The Princess Bride: An Illustrated Edition of S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

The Princess Bride: An Illustrated Edition of S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

The Princess Bride: An Illustrated Edition of S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

The Princess Bride: An Illustrated Edition of S. Morgenstern's Classic Tale of True Love and High Adventure

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Here William Goldman’s beloved story of Buttercup, Westley, and their fellow adventurers finally receives a beautiful illustrated treatment.

A tale of true love and high adventure, pirates, princesses, giants, miracles, fencing, and a frightening assortment of wild beasts—The Princess Bride is a modern storytelling classic.

As Florin and Guilder teeter on the verge of war, the reluctant Princess Buttercup is devastated by the loss of her true love, kidnapped by a mercenary and his henchman, rescued by a pirate, forced to marry Prince Humperdinck, and rescued once again by the very crew who absconded with her in the first place. In the course of this dazzling adventure, she'll meet Vizzini—the criminal philosopher who'll do anything for a bag of gold; Fezzik—the gentle giant; Inigo—the Spaniard whose steel thirsts for revenge; and Count Rugen—the evil mastermind behind it all. Foiling all their plans and jumping into their stories is Westley, Princess Buttercup’s one true love and a very good friend of a very dangerous pirate.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544177222
Publisher: HarperCollins
Publication date: 11/05/2013
Format: eBook
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 3,993
Lexile: 870L (what's this?)
File size: 43 MB
Note: This product may take a few minutes to download.

About the Author

WILLIAM GOLDMAN (1931-2018) wrote books and movies for more than fifty years. He won two Academy Awards (for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and All the President's Men), and three Lifetime Achievement Awards in screenwriting.

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, and raised in Bangkok, Thailand, MICHAEL MANOMIVIBUL currently resides in Oakland, California. He is a graduate of the California College of the Arts, and his work has been featured in Spectrum: The Best in Contemporary Fantastic Art and the Folio edition of Moonfleet, among many other publications.



New York, New York

Date of Birth:

August 12, 1931

Place of Birth:

Chicago, Illinois


B.A., Oberlin College, 1952; M.A., Columbia University, 1956

Read an Excerpt

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 arewatching 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 25th 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.

Table of Contents

Introduction to The 30th Anniversary Edition vii
Introduction to The 25th Anniversary Edition xxix
The Princess Bride 1
Buttercup’s Baby: An Explanation 365
Buttercup’s Baby, Chapter One: Fezzik Dies 391

What People are Saying About This

Ralph MacDonald

A comic adventure romance which moves all over the world and dances through history...

Reading Group Guide

What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be...well...a lot less than the man of her dreams?

As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the "S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad's recitation, and only the "good parts" reached his ears.

Now Goldman does Dad one better. He's reconstructed the "Good Parts Version" to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere.

What's it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, Miracles, and a Little Sex.

In short, it's about everything.

Eventually to be adapted for the silver screen, THE PRINCESS BRIDE was originally a beautifully simple, insightfully comic story of what happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince in the world--and he turnsout to be a son of a bitch. Guaranteed to entertain both young and old alike by combining scenes of rowsing fantasy with hilarious reality, THE PRINCESS BRIDE secures Goldman's place as a master storyteller.

From the Paperback edition.

