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The Princess Bride, Page 1

William Goldman

  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Table of Contents


  Introduction to the 30th Anniversary Edition

  Introduction to the 25th Anniversary Edition














  Reading Group Guide


  Copyright (c) 1973, 1998, 2003 by William Goldman

  Map and reader's guide copyright (c) 2007 by Harcourt, Inc.

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced

  or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical,

  including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and

  retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

  Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work

  should be submitted online at or mailed

  to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc.,

  6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

  The Library of Congress has cataloged the hardcover edition as follows:

  Goldman, William, 1931-

  The princess bride: S. Morgenstern's classic tale of true love and high adventure/

  the "good parts" version, abridged by William Goldman.

  p. cm.

  1. Adventure stories. I. Title.

  PS3557.O384P75 2007

  813'.54--dc22 2007015306

  ISBN 978-0-15-101544-3

  ISBN 978-0-15-603515-6 (pbk.)

  Text set in Adobe Caslon

  Map illustration by Jeffery C. Mathison

  Designed by Cathy Riggs

  Printed in the United States of America

  First Harvest trade edition 2007

  A C E G I K J H F D B

  Introduction to the 30th Anniversary Edition

  UNTIL A COUPLE of weeks ago, this introduction would have been real short: "Why are you buying this book?" is what I would have said. Or more accurately, this edition of this book?

  Buy the 25th anniversary version, I would have told you. It's got a long intro by yours truly where I explain a lot about the Morgenstern estate and the horrible legal problems I've had with them. That version is still out there and what you are interested in is the same thing that I am interested in--namely, at last, getting Buttercup's Baby published.

  I would also have gone on to tell you that there is nothing to report on that front. Same old same old. Well, that was then, as they say.

  Something new has very much happened.

  LET ME TELL you how I first heard of the existence of the Morgenstern Museum.

  Back we go to 1986, Sheffield, England, and we are shooting the movie of The Princess Bride. It was such a happy time for me, at last Morgenstern coming to life on film. I had written the screenplay for it first over a decade before--but it had never been "picked up," as they say Out There, till then.

  I ordinarily do not not not like being on movie sets. I once wrote that the best day of your life is your first day on a set and the worst days are all the ones that follow. They are tedious and horrible for several reasons: (1) they are tedious and horrible (but you won't believe that, I know), and (2) if you are the writer, essentially, your work is done.

  I make the actors nervous, but more than that, and if I have written this before, skip this part, I have an amazing ability to screw up shots. I hide on the sets out of the way when the camera rolls, but I cannot tell you how often the director, just as he is about to start, sees where I am and asks me to please move, because I am standing in the exact spot where the shot will end.

  A few days before the day I am about to tell you about, we were shooting the Fire Swamp. And there is a moment in the movie where Cary Elwes (Westley) starts to lead Robin Wright (Buttercup) through it.

  Now I know what is going to happen--there is a flame spurt and her dress catches on fire. Why am I so smart? Because Morgenstern wrote it, I adapted it for the novel, and used it in every draft of the screenplay, of which, believe me, there were many.

  OK, I am standing there on the set of the Fire Swamp and Rob Reiner goes "action, Cary" and here they come into view, those two wonderful actors, and I am watching from a corner of the set, and he leads her forward, one step, another step--

  --at which point there is a flame spurt and her dress catches on fire.

  At which point (so humiliating) I start to shout, "Her dress is on fire, her dress is on fire" totally destroying the shot.

  Rob yells "Cut," turns to me and in a voice I can still hear, he says with all the patience he can muster, "Bill, it's supposed to catch on fire."

  I think I came up with something real smart like "I knew that, sorry" and hid.

  OK, now you can start reading again.

  The next night we were shooting outside, the attack on the castle, and it was cold. Bitter, British cold. The whole crew is bundled up, but the wind cut in on us anyway. I remember it was as cold as any time I ever had on a movie set. Everyone was freezing.

  Except Andre.

  I have no way to explain this, but Andre never got cold. Maybe it's a giant thing, I never asked him. But he was sitting there that night in the tights he wore and all he had on top was a very thin towel across his shoulders. (Of course, it never made it all the way across his shoulders, being a normal sized towel.) And as we talked, and I mean this now, dozens of people would walk up to him, say hello, and then ask if they could get him a coat or a blanket or anything else to keep him warm and he would say always, "No, Boss, thank you Boss, I'm fine" and go back to talking to me.

  I just loved being around him. I am starting my fifth decade of movie madness and he was by far the most popular figure on any film set I ever knew. A bunch of us--Billy Crystal I think was one--used to spitball about doing a TV series for Andre, so he could cut down the three hundred plus days a year of travel wrestling required. I think it was going to be called something like Here Comes Andre and it was going to be about a wrestler who decided he'd had enough and got a job as a baby-sitter.

  Kids went nuts over him. Whenever I'd walk into the Fire Swamp set, there he'd be, one kid on his head, a couple on each shoulder, one in each hand. They were the children of people who worked on the movie and they would all sit there in silence, watching the shoot.

