Mark Reads ‘The Princess Bride’: Six (Part I)

In the first half of the sixth chapter of The Princess Bride, everything is pretty damn chaotic, and I’m sure I’ve fallen in love with William Goldman. Help? If you’re intrigued, then it’s time for Mark to read The Princess Bride.


Holy fuck, this is so, so, so, so much darker than absolutely everything in the movie and I thought I was prepared and I had to stop halfway through because I was not prepared and WHAT THE FUCK!!! This is not what I expected.

First of all, I’m pretty sure I would have enjoyed reading forty-four pages of Morgenstern being ridiculous about rich people. I love reading anything that inherently makes fun of the rich. Still, at least I can appreciate the way in which Humperdinck has basically manipulated his entire kingdom to his own end. I even remember thinking that this was a particularly complex story when I was a kid, especially for a romantic epic.

Again, it’s so fascinating to read this book instead of watching the story unfold onscreen because of the new information I get, and because it’s truly such a different experience. Obviously, Goldman frames his own commentary in Morgenstern’s original text in a way that is so much like the interruptions from the boy and his grandfather in the film, and the vast majority of the story is exactly the same, too. But I enjoy how the book switches from one character to the next in rapid succession after the end of the last chapter. This is not how a story like this normally goes, and I appreciate its complexity. It’s an invigorating turn for all of these characters, too. We have Inigo’s immediate guilt party, since the man is not so used to failure. There’s a revealing aside from Goldman, who is clearly referencing his own experience with failure, and I can’t help but think about how much this is like everything y’all read on this site. There’s something so cathartic about taking a text and finding a way to relate to it in such an intimate way. Look, you don’t need me to tell you that. Anyway, I did find it kind of said that Inigo started drinking again and told himself everything would be fine once Vizzini showed up. Oh, honey, you’re gonna be there a long time.

Contrast that with Fezzik’s reaction:

“Oh I see, you’re dead,” Fezzik said. He stood up. “He’s dead, Vizzini is,” he said softly.

If you listen closely, you can hear my heart shattering a billion times in a row. Look, I don’t care, I just feel so close to Fezzik, and he just lost the man in his life who gave him structure. Yes, Vizzini used Fezzik, but that doesn’t mean that Fezzik couldn’t derive meaning or purpose from the interaction. It’s just so sad to me that he can’t figure out what it was that he needed to do, so he comforts himself with rhyming after running to a cave and hiding from the taunts of local village boys. Even after all he’s been through, he’s still tormented by bigots. Ugh, poor Fezzik.

Poor Westley, too. I’ll comment in more detail in a bit, but all of the torturing at the hands of the Albino Man in the film was nowhere near as disturbing and unsettling as it is here in the book. The characterization (as far as I remember) is the same, but the movie couldn’t capture a sentiment like this:

If only they gave him sufficient time to make ready, he knew he could defeat pain. It turned out they gave him sufficient time (it was months before the Machine was read).

But they broke him anyway.

I guess I didn’t think this book could even be like this. Oh god, and it gets so much worse. I vaguely remember some bit of a dream sequence with Buttercup, but I’m pretty sure if the film had stayed utterly faithful to the original source, The Princess Bride movie would have terrified me forever. This is some traumatizing shit, y’all. Buttercup’s nightmares are HORRIFIC! Like Goldman did as a child, I was reading this and was completely taken aback by the fact that she apparently married Humperdinck and I know how this goddamn story ends. I think more than any bit of his commentary, this entire segment of Goldman’s is the one I might relate to the most. I’ve read (and watched) a lot of shocking stuff for Mark Does Stuff. I think a perfectly executed trope inversion can be a beautiful thing. We all bring certain expectations or beliefs to a story, no matter how much we believe we’re being open-minded. Reaching that philosophical zero is pretty much impossible as far as I’m concerned, so there comes a point where something is shocking to us. I admit that this happens to me far more often than I ever realized. I think doing Mark Reads and Mark Watches has sort of made me face that reality. I really am not quite good at guessing the end of things, or anticipating where a story might go. I think that’s exacerbated by the fact that I’m now reading and watching stuff in such a protracted, pedantic way. I end up not seeing the forest for the trees because my perspective makes it hard for me to see the big picture until I’m finished.

Ultimately, I’m perfectly okay with that. I like being proved wrong, and I like having my expectations fucked with. It gives me a more rewarding experience with a fictional world. I know that it may be frustrating to have to read something that just feels wrong, like Goldman did about a marriage between Humperdinck. Of course, this scene is all a dream, but I like that Morgenstern even makes you contemplate the idea. It gets under your skin. God, I have a million examples but THEY ARE ALL SPOILERS. Can we have an rot13 comment thread about this very thing? You know, plot twists that make you feel like life is wrong. Just make sure to warn what they’re for before dropping a spoiler!


The wrong people die, some of them, and the reason is this: life is not fair. Forget all the garbage your parents put out. Remember Morgenstern. You’ll be a lot happier.

I love this completely and unironically. It’s because it’s also Goldman’s attempt to prepare me for the literal nightmare fuel that comes after this. Morgenstern describes some of the most horrific dreams I’ve ever read, and now I’m starting to fear that I may start having them, too. Which doesn’t even make sense! None of the details match up to my life! But it would just be my luck that I’d have nightmares of someone else’s nightmares. I fully expect my brain to do this tonight, for the record.

It’s still pretty gutting to read about Humperdinck planning the eventual murder of Buttercup, too. He’s a villain who’s evil because of what he does. It’s not this mystical, ethereal power. He has a very clear idea of what he wants, and he doesn’t seem to have any issue with harming people around him in order to get it. But Morgenstern didn’t create a one-dimensional antagonist in Humperdinck. He’s calculating and brilliant, which might be a bit hard to admit because I hate him so much. But it’s true! Look what he’s set up at this point! Yes, he ultimately fails, but he’s so precise about what he does.

Part of that is acted out on Westley. His torture of the man is pure sadism, plain and simple. Humperdinck knows he was the one who hired the thieves, and he knows Westley is being honest, but he continues the charade just to feel better about keeping Westley away from Buttercup. And then this happens:

The Count set fire to Westley’s hands. Nothing permanent or disabling; he just dipped Westley’s hands in oil and brought a candle close enough to set things bubbling.

I wasn’t prepared. I was not at all ready to read this, and I desperately wanted an aside from Goldman to tell me that he was upset by this, too. Instead, the story continues, and I get more of Humperdinck being a fucking shitty horrible human to Buttercup, even going so far as to help write the letters he will never actually deliver to Westley. My god, I seriously wasn’t expecting this level of brutality. THE SPINNING TICKS. WHAT THE FUCK. What is the Zoo of Death doing to me???

I’m stopping here. We’ll finish off the second half of chapter six on Monday. Chapters seven and eight will get their own day, and then I’ll devote a day to “Buttercup’s Baby” and the reunion scene each. THEN LIVEBLOG PARTY TIME FOREVER.

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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2 Responses to Mark Reads ‘The Princess Bride’: Six (Part I)

  1. Mary Kate says:

    Hey I just wanted to make sure that you knew that S. Morgenstern is William Goldman’s pen name, and that William Goldman wrote the entire book. It isn’t actually abridged, this is how it was initially published. Just wanted to clarify because some of the things you said confused me. Thanks!

  2. Sorrows Solace says:

    Oh my god you’re going to read Sandman! I am insanely excited, Neil Gaiman is my favourite author ever and I hope you enjoy the series.

    Augh I love Princess Bride there’s so much snark and delight and its the perfect book to read to someone especially a kid isn’t it?

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