The Princess Bride
1. William Goldman states that he is adapting The Princess Bride from a novel written by the great Florinese writer, S. Morgenstern. Do you believe that there really is such a person? Why or why not? And why do you thinkGoldman might want to confuse readers about this point? Is that confusion necessary for the kind of story he is trying to tell?
2. Goldman, in his parenthetical asides to readers, refers to Morgenstern as a satirist and the "unabridged version" of The Princess Bride as a satire. Webster's Dictionary defines satire as "a usually topical literary composition holding up human or individual vices, folly, abuses, or shortcomings to censure by means of ridicule, derision, burlesque, irony, or other method sometimes with an intent to bring about improvement." Going by this definition, is the "good parts" version of The Princess Bride a satire? If you think it is, explain why, and what is being satirized. If not, what kind of book is it?
3. The Princess Bride is also considered to be a fantasy. The paperback version, published by Del Rey Books, is actually marketed that way–just look at the spine. The most famous fantasy novel of the twentieth century is J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings. In what ways does The Princess Bride resemble Lord of the Rings? In what ways is it different?
4. Goldman wrote the screenplay for the film version of The Princess Bride. There are many differences between the two. Identify as many as you can. Why do you think Goldman made these changes? With which of his choices do you agree? Disagree?
5. Why do you think that Goldman inserts himself as a character in his own novel? What other books have you read where the author adopts this narrative strategy?
6. Does Goldman present himself as a sympathetic character? Think about how he describes his relationships with his wife, son, and father. How do these relationships illustrate the fictional Goldman's virtues and faults? And do you think Goldman is portraying his actual wife, son, and father, or are they also fictionalized characters?
7. The Princess Bride can be thought of as two intertwining tales, one focusing on Westley and Buttercup, the other on the life of Goldman himself (or the fictional Goldman, at any rate). How do these two stories parallel and play off of each other?
8. Should writers draw a firm line between fact and fiction? If a writer puts himself into his story, does he have a moral obligation to be truthful about himself, or is he free to treat himself (and any other real-life person similarly inserted) as a fictional character?
9. When we first meet Inigo and Fezzik, they are working with Vizzini to kidnap Buttercup. Later, they become allies of Westley in his efforts to rescue her. What causes Inigo and Fezzik to change . . . or do they really change at all over the course of the novel?
10. Is Goldman's portrayal of Buttercup misogynistic? Is there a pattern in the way that women are portrayed in The Princess Bride, from the starlet Sandy Sterling to Goldman's psychoanalyst wife, Helen, to the lawyer Karloff Shogg, who appears in the Buttercup's Baby addendum?
11. Compare the relationships between men–such as Goldman and his father, Fezzik and Inigo, Inigo and Domingo, and Goldman and his son–and those between men and women, especially Westley and Buttercup. Which are presented more positively? Why do you think that is?
12. Is Westley's initial anger at Buttercup for agreeing to marry Humperdinck fair? Based on his actions and words, including, at one point, striking her, might Westley be considered an abuser? Are his demonstrated attitudes toward women reinforced or undermined by the text, both in his own story and in Goldman's comments?
13. Count Rugen is certainly a sadist, as is Prince Humperdinck. Other characters display submissive or even masochistic behaviors–as, for example, early on, when Westley repeatedly replies "As you wish" to Buttercup's petty commands. How do these strains of sadism and masochism color the portrayal of true love in The Princess Bride?
14. In the introduction, Goldman writes: "But take the title words–‘true love and high adventure'–I believed that once. I thought my life was going to follow that path. Prayed that it would. Obviously it didn't, but I don't think there's high adventure left any more." Later, he adds: "And true love you can forget about too." Does the rest of the book offer support for these words, or does it refute them?
15. In another parenthetical aside from Goldman, he quotes the mother of one of his childhood friends, Edith Neisser, the author of "terrific books on how we screw up our children," as telling him: "Life isn't fair, Bill. We tell our children that it is, but it's a terrible thing to do. It's not only a lie, it's a cruel lie. Life is not fair, and it never has been, and it's never going to be." Do these words sum up the theme of the novel? Why or why not?
16. A search of the Internet reveals that Edith Neisser is a real author, just as Goldman claims. How does this knowledge affect your opinion of Goldman's veracity about the existence of S. Morgenstern and other questions?
17. Is Goldman laughing with his readers . . . or laughing at them?


lN CONSIDERING THE RELATIONSHIP between the freelance writer and a great publishing house, it may be helpful to think of the lowly remora. This cute little fish survives by glomming onto a shark and sucking its blood. Sharks are not the most discriminating of diners, but remoras aren't too finicky, either. They can't afford to be. And so it is with freelancers like myself. Yet occasionally an assignment comes along that feeds the soul as well as the body, and although no freelancer will publicly admit it (we don't even like to admit we have souls, much less worry about feeding them), the truth of the matter is that there exists for every freelancer a job that he or she will do, well, for free. This is mine.
Let me explain. I've been a fan of The Princess Bride since I was a teenager. I own a copy of the movie and watch it two or three times a year. I read the book at least once a year. I foist it upon friends and girlfriends; in college, I once broke up with a girl over the question of whether or not Westley was really in love with Buttercup or just the idea of Buttercup. You might think, then, that I know a lot about The Princess Bride. I certainly thought so. I was wrong.
Just how wrong wasn't clear until the Monday I got a call from Ballantine Books asking if I'd be interested in conducting an interview for the 30th Anniversary Edition of The Princess Bride. Would I? Dear reader, I would have paid for the privilege. Heck, I would