  "Beeeel?" It is now that freezing night and I could tell from his tone, we were entering into difficult terrain. He took a long pause before continuing. "Ow doo yoo theenk, so far eees my Feh-zeeeek?"

  I told him the truth, which was that I had written the part for him. Back in '41 when my father first read the Morgenstern to me, I naturally had no idea movies were written. They were just these things I loved going to at the Alcyon. Later, when I got in the business and adapted this for the Silver Screen, I had no idea who should play Fezzik if the movie ever actually happened. Then one night on the tube there Andre was wrestling. He was young then, I don't think much over twenty-five.

  Helen (my wife then, the world-famous shrink) and I are watching the tube in bed. Or rather, I am watching the tube, Helen is translating one of her books into French. I screamed--"Helen, my God, look, Fezzik."

  She knew what I was talking about, knew how important a movie of the Morgenstern was to me, understood how many times it had come close, how upset I was that it never seemingly would happen. She had tried on occasion to get me to deal with the reality, which was that the
movie might not get made. I think she started to make that pitch again, then saw the look in my eyes as I watched Andre slaughter a bunch of bad guys.

  "He'll be great," she said, trying very hard to assure me.

  AND HERE I was, a decade-plus later, chatting with this amazing Frenchman, who I will envision now and forever with little kids climbing all over him. "Your Fezzik is wonderful," I said. And it was. Yes, his French accent was a trifle thick, but once you got used to it, no problem.

  "I 'ave work vairy 'aard to be so. Thees is much more deeper par' than Beeg-fooooot." (One of his only other non-wrestling roles was when he had played Bigfoot years before on I think a Six Million Dollar Man.) "I doo vair' much resear. For my char."

  I realized right off that "char" was Andre for "character." "What research, exactly?" I figured he was going to tell me he'd read the French edition several times.

  "Eye clime thee cleefs."

  "The Cliffs of Insanity?" I was stunned. You cannot imagine how steep they are.

  "Oh, oui, many times, up an down, up an down."

  "But Andre, what if you had fallen?"

  "Eye was vair scair thee firss time, but then eye know thees: Feh-zeeek would nevair sleep."

  Suddenly it was like I was engaged in conversation with Lee Strasberg.

  "An' I fight zee groops too. Fezzik fight zee groops, Eye fight zee groups. Wuz goooood."

  And then he said the crucial thing--"'ave you veezeet the Museum? Miee besss re-sair was zairrr."

  I said I didn't know which museum he was talking about.

  For the next little while, Andre told me....

  But did I go? Did not. Never went to Florin, never thought much about it. No, not true, I did think about it but I didn't visit for one reason: I was afraid the place would disappoint me.

  My first trip was when Stephen King more or less sent me there when I was researching the first chapter of Buttercup's Baby. (For an explanation, take a look at the intro to the 25 th Anniversary edition, you'll understand a lot more when you've read that--it's included here, on page xxix--along with the actual chapter of Buttercup's Baby, which you'll find at the end of the reprinting of The Princess Bride.

  That first trip, I spent several days both in Florin City and the surrounding countryside, ran around like mad, saw an amazing amount of stuff--but the Museum was closed for renovations during my stay.

  Figured I'd catch it the next time. Whenever that might turn out to be.

  It turned out to be a lot sooner than I thought.

  PROBABLY YOU KNOW this, since my name was in the papers all over the world recently. I won the Grandfather of the Year award again. I was so far in front they decided to retire the cup. Some old guy in India claimed I spoiled Willy, but sour grapes as they say.

  His tenth biggie was coming up on the outside, a great opportunity for me to go overboard on a present, and I was visiting my son, Jason, and his wife, Peggy, the other night for dinner so I asked for hints. Usually they have lists of stuff. Not this time. They both got weird, muttered, "You'll come up with something," changed the subject.

  I knocked on the kid's door, asked to come in. He quietly opened the door, odd, usually he just hollers for me to enter. "Wanted to talk about your birthday," I told him. Here's what you've got to know--Willy's a great receiver. He gets so excited. Even if it's something he picked out himself, when I hand it over, he is so damn great about it.

  Now he just said I had been so terrific over the years whatever I wanted was fine. "Don't you have any ideas at all?" I pressed. He didn't, he said. Plus he had this frantic amount of homework to do so did I mind?

  I got up to go, sat back down again, because I realized something--he knew exactly what he wanted but for some reason was embarrassed to tell me.

  I waited.

  Willy sat at his desk in silence. Then he took a breath. Then another. At which point I knew it was coming, so I threw in "Whatever it is, the answer is you're not going to get it."

  "Well," my Willy began, the words whizzing out, "ten is a big deal in our family, because ten is what you were when you got sick and your pop read to you and when my pop was ten you gave him the book which is when you realized you had better get to work abridging and well, ten is what I'm gonna be and I'm only gonna be that this one time and ... and..." and he was so embarrassed to go on I pointed to my ear and whispered, "Whisper."

  Which is just what he did.

  I DON'T WANT to oversell here, but our first morning in Florin City, that miraculous postdawn blink with me wide awake, Willy the Kid snoring in the next bed, was no question a highlight of my life. Me and my one and only grandchild together on the start of his tenth birthday adventure in Morgenstern's hometown. Can't top that.

