A wonderful book (and movie) by William Goldman that is full of "Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Good men. Bad men..." etc.

Written in 1973 the book was popular but it didn't reach cult status until a movie of the same name was released in 1987. Unknown among most people, Goldman also wrote the screenplay to the movie. Unlike most adaptations, the movie remains true to the book. However, due to limitations of time in movies certain key elements and scenes are not in the film.


The introduction itself is alone worth the chance to read the book. Have you ever laughed out loud while reading a book's introduction? In it, Goldman sets the stage for the entire story as it was told to him by his immigrant father (not like his grandfather in the movie). If you're not careful, you'll miss certain jokes and puns all throughout the text.


"Chapter One. The Bride." He held up the book then. "I'm reading it to you for relax." He practically shoved the book in my face. "By S. Morgenstern. Great Florinese writer. The Princess Bride. He too came to America. S. Morgenstern. Dead now in New York. The English is his own. He spoke eight tongues." Here my father put down the book and held up all his fingers. "Eight. Once in Florin City..."

It's also interesting to note that Goldman calls his book an abridgment of a work by this S. Morgenstern author. That in itself is one of the book's greater gags.


As stated earlier, there are many scenes in the book that don't appear in the movie such as the histories of Inigo and Fezzik. You learn where Inigo got his sword and how Fezzik learned how to fight. Inigo's father was the best swordmaker in all the land. It's just that one customer was not all that impressed...


Much of the great dialogue from the movie is lifted verbatim from the book:

"You seem a decent fellow," Inigo said. "I hate to kill you."

"You seem a decent fellow," answered the man in black. "I hate to die."


How can one forget Westley and Buttercup's reunion in the Fire Swamp?

"...You see, I am the Dread Pirate Roberts."

"I fail to see how that is possible, since he has been marauding for twenty years and you only left me three years ago."

"I myself am often surprised at life's little quirks," Westley admitted.


The second half of the book takes a slight turn from the movie by examining more of Count Rugen and his torture methods. Of course, there is also the Zoo of Death, five underground levels stocked with all sorts of beasts and creatures for Prince Humperdink to hunt. The fifth is saved for Westley and The Machine...

"I have just sucked one year of your life away."

The ending contains Westley's "to the pain" speech as well as adding some other witty and quirky dialogue to the mix. However, the very end of the book (the last page) can change your perceptions of the story if you have seen the movie. Take what you will. The ending of the book is much better. It even seems that after all that you read, Goldman finally hits you with reality.

What a great gag to an ending in a flight of fantasy.

I guess it took an everything quest for me to finally sit my butt down and write a serious review on this, the greatest movie ever made. Well, at least the movie I have seen more than any other 10 movies combined.

The Princess Bride

Genre: Fantasy / Adventure / Comedy

Production year: 1987

Director: Rob Reiner

Cast:

Script: William Goldman, based on his book

Music: Mark Knopfler

Running time: 98 minutes

Plot
William Goldman wrote the script for the movie, and he based it very tightly on his book (of the same name). In fact, most of the dialogues are just about identical to the ones in the book.

The plot (of the movie) can be summarized as follows:

A child (played by Fred Savage) is ill, and so his grandfather (Peter Falk) comes to read him a story, because "When I was your age, television was called books". He reads him the story of The Princess Bride, as told by S. Morgenstern. (Now would be a good time to spoil many people's fantasy and say that, no, S. Morgenstern doesn't exist. Don't look for his books. William Goldman made him up). The story begins thus:

"Buttercup was raised on a small farm in the country of Florin. Her favorite past-times were riding her horse and tormenting the farm boy that worked there. His name was Westley. But she never called him that."
Isn't that a wonderful beginning?

Then Westley leaves to seek his fortune across the sea, but his ship is attacked by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who never leaves captives alive.

So Buttercup is forced to marry the horrible Prince Humperdink (because the law of the land gives Humperdink the right to choose his bride), even though she does not love him. But she is kidnapped, and the chase begins.