1. THE REMORA have killed for it. I told Ballantine I would check my schedule and get back to them. (Freelancer Rule No. 1: Always play hard to get.) The first question I askedwhen I called back five minutes later (Freelancer Rule No. 2: But not too hard!) was: when will I be interviewing Mr. Gold? I didn't actually say “Mr. Gold”; that was just as far as I got before the beautiful Denise cut in. (Denise works in Editorial. Even though I live in New York City, I've never actually met her, but I figure that anyone with such a beautiful voice has got to be beautiful all over.)
“Oh,” said the beautiful Denise, “you won't be interviewing him. We want you to interview the characters about true love.”
“I see,” I said, although I didn't.
“We need it by Friday,” she added, beautifully. “Bye, Remora!” Okay, she didn't actually say “Remora”–I just felt like a sucker. The beautiful Denise? Oh, she was beautiful, all right. Beautiful like a shark.
* * *
INTERVIEW THE CHARACTERS. It was a tough job, no question. But did I panic? Did I despair? Are you kidding? We freelance writers enjoy a good challenge. I spent the next four days researching The Princess Bride. Then I panicked. My deadline was less than twenty-four hours away, and I was no closer to my goal than when I'd started.
Oh, I know what you're thinking. Why not make something up? But I refused to consider it. How could I? The Princess Bride is based on a famous episode in Florinese history, and it's wrong to take liberties with history. Goldman didn't do it. Morgenstern didn't do it. And by God, I wasn't going to do it, either. So what did I do? I did what any self-respecting freelancer would do under the circumstances: made a beeline for the nearest bar. I sat down, ordered a shot of cheap whiskey, and toasted my reflection in the fly-spotted mirror: “To Denise, who wrecked my freelance career . . . beautifully.”
After the coughing had subsided, I ordered another and again prepared to toast my reflection: “To the beautiful Denise, who . . .”
I trailed off. Sitting beside me, studying me intently, was a whitehaired old geezer sipping a glass of wine.
“She broke your heart, this Denise,” he said in a surprisingly
gentle voice.
“In a manner of speaking,” I said. “Although I've never met her. Actually, I've only heard her voice over the phone. But it's a remarkably beautiful voice.”
“I understand,” he said. Strangely enough, I believed him. “Who are you anyway?”
He handed me a card. It read:
K. Bongiorno, Ph.D., M.M.A. Chairman, Department of Florinese Literature Columbia University I looked up from the card into a kindly, weathered face framed by a wild mane of white hair. “Not Professor Bongiorno, the preeminent authority on Morgenstern?”
He inclined his leonine head with grave modesty, as if to say that he did not claim such a distinction for himself but would not dream of insulting me by disputing it. “But this is fantastic,” I exclaimed. “You're the one man who can help me!”
“I shall be glad to try. But in matters of the heart, I am only
“This isn't about Denise,” I told him. “It's not about love at all. It's about The Princess Bride!”
“Young man,” he said sternly, “The Princess Bride is about nothing if not love.”
“What about adventure?”
“Love–true love–is the biggest adventure of all. Now, tell me your troubles.”
So I did. The professor listened without interrupting. When I finished, he raised his snowy eyebrows. “A piece of cake.” He dipped his fingers into the breast pocket of his jacket and produced a pair of battered bifocals, which he set down on the stained surface of the bar. “Go ahead,” he said. “Pick up the sodding bifocals.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“S.O.D.–Suspension of Disbelief. Haven't you ever heard literary critics telling each other to sod off? Well, this is what they're talking about.” I picked up the glasses; they looked like they were already antiques when Ben Franklin invented bifocals.
“Look through the top half of the lenses, and whatever you're reading is perfectly normal,” Bongiorno explained. “But peek through the bottom half, and the action becomes suspended, frozen, and you, the reader, enter the story. You can talk to the characters . . . though only one at a time. When you're done, the story will resume, and the characters will forget they ever saw you.”
Seeing my skepticism, the professor continued: “It will be just as real as the two of us talking at this bar, I assure you.”
“But if this were true, it would have to be some kind of miracle . . .”
He rolled his eyes. “Of course it's a miracle! Look on the card! What do you think M.M.A. stands for: Medieval Marching Association? Merry Men Amalgamated? No! It's Master of Miraculous Arts.”
I gasped. “You're a miracle man . . . like Miracle Max!”
