For some, The Princess Bride is one of the best fantasy films ever made. The American Film Institute ranked it at 88 the list of 100 great love stories, while Rotten Tomatoes has given it a score of 97%. I adored the film, don’t get me wrong. But the book by William Goldman was so much better.
That’s quite a claim, considering how the film one-ups the book with the casting of Mandy Patinkin, who is the embodiment of Inigo Montoya, as well as the addition of the grandfather reading the tale of The Princess Bride to his reluctant grandchild. Peter Falk's gruff portrayal of the old man adds a healthy dose of realism to this fanciful story.
But with the addition of the grandfather comes the loss of Goldman himself, who has inserted himself in the intro—as well as a mention of his immigrant father, reading him the book as a small boy.
Because of this, it eliminates what is truly unique about The Princess Bride: In the intro that Goldman wrote -- the one that is missing from the film -- Goldman insists that The Princess Bride was written by S. Morgenstern, a native of Florin, from the same town his immigrant Florinese father came from. Goldman wrote a small but fake history of the book and of his life. It's not every day that you see an author denying authorship of his own book, particularly with a book this good.
As for the novel itself, what’s funny on screen is 10 times funnier on the page. In order to explain why, I’m about to add one spoiler. I’m just going to tell you spoiler-phobes that you should read the novel and walk away from this article. And now, for the rest of you:
Remember the Rodents of Unusual Size? That was kind of a big deal in the book. ROUS. ROUS. For pages of description, Goldman described a horrible creature — but we never learned what it was. When he finally spelled out “rodents of unusual size" for the reader, I was crying with laughter. It was one of the most ridiculous things I had ever read, in the best possible way.
But what really makes The Princess Bride a better read than a movie is Goldman’s deft prose. A screenwriter (he wrote the fabulous Adventures in the Screenwriting Trade), Goldman knows how to move a scene forward, gliding from scene to scene so casually that you automatically know you’re reading a master of the written word. Also, it’s hilarious.
As Count Rogen said upon encountering Inigo, “A Spaniard? In my house? I shall have to fumigate!"
The book is more romantic, more sexy, and funnier than the film. And if you think the film is all of these things, then you’re in for a treat. Pick it up now.