And that's all I'm going to tell, so you're just going to have to watch the movie now. (And if you've seen it, why not watch it again?).

The question that's probably on your mind is:

Does it got any sports in it?
Are you kidding? It has fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles.

Especially fencing. You will learn fascinating facts you never know about fencing, like when to use Bonetti's defense, and what you should do unless the enemy has studied his Agrippa (which I have).

Quotes
If you watch the movie for no other reason, then watch it for the quotes. Almost every line in the movie is a gem, and I find myself constantly quoting it. There is a quote for every situation:
  • When two of your friends begin kissing in public: "Do we have to hear the kissing part?"
  • When tucking someone in: "Rest well, and dream of large women."
  • When in a debate: "You're trying to trick me into giving away something. It won't work."
  • Instead of "you're welcome": "As you wish."
  • When you're waiting: "I'm waiting."
  • When someone says a difficult word: "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means."
And a million others.
Differences between the book and the movie
There are many differences between the book and the movie.
  • The book is supposed to be "the good parts version" of the S. Morgenstern book, and you get a lot of unexciting details, like an explanation of the fact that Morgenstern wasted 44 pages on the description of the wedding arrangement.
  • In the book, you learn a lot about the background of each character. You learn about their history what they did when they were younger, and about their parents. In the movie, all of the past is summed up by a short monologue by Inigo, about his father ("He was a great sword maker, my father...") . The book is much more detailed.
  • The book has some more fencing moves, like McBone.
  • The five-level zoo of death in the book has been transformed into the one-level pit of despair in the movie, which is surprising, but it provides for a more concise story. In this case the book and the movie are quite spectacularly different.
  • In the book, the narrator is the father, not the grandfather, and the boy is fat, not the studly-looking Fred Savage.
  • In the book, you get a map.
But otherwise, they are very similar.

Music
I think that Mark Knopfler deserves a special mention here. Until this movie, I had only known him as the lead man for Dire Straits, but he showed an entirely different side in composing the sound track to this movie. The fight scenes are extremely well orchestrated, and I think that the music in general is terrific, and really works well with the movie setting. However, a friend of mine got me the sound track a few years back, and it's really not all that exciting. It's just got the music. But the music for the sword fight is not really worth listening to alone. And the song at the end of the songtrack (Storybook Love) is pretty crap, IMHO, and it's not by Mark Knopfler, incidentally.

Glitches
When the man in black beats Fezzik, he rolls him over. As he rolls him, the long shot shows he is about to roll him straight into a massive rock. But lo and behold, as he turns him over, the rock is gone!

When Fezzik reaches for Buttercup, in the woods, she faints just a *bit* too quickly. By the time his hand actually reaches her neck, she has already been out for about half a second.

When Prince Humperdink retraces the steps of the mighty duel, he shuffles his feet and erases the steps made by Inigo and the Man In Black. Being such a great hunter, he should have stepped precisely in the steps made during the duel.

Inigo says about the man in black: "his true love marries another tonight." How does he know this? There is no way he could know that the man in black is Westley or that Buttercup is Westley's true love.

mkb says: The first time we see Inigo Montoya in the forest, he is just a cardboard cutout. The eyes and the hand are by a guy behind the cutout. You can tell if you pay attention to the reflection off it. I never noticed that. Imagine that - after probably over 100 viewings, I never noticed it!

Come on Rob Reiner, who did you think you were fooling?

Interesting Points
Florin and Guilder, the two rival countries, are in fact the two names for Dutch currency (or what it was before the Euro, anyway).

Ouroboros says: If you look closely on the shelf behind Fred Savage is the hat Marti DeBergi wore in Spinal Tap. (Allegedly, Mark Knopfler agreed to compose the music only if Rob Reiner put it in the movie).

Australia is entirely peopled with criminals.