“Max was the greatest ever. I'm nothing compared to him.” Bongiorno lifted his wine glass. “To true love and high adventure!”
I raised my shot glass and drank the toast. After the coughing had subsided, I noticed that the professor was gone, and the bartender was glaring at me.
“Sod off,” he growled.
And that's exactly what I did.
* * *
3 . T H E T U R K
RUSHING BACK TO my East Village apartment, I threw myself onto my futon, slipped the bifocals on, picked up my copy of The Princess Bride, and began reading. As always, the story swept me away. It wasn't until chapter five, when I had to scratch my nose, that I remembered the bifocals. Without thinking, I glanced down. Big mistake. I was in midair. A zillion miles below me was a sparkling blue bay and a boat the size of a toothpick. I screamed and grabbed on to the nearest object, a redwood tree that happened to be growing perpendicular to a sheer cliff face.
“Who are you?” asked the tree.
The tree, of course, was Fezzik, who was climbing a rope up the all-too-aptly named Cliffs of Insanity. Vizzini, Inigo, and the kidnapped Buttercup were hanging like Christmas ornaments from his huge torso. Glancing down again, I saw the man in black. He was close: only about a million miles away. Who knew that high adventure was so, well, high?
“Who are you?” repeated Fezzik.
I introduced myself and explained about the sodding bifocals.
“What should I do, Vizzini?” Fezzik asked anxiously. “Inigo, what should I do?” But neither the Sicilian nor the Spaniard replied; like everything and everyone else, they were frozen. I was impressed: Bongiorno knew his stuff.
I couldn't get over how big Fezzik was.
“I can't get over how big you are,” I said. “You make Andre the Giant look like Danny DeVito.”
“I do not know this giant Andre.”
“He plays you in the movie.”
“What is a movie?”
I had forgotten that this was before movies. I decided to get on with the interview. “So, Fezzik,” I said as calmly as I could while holding on for dear life, “What is true love?”
He shifted nervously. “Can you give me a hint? I'm scared I'll get it wrong. Vizzini hates when I get things wrong!”
“There's no right or wrong,” I said. “I just want your opinion.”
“When Vizzini wants my opinion, he tells me what it is.”
“I'm not Vizzini. Come on, Fezzik. You must love something.”
He thought. “I love having friends . . .”
“Vizzini isn't your friend,” I protested. “He's evil and mean!”
“He rescued me from Greenland–which, by the way, is not green.”
“He's going to take that big knife of his and kill Princess Buttercup!”
“Maybe he won't really cut her up.”
“He will, and you know it. Doesn't loyalty have limits?”
“Not to dimwits.”
“You're not a–” My ear finally caught on. Fezzik was doing what he always did when he felt lonely or scared: rhyming.
“Hey, let me try; I'm good at rhymes!”
“But bad at climbs.”
Professor Bongiorno, it turned out, had neglected to mention one detail. When I sodded off into the story, all the characters were frozen . . . except the one I was talking to. Taking one massive hand from the rope, Fezzik flicked me off his shoulders like you or I might flick a bug. The interview was over. And so, it seemed, was I.
* * *
4 . T H E S I C I L I A N
BUT INSTEAD OF smashing onto the rocks, I found myself back on my futon. Man, I thought, these sodding bifocals are better than wireless Internet! I wondered if they worked on other forms of reading material. The Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue beckoned from the coffee table. But then I remembered Freelancer Rule No. 6: Never miss a deadline. If I blew this, there would be no more assignments from Ballantine. And no more phone calls from the beautiful Denise, either. I paged further ahead in chapter five and glanced down.
“Welcome,” said Vizzini, leaping to his feet.
“You don't seem surprised to see me,” I said, taking a step back (he was holding a knife: a very long, very sharp knife). I had interrupted the picnic of death. The two wine goblets sat filled with wine and the deadly poison iocane. The man in black sat frozen before one of them. Buttercup, also frozen, lay bound and gagged to one side.
The Sicilian made a mocking bow. “Very little surprises a man of my intellect. You, for example, are from the future. You've traveled back in time by means of an advanced technology in order to meet the greatest criminal genius of the age: me.”
I was flabbergasted. “How could you possibly–”
“A chain of logical deductions quite beyond your ability to
grasp, I'm afraid. No offense.”
“None taken.”
