Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Princess Bride's Perfections

Our family watched The Princess Bride tonight. It was the first time any of our boys had seen it, the first time I'd seen it in probably twelve years. We'd purchased the Blu-Ray disc from a bargain bin, and the quality was fantastic. I loved seeing how much my boys enjoyed it. The Fred Savage & grandpa dynamic was perfect for them.
As I watched, I was struck by all the elements that were so successfully packed into this story. I confess, I haven't read the book, but using the movie as a source, I jotted down a list of The Princess Bride's assets, just as Westley would have liked. Character types. Plot devices. Props. Motivations. Defining qualities. Here's my brain dump. I'd love to hear any additions I missed.
Romance, right off the bat
Thrown within minutes into huge problems: Westley dead, Buttercup betrothed to froglike prince, and wham, she’s kidnapped.
Pastoral beauty, magnificent geologic variety, creating evocative settings
- opening farmland
- festive city settings
- eel-infested waters
- Cliffs of Insanity
- mountains, ravine
- Fire Swamp
- Thieves Forest
- Royal castle w/ chapel, dining hall, kitchens, honeymoon chamber, corridors

Impossible or improbable settings: fire traps, sand pits, sheer cliffs
Florin & Gilder, rival kingdoms
An artificial plot to start a war
Attempted murder
Chases, rescues
Impossible feats of strength
A flaming holocaust cloak
Contest of wits, daring
Long-brewing revenge
An evil prince
A sinister advisor
A pirate with a pen-name
A giant
An alcoholic swordsman
An egotistical mercenary
A mutant with a recognizable mark: the six-fingered man
A beautiful princess (least interesting part, oddly, titular character and focus of exciting male activity)
A senile king
An underworld descent where hero must die: The Pit of Despair
Hidden entries (into the pit)
A resentful miracle worker and his nagging crone wife
Other hideous crone: the “Boo” lady who castigates Buttercup
An albino stooge
Mad science: Count Rogin doubles as evil advisor and evil Faustian/Nazi sicko scientist/inventor
Freak monsters (Rodents of Unusual Size, Shrieking Eels)
Storming a castle
Blocking a wedding
Reviving a dead man
Miraculously locating “the man in black”
Miracle cure via chocolate coated pill
Dead, and yet …

For each character, a defining attribute

Buttercup: brainless beauty
Westley: indestructible confidence
Inigo Montoya: passionate sense of honor
Vezzini: unscrupulous greed, ego
Fezzik: unflappable, benign
Humperdinck: arrogance
Rogin: perverse sadism, sycophant
Miracle Max: wisecracking
Wife: calls it like she sees it


  1. Wonderful movie; I am embarrassed to admit how much I could probably quote by heart.
    You definitely need to add the unforgettable phrase that every woman longed to hear (but probably never did), come out of her boyfriend/ husband's mouth: "As you wish."
    But, I digress that is not why I am writing you.
    I just finished your book Amaranth Enchantment and wanted to share with you how much I enjoyed it.
    It was witty and hilarious and made me laugh out loud (my husband who was lying next to me trying to sleep, did not appreciate this as much as I did).
    I loved how I wasn't sure who the main character was going to end up with until much later in the book, which is rare in YA literature and I thought added a cool twist to the novel. I also like how the foster mother wasn’t one dimensional and just evil because she is evil.
    Anyway, it was loads of fun and I hope to see more YA novels from you in the future.

  2. I love that movie. I found the book in a thrift store recently but haven't read it yet.

  3. The book is WONDERFUL. You must read it! You'll love it!

  4. I've had to play that movie for my 8- and 6-year-old daughters, because my husband and I will spontaniously quote "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya" etc. at odd moments and they thought we were crazy. Now they think it's really cool. (p.s. I'm currently working on reading your book--good stuff)

  5. I LOVE that movie. I can't think of it without also hearing Inigo Montoya's chant in my head. And lets not forget the five fingered mann : )

    Just read such a positive review of your (Julie) new release on my local booksellers website I had to come by and check out your blog. Next I'll check out the book, since it seems to be keeping so many readers awake all night!


  6. You must MUST read the book. You will really enjoy it! And for fun, send away for the alternate part that they cut (you'll come across it in the book). The publisher will really send it to you. The book supercedes the movie if that is possible.

  7. Just finished Secondhand Charm. Loved it! And, as I just posted on Goodreads, for some reason, it reminded me of Princess Bride! And then I see this post of yours and so just had to tell you.... (I will be reviewing it on my blog in the next week too.)