Other
The Princess Bride is a cult movie. There are online and offline The Princess Bride clubs. There are a myriad web pages dedicated to the movie. Millions of people (just my humble estimate) say it's their favorite movie. So don't just take my word for it. It must be pretty damn good if so many people dig it.

And finally, if you are one of those people who know the movie by heart and speak it out loud, much to everyone's delight: you must remember to leave THE line for the amateurs to say. We are men of action. That line does not become us.

Disclaimer

The Princess Bride is such a fantastic story; I don't want to ruin it for anyone. So, for those whom have not read the book and wish to do so, do not read this. For those whom have read the book and love it but think the unmasking of an allegory might ruin the story, do not read this. For those whom love the book and wish to know Goldman's motivations behind this classic tale yet believe they can continue to enjoy this novel after the fact, please read on.

Introduction

"Oh, this is just like the Oz books."

A fantastic fairy tale, The Princess Bride, originally published in 1973 by the Ballantine Publishing Group, has a brilliantly hidden allegory for the history of international economics, specifically, the migration from hard currency, or gold and silver, to soft currency, or paper money. A riddle wrapped in an enigma, William Goldman's story, which he claims is an abridgement of S. Morgenstern's historical account, is packed with metaphors and double meanings.

Unlike how L. Frank Baum beats his readers over the head with this same allegory in his novel The Wizard of Oz, Goldman's approach is much more subtle and is invisible to most anyone who isn't looking for it yet undeniable once revealed if the reader is learned in the history of economics. Of course, this is not a true story. There is no such person as the Florinese historian Simon Morgenstern, nor were there ever countries named Florin or Guilder. Did Goldman simply pull these names out of a hat or was there a deeper meaning? And other than being a great story telling technique why is this fictional chronicle told as an historical account?

It is impossible to know for certain, as Goldman has never formally addressed this subject, but the story of the Princess Bride has too many coincidences with the story of Central Banking to be anything but fable. A dreary subject to say the least, I will refrain from expounding too much and keep to the story. And though it would be impossible to explain every metaphor and double meaning, I hope to show the main players of the allegory, which can act as a base for further exploration.

S. Morgenstern

This is my favorite book in all the world, though I have never read it. ...here's the "good parts" version. S. Morgenstern wrote it. And my father read it to me. And now I give it to you. What you do with it will be of more than passing interest to us all.

Throughout the book, claming he is but a humble abridger, Goldman gives authoring credit to the fictional historian Simon Morgenstern. Nonetheless why does he use the name Simon Morgenstern? Goldman liked puns. It is obvious that an "S" looks remarkably like a "$". But Simon could be a pun on the word simoleon, a slang term for dollar. Further more, Oskar Morgenstern was an economist and professor at Princeton who, with John von Neumann, co-wrote The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, the leading theory of economic systems when the Princess Bride was written. This abridgment of S. Morgenstern historical account is truly Goldman relating the story of international economics. Though normally a dull subject, with his "good parts" version, it is told in such a way that makes anyone want to listen.

Florin and Gilder

At 8:23 there seemed every chance of a lasting alliance starting between Florin and Guilder. At 8:24 the two nations were very close to war.

A florin was originally a silver coin of the city of Florence. The name has been used for currency by several different countries including England and Australia. In England, it was a gold coin and the first decimal denomination, being one tenth of a pound. As a coin of two world-dominating empires, Rome and Britain, the florin has namesakes throughout the world and today is used for several paper denominations.

A guilder was a Dutch denomination. Though it has since been replaced with the euro, when this book was written the guilder was still in circulation and one of Europe's oldest currencies. Like the florin, the guilder has also spanned the ages from silver to gold to paper. One could deduce that Florin and Guilder, the setting of Morgenstern's historical account, are Goldman's metaphor for money in his allegory for the history of currency.

The Bride

The year that Buttercup was born, the most beautiful woman in the world was a French scullery maid named Annette.