He sidled nearer. “It's plain that you chose to appear in this particular place and time because of my impending victory over the man in black. It further goes without saying that you know which of the goblets holds the iocane. I considered forcing that information from you, but then I realized it wasn't necessary. Since you've come from the future to witness my triumph in the ultimate battle of wits, it follows that my choice of goblet is bound to be the correct one. Why?” He cackled. “Because from your perspective, I've already made it. The future is fixed; to change it would be
“Amazing,” I said.
“Still, I wonder if I could kill the man in black while he's frozen? An interesting experiment, don't you think?”
I hadn't considered the possibility. Could Vizzini change the plot of The Princess Bride by stabbing poor Westley now? I wished that Professor Bongiorno had been a little more forthcoming with his instructions. At least he could have provided a sodding manual!
Vizzini, meanwhile, gave an evil laugh and stepped quickly to my side.
“Don't worry, I won't kill him; I want to see the look on his face when he realizes I've outsmarted him. You, on the other hand . . .”
I felt the prick of his knife against my ribs. “Me?” I squeaked.
“I am, as you know, a thief. What could be more valuable to a thief than a time-travel device?”
“But it's not a time-travel device!”
“Don't insult my intelligence,” he sneered. “Any last words?”
“Well, I did want to ask about true love . . .”
He cackled delightedly. “It doesn't exist! Or if it does, it's a sickness that robs men of reason and turns them into fools. The heart, my temporary temporal friend, is the weakest organ . . . as you are about to discover.”
And before I could say a word, I learned what it felt like to be stabbed through the heart by a very long, very sharp knife. Not surprisingly, it hurt. A lot.
* * *
BUT NOT FOR long. Once again, I found myself back on my futon. I dropped the book and grabbed my side, but there was no blood, no wound. I was glad to be alive and unharmed, but otherwise I wasn't having a lot of sodding luck. I wondered who to interview next. Prince Humperdinck? Count Rugen, the six- fingered man? The former a sadist and murderer, the latter an even-worse sadist and murderer. The one with his fearsome Zoo of Death, the other with his pain-inflicting Machine. The hell with them both, I decided suddenly. They were evil men, like Vizzini. They, too, would try to kill me. And for all I knew, they might succeed. I picked up The Princess Bride, skipped ahead to chapter 8, and glanced down.
“Hello, my name is Inig– oof!” I went down hard, my arms and legs all tangled up with the arms and legs of Inigo Montoya. The swordsman was the first to recover.
He sprang to his feet, adopting the Fitzer Defense. Then, seeing I was helpless and unarmed, he extended his hand to me (the one not gripping that exquisite sword, the greatest since Excalibur) and pulled me up.
“Sorry about that,” I said, adjusting the sodding bifocals on my face.
“The fault was mine,” said Inigo. He would have been strikingly handsome if not for the twin scars disfiguring his face, one down each cheek. Yet those scars didn't make him ugly, either, because you could tell, just from his expression, that they were badges of honor. “Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a man to kill.”
That man–the six-fingered man–stood across the room, his back to a billiard table. He was, of course, frozen.
“That man is frozen,” Inigo observed.
I explained about the bifocals.
“Are you by any chance a friend of Miracle Max?” asked Inigo.
“Never mind about that,” I said. Count Rugen stood like a statue, one hand thrust out as if gesturing Inigo to a halt, the other concealed behind his back. I knew, as the Spaniard did not, what was in that hidden hand. Another piece of treachery from the man who had murdered Inigo's father and then contemptuously scarred him all those years ago. It was too much. Instead of asking about true love, I blurted out, “He's got a dagger!”
“As soon as I go back to my apartment and you forget all this, he's going to throw that dagger, and you–”
“Stop!” shouted Inigo, his eyes flashing passionately. “Not one word more! I understand that you mean well, my friend. You would spare me some calamity, perhaps even save my life. If I listened to you, I could disarm the Count or kill him now, and thus avoid my fate. And all it would cost me is my honor.”
“Did he show any honor when he killed your father? When he marked your face? Why show him any now?”
“Not for his sake,” Inigo said. “I feel only hate for Count Rugen. But hate is nothing. It wasn't hate that led me to become the greatest–or perhaps the second greatest–swordsman in the world. It wasn't hate that kept me searching for my father's killer all these years. It wasn't even hate that made me join Vizzini.” He placed a hand over his heart. “You see, I loved my father. And I will honor his memory now by fighting as he would have wanted me to fight.” He gave me the saddest, and also the bravest, smile I have ever seen. “No, my friend. For what you have tried to do, I thank you. But the son of Domingo Montoya will meet his fate like a man. I will avenge my father with his sword and my own hard-won skill. If they are not enough . . . Well, God never promised us that life was
