Morgenstern’s story is just so good to begin with! Again I can’t get over how this is a satire that’s still immensely entertaining in every other context. Yes, Buttercup is a trope turned on its head, but she’s still a character I care about, one who has her own motivations and power. I love that she acknowledges that despite that she really has no interest in marrying the Prince, she’s given her word, and that means something to her. Why back out now? It’s not that she’s unhappy, and it’s not even that big of a moral issue with her. (I love the whole segment about how it isn’t wrong to marry someone you don’t like, but it isn’t right either. So much delicious ambiguity.)

It’s pleasing to know that Morgenstern is just as witty as I hoped, and it’s once the dialogue starts rolling that I can’t help but adore this book. Half of the fun with the way these characters talk is the fact that they’re written in a way that’s quite aware of the strangeness of language. Not only that, but there’s this scathing wit present all of the time. For example:

“I don’t like killing a girl,” the Spaniard said.

“God does it all the time; if it doesn’t bother Him, don’t let it worry you.”

AHHHHHHHH IT’S JUST TOO GOOD. Also, it’s really strange to see these nicknames for the characters because I just want to shout FEEZZZIKKKK and INIIIGGOOO and then ignore Vezzini because you got what you deserved, you cad. I suppose this is also strange for me because I know so much of the plot that I’m eager to get to certain parts to flail about them. Granted, I’m sure there are entire segments that aren’t in the film, so I’m interested to find out what they are. It’s also nice to have a couple weeks where the dynamic of the site and what I’m writing about is completely unfamiliar to me. I am generally so unprepared that it’s just silly, but I know most of the twists, how this ends, and I know these characters extremely well. my baaaabbiiieeesss. Wait, is that a weird thing to say about characters that were created before I was born and who are, according to canon, older than I am? I DON’T CARE, I’M STICKING TO IT.

The first aside that happens in chapter five took me by surprise because of how it seemed to read my mind. It has been about thirteen years since I last saw the film, so I think i’m a bit shaky on some details, but I don’t really remember the part about sharks, or at least not as brutal as it is here. And then Goldman interrupts to tell us that he was so freaked out by this scene as a child that his father had to interrupt the story to tell his son that Buttercup doesn’t get eaten by sharks. Like, for real, I don’t think you all understand how happy this book is making me. Mark Reads and Mark Watches is the best example of how much this story has affected my life. I love interruptions like this. I love meta commentary. I love contextualizing stories in personal ways. It’s why I adored the movie all these years; it’s why I’m obsessed with Mystery Science Theater 3000 and RiffTrax. IT FUELS MY VERY BEING. To know that William Goldman is not only interested in this idea (or why else would he choose to include his commentary inside the actually abridged text?) just fills me with satisfaction.

Still, I also can’t help but also bring up the fascinating dynamic that Morgenstern creates with the trio of kidnappers. Aside from Fezzik and Inigo, I don’t feel that they actually like each other. They are a group formed out of necessity. Each needs something from the other, and they all play a specific role. That role highlights what each person as best at. Vizzini is the brains and Fezzik is the strength, and Inigo is somewhere in between. Smart, but not as clever or cunning as Vizzini. Strong and quick, but nowhere near matching the strength of Fezzik. By the end of this segment, we also get a hint towards the reason Inigo is on this journey in the first place, but for now, he’s a bit of mystery. He’s always more aware of things than his counterparts, and it’s through this that he reveals to them that they are being followed.

Oh, this is gonna get so good so fast.

I adore that this book can also provide reflective moments like Morgenstern’s explanation of Fezzik’s strength and how it makes the man feel. There will always be things a film or television adaptation of a novel can’t capture because of the nature of the medium, and this is one. There’s a purpose to Fezzik, and he’s content that he can help others in any way by using his physical power. It’s actually kind of a beautiful message if you think about it. There’s nothing wrong with the fact that Fezzik is a giant of a man and that he may not be as smart or quick as those around him. The text inherently supports his outlook on life and the man’s attempt to give himself meaning. I really enjoy that. Just because this book is full of jokes and puns doesn’t mean it can’t also be thoughtful, you know?

And now I can’t avoid this:

“He’ll never catch up!” the Sicilian cried. “Inconceivable!”

“You keep using that word!” the Spaniard snapped. “I don’t think it means what you think it does.”

Just bury me right here on my site. I don’t even know how to describe the immense joy reading this line brings to my life. I know that it might be th most quoted part of the movie (perhaps “As you wish” or “My name is Inigo Montoya…” happens more often, though), but it’s just so wonderful. This is my childhood, y’all. MY CHILDHOOD. And then that outburst a couple pages later happens and I just die with joy. THIS IS TOO MUCH.

It’s right around this point that I want to close up today’s review, and I think stopping at what I’m guessing is Inigo’s backstory is as good a place as possible in order to split up chapter five. It is such a pleasure to read these characters arguing, to experience Westley climbing up those Cliffs, and to be inside Inigo’s head. That’s something I would never get from the movie. I can get the nuances of Inigo’s respect for the masked man ascending the Cliffs, but I don’t get to understand it as well as I do here. That’s not an attempt to criticize filmmaking, for the record. I enjoy both mediums, and there things one does that the other really can’t. It’s just nice to have this extra look into Inigo’s characterization. It only makes me enjoy The Princess Bride more than I already do.

Mark Links Stuff

– My eBook adaptations of reviews I’ve posted are on sale at Harry Potter, Twilight, and Firefly books are priced from $2.99 to $3.99 a piece, and are available in ePub (iBook, iPod, iPad, Nook), Kindle, and PDF files.
– I now have a Lulu storefront, where you can purchase physical copies of all of my previously released books, including a full Mark Reads Twilight book that includes all four sets of Twilight reviews.
– I am going on tour in the following cities this month (click the name for the Facebook RSVP page): San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, Albuquerque, Denver, Salt Lake City, Boise, Spokane, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver B.C. I still need venues/spaces in San Diego, Salt Lake City, Spokane, and Portland. Even if it’s your house, I don’t care. I’ll show up! Please let me know if you have any ideas. I can also be reached at markreadsandwatches [at] gmail [dot] com.
– I am presenting for three days at Ascendio 2012! Come hang out and have the best weekend ever in July!
– Mark Watches The Two Towers will happen most likely on Sunday at 1pm PDT, which is the same as this past weekend. Y’all better break the comment record again.
– I finish Mark Reads The Princess Bride on April 13th, and then Mark Reads Sandman begins on Monday, April 16th. I will split up reviews by issue, and I will be reading the extra books/volumes. IT SHALL BE GRAND.
– I’m on Twitter (@MarkDoesStuff) and I have a Facebook page y’all can Like and flail about on. Join me!
This is my fifth consecutive year riding in the AIDS/LifeCycle! I’m aiming to raise $10,000 this year. For every $1,000 I raise, I will make a video live reading of a community-chosen fanfic. I am not bluffing. I will read as much of it as possible, and it will be beautiful. Help me out if you can!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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