Goldman begins the book by listing the most beautiful women in the world throughout Buttercups life; in addition to the French maid Annettte, Aluthra, a tea merchant's daughter from Bengal, and Adela, a woman from Sussex on the Thames. These women represent the gold that backed a paper currency. In these short interludes men obsess over, lust after, and admire the women until, in time, each quickly loses her beauty. At which point the next most desirable woman becomes the men's obsession. The French maid Annette was fed chocolates until she became very inflated. The Indian's beauty was ruined by the pox. The English Adela simply worried her beauty away.

Currencies throughout the ages don't have a very long life time. They seem to lose their popularity and simply fade away in less than a century. They can lose value to inflation or to famine or disease as their backing economy fails. But this story isn't about these women; the story is about Buttercup, the golden flower, and the most beautiful woman in the world. The man that obsessed over her is not whom one might think, Prince Humperdink, but his only confidant, the Count.

The Count

His last name was Rugen, but no one needed to use it – he was the only Count in the country.... The Countess was considerably younger than her husband. All of her clothes came from Paris and she had superb taste.... In sum, the Rugens were Couple of the Week in Florin and had been for many years....

Rugen is an anagram of greun, the German word for green. Abstractly the couple represents the greenback, the American dollar. Specifically, they represent the Federal Reserve. The Count, who has the ear of the Prince, is the power of the dollar. The Countess, who has the fear and admiration of the people, is the appeal. In the book, Rugen and his wife are the ones to discover Buttercup. It must be Goldman's opinion that Central Banking and printing money isn't the best thing for the capitalist. It is the Count that created the machine, a device that literally sucks the life from the Westley, the farm boy turn swashbuckler.

The Dread Pirate Roberts

"I am not the Dread Pirate Roberts," he said, "My name is Ryan. I inherited this ship from the previous Dread Pirate Roberts, just as you will inherit it from me. The man I inherited it from was not the real Dread Pirate Roberts either - his name was Cumberbun. The real Roberts had been retired 15 years and was living like a king in Patagonia."

Westley and his alter-ego the Dread Pirate Roberts is the prime example of a laissez-faire capitalist. His love for Buttercup is beyond all others. He goes out into the world to seek his fortune and became a cut-throat pirate. He was content with amassing piles of cash apart from his beloved, until he learns of Buttercup's pending nuptials. He must fight the Count and Prince to win back what is his. Though they nearly kill him ("He's only mostly dead") Westley, with help from Spanish steel and Turkish might, ultimately saves Buttercup and lives happily ever after?

And They All Didn't Live Happily Ever After

"And they all lived happily every after," my father said. ...The truth is, my father was fibbing.

The story does not have a happy ending. Each of our heroes is trapped by fate and we are left with a feeling that nothing of their plight was of any significance. Although Inigo did kill Rugan, Humperdink is left alive and well able to pursue them until the end of their days. He remains and no doubt takes on another count, and the story starts all over again. This can only be because no one has been able to conquer Central Banks. They are an ominous juggernaut, or so Goldman would have you believe, which lingers over the working man, sucking the life from him with every transaction.

Personally, I believe allegory is fun. However, if this detracts from the story, it is not worth keeping in mind. One must be able to enjoy the treasures of the novel, feel excitement during the swordfight atop the Cliffs of Insanity, terror at the mention of the Fire Swamp and the Zoo of Death, or the unconditional love between Westley and Buttercup. If so, for one who's willing to review a little history in order to grasp the depths of the work, a hidden reward awaits as one reads, not as Goldman's abridgement of S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and Heigh Adventure, but as the "good parts" version of the history of economics.



Quotes from William Goldman's The Princes Bride were used fairly without permission.

Inspired by:
http://www.notelrac.com/essays.dir/f_and_sf.dir/princess_bride_real_author.html

Sources:
http://www.24carat.co.uk/florinstory.html
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/talking_point/live/1782296.stm
http://cepa.newschool.edu/het/profiles/morgenst.htm
http://www.frbsf.org/publications/federalreserve/annual/1995/history.html
http://www.sfsite.com/04a/pb54.htm

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