fair, did He?”
“Not that I'm aware of,” I said softly, and took off the sodding bifocals.
* * *
6 . T H E M A N I N B L A C K
BACK ON MY futon, I knew it was time to talk to the man who had out-wrestled Fezzik, out-thought Vizzini, and out-fenced Inigo. But where to meet him? The choice was obvious, though it filled me with dread. I paged back to chapter 6 and glanced down. The Machine, like a shark, was a beautiful thing supremely fashioned for a single deadly purpose. Attached to it by a number of soft-rimmed cups of various sizes that clung to his skin like the mouths of a hundred remoras was the man in black. Of course, he wasn't in black anymore. He wasn't in anything at all. Except pain. He was in a heck of a lot of that. And the Machine hadn't even been turned on yet. At least, not today. But every cell in Westley's body was still screaming silently from the last time. That much was obvious just from looking at him.
“I don't suppose you've come to rescue me,” he said when he saw me. There was only the barest hint of discomfort in his voice.
“I'm afraid not,” I said.
“I didn't think so.” He sighed. “Who are you, and why is everyone else frozen?”
Everyone else was Count Rugen and Prince Humperdinck. The latter was frozen in the act of reaching for the pain dial of the Machine, but his furious expression left no doubt that he was going to crank it up as high as it could go the second he was unfrozen.
“You know what's funny?” asked Westley after I'd explained about the bifocals.
“No, what?” I didn't see anything particularly funny; in fact, I was feeling kind of sick to my stomach.
“Humperdinck is about to crank this obscene device up as high as it can go. I know it, you know it. The albino frozen back there in the shadows knows it. And you don't need the mind of a Vizzini to figure out what the result of that is likely to be.” At this point, he actually chuckled, and I began to understand that it wasn't only the name Dread Pirate Roberts that had commanded the loyalty of his pirate crew. “After all,” he said, “I didn't do so hot even when the Machine was at its lowest setting.”
“And that's funny?” I asked, wondering if the torture had driven him insane.
“No, not that. This: Just before you arrived, Humperdinck told me that Buttercup still loves me. He said it to torture me, to add to my pain in the seconds before he kills me. As if love, true love, can ever be a cause of pain. As if I could be so selfish as to mourn my own death rather than rejoice that my Buttercup lives. If he had said nothing, or had told me that they were married, or that she no longer loved me, or never had, then, even if I didn't believe him, it would have hurt. Then he would have succeeded in adding to my pain. But now? Now, whatever the pain, it won't be enough to extinguish my love. And though I die, and he lives, his pain, his loss, will be worse, I think. That's what I find funny.”
“But you'll still be dead,” I pointed out.
“I haven't come this far to let death stop me.”
I was astonished. “Do you think you can defeat death like you did Fezzik or Inigo?”
“I'm not crazy. I know I can't beat death. But love can. It does it all the time. Don't you know that?”
He looked at me then, and I felt his eyes pierce me as only the eyes of a man about to die can.
“Why, you've never been in love, have you?”
There was no use lying. “I don't know.”
“Believe me, you'd know.”
“I'm kind of between relationships . . .”
“I wouldn't,” said Westley, giving me a pitying look, “change places with you for the world.”
* * *
7 . T H E P R I N C E S S B R I D E
IT WAS NEARLY morning. I was exhausted. And I still had one more interview to go. I had a feeling it was going to be the toughest of all. I flipped to the end of the book and glanced down. I stood in the front rank of Humperdinck's Brute Squad. Dead ahead, frozen in the act of galloping out of the castle gate on four snow-white horses, were Inigo, Fezzik, Westley, and the loveliest woman I have ever laid eyes on. How lovely? Trust me, Shakespeare would have broken his quill in despair, and in case you haven't noticed, I'm no Shakespeare. But here's something you can try at home. Type the words “beautiful,” “sexy,” “perfection,” “goddess,” and “schwing” into your Internet search engine. Now hit the RETURN key. See the picture that pops up? Buttercup beats it cold. I would have stood there hypnotized forever if she hadn't spoken.
“Who are you? And why is everyone frozen?” Her voice was as incomparably beautiful as the rest of her. “What's the matter with you?” she demanded. “Can't you talk?”