  Willy was wiped out from the trip--Florin Air scored again--so I had to shake him awhile before his eyes opened, he blinked, went "whuh?" several times, then joined the human race.

  "Where we off to?" he started, then answered himself. "One Tree Island, right?" I had promised him a helicopter ride there so he could see where Fezzik was invaded, made the incision with the sword, saved Waverly's life. (You should have listened to me earlier when I told you to flip to the back and read the chapter of Buttercup's Baby.)

  I shook my head.

  "I know I know, don't tell me--the room in the castle where Inigo killed the Count!" He bounded out of bed, started his fencing moves as he said, "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to--" and he plunged his sword forward "--DIE."

  He loved doing that--he and his friends have contests to see who does it best--and I love that he loves it. But again, I shook my head. "We're definitely taking the tour, just not today."

  He gestured for me to continue.

  "The Morgenstern Museum opens in a little while, better get ready."

  He groaned, climbed back into bed. "Oh Grandpa, please please please, do we have to start with a museum, I hate museums, you know I hate museums."

  "You liked the Hall of Fame." I took him up to Cooperstown last summer.

  "That's baseball."

  "I have to go," I said. "Fair is fair. You knew this trip was planned."

  The truth? I was about to tell him to go back to sleep. There was no real reason I couldn't get the introduction to the Museum done alone.

  But I said nothing, and thank You up there for that.

  THE MORGENSTERN MUSEUM is just left off Florin Square. It's a lovely old mansion, dating from who knows how far back, and by the time we got there Willy was excited again, his usual state, bopping ahead of me on the sidewalk. He held the door open for me, bowed me through--

  --then he went "omigod" and stopped dead. Because in front of him, in the center of the stately old room, in a large and beautifully lit glass case, there it was--

  --the six-fingered sword.

  I knew it was there, Andre had told me about it, he had told me in detail that freezing night in Sheffield--

  --but I still was not close to being ready for the impact it had on me. I'd heard of it for so long, asked my father all those decades ago when I was ten, what made it so special, so magical, what could it have looked like?--

  --and now there it was. Inigo's father had died for it, Inigo's whole life had been changed because of it, this magical blade, the greatest sword since Excalibur.

  Willy took my hand and together we walked toward it and I know it makes no sense, but right then, as I saw it for the very first time, it seemed to be dancing.

  "Is it moving?" Willy whispered. "It sure looks like it is."

  "I think it's the way they've got it lit. But you're right."

  There were a bunch of others surrounding the case, kids, old folks, all kinds, and what was weird was when we looked at it, no one went away, we just kind of went to the next side, looked at the sword from there, then the third, finally the last.

  A kid way smaller than Willy whispered in a French accent to a lady who I assume was his mother, "Allo, mon nom est Eenigo Mawn-taw-ya..."
br />   "Sounds way better in English," Willy whispered and I realized something: All around the glass cage I could see children miming the sword, mouthing Morgenstern's words, and I'm not sure when the Museum put up its various exhibits--

  --but what a thing it would have been if the great man himself could have seen what I was seeing now.

  The next exhibit that took the Kid's head off was a mold of Fezzik's fingers. (Andre went on and on about it--he thought his were the biggest, he told me, till he saw the real thing.) Willy measured with great care. "His thumb is bigger than my whole hand," he announced. I nodded. It was.

  Then a whole wall lined with Fezzik's clothes, beautifully pressed. Willy just stared up at where the giant's head would have been, shook his own head in wonder.

  Buttercup's wedding dress was next, but it was hard to get up to because of all the girls who were surrounding it.

  There was so much to see--an arrow pointed to another room where Count Rugen's life-sucking machine was off by itself--but I was anxious to get to the Curator--Stephen King had written him a letter about my arrival.

  The Curator would let me into the place I most needed to get--the Sanctuary, it was called, and it was where Morgenstern's letters and notes were kept. It was not open to the public, scholars only, but that's what I was on this day of days.

  I asked a few questions, was directed here, there, then finally we found the Curator--younger than you might think, obviously bright, and behind his eyes there was a genuine sweetness.

  He was seated at his desk on the third-floor corner. Book-lined office, no surprise, and as we entered he glanced up, smiled.

  "Probably you want the little boys' room," he began. "It's just one door down. Most of my visitors are interested in that."

  I smiled, said who I was and that I had come all the way from America to study in the Sanctuary for a while.

  "But that's not possible," the Curator replied. "It is open only for work of scholarship."

  "William Goldman," I said again. "Stephen King wrote a letter about my coming."

  "Mister King is a famous descendent of my country, of that there can be no question, but there is no letter."

  (You must know this about me--I can be very paranoid at moments like this. This next is true--when I was a judge at the Cannes Film Festival I was invited to a formal dinner party. It was a big deal for me, my marriage was collapsing, I was going to be alone in the world for the first time since forever, and I got to the party where everyone spoke all kinds of languages, few of them English. There were three round tables set up, fortunately with place cards and when we were told it was time to sit down, I left my place alone in the corner and went whizzing around the first table.