“I-it's just that you're more beautiful than I imagined,” I croaked. “More beautiful even than Robin Wright.”
“Who's Robin Wright?”
“She plays you in the . . .” Right. Before movies, remember?
“What I mean is, great beauty can be intimidating.”
“Ha! It didn't intimidate Humperdinck.”
I gathered my wits and gave her the sodding explanation.
“I don't understand a word of it,” she said with a toss of her golden hair. “Are you sure you haven't come to kidnap me again, like that horrid Vizzini? He didn't find my beauty too intimidating, either.”
“I've come to interview you.”
She groaned. Beautifully. “Worse than a kidnapper: a reporter. Well, make it fast. Westley and I have a lot of happily ever aftering to get to.”
“What is it with you and Westley anyway?” I asked. “I mean, for someone who claims to love you so much, he's sure got a strange way of showing it.”
“There's nothing strange about it!” she exclaimed indignantly and proceeded to tick off on the fingers of one hand: “He saved me from Vizzini. He saved me from the Snow Sand. He saved me from the R.O.U.S.s. And just now, he saved me from Humperdinck.”
“I admit he did all those things. But he questioned your love for him repeatedly while doing them. He let you go on believing that he was dead. He insulted and belittled you at every turn. And he wasn't just verbally abusive–he was physically abusive, too. He struck you! I know this is before feminism and everything, but you've got to admit, he hasn't exactly been Prince Charming.”
“Well, that's the thing about love,” she said. “It's not always pretty. It's not always polite and noble and selfless. Sometimes it's ugly and jealous and resentful. Sometimes it's scary and hurtful. Nobody's perfect, you know. I'm certainly not, despite all this great beauty that I never asked for and which has all kinds of unpredictable and by no means always pleasant effects on the men I meet . . . and a lot of the women, too.”
“I'm not finished,” Buttercup interrupted imperiously; she'd obviously been paying attention in princess school. “I don't love Westley because he loves me. There are times I've wanted more than anything not to love him. But you see, it was never my choice. Love is like that. At least, true love is. And when you come right down to it, what's the point of any other kind?” “What's true love?” She didn't even hesitate. “True love is when you not only love the other person for who they are, with all their flaws and imperfections, and all their virtues, too, but for who they can be at their absolute best, and you're willing to do everything, even die, to help them reach that absolute best. True love means taking the biggest risk of all . . . opening your heart to a fellow human being, a creature as fallible as you know yourself to be, knowing that there are no promises in life, no guarantees, and that the future will bring great sorrows as well as great joys.”
“Wow,” I said. “But how do you know it's really true love?”
“You know,” she said. “Something tells you. With me, it was the way I felt when Countess Rugen looked at Westley. Maybe for you it will be the way you feel when a certain someone looks at you in a certain way. Or something in the sound of her voice. It could be anything. That's not important. What matters is what you do when it happens. Do you accept it and act on it, or do you ignore it, or try to deny it? Because true love isn't always convenient. Almost never, in fact. It comes at a bad time. Or with the wrong person. That's when you've got to find the courage to follow your heart, no matter what. Because the alternative is death. Living death, which is the worst kind. I know, because after I thought Westley had died, I tried to murder my own heart. And I very nearly succeeded.” She paused. “Why, you're crying . . .”
“Just something in my eye,” I said, and took off the sodding biofocals.
* * *
IT WA S E A R LY morning. I got off the futon and typed up what you're reading now. Normally, I e-mail my assignments to Denise. But not this time. All I could think about was her voice. Not Buttercup's. Denise's. How beautiful it was. And how I'd always known somehow that I loved her but had always found reasons not to take the risk. She was younger than me. And lived in Brooklyn, far from my Lower East Side haunts. Most of all, there was Freelancer Rule No. 11: Never date the source of reliable work. But you know what? Buttercup was right. And Westley. And Bongiorno, that sly old fox.
So I'm on my way to the offices of Ballantine Books to drop the interview off in person. When I get there, I'm going to ask Denise out for coffee. And tell her how I feel. Wish me luck. Better yet, wish me adventure–the biggest adventure of all:
true love.

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